"So, I've always been an avid reader. And at one point in my early sobriety I became a little obsessed with death, so I was poking around all the used bookstores in my neighborhood for books that were a little... well, macabre, I guess. Anyway, I found this one book that was all about the Eskimos and surviving -- or not surviving, maybe -- winter in the extreme North. I don't remember much about it except this one thing: In the worst part of the winter, when hunting was at its hardest and everyone and everything was pretty much starving to death, the wolf packs would start to track the Eskimos as they followed their own game to hunt. And what the Eskimos would do is they would take a knife, and sharpen it and sharpen it and sharpen it until it was to the finest edge they could make it. Then they would cut one of the dogs and get the dog blood all over the knife blade. Then they'd stick the knife, hilt down, blade up, in the snow. The wolves driven by starvation would be in a frenzy when they smelled the dog blood on the blade of the knife, and before they could stop themselves, would lick the blade, cutting themselves until they bled to death. Every sense they had told them to lick the knife, and every lick of the knife moved them closer to bleeding out. And I thought, "Man, that is a perfect metaphor for my alcoholism. When I'm in a frenzy, my every sense tells me to drink, tells me that THAT'S what I need. And every time I drink I move closer to kind of... spiritually bleeding out. And that can absolutely lead me to death as certainly as those poor wolves freezing in the snow."
My first very first post on this blog was April 24, 2008.
(When I go back and read those earlier essays I wince; I was trying so hard...)
And today, this posting marks my 2000th.
With one accidental interruption of a couple of months (fueled by sloth and procrastination) back in 2012, I have been posting something new -- even if it was just a brief observation or quote -- five days a week, Monday thru Friday, for the whole run. (Actually, for the first several months I posted something new seven days a week, but that just about killed me, so I took the weekends off).
I love writing this blog.
In fact, I think it's fair to say writing this blog turned me into a writer. (What kind of a writer is really up to each individual reader of course -- as is true of all writing -- but there are some pieces here I'm pretty proud of, prose-wise.)
In some ways I've been an excellent blogger, in that you could really count on something new every day. (Yes, yes, except for that one brief stretch in 2012. As records go, I still think that's not bad.) And I've always been pretty good about pruning the spam postings out of the Comments Section(s).
In other ways I have been incredibly lazy. The "Subscribe to this blog's Feed" link has never worked properly, and I just never bothered to learn how to fix it.
Also, I vastly overestimated my ability to personally correspond with the Internet, and after a valiant attempt was quickly overwhelmed by email. I randomly posted questions received via the "Email Me" link in the "Questions via Email" section, and hopefully that was a good jumping off point for sober consideration when I did so. My lack of timely responses was its own eventual solution; the inbox volume dwindled. I always felt I over-promised and under-delivered on that front.
I'm working on wrapping up the second Mr. SponsorPants book (I've been saying that for a while, but I really am), and am definitely going to keep the blog up and running.
But I am going to let go of the commitment to post something new, five days a week, Monday thru Friday.
There will continue to be new postings, but they will be irregular. Several in a week sometimes -- other times probably fewer.
After eight years and 2000 posts I need to change it up and redistribute my energy a little.
To the regular readers, those of you who check back daily, I am grateful for your time and attention. At the risk of repeating myself, I'm not stopping. But hopefully this change in commitment will give me time and space to refresh what I do here, and provide maybe a little more quality in exchange for a little less quantity.
The internet is full of excellent recovery blogs, and there are many "daily reader" recovery/spiritual books out there suitable for either the bathroom or your favorite meditation chair. (Lucky me, sometimes the bathroom IS my favorite meditation chair! Woo!) So if you fear your routine is going to be disrupted feel free to come back and enjoy the archives, but probably the far, far better course is to explore new voices while popping back here every couple of days or so to see what's new.
Staying sober in AA has changed my life in such profound, amazing ways; expressing that fully via these bits of online writing has been a sometimes daunting challenge, but doing so revitalized my program when I really needed it, and (not to be too dramatic about it) likely saved my life.
I'm grateful to everyone who has read, corresponded, lurked, challenged, criticized and shared.
It's all made me both a better AA and a better writer.
As always when it comes to recovery, I feel I owe more than I can ever repay.
When a man or a woman has a spiritual awakening, the most important meaning of it is that he has now become able to do, feel, and believe that which he could not do before on his unaided strength and resources alone.
He has been granted a gift which amounts to a new state of consciousness and being. He has been set on a path which tells him he is really going somewhere, that life is not a dead end, not something to be endured or mastered.
In a very real sense he has been transformed, because he has laid hold of a source of strength which, in one way or another, he had hitherto denied himself. He finds himself in possession of a degree of honesty, tolerance, unselfishness, peace of mind, and love of which he had thought himself quite incapable.
I echo those who feel that if this Fellowship ever falters or fails, it will not be because of any outside cause.
No, it will not be because of treatment centers or professionals in the field, or non-Conference-approved literature, or young people, or the dually-addicted, or even the "druggies" trying to come to our closed meetings.
If we stick close to our Traditions, Concepts, and Warranties, and if we keep an open mind and an open heart, we can deal with these and any other issues that we have or ever will have.
If we ever falter and fail, it will be simply because of us.
It will be because we can't control our own egos or get along well enough with each other. It will be because we have too much fear and rigidity and not enough trust and common sense.
Bob P. (1917-2008), General Manager of the General Service Office from 1974 to 1984, then Senior Advisor to the G.S.O. from 1985 until his retirement.
His story is in the Big Book as "AA Taught Him to Handle Sobriety," 3rd edit. (1976) pp. 554-561, 4th edit. (2001) pp. 553-559.
These words were spoken as part of Bob P's last address to GSO late in the 1980s.
I agree with Bob. P. (even though the word "druggies" makes me giggle.)
I don't have to believe a process will work for a process to work.
I just have to do the process for it to work.
If I did not believe that lifting weights would build muscle, but I lifted them anyway, I would eventually build muscle.
(Sure, sure, believing in a process can help me be willing to do it, or help me focus my energies so that I get the maximum result from it, but I can get a result from a process solely through action; belief is not required.)
I was taking an Uber over to my Tuesday 7:30am meeting. I had the set up commitment, which makes for an early morning, but I can get it all in before work and while I may occasionally grumble when the alarm goes off (fine, fine, grumble as in swear like a sailor) it’s a really nice way to start my day.
I like to have the place ready to go when people show up. Chairs set up, etc. I think it makes a nice impression for the new people.
My buddy who is secretary of the meeting was away this week so I was covering for him in addition to set up. With a double scoop of service on my AA cone I didn’t want to chance a bus running late; hence the Ubersplurge.
AA has taught me to view virtually any situation as a chance to be of service. I’ll never forget a friend in a meeting sharing about how when he was getting ready to go on a blind date (he was going through a phase of constantly being set up by well-intentioned friends), to combat his nerves he tried to approach it with a “how can I make this the best blind date they’ll ever have” mindset as he showered and shaved. He discovered that as soon as he thought about the experience that way his nerves pretty much vanished.
That share, heard years ago now, made a lasting impression on me and changed how I approach… well, pretty much, everything in my life: How can I be the nicest customer this grocery checker has all day? How can I be the most pleasant person on the bus? How can I be the kindest man this homeless person interacts with this afternoon? How can I be the best Uber passenger to sit in their backseat this morning?
The last half of the 12th Step suggests we “…practice these principles in all our affairs.” This is one concrete way in which I try to do that.
(I hasten to add that not far from that phrase in the text it follows with, “…no one among us has been able to maintain anything like perfect adherence to these principles. We are not saints. The point is that we are willing to grow along spiritual lines…” I try to do this because as a result of this mindset, of these actions, I am transformed. I have a better day. It’s also worth noting that sometimes being helpful or kind in a particular situation means being calm or quiet. As a veteran of the service industry wars -- which I’ve cataloged extensively here over the years -- aggressive cheer is its own kind of hostage taking, I assure you. But the medicine is in the thinking of others, acting differently than my fear and ego would have me. Being of service, rather than walking through the world hyper-sensitive, self obsessed and so very ready to be wronged, as I do when my alcoholism is untreated, and I am dry, but not sober.)
My driver was a handsome, clean cut young fellow: Regular, standard-issue American mutt. Light blue button down shirt, close-trimmed curly hair, tortoise shell glasses. His hands rested loosely at 10 and 2 on the wheel, and from the backseat I admired his wristwatch.
“Thank you.” He said. “It was a present from my father.” We chatted about how maybe watches were making a comeback, even though we all use our cell phones to check the time. I ventured no strong opinion on the issue either way.
“How long have you been driving for Uber? Do you like it?”
“Oh, maybe like, three or four months. I do it in the mornings before I go to my regular job, and then sometimes after work and on the weekends, too.”
I drifted into silence, thinking about what he said, and admiring his resourcefulness and attitude. There was no rancor in his answer.
“Are you going to work?” he asked, naturally enough. The address I’d given him was in the back of a café, new home to meetings who’d had to relocate some few months ago.
“Actually, I’m going to an AA meeting.”
I never do this. I do not move through the world volunteering my AA membership as a factoid in unrelated conversations. While I try to be vigilant, listening for my “cue” to carry AA's message – though I double check my hearing when I believe I’ve heard it, just to be sure – and am willing to break my anonymity any time it might be helpful, I wear my AA medallion on my keychain, rather than my shirt collar, so to speak. But it popped out, just like that: “Actually, I’m going to an AA meeting.”
He visibly brightened. “Really? Wow that’s… I know William very well myself.”
(For the new kids, sometimes people will say they’re “A friend of Bill” -- as in Bill Wilson, one of AA’s founders -- when identifying themselves as a member of AA.)
“Really?” I laughed “That’s crazy. I never just kind of pop out with…”
“I love meetings. I always feel so much better when I go. But I haven’t been to one in something like… oh, maybe a couple of months.”
“A couple of months.” I said, with a well practiced lack of judgment in my tone. If he heard one, he put it there, I assure you. It didn’t start with me.
“Yeah. I love the speaker meetings the best.” He waxed enthusiastic about his meeting experiences, and some of the speakers he’d heard. It was refreshing, frankly, to hear such positivity, even if it had been a while since he'd been back in the rooms.
We were approaching my stop.
(Just for the sake of completion I will type out the end of this story, but you already know what it is, don’t you.)
“Why don’t you come to this one.” I suggested. “It’s only an hour.”
“That’s…” The navigation on his cell phone interrupted with the announcement that we had arrived at our destination.
There was a parking space right in front, and I almost said “Look! Doris Day parking! It’s meant to be!” but I kept silent because A) He was probably far, far too young to know what the phrase ‘Doris Day parking’ meant, and I make a concerted effort not to be reminded of my age before 9am, and B) As I’ve gotten older, I push less and wait more.
“You know what?” he laughed. “Why not. Picking you up and all… maybe it’s meant to be!”
I laughed as well. “Maybe.” I nodded. “It may be.”
He helped me set up the chairs.
I bought him a cup of coffee. (The meeting is in the back of a café, after all. They’re wonderful landlords but it’s understandable they request we don’t brew a pot of free coffee to offer around. It all works out.)
As the meeting filled he actually saw someone he’d known when he was new.
The format of this meeting calls for us to say the 3rd Step Prayer, and as we stood and formed a ring around the room, praying aloud together that frankly beautiful and sometimes terrifying prayer, when we came to the line "...do with me as Thou wilt...," watching my erstwhile Uber driver across the circle of joined hands I had a tiny emotional moment inside. Being part of something which can work so much potential good is rarely something I take for granted anymore. I was glad he came in with me. Who knows what lies along this young man's path? In my experience, AA can help, whatever it may be.
But then I had to suppress a giggle, since the wise ass in my head -- who's really never off duty -- mentally chimed in after "...do with me as Thou wilt..." with "Even in an Uber!"
It was a good meeting – most of them are, to me, even without a little cosmic synchronicity in the mix.