Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Resolutions Begone

I've been absent. I'll not be. Or at least I'm not right now.
My parents were married 67 years, and my father's death on Christmas Eve ended the count, but we're at peace. His quality of life the last few years made them painful to watch, and Mother's doing okay, so all is well. But moving on, here's a poem I wrote instead of recommitting to the old list of resolutions.
Resolutions Begone

January first,
a day of beginnings they say.
A day of failures past, of guilt.
No longer the first of three hundred
sixty-five, a reprieve stands waiting.
One day. This day. Forget the second,
third, July 23, November 4.
Twenty-four hours of recovery.
One day, today, the whole future ahead,
guilt behind.

Thursday, December 18, 2008


"Things should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler." — Albert Einstein (1879–1955)

"My friend promised when these things were done I would enter upon a new relationship with my Creator; that I would have the elements of a way of living which answered all my problems. Belief in the power of God, plus enough willingness, honesty and humility to establish and maintain the new order of things, were the essential requirements. Simple, but not easy; a price had to be paid. It meant destruction of self-centeredness." (Bill's Story, AA Big Book)

The explanation of any phenomenon should make as few assumptions as possible, eliminating those that make no difference in the observable predictions of the explanatory hypothesis or theory. (Occam's razor)

It's simple, recovery. 
Just surrender, 
abandon self,
bare your soul,
face your fears,
see how you caused
resentments dominant
all your waking moments
the last few decades,
tell people you've hated
for years you were wrong,
step aside as all your
traits that make you you
get stripped away so
you're more useful to other folk.

It's simple.
Not easy, not for the faint-hearted,
but oh, how worth the walk!
How blessedly simple.

If wishes were deeds....

We could wish to be moral, we could wish to be philosophically comforted, in fact, we could will these things with all our might, but the needed power wasn't there. Our human resources, as marshalled by the will, were not sufficient; they failed utterly. (Alcoholics Anonymous, page 45)
I didn't do my reading this morning, just a quick prayer, and at this point all I've got is the Big Book, but of course that's plenty. My sponsor yesterday looked at a list of things I needed to get done and told me, "Do this list so you can be free. 'We don't shrink at anything.' p. 79 and also p. 80, BB." This portion of the Big Book, the one I started by quoting, is talking about wishing to have the benefits of a spirtual life, trying to get them through the thought process rather than what I was wishing in making the list, but the result is the same. Making the list, defining the ideals, these may be a step in the direction, but they're not getting there. There's that solid wall of the utter inability of thinking about something and having it done by that alone. Action is required, either simply cleaning up the stuff, writing the things, making the calls, etc., -- the things on my list -- or that big step I worked on all my life, establishing a really personal relationship with God.
It could be argued the latter, establishing the relationship, is just another thought process, or at least internalized, but absent putting it into practice, it remains an idea, a wish, a thought process. A long, long time ago, which I was a student in college, a wise woman said, "Too many people keep getting born again and never get around to growing up." I think she was talking about the physical acts necessary to reinforce the mental ones. Reading the literature, working the steps, using the tools of recovery, reporting to God each morning for our marching orders, asking for the pwer to carry them out, then listening to what he says we're to do during the day and doing it, not just making one more list. And it looks like a long day is -- well, a long morning -- drawing to a close, and I'm not tied in this chair as part of my job, waiting for people to bring things to me, so I'll go get the other meditation books and then tackle the list. It looks like both the sponsor and the marching orders are telling me that today. 
Here I am, God, reporting for duty. Keep on givng me power to plow through your work.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The More Glaring Personality Defects....

AA's Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, having discussed the difficulties of doing inventories for the depressive and power-driven members and those in between, then proposes, "Now let's ponder the need for a list of the more glaring personality defects all of us have in varying degrees." (page 48) These we can identify from our list of "serious violations of moral principles," "defects of character," or "an index of maladjustments." It approaches the list from the seven deadly sins. I've got plenty of them. Let's see...
  • Pride - fascinating. It says, "Pride lures us into making demands upon ourselves or upon others which cannot be met without perverting or misusing our God-given instincts." (page 49) That one needs comment, but I'm not sure what to say, just that it rings so terribly true, the impact as I read it is to knot my stomach. I sit here with an almost overwhelming impulse to open a new window and type those three letters the computer knows so well that lead to opening my favorite batch of online games. I just want to duck and run. So, what I need to do is to figure out which ways pride has perverted my instincts. 
  1. I have needs I need people to meet, needs I know they're more than willing to meet, perhaps eager because their own meet mine, but because communicating that might indicate a need on my part (wonder why!) I don't communicate, and the other person stays in their private shell as I do so we won't bother the other.
  2. I don't remember names well, not just the ordinary absent-mindedness, but at a more basic level. Because I may be embarrassed by letting people know I don't know who they are, I just don't visit, don't engage in any but the most banal small-talk. I miss out on knowing people.
  3. My pride -- meaning my fear of making a mistake -- leads to my procrastination, and therefore becomes an embarrassment for not having done the things I could have, should have done. I've no reason to think I'm not competent to make the decisions and do the work, but they build up.
  • Greed - Something happened at work today. I confronted a person who had not asked my permission to change a procedure, and she should have. I got madder than I normally get, an anger that happens less than five or six times a year at work. While I was right in the fact she owed me the courtesy of discussing it first, part of my response happened because she was taking a responsibility from me, relieving me of some of my work, but in the process taking some power -- though I would supervise her in exercising it and was not actually losing power. Still, I have to think greed was part of the reason for my anger.
  • Lust - I'm sure this is present, but it's not one of the biggies for me.
  • Anger - My anger this afternoon was overt. Most of the time mine is covert. When I put on a show of being angry, usually it really is a show. Yet the people I am trying to make a point to ignore me and the others around, who know me when I'm not putting on the act, quiver in their shoes. That doesn't mean I don't stay angry a lot of the time. I was told a long time ago I was passive aggressive, meaning I don't get mad, I get even. I think it's a pretty accurate description. 
  • Gluttony - Duh. Well, yeah.
  • Envy - Oh! The big green giant. Yep. All mine. All mine.
  • Sloth - What's slothful about a house that needs cleaning, an office piled with stuff that embarrasses me even when I'm alone in it? Yep. This one, too.
"Fear, a soul-sickness in its own right" and "fears are the termites that ceaselessly devour the foundations of whatever sort of life we try to build." (page 49) What a masterful use of the English language. And what a grasp of the meaning of fear in the lives of those of us who feel so isolated, so alone, so different. It's good to have a kindred spirit writing these words. 

"Either we insist upon dominating the people we know, or we depend too heavily on them." (page 53) This one is me completely. I have long recognized I had a three-tiered universe of people. The tiny part at the top were those people I idolized, those I felt I could never measure up to. And as I look at who they were in the past, especially, in light of the clarifying lenses of time, I don't understand how they rated so highly. Second is those equal to me who equaled, well, me. It was a lonely layer. Then the vast majority of people I felt better than. 

Well, I set out to describe some of my more glaring defects. Looks like I've got a fertile garden of them, as numerous as the termites eating away at my life-building.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Union of Opposition

I read this phrase this morning, and I'm going to write about it, not sure where it's going to lead me. In context, to be honest, the text had set up the use of "opposition" in either the first or second of's definitions, not the third or fourth which automatically resonate with me when I hear "opposition." Here's the online dictionary's definitions:

  1. a configuration in which one celestial body is opposite another (as the sun) in the sky or in which the elongation is near or equal to 180 degrees
  2. the relation between two propositions having the same subject and predicate but differing in quantity or quality or both
  3. an act of setting opposite or over against : the condition of being so set
  4. hostile or contrary action or condition
  5. a: something that opposes ; specifically : a body of persons opposing something often capitalized : a political party opposing and prepared to replace the party in power

Moving on to Step Four in AA's Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, these are the readings that catch my attention:

  • "Yet these instincts, so necessary for our existence, often far exceed their proper functions. Powerfully, blindly, many times subtly, tey drive us, dominate us, and insist upon ruling our lives." (page 42)
  • "Nearly every serious emotional problem can be seen as a case of misdirected instinct. When that happens, our great natural assets, the instincts, have turned into physical and mental liabilities." (ibid.)
  • "By discovering what our emotional deformities are, we can move toward their correction." (page 43)
  • "...we think it logically follows that sobriety--first, last, and all the time--is he only thing we need to work for." (page 45)

The Union of Opposition. The instincts are not wrong, they're misguided, overemphasized, out of balance. They differ in quality or quantity from where they ought to be. I guess the lesson of the morning is that what we need in Step Four is not a surgeon but a chiropractor. 

We're okay. I'm okay. God doesn't make junk. But sometimes what he makes gets messed up and needs realignment so he's in sharp focus again. 

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Willingness is My Job?

Nothing is going to turn me into a nonentity. If I keep on turning my life and my will over to the care of Something or Somebody else, what will become of me? I'll look like the hole in the doughnut. (AA's Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, page 36)

I don't disagree with this (as a statement of something that's wrong) nor do I have any particular response to it, except it's neat writing.

But dependence upon an A.A. group or upon a Higher Power hasn't produced any baleful results. (ibid., page 38)

Interesting word, "baleful." I can't remember hearing it used, though it's not unfamiliar, meaning "full of deadly or pernicious influence or destructive." I did find this comparison from American Heritage Dictionary interesting: 

Baleful and baneful overlap in meaning, but baleful usually applies to something that is menacing or foreshadows evil: a baleful look. Baneful most often describes that which is actually harmful or destructive: baneful effects of their foreign policy.  

I'm assuming that baneful events are baleful as well, while some baleful things are not baneful. In this case, the usage is the more inclusive one, baleful. We're skittish people, afraid of our shadows though we're boastful and put on a good game face. But we are afraid of those things we perceive to be destructive, deadly, or pernicious. And A.A., O.A., and our Higher Power, depended upon, have not produced any baleful results. This doesn't just say they're not deadly, pernicious, or destructive -- it's not an empty representation. Instead, with about 15 years of history of A. A. groups and reliance upon a Higher Power, the proclamation is not an empty promise, but proof from experience. And since we understand each other better than we understand other people and better than they understand us, this is high praise and a reassuring affirmation. It's not an absolute promise but it's saying, "Our history bears out this stuff, this dependence, is safe." How reassuring can that be? Very.  

But now it appears that there are certain things which only the individual can do. All by himself, and in the light of his own circumstances, he needs to develop the quality of willingness. When he acquires willingness, he is the only one who can make the decision to exert himself. Trying to do this is an act of his own will. All of the Twelve Steps require sustained and personal exertion to conform to their principles and so, we trust, to God's will. (ibid., page 40)

I read "will" at the first of a long word, and it becomes "willpower" for me, so I had to read this a few times to realize that's not what it's saying. There's a huge difference in willingness and willpower--like pretty much a mirror image. And if I decide to get my will out of the equation, I'm pulling out too much, leaving the spiritual solution stranded, for the solutions needs none of my willpower but all the willingness I can muster either by surrendering or by praying for the willingness I can't find elsewhere. And developing willpower isn't even the end. There are other steps I have to take to support my recovery: The big one is "exert myself" and secondary but inherent in that is "sustain the exertion" and personalize the exertion to conform to the principles, and thereby to God's will. And all this is based on initially developing in my own circumstances the quality of willingness. So, like this chapter says at the beginning, Step Three isn't a decision step like Step One and Step Two but an action step like all the rest. 

Lord, I am willing, make me willing.

Faith without God

We can have faith yet keep God out of our lives. Therefore our problem now becomes just how and by what specific means shall we be able to let Him in? Step Three represents our first attempt to do this. (AA's Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, page 34.) 

What an intriguing statement: We can have faith yet keep God out of our lives. It's not intriguing because it rings false but because it is so obviously true! Yet it feels like almost heresy. (My editor friends want to turn that around. I have considered it and will leave it this way.) That's what's so neat about recovery, though, is that heresy is not only permitted but ENCOURAGED! If we don't like the God we grew up with, if we don't like the preacher's God or the commonly understood one, then we pick a God of our choosing. We invent God. No, we define God. He's already invented, but we have to discover him and find him for ourselves. And at that point, when the God we're talking to/about/with is comfortable and right, we start looking at destroying the wall we've built up between us and the God of our culture, family, church, history. At that point the wall becomes superfluous, and at some point it actually becomes a nuisance. God, get me to the point that every time I throw up another wall, every time I resurrect the old ones, they're a nuisance and I actively WANT to tear them down!

...anyone, anyone at all, can begin to do it. We can further add that a beginning, even the smallest, is all that is needed. (ibid., p. 35)

When I first was pregnant, I was 30 years old pursuing an advanced degree, already having two degrees. The stories about pregnancy and birth bothered me some -- more than the concept of being a parent and having that awesome responsibility. But I dealt with the fears by figuring anything all those other women had done for all those years, I was fully capable of doing, so the fears went away. Somehow the idea that "anyone can do it" has always been meaningful to me. The wording here, though, is interesting: anyone, anyone at all, can begin to do it. I find helpful the theory that you should spend fifteen seconds every day on that big, intimidating project you want done. The time can even be spent thinking about doing something about it, but most days an action should be taken--and of course it's that first opening the file, picking up the notepad, whatever the first step is that's the hardest part, and once you actually open the file on the computer or whatever, you're going to spend more time, but to know that you only have to spend fifteen seconds to accomplish the commitment works. This idea, anyone at all can begin to do it. Just asking God to make you willing to be willing is a beginning to it, and that takes less than fifteen seconds. And the results are awesome.

Though self-will may slam it shut again, as it frequently does, it will always respond the moment we again pick up the key of willingness. (ibid.)

The first time you take the lid off the pickle jar, it may take banging on the counter top upside down, it may take running hot water -- or is it cold -- over the lid and heating the other part, it may take one of those gripping devices, but normally the second and subsequent times opening the jar is a breeze. I've re-opened this door today. Yesterday I didn't do what I should have done, could have sung along with Paul in Romans 7:14-25:
For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.
But I know that after that is the glorious chapter Romans 8. I lived Romans 7 yesterday. Today I'm in Romans 8. And I started this entry yesterday and quit, but today I picked it up and I've done it.

There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.... Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Golden Nuggets

The end of Step Two in the AA 12 and 12 has some real jewels of quotes:

This all meant, of course, that we had substituted negative for positive thinking. After we came to A. A., we had to recognize that this trait had been an ego-feeding proposition. (AA's Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, page 30)

Negative thinking is an ego-feeding proposition. Wow. How does that work? I think first of the idea of loathing myself. In doing that it seems like anything but an ego-feeding proposition, but it's that exactly. If I'm as awful as I used to tell myself I was, I was good for nothing, not worthy of producing anything, and got what I deserved. So why try? I can't change anything, so it's not wrong not to change anything. It's just what's my due, miserable thing that I am. Why try? I could do it I were somebody, but I'm nobody. 

Likewise, when I think it's all somebody else's fault, all this awful stuff happening to me, then I have no part in bad things that happen to me, and just given a little bit of a break, I could be wonderful and stun the world with my glory, but what can I do when everybody's making me just the miserable wretch I am? Sure enough, negative thinking about me or about somebody else feeds my ego. Interesting. And very insightful.

Defiance is the outstanding characteristic of many an alcoholic. (ibid., page 31)

And yes, we can add compulsive overeaters. The best way to get me to do something is to forbid me to do it. Even if it's for my own good, even if it's ME telling MYSELF not to do it, I'm defiant. Oh, boy, and I good at the defiance. I do shine there!

No man, we saw, could believe in God and defy Him, too. Belief meant reliance, not defiance. (ibid., page 31)

There's a story I tell, and I believe it to be true. To be honest, I think it happened once, but I tell it as a characteristic of my father, that he would look at me when I said, as I very very often did, "I'm sorry." His response? "Don't be sorry; don't do it!" 

Benjamin Franklin said, "Well done is better than well said." Lord Herbert said, "The shortest answer is doing." An Arabian proverb says, "A promise is a cloud; fulfillment is rain." Chapter 3 of the Big Book tells the story of Fred, the accountant, in his words:

"Then they outlined the spiritual answer and program of action which a hundred of them had followed successfully. Though I had been only a nominal churchman, their proposals were not, intellectually, hard to swallow. But the program of action, though entirely sensible, was pretty drastic. It meant I would have to throw several lifelong conceptions out of the window. That was not easy. But the moment I made up my mind to go through with the process, I had the curious feeling that my alcoholic condition was relieved, as in fact it proved to be...." (Alcoholics Anonymous, page 42)  

Well, defiance is action. But it's the wrong action. Faith, though, is not just thought. Like the Twelve Steps, faith is a program of action that's pretty drastic. To what extent am I acting on faith, and to what extent do my actions reveal my defiance and therefore lack of faith?

This answer has to do with the quality of faith rather than its quantity. This has been our blind spot. (ibid., p. 32) 

Yep. God's there, like Daddy, telling me, "Don't make excuses or express regrets. Act right." But like Daddy, and way more than Daddy, he's ready and willing to give me the guidance and direction to do it right. And even more than Daddy when Daddy was Daddy, God knows how to do everything!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Far too smart for my own good.

The second kind of person described in AA's Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions (chapter 2) is the person who once had faith but lost it. Well.... would this have anything to do with how easy it is to skip going to church these days? Or, when I get to Sunday school, how often I don't go to the worship service? Hum. 

This person sounds a lot like the letter called Revelation where John tells the church at Laodicea, "Would that you were hot or cold, but since you're neither I'll spew you from my mouth." These are not the atheists who believe they can prove God doesn't exist. They are not the agnostics saying his existence cannot be proven, nor the religious people who believe it can be proven. Instead, these wanderers from faith find themselves in profound confusion, bewildered. 

But the second kind of problem, I guess somewhat an outgrowth of this bewilderment, is the "intellectually self-sufficient man or woman." Yep, that's me, far too smart for my own good, precocious. "We used our education to blow ourselves up into prideful balloons, though we were careful to hide this from others. Secretly, we felt we could float above the rest of the folks on our brainpower alone." Unfortunately, this one hits me right on the head. For a while I've at least personally and sometimes in conversation acknowledged that I'm prejudiced for the educated. I'm not sure I fall in the description of thinking the spoils of victory would be mine for the thinking, but I certainly had a god of intellect, at least alongside the god of theology. 

This section, too, has the quotation that caught hold of me a few days ago when I read it in As Bill Sees It: "humility and intellect could be compatible, provided we placed humility first. When we began to do that, we received the gift of faith, a faith which works. This faith is for you, too."

I used that in deciding to make available a series of poems I wrote last month. One of the last of the poems was this, talking of a chapbook which is a collection of poems:

This Chip of a Book 

Our hope is that when this chip of a book is 
launched on the world tide of alcoholism, 
defeated drinkers will seize upon it, to follow its 
suggestions. Many, we are sure, will rise to 
their feet and march on. They will approach still 
other sick ones and fellowships of Alcoholics 
Anonymous may spring up in each city and 
hamlet, havens for those who must find a way 
out.“ (Alcoholics Anonymous, page 153) 

Humility and intelligence 
coexist just fine if humility
stands first. So Bill W
said ten years after he wrote
the chip of a book that named
Alcoholics Anonymous
and launched recovery
not just for drunks bur for us all.
Intelligence Bill had in spades,
too smart for his own good for years,
yet a scant four years before the launch
he sat, drunk, before the dawn,
about to be launched himself to
existence’s fourth dimension.

These poems are fun, have
told me things about myself
I’d never found. To share them?
Pride says yes. Show them off.
Humility says get behind me, pride.
To share is good, not for your praise
but like Bill’s chip, perhaps these may
touch people’s need and perhaps
become a tool for God to use.

If you'd like a copy of the chapbook, email me at and we'll talk about getting it to you.


A conversation with a woman I sponsor tonight:

Me: I want you to see your own actions and to focus on them. You can't change his actions unless you change your own and he changes his in response to your changing yours. I honestly believe as you get to the point you can turn this over to god, to look to him for the assurance of non-abandonment, for the source of all the love you need, then you'll get more and more and more non-abandonment and love from the other people in your life.

Sally: i think that'd be the case

Me: Okay. so pray for the willingness to believe, then pray to believe, when you have the willingness, that God will not abandon you and that he loves you.

Sally: wow, i kind of think "what if god isn't really there, isn't enough?" I am being very honest with you and hubby today. for better or worse

Me: That's fine. that's very very good.

Sally: like i can't touch god, what if i'm making his "words" up?

Me: That's okay too. Here's a poem I wrote recently:

Not God

God's in you not like a blueberry
in a muffin but like the ocean
in a wave. God's not in the universe;
the universe is in god. If god's
your co-pilot, you're in the wrong seat.
Don't go to god with a list of things
to fix, his marching orders. Report for duty
ready to hear him give your orders for today.
You can't keep the hair on your head from
falling out; he can hold worlds and stay
their course. If you don't like the god you met
in church or synagogue or at the mosque,
toss him out. God's out there, everywhere,
anywhere, not in the air but the air itself. Toss
out your inadequate god and meet the real thing
but most of all understand that you're not god.

Sally: I like the not god. no demands

Me: Thanks

Sally: weird thing? i just heard a voice in my head "it's okay, i'm here. you're not making it up"

Me: Very very good. He takes care of us if we just give him the chance.

Sally: kinda like jumping off a cliff

Me: But he gives you wings.

Me: So, can I quote some of this discretely in my blog?

Sally: absolutely!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

How Belligerent Am I?

I've noticed the examples in the BB and other writings tend to describe me when I think it through, even when I don't see it initially. In Step Two, The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions (Alcoholics Anonymous) start by describing the person who comes to the question of belief in a Power greater than ourselves competent to restore our sanity as "the belligerent one." This person starts with a "savage" state of mind, a person whose whole philosophy of life is threatened. The person cherishes the idea that man is the spearhead of evolution, the only god the universe knows. Well, this doesn't feel like me at all. I've always been a part of the church, have been church staff, gotten a couple of degrees from church schools, taught teachers and classes, etc. But still, I realize my God wasn't real until I got to OA, my understanding, my relationship was but a shadow of the God I now understand and relate to. But did I worship man? (or woman?)

I wouldn't think so. I don't think so. But the steps they use to counsel this person are to take it easy by: (1) the recovery program doesn't require, demand that you believe anything. (2) you don't have to swallow the whole idea right now. (3) All you really need is a truly open mind. "Resign from the debating society and quit bothering yourself with such deep questions as whether it was the hen or the egg that came first." (page 26.) Okay. This is where it starts getting personal. I believed in God all right, but in my "intellectual" theology. I could argue the nuances and tell you why the majority of people were wrong, I could and did disdain the faith of "common" people, and I felt superior because I had researched and studied it and understood the theological implications. Yep. I worshiped man (or woman) and it was the fact my mind was so good at getting the concepts right that was the problem. I was belligerent, okay. So we'll look at types 2 and 3 and see if I fit them, too, but not tonight.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Less Desperate

Many less desperate alcoholics tried A.A., but did not succeed because they could not make the admission of hopelessness. (Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions [A.A.], page 23)

He goes on to discuss how the less desperate get there, to answer the question, "how could people such as these take this Step?" The answers:
  • The AA member taking to them should recount their own history, show how their early years were leading up to the desperate ones.
  • Suggest controlled drinking.
The result, they found, was that people once introduced to the principles of the program cannot go back to the days before knowledge--they can't unlearn. And, in relapse or still in the addiction, they cannot take the rest of the steps. They're stuck at one, stuck with lives unmanageable and the inability to exercise any power over the addiction. 

I've been skirting on the dangerous ground, the "controlled drinking." And I've flunked miserably with it. Today, though, I'm abstinent. My husband asked for a snack mid-afternoon, and I was hungry, too. But I ate only a snack authorized under my plan, and I feel good about it -- especially since the intention is to go out tonight with his family, including his mother who's stayed with us this past week with medical issues. I know, had I played with the limits of the plan at 3, restaurant temptations would have hit harder. But God and I are approaching them from a standpoint of strength, of abstinence. But I'm off the point I was aiming toward in thinking through the language from the 12 and 12. 

For me, there's no need in having someone else talk to me about the depths of despair. I'm not there. But I've been there. And I do need to remember it. Life wasn't fun at all. I remember. And I'd rather have recovery.

Friday, December 5, 2008

The Taproot

The principle that we shall find no enduring strength until we first admit complete defeat is the main taproot from which our whole Society has sprung and flowered. (Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions [AA], pages 21-22)

The taproot, on researching a bit, seems to have several interesting characteristics. Obviously the first is that it is a long root that in dry soil reaches way down for water. But that's not from research, that's from living most of my life in arid country. The research indicates plants sometimes start with a taproot then develop a system of roots called fibrous roots, meaning roots spread out and near the surface. Lots of plants that stay with the tap root modify that root into a system of storage, as in a beet, a carrot, or an onion. The kind of soil affects the kind of plants growing there, with deep rich soils leading to plants with taproots and clay soils promoting something I would have thought to be an oxymoron, multiple taproots. (I also learned the adjectival form of clay is not clay but clayey. But I digress, which normally means I'm avoiding talking about what I set out to explore, and which is true now.) 

The passage says our taproot -- the taproot of the Alcoholics Anonymous society and therefore by extrapolation the taproot of each recovery program -- is complete defeat. What does the taproot do? It stores food. Defeat is what holds us in OA or other recovery programs, the fact we've been there, done that, don't want to go back outside again. What does the taproot do? It gets down deep enough to get water. If water is the source of all life, the substance and essence of what we have to have for life to evolve, does that make water God? At least metaphorically? Probably. Actually, I think physically too, but I won't get into that argument here alone.  

On rereading, it doesn't quite say that complete defeat is the taproot of recovery. It says "the principle that we shall find no enduring strength until we first admit complete defeat is the main taproot." So it's not the defeat itself. If it were, everybody who commits suicide or who launches into a binge or the equivalent fully knowing the result is to walk away from the program, from the steps, would be automatically fixed up. It does come back, where the paragraph started, to the fact that humility is the basic ingredient, the spicy secret that makes the recipe the recipe. We first humble ourselves, and with that, the program becomes something more than the precarious holding on without humility. And it goes on to say real happiness doesn't happen without humility. Yeah. I can see that. And in a Grapevine article in June, 1961, Bill W said we get a daily dose of humility by avoiding the bog of guilt and rebellion on the one hand and on the other, pride. So the taproot, the supporting infrastructure to recovery, is to stay on that straight road without losing my focus and wandering off. Let's see. 

Today was good on the food, and I accomplished big things but turned some to the games instead of to God when the things I accomplished raised raucous emotions.   Tomorrow will be better, a step closer to understanding just what God's will for me is. Good night.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Step One

In the next couple of weeks, I intend to read through the AA 12 and 12 and assess my situation as I near the second anniversary of my finding OA. It's an appropriate time, a time when the struggle is just as real as it was when I walked in the doors, though at a different level. I've gained a substantial recovery; I have many miles left on this journey, one step at a time.

"It is truly awful to admit that.... we have warped our minds into an obsession for destructive drinking that only an act of Providence can remove it..." 

We have warped our minds. That doesn't say our minds have been warped. The subject of the sentence is "We" meaning "I." I have warped my mind. I think of the old spiritual, "Not my brother, not my sister, but it's me, Oh Lord, standing in the need of prayer." Warped. To become bent or twisted out of shape, typically as the result of heat or dampness. It can be either a transitive or an intransitive verb. Here, we have warped our minds. It's transitive. The subject, person or thing doing the action is we (I.) The thing acted upon is our brains (my brain.) I talk about the idea that when I point a finger at somebody, pointing out a problem, three fingers point back at me. This one is saying that they're all pointing at me, that there's only one culprit and it is I. I don't like that. 

"No other kind of bankruptcy is like this one." The talk in the news these days is of whether or not it benefits the big three auto companies to be rescued or whether bankruptcy is both inevitable and beneficial. Bankrupt. Declared by law to be unable to pay outstanding debts. Impoverished or depleted. Lacking in a particular property or value (as in morally bankrupt.) It says addiction has become a rapacious creditor. Grasping or greedy. From an old word meaning to snatch.  The rapacious creditor, bankruptcy in the AA 12 and 12, compulsive eating and other compulsive behaviors for me, bleed us (me) of all self-sufficiency and all will to resist its demands. Once this fact is ACCEPTED our bankruptcy as going human concerns is complete. What the heck does acceptance have to do with it? This is one of those things where the actor and the acted upon are way too close to make sense. I wrote a poem the other day about this kind of language in the 3rd step prayer:

Actively Passive 

"I offer myself to Thee...." 
Interesting verb, offer, 
not passive, for action 
affects the object, myself — 
not the subject, I. For me, 
what's the difference? 
Me, myself, and I maintain 
the ultimate symbiosis. 
Yet here the verb looms large 
for the indirect object rather 
than a tail wagging 
below the diagram stands 
unequaled, omnipotent, omniscient. 
The subject and object stand 
equally passive, but out of respect 
actively passive. 
So, when I have managed (finally??) to totally warp my mind into such an obsession (can a mind be warped into an obsession? Aren't we mixing metaphors here?) that only God can remove the obsession, then I'm bankrupt, bled dry by the addictive behaviors, and the blood is my will and my self-sufficiency. At that point my bankruptcy as an ongoing human concern in complete. An obsession is a thought or idea that continually preoccupies or intrudes on a mind. So the thought or idea or behavior becomes the mind itself? And that impoverishes the mind, kind of like malnutrition? (talk about mixing metaphors.... sorry.) Malnourished by no longer having self-sufficiency and will to resist. Which makes not only the mind bankrupt by my being a going human concern. I guess that means the system closes in on itself, implodes. 

My exposure to bankruptcy courts has been one of confusion and bewilderment. And abject humiliation, not that I've ever been bankrupt financially, but just dealing with bankruptcy law itself is enough to make me absolutely humble and contrite, to want to walk away and leave it alone and let other people more apt than me to understand the intricacies work through it. And the utter frustration that made me quit practicing law in a bankruptcy court rings true in my dealing with food. I can't handle it. I'll walk away and leave it to other, more intelligent beings. God, you ready to take over?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Simple. Destruction of Self-Centeredness

Bill W's story gives the first description of the promises:

My friend promised when these things were done I would enter upon a new relationship with my Creator; that I would have the elements of a way of living which answered all my problems. Belief in the power of God, plus enough willingness, honesty and humility to establish and maintain the new order of things, were the essential requirements.

Simple, but not easy; a price had to be paid. It meant destruction of self-centeredness. I must turn in all things to the Father of Light who presides over us all.
There were revolutionary and drastic proposals, but the moment I fully accepted them, the effect was electric. There was a sense of victory, followed by such a peace and serenity as I had never known. There was utter confidence. I felt lifted up, as though the great clean wind of a mountain top blew through and through. God comes to most men gradually, but His impact on me was sudden and profound. (Alcoholics Anonymous, pp. 13-14)
It seems that most often I've looked at this as a conversion experience. This morning when I read it, I saw it as a working the steps experience. It's both, but I've never felt the need for a "conversion" and am comfortable with my relationship with God. But this and something my sponsor told me this week are rolling around on the table of my mind, working on me at this point. My sponsor said:

Continue to pray for the belief that God will restore you to sanity in the area of compulsive overeating and computer games. The greatest thing we need is not to do things, but to believe things. A willingness to believe is the cornerstone. To believe is to commit....

Food and computer games or any other deterrence is only a symptom of our spiritual problem. The twelve steps does not ask us to do the things that are naturally easy for us. They only ask us to do the things that we are perfectly fit to do through the relationship with God, and it is from God the help will always come. "Our real purpose is to fit ourselves to be of maximum service to God." p. 77, BB.

Our ideals must be grounded in a power greater than ourselves if we are to re-create our lives. In order to be grounded there are roots that need to be dug up. That is because selfishness - and self centeredness - are the root of out troubles. As Bill W. wrote; "His roots grasped a new soil." p. 12, BB

"Enough willingness, honesty, and humility," Bill says. How much is enough? Enough to establish and maintain the new order of things. Okay. I got the establish bit done. I've got that much of enough. Maintenance? Oops. Not enough. Enough willingness, honesty, and humility. Like it says, simple but not easy. It takes the destruction of self-centeredness. Can I stay close to the center? In the picture? Can't I worry about seeing to my needs a little bit? Can't I address my own comfort? Nope. "A price had to be paid. It meant destruction of self-centeredness." That's a direct hit, not collateral damage, not a wound, not a dent. Destruction of self-centeredness. But isn't it worth it? Isn't feeling as good as I feel when I'm "in the zone" worth it, destroying the me who's made me miserable? Yeah. It is. "Continue to pray for the belief that God will restore you to sanity in the area of compulsive overeating and computer games. The greatest thing we need is not to do things, but to believe things. A willingness to believe is the cornerstone. To believe is to commit."

Friday, November 28, 2008

I burned the rolls.

Chuck C said:

It's quite possible, gentlemen, that the only bondage there is in this life is absolute freedom under law.... You can do anything your immagination can conjure of if you are willing to pay the inevitable consequences of your thought and action.

Jesus said: 

Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

I remember an incident some thirty years ago. My husband, his parents, our young son and I were in a fast food restaurant on Ben White in Austin, many years before Ben White became a freeway. Some part of the food or service displeased my husband, and everybody in the establishment knew of it. I was so terribly embarrassed. I don't actually remember how that event became an object lesson, but in my mind it marks the concept that nothing anybody else does, even family, is my responsibility. I'm only accountable for my own acts. Of course that's reinforced by OA and Twelve-Step work. 

Yesterday, Thanksgiving, was not an ordinary day, not even an ordinary Thanksgiving. We spent the morning in an emergency room, husband bringing me home to do our part of the lunch to take to share with other family members, while he went back to wait for our patient to be patched up and released. I cooked the rolls. Too well. I burnt the rolls. The tops were fine. Some of the bottoms were too brown. Some of the bottoms were too burnt. I took them and the other three dishes I'd put together and, when husband and the patient arrived, we sat down to eat. He asked me if I was responsible for the burnt rolls, and I said yes. He said when we got home he couldn't believe I'd burnt the rolls. He got up this morning demanding to know why I'd burnt the rolls, what I'd been doing. I had chosen not to give my explanation of what happened because it was an excuse, not a reason, a justification, not a fix. I did give it to him, answered his questions. And felt sorry for him. He's in the position I was those long years ago, embarrassed by a spouse's wrongs. I can forgive myself, did rather easily, though it's not that I don't regret what happened. Yet I did not and have not obsessed over it, and the others at lunch took it in their stride. We didn't go hungry. 

I started Thanksgiving from a shaky platform of one day's abstinence from computer games (again) and that day's clean compliance with my food plan. I wasn't perfect. I no longer have to be perfect. I made some choices that may not have been my strongest choices, but they were miles ahead of the choices I'd made Tuesday and days leading up to then. And I'm okay with the choices yesterday. And today will be as clean as Wednesday was. The bondage of absolute freedom under the law resonates with me today. I'm not willing to make the poor choices that I can make, absolutely legal (speaking in the traditional sense, not the sense we've used the word in our household for years to describe "in compliance with the diet du jour") and acceptable. The rest of the world can take my errors in stride. Nobody, not I nor husband nor even God, needs to bemoan them. But I do not want to pay the price of not working this program, not walking the steps to the very best of my comprehension and ability and in God's absolute will today. Or tomorrow. Or for the rest of the days of my life.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thankful for Desperation

It's that time of year, a time of thankfulness, for counting blessings. And it's a time for gathering of families and, customarily, for overindulging in food, fluids, and friction among family members and others. For me it's also a time of renewal and regeneration, for recommitment. I've been falling into old habits lately, and I reached the point of desperation, of realizing what I was doing to myself. I'm glad it happened yesterday, so I can establish today a day of right living, of doing what's good for me rather than what placates me and dulls emotions, of failing to live in recovery. And I am today living in recovery. Today I'm eating from my meal plan (and only from my meal plan) and I'll not open a computer game. It finally (I hope) has gotten through my head that when I decide it's okay in the late evening to open a computer game that within a few days, that will be out of control one more time and the food will deteriorate right along with it. There's nothing wrong with eating good food. Unless it's an addiction, unless it's done for the purpose of tamping down emotions. There's nothing wrong with computer games unless it's done for the purpose of tamping down emotions and unless it's responding to an addiction of procrastination, of not doing the things that are good for me.

I've had it with computer games. They're a thing of the past. And I hereby commit to broadcast on this forum the FIRST time I open a computer game from this point on. And I've got enough pride not to tell the people who matter to me, who read this forum, and therefore I'm saying I'll call you (or write you) and that will save me from me.

So, today I'm glad for the desperation that drove me back to working the program and walking the steps.

One of the things I've done that's good for me this month is to participate in the Writers Digest poetry prompts with recovery poems. The one for today is supposed to be a call to action, and more fingers are pointing back at me than are poining forward:

Suggestion of Action

They're suggestions, the twelve --
the only suggestions we have.
We've rarely seen a person fail
who thoroughly followed our path,
who gave himself completely
to this simple program.
A "suggestion of death"
means the person is dead.
A suggestion of action
means action taken.
How do you follow the path?
By walking the steps.
When? Oh, the timing's up to you...
"a course of vigorous action"
"at once" "next"
Procrastination's an option:
chronic, low intensity fear.
You want to be miserable?
Okay. Procrastinate. Live in the fear.
You want recovery? Walk the walk,
step the steps, all twelve of them,
all the way to recovery.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

to my sponsor's god

you didn't do bad

last night i told you thanks
for a lousy day and you
didn't get mad

i asked you to keep me clean
just today and somehow i am

i asked you to stop my dumb
mouth at the boss
he grinned when i left
said i'd done good

so thanks for a not bad day
can you do it again

i'd be much obliged

I'm participating in a poem a day challenge, writing recovery poems. This isn't me, it's my response to a directive to write a "praise" poem. But for some reason I felt like I needed to put this one out here on the web.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


A recovery speaker I was listening to last night indicated all fear is based on self-sufficiency, on trying to be in charge of how things turn out, of having an idea we can control events and matters simply by doing "it" right. That resonates with truth for me. Especially this morning.
I'm red politically in a red state and in a position where active participation in political matters is prohibited. And this election grabbed my passion like only one previous has. And the previous one was local, long ago, and very personal. Two people I respect, love, admire, and know to be intelligent and thoughtful contributed to the blue vote count. Somehow that softens the blow. And I did feel it as a physical blow. But life goes on. And my program is solid today.
I'm reminded of the story in 2 Samuel 12. There is no need to mourn what could have been. My fear yesterday and in the preceding days was a failure to trust God, a failure to believe He's in charge. Freedom will survive. Life goes on. 
I had the flag out yesterday. I didn't put it back out this morning. I wish I had. Instead, I'll pray my newest favorite prayer, "God, I trust you." 

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Tug of war....

James Arthur Ray says:

Humans are both biological and spiritual beings. The spirit desires expansion -- that's where we get the idea to attain a goal in the first place. Our biology, however, dictates that we seek security and safety -- that's why we feel resistance to anything unfamiliar. So the spiritual impulse is to grow, and the biological impulse is to keep things as they are.
Chuck C., in his speech that became the book A New Pair of Glasses, quotes from Hindu scriptures the first verse of the Isha Upanishad:
The whole world is the garment of the Lord. Renounce it, then, and receive it back as the gift of God.
On page 68 of the Big Book Alcoholics Anonymous, pay attention to the word "Just:"
Just to the extent that we do as we think He would have us, and humbly rely on Him, does He enable us to match calamity with serenity.
I've been struggling with trying to understand how to remove a self-imposed ceiling on success. Over a period of several days since I first started the draft of this entry, God's been actively working on telling me. I've been listening, absorbing, becoming open to his input. Chuck C, going on from the quote above, says that as long as something meant something to him, he couldn't have it. He admonishes us not to do anything as a means to an end---even to the extent of doing something to get to heaven. We don't act nice so somebody will love us, we don't limit ourselves so we won't draw attention to ourselves, we don't work hard to get ahead and have a secure income and protection for ourselves and our loved ones. Those aren't necessarily bad things to try for, but tyring for them he describes (the examples are mostly mine and not his) as self-robbery. He tells us to be good for nothing. My editor friends would have a field-day trying to edit that sentence. I have a feeling it needs a dash or something, but I like it the way it is. I'm going on that goal--being good for nothing. I'll strive to figure out God's will for me at the moment and do that, leaving the rest to him.
Perhaps the best thing of all for me is to remember that my serenity is inversely proportional to my expectations. The higher my expectations of Max and other people are, the lower is my serenity. I can watch my serenity level rise when I discard my expectations. But then my "rights" try to move in, and they too can force my serenity level down. I have to discard my "rights," as well as my expectations, by asking myself, How important is it, really? How important is it compared to my serenity, my emotional sobriety? And when I place more value on my serenity and sobriety than on anything else, I can maintain them at a higher level--at least for the time being. (Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th edition, page 420)
 And finally:
To yield to "seeming" is man's essential cowardice, to resist it is his essential courage. -- Martin Buber
So, I'm off to be good for nothing.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Off the radar--until today.

Had I sat a thousand hours, intent on honest self-examination, my list of character defects wouldn't have included anxiety. In the first place, it doesn't seem like a character defect. In the second, it didn't seem like my character defect. But that's what God's got me focusing on today.

Angeles Arrien wrote:

Anxiety is an energetic experience caused by holding back. Basically, it is the state of frustration. It is the experience of having abundant energy but not knowing what to do with that energy, or it's a lot of energy that's being contained or held back, which will produce anxiety or the state of strife.... ...creative power that does not want to be limited, restricted or restrained, and desires full expression....

Any holding back or self limitation will move you into that state in alchemy which was known as 
leaded consciousness.... In states of anxiety or strife you have difficulty accessing inherent wisdom....

This Mac computer's internal dictionary gives the definition "a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome." At that I chuckle. It's that feeling Dr. Silkwood described as he wrote for the Big Book:
Men and women drink essentially because they like the effect produced by alcohol. The sensation is so elusive that, while they admit it is injurious, they cannot after a time differentiate the true from the false. To them, their alcoholic life seems the only normal one. They are restless, irritable and discontented, unless they can again experience the sense of ease and comfort which comes at once by taking a few drinks -- drinks which they see others taking with impunity. After they have succumbed to the desire again, as so many do, and the phenomenon of craving develops, they pass through the well-known stages of a spree, emerging remorseful, with a firm resolution not to drink again. This is repeated over and over, and unless this person can experience an entire psychic change there is very little hope of his recovery. (Alcoholics Anonymous, pages xxvii-xxix)

Of course we overeaters see the same addictive behavior in ourselves, the same restlessness, irritability, discontent -- the anxiety. Funny, how sticking a new name on something I already identified with gives it new life! In the next paragraph, Silkwood says:

On the other hand -- and strange as this may seem to those who do not understand -- once a psychic change has occurred, the very same person who seemed doomed, who had so many problems he despaired of ever solving them, suddenly finds himself easily able to control his desire for alcohol, the only effort necessary being that required to follow a few simple rules.

So, the message of the day is that the necessity for computer games and unplanned eating goes away along with restlessness, irritability, and discontent, and creative energy flows unchecked when we go back to the source, check in on that psychic change, and remove the blockages of our own will from God's taking our lives and rocketing us into the fourth dimension. I lived yesterday without computer games, and the food came close to plan. That's a way to describe yesterday from the standpoint of anxiety -- the things I avoided with God's help. Now, let's see what can happen with the same behaviors when the negatives aren't in charge, anxiety is swept away with other defects that stand in the way of my usefulness to God and my fellows, and creativity's cage is crushed.

My Creator, I am now willing that you should have all of me, good and bad. I pray that you now remove from me every single defect of character which stands in the way of my usefulness to you and my fellows. Grant me strength, as I go out from here, to do your bidding. Amen. (Alcoholics Anonymous, page 76)

Friday, October 24, 2008

In the clutches....

"Serially obsessive." That's how I've described myself for years. The obsessions varied over the years, including genealogy, medieval history, knitting, crewel embroidery, counted cross stitch, refinishing furniture, writing a macro in Word that would have generated a long involved court order with MANY variables but actually resulted in killing at least two hard drives, teaching myself html coding, photography, the history of women in my profession, crossword puzzles and, alas, computer games. The computer games have varied over the years beginning way back when we got an old TI-99A4 computer for the boys and I taught myself to get through all the levels of the original Mario Brothers game. Lately they've been sudoku, Yubotu, and word drop. But they're insidious.
I admitted another compulsion that came into my mind with clarity on December 17, 2006, that being the obsession with food, with compulsive eating. It's not serial. It's parallel with all the rest all the time forever. Computer games and compulsive eating. Totally different animals. But it's the same illness, and when one rears its head, its sister accompanies. I have not played a computer game today. I have not eaten compulsively today. I will not play a computer game today, with God's help. I will not eat outside my food plan today, but that's impossible on my own strength.
How good can you be? More specifically, what level of achievement is permissible for you? What's the picture of the pinnacle of success for you? The Nobel Prize? An Oscar? A New York Times Best Seller? Establishing a Fortune 500 business? Election to the Senate? Amassing a hundred million dollars? What's the top?
Is it okay for you to get to the top? That's the question that set me back, that started my almost intentional procrastination--chronic low-intensity fear. My actual answer is easy. No. It's not okay for me to get to the top. Of course that begs the hard one, WHY!!?? Simple answer? You might see me.
That's ludicrous. I'm a public figure. I give speeches, take a leadership role in most things I participate in, stick myself out for you to see. How can the answer be "you might see me?" Expectations. I was raised with high expectations, the duty to be educated, to be a professional, to be a leader. And I've achieved that. Yet the achievements match or reflect those of most members of the family. What if I let go and lose control? What if I chance to reach one of those superlatives? OR HIGHER! Ouch! That's terrifying. Harrowing. Paralyzing.
Yeah. Paralyzing. If I stay here, if I fall backward, if I wander around on the same plateau, you won't look at me. But if I really let go and let God have control of my life? What if he reached my wildest dreams for me? My wildest dreams are nightmares of embarrassment, of being in the limelight. Help!
Tomorrow's Yesterday
It's more comfortable to sit in a corner
than to sort out a meaningful path,
to stay in stasis at yesterday.
I meant for my life to matter,
I yearn for difference tomorrow
though comfort means to sit around.
How boring - though safe - to sit around,
sucking my thumb, a tot in a corner
hiding from fear of tomorrow,
fear of the forks in the path
but heck, does it really matter
whether I fear the unknown or yesterday?
How soothing is the fiend yesterday?
Resentments dance with shoulds around
oughts and regrets. A trivial matter
lurks there for years, leaping from a corner
into my way, blocking the well-chosen path
to imagined triumphs and honor tomorrow.
What if I fall on my face, humbled tomorrow
as I have been these countless haunting yesterdays?
Does nobility, courage of the chosen path
shine brightly, or does disaster peek at me around
another inevitable blind corner -
ubiquitous "theys" say only todays matter.
I could have been a contender. I could matter
in grand schemes of the history of tomorrow.
Does fame - or infamy - lurk around that corner?
When I look at the future as another yesterday
will it seem to have changed for I was around?
Will admiration trace my innovative path?
Like Merlin, God lives backwards, the path
clear from one end as the other, matters'
meanings unmuddled. He turns around
and surveys, satisfied, countless tomorrows
and the coming versions of yesterday
laid out clearly, unblocked by turns and corners.
God's present, around as I ponder each path
knowing what a corner may hide. It doesn't matter
I can't see tomorrow. It's my God's yesterday. 

Saturday, October 4, 2008

My usefullness to my fellows...

Consider Acts 2:42-47
Life will take on new meaning. To watch people recover, to see them help others, to watch loneliness vanish, to see a fellowship grow up about you, to have a host of friends--this is an experience you must not miss. We know you will not want to miss it. (Alcoholics Anonymous, page 89)
Fellowship. The three definitions you'll usually find include a group of people, like an association; the position in a university; and the one that I want to talk about. It seems oddly appropirate that the Big Book talks so much of our fellows. Of course it's an old-fashioned (and not politically correct) term to talk of friends or associates, but it emphasizes that aspect that's so hard to actually define. One attempt is "a feeling of friendship that people have when they are talking or doing something together and sharing their experiences." Another is "the companionship of individuals in a congenial atmosphere and on equal terms." (American Heritage® Dictionary) Yes equal terms, captain's table and steerage, all together.

This has been a draft on my computer for at least three days, to the extent when I opened it last night I wasn't sure where I had intended to go with it, what I was reading when I started it. I have remembered. Duh. It was that passage of the Big Book quoted at the top. But this morning I know where it's now going. I go through long spells when I tend to write books more than read them, but recently I've read (in the last five or so months) maybe ten novels for the heck of it. I picked up one at the grocery the other day. When I read the back cover blurb I knew I ought to put it down. It was a romance rather than the mysteries I normally gravitate to, but it still intrigued me and I bought it, and have read it in bits and snatches. This morning I read what I was supposed to read when I felt drawn to it. The book is Kay Hooper's If There Be Dragons and the passage is:

Brooke, who'd seen quite a few psychologists and parapsychologists in her time, knew what that was called: psychological visibility. It as a basic need of human beings, according to the theory, to be clearly seen by at least one other person.  

Exactly! That's what fellowship means. In the way I've been trying to grab hold of the word. That's the "Welcome to Overeaters Anonymous, welcome home!" line in it's depth of meaning. Finally after all these years, it's okay at OA to be clearly seen by not just one but lots of other people because in the most embarrassing and heart-wrenching way, they're just like us!

Hey, my fellows, thanks!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Salvation is home?

Reading this morning from the stories in the Big Book, I found this wonderful quote:
There is another meaning for the Hebrew word that in the King James version of the Bible is translated "salvation." It is: "to come home." I had found my salvation. I wasn't alone anymore. (Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th edition, page 206)
What a two week marathon I've had! I took my "home" with me in the form of literature and the constant presence of God, my new affirmation and prayer being simply, "I trust you." But now I'm physically home and with no unusual meetings scheduled this week, just sitting here dog and laptop in my lap, ready to get dressed and get to church. But I'm home, safe, saved, content, serene. And it's time to clean house. Those bushes outside, the patio, the cobwebs around the garage entrance... Yes, but more than that back to step work and diligently working on growing in this marvelous program.

Welcome to Overeaters Anonymous. Welcome home!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

An ordinary day.

Consider Luke 9:23.

Take up your cross daily. And follow Jesus. 

Can you get bored carrying a cross? Sometimes it's exhilarating, being with the Master in the midst of adoring crowds. Sometimes it's terrifying. Sometimes it's wearying. Sometimes it's just plain heavy. And boring. Day after day after day. And we of the addictive personalities don't enjoy boredom. After Step Eleven the Big Book predicts:  
We are then in much less danger of excitement, fear, anger, worry, self-pity, or foolish decisions. We become much more efficient. We do not tire so easily, for we are not burning up energy foolishly as we did when we were trying to arrange life to suit ourselves.
Some of that sounds very good--less fear, less anger, less worry, relief from self-pity and the self-loathing that follows foolish decisions. But it starts out with excitement. Do we really want to be free of excitement? Isn't freedom from excitement boredom?

It's been a good week. I've been busy. VERY busy. In non-job related situations I've spoken in public eight times, to audiences probably averaging more than 30 people, and on four totally unrelated subjects with audiences from 5th graders to writers to Toastmasters. I've been featured in the local paper twice and my name mentioned several more times. How can I be sitting here writing about boredom? Well, the week is over. I'm through, with no such outside-the-norm events scheduled next week. And looking at a week of less excitement. 

Excitement: A feeling of great enthusiasm and eagerness. Take it another level, and the definition of enthusiasm comes back to eagerness. And that says wanting to have or do something very much. And that sounds like addictive behavior to me. Let's see what else the Big Book promises as a result of living the life the steps direct:
  • amazed
  • new freedom
  • new happiness
  • feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear
  • our attitude and outlook will change
  • other pretty fun stuff. 
Sounds good. And not boring. Maybe the opposite of excitement isn't boring. 

Look at that quote from after Step Eleven. It doesn't stop with no more excitement. It says we're not so easily tired because we're not wasting energy worrying about staging our lives. You know what no more excitement means? It means energy. It means being energized, not being bored. Okay. I can deal with that. And I'm ready. I was feeling pretty tired, but it's gone. I'm not excited any more.... Oops. I'm not bored any more.

Thank God!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


Consider Proverbs 23:7.

As I traveled the other day, I listened to Chuck C, the tapes from which the book A New Pair of Glasses was compiled. He said, "We think and ourselves become that which we think about." I realized the truth inherent in the statement--and that he was far from the first to have said it. King James Version says, "For as he thinketh in his heart so is he." 

I've struggled with the concept of "recovered" or "recovering" or simply, "I'm a compulsive overeater." I've shied away from "recovering" and would feel like a fraud to use recovered, but I'm well aware the Big Book says they're 100 "recovered" alcoholics. I still protest alcohol has to be easier to recover from than food, but that's part of what I'm talking about, the point I'm aiming at (and not hitting very well it seems.) But am I reinforcing failure by saying I'm a compulsive overeater? Does the suggestion or assertion of saying I'm recovering become a self-fulfilling prophecy? I know this program isn't about mind games. But I also know I can use mind games to cripple the program, and I think I'm doing that. 

I once got license plates that could have caused officers to be more diffident about enforcing speeding violations. I found they worked. I didn't drive that fast with the fact I was an official proclaimed on my license plates. They did become a good way to keep from getting tickets--because my behavior justified it. (I'd gotten only one in 40+ years of driving at the time, so it wasn't really a huge issue.) 

Another AA speaker, Patti O, says, "Rationalization, justification, and denial. When I'm explaining it to you, I'm hearing it, and when I'm hearing it I'm believing it." So, does it work the right way as well as the wrong way? We'll see. Hello, I'm OAStepper and I'm a recovering compulsive overeater.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Self Serving is Not Selfish

Consider Matthew 7:3-5.

My Mac computer's internal dictionary defines self-serving thus:
Having concern for one's own welfare and interests before those of others : public accountability is replaced by self-serving propaganda
While the definition doesn't shout disapproval, the exemplar of use certainly does. We almost mentally equate self-serving and hypocritical. Or at least I do. That's the disease, my putting my thoughts in your mind. Sorry. But Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount wasn't saying not to talk to the fellow about the grain of sand in his eye; he just said see to yourself first, heal thyself! That was a proverb in Jesus' time, one he knew and quoted, because he figured the people there in Capernaum were thinking it. Unlike me, though, Jesus didn't need to heal himself first. I do.

We do. Look at the Twelfth Step. "Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps...." We can't give it away if we don't have it. Chapter 8 says:
It is not the matter of giving that is in question, but when and how to give. That often makes the difference between failure and success.... Some of us have taken very hard knocks to learn this truth: Job or no job -- wife or no wife -- we simply do not stop drinking so long as we place dependence upon other people ahead of dependence on God.

Burn the idea into the consciousness of every man that he can get well regardless of anyone. The only condition is that he trust in God and clean house. (Alcoholics Anonymous, Page 98)
Clean house? That doesn't mean cleaning somebody else's house. It means we clean our own. In a 1966 letter Bill W says:
Well, any theologian will tell you that the salvation of his own soul is the highest vocation that a man can have. Without salvation -- however we may define this -- he will have little or nothing. For us of A.A., there is even more urgency....
We are of no value to anyone, including ourselves, until we find salvation from alcohol. Therefore, our own recovery and spiritual growth have to come first -- a right and necessary kind of self-concern. (As Bill Sees It, page 81)  
But I'm supposed to give service. We're told anytime anybody asks us to do something in program the answer should be yes. Yes. I'm supposed to give service. It's a basic premise of the program, that the way I keep my recovery is by giving it away. But even more basic than that premise are those that say I admit powerlessness, believe God can restore me to sanity, decide to ask him for sanity, look at my life, my character, my patterns of behavior, admit those to another, become ready to change that character where it's defective, ask for the change, identify others I've hurt and fix that then keep doing that and keep doing that and keep doing that AND do service. So yes, I'm supposed to give service. To myself first, then to my "fellows."

And I've given service to you and me both by reminding us of this basic truth I so often set aside because of some of those pesky character defects that make me want to please everybody else to my own detriment. 

Sunday, August 24, 2008

"I trust You."

Read Deuteronomy 1:31-32.

I and most of the people I sponsor have trouble right now with food and, for my part, other addictive substitutes especially games. I listen to MP3's at night and Friday night one of them with Peter M. caused me to turn on the light and take notes. Here's a link to it.

He's talking about the First Step, lack of power over alcohol in his situation, comfort behaviors for all of us. He talks of a lack of power of choice and control, talking to those of us who know full well we're powerless over food (and comfort behaviors) but can't for the life of us -- and that's exactly what the stakes are -- can't at this point get hold of it. It's the "It won't be that bad this time" thinking, the "just a bite" that leads to more and more and bigger and grosser. It's "I'll look odd if I don't eat the refreshments" and "that looks so good!" It's symptomatic of the lack of control -- we're sure of that. And sometimes we can exercise enough self-control to eat the right foods, but then the powerlessness goes underground and surfaces as something else, like games or rage or resentment or, or, or. Peter M. calls it drama, that we all need drama, if not in our lives, we look for it somewhere else. But that's the issue. We can't control it. It's circular. "We admitted we were powerless over food, that our lives had become unmanageable." So, how do we get there? It's spiritual. That's the whole essence of the First Step, the whole essence of ALL the Steps.

What is OA without the spiritual aspect? A diet and calories club. Dealing with the food, but ignoring all the other chaos in our lives. Abstinence only is arrogance. We're still wreaking havoc in the lives of everybody around us, including us.

A couple of comments Peter makes catch my fancy:
  • "What gets in the way IS the way." 
  • "It's one day at a time, but God doesn't wear a watch." 
If you read the scripture from Deuteronomy in its context, you'll see a bunch of people who look just like we do, despite the fact they lived four thousand years ago. They're gritching about how unfairly they've been treated. God hates them. He hates them so much he brought them out of Egypt just so they could be destroyed. Not just God is against us, but our brothers won't support us either, they make us give up and lose heart, telling us how much better than us the others are.

Moses looked at them, shaking his head, hands on his hips. He agreed, yes, God brought them to this place -- and out of slavery! Yes, he brought them, taking care of them every step of the way, carrying them like a parent carries a toddler on a long journey. My sponsor and I have been talking about this passage, and she says, "Oh my gosh! That is the program. Trust God and clean house."

She goes on with the comparison:
Moses called the people to commitment. God still calls us to be committed to love him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. Moses made some serious mistakes, but he had lived uprightly and carried out God's commands. Moses died with integrity. We too may make some serious mistakes, but that should not stop us from living with integrity and godly commitment.
The essential question we need to address when there's a problem with our lives is, "Where are you with God?" A member of my OA group recently said her prayer has become simply saying to God, "I trust you." Yeah! I've been praying that, and it seems like my life, like hers, takes off and flies when I really say that, meaning it. Hey, God! I DO trust you!

And with the father of the boy with convulsions told Jesus, I say, "I believe, help thou my unbelief." (Mark 6)