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.
Next week is the AA International Convention in Atlanta. I’ll be there. If you are going, give a shout out.
Please take a moment to make a donation to the continuation of this blog.
A dollar or two would be appreciated.
Anyone 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.
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!
I know I haven’t met you yet,
But I’m positive when I do,
We will greet each other like old friends.
I’ll extend my hand to you.
But until that future time comes,
I can only wish you well.
Cause the road you travel down
Is a solitary hell.
Littered with tears and pity,
Shame and sorrow at your side,
You keep trying the same old game again.
The Devil’s in your pride.
So, keep walking down that path you made.
Walk it all alone.
Because you need to fully feel,
The existence you have sown.
But when you reach the point,
Of choosing life or death.
I hope you will reach out for help
With surrendered breath.
For though I walk another path
Your history rings true.
To the very path I used to walk,
Because I was once just like you.