Missed you all. This past several days have had been marked by life events (physical, financial, family), each requiring full attention. What can I say I’ve been busy.
In the midst of all the goings-on I picked up an old book, The Tao Of Pooh (Hoff). Just the ticket as I needed something simple and light hearted. The TOP is based on the Pooh children stories and its characters. Wanted something that would call my mind out to play.
I know, you would probable suggest that I pray, meditate, read the “literature” reach out to someone else (sponsee or sponsor), go to meeting, turn it over to HP. All of them time proven and excellent ways of getting out of myself and into HP’s will.
I did all of the above, however I also believe that if I do some or all of the above my HP will then present me with the opportunity to take action (or not) to adjust my attitude. To wake me up or present me with the insight to trust in my HP, to turn it over, then pray for the direction to do the next “right” thing.
That “opportunity” this time came in the form of the “Tao Of Pooh” silly as it may seem. My HP has a sense of humor, evidence in that He has put up with me.
In the TOP it is explained that in Toaism (The Way) the most important principle is the Uncarved Block. “That the things in their original simplicity contain their own natural power, power that is easily spoiled and lost when that simplicity is changed.
Eureka! Who would have guessed? I saw it as the “Steps”! The principles which have motivated me, for over four and a half decades, to show up daily, in my sweats, for practicing living “life on life’s terms.” In their simplicity they contain the power. The power to face all or any of life’s opportunities.
Of course to my sophisticated (right) and ego-driven mind I hear myself saying, “It can’t possible work, that’s too damn simple." I have to spoil them, Complicate them.
So my mantra has always been….Keep It Simple Stupid…knowing that by suiting up and showing up willing to practice I will find the way to peace of mind and serenity in the simple steps I take today.
Got a phone call, a friend (Jake) needs help. Relapsed. Been drinking. Wasted. Crying to go to detox.
What’s the problem?
Right now he’s the problem, nobody wants him. You’ve been around awhile, think you might know him. He’s called several places, no insurance, say they can’t admit him for several days, maybe weeks. He’s been to treatment before, they know him. To them he’s a pain in the a**.
Big guy was right. After a few questions I did recognize Jake as one of my first clients in a treatment center, different city twenty years ago. I could also understand everybody’s reluctance to accept him. Jake hasn’t put more than a few months of sobriety together at a time.
Been told to play hard-a** with him. People I’ve talked to say he’s hopeless. Don’t be soft with him, he doesn’t really want it. Maybe he doesn’t want it, but I can’t bring myself to drop him cold; he did call for help.
Right. For me that’s the key. Don’t play God. We can’t judge whether he wants it or not, whether this time will be the time or not. I would suggest that we do whatever we can for the guy and let God do the sorting out. Knowing his history I’ll make some phone calls, if we can’t get the help he needs we always have ER or…. You call him back let him know we’ll help him.
I called. Made arrangements. We could pick him up. Big guy called back. Jake would not answer his phone. Jake hadn’t told Big guy where he was, his estranged wife didn’t know either. Big guy would keep trying.
Happy birthday Mike Senselessly at twenty six Thirty-eight calibers tattooed your future. You and doctors labored hours at eternity’s door surviving for twenty years with missing and impaired body parts. Without legs, half a man physically, twice a man spiritually. After years of operations, Not enough pain relievers Body depleted ER death, forty-six. Finally freed.
My friend greeted me with, how’s life treating you?
Great, better than I deserve.
How can you say that?
Well, for starters, you say every bone and muscle in your body aches. Face it, you don’t have much mileage left on that old bod.
Right, but it’s a good ache because yesterday morning after “quiet time”, I had a board meeting (rehab center, text and phone) before breakfast, took call from friend , made calls, arranged rehab for her son, a 20 y/o meth, opiates and alcohol addict, then drove cross town to play tennis till noon, drove back home grabbed a shower, a bite and a half hour nap.
Drove half way across town to Y with wife did Yoga for an hour and a half. We had lunch then, drove further down town To a weekly 2 hour meditation and spiritual growth group
Drove back home, collected my laptop, Drove twenty miles to monthly poetry group (writer friends), reviewed two poems (drafts) ready for publisher.
Returned home (wife and daughters) in time to catch 2nd quarter of LA, Celtics playoff, made popcorn, caught The Daily Show. Did personal inventory, prayed and hugged with wife, then zonked off to sleep.
I tell you all this and say life is good today because I have come to believe in the Sanskrit Proverb
Look to this day...for, …today well lived, Makes every yesterday a dream of happiness And every tomorrow a vision of hope.
Look well, therefore to this day.
I might add with a good mix of “family, friends, self and Higher Power.
At quiet time this am we read the following by William Styron. It hit the mark for me, wanted to share it with you.
The poetic and profound writing is in its original form except for one word. For my own reading I chose in the second line to insert addiction and depression.” I also changed the format for my own ease of reading and remembering it.
For those who have dwelt in depression's dark wood, And known its inexplicable agony, their return from the abyss is not unlike the ascent of the poet, trudging upward and upward out of hell’s black depths and at last emerging into what he saw as “the shining world”. There, whoever has been restored to health has almost always been restored to the capacity for serenity and joy, and this may be indemnity enough for having endured the despair beyond despair.
Been a hard day, I was getting in bed when the phone rang.
AA? No….well yeah…..who’s this? This is Angie, bartender at Schuyler Tap….. drunk in here asked me to call you. What’s his name? Don’t know. An out-of-towner….drunk when he came in…. gave him a drink to shut him up. What does he want? Wants you to come and get him. Oh crap….just getting in bed…got to get up early…work. You're not coming? I’m calling police. Wait…be there in about 15 minutes. Good…. but I’m throwing his sorry a** out of here… he’ll be waiting for you on the curb.
* He was on the curb like a sack of garbage, head in hands, just like the bartender said he would be….between sobs he mumbled.
From Wisconsin….been sober little over twelve years….good job ….wife, kids…. lost it all ….. It’s okay…. I’ve called other AAs….we’ll be with you tonight. * As I helped him onto the cot at the Starlight, a $1.00 a night flop house on the strip he grabbed my arm and pleaded with me.
Jim, it’s all in the first thing you do when you wake up….. Please, please check in with your Higher Power every morning…. ask for help...it all started when I didn’t….didn’t take long…. stopped doing everything else …. it all came crashing down. Thanks….see you in the morning.
Spiritum contra spiritus Higher Power opposes alcoholism
So wrote Dr. Jung to Bill Wilson. It was this message, Higher Power Overcomes Alcoholism, that Rowland Hazard, who had been Jung's patient in 1930, who carried it to Bill Wilson via Ebby Thatcher, November 26, 1934. It has been acknowledged that the message was the start of Alcoholics Anonymous. Bill's last drink was December 11th, 1934. Bill's spiritual experience occurred the evening of the 14th.
Just a little history, but wanted to tie in Jung’s connection with the foundation of AA and how his studies, work and his own spiritual journey are significant in honoring how our dreams can be used to guide us in our spiritual growth.
We just spent a glorious week with two-hundred other spiritual-path travelers. We went to workshops, ate meals, prayed, played, and laughed together while learning a great deal about the meanings of our dreams in our lives with a special emphasis on our spiritual growth.
Although the conference was held in an Episcopal Conference Center the travelers were made up of a full assortment of folks who professed affiliation with various established faiths. Unlike AA conferences and retreats we were required to open our minds to honor many diverse understandings of God. Note: I started out in sobriety praying “God if there is a God…”.
The six of us in recovery (two to forty-eight yrs) were tightly bound to the principals according to Bill & Bob and loosely affiliated with the established faiths. My wife and I were numbered among the eclectics (diverse and free).
To be in such a stimulating crowd was exciting. Exciting to learn how others in and out of recovery came to know the God of their understanding. All of us attending listen to our dreams, acknowledging that they have enhanced our relationships with our Higher Power, ourselves and others. The interesting part is how they relate to how to cope with life on a daily basis.
I believe dreams are a great way to improve our conscious contact with our HP. They come to us in our sleep when our “thinking mind” is shut down, allowing the unconscious to speak to us. I put into quotation marks our “thinking mind” because it’s so often said “my best thinking got me here”.
This is not buga-buga, my wife’s term for weird and far out, nor are our dreams to be treated like cheap parlor games. The sub-title of the conference refers to “Dreams, God’s Forgotten Language.”
Supported scientifically as well by documented events in history dreams have been pivotal in helping great men change history; from Gilgamesh to Joseph, Patton, Lincoln and even Paul McCartney with the tune for “Yesterday”.
No! Don’t screw with me. Oh, c’mon trust me You sure it’s safe? Believe me it is. Nothing will happen. Promise? Promise Don’t worry…. using a casing…….won’t leak, fail-proof…been tested. No problem. Don’t lie to me. Don’t worry…it’s safe. C’mon just this once. Always be there for me? Like oil on water.
Sorry I did a cop-out on you'al for the last several days. My wife and I took a trip over and through the Smokies.It was downright beautiful and restorative;embracing canyons between evergreen forest and gurgling white water streams. We had been there many times before and knew it was just what we needed to restore sanity and serenity into our lives. Once over to the eastern side of the mountains we attended a Dream workshop at a conference center for the week. The conference was attended by over 200 great loving people all bent on their own spiritual quests. As it has been every year we have attended, there were a few of us in 12 step recovery. Meetings, meals and hanging out with them was the frosting on the cake. Back now I'll resume posting and hope you will come a-visiting me. I missed you all and will be coming around.
As of late I’ve occasionally been having trouble with my sleeping and dreaming. Oh I’ve been dreaming but when I awake I can’t remember them. One goes with the other. My mind is engaged before I awake.
My mind wakes me between 4 and 5am. My mind has been up ahead of me making my body uncomfortable and impatiently waiting for me to wake up. It sole intent is to nag me out of bed to wrestle with a full litany of problems to solve.
I can hear it now. “How in the hell can you sleep when I have so many things to resolve? If our life depended on you we would have been wiped out long ago. C’mon kid get your sorry ass out of bed. I’m dying here.”
As I make it down the hall to the kitchen and a cup of coffee I take cover in a conversation with my HP, and the Serenity Prayer.
My mind is persistent but I shove back. “No damn it. I don’t want to go there. Any discussion with you about your oldest daughter’s year long drought of unemployment, inadequate insurance and what’s going to happen to her is useless.”
While I’m at it, were not going discuss my youngest daughter’s dilemma. I realize she is 51 and also no longer able to manage the most elementary tasks of daily living. I know my wife and I can’t handle the day-in and day-out care for her. You’re right we don’t have the foggiest idea what the solution is for her.
I’m starting to get totally hooked. My mind has forced its foot into the door. If the Serenity Prayer and 24HAD reading doesn’t click in I’m dead. I’ll be taken captive with “What ifs, why nots, could bees and ought to bees.”
I'm also aware the twin demons of guilt and shame are warming up in the wings to raise their ugly heads. They always attack with teeth bared and sharp tongues. “Why can’t you do more and what is it about you that you’re not able to do more?”
After several more “God grant me(s)… and “turning my life over to my HP” the mind talk drifts off to the shallow end of the pool. Peace is restored.
I'm grateful. I have all I need or could possibly want today, thanks to you all.
What are you thinking? Why do you ask? You nosey? Nosey? What’s wrong with that? What about you? You nosey? Me, why do you say that? How would I know? Don’t know? Me, really? Nosey? Who else? Yes, why not? Rather just talk? What’s to talk about? Don’t know? Sex life? See what I mean?
On this day, May 13 in the margin of my 24HAD book I had written two notes; great reminders.
The one in the left hand margin read BR 1964. All of the letters were crude heavy block and slanted backward.
The other at the top of the page read Psych Test Chicago 1977. All the letters were finer lighter print and slanted forward.
The backward slanted letters; pessimistic downers. On the BR 64 date I felt like I was licking the bottom of the barrel. Every material thing was taken from us, home, cars, trucks even the washer and dryer. My ego as well as my mind were also in the mix someplace.
The forward slanted letters; optimistic, uppers. On the PTC 77 date I was sitting in a Psychologist office taking a four hour Psych test for a great job that would prove to not only provide a good living but a good retirement.
In addition to the obvious it’s also ironic that on the 64 date a Psych test would have judged me a good candidate for the funny farm.
What would you note? Me? On this date 2010 I have noted in larger happier print. THANKS HP for both 64 & 77!
Hi everybody. Before this gets to sound like a Christmas card letter I want to post a belated Mother’s Day acknowledgment of the mothers in our family.
I want to honor the women in my family. They have been the heart and the backbone of three generations of mending the wounds of alcoholism in themselves, their spouses and their children.
From great grandmother to grandmother to mothers they have mothered their families with a love that is tough though true, compassionate and nurturing. They have been the wind under our wings. They have been instrumental in intervening on an old family tradition. We are blessed.
I am especially blessed with such a wife, who lived through nine years of my drinking and was instrumental in my making the first call. When asked how she put up with my behavior she would reply. “With Jim I have five children; I’m counting on the other four growing up.”
. ** What a week! Actually it started in Nashville the prior weekend with all the rain and flooding and ended in Nashville with grand-parents day at great grandson/ daughter’s school and mother’s day celebrations on this past weekend.
The bad news. Nashville really got it. Disaster? Sounds a little heavy until you visit the city. Water rationing, church parking lots full of Red Cross Emergency Disaster Equipment and the homes and buildings destroyed. Perhaps the saddest was the home owners carting their water soaked ruined furnishings and personal things out to the curb for disposal.
The good news. Each of the children’s households although touched in some way by all the water, nothing was serious. The great grands had parts in the “Fifties Revue” musical put on by all the students K thru Fourth Grade for grand-parents day. It was hilarious. With everyone intact we spent the rest of the weekend grateful for sobriety. Thank you God, AA, Alanon and all the rest of you for it all. What’s that answer when asked, how am I doing? “Better than I deserve.”
I was at a turning point in my life; I was about to lose everything. I had to admit I was alcoholic, that my life was unmanageable. Out of options I sought help. The man I talked to suggested that I join them in AA and reach out to the God of my understanding for help.
I was no longer convinced there was a God. He suggested that I pray. ”God if there is a God help me.” "Try it, put Him to the test. It doesn't matter what you believe,it'll work." So I did, God did, I became convinced.
Later when I did lose everything including the cars I had to settle on buying my first used car. I put the purchasing of the car to test.
I was desperate, You were a last resort. Why else would I turn to you? They said You were reliable could be trusted. You would help.
Not fully convinced I closed my eyes, threw caution to the wind, opened the door stepped in. Behind the wheel I turned the key, shifted gears and drove off.
To me, you were just another used car I tested you, kicked your tires tested your handling on open road and down congested streets.
I found you to be like no other No rattles, no shakes unswerving, balanced and aligned. Your timing perfect, you purred like a kitten in cruise and roared like a lion with petal to the metal.
Devoid of faith I bought You bumper to bumper simply by trusting others and praying, If this is the One let it be the One.
Need a used car? Come, take a test drive. Trust us, you’ll find the One for you.
Shamed into it other day, both my wife and I. It all started weeks before as a result of our bitching about being the last to hear any news from our daughters and granddaughters. All Blackberry-ed up. We stood our ground. I stated the argument against, my wife chimed in. “No, we do email, have latest phones, I’ve started a blog, you’ve caved and joined Facebook. Not going to add another hazard to our highways” “No, there’s a limit. Why do we have to text?” ” I remember when we only had a party-line when I was growing up.” “Right and we kids could only stay on the line for 2 minutes or less and had to ask permission from mom or dad.” If we stayed on longer we would hear from the other room. “Your two minutes are up. Off. Say goodbye.” The clincher came as a result of not hearing any news from the hospital about a friend of ours. His wife, a black-belt Blackberry wielder had kept all our other friends up to date texting, one text fit all, as she sat and waited outside the operating room. When my wife finally reached her, my wife apologized noting that she had called several times but “You were probably too busy to return my calls.” Tired and drained from the ordeal with the hospital and her husband’s operation she blurted out to my wife. “when are you two going to hook up to the new millennium? I’ve texted everybody. Get with it.” “All right, all right all ready, we get it.” Stop laughing. A couple hours later, smug smiles on our faces we thanked the sales rep (as we would a pilot when deplaning) for helping us take another giant step (for us) into cellular space.
Out of the blue, most times unseen. Catches you off guard. Shocks you. Buries deep into your skin with a vise like grip. First reaction, crush it. Don’t panic. Acknowledge it. Don’t rebuff it. Accept it, it may be diseased. With help grasp firmly at head pull firmly and steadily until the tick lets go.
At 12:30 we gathered. A couple of us had stopped in, (half-hour and cup of coffee) to the 12-noon AA meeting at a downtown church before walking down the hall to the Centering Prayer Group. The group meets every Wednesday (12:30) and has about fifteen regulars, half of which are in recovery.
We sit in a semi-circle, business men/women, professionals, teachers, therapists, phys-ed instructor, and us, the usual spectrum of alcoholics. Since we begin the session by saying a few words about why we are here rather than who we are we can only guess as to who we are and what we do. Really doesn't matter, we all definitely feel as one spiritually.
Our routine is a spiritual reading, half hour of silent contemplative prayer, twenty minutes of playing a DVD by a spiritual leader followed by twenty minutes of comments. These spiritual readings and DVDs are generally lightly laced with religious jargon as the group is attended by folks from different religious persuasions.
It is not surprising that the comments afterward are generally dominated by the alcoholics since the purpose of the Contemplative prayer, like meditation or contemplation is to improve our conscious contact with God as we understand God.
Think about it; the AA program is a spiritual program. It is suggested that we seek through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious (personal) contact with God. We (AAs) in the group feel right at home talking about spirituality and God in our personal lives. We keep it simple and also know about witnessing endless spiritual experiences in others.
I love the 11th Step because of the hope that it instills that it is possible to have a conscious contact with the God of our understanding if we just seek it and the 12th Step because of its promise of a spiritual awakening as a result of practicing the Twelve Steps in our lives.
There is also the promise that there is a God, no matter how we understand God, that is big enough to have a personal relationship with each and every one of us if we simply make the choice to accept and maintain it daily.
One of the women in the group has started an 11th Step meeting in our home group across town as a result of this group.
At last poetry group meeting it was suggested that we write about our entry into high school. After all these years its still vivid. It took me sixteen years to seek help with the Jekyll and Hyde thing. Still working on it without the alcohol. A note on the poem : Our town had IC railroad tracks that split the moneyed side from the poor and working class. One saying on the rich side was "the air even smells different across the tracks." Not true. Even though there were a lot of us Frenchmen we bathed more than once a week and didn't pee in the streets.
Across The Tracks
Not here .... Not this nerdy barely thirteen year old. Didn’t belong. Not this shy French West side kid. They think me different, knew it the first day.
Not here .... East of the tracks. not in this co-ed class. seated next to rich Phyllis, her jet black hair, perky cashmere and all. Not this altar boy, this Catholic all-boy- school transfer.
Not here .... in this elite high school, with its polished floors, uppity kids, teachers aloof and snooty. Never make it
Not here .... dressed in surplus army fatigues from the wrong side of the tracks. Six dozen steel ribbons, Of Illinois Central tracks, Dividing city into “right” and “other” side.
Not here .... Out of place. What to do? Get accepted? Die?
Here .... Show them Go out for football, quiet your trembling nerd, unleash the alpha dog. Make varsity, play hard, party hard. Make big-boy buddies, seniors, returning hairy-chested WWII vets.
Here .... Show them. Jekyll into Hyde. Make them notice, screw the studies, chug-a-lug with the best, date the cheer leader. Live it up. They thought me different, I'll be different.
The other day I received a notice of a poetry reading at a local coffee shop. I thought I would read a couple of my poems but… You would have thought I was planning on scaling Mt. Everest rather than just traveling across town to stand up before a hand full of amateur poets. The argument between my ears took on legs. It reminded me of old thinking and of making mountains out of mole hills. Called in my HP and was able to shut the arguments down. I did go, I did read and lived to write this piece.
There….. barely see it there shrouded in the mist., feel it, hear it calling, know it’s there, your next summit and bliss. Yah….. love to go but, too far, too high, too many twists and turns, take too long, path not marked, never been there. What if I get lost, run out of rations, get stranded, break a leg? Where will I take cover? What if……. there’s nothing there. What will I do? People will think me foolish, call me a dreamer. Forget it! There’ll be predators, boulders, rivers, ravines blocking the way. Nah…….. Too chancy, not worth the risk, wouldn’t make it anyway. Waste of time. Better to settle on familiar ground. Be practical. Stay the rutted way. Aw…no no...No! I’ll do it. What the hell. C’mon, shut down the chatter between your ears, admit you’re scared, grab God’s hand, get off your butt and go do it. In spite of your fear.
Detroit—Wayne State, football scholarship, 1951 Street Cars clanging up,down Woodward, Gratiot Avenues First date Snows of Kilimanjaro, Pizza afterward, fell in love with homecoming queen nominee. Mid-semester, draft board requested participation in Korean War. Proposed, flew to Fort Lauderdale, married, children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren What a life! Love still growing! Always my homecoming queen.
Another push to put the finishing (yeah, right!)touches to my manuscript. Makes about the umpteenth time, but who's counting. I'm even looking at a couple of covers; one serious, the other with a touch of humor. So far everybody goes with the humorous one. I agree. As to the book itself we all agree it's almost there. Not camera ready but close. However the OCDs and critics in the crowd probable will want changes made to the text and the covers will end up looking completely different.
I’ve got to remember its progress rather than perfection, I wish they would too and give it up already. Who’s they? Actually it’s as much I as they. They come in many different voices and guises. See I/they have done it again. I/they have me arguing with myself about placing the blame. It's a ploy to justify my procrastination (resistance to change). Well I/they have succeeded, wily little bastards.
Okay,okay, now that I’ve caught myself, I will own it and move on. Others can do be critical, they can give their opinions and suggestions. I need them, they're vital. It's a love/hate affair. I can't get along without them and its hard for me to agree with them. Left to my own devices I would never agree to changes or improve.
This little ole posting started out about changes and criticism about my writing it's plain that it's a statement about my life in general. Oh well, back to the drawing board. I can't turn my back on my constant companions, change (resistance to)and procrastination, for a moment. Thank God I can start over daily or as many times in a given day that I want. Enough already, get on to making the changes.NOW!
Went to Writers Guild last night. Quarterly board meeting with monthly membership meeting following. Had a speaker, a writer with more than 40 years experience and sixteen books published. Quite an unusual man. Published his first book, one story at age nine. It was a children's book complete with illustrations. He had the newspaper clipping to prove it.
His has been an exhausting career with most often two of more "projects" on the grill at the same time. He was quite entertaining with enough tips on writing to fill a book. No,it's one book he hasn't attempted preferring to travel when and where ever to perform in person.
I sat there wondering how he has kept up the pace over the years. Where did he get all the time? I didn't have to ask;he clarified it for me. He explained that his whole life is his writing, then he gave us one of those "don't try this in your home" ... if you aren't single bits.
I was relieved. As much as I would love to have more time to write I am grateful and happy that my life is such that I must fit writing into my life not my life into my writing.
Morning tennis. warmed up played: backhands forehands overheads volleys serves faults aces. lobbed passed down the line out of breath changed over drank water mindless chatter match over, exhausted. Afternoon Yoga. breath control stretch child's pose cobra plank half lotus twist downward dog cat warrior sun salutation shoulder stand tree deep breathing silence savasana,refreshed.
It has been a couple of weeks of physical and emotional intensity. Been aware of HALT and took measures to stay balanced with meetings, meditations, sponsors, sleep and eating right. However the ole bod feels like its been "rode hard and put up wet". Ok it's an old saying from horse and buggy days but the one that most apply says it for me. My sleep has been interrupted by protesting bones and muscles. Which led me to this poem.
PAINLESS When awakened I embraced a bliss, a calm untold, for behold not a hint of pain in torso, limb or soul.
Yes, I did question am I awake and sane? I hugged the bedclothes- a fluffy cloud devoid of pain.
At seventy and seven truly amazed to be in comfort, oh so real. At first the truth to tell I half expected- that final peal.
If this is it, do not disturb, please use no ploy. Just lay here, wallow in all this comfort peace and joy.
With breaths of air now slow, a mind a grinning, a body a humming my soul did glow.
Squelching a spoiling thought that appeared. I lay silent and enjoyed the pleasure of this respite from toil and fear.
In life’s frantic race I can attest rarely since a babe such a bliss have I embraced. jamesfrederickm 4.10
Thursday was the 5th anniversary of our son Mike's death.It doesn't seem like five years ago. No, nor does it seem like yesterday or ever. When asked how many children we have I still answer 4, 3 daughters and a son who lives in Tampa. I can't always bring myself to clarify that he is deceased.
Mike did it all; from alcohol to cocaine.He could charm the skin off a snake.There were always girls earlier, women later who wanted to pickup the pieces for him. When he was in his cups he could be devilish. When sober little kids, puppy dogs and his many friends would follow him anywhere.
For the last twenty years of his life he was a paraplegic living in the Tampa area. In the community he lived in, he was known and loved by all the merchants and his neighbors. In a Persian restaurant they put up a memorial in the dining room with picture and memorabilia Mike never met a stranger. Condo owners would let him use their pools for his daily swim. He worked part time in a mom and pop insurance agency. They treated him like a mom and a pop in our absence.
The last twenty years,wheelchair bound, were spent in and out of the emergency rooms (mend this)and long extended stays (replace that) in University Hospital. Despite damaged spine and seriously damage to liver, main artery, lungs, arm, shoulder Mike insisted in living independently and "to the hilt". Having survived the operations all the docs agreed Mike was a short timer.
In between hospital stays and morphine drips he would make attempts at getting clean. I can't recall how many treatment centers he went to. Over the years whenever I(we) would go down to help him recoup after the hospital stays we would go to AA meetings together. His pain never took an off day and the need for some relief.
Toward the end (last few years) we became really close. He and I pushed down any and all the walls(almost all alcohol and drug related) that had distorted our relationship. We embraced and loved each other as purely father and son.
The last time I particularly remember. Having spent over a month in the hospital, I help him home. Still too weak I stayed the week to relieve the home nurse from having to help into the tub and for his daily toilet ritual. On one of the days with him in my arms like a baby (fragile and underweight), his head on my shoulder he whispered, "dad I love you".
Yah.... I miss him but I am sustained by the gift of his breath of love in my ear.
Mike was 25 y/o when shot several times/paralyzed The drunk jealous shooter was also 25 y/o. He was imprisoned 8 yrs. Died after another imprisonment and several attempts at sobriety. All over a girl who later dumped both of them. Jim
What can I say? It was one of those evenings! A fun night. Had all the ingredients in one place. Three other couples we love. Laughter,place packed to capacity, loud conversations, shouting over a Cajun band playing in the background. An old family pub atmosphere.
The pub, beer only, the brain child of a ruddy faced, constantly smiling, bearded baseball capped Cajun from Louisiana. Old rusty licenses plates tacked to the wall glaring back inviting patrons to travel back down memory lane or better yet let your imagination run wild. Several hundred dollar bills covered with scribbled messages by happy customers wall papered the bar's walls.
When we pulled up into the parking lot, there was no doubt that we had the right place, we had spotted it at once. At curb side the owner was standing before two ten gallon steaming pots with mounds of grayish-black craw-fish awaiting dipping and a new red coat. Propane fired burners, pots and morsels of honor all sat, tailgate down, on the bed of his canary-yellow restored Camino.
Seated inside we were instructed by our waitress that the craw-fish weren't on the menu, they were special;just on weekends during March. The individual servings came in one or three pound tray orders. The tray included the craw-fish, boiled red potatoes,corn on the cob and sausage all boiled in a hot Cajun sauce. We all ordered the three pounder. No beer for us, water would do nicely, thank you.
The laughter got deafening as we all dug into twisting the heads off then sucking the meat out of the tail. Louisiana-Cajun style of eating them as told by the Cajun in our party. Fingers were dripping in grease, faces smeared with red-hot drippings as the shells, claws and other craw-fish parts overflowed in the "off-fall" buckets on the table.
We went through several rolls of paper towels.
On leaving the hugs went all around. We all felt the deepest appreciation that in all of our pasts this wonderful loving evening would have most likely have ended in just one more horror story.
Mind racing. Can't write. Resisting , can't let go. Choices, choices. Maybe it's the pen, slow pen-fast pen? No. Black ink-blue ink? Tight jeans, loose shorts. Can't be the writer! Hell no! Broad tip--fine tip? Blank paper--lined paper? Sh*t-head! Give it up. Get unstuck, Let go. Get out of the way.
Spoke at my own birthday this past month. Spoke for forty eight minutes. Know so, the group recorded it(tape minutes). Coincidence,one minute for each of my years of sobriety. Had notes to keep me from wandering, repeating myself and to cover any of my brain farts.
Identified for a few minutes , short version, then plunged right into the early days in the program. Never got out of the first five years. My growing up years. The years of developing a structure for the relationships with my Higher Power, with myself and with others.
The years of laying the foundation essential for my house of recovery. The formidable years with help from my HP and friends: meetings and 12 step calls; taking inventories and making amends; working my way through the legal, financial, relationship, employment, mental, spiritual, physical maze, and daily practice, practice, practice in living a life sober.
After the meeting I was approached by a newcomer who asked. "With all your years why did you keep returning time and again to the first five years?
Why? because they were the foundation years. The years of reconstruction, no scratch that, not "re" but new construction. They were the years of tearing down the old crumbling foundation and very carefully brick by brick laying a new foundation under the guidance of the Master Craftsman and the sponsor-ship of His hand picked journeymen.
I continue to hone the tools I was taught to use in the construction of that foundation. Some have been adapted to present technology I treasure them because they have served me in the best of times, in the worst of time and everything in between. They have weathered the test of time even when I have been at my weakest.
You all, present AAs included, have given me the gift-for-all-time and the realization that the gift will keep on giving if I assume the responsibility of daily doing my rounds of maintenance.
I wrote this and saved as draft last month. Not fresh, but I didn't find an expiration date on it.
Sun is shining ---beautiful beautiful beautiful!!!!! Suppose to rain tomorrow and you know what? Let it. I'm living in today and going to enjoy it to the hilt...gratefully.
After last week's teaser, just one day of sunshine and 60 degrees and this past weekend of freezing weather and snow it looks like Spring is going to settle in.
Went to Centering Prayer (meditation) at noon. There are now eight out the fourteen in the group that are in the program. The room was charged with spirituality. The saying "where two or more of you are gathered..." was alive and real.
After not posting anything for a few days I wanted to stop in and share my joy. This is short because I'm out of here and into all that beauty outside.
I sat there a burnt out hopeless and helpless old flame dying to be lit. Alone I failed so then in desperation I prayed that some greater power would strike the match. I'm aflame now and glowing brightly thanks to the hand of God and all you matches, wicks, waxes, oxygens that sustain me today.
After such an exhilarating weekend, despite the rain, cold and gray skies, it was back to normal. Well, maybe so, if you define normal as back to the ho-hum tasks of maintaining the house, paying bills, doing taxes, doing the dirty laundry and cleaning out the car from the weekend.
Normal wouldn't be normal though without something household breaking down. No disappointment here. The faucets in the kitchen sink and the dishwasher just stopped doing what faucets do or are suppose to do.
Not to be brought down, not even to normal I went to the noon meeting, always a upper. During the meeting I got to thinking about the title of yesterday's post (Joy & Tennis) and a poem I had written a while back.
My Joy is always present, in the normal as well as the extraordinary, the loud and the quiet, I only have to be still and tap into it. It all starts with gratitude for great friends, my (our) Higher Power, you all and a loving family. A thing of beauty.
A thing of beauty divinely signed embraces the human with a blessing for all time.
The voice quivers. A sigh of awe escapes. Body and soul quickens to the thrill inbound. For in our dull tapestry of life the brightest hue is found.
Deep into the marrow every bone shivers under skin as by a gentle touch we're stroked within.
Hearts sing, souls soar in divine harmony here on this soil and in that garden beyond our toil.
Such happiness this timeless moment. Simple and pure our vision cleared for heart to see the grandeur of Divine love for human secure.
In moments brief yet eternally dear their brilliance crowned in love and harmony the soul clicks its heels and bounds with joy. james frederick m
I was going to apologize about gloating over our triumph over the weekend. Well screw it! We Won! It's party time.
We beat the other four states: Louisiana, Arkansas, Georgia and South Carolina despite rain delays, alternate courts, flip-flopping schedules and Birmingham traffic. Serenity Prayer paid off big again. We made a clean sweep of all the matches.
Winning over South Carolina (winners the last five years) was like Boston beating New York! We got our T shirts and trophies but really the best part is---we've got bragging rights for one year!
It looks so pretty I just have to post it. Southeastern Regional Champions-Super Seniors, 70+. (Tennessee)
No Disney World for us. We're sore, bushed and heading for the hot-tubs and liniment for the few days .........with the biggest doggone grins on our faces.
Must acknowledge the One who has made this all possible for us, me especially. Thank you dear God.
P.S. One more shot of gratitude and joy. Our eldest daughter, in from San Diego greeted me at the door when I got home.
Evening started out terrible. At dinner, group talk ended up in political ranting. Of eight diners I was the only one with opposing ideology. When it turned ugly and they wanted me to join into the fray I backed off. No way, I learned long ago I don't have to go to every fight I'm invited to.
I had an escape plan for situations like this. Before leaving home I had called Central Office in Birmingham. On Map Quest I pulled up directions from the hotel to a meeting. Only fifteen miles away but out in the boonies. Great.
With an hour to spare I took off for the 8pm meeting. Just go out the entrance to the hotel and hang a left then fifteen miles later on the same road, no turns I would be there. A no brainer. Right. No! I got lost, it was pitch dark and no posted addresses on the fields and woods I passed.
Finally I called on my directional finder, GHM, (GOD Help Me). As I crested the hill and on my right I spotted a convenience store. The only only one in miles. I pulled off the side road and came in from the back. Man at front door was talking to a store clerk having a cigarette
I jumped out of the car, saw the address above the door and inquired "is this 16000 east Hwy 280? I'm looking for the 11000s. "
Before the clerk could answer the guy stopped me. "you looking for 11580?"
"Yah, yah 11580."
"We're lost too. Going to the same meeting."
We'hugged. The clerk stood there with her mouth open. The guy and his buddy, a couple of bikers were from Houston. Me, a broken down tennis player from Chattanooga. Both lost in the middle of Alabama nowhere, going to the same meeting.
The story doesn't end there. After getting lost together, we ran into a County Sheriff who directed us to the meeting in an old trailer behind a country church.
My GHM, (directional finder) has and will always, always get me to where I'm suppose to be going. If I call and follow up.
Heading for Alabama this weekend. The courts of Pelham beckon. Our strings are well strung, our legs a little less so. But we're coming to play, Seniors all, from the Seven Southeastern States. Who'll be the winner. That's a no-brainer. If we can suit up, last three days of tourney play, we're all winners.
They say the the next best thing to having either a boat or a pickup truck is to have a friend that has one. Our friends have both. Not just any boat, its a thirty-five (guess )footer decked out better than my house.
On the lake yesterday three of us couples laughed, hugged and grinned our way through just about a perfect afternoon. If we would have had enough room on deck we would have been doing a jig.
For the first time, since-can't-remember-when the sun was brilliant, the sky bright blue and cloudless. The temp was a Spring time perfect of sixty-one, the wind just strong enough to wash the last of winter off our faces. Yes!!!!!
God was His magnificent Self
We topped this off with a hearty meal of fried oysters and BBQ ribs afterward at the marina. . Talk about silly BBQ sauce dripping grins.
The real kicker was the friends, not any kind of friends but those special friends who have cried and laughed each other out of the pits of A&D hell.
All these ingredients together put a new meaning on "it doesn't get any better than this!"
Since it's Oscar time Ta-Da: The afternoon was made possible through the grace of a Higher Power and a supporting cast of thousands in the Fellowship who have always been there for us.
Hey, hey hey! No return of the Cancer bug!!!!!! Thanks for your prayers.
Been eight years as of Feb 28 from first diagnosis. At that time they put me on female hormones. Took the shots just long enough to tweak my interest in "pumps". What really scared me was when traveling in Knoxville and lost I stopped and asked for directions. Relieved when they did radiation.
This past Monday my PSA numbers (blood test) indicated that the little monsters had awaken and were eating away somewhere in this Frenchman. The doctor ordered further tests. On Thursday I went to the lab and took CT and Bone Scan tests. On Friday (yesterday) I went back to my doctor for results. The Scans indicated "all's well."
Yesterday before seeing my doctor I wrote about Harry Potter and his dance with fear. I think you see why I needed to do that post. I thought and feared the C monsters were in my "closet" licking their chops. Just waiting to devour me.
Between Monday and yesterday I dug into my private stock of "magic" you all have given me. I repeatedly prayed for the right attitude and turned it over to my HP. I put a lot of miles on the Serenity Prayer. I went to meetings, talked about it with friends, meditated and hugged my wife a lot.
The scans opened up my "closet" for the world (brought into the light of day) to see my innards from head to toe. I thought they were awesome and funny looking. My imagined monsters were changed into the everyman normal pouches and squiggles all keep in place by the skeleton in my closet.
Harry Potter Haven't read any of the books but caught a snippet of the TV adaptation the other night. Two scenes, back to back, were great metaphors for me in facing my fears.
The class professor instructed Harry and his school chums to stand in front of this huge cabinet. Each student was to conjure up his/her worst fear. When they did so the imagined fear would throw open the door and leap out. The fears took on the appearance of huge monsters and deadly snakes. Each time the student(s) was petrified with shear fright.
Then the professor would ask the student to imagine in their mind the most ridiculous funny outfit then dress the monster in it. Immediately the monster was seen in a clown outfit/painted face or in some outlandish dress. In disbelief the student and his chums would immediately break out in laughter and dismiss the "monstrous fear" as completely ridiculous.
My greatest fears can be reduced to the ridiculous with the same mind that conjured up the fear.
The other scene was of the monster-bird. His body was that of a horse with wings. His head was that of an enormous bird. His beak could crush Harry or one of his chums in a single closing. Harry was instructed by the professor to approach the monster and hand-feed him.
At first Harry was reluctant, obviously afraid to take the risk even though the professsor assured Harry that if his intentions were pure the monster would not harm him.
Harry proceeded to do so and the winged monster bird not only did not harm Harry, but placed Harry on his back and took off. Monster and boy soared high into the sky giving Harry the thrill of his life. The view of the mountains and sky were awesome. He had flown where no one else had.
If I take the risk and face my greatest fears there is no limit to how high I can soar.
Busy week Up, down the highway Chattanooga to Nashville Not once, twice. Seven hundred miles Once business Once pleasure Mountains, rivers, dams Evergreens, gray forests Snow, rain, sunshine, Day, night. Trucks, cars, RVs, SUVs, with without TVs. Cars stalled, flagged, semi flipped, wheels flaying sky Irritated drivers cursing delay Country music , jazz, rock, roll on.
I attended another Alcohol/Drug convention at Opryland in Nashville. Nashville, the Music City, the home of Country Music. Actually you couldn't forget it while you're there. This is a place where every waiter and waitress in every eatery are aspiring writers, musicians and singers.
Enough of the commercial and getting back to Opryland. In a word it is huge, all in the Southern motif and customs. Especially the way it is laid out, even security when asked for directions calls in another employee to help them. The southern part comes in when they give directions. They never refer to the "street" by name. They will tell you to go that-a-way till you come to the this corner or that then take a left an go on down till you see the big fountain then ......you get the drift.
Mix in a few hundred alcoholics/addicts and each one had a bigger and more dramatic story about how they got lost, couldn't find their rooms, pasted up a gillion bars until finally their higher power guided them down this one unused corridor. There they ran into the only person in the hotel complex who knew how to get them to safety.
I exaggerate, but not much. Wrote this to get back on stream with my posting. Its been a busy week with lot of travel time, but I've been in excellent company from all over the States.
Coming out of the noon meeting yesterday an old friend (MF) in the program asked me to lunch. along with several others. I declined their invite since they had selected a eatery across town and I had an appointment at two. No way to go back and forth.
I was surprised when he turned to them and said. "I'm not going with y'all, I'm going across the street with Jim for a hamburger."
MF is a much decorated Vietnam veteran (helicopter gunner) who came by his sobriety the hard way. Besides fighting his way out of the jungles in Asia, the web of addiction to heroin and alcohol he has also had to fight through a post traumatic mental jungle as a result of those wars.
As we sat down with our sandwiches I noticed his eyes beginning to well up with tears. Not touching his hamburger he began to pour out his grief. "The bastard killed her. She was beautiful, a golden retriever. The bastard didn't have the guts to confront me let alone kill my girl himself. No he knew how he could really hurt me. We've been together eleven years. She knew me. But most important, she really loved me. She put up with me through good and bad."
"Yah, even though we both were sometimes a pain in the ass to each other, we loved and trusted each other. We were always there for each other."
The tears, his grief, his depth of love, I hugged him. This "hard ass real dope addict/alcoholic" was/is what this new way of life is all about. It's not just taking the booze and the dope addiction away its about "Changing someone unlovable and unloving into someone lovable and loving."
P.S. You've probably already guessed, MF is one of those special people who would and does go to any lenght to help another alcoholic/addict.
MF's dog was killed in a senseless drive-by shooting paid for by a resentful doper/alcoholic.
Went to team-tennis practice this am. We're practicing for the Southeast Regional Tournament, Birmingham in March. We enter the tourney as the Tennessee State champs in the 75 y/o class. Sounds great, it is but at our age it quite literally means that we were the last team standing.
Other than "hitting" Monday this was the first time playing for two hours. The eyes are taking some getting use to. I had cataract surgery during January. It takes a month to heal. I can now see the ball again. It appears to be smaller with a distinct form, no halo around it.
I'm afraid my best shots are gone. By that I mean the lucky ones I put back. My best shots were those I couldn't see with my old eyes; the ball in the sun or it clearing the net. Have to rely mostly on skill now and won't have any excuses.
Reminds me of when I began this new life. I no longer could cover my "shots" with bulls**t and lame excuses. Had to belly up to the bar and admit I was responsible for my mistakes, poor judgement or poor execution.
It also made me note how I had become "comfortable" and had made so many adjustments for my lack of vision. I was willing to go on squinting and missing so much in life forever. Kept denying I needed the operation. Wouldn't admit it but fear entered and I dug in my heels. I blamed it on "I'm not that bad, I don't have the time, or...and " Must admit I needed to be and was intervened on.
Now that I've put the new lids to the test I'm reminded that I'll never be too young/old to take the leap of faith or go to any length to improve my (in)sight. No, no matter how much I fear the operation.
That a cue for me. To be willing to get off my butt and do.... Knowing full well from experience that obstacles have become manageable, mountains have been reduced to mole hills, calls have been made and old destructive behavior can be changed.
In a group I'm in, one of the men shared that he added another line to the Serenity Prayer, not that it needed improving but he needed to consciously pray for the willingness to take action. To be willing to take the risk, willing to put in the time, willing to forgive, to be compassionate or to make that amend.
So now he has all of us tacking on the the phrase.
"God grant me the serenity...the courage...the wisdom ...and the willingness to take action.
Cold, when is it going to end? Can't wait for Spring to to poke its green sprouts up through the earth. Its crazy that its colder in Atlanta than here. Still doesn't make any difference I pray for the sun to return.
I know I should be grateful, instead of praying for the sun I should be praying that I will "accept the things I can not change." I am, but I'm still cold.
Went to the monthly meeting of the Joseph Campbell Roundtable last night. Always interesting, new faces and new ideas every time. Campbell, now dead lives on in all his writings about myth and the "hero's journey." He sticks to the hero who faces his fears head on, slays dragons, fights his way through adversity, rescues damsels and in the end find his true self.
The speaker last night took us on his journey. A journey that took him through self imposed homelessness on the island of Hawaii (excellent choice), , books on philosophy, psychology, self help etc, etc. for several years until he found his bliss.
Before returning home in Chattanooga he found his bliss by finding the Higher Power and letting go of his ego. He went on about praying and meditating to get a clearer awareness of the will of his HP and then getting out of himself and giving of himself to others. By putting all of what he had prayed for and learned into action.
Sound familiar, why not, that's what recovery is all about, following our bliss. However if I don't put what I've learned into action it don't count. I've got to walk the walk.
P.S. As I listened to him I must confess I was a bit envious of his gaining all that experience in Hawaii. Then I realized before coming to the program what a waste Hawaii would have been since I carried my own personal hell with me wherever I went.
Did some Proprioceptive Writing this morning, candle and all. I say a little prayer before I start, as I always do. Liked the one phrase.
"Give me freedom to grow so that I may become my true self. ...the fulfillment of the seed which you planted in me at my making."
It hit home, it got me reflecting and writing upon where my focus should be in order to cooperate with His plan.
I wrote that what ever it was, I needed to hone my skills. I needed to practice, practice. practice. To be ready for the master craftsman to pick me up and use me. But most importantly to embrace and accept my skills. To look inside, to suck it up, not let my pride shame me into being afraid of failure or inadequacy. Even worse to believe myself to being so unique that I had to hold back.
Whatever I have today is the accumulation of all the steps we have taken together in my journey to date. I am the product of all my yesterdays. I can be of help. Mine is a unique help regardless of how long I have been on the journey. If I have been faithful to living one day at a time and praying for His will, not mine then I can not deny nor can I be a coward nor too proud and hold back.
The new comer as well as the old timer has his/her role to play. Our Master Craftsman has a purpose for each one of His/Her's unique tools.
I have to remember I may be the only Big Book someone can read.
If only we knew what the Master Weaver is up to in designing our lives. Yesterday I presented a seven year chip to a special friend, SC. in the program.
Unknown to us our intertwining paths began over thirty years ago. He was just a high-schooler growing up in California, while I had just accepted a new job and was moving my family from Ohio into Tennessee.
After a several months of searching for a new home we were fortunate to drive by a house as the contractor was taking lifting a "for sale" sign out of his pickup. We pulled in and he put down the sign. We walked through the house, loved it and immediately started negotiations. We moved in the first of August,1977.
Soon afterward while attending our new church my wife and I met a young couple. At church they had their two beautiful young daughters. As our lives changed we grew apart.
Now fast forward to 2002 and twenty five years later. This was the year that I met SC while at an AA meeting here in Tennessee. Later SC began counseling with me to repair the "unmanageable" circumstances in his life caused by his addiction. SC progressed well, growing spiritually and going on to "graduate school" while fully engaged in his "practice".
As his history became known to me, I was delighted and surprised to learn that after his move here to Tennessee he met and married one of "those beautiful daughters" and that they now had children of their own.
A few weeks ago SC by chance discovered that his friend wanted to sell his house. SC also wanted to move into a larger house. They immediately started negotiations with all parties coming to agreement. To both SC's and my delight on February 8, SC will be moving into the house next door.
Thank You for Your Will and the many gifts It brings into our lives.
Going through old files and came across this poem written in the sixties. The poem is kinda crude but then again so was I. Brings back memories of the first couple of years in sobriety. We had it all, we had just what we needed; God, the program and each other. I love it.
In each of you I see a friend. One whose friendship knows no end. Just for today I will try to be, to others what you are to me.
You stopped and turned and took my hand and steadied me till I could stand. Then let go my fingers one by one till I could stand alone.
You did not say to me do this be thus but quite simply walk with us
I tried and when I lifted up my eyes could see that same vision which had made you free
We'll walk together now a pleasant band that waits for me if I should fill my hand
with trembling fingers of someone whose spirit must also break or bend and teach them softly what it means to have and be a friend.
so just for today I will let others see what each of you had done for me.
In A Path With Heart, Jack Koenfield, writes about the Eight Qualities of Mature Spirituality Of the eight patience stands out as the most most difficult to achieve in my quest for a spiritual awakening.
Early on in recovery I was told by the group. "Be patient, the promise of a spiritual awakening is based on a result of certain steps, its a journey, a process, you'll get it, it takes time. Don't expect it to happen by a simple palm slap on the forehead in a evangelical moment."
They went on. "Sorry there are no short cuts. You're not special. You will have to take all the necessary Steps to get there. The awakening will enfold without you being fully conscious of it. Others will see it in you before you become aware of it. Besides if you got it with the snap of your fingers you wouldn't appreciate it."
That was all well and good but I wanted to feel good and experience peace and relief as a constant in my life not just for a few moments at a time. I wanted it right now and to be there whenever I wanted it. I wanted to be able to "think" it into my life, not have it dependent on any "action" on my part.
Not getting my childish way I had to begin to get in touch with all my shortcomings and defects of character. Then commit to giving them up; to unlearn the old ways by learning (practicing) the new ways. I was told that the only way to enter into a new way of life was to face the consequences and secret underlying issues of my old life.
It would "take what it takes" or more specifically in "God's good time, not mine." In my case the journey took the better part of five years. One great thing is that once on the path the "steps" are paved with spiritual experiences. The following story from the playZorba the Greek, Zorba tells of his own lesson in patience and I believe it to be a fitting metaphor for patience in recovery.
I remembered one morning when I discovered a cocoon in the bark of a tree just as the butterfly was making a hole in its case and preparing to come out. I waited awhile but it was too long appearing and I was impatient.
I bent over it and breathed on it to warm it. I warmed it as quickly as I could and the miracle began to happen before my eyes, faster than life. The case opened. the butterfly slowly crawling out, and I shall never forget my horror when I say how its wings were folded back and crumpled; the wretched butterfly tried with its whole trembling body to unfold them.
Bending over it, I tried to help it with my breath. In vain. It needed to be hatched out patiently and the unfolding of the wings needed to be a gradual process in the sun. Now it was too late. My breath had forced the butterfly to appear, all crumpled, before its time. It struggled desperately and, a few seconds later, died in the palm of my hand.
Up at 4:30a the other morning. Thank God the weather had changed from teens to near forty. The order from the doctor said. "no food or drink after midnight." It's almost inhuman to wake up an start the day without coffee. Had to hurry to be at the surgery center by 6:00a.
Now I'm old enough to know that they always have you arrive early. Having to retain some control I it was impossible for me to do anything other than arrive at exactly 6; actually it was 6:01 when I signed in. Even though I "just had to"arrive at the ordered time I brought a book to serve as my security blanket; one I knew I wouldn't be able to finish in a day of waiting.
As the little hand on the clock approached eight and the big hand the 12 I began to lose it. I could only sooth my fright of needles and IVs for so long. I no longer could focus on my reading and even the Serenity prayer began to show wear and tare . Meditation in the pass has always worked but to close my eyes and attempt to meditate would only allow my mind to conjure up all kinds of scary thoughts and fears.
Finally my name came up. I was ushered into the "prep room". The "prep' was not pretty. The nurse could not find any plump veins to, as they say "stick me" . Three nurses and several "near sticks" later this grown man, nearly in tears finally sighed relief. The ensuing "op" was a piece of cake, since I had no choice but let them put me "under."
The crazy thing about the surgery is that I absolutely did not feel any pain nor any other sensation. Yet all the while I could hear what they were saying. For the op to be successful they needed me responsive to cooperate with their directions.
For the next twenty four hours I had to wear a "patch", it was clear plastic but with all the tape and "goop" in my eye everything appeared to be hazy as if in a fog. The following day the doctor removed the patch and my vision (abet in still a bit of a haze) was better than before the operation. With each passing twenty-four hours I can see now farther and clearer. A miracle.
In retrospect the eye operation was like so many other things in my life that I have to face to grow and get healthier. I commit to an "operation", taking a leap of faith, knowing that I will reach a new and healthier plateau. I get impatient with the process and God's timing. My fear of how it will hurt; having to give up control ; to surrender to a higher power and follow directions is almost unbearable.
But I can always fall back on having talked to friends I could trust tell me. "I was scared not only of the pain but what if something went wrong or the operation didn't work. I need not have worried the worst pain I felt was the fear of the unknown and my own fear of pain ....and I did that to myself. You can trust me I've been there, I don't know how it works but I can now see things that I never could see before." I also continue to keep on praying.
I've been wanting to post these last few days but life kept getting in the way. I'm on a timetable about cleaning up sections of my book and attending to other priorities so I've had to rearrange some of my priorities.
Back in the eighties I looked eagerly ahead to early retirement from industry. I wanted to completely change careers. I felt I had survived, not without scars, all of the pitfalls in chasing financial and ego security. I yearned for something else, something more fulfilling so two years before that gold watch date I began studying for a certification in relapse prevention counseling.
Under Terrance Gorski, founder of CENAPS, the center for relapse prevention training and certification I attained certification. According to Terry relapse begins to occur long before the alcoholic takes the first drink. Actually the drink is the event at the end of a relapse. Our relapses begin with our stinking thinking followed by self destructive behavior the leads us further and further down the spiral into that point of no return; drink, act out destructively or suicide. The important thing is be aware of our personal relapse warning signs in order to catch our relapsing early or before the event happens.
I've said all that to point out that I learned that striving to maintain balance in my live was a key factor in preventing relapse in my life. I also know that as a addict/alcoholic the hardest thing for me to do is maintain an equilibrium. My first tenancy even to this date is to approach things addictively to the neglect of others and other things in my life. Especially those things that boost my ego such as blogging.
Whenever I catch myself in that addictive web I have to reevaluate my life based on the HALT criteria of hungry, angry, lonely and tired and then do an honest evaluation of my daily schedule.
P.S. No matter that I've counseled many professionally and sponsored many in the program, being the addictive person that I am I have to practice not falling off my balance bar daily. Thankfully over the years when I have lost my balance I've been able to reach out for help before falling all the way down the spiral. I'm also thankful that I only have to maintain that balance one day at a time no matter how much I learn or how long I live.
In our clubroom there is a blackboard listing the up and coming birthdays for the month. My birth-date will be added to the list in a couple of weeks. The thought of another year got me to thinking.
New Years Day and my first day of continuous sobriety both mark a new beginning. A beginning and a promise of new adventures, disappointments, grief, happiness; you know the whole basket of life's goodies and badies and inbetweens. I know there really are no stand alone goodies or badies .......just life in technicolor.
I also thought of early recovery when my mind was loaded down with a crazy gaggle of voices. They screamed at me during the first few months to continue acting out insanely. I was/am thankful that beneath the ranting voices there were new-to-me barely audible voices of encouragement to behave differently.
I pleaded with my sponsors to tell me how to get free;to be able to shut down the "ranting" voices once and for all. The cold water in my face was their reply, "No way, those voices will always be with you, waiting in the swamp end of your little head. You'll be okay you'll develop the tools to keep them quiet and send them back when they surface. Your life in recovery will be a process not an event."
I realized that there would be no instant gratification here; that the day I took my last drink, that was an event; the event that marked the start of my journey. The days and years between the dates would be a well-traveled path into sobriety/spiritual growth; I also would be given the grace to walk it one day at a time.
I'm grateful its a process and that I don't have to be held accountable for perfection. Only yesterday when reviewing a strategy for publishing my book with my agent the crazy gaggle of voices began to emerge out of the swamp. I was being bombarded by them with snide remarks like: "not good enough"; "nobody will read it"; publisher will laugh" or "who the hell do you think you are?" as well as other loving bits of encouragement.
Over the course of my sobriety I've developed a go-to plan when in trouble. I went immediately to my Higher Power then to my basic spiritual first aid kit. I love that kit because I can depend on it to put my demons in their place and to get back on the high road sober/sane for another day.
To me the most encouraging of words by the the crafters of the 12 Steps remain: "...God could and would if He were sought." ("money in the bank") and "...we are not saints...progress (no matter how long it takes) rather than perfection."
We've all heard the quote. "You can't solve a problem with the same mind that created the problem... "
That's why they advise us to avoid thinking in early recovery because we also admit, "my best thinking got me here." Here being to that place where our lives are unmanageable and we can't for the life-of-it figure out how we're going to get out of the mess we've created.
The saying " it'll takes a few (3-5) years to get your head out of hock" ties in to the fact that we not only have to learn the steps to take into our new way of life; we have to unlearn the old destructive addictive ways. We have to change our thinking but "we can't think our way into right living, we have to act our way into right thinking."
In the old way, the addictive way we broke all the rules. Another often heard saying. "Hey man, rules are for losers...I got my own." Of course that is the ego talking, either from a deflated or an inflated position. The ego needs to have the answers, it has to be able to figure it out, no matter how shitty the logic.
Cutting to the chase the new way is the spiritual way which leads me to another quote, this one out of the Big Book. ..."we will intuitively know what to do..." We don't have to figure it out, we just have to pray, meditate, seek counsel if necessary and "do the next thing." We just have to turn our will over to our Higher Power and listen to the guidance from those (sponsors, etc) who are further up the path in recovery.
I''ll end with one last quote from Shadow Dance by David Richo. "Nothing is to be taken literally in the spiritual world. All is a metaphor for the transition from the ego to Self, the personal journey to the transpersonal Source." The transition out of my will to my Higher Power's Will occurs through the practice of the Eleventh Step to my personal "conscious contact with God."
Woke up this morning feeling like a new man. The weather forecast called for a warming trend, always great for me because it can't get hot enough for me. That's why I moved from Illinois via Michigan and Ohio to Tennessee. I always felt like I was born in the wrong temperature zone.
When I'm out running in mid-day in 100 degree sunshine the neighbors all think I'm out of my gourd. I need heat and sunlight for all the "parts"to function, to move, to smile and to feel optimistic. Cold and dark have the opposite effect on me.
I've said all that to come to the point. When I'm "into my damped down days" I "pull back and isolate". Since I have become an expert on pulling back and isolating I can do so without others, and most importantly myself, nailing me on it.
My first warning sign of relapsing into isolation is my neglecting to update a current weekly schedule. It generally starts out with: "cutting back" or "putting off till later"meditation and prayer time; I'll catch a meeting tomorrow; I'll call him later; its too cold to run, exercise or go to the "Y"." In other words putting all the core things for my sobriety on the back burner or canceling them all together.
Cheating on the core activities"action" in my life contaminates the whole of my life. My life feels like I'm running in slow motion without any purpose. I neglect my relationships, my life is backed up in things not done and things to do. My life takes on all the trappings of being unmanageable and when it becomes overwhelming I'm in deep do-do.
The insidious part of it all is that it's so evident. Being the master of denial and rationalization and procrastination that I am I can bullshit myself into believing I'm handling everything as best I can. I'm on top of it and yes I'll start doing it differently tomorrow.
Thank God I can start today, this very minute, by surrendering and yes, lordy-lordythe hardest thing to do, asking for help.
And to make out and follow through with a balanced recovery schedule.
Well here it is the ninth of January and I haven't posted anything since New Years day. Been off the radar, either going to/from or waiting in doctors offices for testing and probing. Looking back over the past five plus months it's hard to believe two people in such great health could rack up two surgeries, several lab visits and over a dozen doctor visits.
I'm sure that I was suppose to learn something from all the visits. Could it have been patience and faith. Patience in that I could look at the the waiting as an opportunity to catch up on my reading and writing. Faith to believe that the doctor was really in.
All the visits/surgeries were due to "parts" wearing out, obsolete or becoming less than efficient due to aging. They don't all come with a life-time guarantee. The comment from the several different doctors we visited was. "Not to worry you're in excellent condition, you'll probably live to celebrate your 100th." God that sounds old.
As it is now as soon as I get my "new" set of eyes, (Cataract surgery), the set God created me with were always clouding up on me, especially in the sunlight. I finally got the message in December when I whiffed a couple of forehands playing tennis.
Gratitude for: insurance; the promise of "improved" eyesight; no pain; the wonder of a "new pair of eyes" in just a few weeks and a wife who has patiently "nursed" me through it.
I did miss was the posting and especially your comments.
Last night my wife and I went to two New Year's Eve Parties. The first was a mix of long time friends in the program just a couple of miles away. After the making the rounds, sampling the food , hugging and shaking hands wishing everybody a Happy New Year. We made an early exit quickly passing through the "guys room" and the bowl game of the day.
Hitting the interstate and no traffic we made our way to the second party of the night. It took forty five minutes and unfamiliar back roads to reach our destination. This party had "partying people, half of which were in their thirties. No, there was no booze, only one couple, family friends of the host, were drinking. It's just that there was a lot of energy and game playing ignited by the younger crowd.
It all was capped off with fireworks at Midnight. Again we had to leave early, but had not missed any of the fun.
At both parties were old and new friends, no regrets the next morning just warm feelings of sharing the beginning of another year with friends we love and who love us.
To all of you I wish the same for the coming year.