A lack of meetings

I have been having trouble getting to meetings with any regularity for some time now.

My list of excuses has three main themes. Together they form a set of ideas that have real power to keep me away from meetings. The reality is that this is just silly drivel that seemingly justifies not getting myself out of the house and into the proverbial chair I have paid such a high price to earn.

Here are the big three:

  • I don’t know many people/meetings here – I moved to my present house about 9 months ago but have been coming and going (foreign and domestic trips, from months to weeks at a time) so much that I still feel like I just moved here.
  • I am so busy – My main work, my upcoming marriage, developing my own business.
  • My back issues – It had been real uncomfortable, for much of the time I have been in my new home location, to get around and even to sit down.

All of this may be true but it is pretty weak. I am a drunk and if I want to remain a sober one then my alcoholism and God need to be my two biggest priorities. One outward sign of this commitment to keeping- my-ducks-in-a-row is attending meetings. Going to meetings is really so easy – it should be a no brainer. It can also serve as a serious underpinning of supporting so many other things I can do to maintain my sobriety. Meetings will of course not keep me sober but can help me, and allow me to help other people, in a a myriad of ways.

Another part of this is how easy it truly can be for me to get to a meeting where I now live. I am just outside of a major U.S. city. There are many meetings within miles of my house that are taking place morning, noon, and night.

One of my old sponsees, now living in another part of the country, pointed something out to me about my not attending many meetings. He said I was able to begin to help him because I consistently attended my home group. After watching and listening to me this fellow showed up at that meeting one day and asked me to sponsor him. If I wasn’t there I never would have been given the gift of helping to take him through the steps, to see him get sober, and to remain a part of his still improving life. I know from experience with him and with others that being so deeply involved in someone’s recovery is one of the most gratifying experiences I can have. So why go to few meetings and decrease my chances of connect with new people?

Another aspect of this is I need to be much more active in getting out to help others. It is one thing to be at meetings and somewhat passively attract others to the idea of being sober. The steps have taught me I need to be proactive in spreading the news about recovery from alcoholism. I need to get plugged into and become part of that group of local AA folks that are doing the real AA footwork – going out on the front lines of alcoholism, as the big book puts it. I’ll come across these dedicated people at meetings. They are not going to show up at my doorstep while I’m sitting at home working on my next big project.

So let this post serve as a warning and sounding shot – to me! Get off my rump and go claim my seat. Find out who I need to be around to best position myself to find the next poor drunk that needs God to work through me (or perhaps that poor, newly sober bastard needs to teach me a thing or two!). Get back in a position to be able to tell folks what this program of action has to offer. Find more like minded friends and once again be a part of a fellowship I enjoyed in those places where I was more a part of AA, rather than the newly sober drunk or the new guy in town.

Last week was a good start. Three meetings, rather than one or none. I need to build on that but realize a new week is beginning. The here and now is what matters.

The great I meets the more powerful we

The first AA meeting I attended had the steps posted on the wall. I read them, as this was about the most comfortable thing I could do. I did not want to talk with or look at anyone. It may have been that very day but if not, it was within my first few meetings, that I realized what these “12 steps” were all about. I had never heard about them, or AA, before this. I immediately realized I could never do the steps. I arrived at meetings as an atheist but surprisingly it wasn’t God that was standing in my way. It was steps five and nine. I knew that I could never tell someone else the true nature of all my wrongs and I could never make amends to even some of the people I harmed.

I was absolutely right. I never did the fifth step and I did not make amends. As a drunk I am of course stricken with a bad case of self-centeredness. There are so many things I cannot do. Like quit drinking. I believed God did not exist therefore it was not possible for me to even guess that I could be provided with enough guidance, strength, and courage to do many things with God’s help that I could not do on my own.

The island that was the great “I” slowly become part of the “we” that Alcoholics Anonymous tells us about. I would occasionally speak up at a meeting. I started to talk with people before and after the meeting (babble on my part, lots of patience and tolerance from someone else!). I asked someone to sponsor me and this man got me started on working the steps. This led to my trying to pray and working on forming a relationship with a power greater than myself….that I totally did not understand.

I was told to work on one step at a time. Don’t worry about those I haven’t done yet. That was fine until I got to step four. Now I could think of nothing but step five – it was coming up right after four!!!!! I thought there was no way I could go through with it so I procrastinated. I was finally forced into one of those put up or I-might-as-well-go-get-drunk places. I had a really, really bad day, went to a meeting, and was too scared and disturbed to talk to someone afterwards. I was a mess as I was driving home. I was thinking how bad it was that I couldn’t ask for help at an AA meeting, which was one of few places I knew was a safe refuge for me. I realized I was screwed up in ways that needed to get straightened out or I was sure to drink again. It dawned on me that taking the fourth step inventory might help in figuring out what was wrong with me. Of course I had read and heard this before but now it made sense and might even be something that was necessary. The fifth step be damned – I had to try to work on step four.

The next morning I prayed for God to help me and within a few minutes my list was started. That experience, and a few others that had come before, provided me with enough faith to eventually have the courage to take my fifth step. My sponsor and God were in the room with me while my sponsor talked me through telling him what was written in my inventory. We did my fifth step, not the great “I” that was incapable of taking this action.

As I made my way through the steps my sponsor eventually helped me to work up a plan of action for making my amends. My first was to be to my mother. I found myself sitting at her kitchen table one day, scared as to what would come of trying to make amends. We were having a normal conversation – as I had not specifically told her I needed to talk to her about making amends – but I just couldn’t begin to do what I needed to. I eventually got up and told her I was going for a walk outside. I made my way to a place where I could sit on a bench and there I began to pray for help, courage, and the words I needed to say. I got up after a few minutes, walked back, and made my amend. Just like my fifth step, there were two people and God there for this. My mother was not as concerned with past events as I was, and just wanted me to be well, happy, and sober. A loving response and very consistent with how my mother always acted towards me. It of course made no sense that I expected this experience was going to be very bad.

While it was not easy to make my amends, for whatever reason getting through that first one proved to be the biggest hurdle. I now knew I needed God there with me as I made each amend. A prayer was all that was necessary to make sure I was not alone.

The steps have changed me into a different man than I was, have taught me how to find the strength and courage to carry out many worthwhile actions that I would be incapable of on my own. I am glad to be a “part of” rather than the the island I once felt it was so important to be.

Wishing you all the best in sobriety,

Unreliable Drunkeness

Last year I worked in a western city for the summer. My employer rented me an apartment and provided some furniture. There were a lot of household things I was not told I was going to have to provide myself: pots, pans, silverware, etc. I proceeded to buy apartment “stuff” as needed but was as frugal as possible. I would only be using these things for a few months and, since they would not fit in the car for the trip back, I did not anticipate keeping them.

AA was great in this small western city. I quickly found a few meetings I liked and quickly made some new AA friends. There was this one group of three guys, each sober less than a year, that lived in a rented house near me. I could show up at their place anytime and there was always plenty of talk of sobriety when I would go over there. When I left in mid-August, I asked them if I could leave a few boxes at their house (they had a large garage with ample storage space) until I returned for my second summer of work in this city. They were more than happy to help. Being sober I have learned to temper my expectations to match reality. My reasoning about this situation included knowing:

* the things I left behind were worth a few hundred dollars
* if I returned and got these things back, it would be great
* my chances of getting these things back were not high – most drunks do not stay sober and the odds all three of these guys could maintain a household for 7 months, well lets just say miracles happen all the time but we don’t get to choose when and where they occur
* there were not any other reasonable options as I could not fit this stuff in my car

In sobriety I can now generally think a situation through without unknowingly including too many unreasonable ideas. I’ve gone from being a bumbling idiot (vodka decisions!) to a more or less normal fallible human-being. A huge step up and I still make plenty of planning mistakes. I did not bring any household goods with me when I returned here this summer. I had actually spoken to the fellows who were keeping my things months before. I had the impression the impossible had happened and I was excitedly anticipating seeing them all again. The added bonus to all this would be getting my belongings back, which I had truly not counted on seeing again from the day I left them in their garage.

My first clue that all was not well with my friends was when I drove over to their house the day after I arrived. Tacked to the door was an eviction notice. The “vacate the premises date” was only a few weeks ago. The house was empty. I called Bob (one of the three guys) on my cell phone and found out that one fellow had moved to San Diego, the other two fellows (Bob and Dan) were now in an apartment, and there was some vaguely explained misunderstanding involving the landlord.
The next day I stopped over another AA member’s house (John) and surprisingly discovered Bob was staying there. Bob had gotten into a physical altercation with Dan a few nights before and John had told Bob he could temporarily stay at his house . In talking to both Bob and John I found out some details of what had been going on. All of the three one-time roommates had relapsed at various times in the recent past. Dan and Bob were drunk the night of their recent fight. Bob told me he had been sober for a few weeks and that he had been going back and forth from drinking, to a few weeks of sobriety, to drinking again since January. He was ostensibly trying to get and stay sober. In the first week I was back in town the following occurred:

* Bob was drinking every day but was trying to cover this up as best he could
* Bob bought a new Jeep (a surprising purchase considering his rather poor financial situation) in anticipation of his getting his driving privileges restored; he apparently was also now driving around, probably drunk, without a license
* John found beer and vodka hidden in various places around his house
* Bob’s girfriend called John a few times, worried about Bob and his strange behavior, and eventually broke up with him
* Bob became progressively more scarce (presumably to be able to drink more) and erractic in his behavior (e.g. practically parking his jeep on the front porch of John’s house one night)
* by the time it was clear Bob was drinking on a regular basis, he simply disappeared (no call or message that he was not coming back to John’s house)
* Bob apparently went back to his apartment, with both he and Dan now back to full time drinking

Trying to get my things back was a trivial matter, compared to seeing someone slide back into the misery of active alcoholism. My attempt to reclaim my stuff though was interesting in illustrating what being a drunk is all about. Bob had told me he still had my stuff “in their apartment storage place,” said on numerous occasions that I could pick my stuff up “tomorrow” and then was unreachable, talked about “drinking a little yesterday” and pretended he had not taken a drink on any given day we spoke, and progressively said things that were less and less plausible. It was bizarre to see how fast he was falling into living in full flight from reality. I did not ask him about my things but a few times, and I am still not sure if my stuff was ever taken away from the house these guys rented when they were evicted. He pretty much stopped answering his phone and the last time I spoke to him he must have answered by accident; he told me he would call me right back. The return call never came.

I am so grateful I am not drinking today.

Well, I have to stop blogging and go to Target so I can get some things I need for my apartment……