Happily Busy

A post that I wrote over a year ago, and that ended up in my files, but for some reason I did not post when I wrote it!

Over the past few months I have visited Trinidad, Montana, North Carolina and New Jersey. Family, work and in one case just taking a few days off. Part of my alcoholism seems to be this dual sense concerning most of things I do in life. I like to travel and I like to stay home. Funny how my brain and emotions work. Anyway I do seem to manage to get to go to a new cool place about once a year and somewhere really cool every few years.

Trinidad was a neat place to be but unusual in a lot of ways. One of the strange things was my inability to decide if the place was safe or not. I spent some of my time attending a conference at a University there. It was fortified with lots of fencing and security personnel. The locals too were willing to point out that I should be careful when I was out and about. I was not able to get far beyond my work meetings, a few organized road trips and field work (I am a biologist so fortunately my work is often pretty cool too). Taxi was my main mode of transportation but Trinidad is a laid back place. This means for a taxi ride, if you make plans to have a cab pick you up they might be there within a half hour of the time you set. A few people staying at the same place as me we also attending the conference so it was convenient for us to go back and forth to the University together. One trip back, we did not get in a cab until 1 1/2 hours after our scheduled pick-up time!

The place I stayed at was on a mountainside and there was a winding road up to and past my accommodations. This was also the route to a trailhead into some mountain rainforest where I spent some time doing some work.  There were numerous old buildings along the road, with most of them originally associated with an old monastery. One of these buildings had a sign indicating that said it was a treatment center. Yet there was only ever a person or two that I saw around the place. It seemed more deserted than anything. A few days before I left someone was out by the gate to this place and I asked if there were any meetings there. Turns out the place was closed down. There were not many meetings listed on the AA schedule I was able to pull up from a local AA website. So with the uncertainty of the taxi service, there not being many meeting and most of them being scattered around and my work schedule it was just not in the cards for me to go to a meeting while I was there.

Follow Up

Yes this is a follow up on yesterday’s post but it is also a way to frame the results of my meeting my sponsee today. We both agree he is good at pushing away things that might be helpful. In this case he has a real reluctance to meet with me regularly. Since this is something I explained to him from the start is what I need to have happen, it is a problem. My being his sponsor is contingent on my being able to meet up with him. He was free from the start to say no, this was not something he wants.

I must say I was happy to say he did agree to meet with me again next week. Of his own volition he also offered up that not showing up then would be a clear statement on his part. His absence would demonstrate he was not willing to committ to our working together in a way that I felt had to happen.

I really hope he shows up. I want to help him and meeting with someone is the way I have found works best for me. I simply cannot effectively sponsor someone without regular face to face contact. Just one of the many, many limitations I have come to understand about myself since I have become sober.

I do believe that people can have a sponsor-sponsee relationship without regular meetings too, so this is not a case of my way is the only way this can work for everyone. I have also learned in sobriety that there are very few absolutes.

This is a jumbled post but there you have it.

All the best in your sobriety,

AA blogger

Rigorous Action

I am meeting with a sponsee tomorrow that I have not seen in months. He does some things real well, like going to meetings and calling me most days. Yet he is really balking at working the steps. He has had a lot of challenges. Things like operations are in fact fairly big deals for most people. Even with all this I still feel like he should be moving along into his fourth step. The important thing is I realize this is simply what I think.

I truly don’t know what is best for anyone. The best thing I can do is to try to do what seems to be the right thing. Hence I pray, and sometimes fret, over what I should or should not do. I am getting a growing sense that anything I can do to try to push this fellow into doing the steps would be just that. Me pushing. It is his decision to do or not do the things that are laid out in the big book as the necessary steps to recovery. His choice. I need to at least make that clear to him tomorrow.

My gut is telling me I also need to tell him to stop calling me every day. I feel my job as his sponsor is to guide him through the steps. The rest is whistling dixie. I am sure he enjoys the regular contact but unless he is moving forward with his step work, our daily conversations are just shooting the breeze. Even if a lot of the talking is about his meeting attendance and things around that topic. In some sense it is like talking about the weather. Its fun, and easy to talk about, but its not really substantive.

It may seem a bit harsh to be so stuck on the step work but for me, this is largely what my role as a sponsor is about. I even told him that from the start so this is not a surprise to anyone I am blessed to work with.

Tomorrow should be an interesting meeting. I wonder what I will be shown, both in terms of what to do and also what this meeting will end up meaning for both of us.

All the best,

AA Blogger

Sept 16 2009 Just for Today

Just checking in as I haven’t written in awhile.

My wife is pregnant and I am now on track to become a father for the first time. My biggest surprise so far has been my almost complete lack of fear or worry regarding what is one of the biggest life changing events you can have (or so I have been told!). I really thought when I was faced with this gift I would have found plenty of ways to worry. I will take as much of this as I can get. Maybe it will change.

On a different but something similar line, I have been focusing a lot more lately on faith. Being more conscious of God, praying more, turning things over as the day develops. This to is a nice thing to have going on and like my lack of worry, I will take all of it I can get. My goal is to build upon this while it is going strong. For the moment, which is all that matters, I am pleased with my spiritual progress these days.

The next few weeks will be building a bridge to what I think will be some other big change in my life. My hope is that I will be getting a job that I would love to have. The process of this decision being made has left me hung out to dry, so to speak, for over a year. One of the things that did was get me into fear and out of what I was just talking about in the last paragraph. For now I feel the path is the right one and that the change is coming. It will be big, in terms of turning me in a new direction for my work and what I will be spending a good bit of time doing.

Better things are coming. I need to live in that truth, not turn it away by getting into fear and enjoy each day that will serve as a bridge between now and what is coming up ahead.

Being Responsible

I have a new sponsee as of yesterday. I find this to be a momentous occasion, as it marks me as being back to where I need to be. I have been going to a few meetings a week again. It was a struggle to get back to that point! Now I am familiar with people around the place I now live.

I even went to a different meeting this Saturday morning (in part due to my new pigeon). I was surprised and happy to see many of my new found regulars at my noon meeting at this place. It was also a lot easier to hang out and talk after the meeting, as it emptied out into a large parking lot in back of a church. My noon group empties out into a busy street.

I also can just tell things are way different in where I am at today with my AA community than I was just a few months ago. I am starting to hug people again. I hadn’t noticed I wasn’t until I was doing more of this. I guess that was part of being and feeling like I was outside rather than in the middle of things.

Funny thing my new pigeon is feeling isolated. It was what caused me to reach out to him. I spent a few hours with him and the next day he asked me to sponsor him. He has been sober for a few years, which is nice. I will call him Don on this blog. He is a real talker and he does listen too, but it is tough for him to listen for long. At least this is what it seems so far.

I need to make an appointment with him to tell him my story. This is something I like to do as a way of getting introduced to someone that wants my help. They need to understand I’m hardcore. Serious. And am responsible.

Opportunity, Alice and the Queen

A quote from Alice in Wonderland

“There is no use trying,” Alice said. “One can’t believe impossible things.”

“I daresay you haven’t had much practice, ” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

Getting sober opens up a new realm of possibilities. The impossible becomes the what if, and maybe or, even, reality. Time for a (long) story…..

When I was about a year sober I traveled out west with a friend that I has met in the program. We had been fishing in the North Georgia mountains together a few times before. Our trip to Montana was like a dream come true. Trout streams filled with native (not stocked) fish. The Rocky Mountains, not the comparatively small Appalachians. And just the fact that we were going to do something we wanted to do that was good, and good for us, was a novel thing. To say we were excited was an understatement.

A whole other story, which I won’t get into now, is that I had discovered as I was getting sober that I really loved being outdoors.  It felt right to me and made me feel better spiritually. Hence Montana was a really cool idea of a place to get to go. So that too was working on me as our time to leave approached.  I built up a lot of positive expectations of what this trip was going to be like.

It turned out our trip was far, far better than we could have possibly imagined. The fishing was better. The scenery was way better. All that we saw while we were there just boggled our minds. Things like moose, elk and an eagle catching a trout right out of the water. We also did things I would never have imagined. One day we hired someone to take us miles into the mountains, on horseback, to some high elevation lakes.

The place we stayed for most of the trip out west was fairly remote. We did though fly into a larger city and we had to return there to fly home. I decided to stop at the local university there and check it out. I had drank my way out of college when I was 19. With my life starting to get somewhat back in order in sobriety, I had been thinking I might want to go back to school. This was the first time I visited an actual school, and most of what I did was just walk around a bit and go pick up a catalog and application. Really I just did it on a whim.

As we were boarding the plane later that day, I had a quick series of thoughts pass through my mind that changed my life. The first part was that I thought how cool it would be to live in Montana and go to school at the place I just visited. My next thought was that I couldn’t do that, followed by “why not?”

Why these thoughts? What else was behind them?

The first thought, moving to Montana, was something that had been building in me during my visit. I realized if I was able to live in a place like I just experienced that it could really help me to develop spiritually. There is a lot to this (another story to tell at another time) but I knew it would do me a lot of good to be able to live in a place that was not so busy and full of so many people. It was more peaceful, less disturbing somehow, and I surely was learning that I felt a lot closer to God when I was out in nature.

My second thought, about how I couldn’t move to Montana, was just a reflex. Drinking had taught me that I could dream all I wanted but I couldn’t accomplish much. At just 23 I had largely been beaten down enough that I had pretty much given up on thinking things could or would work out for me. Good stuff was just beyond my ability to have happen. So this thought of “no way” was just a natural thought pattern of mine whenever I would think of something good I wanted for my life.

The next thought was a direct result of living sober and doing what I was told to do to recover – Why not? What would stop me from moving to Montana? I did want to go back to school and there was what seemed like a fine school there. And why shouldn’t I have the opportunity to nurture my soul by living in a place that would support my spiritual growth?

Why not. Those two words rang through my head on the plane trip home and for days to come. It was like something had been altered in my pysche. A new part of being sober had tripped on inside me. Instead of slowly dying by giving up on so many things I was awakening to living. The idea of moving to Montana at first blush seemed like an impossible thing. Being sober and having good reasons for wanting to go, well that made it somehow begin to seem like it might be an alright thing to do.

That simple series of thoughts I had as I was leaving Montana set me on a path that took me on an amazing journey in sobriety. I did eventually move to Montana and I stayed for six years.  The journey was not entirely smooth or easy. I had to leave my home group and all that I got sober with behind. I had to try to understand if I was supposed to go, and how to make it happen and pull a lot of things together once it was clear I could and should head west. I was happy – and scared – when I moved.

So much of that time in Montana was just magical. I earned a degree. I held a number of exciting and fun jobs. I stayed sober. I made friends there, over twenty years ago, that were in my wedding party last year. My spiritual life expanded and grew tremendously. And I grew up.

I remember literally sitting on a mountain side one day about a month before I was set to move from there (yet another story, my leaving there and why). I was thinking about life. Why it was right to leave, even though in so many ways I did not want to go.

Moving does of course make you reflective in helpful ways. I thought about  all I had accomplished while I was living there. And I suddenly had the realization I was no longer the scared boy that had arrived in Montana. I had arrived two years sober, unsure of myself in so many ways, but willing to be adventuresome and full of faith that all would be fine.

Everything had changed in the six year adventure that had just unfolded. I had succeeded in school and earned a degree. I had also literally fought forest fires in the mountains. I held that job for five summers  and the last few years I was in charge of the fires I was sent on. That meant I had to get the job done and keep the people that were with me safe. People had given me responsibility, relied on me and respected me. I had learned to honor such trust and to respond well by doing what was expected of me.

I also knew I had grown spiritually in ways I never would have imagined. I was also coming to realize my time in Montana was a period of necessary introspection. I did live with and around people but I also spent a lot of time by myself, and by myself outdoors. Many damaged places inside my soul had been healed by the time I spent in the mountains. An intense period of going inward is fine and can be productive but it proved to not be what I, nor most people, need for the long term. So this time was over and it was time to go.

I had believed that the impossible was possible, six years earlier, and it changed everything.

I guess I want to end by reiterating that last point. If you are sober and can’t seem to believe that things can’t get better for you, that is it just impossible, I would say that you need to believe in the impossible. I did, way back in 1988, and I know it to be true today. This shift in my thinking changed my life and it can change yours.

Wishing you all the best in sobriety,
AA Blogger

Self Esteem

I really need to start a post page where I can add those great little one liners folks in the program share with me. Here is one I heard today:

If you want to raise your self-esteem, do esteemable acts.

Pretty simple really. Yet I found that to be a pretty profound statement. I also went to the dictionary:

esteemable – is just something worthy of esteem, so we have to go and check that out….


v. to regard with respect, prize

to have great respect or high regard for (someone)

n. Favorable regard

admiration and respect

I hope this simple statement “If you want to raise your self-esteem, do esteemable acts” will stick in my head for a little while. I like the idea of thinking that I should work a little harder at doing the right thing in order to make me feel better about myself. This is not a difficult concept and surely I do know this is true. Yet somehow, and this is why I keep telling myself I should collect these things in a written form, this little phrase motivates me when I hear or read it. It brings clarity, and makes me want to keep me on the right track.

Anyway, that’s all for now. Hope you are all well and staying sober.

Wishing you all the best in sobriety,

AA Blogger