Wednesday, 18 April 2012

I am just a traveller

I am just a traveller through recovery.  Last night that was more literal than normal.  I'd been asked to speak at a meeting the other side of the county.  It was a bit of rush to get there, catch the early train, Mrs F prepared with a meal ready cooked as I arrived in to serve immediately, my kids (kids!!! they are 16 and 21 but still my kids) helping with the washing up as I flew in and out the house like a whirlwind to be able to get to the meeting on time.

I'd been to that meeting some years back at a different venue and with a lady who sadly passed away some time back.  I found the new venue easily - if anyone steals my car and thinks using the Sat Nav will provide them with rich pickings from my estate of houses they will be sadly disappointed all they will find is a collection of far flung AA meeting points!  The meeting is now housed in a lovely little modern hospital - very comfortable and nice.  There were a few familiar faces there, some I'd not seen in a while, others only last week and some faces I didn't know.

It was a Step meeting - they have one a month, so being April Step 4.  I will as always advised say "yes" when asked to do a chair unless I really really can't but when I'm then politely told it is a step meeting my heart does I have to say sag a little.  I'm not a paragon of any sort of virtue when it comes to the steps.  I've had a go, several goes at them all, I live by them in various ways on a daily basis now but if you want an ABC instructional DVD on how to do them, I'm not the guy.  But then I think again "To thine own self be true" - indeed and I tell it as it is for me, my experience which has kept me sober up to now.

I first tried step 4 "Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves" in rehab, a life story guided by a workbook.  I remember in the evenings after group sessions had finished and dinner cleared away but before we could get back into the dorms we would regularly talk about our step work in the workbooks.  As I became one of the elders in there people would say "Is this right?"  - What is "right" in AA step terms?  I have no idea I do earnestly believe every person has to find the answers to the questions the steps pose for themselves.  I knew my first effort as I did it was a pastiche as my head was full of madness still and I was really struggling to disentangle the fact from fantasy from rumour from wishful thinking!  I had another go about a year later in my recovery, I tried a timeline as well to sort things out - all that showed me were big gaps where I had years where I could remember virtually nothing.  I did the columns way in the big book as well looking at resentments and my defects - useful that one.  But I hit a wall many have hit I think as well - for a while all the resentments paled into complete insignificance against just one - the one against me.  Yes I hated me for what I'd become and done or not done etc.  A friend talked about the "inventory" step 4 talks about -  if you take inventory in business etc. you are looking at what is good in your inventory and keeping that and "taking stock of it" and identifying what is bad, no use anymore or an impediment to the good health of the business etc.  So I needed to not just look at the bad side of myself but my good side too.  That took time but I got over that and learnt a huge amount about it.

Recently something hit me that I realised was an issue and I've done a mini Step 4 on that particular issue.  I looked at the underlying issues with it, my motives etc. I realised I was lying to myself and that it was clashing with the morals I aspire to live up to and decided to change my actions in that area - work in progress.   This to me is how I live the steps, they are not done and dusted, they can't be for me, I work them into my life into the fabric of who I now am.  I quoted Glenn Hughes on this where in his autobiography he says "I worked the steps, now the steps work me" - I love that simple statement about the programme.  It is something I'll continue to aspire to.

Finally - chairs... like buses they are.  I'm off to do another one on Friday again at a meeting I don't normally attend ... that luckily isn't a Step meeting or such a schlep into the sticks so my level of anxiety is less about that one... at the moment :-)  I'll just be travelling through again ...

13 comments:

  1. Years of remembering virtually nothing... blimey, that sounds a bit bad.

    It's always interesting to read your alchohol related posts and to find out more about the specific individual path you took to sobriety. One thing that I'd find a bit difficult about these moral inventories is that whlst I am openly aware of my frequent little failings, I don't really see that I'm a long way from average levels of moral goodness and behaviour. For me it would be other triggers that would cause a useful self-analysis.

    I had a long chat on the phone last night to a good friend who's not worried exactly, but aware of her steadily increasing drinking, and two things she said chimed with me: one is, the way I shunt spending on alcholo into a different account in my head; the second is that it's a very time-consuming activity. Hours and hours are spent paying attention to drink. I like it, but I do something think I end up rushing to get things done in that part of the day which isn't occupied by drinking.

    Apologies for the lenght of this but it was quite thought-provoking.

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    1. With me the drink became the all consuming obsession of my life, from the moment I woke I was counting the seconds until I could drink that day. To be frank that awful obsession was the worst of it for me rather than the actual drinking in many ways, once I started it helped my brain switch off from all the noise in my life I was trying to avoid.

      Years the mid 90s until about 2001 were frankly a bit blank. My daughter was born and that was about all I could really remember until I got to Sept 9th 2001. I could have been a mass murderer in those years and I'm not sure I'd know - I missed pretty much the first 6 years or so of my daughter's life and some vitally important ones for my son as well - about 6 to 11... I see pictures in albums and it is like intruding on someone else's life.

      One simple question I have heard of newcomers who come to AA but aren't sure is this "Is alcohol costing you more than money?" See above for my answers to that one!

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    2. Switching your brain off... IKWYM. There's so much fucking clattering going on in my head all the time, I just want to turn it off. And formless anxiety that I can't put my finger on. And unfortunately I've associated switching the chatter off and stopping worrying with alcohol.

      Thanks again for a very interesting post. And also for the recommendation of The Road Less Travelled. Will read it.

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  2. That is fascinating to read and I am wondering, whilst reading, if we all wouldn't benifit from looking at our lives in this way? It's not often we get the time to take stock an reasses in this busy world, and sometimes we avoid it anyway but I can't help thinking I wish I could do that too. (I hope that is not insensitive, I am full of admiration for what you have achieved -and now I sound insincere!)

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    1. M. Scott Peck - he wrote "The Road Less Travelled" which is a book I'd thoroughly recommend to anyone looking to improve their life through a re-evaluation of themselves - he said something once along the lines of anyone should try the AA programme. He himself was a chronic relapsing alcoholic throughout his life as well as a serial womaniser as well. My life is a blend of AA and much from that book and the writings of a guy called Paul Hauck who I found very useful as well on Self-Worth.

      I lent that book to a mate of mine in AA... he returned it almost instantly. I was impressed he'd read it so quickly. "First sentence says it all" he told me. The first sentence is "Life is hard." :-)

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  3. it seems to me the reason the steps worked for you - and for others i've known who have found sobriety - is that you pesonalized them. and that you weren't checking off boxes on a list, but changing your approach, your THINKING, as you did it.

    i listened to "The Road Less Traveled" while commuting between my temporary apartment and my parents home (600 miles) as my father was diagnosed with colon cancer. it is, perhaps, the only book of the self-help genre that i have ever found useful advice. "do the work of depression" (meaning 'change something') has kept me unmedicated through some difficult periods of my life.

    also found this post though provoking. thank you.

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  4. I am in the process of working my fourth step. I started it for one issue but as I work it, I find the issue has changed as I evolve and move forward in my own recovery. How silly of me to think that once I finished it, I'd never have to pick it up again. We are always a work in progress, I think.

    I love your posts on your recovery. You are so inspiring. Thank you.

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  5. I'm always a bit worried about my alcohol usage, just try andcope day to day

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  6. Started on step 4 a couple weeks back. Wrote some stuff. Stopped. Decided I want to think on it all a bit more, ha. Love the reminder about taking inventory and acknowledging the good stuff as well. I think I was thinking of it as a morally defeating task instead of an overall look at what works and what hasn't.

    Good on you for chairing meetings. That's wonderful.

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    1. Not sure if "chair" has the same meaning either side of the water - here it means being the lead speaker kicking off with their experience, strength and hope before the meeting opens for general sharing from the floor

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    2. Exactly the same meaning/format over here. One of these days I hope to experience a meeting outside my immediate area, but I suppose I'll need to travel first.

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  7. the title of this blog post reminds me of a Uriah Heep tune "Traveller in Time..."

    I love going to out of town meetings and meetings I've never visited. I am always reminded of the divnity of AA. The message is always universal, even though the faces and practices may be a little bit different.

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    1. Uriah Heep... oh boy now I'm off again - saw them in Croydon on their 10th anniversary tour (how old am I?)... spoke with Mick Box at a guitar show once, him and John Entwhistle came up and asked me about something I'd just played... totally tongue tied and humbled by two lovely blokes

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