Just for Today

Fat Hobo** So I have decided to limit my posting to Sunday night/ Monday morning, instead of twice a week. Writing has followed the path of sobriety; so much awesomenesses have come out of this post that it hard to set aside time to post anymore. For those of you who like Lydia, I have been working on her storyline. I will start posting parts of her story or simply adding new chunks under her and Henry’s pages around the beginning of June. I’ll keep you updated.**

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I do not know what it is about me that is never once satisfied with the suggested serving size of anything. Two Advil. One glass of red wine. One piece of dark chocolate. Driving home last night, I was thinking about 4oz of protein. The size of a deck of cards. What is that? If I ordered a steak at a restaurant and they brought me a steak the size of a deck of cards, I wouldn’t know what to make of it.

Hence, my problem.

This week, I came to a bottom. A food bottom. I was gonna say, “a new bottom,” but I have reached this particular bottom before. So, it is not so much new as, “Ahoy, I didn’t see you lurking there,” kinda food bottom. Argh!

The thing that should not be surprising, and yet surprised me none-the-less, has been how this recent admission of surrender has brought forth all the same emotions as when I first got sober. Not to the same degree, I admit. I am not trying to stop a cycle of addiction while battling homelessness and unemployment. The physical destruction of my addiction is fairly minimal. But what I am feeling, the emotional part of the decision to address my food issues, feels very familiar.

Yesterday, I was walking down the sidewalk of my apartment complex. My stomach was growling, and just like that, a torrent of thoughts and justifications flooded my brain in a milli-second’s time. Maybe I could have just a little. I could start again tomorrow. It is awkward to think about how easily these thoughts came. And a little scary. It was a reminder of the alcoholic obsession I come from and how quickly I could return.

But as quickly as these thoughts came, other thoughts followed. “One day at a time, one minute at a time.” “All right already.” And the ever irritating, “Keep coming back.”

Y’know, then I walked into the rooms of AA, I never thought it would work. I thought the steps and spirituality and all of it was just too esoteric and not concrete enough to offer anything like a real solution. But it did work. Working the steps worked. And being around other addicts worked. Talking worked and service worked. And I know, when I live my life in the spiritual realm instead of the physical realm, that works too. It doesn’t matter if it is food or drugs or alcohol. I know when I apply the steps in my life, things are bound to get better. I just have to hang on long enough for the recovery to set in.

Today, I have the gift of second thought. AA has taught me that. I do not have to act on my first impulse. I can pause long enough to remember there is a solution. And just because I want to eat or drink, does not mean I have to. Just for today.

 

Will Write for Food

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Running Away

Humility Car** The post today was originally set aside to be posts from others regarding alternatives to AA, but I did not receive a single email or response. It saddens me somehow. But alas, I’ll get over it. At least my sobriety is in tact. Go to a meeting. Go to another meeting. Don’t drink in between. Have a good week. **

I have an amazing life. I know this. I have a ton to be grateful for. And yet, probably not a week goes by that I do not want to raze it to the ground. Demolish it. Set it on fire with a blowtorch and simply walk away. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to drink. I just want to run away. I want to travel the country and see mountains and large trees and waves of grain and big skies. I want to experience the Grand Canyon.

This is not a new feeling. I have had a version of this fantasy for most of my life. When I was younger, I thought of myself as Bohemian. I remember having a personal philosophy that I would never buy anything of value that I could not fit in a suitcase. For most of my adult existence, that has remained largely true. I never really seemed to ever own anything of value. I never had a job that wasn’t like any other job out there. I never had a relationship that required much from me.

When I got sober, my lifestyle remained true to form. I lost most of my belongings during my sobering up, so the only things that were left were the very most important things of the no things to begin with. At eighteen months, I got my first apartment. I owned an air mattress and a computer precariously perched atop a box. Then I got a bed and a used sofa. And a desk… And a puppy. Its here, with the puppy, that things start to become awkward. Cause I can’t put Dio in a suitcase. I see homeless people with dogs sometimes, but they’re always kinda big, guard dog looking dogs. They’re definitely not long haired, prissy Dachshunds that prefer to be carried.

Then the family came back. That’s good. I walked away once before. I lived; they lived. But now they’re older and I’m older and I like them. They make running away more difficult. It’s not a deal breaker, but I would miss them.

And then I did what the unthinking runner does, I got the second puppy. Now, if one is going to run away, and if one ferocious attack puppy is bad enough, a second and even more skittish Maltese puppy is not the way to go. Ggggrrrrrrrr…

Okay, so it’s me and two puppies in a dented Hyundai traveling across the country. It’s tight, but they’re pretty good in the car. Dio sits in my lap. I don’t know if that’s legal. And I’m always scared to tell other dog people that is how we roll because I don’t want the doggie seatbelt lecture. Anywho, we could make do.

But the worst of it is, I fell in love. And that is no bueno for a runner. For the longest time, I thought I could leave. I threatened to leave. Convinced myself I could leave. But no. I really love him and could not imagine not seeing his beautiful face every day. Sigh.

Okay. Me, two dogs, and my man in my dented Hyundai all running away together. But my sister gave me these really awesome chairs from her living room. They’re perfect. So comfortable. The best chairs I’ve ever owned. It’s a shame to leave ‘em. So, we’ll strap them to the roof. Good. We’re all set. Me, my two dogs, and my man all running away in my dented Hyundai with two chairs strapped to the roof.

I really do not understand why a part of me is always trying to flee. I mean, I know the AA answers. I know that I am restless and discontent, that my insatiable need for more everything constantly pushes me in to a state of ingratitude, that I am “A victim of the delusion that [I] can wrest satisfaction and happiness out of this world if [I] only manage well,” (BB 61). But somehow, in this moment, the answers sound hallow. I feel like it is not enough to simply say, I feel this way because I am an alcoholic.

And yet, I have nothing else. I think it is a really awkward moment in the life of an alcoholic when they have no proper answers for why they do the things they do. Why does the guy who has everything to lose, drink anyways? Why does the girl who has already done everything she said she’d never do, continue to do it? Why do I, who finally has everything she’s always wanted, have reoccurring fantasies of walking away?

I think the baffling thing about this disease is even the people experiencing it find it hard to articulate the fears, obsessions, the frantic search for happiness in things that exist outside of our own souls. If I only go there, do that, buy this, then I will be happy.

Last night, I had a moment of pure happiness. I was here, in my living room, in one of the big over-sized chairs my sister gave me. One of the puppies was in my lap, the other not far from me. I watched as my love put away the evening dishes. And I thought: Wow, life is tremendously good. I have everything I could possibly every want. I have peace.

And I think that about the best an alcoholic can wish for. I don’t think just because one gets sober and works the steps, that life necessarily becomes easy or sane. But I do think we can occasionally have these moments of perfect serenity and calm, when everything just seems right and easy and good.

One of my very favorite AA sayings comes from a man from a local club. I heard it in one of the first meetings I ever attended and it resonated so deeply, I never forgot it. “I didn’t get in trouble every time I was drinking, but every time I was in trouble, I was drinking.”

To that, I would like to add this, “I haven’t been at peace the entire time I have been sober, but the only times I have ever felt peace, I was sober.”

Will Write for Food

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Boy Whistling in the Dark

Boy Whistling in the DarkI have decided to take a little vacation from my blog as I work a bit on Lydia. I hope you will enjoy this reprint of a post I wrote last fall. It was one of my favorites. I hope you have a great weekend. AGK

Last week, a friend of mine decided that after five years of sobriety that she was not an alcoholic after all, and if she just stay away from the drugs, she could successfully drink. Her friend, a girl with eighteen months, asked with all earnestness, “Why? After all these years?” I responded without much ado or forethought, “She wasn’t happy with her sobriety.” My answer came so smoothly, resounded with so much simplicity and wisdom, I surprised even me. I thought… Man, I’m goooooood.

Only later that evening, lying awake in bed, did I realize I was not the recovered guru I momentarily thought I was. All I did was reiterate one of my favorite passages in the Big Book. “We know our friend is like a boy whistling in the dark to keep up his spirits. He fools himself. Inwardly he would give anything to take half a dozen drinks and get away with them. He will presently try the old game again, for he isn’t happy about his sobriety” (Big Book, page 152).

I often refer back to the boy whistling in the dark. He has become a working part of my recovery, a part of my daily tenth step, a way to spot check my emotional sobriety. Am I, today, a girl whistling in the dark? If I could have half a dozen drinks and get away with it, would I?

Some days, the answer comes a bit slower. I have to think deeper. What does that mean, half a dozen drinks? Does that mean just once? One time, I get half a dozen drinks? What if I want seven or ten or a baker’s dozen? Do shots count? And then I have to smile. My alcoholism is so deeply rooted inside me that if I were to take half a dozen drinks, I would want more, more and more often. I know this. I’m so alcoholic that even in my hypothetical world, I am trying to nudge my way into more.

The reason I do not take half a dozen drinks has nothing to do with whether or not I would get away with it. I certainly didn’t care too much about getting into trouble when I was drinking. And I think that those closest to me can attest that sobriety has done little to damper my defiance.

For years, I wanted my brain to shut off. To be quiet. To stop the harassment that existed in my own mind. It felt like a whirlwind of hate and disgust. I used drinking to accomplish this end. Then one day, my drinking quit quieting the voices and instead added to it. My inability to exist within my own body perpetuated and exacerbated the cesspool which was my mind. With the vicious nature of this circular thinking, I find it a miracle that anyone stops drinking even for five minutes.

I do not take half a dozen drinks because I do not want to have to spend my life trying to figure out how to get the next half dozen. The question is not, could I outwit and shuck and jive my way back to inebriation, the questions is why would I ever want to? The consequence of not half a dozen drinks, but of the very first sip of the very first one, is the madness of my own mind slamming into me with the force of a bulldozer. I am confident about this. The alternative to sobriety is insanity.

So, tonight, as I lay my head down on my pillow, I will know I am not the boy whistling in the dark inwardly hoping to take half a dozen drinks. I am the girl whistling in the sunlight of the spirit as she trudges down the road of happy destinies. May God bless me and keep me until then.

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Another Day, Another Dollar

Will Write for FoodEver since high school, from the moment I understood I had no one with whom I could confide in except the written page, I wanted to be a writer. Over time, I grew confident in my ability. I knew I had it within me. My problem was I also had burgeoning alcoholism in me too.

The disease of alcoholism is rich in complexity. It pulls us from under while supplying us with visions of glory. It destroys dreams while simultaneously building up the nothingness of accomplishment. It was in this fog that I practice my craft. I spent many years writing my nights away. All those pages, though, were nothing more than laments on my dissatisfaction with life, a young girl’s struggle for place. It never amounted to anything more than a binder full of drunken, self-pitying ramblings not worthy of reading.

Ironically, when I finally got sober, I found I could not write. The mere thought of writing made my mouth water. If I sat down at the keyboard, I found my hand involuntarily reaching for the tumbler of vodka that was not there. The sensation was so upsetting, I eventually turned off the computer for good and walked away. I thought that if a sacrifice of sobriety was that I could not write, then that was a price I was willing to pay. After all, neither the writing nor the drinking had ever amounted to anything of value.

It would be years before I wrote again.

Last year, I found I was still claustrophobic with fear. I had a dream, but I lacked the courage to follow that dream. I feared my writing was nothing more than alcohol induced delusions. I feared that even if I did write, no one would read it. I feared that if they did read it, people would not like it. I thought I would suffer backlash from my job, from my students, and yes, from AAs for breaking my anonymity.

What I learned was that my fears were largely unfounded. I learned that most people, maybe out of sheer respect for the human condition, are really quite kind to those who try. Negative criticism has been rare, while positive support has been vocal. Additionally, my AA community has really embraced my blog. One alcoholic friend recently told me that while her and my beliefs are on opposite side of the faith spectrum, my interpretation of the Big Book was worthy of being read. And then there was the day when one of my high school students came up to me after class and told me he found my blog. As my eyes filled with tears, he whispered, “You are helping people.”

And now, my yearlong experiment in myself is drawing to a close. For some time, I have been contemplating what my next steps should be. But in my heart, I know. I am ready to suffer the criticism of professionals. It is time to take a deep breath and send my stories out into the world.

So… it is with a trepidation that I have decided to pass the metaphorical hobo hat; I’ve decided to add a place to make donations to my blog via PayPal. I realize the potential non-existence that could easily occur as a result of asking alcoholics to part with their money, but I figured it is worth a shot. If I have learned nothing else, I have learned what can happen when I simply have the humility to ask. My hope is that with enough small donations, I will be support myself long enough to begin piecing Lydia into an actual collection of short stories or maybe even a novel.

If you have read my blog over the past year and liked it (or even if you didn’t like it, but you read it anyways) maybe you could consider tipping the author a dollar or two or ten. I would really appreciate it.

Thank you,

AGK

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P.S. Even if you don’t contribute, I hope you still will continue to read and comment. It makes me happy.

P.P.S. If you make a donation or twenty dollars or more and let me know through email (agkroger@gmail.com) or on Facebook, I’ll draw you in hobo form and mail it to you. (Or if you live in Houston and are one of the ones who clamor for it, I will make you a jar of my green salsa.)

The “We” Part, Revisited

My WeI occasionally tell my students that we all have gaps in our education, things we misunderstood or never really grasped to begin with. Sometimes, we don’t even know we have it wrong. One night in college, I was up late studying biology. I was all alone. It was quiet. Something was not quite right. No one was around to ask, so I just kept staring at the textbook, flipping pages, staring again. According to my book, atoms made up cells, but that couldn’t be right. Cells, I knew, made up material things like people and trees, whereas atoms made up chemicals like oxygen and hydrogen. Yep. That’s what I thought. Sometimes, I tell my students, we just miss obvious things.

Last weekend, I went to my annual women’s retreat. It’s one of my very favorite weekends of the entire year. As usual, I heard many insights into recovery that resonated with me. One, though, (maybe because I fear everyone but me already knows it) has been keeping me up at night.

I have always thought I understood the necessity of the “we” portion of the program. When I was drinking, I felt isolated and alone. Towards the end, I didn’t speak to anyone that was not absolutely necessary: my boss, maybe the check-out person at the liquor store. I know I didn’t have any “real” conversations. The fact that I was chronically and fatally depressed or that my life was a shambles, was never openly admitted, not that I even had someone to tell had I wanted to. When I finally found recovery, I clung to the group, hanging on for dear life. I stuck to the middle of the herd, found a home group, got a sponsor I could be accountable and honest with, performed service work, went on twelve step calls. I did all that things one does when they are trying not to spin off the side of the record.

Last weekend, though, a friend altered my perception of the “we” part of the program. She said something in just the way to tweak it in my mind and bring about a new realization. My friend was re-working her steps. She had done her fourth step inventory, but had yet to meet up with her sponsor. But she had years of sobriety. She had some independence in the issue, so she went ahead and filled out the fourth column. She knew her part and could see the pattern of behaviors. And yet, she had no relief. The thoughts and emotions were still with her, rummaging around in her mind.

My friend realized that relief does not come from the act of writing the fourth step, but of speaking the fifth step. As she put it, until the words were actually spoken, the thoughts still took home in her mind.

Only after she spoke did I realize that my intellectual mind had always supposed something happened with the admission of resentments and faults to ourselves. One would think that simply the admission of transgressions to ourselves would give us something, some kind of relief. But it doesn’t. Half measures avail us nothing. It seems so obvious. I’ve heard it a million times. We admitted we were powerless…We came to believe… our wills and our lives… etc.

The “we” part is not a piece of the program, a part of it that encompasses the social or service portion of the steps. Over here are the meetings and service, and over there are the steps. They do not exist simultaneously but separate. No, the “we” makes up all the other stuff. The “we” is the atom and the steps are the cells. It is the core, the essential, the thing from which all the other stuff is made.

I think missing the group is why people who separate from the program, who think the lessons that they have learned in AA can carry back into the real world without the support of their fellows, never seem to hang on. It seems as if they should. I believe them when they say they have every intention of hanging on. But without the sponsor, without the group, without the speaking of the words aloud to another person, there is no connection and no relief, and therefore, no recovery.

 

 

AA’s Success Rate

AA Success RateI was having a conversation with a co-worker. He graduated last year with a degree in psychology and is currently making steps to return to school to get his doctoral degree. I went to him because I had a question regarding an article I was reading. The article labeled AA as a failure because it is undirected group therapy.

Here is what he replied: “AA just doesn’t work. It has like a 98 percent failure rate.”

So I asked… “Which AAs are included in the studies of failure? I mean, who’s counted? Court appointed, once a week meeting goers, does that qualify someone as AA? Or is it based on a people who already have a foothold in the program? Over what period of time was the study? Cause over the course of a lifetime, people who come and go, sometimes come back and stay.”

Now, I have to cut my co-worker some slack. He really is an intelligent and charming individual. He just doesn’t know what he is talking about. And here’s the thing; I don’t think most doctors or psychologists or normies do. The people who tend to know the most about our disease of alcoholism and addiction seem to be us, the ones who have it (or at least the ones who know they have it). Doctors and psychologists seem to have no more insight into alcoholism than they had eighty years ago.

So, here is my totally unprofessional opinion regarding recidivism. I started out in AA totally wasted with a zero chance of not drinking for the rest of the day. I mean every day I wanted not to drink, but every night I ended up drunk. By myself, I had zero chance. Then one day, a miracle happened, and I had just a smidgen more willpower or disgust or stubbornness or something than I had just a few moments before. I don’t know how long this miracle lasts. For some people, I suspect it only lasts a few minutes. So, in those few moments, I needed to do something.

I think if I started at 0% and went to a meeting, I go up to about 5%. I start praying or else tapping into some kind of faith that maybe, just maybe, I can be sober for the rest of the day. I help someone. I am at 20%. I read the Big Book. 25%. Changing people, places, and things adds a few more percentage points. Sober living gives me lot more percentage points. Now, I’m up to 50%. I get a boyfriend, and I fall back down to 40%. I get sober friends who themselves are dedicated to being sober, and then I tell them everything that makes me cry at night. Back up to 50%. I get a sponsor. And I work the steps. And then I work them again. And then I work them again. And now I am 8 years sober.

I told my sweetie about what my co-worker said about AA not working. My love said, “I don’t care what he says. AA has a 100% success rate for me. And that’s all I really care about.” And he’s right.

I went that night to chair my usual meeting. It’s a small group, intimate. I’ve been sitting in a that room with some of these people a couple days a week for years now. I know them. I know their weaknesses and failures, their successes and growth.

About halfway through the hour, I looked out upon the group and started counting up years. B has 30-some years. S has another 20. B and A have 5. C has 4. J is closing in on a year. And R has come back and now has 5 months. And over there, in the corner, my sweetie has eight years.

Psychologists all over the world can tell me AA doesn’t work. What I know, is in that moment, in that meeting at 10:30 on a Wednesday night, ten people who normally would have been drunk weren’t. And to me, that’s 100% success rate.

The Flip Side (or The Show Running the Actor)

You Spot It, You Got It

On Thursday, I wrote about actor running the whole show. I’m writing about it again because I’m still living in it. I know some of you can relate. Just because I have identified the character defect doesn’t mean the defect and the accompanying anger magically go away. No, no sometimes it takes a little more work. Sometimes, I have to process it a little bit longer.

So, here is where we are at… I occasionally have the mentality that I know what’s best for all those around me. It’s for the best! I am looking out for them. I am being gracious with my help. I am being generous with my time and energy to help you; the least you could do is accept it. I don’t even really need a thank you. I just need you to do it because I am tired of hearing this same complaint or maybe I am just tired of having to witness the general disaster you have made out of your life.

But there is another side to this coin.

There is something really awkward about engaging in a character defect while someone is engaging in theirs. For instance, I get really angry when people talk on their phone while driving. The freeways in Houston are bad enough without the additional distraction of phones. And yet, there are some days when I have to make a call, and while I am driving is the most convenient time to do it. I get self-conscious about holding the phone up to my ear because I know the person driving behind me can see it. I know they are cursing me. And yet…

It’s the alcoholic double standard. I don’t want anyone messing with my life for any reason what-so-ever. I do not want any judgment or criticism. In fact, I would really like it if you just stood over there, off to the side a little ways. I’ll call you over when I’m ready to see you.

And yet, I am more than happy to stick my pudgy little fingers into whatever pie you happen to have going on. I remember a friend having a slight disciplinary problem with her daughter. In the scheme of life, it was nothing. A little backtalk, normal for any kid, but the kind of thing a parent worries about lest it snowballs. Anywho, she and her husband had a plan. Upon hearing said plan, I thought, “That’s never going to work.” Now, I don’t have kids. I do not know the first thing about the stresses of being a parent. I can’t even properly train my dogs. And yet…

The book tells me that when I try to control and manipulate, other people rebel. I know that to be true because when other people try to control and manipulate me, even when they are doing it to help me fix the general disaster I have made of my life, I rebel. It’s a deal breaker. And that’s my lesson. It’s a cycle. It’s a reverse. It is so simple, they even teach it to little kids. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” I shouldn’t manipulate because I do not like being manipulated. I shouldn’t control because I do not like being controlled. And I certainly shouldn’t assume I know how other people are feeling because I am quite certain no one knows what’s going on inside me.

Letting people be is a difficult thing, especially when I only have good intentions. But the road others have to walk down, the lessons they have to learn, are not for me to decide for them. What I need to do is turn the mirror back around on myself and think about the lessons that I need to learn. There are enough things wrong with my life and with my relationships, to keep me busy for eternity.

The Actor Running the Show

The Actor Running the ShowYou know what I was thinking? There should be a Survivor where all the people on the island are alcoholics. Instead of immunity idols, there could be hidden bottles of Jack Daniels. High atop cliffs, there could be warm beds and hot food, and the contestants would have to figure out how to get up to them. I would love to see the social aspect of the show turned on its head. You want fire? Want it more than vodka?

“… any life run on self-will can hardly be a success. On that basis we are almost in collision with something or somebody, even though are motives are good… If only [our] arrangements would stay put, if only people would do as [we] wished, [life] would be great… In trying to make these arrangements, [the alcoholic] may sometimes be quite virtuous. He may me kind, considerate, patient, generous; even modest and self-sacrificing. On the other hand, he may be mean, egotistical, selfish, and dishonest” (Big Book 60-61).

Sometimes, in my journey to understand myself, I read and re-read sections of the Big Book. Though I always find myself relating and identifying, I sometimes simultaneously think, “Well, hold up Bill W. Isn’t everybody like that?” I mean, really, doesn’t everybody want everything to go his/her way all the time? What person out there would have the fatuity to ask for a little extra helping of heartache or failure? I’ll tell you who, no one. And if I could figure out a way to make my life better through some subtle arranging of things, does that make me alcoholic or just smart?

Here is what I’ve decided this week. It’s not the manipulation of things around me for my betterment that make me alcoholic in nature, it is the extent to which I work to manipulate these things and then my subsequent reaction to them that identify me. I really think, by and large, alcoholics are fascinatingly intelligent and cunning people. I listen to people speak in meetings and it almost seems as if we alcoholics are running giant sociological experiments on those around us. Will you do it if I ask? No. How about if I am mean? Coercive? Gracious? What if I cry or throw a tantrum or refuse sex? What if I buy you a drink or a fur or a car?

And then, when I do not get what I want, there is no acceptance. Instead, there is a foot stomp followed by renewed exertion. Somehow, I think if someone failed me, it is not that they fumbled, but that I have somehow failed to properly explain what needed to be done. So, I try again. “He decided to exert himself more. He becomes, on the next occasion, still more demanding or gracious, as the case may be. Still [life] does not suit him. Admitting he may be somewhat at fault, he is sure that other people are more to blame. He becomes angry, indignant, self-pitying,” (Big Book 61).

The longer I stay sober, the more sure I am that Bill was right when he talked about how doomed this idea of collision is. I used to think that people would one day wise up to the fact that I was only trying to help them. Now, I know better. I’ve learned better. I’ve learned that the human experience lies in the fact that people need to experience their truth first hand, and that no amount or lecturing or warning is ever quite the same thing. I’ve learned that no matter how much I think I know about a person, I will never know exactly what is feels like to be them.

But I don’t know. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe you’ll just have to experience it for yourself.

Driving the Road of Happy Destiny

Humility CarI have a love/hate relationship with my car. Before I got sober, I needed a car. I was looking at used cars, but couldn’t settle on one. For the price I wanted to pay, all the Hondas and Toyotas had high millage and no warranty. One day, I was talking to my brother. He said, “If I were you, I would go down to the Hyundai dealership and buy their cheapest new car.” I went down there that day, and did exactly that. I came away with a little black Hyundai Elantra complete with tape deck and cloth seats. (Yes, I have a tape deck in my car.)

My first couple of years owning the car was a bit rough. I’d never learned how to take care of anything, so oil changes, stickers, tires, all fell by the wayside. And yet the car kept going. I dented it a couple of times (once sober, once not so much). I broke the cover off of the vanity mirror. I lost my floor mats. My seatbelt jammed. I blew the speakers. And still it goes. Now the paint is flaking off, I have the beginnings of a hole in my floorboard, and my headlights seem to go out with surprising regularity. And still it goes.

And that’s the problem. Eleven years later, it still goes. No matter where I am or what parking lot I am in, I look around. My car is inevitably the worst looking car in the lot. I know because I look a lot. I size my car up against all the pretty, undented cars with paint so glossy it reflects the world back upon itself. It has become an obsession of mine. I look for the worse off cars too, and when I occasionally spot one, I fight off the urge to write a pithy, little note saying, “It’ll be okay, Life’ll get better.”

But then, I love my car. It is an awesome, little machine. When I could not afford for that car to break down, it didn’t. I remember taking a friend to Ben Taub psychiatric unit and driving that car home in the foggy, early morning calm of the desolate Sam Houston Tollroad, never being so grateful to be sober. I remember the first time my love came over in torn jeans to fix the thermostat. Some mornings, when I turn over the engine and it starts right away, I pat my car on the dashboard and say encouraging words.

And the truth is the only reason not to love  is because I feel like it is some sort of reflection of my place in society, or even worse, of my place in recovery. I feel like more established people or saner people have nicer, shinier things. So, its not that I am uncomfortable with my car, I am uncomfortable about what you think my car says about me. And that’s crazy! Its like not only do I think you think about me at all, but that you think about my car and what you think my car says about me. To get a new car would, on some level, acknowledge and validate that part of myself that places value not only in the material world, but on what I fear others might think of me. And that’s really awkward.

Over time, my car has become less a method of transportation and more an extension of my journey into my disease and back out again. And now I find myself, like The Giving Tree, learning a new lesson. Now I am learning the lesson of humility and gratitude. A lesson about outer beauty versus inner awesomeness. A lesson about dedication and perseverance and loyalty.

So, yes, I love my car… even if the window doesn’t always want to roll down.

You Better Double Up

5 Minutes After the MiracleA friend of mine had a sponsor when he first got sober. When my friend got thirty days, his sponsor said, “Thirty days? That’s really great. But we lose a lot of people between thirty and sixty days. You better double up on your meetings. You gotta take this thing more seriously.” And so my friend did.

When my friend picked up his sixty day chip the sponsor once again said, “Sixty days? That’s great. But we lose a lot of guys between sixty and ninety. You better double up your meetings. Take this thing a lot more seriously.” And so my friend did.

When my friend picked up his ninety day chip the sponsor once again said, “Ninety days? That’s great. But we lose a lot of guys between three months and six months. You better double up your meetings. Take this thing a lot more seriously.” And so my friend did.

It turned out that regardless of the time my friend would acquire, the sponsor always responded in the same manner. “A year? That’s great. But we lose a lot between one year and two years. You better double up your meetings. You gotta take this thing more seriously…”

A couple of years ago, my friend passed away, but up until that point, every birthday meeting, no matter who was celebrating or how many years they had, my friend would speak the warning his sponsor spoke to him.

I like that no matter how seriously I take this thing, I could take it more seriously. I could understand my disease and me more. I could know the book more. I could help more, sponsor more. I can work the steps more. And with that, I can grow more. And be spiritual more. Live in the now more, have faith more. The idea pleases me.

I like the idea of doubling up on meetings. I think it is easy to let life become life-ish. We get spouses and homes and kids and meetings are harder to make. But meetings are where the miracle happens. Meetings are what keeps this thing fresh. Meetings are where we hear new ideas and thoughts, struggles and heartache and triumph. In meetings I get to simultaneously hear of the places where I do not want to go, and the person who I wish to be.

And I think my friend was right. We do lose a lot of people. There were many people around me when I first got sober. My entire halfway house, women in the meetings, friends, and friends of friends. We all had roughly the same length of sobriety. Now there’s not so many. In fact, there’s one. One of my friends still has her original sobriety date, eight years later.

Eight years. We lose a lot between eight and nine. I better double up. I better take this thing more seriously.