Monday, July 25, 2005


I usually don't discuss stuff like this in my blog, but I wanted to share this. I would post a picture if I had one, and I really wish I had one.

My son (age almost 3) sometimes gets in a mood that he doesn't feel like getting dressed. Yesterday morning I had his clothes laid out for him after a bath, including his pullups since he's not quite potty-trained yet. "Come on, my boy, time to get dressed so we can go to the park." I stepped out of the room for a moment, and when I came back he was jumping on the bed, grinning, completely naked. Except he had the pullup on his head, perfectly aligned, pulled down to his eyebrows and all the way over his ears. He ran around like that for 10 minutes before I could get him dressed.

It was about the funniest thing I have ever seen.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Inserenity, etc.

A silent prayer for the alcoholic who still suffers, in and out of these rooms. Especially in my prayers tonight are my real-life fellows B and C.


Another fight with my wife this afternoon. Resulted in that (now-recognizable) feeling of "inserenity" in my gut, thoughts ran wild with self-pity and resentment, called my sponsor and vented, he gave me some advice and suggested what I might say to her. Talked to her again, followed my sponsors advice, feeling serene again. Cool. I love AA. :)


I seem to be somewhat unusual, in that I've done all 12 steps, in order, in a structured step workshop, in my first 6 months of sobriety. Far too fast to be thorough, but I was diligent enough to do them as well as I could, and the benefit was simply incredible.

So what do I do for an encore to this impressive achievement? I was thinking of commissioning a plaque in my own honor at the Alano club...

Just kidding! I think the main thing I gained from my 2-minute 12-step drill was a desire to do them again! It was like a flash of lightning, illuminating a dark, stormy, unfamiliar landscape for an instant: I have a better idea of the lay of the land, where I'm going and how to get there. It still isn't a walk in the sunshine, but it's a hell of a lot less scary than wandering around in the pitch dark without any clue at all.

I just finished another step one last week with my sponsor. We read aloud and discussed step one in the 12X12, which is now an old friend. He had me write about powerlessness and unmanageability in all areas of my life. The exercise was much easier, and actually much deeper and thorough, than my first step one. Here's part of what I wrote:

I’m powerless over everything other than my own (second) thoughts, my own actions, and my own responses to the words and actions of others and to the conditions and events of the world. I pray for the courage to change the things I can – which are my own thoughts, actions and responses. I pray for the serenity to accept the things I cannot change – which are others’ words and actions, and conditions and events in the world. I pray for wisdom to tell the difference – which seems to depend on eliminating self-will and wishful thinking, eliminating fear of outcomes that I’m powerless over, and trusting God to protect me and guide me.

Most aspects of my life still seem to be unmanageable. By the grace of God, the unmanageable urge and temptation to drink has been removed, on a daily basis, for a number of days. God has granted me a measure of motivation, strength and endurance to improve the manageability of being a father to my son, and to improve my ability to keep my side of the street clean in my relationship with my wife, and He has granted me a measure of serenity to accept my wife’s words and actions.

I pray that God will continue to increase my ability to do my part to reduce the unmanageability of my life, according to His will.

Some guys have told me 12-step recovery is like peeling back layers of an onion. Somewhere along the line, in the last few months, it seems I've been granted more ability to face my shortcomings and character defects more honestly, with less fear, and without hating myself and beating myself up so much. I've also noticed that prayer flows naturally into a lot of spaces in my life, though prayer was virtually absent from my life not too long ago.

This is pretty cool stuff, I think. I love AA! :)

Thursday, July 14, 2005

It's Nice to Have Choices

Option 1: Be hurt and pissed off that my wife ignores my work and input for finding a new day care center for our son, be outraged that she unilaterally pursues the most expensive place in town and will expect me to pay half, and blame her because she was the one who chose, without consulting me, the day care he's in now, which is closing next week, in the first place.

Option 2: Be grateful that my wife is committed to what's best for our son, be grateful that she is willing and able to pursue it and find it, be grateful that my son may have the opportunity to attend a fine preschool, be grateful that we have the resources so he can go there, be grateful that a seeming obstacle is turning out to be a gateway to something better.

Before I choose, I will pause to be grateful that I have choices today that I wouldn't have seen before, and to be grateful for all the gratitude lists I've noticed online lately that have reminded me to be grateful.

My Toddler Teaches Me: Lesson 2

The slogan, "My best thinking got me here," has always kind of thudded for me. I sort of understand the point, but I've never been an idiot. I have lousy judgment and have made really bad decisions, but I'm not entirely lacking in intellectual resources. The slogan always seemed to imply that, since my thinking is flawed, I should stop thinking, rather than improve my thinking so it works for me instead of against me.


My (almost) three-year-old son has helped clarify the point of this slogan for me. He is a very smart boy (in my completely objective opinion!). He is rapidly learning about the world around him, figuring out how things work, observing and making connections.

He loves videos. Lately he has become as interested in playing the videos as he is in watching them. He has figured out that you have to insert the DVD or tape into the player, and press buttons on the players, the TV and remotes to make it play. He has observed Daddy go through the whole process, and he likes to do it himself now.

But there is no way he can do the whole process himself. The DVD will be upside down or coated with peanut butter, he doesn't know which buttons to push, he doesn't understand he has to wait for the disk to load before pressing buttons. It's just too complicated for him to understand completely, not because he's stupid, but because his brain simply isn't equipped to do it. He needs guidance, help, encouragement and teaching. I have to be firm, because he resists help, wants so much to be able to do it himself, to be self-sufficient. On his own, he won't get the results he wants. With help, he gets the results, and he also grows and learns.

And he goes a very good job! It thrills me, gives me delight, fills me with wonder to see his mind grow, to see his confidence and determination, to see how well he does. Obviously, there is no way I would think he's stupid or worthless, get angry with him, or punish him because he can't do it himself. I don't expect him to do it himself, and I'm happy to help him. My bond of love grows every time we play a video together.

I'm a lot like my son. I'm not stupid or worthless, either. I want to be self-sufficient, to do things myself without help. I have an idea of the pieces and processes that make the world work, and I can easily convince myself that I understand it. But I really don't understand it. There is no way I can do the right things, at the right time, in the right order, to make the world around me run properly. I need help to get the results I'm seeking -- I simply am not equipped to do it myself. It's beyond my comprehension, no matter how much I resist help, no matter how confident and determined I am.

But my son is different from me, though, in some important ways, and he teaches me how I should respond. When I help him and correct him, he resists and sometimes is frustrated or impatient, but he yields, watches me, trusts me and learns from me. He doesn't refuse to let go of the DVD; he doesn't run screaming from the room; he doesn't smash the DVD, the TV and DVD player; he doesn't fear that I'm going to yell at him, belittle him or punish him.

I can see how I respond to helping my son: I'm happy to do it, I'm patient with him, I love to guide him, the furthest thing from my mind is to punish him or be angry with him. Helping him is one of the most important purposes in my life, and I'm delighted to do it. And I'm just a deeply flawed man, fumbling my way through life.

God is the one who helps me, sometimes directly but more frequently through people around me. His love is perfect, His patience is infinite. How much greater must be God's delight in watching me trying my best, trying to learn, struggling to do the right thing! How much greater must be God's delight in helping me and guiding me! How deep must be His grief and pain when I refuse to yield, when I run away screaming, when I fear I will be punished, when I refuse to trust Him, when in frustration and impatience I smash the gifts he has given me! How worried He must be when I give up and quit trying if I can't do it all by myself!


My "best thinking" may be pretty good, even terrific at times, but it is completely inadequate, not because I'm an idiot, but because I am more like a little child than I care to admit. There is no shame in being dependent, in needing help -- I was designed and intended by God to depend on Him and need help. God never intended that I should be self-sufficient. He never intended that my "best thinking" would be anything close to all I need.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

My Toddler Teaches Me: Lesson 1

I could devote an entire blog to recovery lessons my not-quite-three son teaches me. He has many pedagogical methods: sometimes he sets an example for me, sometimes he unlocks new discoveries about myself, and sometimes he holds a mirror up so that I can see myself in him. His curriculum is pretty specialized and focused: it's all about teaching me how to love others and walk humbly and gratefully in the light of God's love.

The first lesson I'll share here is the rewards of Doing the Next Right Thing. I wrote a few days ago that my program, or I should say "program," is noteworthy more for its gaps than its contents. The gap I'm most conscious of is step six: readiness to have God remove my defects of character. I've so far identified twelve categories of personal defects -- the seven deadlies plus another five serious things. And the one that may be my biggest obstacle to progress is sloth. Even when I can clearly identify the Next Right Thing, I don't do it.

Every morning I pray for, among other things, focused motivation, energetic discipline and physical endurance to Do the Next Right Thing. The one area where I have most clearly seen God answer this prayer is with my son. Over the past couple months I have been aware of improvement in my effectiveness as a father. I seem to be able to see more clearly what my son needs from me, and be able to provide it promptly: a regular schedule, a new pair of shoes, a hug, a trip to the park, a call to his mom, paper and crayons, a new day care center, a graham cracker, a tickle. Big stuff and small stuff. Whether I'm too tired or not, whether it's something his mom "should" provide or not, whether I have something "better" to do or not. Far from perfect, but better than before.

The result is astounding. I've always had a good, loving relationship with my son. But it has become so much closer, so quickly. I guess he somehow understands that he can depend on me, and I can tell he enjoys his time with me more than he did before. And I feel so much closer to him. By making an effort to place his needs above my own desires, what I get from my relationship with him exceeds anything that I would have thought to desire!

This isn't anything different from what I've heard people say a hundred times in meetings. But my son has given me the first opportunity to try it myself, and he has given me the first taste of the rewards of Doing the Next Right Thing.

Monday, July 11, 2005

High Volume

Those of us whose poison of choice was beer, I've discovered, shared yet another problem: disposing of the prodigious cubic footage of empties. You liquor drinkers may not be aware how many beers it takes to black out every night and how much sheer space they take up.

A guy shared at a meeting that he would drink in his car, and toss all the empties in the ditch up the street from his house. He thought this was very clever, of course, until his wife commented a few months after he got sober that the street was so much tidier since he quit drinking.

A speaker at another meeting lived in a condo complex, and there was a trash chute. He was on the third floor, and the chute was in an outdoor corridor visible from everyones' front windows. When he dumped his bags of empty Heineken bottles, it sounded like an atomic bomb when they hit the dumpster, and everyone looked out their windows at the noise. So, he started wrapping each empty bottle in newspaper. "Normal people don't giftwrap their empties. Of course not! I was the only one smart enough to think of it. Normal people never came up with my brilliant idea."

For me, we had a housekeeper/babysitter with a granddaughter who loved Hello Kitty stuff. The little girl somehow converted empty cans to Hello Kitty merchandise. So I saved my empties for the housekeeper to give to her granddaughter. One time I took the housekeeper home and I was invited inside. There were Hello Kitty bedside lamps, a Hello Kitty bedspread, a Hello Kitty lunchbox, Hello Kitty shoes, socks, shirts. For all I know, there was a Hello Kitty Porsche in the garage.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Definite Article

Dang, it's been awhile!

Thank you to my friends in blogtopia for your kind comments in my absence. I'm grateful for your support -- I will try to be a more reliable correspondent. If I am to recover, I have to carry the message to you, and allow you to carry the message to me!

What a marvelous message it is! A message of hope, of life, of love! A message that I don't have to be a slave to alcohol, that I don't have to live in this prison of self-will and self-reliance I spent so many years building! A message that there is a purpose to my life, a place for me in this world, and that all I have to do is open my hands and my heart, and accept it!


I can tell you that I've been running a really lousy program of recovery lately. Not enough meetings, not calling my sponsor, retreating into too much isolation -- all the alcoholic behaviors I tend to fall into. Some fear of the future, confusion about what to do next, frustration, resentment and anger.

Fear, confusion, frustration, resentment and anger -- all the signs that I've been spending a lot of time with my wife! :) I have been going to LA every week, and my wife has let me stay with her. Sometimes. She says she wants to work on reconciliation. Sometimes. Other times she says she wants to give up. I never know what she will do or say next; she is unforgiving of all my shortcomings, big or small, real or imagined; her word is her bond until she changes her mind. All in all, business as usual.

I've done my best to be reliable, trustworthy, supportive, open, patient, reasonable and forgiving. I'm far from perfect, and it's not driven by any romantic passion, but I'm making the effort. I remain committed to doing my part to reconcile our marriage and restore our family. I can't say I'm optimistic, but I leave the outcome in God's hands.

As a practical matter, I'm following the advice not to initiate big changes in the first year of sobriety, if I can avoid them. I'm coming up on six months sober, so I'll kick her to the curb in another six months! Seriously, though, a lot of miracles can happen in six months. One day at a time. And a lot of Serenity Prayers.


The greatest blessing in my life, of course, is my son. I am so grateful that I am seeing him regularly and frequently, and have established such a strong and loving bond with him. I'm planning to move to LA in the next couple months so I can be closer and be with him even more. (So much for my one-year rule...)

Fortunately, I've spent enough time in LA to get to know the area and decide I like it -- there's excellent AA, and I've found a church that's great. So, I plan to go to LA, find work, and start getting things going there. If I trusted my wife to stay put in LA, I would have no qualms at all. My fear is that she'll bolt somewhere else. She has told me that she's committed to staying in LA for a few years at least, and she would not move without consulting me. That commitment, along with ten bucks, will get me a cup of coffee in LA...


I said above that a lot of miracles can happen in six months -- I am grateful for the miracles of the past six months. I can scarcely fathom that the days of sobriety have piled up to almost six months. The paradox is that each day I seem to get a little more clarity about myself, with growing recognition of my own flaws and limitations. I see less and less in myself that I can really work with, and more and more how weak, futile and ridiculous have been my efforts to run my own life all these years.

Sobriety is a gift that has been given to me by God, in spite of, not because of, my own efforts. What I do or don't do doesn't make much difference -- and that's not a copout, an easy way to avoid responsibility -- I am responsible for what I do, but I'm at least as likely to screw things up as do things right. God's mercy, grace and kindness are boundless, though, and His divine alchemy transforms the leaden futility of my words and deeds into the pure gold of His purposes.

Does this make any sense? I can't say I really understand it. The less confidence I have in myself, and the less I depend on myself and count on my own efforts resulting in anything worthwhile, the result is that I gain more confidence in the future, that everything is going to be all right, through the grace, mercy, love and power of God.


The twelfth step says that a spiritual awakening is the result of these steps. I've been pondering that definite article -- it's not a result, it's the result. A spiritual awakening is not merely one among a bunch of things that happens -- it's the whole point! I'm so deeply grateful that I'm getting a glimmer of that awakening. I admit that I'm delighted that we claim spiritual progress, not perfection, for a really selfish reason: the joy and hope I've gained are completely out of proportion to the barely discernible progress I've made. I want to keep on making a little bit more progress, and gaining more and more joy, hope and peace, all my life. If I were to reach perfection, it seems to me I would not have the chance to gain more blessings!