pointing it in

2745655_0Last year in college I still had no clue what I’m going to do with my life. Following an advice of the school counselor, I figured the smartest thing was to volunteer in a couple of places around the city and then see. I wanted to go change the world, you know. Ha.

I started working at a shelter for people who had no place to call their own. My experience was many people needed sobriety just as much as home. But to get better they needed to act accordingly to what the program of recovery was telling them. I worked with some of these people and the more it went, the more it seemed to me they were not ready, for any recovery or sobriety. It appeared they didn’t care to hear.

It took me years to realize they did hear. But besides the recovery message of care and support they also heard other stuff. They were homeless and thirsty. Every day was a day of coping and surviving. Not just surviving the street, looking over your shoulder, sleeping with one eye open, knowing your friends, knowing surroundings and places where to eat, shower, score whatever you need.

No. Surviving the day of projected blaming. Finger pointing. Many of them lived a lifetime of lecturing. I never pointed finger at them. Not on the outside. But I did it in my head. I guess they felt it. They listened to me and my coworkers, but they were not hearing because the life outside of them was not hearing them. Them and their inside story.

I worked with the people for eight years and those I could reach, some of their lives got better, because me and my colleagues heard them and showed it. We couldn’t change them against their will, but we showed them we heard. Being an addict makes you relate to another addict. We’ve brought empathy and relating to the table, instead of salvation. And we’ve brought some food too. Carrot cake, you know.

I think I’m still a judgmental asshole, like many others out there (see? right there!) but I keep reminding myself of that, so I try to keep my inside finger pointing to a minimum. Even if  I don’t think it is, or I don’t mean it, it is still there, just like in this image I found for this post. Pointing fingers doesn’t do anyone any good, unless you show somebody which road to take when they asked about. Now, that’s a helpful thing to do.


image was copied from https://www.teepublic.com/fr/art-mural/2745655-uncle-sam-hand-pointing-funny-patriotic-government and put on it’s head by me. thanks.

What I Didn’t Know: Alcoholism, Recovery, and the Order of Things

tiger1There was a joke I heard in elementary school.

How many steps it takes to put a tiger in a fridge?

Don’t know. Why…

How many steps?

Don’t know.

Three steps. You open the fridge, put the tiger in, close the fridge. OK? Now, how many steps it takes to put an elephant in the fridge?

Three.

No. Four.

Why…

Look, you open the fridge, take the tiger out, put the elephant in, close the fridge. Done.

Why… would someone put poor animals in a fridge? Who knows. Bored school kids come up with even weirder concepts, I’m sure. Well, I know. I was one. I used to think of so many things and came up with so many ideas. Eventually though I found I had no one to share them with. And then, with the course of time, I started drinking. I liked the effect and I didn’t feel lonely when drunk. On contrary I was happy, and half the time when I wasn’t drinking, I wasn’t so happy, so I kept up with the drinking. And then reality kept catching up with me to the point I drank way more often. And then I couldn’t afford it, yet I still did it. Then I started visiting doctors and taking medications to deal with the consequences of that behavior that I really didn’t want to let go of. Nothing seemed to help. Then I was recommended to do something different. As a result, I came to a room occupied by complete strangers who told me that what was happening to me was called Alcoholism.

I heard of alcoholism, but I had no knowledge of it. I thought that it was something that plagued middle aged and older men that often slept in a gutter after hanging around liquor stores, sometimes in small companies, begging or intimidating people for money they used to buy liquor. That was all I witnessed, and that was all I thought it was: drinking, being mean, smelling bad, nothing good came out of that. It never occurred to me I could become one of these people. I was responsible, clean, and had other things to do instead of loitering and being obnoxious. There seemed to be a massive difference between me and them.

I also didn’t know anyone who would prove me wrong, so I didn’t know who to ask when I started having questions. And my questions didn’t last long, because I saw everyone drinking, really, so I felt my behavior was socially accepted. When I started noticing problems arising from my drinking, I figured that was socially accepted too. It seemed to me I just needed to give it some time to normalize, and then after taking a small break, I could go back to drinking without issues.

By then time everybody including my family, employers, school instructors, girlfriends, and the little of friends that I had, – they all knew I had a problem. I was the only one who kept denying the seriousness of it. I thought I could find the way to normalize my behavior and attitude toward drinking alcohol.

The strangers in the room proved me wrong after I already proved myself wrong plenty of times. And they also told me there was a way of action that would help me overcome what I was battling. There were steps to be taken for that way to work.

I’ve heard about Steps and going to meetings, but it took me time to understand the importance of it. However, there was one thing that I took to heart right away in one of my first ten meetings. An elder man said that when you sit at home and think about not going to the meeting, your addiction is right next to you on the floor, and it’s doing push-ups, becoming stronger. It’s a good image and for many years I know it’s the truth, and I still remember it.

tiger2The strangers in the AA rooms taught me about relationships and patience. They opened my eyes to the reality of attaining serenity and the fact that it was not a rocket science to attain it. But there were Steps. Steps to everything. Just like with putting an elephant in the fridge. Open the door, take tiger out, put elephant in, close the door.

I also never heard of a word “resentment”, so they taught me. I wouldn’t be able to learn that without learning first that I was powerless over the behavior that I for a long time considered a blessing. Learning that took humility, and without that accepting the concept of letting go of resentment just don’t work for me.

Thanks to AA, I had my eyes opened to the fact that I had to take care of myself, because no one else would. They would want to, but most of them don’t even know where to start. No one really knows what’s going on behind anyone’s eyes. In disease and addiction no one really knows how you really feel. We don’t willingly talk about our problems. Sometimes even we don’t know what the hell is going on, while we watch it unfold. Then there are people who do know, and they can help, but my self-will-run-riot will mess everything up if I don’t take heed and allow for patience and consideration. Crap hits the fan sometimes, and if I don’t pay attention, the result is, as Henry Rollins wrote, “sometimes happens all the time”. I guess if there is anything I know, it’s that. But I still tend to ignore that at times.

Last fifteen years of living sober were great. I think I did more good than bad, and I’ve learned from more mistakes than I ever allowed myself to in the past. I walk forward, and I have to take steps to do so. It works better that way.


the images were copied from https://www.deviantart.com/uranimated18/art/Heather-Opens-the-Fridge-and-Finds-a-Tiger-759849788 and https://www.flickr.com/photos/16446760@N00/3295951347 thank you.

 

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.

Beat it in

nice+old+elevator+1

Violence is not an answer.

Unless, maybe, when you are trying to make someone think. Think for the sake of saving their own life.

A member in the meeting said they had a conversation with a person who was struggling with making their younger relative see what they were doing with their life, throwing it all down the toilet due to being enslaved to substance abuse.

The mentioned member already had gone through their lot of troubles of making it through addiction in one piece. The family member knew nothing of the addiction, but they witnessed the toll it was taking on the younger one. Eventually the relative said “I wish I could beat the recovery into you” because he was shown how well abstinence worked in others.

I wish we could beat recovery into others. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. Maybe micro-chipping would work one day. But then, what would the person learn? Recovery is not a one-time session. It’s a journey. You can’t get far, if you’ve learned nothing of how to take few initial steps.

I’ve heard someone else in a different meeting say “The recovery elevator is broken. You will have to take the stairs.” That’s funny, and wise. But also, it’s too merciful. The truth is the recovery elevator doesn’t exist. We have to take stairs all the time. Although, sometimes we wish we could have an elevator like that to save lives in cases of emergency. There’s plenty of those. And you can’t beat it into them. They have to really want it to give all they’ve got, no matter what anyone thinks. That’s the way I’ve learned it. And thousands of those like me.


the elevator image was copied from https://www.saveourelevators.com/ thanks.

snowing light

snowFrustration at powerlessness may never go away. Desire for complete control sometimes is overwhelming, yet things are happening the way they are supposed to. I’ve witnessed that many times and yet I still battle it.

Two days of Spring at the time that Spring should have been majorly on the way, and then… the warmth and melting of snow and ice is replaced by the coldest day of the week and sharp wind, carrying more snow. The white joyously proceeded to cover everything that has melted like the warmth hasn’t been around for weeks. And I’m laughing at it, because I don’t want to growl in frustration. I’m tired of Winter, I’m tired of cold, and ice. I have to grin at the changes that I do not welcome to stay at least somewhat positive.

Yet for some reason I find it hard to apply that grinning to darker currents creeping up from the voids opening under my feet and tempting me to support my ego fire to the point that I assume I should have all things bending under my will.

Humility is easy to express unless ego prefers to listen to things that work for other people and I want to have that. I know that I should remember my limitations and be grateful for those. Snow lit by the morning sun starts falling at the time I wait for inspiration calls. Winter is not ready to retreat. Springtime will come when the nature says so. My gratitude for realizing it opens my eyes some more, and I can see that the right inspirations, not the things I want, but the ones I need, are continued to be brought to me, whether it is when I’m looking for them, or when I least expect them.


the image was copied from https://www.123rf.com/photo_48132831_winter-watercolor-abstract-background-with-falling-snow-splash-texture-christmas-new-year-light-coba.html and cut up mercilessly by me to avoid intrusions that don’t belong in the balance. thank you.

Shine Until Tomorrow

220px-LetItBe (1)Words drop on you suddenly and kick you in the teeth. Words you may have heard countless times wake you up suddenly. Words you don’t really care for anymore because the meaning is lost in the constant use. And yet they come and wake up something in your mind’s lazily burning flame.

The words now are “Shine on Until Tomorrow, Let it Be.” The Beatles are the band that I’ve been listening to since I was a kid, but their earlier records were more fun and I liked those, while the later songs were something I didn’t care to listen in albums. I guess the rock-n-roll driving force was more important to me than progressive and philosophical streams that had flown in later times of the band.

Yet at times the songs from the later 60s/early 70s creep into my life more often lately, as from the Doors that I go back to often, as the Beatles repertoire that I come upon by a chance, and those songs kick teeth. In the case of the Brits, “Let it Be” song caught me by surprise at the place I’ve heard it recently, but also by the meaning of the words. The thought of a person lost in the darkness and yet accepting to hold on until tomorrow, and so it shall be – it never struck me as a one day at a time idea, yet that’s how I heard it. There is a lot of hope in those words, just like in the Bob Dylan’s “Blowing in the Wind” that I came upon recently after not caring for it for 25 years. Something hopeful that I may have heard when listening to “Let it Be” in my youth when studying English and translating classic songs word by word, be it the Beatles or Iron Maiden, yet not fully taking to heart.

The days lately are dark, whether it is because it still winter that refuses to go away, or because of the fear of lurking sickness and many shut doors. As the members of this mighty horde called humanity, people have made it through many obstacles on their paths, and this is just another serious one. We are going to make it through another day in order to make it through months. Although the days are dark, there is still light here – we’ve got food and we have people to talk to. Isolation and social distancing doesn’t mean you have to play alone and walk in solitude all the way. March on and the light will shine. Until tomorrow. What’s after – we’ll see to that later. Today is the most important time.


the image was copied from wikipedia.org and lighted out by me in reverence mixed with confusion. thank you.

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!

Allow Some Time

So often

Things appear out of control,

Out of our wanted mental grasp,

Of our undying pride

That we have to have all the power.

For this is how we were raised and taught.

Don’t I know that!

Even knowing that time,

That we think is controlled by the clock,

Is an illusion,

It doesn’t help

When I sense it run through my fingers

Away

From my holding it so firmly.

That’s when I stop caring so much for it

And no matter how much depends on

Saving time

I still say,

Mostly to myself:

Allow yourself some time

Give a chance to self

Look into the blow of wind

And you may see something different

That you’d miss in a rush,

Or doing something else

That is really of no importance.

Excuse your own ignorance,

Or bad mood,

Or intolerance

And move on noticing things

You may have never seen otherwise.

 

As the world appears unique with time

Within one day,

Same places lit by the sun from different angles,

At the same time

Loads of useless information

Create a sight

Of how things are to be.

But if we take a closer look

At all these memos and agendas

They disappear as smoke gone in the wind,

Providing you with time

To do something special and lasting

For yourself

That you maybe cannot even describe with words

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.