no competition

competition-300x224The first person I approached in AA that I talked to for longer than five minutes (I guess that’s my attention span for all things new and challenging) said he was 19 years sober. I didn’t believe it. Later I’ve learned he was telling the truth. But in that moment, and for a while after, I figured there was no way someone would be 19 years sober and a) still going to meetings; b) be as positive and cheerful as that guy certainly was. Yet at the same I really wanted to have some of that positivity for myself. I was going through darker times. My life was out of control and I wasn’t enjoying reality.

The farther I went down the lane of AA-inspired positivity through sobriety and getting more of a hold on reality, the more I was wondering of how far can I get and for how many years I could actually stay that way. On the other hand, I kept being reminded that years are not that important. What counts is days, since we do it one day at a time, sometimes one hour at a time. That is the principle that the whole wisdom of AA, besides going to meetings, listening and sharing and connecting through all that, is based on. One day at a time, one step at a time. It is that simple, it is that hard. Simple because it is not a complicated idea, and if we put our mind to it, we can all do it, whatever it is we focus on. Hard because it still takes me a while from time to time to keep it in mind when I’m tackling something that is larger than me (or feels that way).

So, there is no competition for trying to get more years under the belt, being older in sobriety than others. Focusing on time take the focus off the quality of recovery that we do/live. In my case, when I was four years old in AA measures, I knew more than I know now. Yet now I feel more than I felt then. Now I absorb more from the world and how it changes. I must admit, sometimes it doesn’t do me much good, because I fall into negativity thinking of how hopeless it is to keep going through the world that is eating itself alive. That’s one of the things that getting old does, I guess. It’s probably my realistic age that does that to me. But then my AA age tells me to get going with the program, call upon my fellows and drink from the wisdom well, the positive one, with hope and lightness in a mix. And it works well that way.

Thinking can play tricks on you sometimes and let you forget the simple truths. The closer it gets to the time of another milestone, another year to celebrate recovery, the more I think of time. So when I catch myself doing that, I turn that thinking into reflecting with care. I compare the years passed -what I’ve learned, what I’ve forgotten, perhaps, and what I’ve seen in a different light. Been sober for several years allows for thoughts of security in mental and spiritual terms. I mean, you’ve learned something, you made it work for you, and if you keep practicing that wisdom, it will keep you strong for times to come. Yet if I think of myself as someone got more recovery time than others, and because of that as someone important, and that somehow make me more special than them, it’s a step in a wrong direction. I am no better or worse than them. They tackle their demons, I fight mine. I just have more tools to do so. Maybe they were born under less of a kind sun than I have. That makes me more fortunate, but that means I should be more compassionate and less full of myself that I sometimes may be.

Years count for something, though – I have an opportunity to keep celebrating my recovery in a social setting and with that I share of my experience, goods and bads, wisdom and stupidity. That way others have an opportunity to learn from my mistakes, and with their actions perhaps the world may benefit somehow, in 0.0001 percent maybe, but I think that still counts. It is easy to burn the bridges. It takes longer to build them back up. Hopefully, the time spent on rebuilding will also allow for using better technologies (perspectives) on how to make it steadier to avoid easy destruction in the future.


the image was copied from http://www.chrispacke.com/2012/03/perfect-lack-of-competition/. thank you.

The Welcoming Coin

hjiWe went to a meeting –

My friend was celebrating a milestone

That I would never think of reaching.

The usual set-up,

Readings, speech, sharing,

Coffee after.

Then that guy came over to me.

I remember he was quite tall,

Yet his name escapes me,

He owed me nothing

Yet he came across the room

And he asked me things I wouldn’t

Have the care to ask others,

For I am not the one

To stick out of the crowd.

He gave me the coin which was no medallion

To celebrate my humble one year

That I’ve recently reached

And yet it was that and even more

Simply because it came out of good heart,

Unwarranted, unexpected.

That’s when I knew

That sticking with these people

Would be the best thing

I could have done

And I should keep it that way,

For it will set me free from all that binds me,

Scares and angers my mind,

Tortures me spirit,

Making me perpetually poison my body.

This welcoming gesture was not an object to keep

But a gift of an open door

I have walked through

And kept on walking.

 

Walking still.


the image is mine. looking good.

honesty w/self

IMG_6548-300x200Three months sober, I went hiking in Jasper. Well, honestly, I rented a cabin in Jasper. Hiking was an addition to that. I had a crazy summer with jobs coming and going, relationships up and down, plus there was plenty of stress of not drinking while temptations were everywhere I looked. I needed a break from that insanity before it was time to get back to school. So, I booked a cabin and in August I went for a somewhat controlled environment adventure in the mountains.

Several days in, me and the small group of guests had a hot day hike. On the way back to the cabins one of them offered me to share some beers with him and his wife. First thought that came to my mind was “Crap, I should have stayed at home in the city, in the environment I could certainly control and have a better way to handle temptations.”

The second thought was less fearful, yet much more dangerous: “Hell, no one will know I had a beer or two! Plus, it would just give me a buzz. No big deal!” I knew though that I would obviously know. And I will remember. And I will suffer, because of the guilt that I broke down so easily. Also, I would suffer due to the more than likely serious mental maelstrom that will follow after the fun of intoxication subsided. I could hide even that, from others, but not from myself. I was new in the program and I didn’t know how you come back to AA meetings after a relapse. I didn’t want to find out.

All these thoughts went through my mind with a lightning speed, like in a Stephen King book, where there is an odyssey seems to pass through in the character’s head, and yet in reality only several seconds have gone through. I was about to look up to the fellow hiker and give him my answer when I thought of something else – how will he take my answer? Will he laugh? Will he say I better have some self-control? Will he do something that will make my isolate in my cabin for the rest of the week? I didn’t want to deal with any of that. And yet the good time of sobriety that I have enjoyed so far, no matter how difficult the time was, prompted me to speak my mind. All that thinking took another couple of seconds, I guess, and I finally made up my mind not to waste more of my companion’s time.

“Um… actually… I’m in recovery. So… um…” I tried to speak like nothing in the world could bother me, although I don’t know if it was working, “I am not going to join you… but… umm… have a good time!”

His reaction was not something that I expected.

He produced the biggest smile that a person could without wrecking their face into parts. In an instant his eyes shone brighter than the sun did all day. He shook my hand, saying: “Good for you! Keep it up” or something in that vein. It was quite a while ago, I can’t remember it quite well. Yet what I do remember is that conversation gave me a tremendous boost to keep it up with sobriety.

I was even happier with not taking a beer farther on that day, because the owners served wine with supper, which is something I’ve forgotten about. Refusing a wine at the table was easy. Refusing a beer when it felt like it was begging for you to accept it after a long hike in the sun, that wasn’t as easy. And a couple of beers followed by some wine… shit, it would do me in physically after ninety days of not drinking and then mentally, with all the thoughts I’d have to deal with. So, I was near ecstatic about the fine job that I was doing, keeping it sober.

That episode keeps coming to my mind in the summer. It’s the season I’ve sobered up, it’s the hiking and camping time. It keeps reminding me of the right choices that I’ve made, and how it keeps paying up for the life of sobriety, and because of that, of freedom. Freedom from hurting myself, freedom to be comfortable in my skin, freedom to speak my mind and to ease my mind from thoughts of however others choose to live their lives.


the image was copied from http://www.ecolodge.com/where-you-play/, the website of Rocky Mountains Escape where the above mentioned adventure has taken place. I went back there many times.

runners will be shot

PO11188957-frontI seriously thought I could escape this rat race. Like Jeff Waters wrote “I just needed a break from it all.” Only a long term one. I wanted to keep on being drunk. I loved it. Bliss. Lack of care. Beautiful solitude… and then from time to time I’d meet like-minded people, only at the end I’d always end up alone, so I kept that as normality. Besides those unfortunate occurrences, all was great as long as I was not sober. I didn’t want to care about anything. I just wanted to dedicate myself to alcoholic intoxication, for its illusion was beautiful. It was love at first sight and love that promised to be endless. I was all for it.

Funny how life keeps working on a different level and by different rules than what you think you need. Life started grinding over me and forcing me to change which is what I refused to do. While I was trying to escape what I thought was a tyrannical regime, all I could feel was constantly been shot at by the guards. And it went that way until I gave up running and accepted life on its terms.

Easier said than done, of course. Much easier in my case. I felt like surrendering would be betrayal of everything I knew and stood for. I fought relentlessly. It took time to realize that what I was really betraying was giving myself an opportunity to live a happy life. Not that happy worry-free life they show in Disney movies, but a realistic happy life where I do everything I can and care for and get what I deserve, including the mental and spiritual balance.

And when I fully realized that life without booze and running could actually be a good life still, I stopped in my tracks. I then turned around and went back in the direction where I was trying to perpetually escape from. The walk towards turned out to be much shorter than the running away. I was arriving at something with every step I made.


the image was copied from https://www.customink.com/fundraising/escaperoom and butchered by me. very smart shirts, by the way. escape rooms rule!

eating crow

53498212_6d5d00f6f4Heard an opinion recently that AA is a glorified Losers club.

I must agree. We are not perfect, not omnipotent how we thought we were before, perhaps, but together through connecting we stand strong with all our common and individual weaknesses and weirdness.

We ate our amount of crows and we still sometimes do, but we know it and we know why, more often than before. Humility makes us more aware of ourselves and our limitations, which is how we become to know our strengths. We come to understand our character defects and we do our best to promptly admit them and learn from the experience not to repeat our mistakes. Sometimes we fail to do so, but so do not just addicts. People in general are imperfect, so we try to stop beating ourselves up and concentrate on improving instead.

We can be wrong in our minds, but it is actions that count. We are not wrong to reflect on thoughts we have or actions we are about to take.

We are the glorified losers club after all, and the glory is true and it’s all ours!

Going back to the speaker – they said they remember being wrong many times. They still can be wrong, but they have improved – if they were wrong, they stay in denial only for two days, no longer for two weeks, and no more for two years. Talk about positive thinking!


the image was copied from https://www.flickr.com/photos/itsyourdaycakes/53498212 thanks.

know nothing

u3w7an48ky641A member at the recent meeting shared that there was a massive difference in how they felt about recovery between one and seven years of sobriety. It was not just about the amount of sober time. It was the difference between knowing all and knowing nothing.

I can relate. At age one in AA I did think I knew quite a bit about the program and with that, about the world around me. Around that time it happened so that I did a little lecture about it to a Russian sobriety program on their request. I also wrote an academic paper about it. I went to lots of meetings,  talked to people, and it felt like I knew the important stuff, and I guess I assumed I knew more than that. It was about actual alcoholic sobriety and serenity to me then. I thought that if I knew a lot about sobriety, I was doing well.

I wasn’t though. As it says, without the work, the faith is dead. It was true, as it turned out, because in my first two years of sobriety, although I was working on steps, I was doing it way too slow, and other than that, I was doing no work. Just going to meeting was enough for me, and I didn’t catch the moment of change when I started feeling stagnant in life and sobriety. I had to eventually change groups and once I did that, I found there was more to the program. I joined groups of people visiting recovery houses and intox facilities, introducing my group and AA methods of recovery to those who were in treatment. I started writing more about sobriety. That’s when I started feeling I am doing well. Perhaps that happened because I realized AA was more than just a program of going to meetings. It was also about relationships and connecting. It turned out I seriously needed to work on those things, and although I was willing, I didn’t always have a good guide. I only discovered that years later.

As time marches on, I look at the world and at how people communicate and treat each other, and I feel I know nothing about life. Good thing is, I still know how the program of recovery works. Writing about it, just like now, and communicating with people whose opinion I value, helps me to keep afloat when it feels like the world is going even more mad. It seems to me that sometimes knowing nothing (or feeling that you know nothing) can be healing in a sense that all you need to do is keep walking forward and do simple things that you know work, and that’s how you get by.


the image was copied from reddit.com and circumcised by me. thanks.

to be an apple

Retouch-1313AHe wanted to be…

OK, he was an Apple

He was red, and green, and yellow, and even white,

As apples come.

He was this juicy thing you could eat right away

He had things of his own he could’ve been happy with

Yet he wasn’t because

He always wanted to be an Orange.

To him, the Oranges were all that he could wish for,

How they grew, and laughed,

It looked so infectiously simple how they did things,

Including drinking –

It seemed intoxication and consequences came to them effortlessly.

He could sell his core to be like them

And he tried to do so.

It took him many falls and been kicked around,

Dark spots and pinches off his red, and green, and yellow skin

To the point white was all gone, or so it seemed

Until one day he learned something –

He will always be an Apple

Because his body was thought through and made in a different way

Selling his core brought no desired fruits, pardon the pun

And when that dawned on him,

He cried, yet the sun failed not to keep shining on him

And the dew still looked beautiful in the waking up grass.

It took much time, enough to feel like eternity,

To find peace with that realization.

Then one day, it all became clear to him –

He could look so many ways,

Feel so much different being alive instead of jealous.

And he also found there were many other Apples to talk to

Which he didn’t cared to do for a long time,

Lost in his resentment.

Next day was very red, and green, and yellow, and even white,

And so many colors he didn’t know existed.

There was much time to grow and enjoy them all

And he kept on doing so

Effortless one day, with some strain another

Yet drinking over that he didn’t need to anymore.


the image was copied from https://retouch.ca/portfolio/apple-orange-retouching/ thank you.

thank you to Russ for the idea.

What a Disaster

hqdefaultI saw a TV ad recently. A lady walking through her messy and dirty apartment, trying to make a meal, I think. Then the sentence across the screen said: Not all disasters make the news. I think it was an ad for the Red Cross.

Then it hit me: it’s probably not messy and dirty place. How about destroyed by fire? And the thing is, thinking that way made me look at the situation under a completely different angle. Not irresponsibility but dealing with disastrous conditions. Not carelessness but overcoming grief and burden.

When it comes to mental health, “not all disasters” reality makes even less news. No one knows what’s going on in another person’s head and why do they behave a certain way. Even if you’re a seasoned psychiatrist, dealing with people is not easy because everybody is different with their own specifics. There is no blueprint to work on everybody.

When a person falls apart, due to a family crisis, unemployment, addiction, it is a disaster, a tragedy. And yet, there are ways to mend some spirits and minds in a way, at least partially. I was to my AA home group meeting and one of the members said: “There are about fifty people in this room. People with long term sobriety, short time sobriety, some newcomers, but all are people who want to improve their lives and live responsibly and happily without expense of others’ grief. We affect a lot of people, each and everyone of us. Our manner of living affects parents, kids, spouses, friends, coworkers. At least five hundred people outside of this room are better off because we fifty are sober.”

The day before that meeting I went to a concert. As always, I wasn’t drinking. I don’t drink alcohol at shows, just as I don’t at any other time. I know there are people who think (and maybe they even have proof) that drinking is not all that bad, but it’s not my story. So, after drinking irresponsibly for over ten years, I’ve quit and don’t do it anymore. I won’t deny that not drinking at shows does take away from excitement a bit. When the music hits the air though, it’s decibels and vibes that rule the ball and I don’t need anything else. But some spirit is lacking, I think, compared to the good and bad old drinking times. And that’s OK. Life is more responsible lately and because of that more tolerable. Fun, actually.

And I thought of that when listening to my co-member talking about the 500 who are better off with us fifty being sober, because it was not just drinking and intoxicated mind of my un-sober times that had put me and others around me in trouble. It was how I looked at the world and how I related to others. How I behaved and how I talked. And it’s still not perfect time for me regarding attitude and communication. So many times I can recall myself speaking without thinking and how it got me in trouble. What a mess I can create without applying the “Stop, wait, think” rule. What a disaster. I remember my first AA sponsor who said that anybody would benefit from using the Twelve Steps in their lives to improve their lives, their family lives, spiritual balance, and so on. It is a spiritual and communication program in a nutshell, after all.

I’m staying from causing a disaster. I’m not perfect and probably never will be, and that’s OK. I keep trying to improve, though. I watch what I say and work on myself without hurting others. I keep it sober. I stay connected. I embrace and practice the positive way of living. Alternatives to that could be disastrous. I don’t want to chance it. Thanks, but no thanks.


the image was copied from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iW5hAThdZHg and thank you and that song kicks ass!

To Raise a Warrior

vikings-headlineI went to a Viking Age society life exhibition at the local museum last month. I’m a Norse spirituality fan, so how I could I miss it? Beautiful exhibition, very well presented and explained. Besides the display of the artifacts excavated from the Norse soil, such as the swords, the ships, and the amulets, the museum provided a warrior battle presentation, played out by the Viking warrior and folk fans, travelling around the world. The brave folks dressed themselves in the Norse people garments and used the replica weapons to bring one another down in front of the packed auditorium, a crowd of which at least half were kids.

Each time a warrior fell in the one-on-one fight, the leader of the pack that explained the event to the audience, invited us to bring the dead fighter back to life. It was explained to the guests that the warriors who fought so brave must be on the way to Hall of Valour where they were so eager to go and party until the end of time. The only thing that could possibly bring them back to life is… well, party on earth. “Anybody knows what mead is?” the leader of the pack yelled into the crowd. “That’s right, Viking alcohol drink!” The crowd was then encouraged to yell “Mead! Mead! Mead!” to bring the soul of the dead fighter back to join the body so he could join the rank of the armed folks on stage. And so it went after each fight.

I thought it was fascinating, because the kids in the crowd, were brought to believe, for some odd reason, that an alcoholic beverage could bring one back to life from death. Yes, those are Vikings, to the majority they are all extinct for a thousand years except for TV series legacy. Yes, there is folklore, mythology, and other fun stuff to read about, and maybe forget in a month or so. Yet some stuff, especially fun stuff like that, it stays somewhere in the mind. What enters the mind acts out at some point, in ways we find unexpected and fascinating. How many future punters sat in that room? How many of them, like me, won’t be able to let go off booze easily in ten years?

Yes, me. I never heard of mead raising the dead, but I was actively addicted to alcohol for years, and without my version of mead, such as beer, I felt like a living dead. With it I was alive and could rage like a warrior running through enemy shores and their castle walls of the modern world, or at least I thought so. It made up fun reality for me. It was a kingdom of illusion I loved to keep alive for many years. It didn’t do me much good.

Blame on the Viking fans? No. that’s not what I write this for. This one is as usual for opening eyes. For thinking, while it’s still allowed to do so. The Gods brought us enlightenment for a reason.


the image was copied from https://royalalbertamuseum.ca/visit/galleries/feature-gallery/index.cfm and pillaged by me. thank you.

How to Read A Book

ent_readwalk_0605How do I read a book? From the beginning. One page at a time. While it goes fun, I don’t care for how many pages are left to go through. Then that may change, and I start looking at page numbers and count how many days it may take me to finish the book. Still, though, no matter how much I’m planning to read it, I don’t get to completing it unless I go one page at a time. If I cheat and skip parts, I miss something and then I find myself confused about things not making sense.

How do you walk a road toward a location? Not drive, or ride a bike, – walk? Hopefully, the way I do it. That is, one step at a time, putting one foot in front of the other. Watching your step is also highly recommended. I don’t remember if I was told how to read the book the right way, but I sure was told how to walk. It works well just the way I was told. I usually keep up a good stature and good pace, and hey, I get where I need to, even if the weather conditions aren’t as favorable as I may have wanted.

How do I live sober? Not how you live sober, or how you should live sober. That is none of my business. I have some ideas to share, though. Nothing crazy. It works just the same way as with reading a book and walking down the road. It even can be tightly related to those two. It is a one step at a time kind of a thing. Sometimes it is a foot, sometimes a couple inches. Sometimes it is a day, but in the beginning it is more of an hour. One in front of the other. When I went one step without booze a day it was easier to focus without too many thoughts, fears, and doubts attached. One step at a time, guarded by a “thank you” at wake-up time, and the other at bedtime. That’s what AA taught me. They taught me well. It works. Step by step progress may not seem like a good ride, but it is, because there are so many examples and metaphors I can find to put “one step at a time” path of living in front of you. That’s right, path of living, because everything that is to stand strong and last works that way.


the image was copied from http://entertainment.time.com/2012/06/06/a-book-lovers-guide-to-reading-and-walking-at-the-same-time/ modified by me for the sake of Saturday morning goofballingness. thank you.