Tuesday, March 13, 2018

SMALL MEETINGS

The NA meeting was large for our rural area, 20 to 25 recovering addicts on an average Saturday. Those who attended regularly took the number for granted, as did I. About a dozen or so of the attendees came from a rehab about forty minutes away by car, and they were driven to the meeting by a volunteer. Then the rehab residents stopped coming. We heard that it was because the volunteer driver was no longer available. A couple others dropped away without word, another who had to work, another who had to do some  prison time, another who was ill, and another who went out to research some aspect of the nightmare he must have missed his first time through it. It seemed as though, all of a sudden, we were down to three persons or six on a good day.

It seemed wrong, somehow, we waited for more to show, but eventually we accepted the meetings would be small, and struggled on. Funny thing about small meetings, though:  The sharing was deeper, more honest, and much more useful. Folks I had known for so long I almost had their usual meeting qualification stories memorized revealed depths about their using and recovery that were entirely new to me. And I did the same. It hadn't occurred to me before, but the larger a meeting is, the less sharing time there is available per person.  Besides that, there are many who are intimidated by very large meetings and often remain silent. If there are only four or five at a meeting, it is difficult to hide, stay mum, and thereby opt out of that session's recovery.

It has gotten such that I find small meetings more useful to my recovery than large ones. It shouldn't have surprised me, but it did. When I looked at why I had been surprised, I found a character defect of mine staring back. I was one of the ones who founded that meeting, making it in my head, my meeting. Hence, as in Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites, increased numbers stroked my ego, decreased numbers felt like personal rejection. A large number of "friends" on Facebook don't mean that you have many friends, that is, humans who know the worst about you, love you anyway, refuse to enable you in your efforts at self-destruction, and who tell you what you need to hear. One real friend is worth more than all the numbers that exist. When I attend a meeting, my purpose is to maintain and progress in my own recovery, and to be of help when asked. I am not there to be flattered by my own imagination (And, yeah, that's why I removed the page-view counter from the blog).

There are smaller meetings that are of even more value. There are meetings with my sponsor, or a sponsee, or simply another addict, and not just to wrestle down the dragon or get through a white-knuckle day. When we are clean, we can be a real friend and can make and keep real friends. In early recovery, still raw and suspicious of others and their motives, it may seem as though being alone is the safest place. At such times, remember that an addict inside his or her own head is behind enemy lines. It was discovered a long time ago by the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous, Bill W. and Doctor Bob. They were two hopeless fall-down drunks who found that when they leaned on each other they were both still on their own feet. There are also the small meetings on Twelve Step calls, and with your Higher Power that can be both the most rewarding and most frustrating in recovery. Both meetings have the potential to underline your powerlessness like nothing else.

The smallest meeting, of course, is your meeting with yourself through doing  Step work, personal inventories, and self-improvement. Working on yourself is much different than isolation in which the addict sits alone wallowing in self-pity, reviewing shameful and humiliating episodes of the past and seeing nothing but pain and wreckage in the future, greasing up those skids in preparation for that approaching "slip" back into the nightmare.

For those who do not know what I mean by "sponsor, "sponsee," "Step work," "Twelve Step calls," and "Higher Power," don't Google them; go to a meeting and listen to those who know and to those others who are learning. If you are an addict in need of recovery, moving your own ass to a meeting is your job. Doing nothing, waiting for someone or something else to "fix it," is, in its mild form, called "riding a pogo stick through a minefield." In  its more extreme form, it is called "suicide" by some other name.

Take care of yourself today.



 
 
 

 

Monday, March 05, 2018

THE OUCHING

So, there I was, in my cardiologist's office. My symptoms were weakness, fatigue, nausea, inability to focus, stumbling into things, difficulty in forming words, loss of appetite, weight gain(?), and a depression that made the Spanish Inquisition appear by comparison as a fun time in Jamaica. I had just gotten out of the hospital from a ventricular tachycardia episode that knocked me unconscious as well as forbade me by state law to drive a car for the next six months. This was day two of the ski trip I was supposed to be on, and I was not in a good mood.

The doctor reduced a medication I was on, then my guardian angel Regina drove me home almost two hours away. The extra burden of driving me around was wearing on her, which added to my guilt about no longer pulling my weight in the family. I had to cancel out of the remainder of my ski trip, I sat down to write and fell asleep. When I woke up, I found myself muttering, "Y' know, I don't give a damn how this story turns out." I'd been planning this series of books, The War Whisperer, for the better part of fifty years, and had let everything else go for the past three years to write it, and now I didn't care about it? That was a sure sign that I was suffering from crapitude.

Crapitude is depression that takes the form of being uncaring about what is important, things such as relationships, my art (writing), and even recovery. It usually evolves into anger. Of course, at the end of this nightmare would be going back to using, except for a little song I made up and began singing. The tune was roughly borrowed from "I Learned About Women From Her," and it went like this:

 There are dog turds all over the floor,
Cobwebs hanging off of the door,
That stuff in the sink is beginning to stink
And I don't give a shit any more.
(Chorus)
Oh, I don't give a shit any more,
I don't give a shit any more,
I gave it all that I had
And watched it turn bad,
So I don't give a shit any more.

And I felt better. I went to a meeting the next morning and came away feeling better still. Feeling better after going to the effort of making up and then singing that song, however, puzzled me. I mean, anyone singing a song like that has to have a bad attitude and is greasing the way to a big slip, right?

Not really. That song was the roundabout way I had of saying "ouch!" As it was explained to me many years ago, before the acceptance of the things I cannot change and the letting go comes the ouching. I used to try to be  what in my mind was "program perfect." That meant that things that hurt or disappointed me, loss, devastation, shattered goals, the unkindness of a thousand lonely moments, instead of complaining or crying or feeling bad, I would shoot directly for "letting go," thereby feeling nothing.

My sponsor at the time referred to this as my "pee pee" program. "Before the letting go, there is the ouching. Trying to stuff feelings by using the Serenity Prayer like a drug may seem to work for a time, but all of those unacknowledged hurts, losses, and disappointments are still there and they come out as irritability, anger, and depression. Feel your feelings. That's what they're there for." Or, as a person at an Al-Anon  meeting once said, "Before you can let it go, you've got to pick it up."

So, you have a hard time showing pain and saying ouch, sing that little song again and again until you start laughing, then take a small moment out to be grateful for the laughter, for grateful addicts never use.





AGAIN . . . and again, again, again . . .

Slips are not slips. This was one of the first things pointed out to me in early recovery. The term "slip" is a way of minimizing...