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.

Gratitude and Death

My father passed away this summer. Dealing with such loss is a roller coaster of emotions. Even so I have been sober more than half my life now and so this is not something that makes me think of drinking. In fact the turmoil and upheaval that someone close dying brings to me brings a large dose of gratitude that I am sober. Grieving is necessary because loss is a part of a normal, healthy life. People come and go and I usually have little say over when. By being sober I can feel and deal with loss.

When I was drinking suffering a loss was similar to some other negative experiences I went through. Dealing with humiliation and shame, usually after doing something bad while drunk, was of the same ilk. The emotional upset was akin to a dull reverberation that sounded inside of me for long periods of time. I would do my best to not let thoughts, memories, regrets and emotions about these things surface to see the light of day. That would just be too much. Instead they festered and were never really dealt with. Fortunately these experiences were not regular occurrences but it did seem bad things were happening to or around me at a steadily increasing rate as I progressed along the downward path of my alcoholic decline.

The other prism of this-sober-life/that-drunken-life that has come up for me when someone close dies is how I can now handle all the social stuff that revolves around these events. Part of this for my Dad was being at the hospital and having to ask the right questions in order to know what was happening. Making decisions, phone calls, talking to other love ones to ask what they need or want, and on and on. I even find comfort and know it helps my grieving process, and my own healing, to do things like being there (and in this case being involved) for the wake and funeral. Like hearing those funny stories about my Dad that people remembered.

Going to a funeral when I was drinking was something I avoided at all costs. I felt terror at having to be around anything like that. What is one supposed to do, or say or act like? I thought I should know and that someone would figure out I did not! Instead I have learned that one should just be there. To try to help others and to ask others for help if I need it. What I do now is to try to be kind and thoughtful and this helps me to say what ever is appropriate – or to not say anything at all.

It is so very strange that my Dad is gone. He definitely haunts me, showing up in my thoughts at so many junctures in my day. Thinking about calling him, but he is not there to call. Remembering conversations on the phone with him from the bus stop as a I stand there now. Playing with my son and remembering my Dad’s last lucid words to me were to ask about his grandson. His absence does seem unreal. As if it cannot be really be true.

Happy Holidays

Things are great this holiday season. Last Christmas I was ill, in bed, and missed the festivities at my sister-in-laws. This year I was up, able and in attendance.

My son is now almost two and it was a joy to see him enjoying Christmas day. Don’t think he know what was going on, in terms of this day being any different from any other, but it was still lots of fun. Sometimes I watch how he is so in the moment and think that is just what I need. This is after all a big part of the point of what AA teaches me. The difference with my son and myself is that it is not so cool to be ready to cry at a moments notice when I feel things are not exactly the way I want! Even so, while I am not quite that emphatic in my reactions I have to admit that on a bad day feel and can sometimes act like a little kid when I don’t get my way. On a good day I can readily realize things are not the way I want, look up, and think to myself “whatever you want.” I do have enough experience with introspection to know that getting or not getting my way is not such a big deal. Just as long as  I am on the spiritual is what matters more than my getting my way.

I am still working plenty this week, despite the holiday. I enjoy working during this time of year because it is much easier to get things done. Less people in work, less traffic to and from work, etc. I feel like I can focus more sharply on what I am working on.

Today I am grateful for being sober, for living in a house free and clear, for having a beautiful wife and son, for being able to go to the store and buy what I think my family and I need.

Life is so rich and I am in the middle of a full, fantastic life!


Ok is Great


It has been a good last week or so. Last Friday I met with my boss and learned that my position will be extended for another year. This is not a big surprise but it is a relief. Just that fact that I had to find out if all was well for keeping my term position for another year was enough to occasion some fear. Not freaking out, bugged eyed fear but certainly a tinge of doubt. That being behind me is a relief.

Another thing that has been resolved is some health stuff. Mainly I had to go to three different doctors for three different problems. All of these things were necessary things to get checked and I had been procrastinating in setting all this in motion. Talking with my wife and my sponsor about this over the last month or so really helped. I made my appointments, took the tests I was told to take and now can move forward. No real surprises, other than my one new ailment is less troublesome than I thought. No knee surgery, just some physical therapy. Funny that I have this pattern of behavior all my life – if I do A it may lead to B, and I don’t want B so I avoid A. Doing A, eventually, leads to C and I learn that B was just not part of the picture. Then realizing I should have just done A a lot sooner. At least being sober has improved my angst about many things and my stalling, which of course is all about fear and doubt, is nothing like it used to be. The old me was paralyzed, in some ways steered around by, and just plain had a life rife with a constantly juggling agenda of keeping myself busy in order to avoid other things.

Now I have to follow up with what comes next from my health assessments. Physical therapy, a possible outpatient half day run through the hospital, and who knows what else. I do at least feel willing to move forward.

Another good thing that has happened over the course of the last week has been some better stick-to-itness on my part. I need to work hard at adhering to what my brain wants to believe is a strange schedule. Get up at 4 during the week, try to catch the 4:48 bus, and stay at work until around 3 PM. Then time to get home as the wife and I are trying to get a little better dinner routing down. Monday, Wednesday and Friday I am also slating to be morning meeting days. So I get up from my desk at work at 7:15 on those days, walk the ten minutes to the serious and great mens’ meeting, then walk back to work. I stuck to my schedule pretty well last week and am doing the same this week. One of the big reasons I want to do this is because the whole framework works for me, and my family, on many levels. Yet neither my wife nor I are inclined or really get pushed to adhere to a schedule. I really do not have to be in work at any time, and most days it does not even matter if I showed up in my office or not. Getting the work done is important, not my being there per say. Even so, it is difficult for me to work at home these days because it is too tempting to start doing things that have nothing to do with work if I am home. It is also way better for me to get out of the house in the morning before anyone else is even thinking of stirring.

None of this is anything spectacular but it is all, collectively, really nice. I feel like I am on a bit of a roll. Steady and even, nicely serene and overall feeling pretty good. I will be sure not to get used to it…….since things are sure to get even better.

Stay sober and be well,

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

A Babe in the Woods

My son is a little over five weeks old today. He is sleeping in a bassinet basket by my side. This experience of having a son, a child, is so very interesting. I could not imagine for a moment what it would be like to be drunk and oblivious to him and to myself. There would be so much to miss.

All of this side of life is so new to me. As my baby boy is different every day, so I find myself in my actions and reactions to him and even now to my wife.  Things are richer and more complex but that is not always what is the most obvious about what has occurred within this change. What is most apparent is that things are not the same. I feel better about myself, and this is something that seems apart from even thinking about my son.

I understand it is possible for me to get a bit more mature and a bit wiser day by day, and I do believe this does happen for me more days than not. Yet there are moments when I seem to feel the weight of all the change that has accumulated and I know I have really grown. I experienced that on a mountainside in Montana when I was about to move from there. I felt it when I stood on a hill in the adobe desert in Colorado. I had heard the day before, via email, that I had been awarded my Ph.D. Both of these were celebratory turns of feeling the impact of having reached a significant milestone. With it came a humility and understanding of how fortunate and blessed I am. To be alive, and to be thriving.

That is what this feels like. I am seemingly suddenly more grown-up. And I like it.


AA Blogger

Getting the Answer

Today I was told I would be offered an exciting new job I had been hoping I would get. It is a few years of work, with some of the top people in my field. One of them is a world class scientist, with lots of awards and even a Pulitizer for a book he wrote. Not only should this work be good but it will also set me up quite well to get a permanent position once this experience is completed.

Sobriety is a strange and wonderous journey, especially when you give in to giving up and letting God. My experience with this job has been like a number of others. It was serious and yes, it was a big deal. So much so that I got my panties in a wad for quite awhile. Only in the last few months have I worked really hard at letting God into what I was busy doing on my own.

I had been waiting on this deal to come down for over a year and was able to spin my wheels doing other things to bide my time. It got to the point where I was getting fearful, anxious and could not see as easily that life is and will be good. Regardless of work or no work. Some of my old thinking was starting to come back, in no small part because now I am married and things seem so much more serious these days. My wife is even pregnant for gosh sakes.

Finally I got earnest and honest in my prayers. I began to ask God to help me be on and be happy with a path that would support me and my family in a prosperous way. To realize, accept and honor whatever that was to be. Over time I came to realize I was no longer waiting for something to happen. It was happening and I was on the right path. I just did not know what was up around the next bend. This change in my perception and sense of things began to get me right again. A greater shift occured when I felt like I did not care what the outcome of getting the job I wanted, I was just curious to know what was going to be next. Like the curiousity of a child, not one of the fearful adult I was a few months ago. I just began to know now that all was well, and right. It also seemed that an answer, the next thing that would be, was coming to the fore soon.

Today the email came. I have a lunch date on Wednesday to meet with the people I will be working with. With this new job I will be: working at one of the top universities in the world, working with one of the top scientists in my field and I will be able to commute to work by taking a bus that is a three minute walk from my front door.

One of my best friends in the world was with me when I was just beginning my journey in science. I was a few years sober, he was just getting started. His first few years of sobriety were mental health hell but he stuck with it and I with him. I was best man at his wedding a few years ago. Last year he was part of my wedding. Even way back when, in the mid 90’s, I was talking to him about this guy that I am going to soon be working with. I called that friend today and we both marveled that I am where I am today.

It occurs to me to end this post by mentioning that none of what I have done in this area of my life would have happened if I made all my own decisions. I just wanted to be left alone. Instead I followed what I thought I was being directed to do, each step of the way. Even though at times it was a seemingly scary, unknown course that God put me on. Those scary God directions always opened up into wondrous vistas that held beauty and joy. Today is another one of those and I am so grateful to be alive and sober.

Wishing you all the best in your sobriety…

Sponsee Sponsor

I make the conscious choice to be free, and to hold my freedom as a priority, not to be compromised.

Passing it on. Three related bits of my sober life.

1. I asked someone to sponsor me last night. Thank goodness. I woke up today feeling much freer than I have in a long time. I’m going to a number of meetings every week, having a better sense of spirituality, am sponsoring a few guys and now have a sponsor. Is that the final piece that has lifted the weight of the world off of my shoulders? It feels like this is how things are going. And that perhaps I am on the cusp of having the weight of the world stay off. I have lived like that in the past in my sobriety. It has been lost for awhile. I would love it if it is back.

2. About a month ago I had a guy (lets call him Jim) ask me to sponsor him. He has been around AA for 15 years, a bit back and forth, and has been clean for more than two years. Here were the most significant things I found out right away. His five year old son and his fiance were killed in a car crash about three years ago. They were hit by a drunk driver. He is still struggling with this. And he is just getting over surgery to remove cancer in his bladder. He was still not physically well. Physiologically his white blood cell count had not yet bounced back from some just finished radiation treatments.

It took me a few weeks to figure out he has never worked the steps, in order. He has dabbled but the best thing would likely be to start from the beginning. He was game for this approach.

Yesterday this guy told me the cancer was back. Its aggressive and spreading fast. The doctors are not that hopeful. Essentially he could be dead in months or perhaps by the end of the year. He just called me and we talked for close to an hour. I am not sure I have the fortitude to handle all of this. I’m devastated and I cannot begin to fathom how this person feels or can deal with things.

I am completely humbled. I can only pray. For him and for me, so that I can have the strength to be the best I can to help this guy.

3. I had another guy (Don) ask me to sponsor him last week. He is fresh, just getting clean. We are starting from the beginning. So far so good.

All of this puts me firmly in the middle of AA. All of this is many things: difficult, exhilarating, challenging, exciting and right where I need to be.