Sunday, September 18, 2005

47 Years Looking for the Quick Fix

I've been a little shaken this week. The falling-out with my sponsor shook me up. He had become a good friend over the past year, and I may have lost the friendship, along with the disillusionment as a sponsor.

I feel vulnerable and at-risk without a sponsor. I know I need to get a new sponsor, and I know four or five guys I'm thinking of approaching. I recognize that if it doesn't work out, I just get someone else, no big deal. But a part of me still is the Rugged Individualist, wanting to do it all myself, I don't need or want a sponsor. And I don't trust my own judgment now, and fearful I'll ask the "wrong" person.

This "shaken" feeling has been reinforced by seeing my own character defects in my sponsor. The same hubris, cockiness, and blindness to my own shortcomings, that I was particularly aiming at my wife.

And just in case that wasn't enough, my meeting with my shrink laid it out quite plainly. I went there looking for answers to my son's situation -- let's face it, I wanted ammo to get my way. Instead, the session ended up highlighting what my responsibilities are as a father, many of which I've been faking, making excuses, taking shortcuts. Nothing earthshaking, nothing that isn't as plain as the nose on my face: I have no control over my wife or what she does with my son. I am not in sole control of his schedule. When my son is with me, he needs me to be consistent aqnd patient. His behavior will respond to mine. If I want him to pick up his toys, I have to pick up my own toys. No strategic weapons for total victory here. Very simply: Phil, you know what you have to do, so do it!

And you know what bugs me the most? That I can recognize these attitudes and my behavior (more accurately procrastination) as the same traps I've always fallen into. If I don't have assurance that everything will be perfect, completely under my control, then I try to avoid it altogether.

I know what it takes. "A day at a time" means I have a responsibility to others, to God, and above all to myself to make the most of today. I know now that epochal, radical alteration of my life does not happen in an afternoon. I've spent 47 years looking for the quick fix. It's still easy for me to be impatient and discouraged. I haven't yet internalized that incremental effort and incremental change add up to big things.

So, all in all, I guess, this week has been a gentle nudge for me from HP. I've been a bit slack in putting recovery into practice in my life every day. It's not that I seem to be in immediate danger of deciding to get drunk today. It's more that I feel kind of fuzzy around the edges. It's hard for me to concentrate enough to write this, to identify and articulate feelings and thoughts. Not sharp, not focused -- kind of fuzzy.

I'm truly grateful for the experience, strength and hope I find in others' blogs. For instance, just in the past few days, Pepa, Scott, Blue, Dave, Trudge, and Lash have said things that expressed my own thoughts and feelings, so much better than I can myself. And this is just a sample, I could point to many others. I'm truly grateful, too, for the remarkable joy, pain, courage and growth of some bloggers in their first days of recovery, such as Steph, Grace, and Jane. Their journeys inspire me, and remind me how much I want, and believe I can have, the continuous renewal that a spiritually-centered recovery offers. The journeys of the "oldtimers" show me the result of that continuous renewal, and the good life that I want, and that I believe I can have.


Heard at last night's meeting: "Recovery is not for those who want it, nor for those who need it. It's for those who work it."

If You Get It, You're Alcoholic

An alcoholic wakes up in any empty room with two doors. One door is marked "?" and the other is marked "Recovery". He opens the door with the "?" and enters. Inside is a gorilla with a baseball bat. The gorilla beats him to a pulp.

When the alcoholic comes to, he is in the same room, with the same two doors. He again chooses the door marked "?" and goes in. Again, the gorilla is there with the baseball bat, and again the gorilla beats the shit out of the alcoholic.

The alcoholic regains consciousness again, in the same room with same two doors, marked "?" and "Recovery." He once more chooses the door marked "?" -- and the room is empty! The alcoholic says, "Hey!! Where's the gorilla??"

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Is It Just Me?

Or is anyone else getting a blank screen when you pull up JJ's and Jane's blogs??

If it was just JJ's, I'd figure, well, the Blogger cops finally caught up with her and shut her down. But Jane seems a reasonably solid blog citizen...

UPDATE: JJ's seems to be back now...

UPDATE: Both JJ and Jane are back, even particle got his service straightened out. Earth is back on its axis. :)

Monday, September 12, 2005

Putting One Over

One of my major personality defects is a habit of faking it. It seems to be a specific form of dishonesty and egotism.
I don't have to do the footwork. I can find the shortcut. I can find the loophole. I'm smarter and more clever than everyone else, so I don't have to waste my time and energy making an honest effort. I can bluff my way through, skate around obstacles, weave a whole reality out of rationalizations, excuses, plausible half-truths and misdirection. I can put one over on just about anyone, and they'll never know it. The rules simply don't apply to me. I got it goin' on, and I'm bulletproof. Doing the right thing when no one's looking is for suckers. Doing the right thing when someone IS looking shows lack of initiative and resourcefulness.
What makes this a particularly insidious form of dishonesty and egotism is that the person who most firmly buys into the lies, and believes this flimsy, insane contraption is "reality," is me. I put one over on myself, the rest just flows so naturally and easily, I'm off in an alternate universe, and reality becomes invisible to me.

I thank my sponsor for holding this mirror up to my face, to show me so clearly what is often very difficult to see in myself. It's the last thing he's done for me as my sponsor; I hope not the last thing as a friend.


I've had a falling-out with my sponsor. I broke what I think of as Rule Two of sponsorship: I loaned him money. I knew, when he asked me, it was a bad idea. I knew I couldn't count the times I've read and heard that sponsors should not borrow money from sponsees; never once has anyone suggested sometimes it's a good idea.

But I loaned him money. Because I'm not like everyone else. This is different. I'm unique. The rules don't apply to me.

He wanted to borrow money -- a not insignificant amount -- because he had moving expenses, had to register and insure his car, and he had plenty of money, but he just wanted to make sure he wouldn't be caught short. Just for a couple weeks, a cash flow timing thing.

I knew he was caught up in the thing with his imaginary girlfriend. So, being wise and rational, I loaned him the money, on condition that he not send money to her before she actually shows up to visit him. He said, oh, of course not, I'm not going to send her money. Fine, cool, that showed he recognized it could be a scam, he was being careful, and wasn't going to do anything stupid. So I gave him the money.

A few days later he sent her several hundred dollars.

I was furious, and I told him so. I demanded my money back immediately. (Which I got today, thank God.) He cannot understand why I'm upset. "It wasn't the money you gave me. I used different money. The money you gave me is still in the bank." I said, just because you put the money I gave you in your right-hand pocket, and pulled money from your left-hand pocket and gave it to her, doesn't mean you've gotten around the conditions of my loan. If you're in a position to borrow money from me, you're not in a position to send money to Russia. But this made no sense to him. He is sure he found a loophole in the plain meaning of the conditions of the loan.

When I saw him today, and got my money, I just wished him luck. I told him, point-blank, his girlfriend is imaginary, and that she hasn't stopped emailing him because she's going to try to get more money from him. She's allegedly on the train, on her way to get the plane to the US, and will arrive Friday.

Here's what I did NOT say to him, because I don't want to regret it later:

You're sure that in a week, you'll be in your new place with her, with this Pet of the Year who is crazy about you. She's going to stay and your life will be fabulous. You got it goin' on -- you must, for this to happen to you because of a few dozen emails you sent her.

If your girlfriend is real, and everything has been on the level, she's likely to be royally pissed you haven't told her about your past, your situation, and your alcoholism. You've been frantically running around to find a place and move out of your sober-living apartment before she arrives, get your license reinstated before she arrives. Are you planning to leak out the truth in small doses? Or keep putting it over on her indefinitely? Since you got it goin' on, you think you can control it, you can control the image she has of you so she'll stay crazy about you.

You will, however, I can practically guarantee, find yourself a week from now all alone in your new place, broken-hearted, and finally sinking in that one has been put over on YOU. That you ignored reality because you wanted the fantasy so much. And in your new place, unlike where you've lived since you got sober, there are no external constraints on alcohol. You've gotten used to the idea you've got it goin' on, that you can hedge the truth, that you're in control. It's real easy to decide you can get drunk tonight, just once, to kill the pain, and no one will know, you don't have to tell anyone, no one in AA will know. No consequences! You can get away with it, you can put it over. The next day, you can figure, what the hell, that worked out fine, you can do it one more time tonight. And you'll be off and running.


I'm not different from him. How many times has it crossed my mind that I can get away with drinking, that no one will know? At some point, something shifted -- it was just me and HP, and HP showed me that I would know, and I didn't want to lie to myself. I'm accountable to myself and HP. And I can count on HP to give me whatever I need to look myself in the eye each night, and account for my sobriety that day. If I ever start thinking I got it goin' on, that I can put one over on myself and HP, my sobriety will be in deep trouble.

In my last post I wrote about my struggles with my wife and issues about taking care of our son. This episode with my sponsor has helped me recognize how this character defect is affecting how I'm handling it. I'm sure I'm a better caregiver than my wife: I got it goin' on. I'm keeping records, and I can use the information strategically, releasing it at times and in amounts that are advantageous to me my son's wellbeing: I can put one over, I'm in control.

Well, I printed out my record of the time I've spent with our son since December. I gave it to my wife and told her, I'm not trying to put one over on you, I want us to be talking about the same information, for our son's benefit.


I'm learning that when I find myself in a jam, it's usually because of some combination of egotism/lack of humility; dishonesty; and/or insufficient trust in God. I want to be able to look myself in the eye, and be accountable to myself and HP, in every aspect of my life, not just about drinking.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Where's the Balance Point?

My problems seem very small right now. I try to remember to be grateful that I am so blessed to have the problems and worries and concerns I have. From the perspective of my own life, a year ago I never could have expected to have these problems today. From the perspective of over 100,000 people living in shelters, dazed, shocked and displaced by a monster hurricane, my problems are very small indeed.


How do I find the balance point between self-will and doing the next right thing? What do I do when what I see as the right thing to do brings me into conflict with someone else?

I'm worried about my son. He has no stability, no regular schedule. He's showing signs of defiance, disobedience, throwing toys. Is it just a part of turning three? I don't know. Yesterday I left a message with my shrink, that I want to talk to him, and get a referral to a child psychology specialist I can discuss it with. I have already suggested to my wife that she consider having our son live with me.

Two months ago, at the beginning of July, when my wife decided she didn't want me coming to LA on weekends to be with her and my son, we agreed that he would live with her, and he would spend two of every three weekends with me. So, he would be with me 4 of every 21 nights.

Since then, my son has been with me half the time. Which is fine, I'm happy and grateful for every moment I'm with him. The problem is that it hasn't been planned. One time he was with me for a week after my wife left him with friends overnight in my town. She was visiting them on Sunday, had to drive back to LA, my son was sick, so she left him there. She called me Sunday night after I was asleep and left a message "call me right away," with no information. I talked to her Monday morning and she told me what had happened. "If you want to pick him up, fine, otherwise I'll come and get him Tuesday or Wednesday." I, of course, went and picked him up immediately, and he was with me a week. (Need I add that one of the friends she left him with is an active alcoholic?)

Last week she left another "call me" message, weeping and wailing. I figured her elderly aunt had died. When I talked to her, no, she had just cycled to a bipolar depressive phase: she had crashed. She couldn't go to work, couldn't get out of bed, couldn't take care of our son. I drove to LA that day and picked him up, and he was with me for five days, until yesterday.

I suggested to her on the phone that she needs to consider having our son live with me. That, of course, was greeted with self-righteous anger, excuses, and accusations.


I'm very angry with her, incredulous at her unwillingness and/or inability to provide stability and consistency for our son. I'm seeing alarming signs in his behavior; I will be working soon and unable to drop everything and take care of him -- I need to arrange day care for him when he's with me, and that requires a consistent and predictable schedule.

I honestly don't think she wants to be a mom. I think our son is a burden to her and gets in the way of what she wants to do. I think what she cherishes is the image of herself as a mother -- particularly the image of "poor single mom, doing the impossible, with an estranged alcoholic husband."


It breaks my heart. I'm not even 8 months sober, and my life is no paragon of stability and maturity. And yet it seems my poor son would find more stability, attention, stimulation and affection from me than from his mother.

Where's the balance point? Where does my own self-will leave off, and doing the next right thing for my son begin? What do I do next?
  • First, I'm going to talk to my shrink and to a child psychologist.
  • Second, I'm going to start saying "NO" to my wife -- I'm not going to be "flexible" about my son's schedule, I'm going to be rigid. She insists on being the primary caregiver, well, let her deliver it. I'm not going to bail her out any more.
  • Third, I'm going to meet with an attorney. It seems clear that there will not be a reconciliation, so I'm going to see what I need to do now, and in coming weeks and months, to strengthen the legal protection for my son's best interests.

I won't do anything drastic or irrevocable today. I'll gather information and advice. I'll call my son tonight, tell him I love him, and sing songs with him.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

I Don't Like the Numbers

The number evacuated, the number who stayed behind, the number leaving the Helldome, convention center and airport, the number picked up off rooftops, etc... There just aren't enough people who got out. The NOLA Missing Persons thread is over 20,000 posts. I'm dreading the next few weeks.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

We Can Save a Life TODAY!

We in AA take "One Day at a Time."

For the people still stranded in New Orleans, there may be no tomorrow.

I have watched on TV, as I'm sure you have, the heroic efforts of rescue personnel to save lives. I have heard them speak of the "golden 72 hours," when chances of survival are good.

The 72 hours have passed.

Despite all that is being done, more needs to be done. TODAY.

"Grant me the courage to change the things I can."

One thing I can change, by doing the right thing today, is give rescuers more resources right now. I have contributed to Lutheran Disaster Response, and I invite you to join me.

This organization has a record of providing food, water, shelter and medical care to the victims of disaster. I am grateful to have the opportunity to help them with their work -- TODAY!

half nAAked thursday

I can do it myself, Papi!