I am Responsible

A little before Christmas, I wrote a post, Only God and Santa can Create AA Miracles, about a young outdoorsman who would occasion visit my homegroup. I wrote about the outdoorsman in that way that while I felt his homelessness was tragic, that is was just a matter of time before his miracle was to happen too. I can read the goodwill in my own words, that feeling of sentimentality that only comes in the night during winter.

Sometimes, though, those miracles do not come. Last week, the young outdoorsman’s body was found in a local park.

I think his death has had a serious impact on our little corner of the recovery world. I know his death has profoundly impacted me. I keep trying to think of what we could have said, what we could have done that might have averted this tragedy. I want to reach out to his family and hug them and reassure them and tell them I don’t think there was anything we could have done. And yet, in my heart I know I’m wrong. There is always more we could do.

I wrote my post in December. Now it is May, and I regret it. I regret suggesting that only God and Santa can create AA miracles because that is not good enough. It removes the responsible of the program off my shoulders and on to something/someone else. And that is not what we are taught.For That I am Responsible.

What we are taught is: I am Responsible.  When anyone, anywhere, reaches out for help, I want the hand of A.A. always to be there.  And for that:  I am responsible.

AA.org goes on to quote Bill W. “‘The first concern of AA members should be with problem drinkers the movement is still unable to reach,’ Bill said. He estimated that there are 20 million alcoholics in the world today, five million in the U.S. alone. ‘Some cannot be reached because they are not hurt enough, others because they are hurt too much,’ he declared. ‘Many sufferers have mental and emotional complications that seem to foreclose their chances. Yet it would be conservative to estimate that at any particular time there are four million alcoholics in the world who are able, ready and willing to get well if only they knew how. When we remember that in the 30 years of AA’s existence we have reached less than ten per cent of those who might have been willing to approach us, we begin to get an idea of the immensity of our task and of the responsibilities with which we will always be confronted.'”

There are only two sober high schools (Archway and Three Oaks) in all of Houston. The rate of addiction, especially in the youngest members of our society, is disastrous. Their brains are not fully developed enough to make the logical and sound choices that they might have otherwise. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), “Nine percent of 8th graders, 23.5 percent of 10th graders, and 37.4 percent of 12th graders reported past-month use of alcohol… 19.4 percent reported binge drinking.” Although these numbers are lower than in previous years, they still warrant serious attention considering the US department of Health and Human services in their article, “Alcohol: A Women’s Health Issue,” states “Young people who begin drinking before the age if 15 have a 40-percent higher risk for developing alcohol abuse or alcoholism some time in their lives than those who wait until age 21 to begin drinking.”

According to HISD in the 2014-2015 school year, there were 46,559 enrolled high school students (In just HISD, not counting Spring Branch, Katy, Spring, Cy Fair, et cetera). If 23.5 percent of these 46,559 (15 being the average age for a 9th-10 grader) drank in the last month, then reason would go to show that 10,941 currently enrolled HISD high schoolers are at a higher chance of developing alcohol abuse or addiction in their later years. 11,000 students. And we have 2 sober high schools.

Yes, there’s more than we can do. We can stop stigmatizing alcohol and drug addiction as a character flaw and instead embrace the years of scientific research that show addiction as a chemical imbalance. We can stop suggesting the the asking of help is somehow a weakness, or that social services is beneath us. We can slow the funding of the criminalization of this disease and instead move funding into rehabilitation, social services, and schools. Yes, there is always more that we can do

That young outdoorsman, we failed him. Now, what are we going to do about it?

Its my responsibility. It’s your responsibility too.

 

Please contact your local school board about funding for local sober high schools.

Cy Fair ISD: (281) 897-4000

HISD: (713) 556-6121

Katy ISD: 281-396-6000

Spring Branch ISD:713-464-1511

 

I would like people to know that there is a vigil on Sunday for the outdoorsman as well as a GOFUNDME to help defray the cost of his funeral. I struggle with the concept of anonymity in this case. Ultimately, with the help of my support group, I am going to err on nondisclosure. If you would like more information, please email me. Until then.

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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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.

Summer in Sobriety, Down by the Pool

Hobo WeddingMy friend was telling me about a woman she had recently met. This woman was newly sober, just a couple weeks in. She was concerned that summer was around the block. Her husband and her were renowned for their pool parties, and she was worried that if they did not serve alcohol, no one would come. Two weeks sober and she’s are worried about pool parties? I would have laughed if I hadn’t known she was dead serious.

When I first got sober, I had my own obsession: my wedding day. As I remember, early on I met a girl who had met a boy on AA campus and had gotten married. She was telling me about their relationship and life, but I didn’t get further than… “Wedding? Hold up, you had a sober wedding? No one drank? No endless champagne toasts? No open bar? A dead sober wedding?” I could not imagine such a thing. So, I obsessed about it, what my sober wedding would look like. Would we serve alcohol, and I would just not drink, or would the whole wedding be dry? Would we have water in club soda in champagne glasses or would that just look tacky? Would anyone dance? All this time, I didn’t even have a boyfriend, let alone a fiancé.

And that, my friends, is how I know I am an alcoholic.

I read a startling statistic the other day: 60% percent of women drink at least one drink a year. That is not the part that startled me. What shocked me was that if 60% drink at least one drink a year, 40% of women do not drink at all! Nothing!

I think it is hard for heavy drinkers to fathom that many people do not drink. We think that if we order a Coke at a party, the record player will come to a screeching halt as the attention of the whole room focuses on our lack of a proper cocktail. The reality is no one cares. Wait… what I should say is no one cares, but the other alcoholics in the room, the other people who cannot imagine that one might forego a drink.

In our disease we only hung out with people like us, who did what we did. They acted like us and drank and used like us. It’s how we justified our own actions. Then when we get sober, I think our minds just grasp on to whatever we can. There’s so much going on and changing, the idea of changing everything, even our pool parties and wedding aspirations gets a little overwhelming.

I wish I could have talked to that lady. I would have told her not to worry. Some people won’t go to her party, the active alcoholics won’t go. But 40% of the population goes to pool parties to swim and 40% go to weddings to see the actual wedding. 40% don’t drink. Period. So find them. Be friends with them. Make the 40% your 100% and you’ll have rocking parties once again.

Heck, I’ll go. Let summer begin!

A Disease of Perception

The HoboatorHouston has its own wrestling TV show called Reality of Wrestling. I am going to give Booker T. a plug because if you have not seen it, you should. It’s on at 1 AM Saturday night/Sunday morning on channel 57 (The Cube). It’s super awesome, old school wrestling in the overly dramatic, absurd kind of way. For the past few months, my sweetie and I have started a new routine. We attend our usual 10 o’clock candlelight meeting, go out to dinner, and then come home in time for wrestling. Though I cannot believe how lame we are, what I really cannot believe is how much I like it.

My sponsee and I were talking a couple of weeks ago about the idea that addiction is a disease of perception. I’ve never really been a happy person. I’m more the glass half empty, life has no meaning kinda girl. But I crave happiness. I desire it. I search for it like an explorer looking for El Dorado or the Fountain of Youth. For years, I traversed the bar scene, drinking and talking. I met not so interesting people. I played jukeboxes and shot pool. I skipped lines and got after-hours pulls.

Looking back, though, what’s incredibly awkward is I do not think I had a moment of pure joy the entire time I was out there. I thought I did. I thought I was having fun, because in some messed up sense it was fun, compared to the rest of my life. On my happiness scale of one to ten, I continually fell around a 2; I was genuinely unhappy. I then go out and drink, some gross boy flirts with me, tells me I’m pretty, and suddenly I’m like a 4. But I am never really happy; I’m just better than I was. I had mistaken happiness.

What the steps of AA do is alter my perception of my life through gradual acts that help change my perception of myself. Simple things: I look at my past acts, things I have done that have hurt others and try to rectify them. I look at the parts of my character that I do not like and try to engage new and better habits. It is cognitive therapy at its finest. “… huge emotional displacements and rearrangements. Ideas, emotions, and attitudes which were once the guiding forces of the lives of these men are suddenly cast to one side, and completely new set of conceptions and motives begin to dominate them” (Big Book 27).

One of my favorite AAs in the world said something once that continues to resonate with me over time. He said, “I use to pray to God to make me a better dresser. But God did one better, he made me not care.” That is the emotional displacement that occurred as a result of the steps. Those are the parts of AA that make me say, “Oh, yeah. That’s right. Better dressing isn’t that important to me. Good character is.”

AA didn’t make me thin or tan or an optimist. What AA has done is help continually correct my faulty perception that being those attributes are going to make me happy. What the steps have done, what acting myself into right behavior has done, is improve, not my perceived life, but my genuine life. So today, on my happiness scale, I run about a six, but six is better than four. And the happiness I spent years looking for…? Well, I found it on my sofa, in my pajamas, watching ridiculously awesome wrestling.

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.