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.)

Alcoholics Anonymous: We Surely have no Monopoly

Recovery Options“Love and tolerance of others is our code” (Big Book 84).

I am not a very lovely and tolerant person. I’m just not. I try my darnedest, but… no. Quiet, though, I have improved upon. Pausing when agitated. Walking away. Not engaging. This morning, though, I woke up to yet another email explaining to me the fallibility of AA. Ugh. When I posted last week that this conversation bores me, a man called me a coward. He said that since his opinion differed with mine, I was scared to acknowledge him. Nothing could be further from the truth. I am sorry he feels spurned or neglected or failed or whatever it is by AA. I know such feelings exist. I just… I don’t know what to say about it.

I know there is a lot of hostility towards AA out there. And I know some people feel the need to express their dissatisfaction, but let me set something straight, once and for all. This is my blog. I write it. I draw the pictures. Its about my life, my perceptions, my recovery. I make no bones about it. I’ve have my reasons for breaking my anonymity. I wrote about them in in my post Part Three: Why I Write about my Alcoholism: (https://annkroger.com/2014/09/26/part-three-why-i-write-about-my-alcoholism/) But this, this is not a Celebrate Recovery blog. It is not a SMART Recovery Blog. This is not by the sheer force of willpower blog. And I do not feel in the spirit of equanimity that I have to give equal time to any of them because my blog is not about the many forms of recovery from alcohol and drug addiction. It’s about my recovery from alcohol and drug addiction. And I’ve chosen AA.

With that said, I have never once said any other approach does not work. I never would. I have no basis on which to judge anything. I have not looked into them. I do not know what their methods are. I do not know what they teach. I’m not a coward; I’m just busy. I have two jobs, two dogs, this blog, my art, a family, a wedding to plan, and a fiancé who just had open-heart surgery. I have neither the time nor the interest to participate in a discussion that affects my life in no way whatsoever.

Furthermore, I find it odd that anyone would even engage in that discussion. The Big Book tells us, “In all probability, we shall never be able to touch more than a fair fraction of the alcohol problem in all its ramifications. Upon therapy for the alcoholic himself, we surely have no monopoly,” (xxi). I have a more than a couple friends in Celebrate Recovery. I have friends in SMART recovery. I, as well as most of my friends, engage or have engaged in some form of therapy/ psychoanalysis. Many AAs are on some kind of medication for anxiety or depression or any number of things. AA says some of us may need outside help. It encourages hospitalization when needed.

Well… the sun is nice and high. I’ve had a cup of coffee. Writing this has cleared my mind and my mood has drastically improved. So, here is what we’ll do. I will make a one-time offer. If you send me an email at agkroger@gmail.com summarizing your program of recovery, regardless of what it is, I will post it. Explain the program’s advantages or why you like it. Whatever you want. I would prefer it if you did not criticize other programs, but simple tell us about yours. I will not edit it. I will not voice an opinion. If you want to send original artwork, I will post that as well. This is your chance to voice whatever it is you want about whatever it is you are doing.

I will accept emails until hmmmm… April 5th and I will post the blog on April 12th. I hope everyone has a great day.

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.

 

 

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.