Perserverance

LEST WE BECOME COMPLACENT. It is easy to let up on the spiritual program of action and rest on our laurels. We are headed for trouble if we do, for alcohol is a subtle foe.

~ AA BigBook

The key word for Step #10 is Perserverance which is the steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement. Step #10 is a daily 4th step. Daily being the key word in that phrase. I like to do mine first thing in the morning. That is when I have more energy, I have had a chance to sleep on it, and I have given things a few hours to allow for a better perspective. I call this my G.O.D. time. Others do theirs at night. Still others do this mentally and throughout the day. I have to write it down. It is more tangible and real for me when it is in black and white. I don’t care when it is done, but I do encourage that it be done daily. I know when I have not done this, plus the steps 11 and 12 first thing in the morning, I get to about 10 AM, and I cannot think straight, and I lash out at others for no reason.

Step #10 offers us the Freedom from complacency.  I believe that it is imperative to remain active, alert and on top of this dis-ease to maintain sobriety. Sobriety is a whole lot more than just putting the plug in the jug. It is about spiritual, mental and physical health and balance. The minute we start thinking that we have this thing licked, that we are just F.I.N.E., or we know how to do this without all that reading, writing, etc.; we are flirting with the dis-ease. I have seen my share of old timers who abuse food, gambling, spending, coffee, cigarettes, pills, relationships, etc. This dis-ease is dead serious. It will take many forms. It will wait for a weak moment and then attack. There is so much more to learn. There is so much out there to experience. Stay active. Heads up. Embrace action.

 

Being Cocky

We are not cocky, not are we afraid. That is our experience.

~ pg. 85, Big Book  

We cannot afford to be cocky. Most new folks in AA are a bit put off by our humor. We do seem to be silly and frivolous at first look. However, our humor is measured. We are not a glum lot, but we take this dis-ease quite seriously. We know that no matter how long we have been sober, we are just one drink away from exactly where we left off when we put the plug in the jug. Alcoholism is cunning, baffling and powerful. I add: and very patient! While we are busy going to meetings, giving service, and working with others; the dis-ease is out in the hallway doing one armed push ups. It is just waiting for that one weak moment, that first wrong thought to catch us at our most vulnerable state. We are dead serious about that fact!

Step #10 offers us a way to keep the small stuff from becoming the big stuff that will trip us up, and make us feel overwhelmed. It keeps our side of the street clean, and when practiced with steps #11 and #12, it is a sure fire way to keep our spiritual fitness honed and ready for tough times. What a gift we have in AA. All we have to do is work it each day in every affair, stay sober, and stay alive. That is not too much to ask of us, is it? The rewards we will reap will certainly outweigh any work required. I like to do Steps 10-12 daily. I will walk you through that in the days to come. Meantime, read pages 84-88 in the Big Book daily until the fear abates. You can do this thing. Be well, my friend.

New Attitude

We will see that our new attitude toward liquor has been given to us without any thought or effort on our part. ~ pg. 85, Big Book

Our new attitude will become one of neutrality toward liquor and drinking. The booze will no longer shout our name, yell at us in the stores, or jump in our grocery carts. It will stop telling us stupid things like: “I will be nice thins time”, “you need me”, etc. It won’t be necessary to brace ourselves before parties, dates, or job interviews anymore. In fact, we will be able to reason that to do so, would mean to sabotage ourselves worse. I do believe this. When I first got sober, I chewed through a lot of straws and ice. I had a lot of “nerves”. It seemed that alcohol was everywhere, that everyone else was using, and that alcohol knew me so well, that it knew my mom’s maiden name! We, after all had this intimate relationship!

It took a long while to relax and become more neutral toward alcohol, but eventually that became the norm. I would say what most old timers would say: don’t go into bars, don’t buy it, don’t bring it home, and don’t serve it to others. If you want a life of sobriety, you need to change your playmates, your playgrounds, and your playthings. If you change the game; the game changes. You may balk at this, but the wisdom of those of us who have gone before you; might best be heeded. I have found it useful to create a few life long hobbies, get involved in social issues, and find others to work with. This has changed the game for me. Step #10 offers this chance at a whole new attitude. Embrace the change.

Hot Flame

If tempted, we recoil from it as if from a hot flame. ~ pg. 84 Big Book

Most of us were not normal when it came to alcohol and other mood altering substances. We never will be. We are the same kids who when the hot flame burnt our fingers, we went back and tried to touch it again and again….just to see if we would get burned again. I think it is tantamount to going out into my yard first thing in the morning, picking up a cement paver, and smacking myself in the forehead with it. Then I spend the rest of the day wondering why I am bleeding, in pain and have a headache. I just had trouble connecting the dots. Then some smart-aleck old timer told me, that perhaps I did not want to connect the dots or even bother looking at them.

I hate when people point out the obvious. Don’t you? But, I love the truth teller all the same. What a gift we get from AA: people who give a dang about us, who call and ask if we are ok, who listen and respond as if we matter, etc. What a huge gift. We are never alone in this program. Never. Last night, I saw four people come back through the doors. They went out to experiment. They are a gift as well. They remind me to work this program, stay sober, and not go near the hot flame. They just reminded me that anyone of us will get burnt if we even come near that flame. Stay safe. Stay sober. We need you.

The Results

Rather, I do whatever is in front of me to be done, and leave the results up to Him; however it turns out, that’s God’s will for me.

~ pg. 452, Big Book, 3rd edition

I love the Big Book. It is as if someone followed me around and wrote down all my thoughts and experiences. I always thought that I was so unique and special, that people just could not figure me out. After all, wasn’t I more clever and smarter than them? ha ha. The Big Book reminds us all that we are pretty ordinary and predictable in our collective dis-ease. How we reacted to the influence alcohol had over us is pretty much same ole same ole. In all my years, I have not heard many extraordinary stories of the chaos we created while using. I have however heard fabulous and unique stories of recovery, and how people have creatively learned to live soberly and productively. Now, that is something to talk about!

I love this story the most because the situations and relationships did not change so much as the perception, and that is exactly what AA is all about: changing our perception of things. How we act and react is all we need to know about. When sponsees seem lost and unsure of themselves, I suggest they look down at their shoes. That is exactly where they ar,e and where they are going. We are moving toward recovery, or we are moving toward that next drunk. Doing the next best thing keep us focused on the direction our shoes are pointed. Whatever is in front of us, is what we do next. It is that simple. Stop complicating things. Breathe in the freedom of sobriety. Your G.O.D. has got this.

About Turning 31

You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there is going to be

somebody who hates peaches. ~ Engine 2 Diet

You got to love AA. We celebrate birthdays! We celebrate that others saved their own butts by getting and staying sober. Now, isn’t that ironic? Today is my 31st AA birthday. My first thought this morning is that I am glad that I lived long enough to see 31 years of sobriety. Then I thought of all the wonderful people that I have met in AA here in the metro area. AA is alive and thriving in the Des Moines area. For that, we can all breathe some in gratitude. We have a growing and sober community of support for the still suffering alcoholics who may want us some day. How sweet is that?

So, 31 means I have been sober longer than I drank, for certain. Much of my drinking life feels like a nightmare that I once witnessed someone else going through in slow motion. Due to black out drinking, I don’t remember most of the gory details. Back then, I could never imagine living without alcohol as my main beverage. Now, I cannot imagine alcohol in my life. There would be no space or room for it. I have too much going on and too many things to accomplish to let it back in my door. I tell people if they want long term sobriety, all they have to do is not drink and stay alive! So, I will leave it right there. Stay sober and stay alive. Thank G.O.D. we found AA.

 

Freebies

More things shall be revealed if we are open to them ~ Anon

When we first get dried out, we will experience dreams where we are drinking or feeling extremely blasted beyond control. This is normal.  I used to have dreams that I was being forced to drink that which I did not want. I know! Even in my dreams, I wasn’t responsible, and I was the victim! I am sure you can relate! I consider these dreams freebies: all the memories and thrills; but none of the guilt, shame, or remorse. So, relax. It is just your subconscious in overtime.

Sometimes, we can learn from these dreams as well. They can be wake up calls to get more active in AA, to do more service work, or perhaps let up on caffeinated beverages by noon, so that we can sleep better at night. I have also been able to recall things for my 4th and 5th step inventory that in real time and when wide awake, I could not recall. That was due to black out drinking. The brain has a funny way to tease things out, that we would rather not remember having done. So, be kind and gentle with yourself. Enjoy the freebie, but try to learn from what is revealed.

 

It is that Simple

Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius, and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction. ~ Albert Einstein

Alcohol has a special capacity to make ordinary people into extraordinary monsters and over confident fools. As a youngster, I was painfully shy and an introvert. People could make me cry just by looking at me sternly. I grew up on a large farm here in the Midwest where we were pretty insulated from the community at large. I really thought all families had abuse, heavy drinking and smoking going on. I had a huge revelation at my first sleep over (age 8) for a friend’s birthday party. What occurred was so foreign to me (a dad who came home for dinner by 6 PM, no booze at the table, no smoking, and a dad who prayed and played with his kids. Then at night, he read us a story.

That was the last time I spent an overnight in anyone else’s home that wasn’t family. It frightened me to know that ours was not a “normal” family after all. It haunted me until at last I took up the bottle on my own behalf. The booze made me feel “normal” again. It made me feel powerful, glib, sociable, friendly, outspoken, and empowered. It worked! No wonder my dad loved it so. But, as they say: we invite the booze into our homes as a guest, but it soon makes demands and takes over. Then it becomes the lord and master of our universe. The good news is that we have this simple program of recovery to teach us to live, breathe and exist freely without the crutch of of alcohol. Have the courage and wisdom to live freely.

Celebrate the Good

Celebrate what you’ve accomplished, but also raise the bar a little

higher for the next time you succeed. ~ Mia Hamm

Have you ever read the little yellow book called Living Sober? It is a quick read, but a real gem. I like to give it to sponsees. It is chock full of wisdom and practical advice. In the old days, long timers would give you practical advice and tips and clues on how to navigate soberly and happily in the moderate/social drinking world. Imagine that!

When I first got sober, it seemed like everyone was drinking, everyone was having  more fun, and booze was everywhere…even in my dreams. It used to scream at me in the stores and at parties, and it would try to jump into my grocery cart. Booze and I had such an intimate relationship, that it knew my mom’s maiden name! The smells made me dizzy and nauseous. So, I needed practical how-tos on what else to do instead of drinking. Avail yourself of the wisdom of the multitude of sober, healthy and happy AA people who have come and since gone. You don’t have to do this alone ever again. Welcome home!

Just Another Day

Reach for the stars, even if you have to stand on a cactus. ~ Susan Longacre

People sometimes ask me how I stayed sober after all these years. I tell them the same thing I was always told when I asked old timers the same thing: Don’t drink and stay alive! No kidding. It is that simple. It is a simple program of recovery, but it is a hard one. The hard part is remaining teachable, recognizing you do not know everything, and having the willingness to accept and follow advice on how to do it differently.

Do you know how you can tell you are in recovery? You don’t. The people around you will notice that your behaviors are not so reactionary. Those who love you will be puzzled by the way you respond more lovingly. The banker and creditors will be shocked that they do not have to keep calling you and charging your accounts for late/missed payments. You bosses will enjoy more productivity, fewer “sick” days and more profits. Your kids and pets won’t be afraid when you walk through the door anymore. You may not notice, but they will. At first, you will feel uncomfortable, but soon this new lifestyle will feel more natural. Just look down at your shoes if you are not sure where you are or what direction you are going. Stay sober and stay alive. Pretty soon, you will be asked how you got where you are going.  Day after day, year after year….that is how you become an old timer.