Tag Archives: god

Family, Family and Spikey Walls

Often, there is nothing more frightening than family to the alcoholic, for a variety of reasons, whether it’s because one’s family are essentially practicing alcoholics and one is horrified at the prospect of temptation or whether it’s because they are essentially teetotalers and one is afraid of their judgement, however much they say nothing about it and however confident one is in their love and support. Atheism can add another level of emotional complication to the family issue and dynamic as well. When one’s family is, mostly, well, the polar opposite. Not only is my family religious, they are deeply religious, with one exception (He may be an alcoholic, too, I’m not terribly sure. I think he handles booze better than I do, for all that he has a couple of DUI’s on his record.) They are involved in their respective theologically conservative Orthodox churches deeply, whether as President of the council or as a Deacon. My Dad credits certain explicitly mystical experiences with changing his life and converting him to Christianity (…from Christianity… but that’s another story for another day), rescuing him from the drugs and alcohol he had participated in rampantly from a very early age. He even used to tell the story of how God literally spoke to him (as in, yes, with an audible voice) telling him that my Mom was the woman he would marry from the very first moment he set eyes on her across a crowded hangar where teenagers gathered for concerts. So, yes, going home this weekend for the holiday was stressful. It was nice, too. I love my family, and my parents, given all the variables, really did a wonderful job raising us kids. And, I told a couple of my oldest friends that I’m an alcoholic, and they had the good grace not to order that beer at lunch that one of them talked about wanting to order before I told him that I don’t drink anymore and why.

And then there’s family. The not blood kind. This is a pleasantly recurring theme lately. I love them. They love me. This comforts me to no end and is beginning to give me a little bit more courage in trying to break out of my shell and just fucking relax a little bit, already. The mental vigilance I’ve gotten in the habit of may be good for keeping me sober, but it’s also been not only exhausting but all too effective at preventing me from reaching out and touching or talking to these other people that are my family. Learning the difference between helpful vigilance and self-pitying self-destructive spikey mental walls that I’ll just get bloody trying to hold up is important.

Leave a comment

Filed under AA, alcoholic, atheism, atheist, faith, substance abuse, Uncategorized

You Don’t Need To Turn Into a Unicorn and Shit Diamonds To Stand Up

I went to two meetings today. I don’t do that much anymore. But I think I just wanted to be around people, even if I didn’t feel like I really fit in. One of them was my regular Thursday morning meeting, which I really like. I had been working up the nerve for the past… well, more than a month to ask if this one guy (sober since nineteen eighty something, I think, which is more than I can imagine at this point) that seems like a really good guy and said that he would probably describe himself as an agnostic if it came right down to it, but has a certain affinity for Buddhism… at any rate, I’d been wanting to ask him to have coffee or something. Finally did that this morning. Every one of those meetings that I’ve been to, he’s made a point to hang around after the meeting to chat with me. I’ve appreciated that. So Sunday, I’m gonna go have coffee with him. This is good, I think.

The second meeting, the guy leading the meeting remembered me from the meetings I’d been to there before, even though it had been a while since I’d been to that particular meeting. He asked me if I’d read How It Works, which if you don’t know is the section of the Big Book that contains the steps. There’s a lot of God in them. I’ve read the steps aloud before and swallowed my conscience and just said all the God stuff, but I’d never read it aloud in context. I don’t know how I summoned the courage, but I told him I’d only read it if I could leave out the God stuff. He said, “Well, do it your way.” Whaaaat? Really? Ok.

Another guy there says, “Leave out the God stuff?”

“Yes.”

“But it’s a God program!”

“I disagree.”

The guy chairing the meeting, a gentle, peaceful hippy kind of guy, says, “Well, let’s see. How do you want to do it? What do you want to say instead?”And he starts throwing out some ideas.

Other guy can’t resist, “What, a weeping willow? You gonna pray to that?”

“I’ll just use higher power. How about that?”

Chair guy says, “That’ll work good.” And he then skillfully navigates the other guy’s train of thought to something more mundane and pleasant, for which I was thankful as I tried to sink into the hard back chair while looking over the laminated paper that had the passage typed out.

And so I read How It Works. With higher power instead of God. It was still unsatisfying, as just the one to one word substitution does very little to mitigate some of the outright theological implications of some Thing magically removing your sins and your desire to drink. Still, though. I did it. I “stood up” for who I am, and nothing horrible happened. No one said anything about it after the meeting. Weeping Willow Guy even shook my hand before he left.

It probably helped that there was the warranted distraction of someone else there who was weeping about slipping earlier that day who was definitely still under the influence to some extent. She rambled for about 20 minutes, and it was so so so painful to see someone in pain, but fighting. At least she was there, and she was fighting. Her addled thought process wasn’t quite making sense of itself, but she was there. She was trying, even if she was simultaneously beating the fuck out of herself and looking for someone (mostly her husband, her sister’s death, etc.) to blame.

The topic was trust & acceptance. I’d read an article yesterday about men needing to shed high expectations just as much as women do (article by Greta Christina here http://bit.ly/m1X4dw). The main point was to stop giving a damn, and just be who you are. Good advice all around. As far as acceptance goes, it seems just as important to apply the Golden Rule here, too, and accept people where they are without unrealistic unattainable expectations just as you’d like them to accept who you are. Even though, realistically, you know that many people won’t, and will judge you. For help with that, though, I turn to the Complete Guide To Not Giving a Fuck, found here http://inoveryourhead.net/the-complete-guide-to-not-giving-a-fuck/ .

5 Comments

Filed under AA, alcoholic, atheist, Uncategorized

Oh My Mary! Was That a Milepost We Just Passed?

So I hit 90 days yesterday. Oddly enough, there was very little fanfare, neither internally nor externally, which was absolutely fine with me. The trick right now is to resist (and the Sick Little Disease In My Head has already tried this shit) the urge to justify a fuck-up by saying something along the lines of, “Well, I guess it’s about time you had yourself a fuck-up, son. Don’t worry, lots of people have relapses, it’s alright. Hell, I don’t even know if one shot counts as a relapse, does it?” and so on from there into all the standard roundy-rounds of justification that the Sick Little Disease In My Head can come up with.

I had wanted to go to my normal Thursday morning meeting this morning to at least say at a meeting, “I got 90 days!” but I had zero sleep Tuesday night, so by Wednesday night when I got home, I was pretty exhausted, and when the alarm went off this morning, there was very little chance of me responding positively to it. I do wish that I had, though, because I think that there’s a fellow there that I would like to ask to become a sponsor, but I want to go sit down and have coffee or something with him and do a two-way ‘interview’ of sorts. Last week, the man even brought me a book. Of course (and please see the 5,000 pound fucking phone post), I have his phone number and e-mail, so I could just call or write to see what he’s got going on this weekend. That goddamn phone and everything else it stands for (including my shitty self-esteem) are, I fear, likely to be a long-term ongoing struggle for me. That’s alright, though; it’s a struggle I’m good with fighting. Really, I shouldn’t be surprised, since that sort of thing has been so very very difficult for me just about all my life.

I should add that the last few days have just been absolutely wonderful. While there are some other things that have contributed to this overarching sense of satisfaction and well-being that I can’t really go into, I will say that one of them is a sense of mental fulfillment. I’ve begun academic work again in earnest (I had tried once before earlier this year, but… well, I went into treatment, didn’t I?), and I have finally begun to feel my brain kick in and get challenged and pushed and oh my fucking lord it feels great!

I also fulfilled a long-time dream and went to this artist in concert that I had been listening to for years and years and whose music has carried me through a lot of shit in that time. I’ve never been a huge concert-goer, although I do love them, but this one had to be among the top 1 or 2 of them all. I think she brought tears (the good kind) to my cheeks no fewer than 6 times. Yeah, that good.

<<sigh>> I suppose it’s time to get back to the books. Never been happier to say that, though. And I will still be up early tomorrow to get to a meeting so that I can get that tiny bit of group recognition that, and I don’t think this is awful of me at all, I honestly want and think I deserve for making it this far.

Leave a comment

Filed under AA, alcoholic, atheist, Uncategorized

Jesus Appears! Also, Art Is Good.

Unfortunately, I have to say that the crazy is alive & well in AA. This should come as no surprise, but this took me aback for a moment, even at AA. So this guy, the one with the crazy, sports a gaudy gold chain with a three inch cross or so on it, and not to be overly stereotypical, but this looks odd on a middle aged (probably 50 or so) balding white guy with a salt & pepper mustache and tastes in clothes about as good as mine. That was Clue 1. He has also talked a lotta God when he has spoken before, which is often in the few times I’ve seen him as he is one of the chronic relapsers who has finally gotten serious about sobriety, gotten a sponsor and really wants to talk about it. A lot times, a lot of good stuff gets said by these people. I think he may be the exception. He begins with the standard congrats to birthdays and welcome to newcomers and thanks for the topic what a great topic, then rambles on for a little while (he has loud, kind of high pitched, kind of gravelly voice, too – the one at a crowded bar that you can hear from across the room over blaring music and voices) and then wraps it up like this: “And I just wanna say, I believe in God. I mean, I really really believe in God. I mean, I’ve seen Jesus, he’s appeared to me, I’ve seen his face! Right in front of me! Just like you’re in front of me. I’m serious, I had to talk to my priest about this and everything! And I wasn’t even stoned when I saw him!” There was something about him having been made a minister in his church just last week, too, but he’d kind of lost steam by then (I think he’s been clean and sober about a week and a half or maybe two, so not really sure how that plays). Really, dude? Really really? Holy shit. I’m pretty sure I held everything back except for what I hope was a subtle eye-roll and a whispered, “Oh Jesus,” which seemed kind of apropos after it escaped me. I had my face buried in the book that the reading had come from (I was catching up because I’d missed the first part of the meeting because I was at a life-drawing class, about which more later), so I don’t think anyone noticed my momentary lapse into complete disdain. And most of the room seemed to just nod along, like, right on, man, yeah, you totally saw that. I mean, perhaps not. He may have been that insistent about it because he sensed some incredulity in the room.

Needless to say, in the midst of what I took at the time to be the credulity floating fairy-like through the minds in the room, I felt out of place, as I often do at many meetings wherein the God-talk gets thick and heavy-handed, which is quite a few of them. And besides that, revisiting the current favorite isolation them, at the moment, I’m also in the awkward position of feeling out of place with a lot of the Atheist groups around. A lot of them meet in bars, and I’m not yet comfortable with the idea of heading to a bar for whatever reason. And then, as an example, when discussing the upcoming American Atheist National convention at a small, generally convivial gathering of Atheists, someone made the joke, “No, no, the other AA, the good one,” at which I too timidly tossed out, “Well, you can be both. Just, you know, saying,” but I don’t think anyone heard me or took notice. At any rate, I felt awkward and out of place from thereon out for the rest of the meeting, probably unnecessarily so, but still I just sat and didn’t say much for the rest of the meeting. Except when somebody mentioned the much bandied “No atheists in foxholes” line, at which I had to concur, “Yeah, I fucking hate that. I usually just point them to the website and list some friends.” I don’t think anyone gathered from this that I myself had been a soldier at one point (although very religious at the time, and hardly in a foxhole), but that’s not really surprising since the person talking about that was a vet that had been wounded in combat and therefore, rightly so, was much more an authority on the subject than me. (How a meteorologist gets wounded in combat, I’m not precisely sure.) Anyway, moving on.

It is now the previously referenced later. This life-drawing class is almost the most therapeutic thing I’ve found so far. This was the second class, and while I didn’t feel as good about the work I produced during the class as I did the first one, it was still a wonderful class and I am delighted that I’ve begun to draw again. I’ve wanted to do this for quite some time, actually, but before now, I was too busy getting drunk, and even when I wasn’t, I was too shaky to do any drawing, much less produce anything resembling a straight line. Hell, I couldn’t even write, and there were days when the shaking was getting so bad I couldn’t even really type. So every time I pick up a pencil or stick of charcoal, it is in fact a celebration of freedom from the prison that had become my racked forearms and hands.

And! I had a more or less pleasant random social interaction at the class last night. This seems like a fairly minor thing, and in some way, it is. In another way, it’s huge for me. When the woman next to me saw me popping an ear-bud in from my iPod so I could listen to American Freethought’s podcast while I worked, she said, “Oh, music. Now that was a good idea.” Now, at first, it didn’t occur to me that this was an attempt at talking, and I responded, “Well, actually, Podcast, but , yeah. I love having this.” “Oh, yeah? What Podcast?” “Um, American Freethought.” “Oh, cool.” Then it was time to draw. The longsuffering model took a break, and I looked over. Internal dialogue: Say something. Say something, anything, whatever, it doesn’t matter. Remember what they said, you just say, Hi, or whatever. I see that she’s wearing a Conan O’Brien Late Late Show T-Shirt. “So did you actually get to go see Conan tape a show?” “Yeah, I did!” “Really, that’s awesome! How was it?” “I went in ’06,” she begins, which I misheard as her saying that she went when she was 6, which led to a further awkward moment where she thought I was asking how old she was, which, granted, would have been incredibly fucking rude of me. But then she went on about how she was the last person to get in the show, and the friends she’d been standing in line with for hours and hours didn’t get to go, but she actually got to be part of a skit, and so it was a fantastic time anyway. And all I had to do was think it was really cool that this stranger, whose name, of course, I never did ask and still manage to bumble quite a bit (Progress, not Perfection, even in the little shit, I guess). Didn’t say another word to her the rest of the class, but still, it was a fairly normal social interaction with a person. Baby steps.

Leave a comment

Filed under AA, alcoholic, atheist, Uncategorized

5,000 Pound Fucking Phones and Fucking

Been a little while. So this one’s likely to go a bit long on me.

Last week I had what I’m pretty sure amounts to an anxiety attack of sorts. That’s what I’m calling it, anyway, with the caveat that I’ve not got the medical expertise to actually label it that and that I’ve never had one before and therefore don’t have much to compare it to. I don’t think it was the full-on real deal, but it did last about 18 hours, including sleep (I dreamt that my brother and I killed someone or possibly two someones and I was freaking out about hiding the evidence and the bodies and wondering what the fuck had just happened – I may be rethinking this whole Wishing I Could Remember My Dreams thing). It was incredibly surreal and uncomfortable and once again, there was no wall of whiskey to protect me from whatever it was. I have absolutely no desire to do that ever ever ever again. I’m pretty sure that it was kicked off by all the stress surrounding the uncertainty of whether or not I will be keeping my job, but it spiraled out into all kinds of other things that were very unfocused and difficult to keep track of. During this whole thing, it never even occurred to me to call someone, anyone at all until someone pointed out to me that I should call someone. Even then, though, I couldn’t do it.

In small group this week (technically, continuing care, but really, it’s small group therapy), this became the topic of conversation, and the counselor said that it was a self-esteem issue for me. Although I hadn’t connected that particular underlying issue to that particular dot, I probably should have, and regardless, it hasn’t made it any easier to pick up the fucking phone. I did get over it a little and call my sponsor and meet with him last week, but haven’t talked or e-mailed or anything with him since then; I don’t know if I thought getting over it once would suddenly remove the difficulty or what. No magic pills here, little lion man. Ugh.

I do also confess to being a little annoyed at the counselor’s diagnosis of self-esteem because when I told her the very first time that I had met her that this was an issue for me, she solved the problem in 10 seconds or less by telling me that the solution was to help others. OK, fine and wonderful, and not to say that it isn’t true either, but – won’t be going to you for individual therapy. Or perhaps I should get over that annoyance and go to her anyway. On the other hand, though, I’d prefer to keep one-on-one and small group counseling separate, I think.

It did also come out that I am ‘not religious’ at small group, which was, oddly enough, related to the isolation topic. When I was religious, that was the entirety of my social group. Then I went into the military, where the drinking began to get serious. Then I got out. Then I became not religious. I have not gone out and made social connections that had nothing to do with booze or God in so long that I am completely at a loss. No idea what I’m doing. Not even a little.

Moving back a little, counselor’s reaction: “What do you mean by you’re not religious anymore?”

“I mean that I’ve come to the conclusion that there probably is no God.” Confused look on her face. “It’s just that simple, I’m not angry about it or anything like that, it just is part of who I am, and that’s all. Nothing to it.”

“Okay, well, what was your social group outside of religion back then?” Give the lady credit for getting over the no-God and moving on pretty quickly.

“That was it.”

Then the conversation progressed a bit further and we went around the room. Turns out, I’m not the only alcoholic in the room that tends to isolate. Most of us in that group do. So now I have homework. Call this other guy in the group, even if it’s just to say, “Hey, calling because I’m doing what I said I’d do and, you know, calling.”

Which brings me to the last little thing for this blog entry, and it’s either really funny or really frustrating. When asked if I had a home group yet, I talked about one meeting I’ve been going to pretty regularly that meets at 6:15 in the morning 3 days a week that I really like. I mentioned that the only down side was the lack of women in the group. “What, for dating?” Shit, she caught me off guard, dating is the very fucking last thing I was thinking about when I mentioned that. In fact, the only reason I had mentioned it was because the one or two women that show up for that group had mentioned how nice it was when another woman showed up. “Umm, no. I just like more balance. No dating.” “You know, you shouldn’t do that in the first year of sobriety.” “Yes, I know. Dating is… well, it’s not… well, it’s complicated.” I left it at that, hoping it would go away. Nope. Kept getting shit for it. Somebody mentioned a possible meeting that I might like. Counselor: “Are there girls there? You know, for balance.” “Look, I’m not a dude’s dude! I don’t like talking about guns & shooting shit or fixing cars, I like talking about books & politics & shit!” Jesus, I wish I’d kept my fucking mouth shut just then.

Ok, but here’s the question that occurred to me later, which I did in fact have the good sense to keep inside my mouth: Why do all the married or otherwise coupled couples get to couple in their first year of goddamned sobriety? Why do they get the incredible comfort of another human being’s skin and breath next to theirs, another human being’s fingers to tangle in theirs, another human being’s chest to rise and fall against their back all night long, and the rest of us just have to fucking do without fucking? Just wondering.

1 Comment

Filed under AA, alcoholic, atheist, Uncategorized

An Atheist at AA

I am an atheist. I am also an alcoholic. The one has fuck-all to do with the other. However, the treatment center that I successfully went through and ‘graduated’ from less than a week ago is 12 Step, Alcoholics Anonymous based. AA has a lot of God in it, for anyone that hasn’t looked into it. The program itself is a bit more flexible than that, but they refuse to edit the AA basic text (the Big Book, as it’s called) out of a reverence for it that is very like the religious person’s reverence for their holy text(s), and to put it bluntly, the Big Book was written from the perspective of people whose milieu was 1930s very White, very Protestant, and very Male. And this is the Midwest. The coasts may have adapted and have meetings where altered versions of the Steps and Traditions are read and they don’t end every meeting with the Lord’s Prayer, but not here in the Bible Belt.

However, I needed and need help. Sobriety is not something I was able to accomplish on my own. I tried. And tried. And tried. And it hurt. A lot. I hurt myself nearly to death, and I hurt a lot of the people I love. Fortunately for me, I have the most wonderful friends in the world that care for me and love me even more, I think, than I gave myself leave to love them. They got me into treatment, and here I am. More background later, I’m just trying to get this going before I lose my nerve for now.

So this is going to be the story as it unfolds of my journey as an Atheist/Secular Humanist going through the AA program and holding on for dear life. Should be a good time! So help me stay sober, love, and this’ll all work out.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized