Wife or No Wife

By: Anonymous

“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” (Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous 98).

Cake or No Cake

The above statement is a powerful reminder to me that despite my material and external gains or losses, I simply did not stop drinking. I often would attend church services on Sunday, getting drunk at church brunch afterwards. By Monday, I would be in a state of confusion on where my spiritual juice went that I had received at church. It was covered by alcohol. I still was not putting a dependence on God, even when I desired to seek God. Naturally, I stopped going to church. God was not there. Ironically, many years later, my first AA meeting was in that very same church. I picked up my one and only desire chip there 8 years ago.

Hard knocks.  No one told me that hard knocks were going to cease when I got sober.  I was often told “It will get better” and “Things will change and get different.” I remember being over a year sober when I screamed in frustration at someone and said, “What is ‘It,’ that gets better?!” The person calmly looked at me and said, “You; you get better.” Lightbulb on.

I did get better. I worked the steps, sought outside help, worked with a sponsor, attended meetings, worked with others, and changed my behaviors, actions, and playgrounds. Hard knocks of life still occurred as they always will. No one is immune to this. How I handle the hard knocks is what the major difference between the sober alcoholic I am today and the drunk alcoholic I was.

“It is only when boy meets girl on A.A. campus…,” (Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions 119). I’m not sure when someone stole my 12 & 12 and inserted this page, but I surely do not recall reading it on any previous occasion. It is underlined, so I am sure a sponsor pointed it out at some point.

I found love on A.A. campus. Then after 6-years of dating, relationship, and marriage, I woke up on January 27, 2016, to my love being done with the marriage. 3 days later, she was gone and all of her belongings were in the spare room. 7 days later, all of our finances were untangled, and by Valentine’s Day every essence of our marriage and her presence was gone. 2 weeks. 2 weeks to undo 6-years. In many ways, I am grateful it was quick. In another way, I feel like I’m living out a bad nightmare that I must surely wake from soon.

I found myself thinking about that statement “wife or no wife.” I know with every fiber in my body that no matter what, I don’t drink. “Job or no job- wife or no wife,” I simply do not pick up a drink, and I put my dependence on God. This is not a new solution that applies for divorce, death, or any other hard knock. The solution and design for living is exactly the same as it was in the beginning. However this time, I had 8-years’ worth of spiritual tools at my feet to pick up. I talk about my feelings (argh), feel my feelings (double argh), meditate, journal, listen to music, read the literature, and pray. Then, I work the steps, seek outside help, meet with a sponsor, attend meetings, do service work, and change my behaviors, actions, and playgrounds. And it works.  It really does….If you work it.

The Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins with a Single, Sober Step

AA Ironman I saw something incredible today. I saw a man, 53 years of age, studious and pensive in nature, run an Ironman Triathlon. A 1.2 mile swim, followed by a 55 mile bike ride, and culminating in a 13.1 mile run.

I was in a meeting last week. The topic was along the lines of, “AA is not a cure-all, but without AA very little else is possible.” For the past few days, I have been thinking about that topic. It seems an idea so simple, I find it hard to believe I haven’t heard it before.

I think we all grow up with dreams, with ideas of who we are and who we want to be. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way, it all falls apart. Genetic determination mixed with anxiety and hurt leaving many of us in a comatose state unable to function. Then we find substances outside of ourselves and immediately, things start to look up. We can talk to people again and dance and sing and laugh. These substances worked so well in fact, that most of us then turned to stronger, more potent, quicker, cheaper, more readily available versions. Along the way, the things we originally desired start to disappear. Friends, jobs, cars, freedom, sanity, but they don’t go immediately, no. At first they go slowly, so slowly we don’t always see the signs, confusing dysfunction with bad luck. In the end, life gets catastrophic enough that even we can finally see the devastation. It is here that one of two things happen: we either sober up or else we don’t.

AA allowed me to put down the drink long enough to connect to a higher power. It showed me how to take an inventory of my behavior, assess my character defects, and choose an alternate existence. AA gave me friends to talk to and a place to go. But it didn’t cure everything. AA hasn’t made me rich or beautiful. AA hasn’t bought me a house or gotten me into graduate school. AA hasn’t won me the Pulitzer Prize or made my life into a Lifetime movie. And it definitely hasn’t made me able to compete in an Ironman.

But I could.

And that’s the thing. Without sobriety, nothing is possible. Without sobriety, I would be stuck in that continuing vortex of self pitying, self-delusioned obsession.

With AA, there is a chance. It has taken me eight years to begin to understand what the full potential of my life with AA can be. “There you will find release from care, boredom and worry. Your imagination will be fired. Life will mean something at last. The most satisfactory years of your existence lie ahead. Thus we find the fellowship and so will you,” (152). So true.

The journey of a thousand miles or of 70.3 begins with a single, sober step.

Will Write for Food
Donate Button with Credit Cards

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.

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.

Only God and Santa Can Create AA Miracles

Digging Deeper

My homegroup is a small group in Houston, Texas. It’s literally the last house on the block, a small, ramshackly little house overlooking I-10. Last week, an occasionally reoccurring member stopped by for the ten o’clock candlelight meeting. When he first started coming around, maybe four years ago, he had just left his parent’s house and was living on a buddy’s sofa. Now, he has became what the locals call an “outdoorsman.” When I pulled up to the club on Tuesday, I wasn’t able to distinguish him from the other homeless that roam the area. Although he is young, maybe twenty-two, he looked like he had aged ten years. He walked with a bit of a limp. His clothes were grimy, his stench penetrating. We had a casual conversation. I inquired into his safety, but he assured me he found a nice, flat park bench in an upscale part of town. I gave him some peanut butter crackers and bought him a coke. He stayed for the whole meeting before walking back out into the night.

I read once that Bill W. spent a significant amount of time trying to discern why some people find their bottom while others never hit it. What Bill was ultimately trying to discern was the exact best time to twelve step a prospective AA, so that the program would have the maximum impact- Is it the first trip to the hospital, the second time, the third time? Is it after the wife kicks him out but before he loses the house? That sort of thing. The closest he ever came to an answer is that answer we are all familiar with: that bottoms are generally more contingent on emotional and spiritual bankruptcy rather than the material. The loss of cars, jobs, and homes does not affect an alcoholic the in the same way that fear, loneliness, and self-pity do.

After last week’s run-in with the occasionally reoccurring outdoorsman, I started thinking about my a-ha moment. My moment of clarity took two months to come to fruition, but it started with Christmas. It started with Christmas and by February, I had put down the shovel. This is not one of those blogs that supplies an answer. I don’t know why some people “go on to the bitter end, blotting out the consciousness of our intolerable situation as best we could; and the other, to accept spiritual help,” (Big Book 25). The best I’ve ever come up, the best descriptor, the best reason for my sobering up is that it was a miracle. And neither I nor Bill nor anyone else can create miracles. But God can. And Santa can. Tis the season for miracles. And to all the outdoorsmen, here’s wishing you a safe and sober holiday.

Let Go Absolutely

Let Go AbsolutelyIt is fairly rare that someone says something new in a meeting that I have not heard before, but this is exactly what recently happened. The observation came from a line in “How it Works.” “Some of us have tried to hold on to our old ideas and the result was nil until we let go absolutely” (58). The gentleman in the meeting said that his old ideas included a sense of worthlessness, of insecurity, and feelings of less than.

Even though I generally zone out as “How it Works” is read, for the past week, I have thought about little else. I have always thought those lines had to do with drinking, about my old thoughts with alcohol, about the thoughts of whether or not I could ever drink like a lady. Never once had I considered all the other old ideas I had been holding on to. Now I can think of little else.

Which brings me to Thanksgiving. Letting go of old ideas also means letting go of the family that exists only in my imagination. My family is not the Norman Rockwell idealized greater version of ourselves. We are messy and dysfunctional and alcoholic and brilliant and interesting and funny. My family loves with a big heart, yet shows it in ways that are often misguided and uncomfortable. We think we know what we do not know. Words and deeds, meant to help, often lead to hurt feelings, arguments, and the taking of sides.

I think on some level we all suffer from this misconception of what families and the holidays are suppose to be rather than what they are. There seems to be a certain level or denial or delusion that comes with the holiday season. We gift wrap hurt and cover it with large bows of dysfunction because anything less would be to acknowledge that life is not perfect. “Just smile through it and whatever you do, don’t drink.”

This Thanksgiving, though, my love and I did something totally different. Instead of the traditional meal with family, we went to a friend’s house. While the food was incredible, it was the people that softened me. My friend and her husband are both in the program. And so is her family. And so are our friends. Throughout the day, the program was not sidestepped, but embraced. Gratitude was on everybody’s lips and in their hearts.

I really do not think I have ever had a better Thanksgiving, and yet, it didn’t feel like a “real” Thanksgiving. So, even though I had an amazing day, there is a little asterisks by it as if to say, “Really fantastic runner-up Thanksgiving.”

And that is the idea I need to let go of absolutely.

Measuring my insides by other people’s outsides is bad enough; measuring them to my own expectations is a nightmare. If my life or my holiday season does not go the way that I plan it or wish it does not make my life any lesser than it would be otherwise. It does not speak to some sort of failure. Those are the ideas that exist only in my head. Those are the thoughts of envy and fear. They are the ideas of some insane form of unattainable perfection. They are the thoughts that will get me nil results because they do not amount to anything of value.

What does give me results, what does add value to my life are the same things that give me results and value the rest of the year: AA, my higher power, the steps, service. Those are the ideas worth holding on to. When I can stay in the moment and purely appreciate the people and love that continually show up for me, I realize I am so incredibly blessed. It is that feeling of gratitude that I need to carry forward into the remainder of this season.