The Facebook Resentment

Ann G. Kroger Celebrate Pride If I want to go trolling for a resentment, I spend some time on Facebook. Acquaintances, old high school friends, people I met that time at that place and then never spoke to again, people I assumed were of sound mind when I sent/ accepted the “friend request” will eventually post something that makes me sit up a little straighter, cock my head to one side, and query to myself, “Really?” I think this is where not talking about outside matters in meetings really hinders my ability to discern the average AA crazy from the absolutely-out-of-their- f-ing-gourd crazy.

But I digress. I was mildly minding my own business, voyeuristically peeking in on other people’s worlds last week on Facebook, when I saw a friend had posted a comment about another anonymous person. The diatribe, and a diatribe it was, was about how the anonymous guy had cried while oversharing in a meeting thus making my friend uncomfortable. He posted that one is always supposed to share in generalities in meetings, not specifics. Now, there were many parts of this comment that infuriated me (besides the fact that I totally believe in specific sharing, cause I need to how someone can lose a job, lose a man, get a promotion, get a man, and still not drink).

But what most irritated me was the judgement. By and large, we are a room of thieves, liars, cheaters, brawlers, users, abusers, instigators, runners, petty crooks, and substantial crooks. We done things that would make people cringe. Then we sober up a few years and suddenly, an overshare causes us to rise from the gutter and to declare our stance regarding AA sharing etiquette. I mean really, who was this guy, a person in recovery, to judge another person in recovery? Patience and tolerance is our f-ing code or did he miss that part?! Harrumph with an arm crossed, foot stamp!

And then a new thought occurred to me, a second thought, elusive at first but coming into ever sharper focus. I sat back. I don’t like the comment of a person in recovery as he commented about the share of another person in recovery? Wait a minute… yes, no, yes, wait… I, a person in recovery, is judging the share of another person in recovery as he judges the share of another person in recovery.

And then I had one of those moments of quiet.

 

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Next week is the AA International Convention in Atlanta. I’ll be there. If you are going, give a shout out.

Will Write for Food

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Three Life Lessons I Learned from my Dogs

Self PortraitAnyone who knows me knows that I love my dogs. I got my first puppy, Dionysus, when I had about 2½ years sober. I had moved into a little efficiency apartment in the Heights area of Houston. I was struggling with loneliness and isolation after sober living. One day, a friend in the program posted on Facebook that his dog had a litter. He lived close by, and impulsively I thought, “Well, I’ll just drive by and look.” When I picked up the first puppy, she wriggled and squirmed. The second, a shockingly tiny thing with big, fluffy ears promptly fell asleep in my arms. I fell in love instantly. I took her home that day and never looked back.

So today, I bring you: Three Life Lessons I Learned from my Dogs.

1. Forgiveness: It is embarrassing to say, but I seemingly made it to adulthood with fully grasping the concept of unconditional love and forgiveness. I just didn’t get it. Instead, I judged people. I held them to impossible standards. When they inevitably let me down, I walked away. I rationalized my behavior in the spirit of self-preservation, without ever understanding the chaos and hurt I left in my wake.

I still had not learned this lesson when I got Dio. I stayed home for the first couple of days I had her, but eventually I had to return to work. I was a waiter, so my shifts were relatively short, and yet, almost every day, I would come home to some sort of puppy induced damage. She chewed through my cable wires, speaker wires, multiple pairs of shoes, my couch cushions, and my linoleum floor. One day she even ate the side of my door. I tried to protect my belongings. I bought her chew toys and bones to no avail. Every single day, as I assessed the new and totally incomprehensible form of destruction, I would become angry. “Dang it, Dio!” I’d say as I stomped my foot. Dio would sense my frustration and momentarily hang her head. And then, much to my surprise, I would instantly forgive her. She, in turn, would instantly forgive me. One day, I realized that there was nothing Dio could ever do that would cause me to stop loving her. She taught me how to love unconditionally.

2. Acceptance: My little apartment had floor to ceiling windows in the front of the apartment. It was one of the original reasons I got the apartment. But at the time, I had not envisioned owning a puppy. Now, had the windows been a normal height, my tiny Dachshund would never have been able to bark at the mailman, the neighbor’s cat, my landlord, bicyclists, walkers, or the kids who lived across the street

The barking was frustrating; I won’t lie. It tended to happen the most just as I was lying down for a nap, and as much as I went “Dio! Shush!” she did not listen to me. Do you know why? Because she is a dog. And dogs bark at things. It is in their nature to do so. So, on some level I had to let Dio be Dio, an insanely protective, vicious, barking attack puppy.

Alcoholics are like that too. We have a shared bond of insecurity and fear, bad judgment and self-centeredness. These shared characteristics are what make us relate so well to each other, and yet, when I see them in you, it drives me crazy. Just sit through a whole meeting for once, dang it! No crosstalk. You can go an hour without smoking. Stop smacking your gum. No need to curse. Eventually, though, I learned that my taking your inventory is not going to do me or you any good. Regardless of how much I wish you would, you will not listen to me. Most often, the life lessons we learn are a direct result of our own personal experience, not things told to us by other insanely controlling people. I learned to let addicts be addicts too.

3. Responsibility: Every family sitcom over the span of television has had the episode where Little Johnny brings home a dog. He wants to keep it. The parents have the inevitable conversation about how owning a dog will teach Little Johnny responsibility.

Dogs require a tremendous about of time and money. Before we go any further, let me tell you that I am not coming at this one from a place of moral superiority. My love for my puppies is equally matched by my procrastination. Even as I type this, I know I am a month overdue for their vet appointment.

There is something about a dog, though, that will eventually warm the heart of even the most cold-hearted, miserly, and selfish addict. Anyone who has a problem sharing their resources should get a pet that requires much from them. Having dogs has taught me that my time and money do not always belong to me. I have cute, lovable, little furry beings that are totally reliant on me for food, health, and safety.

I remember the old Sandra Bullock movie, 28 Days, when they tell her to get a plant. If she could make it a year without the plant dying, she could get a dog. If the dog made it a year without dying, then she could get a relationship. The movie is terrible, but the sentiment is good.

Learning to be a contributing member of society requires one to give of themselves. Sometimes this is difficult. Other people’s character defects can grind on us. Our own behaviors can push people away. But a dog’s loyalty rings true. My sobriety today has been improved by the forgiveness and character of my fierce, little puppies.

The Most Satisfactory Years of [Our] Existence Lie Ahead.

Self PortraitA couple of years ago, through a series of unusual events, I found myself swimming along with my aunt in the sea off the coast of Cancun. My aunt, the wife of a Lutheran minister, is an incredible woman of natural spirituality and grace. So, we were bobbing along in the ocean, talking about life when she said, “It must be interesting to have a relationship where from the beginning, you each knew the worst thing about the other person. So many times, people in relationships try to cover up and hide the worst parts of themselves, hoping the other person will not see it.”

I’ve thought about that sentiment many times over the last couple of years. It is true. When I had two years sober, I got my very first apartment all by myself. Up until then, I had lived in sober living. I was struggling. I had those thoughts of “If I drank, no one would know.” And it scared me. One night I found myself at a ten o’clock meeting. In short time, I found myself comfortably sharing in the quiet dim of the candle light. Free from imagined judgment, I was able to share my deepest insecurities and fears.

It was in this setting that my love and I spent many months sitting across the room from each other, before we ever went for our first cup of coffee. In fact, if you asked him, he would readily admit that he originally felt sorry for the poor, lost girl who didn’t believe in God. What I remember about those times was his honesty in admitting his social anxiety and how we both bonded over our shared hatred of driving. (I do most of the driving now. I figured living in Houston, one had to work through this fear. He’s fine with letting me process my recovery as he sits in the passenger seat.)

I’ve had a lot of conversations with lot of different women over the years regarding whether or not one should date within the program. I know many people who are attracted to the idea of dating a “normie.” I get that. I get the idea of swaying away from the fear of potential relapse and the emotional baggage that follows in the wake of any given alcoholic. “But it is from our twisted relations with family, friends, and society at large that many of us have suffered the most. We have been especially stupid and stubborn about them. The primary fact that we fail to recognize is our total inability to form a true partnership with another human being,” (Twelve and Twelve page 53) Trying to align oneself with a narcissistically immature misanthrope can be a bad idea.

Yes, there is something to my aunt’s words; we do know the worst about each other. But we also know the best. I know my sweetie wakes up each morning and prays. I know at some point in the day, he will read and meditate and go to a meeting. I know he will talk to another alcoholic and ask that man for a slice of wisdom. I know he will help someone.

And I know with my sweetheart, I never have to apologize for working my own program. I never have to procure a reason for going to a meeting. A sentence like, “I’m going to call my sponsor,” doesn’t send him into a spiral of insecurity. Saying, “I’m crazy and I don’t know why” or bursting into tears for no reason doesn’t require really any more explanation than that. Cause he knows why. I’m an alcoholic and some days are just like that.

Our love is predicated not on fear of relapse but on the combined spirituality and growth that active recovery ensures. I can tell you in all honesty, we are better people today than we were five years ago when we met. Over time, some of the anger, jealousy, and fears have subsided. We have worked through abandonment issues, monetary insecurity. When we argue, phone calls are made and inventories are taken (our own, not each other’s). We look at our character defects, apologize, and make honest attempts to do better next time. But y’know, it is not even how far we have come that calms me; it is the thought of how much more we have to grow. I look forward to seeing what will become of us, for I am sure, “The most satisfactory years of [our] existence lie ahead” (BB 152).

On January 8th, Bob got down on one knee and asked me to marry him. I said, “Yes.”

 

5 Sober Activites Worth Remembering January 2nd

Amateur Night

New Years is one of my favorite holidays of the year. I think it is about the closest normies ever get to working the program. I mean, let’s admit it; there’s the reflection on past, the admission of shortcomings, and an somewhat earnest attempt to change the negative aspects of their personality or physique. From a young age, I was drawn to this idea (or maybe I was just drawn to New Years because it’s the only holiday based on the self-centeredness.) Anywho, when I got sober, I thought the days of the New Year celebration was over. Little did I know….

So, without any further ado: five ideas for New Year’s celebrating, old school style.

Go Dancing!: I heard a great story once when a friend of mine was getting married. The wedding planner, a woman baffled by sobriety, made the comment that no one was going to dance if there wasn’t any alcohol served. My friend answered something to the effect of, “Well, you haven’t met my friends.”

I honestly think dancing sober is high on AAs list of fears. It only took me one boy-girl dance in middle school, awkwardly dancing in a circle with my friends, to know that sober dancing, for me, was never, ever going to happen. I was a club hopper in my day, but it always took an insane amount of liquid courage to get me out on the floor. So, when I got sober, I naturally thought I had to hang up my dancing shoes.

But then I went to a sober dance. My friends dragged me over to North Wayside on a Saturday night. I was amazed by the sheer number of people out there in the dance floor, cutting a rug, and having a great time. It immediately took all the fear out of the situation for me.

Many AA clubs sponsor sober dances for New Years, and many of those are free. So, grab your nearest sober buddy and have a blast!

Movie Marathon: This one stemmed from a recent conversation I had with my brother. I have never seen Star Wars 4, 5, 6 (Or is it 1,2, and 3? Whatever, the new ones). I feel this is a major gap in my cultural education. I can’t tell Mozart from Bach and I haven’t ever seen the new Star Wars. So, this New Years, I am going to sit down and see arguably the greatest movie I’ve never seen. So, I pass this on to you. What movies are on your bucket list? The Caine Mutiny, The Godfather, Gone with the Wind? Put your feet up, pop the popcorn, and watch away.

Clean House: In my super early days of sobriety, I kept hearing people talk about the importance of “Cleaning house.” I didn’t really understand it. I went home and thought, “They want me to clean my house?” I spent the rest of the night scrubbing down my apartment. Since then, I’ve clearly learned that “cleaning house” is a metaphor for the spiritual inventory that comes from getting down to causes and conditions. But still, in my head, the two cleanings are linked.

My mom always says, “If you haven’t worn it in a year, you’re not gonna wear it.” Throw it out. Donate your clean, slightly used clothes to a women’s halfway house. These women often need clothes befitting their newly sober lifestyles. Additionally, I’ve seen first-hand what perfume and nice bath products like Bath and Body can mean to a newly sober women. These items take on a whole, new level of luxury because many of these women have been struggling so long just to survive, that they have forgotten entirely about small gifts of beauty. Clean out your bathroom closet. Make a nice care package and deliver to a woman’s shelter. This may not be the funnest thing on my list, but I promise you, you’ll feel great afterwards.

Get a Makeover: It’s 2015! Halfway to 2020. Time for a contemporary haircut and some fresh makeup to get you ready to tackle new adventures. Don’t go for the same old same old. Don’t stick with the usual. Go to a new hairdresser and let them choose the style they think would be the most flattering on you. Let go of the control. Then walk over to the Mac make-up counter and ask for a makeover. It’s free. This is not time to play it safe. Let the girls to do it up, and while a Mac makeover can be a bit much for everyday wear, I guarantee you by the time it is over, you will feel awesome. Then buy the florescent blue eye shadow, even if you only wear it in the house on Sundays. Afterall, just because you are sober does not mean there isn’t still a little rocker left in you.

Game Night: Game nights are an opportunity to get together with one’s closest friends and make complete fools of ourselves. Over time, I’ve come to the decision that game nights not only work best with an even number of people, but one needs a variety of fun games and ridiculously junky food. So, call your friends up and invite them over. Tell each one of them to bring their favorite game and their junkiest appetizer (Remember! Resolutions start the next day!) Proper game nights are not for the faint at heart. Get the mini frozen eggrolls and fried cheese. Put the RedBull on ice. Have the stogies at the ready). My favorite games for groups are Taboo, Pictionary, and the old standby, Trivia Pursuit.

There is a total misconception that once we stop drinking, fun has to end. The truth is, AAs are by and large a ridiculous fun and stupidly adventurous group of individuals. Whether its New Year’s skydiving or Polar Bear swimming off Galveston, someone’s bound to be doing it. All you have to do is make a few phone calls. And the greatest thing about whatever it is you do this year? You’ll remember it Jan 2nd.

Happy New Years!

All I want for Christmas…

Peace TreeI work with a lot of kids. Lately, I have been asking each one of them, “What do you want for Christmas?” The answers are as expected. One student wanted a video game. Another wanted Legos. It got me to thinking, what do I want for Christmas? I think there are obvious answers. I want my honey to be well. I want financial security. Those, I think, are legitimate wants. I do not think anyone would begrudge me of them. And yet, there is something else I want altogether.

Lately, if I sit real still and just be, I have these moments of perfect serenity and gratitude. I do not know why they started happening; but I first started noticing them in the morning. I have two puppies who sleep with me. And lately, one of them has taken to waking me up in the morning with a little nudge. She is not obtrusive. She is not licking me. It’s more of a calm query. Are you awake yet? Sweet like. And if I move to pet her, the other puppy will look up to see how awake I am, and like a snooze button, curls back up against me for a few more minutes of sleep. I spend my first few moments of the day in a warm bed with two quiet and thoughtful puppies. And I am happy.

But then they started happening more often. Last night, my honey and I went to our usually late night meeting. Afterwards, we stopped by Starbucks and got a cappuccino and spent an hour driving around the city looking at Christmas lights. We drove through River Oaks and into Memorial, listening to Christmas carols on the freeway, turning off the Christmas carols when Jingle Bell Rock came on, and then turning them back on again. In this moment when I didn’t need anything else to be different in the world. It was perfect, just as it was. I had a friend whom I love, good conversation over a cup of hot coffee, and peace.

So, what do I want for Christmas? I want more of that. I know it does not come from a store. Amazon does not sell it. I cannot stick a bow on it. But it does seem I can ask for it. It feels that if I silently ask for the moment to continue, and if I stay real still, and if I just appreciate the beauty of the moment as it is without allowing any thoughts of judgment or criticism to slip in… the moment of peace stretches out in front of me. That quiet is priceless.

Here’s wishing you and your family and friends a peaceful Christmas filled with quiet appreciation.

Amazon

An AA New Years

Well... I'll just start tomorrow.I know we have yet to have Christmas, but this morning, I woke up thinking of New Years. New Years holds a special place in my heart. I love it. Now, but especially in my disease, New Years was my favorite holiday. I always appreciated the symbolic nature of reflecting upon the past year and resolving to do better. I never made it more than a few days, but I always tried. This year I am going to stop smoking or cursing or eating fried foods. I’m gonna lose weight and go to the gym and yadda yadda yadda. But the best part of New Years, by far, was the solidifying one’s new resolutions with champagne and party hats.

I got sober in February, 2007. I was shaky and tired and green. I was so sick from DT’s that it was easy, on some level, to stay sober for the first few days. But as days turned into weeks, I really struggled with the concept of never drinking again. I thought, how to people get married and not have toasts? How do people go on vacation and not have cocktails on the beach? And especially, how does one celebrate New Years?

The night before I picked up my four-month chip, I had this dream: It was New Years. I was on my way to meet sober friends in order to see the fireworks in downtown Houston. I was sober, but I couldn’t see midnight coming without a toast. So, in my head I decided that if I made it to the liquor store by nine, then fate was telling me I could drink. I would buy a couple of nips and then meet my friends. Right before nine, I walked into the store. The entire place was dirty. There was a film of greasy dust on everything I touched. Except for the liquor bottles. No, the liquor bottles were sparkly and glistening, like cut crystal.

As I made my way to the counter to get my nips, a woman yelled to me, “Hold on. I’ll be right there.” And then, to my surprise, I realized there was a crowd of people right next to me. They were seated, but at that moment, they all got up, held hands, and recited the Lord’s Prayer. As they broke up, the woman came over and apologized. She told me the usual place where they had their AA meeting had been closed for New Years, so they were meeting here. I realized it must have been an eight o’clock meeting that was closing just as I walked in. The woman then asked me what I wanted. “I’m okay,” I said. The woman reassured me that the group had no judgment upon drinking, and that she would be happy to get me whatever I wanted. I looked up at her, into her eyes, and said, “No, really. I’m okay.” And I set my four-month chip on the counter and walked out the door.

It is hard for me to articulate why this dream has meant so much to me over the years. I always found it somewhat relevant that I had the dream the night before I picked up my four-month chip, as if to say that day 120 is a gift, but day 121, not so much. I also know it was the first time, I did not drink in my dream. Over the years, I have met many people who have using dreams in which they turn down the proffered alcohol. It’s an insane realization to know that one cannot even get high in their subconscious. “Ideas, emotions, and attitudes which were once the guiding forces of the lives of these men are suddenly cast to one side, and a completely new set of conceptions and motives begin to dominate them,” (Big Book 27). But to me, it also answered a personal fear of New Years. I woke up the next morning thinking, I do not know what I will do for New Years, but I do know AA will be there.

And it always has been.

Matching Calamity with Recovery

Matching Calamity with Serenity

I have come to the conclusion that good students make bad AAs. No, this has nothing to do with intelligence. I think super smart people are often terrible students. I am talking about the front row sitters with their hand in the air, apple for the teacher type students. Here is my thought: there are the answers that are right and there are answers that are truthful. And those aren’t necessarily the same thing.

Last week, my love needed a heart catheterization. While the procedure is fairly routine, it feels scary. It feels like something that should not be done. I was calm when we heard the news, calm on the way to the hospital, calm checking him in. The cath was to take a few hours. I had my Big Book. And I won’t lie, I started writing my blog entry right there, right up in my own head: matching calamity with serenity. Ahhhh….

And then I got to the waiting room. As I entered the room, I immediately assessed the situation. The room was smaller than my bedroom, with chairs lined around the periphrases. There were no windows. The air hung heavy with smells of people and food and hospital. Two ladies were simultaneously talking on their phones in different languages. The TV, set to a local morning news show, added another certain comedic element as I imagine the beautiful people laughing along from the safety of their kitchens. I had no choice but to enter, to follow my love to two seats in the corner. Because it was my job. Because it is what we do. But right before the door shut behind us, I felt my serenity say, “No way, I’m not doing this. Meet you at Starbucks.”

A short time later, they called my love away to be prepped. They told me to continue to wait and I could see him before the procedure. I waited in the room with no air until I could not handle it anymore, and then I decided I was just gonna have to wait in the hallway. I honestly picked what I thought was the least obtrusive spot and sat down. It was about three minutes later that a man told me I would have to move, that I would have to wait in the room with the teenagers engaged in hilarity and the sunny talk show hosts and the smells. And that’s when I started to cry.

I know what the correct answer is. I remember doing my first 1st step. My sponsor made me do worksheets. One of the questions was, “What are you powerless against?” I didn’t understand the question, but I knew the correct answer had to do with alcohol. So, I answered it alcohol and she said “Good,” and we moved on. Because I never asked, I never understood there was a deeper question and a more profound answer.

It was not until I stopped answering correctly and instead answering honestly, that I felt recovery. Over time, I have learned that AA is not about memorizing the Big Book or sounding good in meetings. It is about humility and time and quiet. It wasn’t until I asked for help, that I got it. It wasn’t until I admitted that I had no conception of powerlessness, did I begin to regain my strength.

So, instead of writing the “right” blog about matching serenity with calamity, I write this honest one: I did not match calamity with serenity. I was not the embodiment of stoicism nor grace. I cried and then wiped my nose on my sleeve.

But after I cried, I washed my face and bought a cup of coffee. And then I walked into the “Spiritual Care” office and spent some time talking to a chaplain. He was kind and reassuring. He said he didn’t know if AA existed in the hospital, but he would be sure to find out. And he did.

I left the hospital that day, not secure in the knowledge that I have reached total spiritual enlightenment, but that I never necessarily have to. I never have to be a beacon of independent strength because I’m never alone. I didn’t match serenity with calamity. But I matched egotism with humility. And together, we matched calamity with recovery. And today, that’s good enough.