Monday, 1 December 2014
Wednesday, 24 September 2014
We went to priests, they gave us pledges, they told us to pray, they told us to go and sin no more, but go. We tried and we died. We died of overdoses, we died in bed (but usually not the Big Bed). We died in straitjackets, in the DT's seeing God knows what, creeping, skittering, slithering, shuffling things. And you know what the worst thing was? The worst thing was that nobody ever believed how hard we tried.
We went to doctors and they gave us stuff to take that would make us sick when we drank on the principle of "so crazy, it just might work," I guess, or maybe they just shook their heads and sent us to places like 'Drop-kick Murphy's'. And when we got out we were hooked on paraldehyde or maybe we lied to the doctors and they told us not to drink so much, just drink like me. And we tried, and we died.
We drowned in our own vomit or choked on it, our broken jaws wired shut. We died playing Russian roulette and people thought we'd lost, but we knew better. We died under the hoofs of horses, under the wheels of vehicles, under the knives and boot heels of our brother drunks. We died in shame. And you know what was even worse was that we couldn't believe it ourselves, that we had tried. We figured we just thought we tried and we died believing that we hadn't tried, believing that we didn't know what it meant to try.
When we were desperate enough or hopeful or deluded or embattled enough to go for help, we went to people with letters after their names and prayed that they might have read the right books, that had the right words in them, never suspecting the terrifying truth, that the right words, as simple as they were, had not been written yet.
We died falling off girders on high buildings, because of course ironworkers drink, of course they do. We died "cleaning our gun," or "suicide by cop," or behind (or inside) Dempsey dumpsters of skid row bars. We died under the Southeast Expressway, with our hands tied behind us and a bullet in the back of our head, because this time the people we disappointed were the wrong people. We died in convulsions, or of "insult to the brain," we died incontinent, and in disgrace, abandoned. If we were women, we died degraded, because women have so much more to live up to.
We tried and we died and nobody cried. And the very worst thing was that for every one of us that died, there were another hundred of us, or another thousand, who wished that we could die, who went to sleep praying we would not have to wake up because what we were enduring was intolerable and we knew in our hearts it wasn't ever going to change.
One day in a hospital room in New York City, one of us had what the books call a transforming spiritual experience, and he said to himself "I've got it" (no, you haven't, you've only got part of it) "and I have to share it." (now you've ALMOST got it) and he kept trying to give it away, but we couldn't hear it.
We tried and we died. We died of one last cigarette, the comfort of its glowing in the dark. We passed out and the bed caught fire. They said we suffocated before our body burned, they said we never felt a thing, that was the best way maybe that we died, except sometimes we took our family with us. And the man in New York was so sure he had it, he tried to love us into sobriety, but that didn't work either, love confuses drunks and he tried and we still died. One after another we got his hopes up and we broke his heart, because that's what we do. And the worst thing was that every time we thought we knew what the worst thing was something happened that was worse. Until a day came in a hotel lobby and it wasn't in Rome, or Jerusalem, or Mecca or even Dublin, or South Boston, it was in Akron, Ohio!!!.
A day came when the man said I have to find a drunk because I need him as much as he needs me (NOW you've got it). And the transmission line, after all those years, was open, the transmission line was open. And now we don't go to doctors and priests, and we don't go to people with letters after their names. We come to people who have been there, we come to each other. And we try. And for the first time, they don't talk to us about OUR drinking, they talk to us about their drinking. And we identify. And we don't have to die.
Welcome....(by Jack M)
Sunday, 14 September 2014
- Admitted we were powerless over alcohol - that our lives had become unmanageable.
(For a long time I translated or internalized this sentence as saying, "Admitted I was powerless over alcohol, and WHEN I'M DRINKING my life is unmanageable." But that's NOT what it says. When a dash is used in a sentence like this, what it's saying is: "Admitted we were powerless over alcohol, and admitted that our lives had become unmanageable." What does our literature say about this admission of powerlessness and unmanageability? In other words, what differentiates an alcoholic physically, mentally, and spiritually, from a non-alcoholic? Physically, the alcoholic has an allergy, or an abnormal reaction, to alcohol. The alcoholic's abnormal reaction to alcohol is a craving for more alcohol once we take a few drinks. This craving NEVER happens to a non-alcoholic. Because of this, a non-alcoholic can ALWAYS predict how much they are going to drink, but an alcoholic CANNOT. Besides the craving, alcohol DOES something for an alcoholic that it does NOT do for a non-alcoholic. When an alcoholic drinks, they get a feeling of ease and comfort; an "IN control, get up and go into town, I like this" kind of a feeling. When a NON-alcoholic drinks, they get an "OUT of control, beginning of a nauseating, slightly tipsy, I don't like this so I don't want any more" kind of a feeling. That's why they stop after one or two, and make statements like, "I don't want another drink because I am FEELING that first one." Spiritually, because of the selfish and self-centered way the alcoholic views and deals with other people, their emotions, and life; they are filled with inner turmoil, discomfort, and anxiety. Since alcohol is the ONLY thing that the alcoholic has experienced that brings relief from this inner unmanageability, we turn to alcohol again and again, even though it has caused problems for us in the past. We don't see what alcohol is doing TO us, we ONLY think about what it is going to do FOR us, which describes the alcoholic's mental obsession. A NON-alcoholic's relationship with alcohol is a "take it or leave it" kind of relationship, but an ALCOHOLIC'S relationship with alcohol is an "I need it to deal with life" kind of relationship. Please ask yourself if you can relate to the experience of an alcoholic. Also, in the middle of the first paragraph on page 44, the Big Book makes a few statements that can be used to review the information about Step One and the direction we need to move in. In the middle of the first paragraph on page 44, it says: "If, when you honestly want to, you find you cannot quit entirely" [which describes the mental and spiritual part of alcoholism], "or if when drinking, you have little control over the amount you take" [which describes the physical part of alcoholism], "you are probably alcoholic. If that be the case, you may be suffering from an illness which ONLY a spiritual experience will conquer." If I'm powerless over whether I drink or not, than what I need is the Power with a capital "P"; and if my life is unmanageable, especially my INNER life [WHETHER I'M DRINKING OR NOT] than what I need is a new Manager with a capital "M". In the Fourth Edition Big Book, this Step is described on Roman numeral pages 25 - 32 (xxv - xxxii), on pages 1 - 44:1, and 52:2.)
- Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. (Please note that "Came to believe" describes a process, and is not saying that we need to believe anything prior to considering this Step. The question in the Big Book associated with Step Two can be found in the middle of page 47: "We needed to ask ourselves but one short question. -'Do I NOW believe, or am I even WILLING to believe, that there is a Power greater than myself?' As soon as a man can say that he DOES believe, or is WILLING to believe, we emphatically assure him that he is on his way." Nothing more is needed to move on with the rest of the Program. Our "coming to believe" will take place as we take the actions necessary to work the remaining Steps. Because we get results, our simple belief or our willingness to develops turns into actual faith in a Higher Power as we depend more and more on this Power as a source of guidance in our lives. I've heard many people say that the insanity that Step Two is talking about is all the crazy things we did when we were drinking. Things like the D.W.I.'s, the crashed cars, the jobs and families we lost because of our drinking, etc. But we ALL don't have those things in common. Besides, there ARE alcoholics who NEVER got D.W.I.'s or who NEVER lost jobs because of drinking, but that doesn't make them any less an alcoholic. Even some NON-alcoholics have gotten D.W.I.'s and lost jobs because of their drinking. The ONLY insanity that we ALL have in common, which is the insanity Step Two is talking about, is the insanity of returning to the first drink even though alcohol has caused us problems again and again. We are not able to see the TRUTH about the damage alcohol has caused us because we ONLY think about relief, ease and comfort that comes by taking a few drinks. Also, for some people, the word "sanity" is not completely clear because it sounds like it's saying that we are crazy. Other descriptions that capture the essence of what is being said, and can be substituted for the word "sanity" in Step Two, are words like: ...restore us to honesty, reality, freedom, love, peace of mind, truth, or balance. For the newcomer: Step One is where you are, Step Two is where you want to go, and Steps Three through Twelve are how you get there! In the Big Book, this Step is described in parts of chapters 1, 2, 3, and all of chapter 4.)
- Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care and direction of God as we understood Him.
(There are three words here that are important to understand. For a long time, I thought that the Third Step said that I turn my will and my life over to the care of God. But it doesn't say that. What it says is that I MAKE A DECISION to turn my will and life over to the care of God. So the first word that needs to be understood HERE is the word DECISION, which is defined as "making up one's own mind." Let's say my car breaks down. Although the DECISION to get my car fixed is a vital and crucial step, that decision alone does not get the car fixed. I will ALSO need to take the actions necessary to get it fixed. For any decision to mean ANYTHING, it ALWAYS requires further action. If I decide, or make up my own mind, to turn my will and my life over to the care of God as I understand Him, that decision alone will not turn it over. I will have to take the actions necessary to turn it over. The first three Steps are designed to bring us to the point where we become WILLING to turn our will and our lives over to the care of a Higher Power, Steps Four through Nine are HOW we turn our will and our lives over [because Steps Four through Nine reveal and remove the blocks that prevent us from actually doing so], and the last three Steps are how we KEEP our will and our lives turned over to God indefinitely. After a period of time though, our ego [self-will] begins to reassert itself again; and because of our "human-ness", we fall short in maintaining perfect spiritual focus in all of our thoughts and activities. That is why I believe, even if we have worked the Steps to the best of our ability once, we will need to eventually begin the Steps cycle again and again. The other two words that are important to understand are the words WILL and LIVES. I've always thought that the words "will" and "lives" were concepts way over my head and were way too large to relate to or comprehend. But then it was explained to me that my "will" is my thinking and what motivates me, and that my "life" is all the actions that I've taken up to this moment. That explanation made the words a little more down to earth and easier to comprehend. So I now understand the Third Step as saying that I decide to take the actions necessary to turn my thinking, my motivations, and my actions over to the care of God as I understand Him. Since it's been said in many different pieces of spiritual literature that God is Love, it can also be said that the essence of all this is that I need to always be motivated by love, I need to always try to have loving thoughts and always try to take loving actions. Also, what motivates me drives my thinking and my thinking directs my actions, so I need to go deeper than just acting my way into right thinking. If my motivation and thinking is GOD-directed, I will make the right decisions [whether it seems that way at the time or not], and the actions taken will inevitably be healthy. But if my motivation and thinking is SELF-directed, I will mostly make the wrong decisions [even though I may not realize it at the time], and the actions taken will inevitably be unhealthy. Quite possibly, the single most important statement about Step Three can be found at the top of page 64 where it says, "Though our decision was a vital and crucial step, it could have LITTLE PERMANENT EFFECT unless AT ONCE followed by a STRENUOUS EFFORT to face, AND to be rid of, the things in ourselves which had been blocking us." So it's saying this Third Step decision will have little permanent effect unless we immediately follow it up with an intensely active effort to work Steps Four through Nine, because where we face these blocks is in Steps Four, Five, and Six and where we get rid of them is in Steps Seven, Eight, and Nine. And what we're being blocked off from is the ability to turn our will and lives over to begin with. So after working the six middle Steps, then and ONLY then, will we be able to turn our motivations, our thoughts, and our actions over to our Higher Power with any kind of consistency. In the Big Book, this Step is described on pages 60:3 - 64:0. The directions for taking Step 3 are on pages 60:4, 62:3, and 63:2 - 64:0. The results of taking Step 3 are given on page 63:1 and the last line of 63:3.)
- Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. (One of the definitions for the word moral is "truthful" and another is "conduct in relationship". Also, I think a key word here in the Fourth Step is OURSELVES, not anyone else. The Big Book provides us with three specifically outlined and powerfully transforming written inventories: the Resentment Inventory, the Fear Inventory, and a Sex and Harms Inventory of our conduct. It also asks us to create a future sex life/relationship ideal. In the Big Book, this Step is described on pages 63:4 - 71 and directions for taking this Step are given throughout. The results of taking Step 4 are given on page 70:3.)
- Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. (Please notice that it does NOT say that we just admit our wrongs, although that is part of the process. It says that we admit THE EXACT NATURE of our wrongs. That's why the three Fourth Step Inventories not only compile what we did, but draws attention more importantly to WHY WE DID IT. The exact nature of our wrongs or why we did these things are what we need to ask God to help us with in Steps Six and Seven. Also, notice that it says that we are to first admit our Fourth Step Inventories to God. I have had some incredible results in working with people by asking them to first find a place where they feel God's presence strongly and spend an hour or two silently or out loud sharing their Inventories with their Higher Power. From doing this, there is a sense of forgiveness, accumulated power, and a little more understanding that is then carried into the Fifth Step with the person or persons who will hear it. After the Fifth Step is done, we get a deeper sense of humility and another perspective which brings about a strong understanding of our inner workings. In the Big Book, this Step is described on pages 72 - 75. The directions for taking Steps 5 are on page 75:1, the first sentence of 75:2, and 75:3. The results of taking Step 5 are on page 75:2 after the first sentence.)
- Were entirely willing that God remove all these defects of character. (There is a very important direction associated with Step Six in the Big Book which is often missed. It says that "if we still cling to a defect we will not let go, we ask God to help us be willing." So if there is a shortcoming that we are not willing to ask God to help us with, we pray for the willingness until it comes. This should not stop us from going on to Step Seven with the shortcomings we ARE willing to ask Him to help us with. In the Big Book, this Step is described on page 76:1. The directions for taking Step 6 are also there.)
- Humbly, on our knees, asked Him to remove our shortcomings - holding nothing back.(Notice that the wording here is a little stronger than how it ended up in the Big Book. It's obvious that the authors considered this Step to be a deep and all-inclusive part of this Program. Notice that it's NOT saying that WE work on our shortcomings, because the only way I can work on my shortcomings is by making them worse. We need to seek our Higher Power's help with our defects and to begin to take the actions necessary to move in the opposite direction. Also, this is one of the many statements that lead me to see that AA is NOT a SELF-help program, it's a SPIRITUAL help program. In the Big Book, this Step is described on page 76:2. The directions for taking Step 7 are also there.)
- Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make complete amends to them all. (Please notice that it mentions the word "all" twice! Do you think they really mean that? The word amend is sometimes reduced to only saying that we are sorry. I prefer using the definition found in Chapter 1 Bill's Story where it says "I was to right all such matters to the utmost of my ability." It's more about taking responsibility than it is about only saying that we are sorry. Also, one of the definitions for the word amend is "to change" so we need to change and move away from the behavior that caused the harm in the first place. Just like the Sixth Step, the Book says that "If we haven't the will to make amends, we ask until it comes," so don't forget to pray for the willingness to make the amends that you are not willing to make. In the Big Book, this Step is described on page 76:3. The directions for taking Step 8 are also there.)
- Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. (An important word here is the word "direct", and I'd like to suggest that WE are not the "others" mentioned here. Also, one of the greatest things that I have ever heard about hesitating to make amends is the following: Is it possible that your lack of willingness to make amends [or move forward with ANY Step] has ANYTHING to do with whether you drink again or not? It sure makes ya think! In the Big Book, this Step is described on pages 76:4 - 84:1 and the directions for completing Step 9 are given throughout. The results of taking Step 9 are on page 83:4 - 84:1.)
- Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it. (It doesn't say "IF we were wrong", it says "WHEN we were wrong" so it's realistically admitting that we ARE going to make mistakes. By the time we get to the Tenth Step we now have a way to deal with the times we fall short - Steps Four through Nine in a quick way, moment by moment. Also, it says that we "promptly ADMIT it" not "promptly EXPLAIN it". In the Big Book, this Step is described on pages 84:1 - 85:2. The directions for taking Step 10 are on page 84:2, the first line of 84:3, and 85:1. The results of taking Step 10 are on page 84:3 - 85:0.)
- Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our contact with God, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out. (For some reason, the word "conscious" was not included here originally. Notice that it mentions what we should ONLY be praying for. I believe that if I pray for specific things, I am assuming that I know better than God about what is best for me or someone else. Also, you'll notice that in Step 10 it says "Continue", in Step 11 it says "Seek and improve", and in Step 12 it says "in all of our affairs" so the Program leaves no room for complacency or coasting. Besides, the only way we can coast is downhill! The last three Steps are not MAINTENANCE Steps, they're GROWTH Steps. To maintain something means to keep it the same. For me, our Program is like walking up a down escalator. If we keep moving forward, we can get to the next level. But as soon as we slow down or stop our forward movement, we go right back down to where we came from. And I don't know about you but I desperately do not want to go back to where I came from! In the Big Book, this Step is described on pages 85:3 - 88:3. The directions for taking Step 11 are on pages 86:1 - 88:0. The results of taking Step 11 are found on page 88 lines 2 - 8.)
- Having had a spiritual experience as the result of this course of action, we tried to carry this message to others, especially alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all of our affairs. (This Step, as written here, obviously has three parts: 1 - the spiritual awakening AS THE RESULT of the Steps. This is a promise. It doesn't say that it MIGHT happen or that it SOMETIMES happens, it says that it WILL happen IF we work all Twelve Steps completely; 2 - I don't carry MY message or A message but I carry THIS message - the message of the SPIRITUAL AWAKENING AS THE RESULT OF THE STEPS to alcoholics and perhaps others too; and 3 - practicing the principles of the Steps [the way of life outlined in the Big Book] in ALL of our affairs. Every once in a while I have to ask myself if I think they really mean ALL here and if I'm doing this more and more in my life. When I do this I get a positive result and when I don't do it I get a negative result. Speaking of carrying this message, I recommend to people I work with that when speaking at an AA speaker meeting that they use the same format as Bill W. did in "Bill's Story" at the beginning of the Big Book. "Bill's Story" is 16 pages and for the first 8 pages he talks about what it was like when he was drinking and for the last 8 pages he talks about what happened to bring about a change and what's it like now that he is in recovery. Most of the time at speaker meetings the speaker will speak for 20 minutes and 19 of it is usually drunkalog and 1 minute is "and now everything is wonderful and we have a nice way of closing". This doesn't bring much hope to any newcomers in the room. If we can do half our talk about our experience with drinking [so the newcomer can identify with the fact that we ARE an alcoholic]; and then spend the other half of our talk on experience, strength and hope about what it's like working the Steps and practicing a Program of recovery, we then will carry a much stronger message to the newcomer in a way that has depth and weight. We ALL know how to drink. How about hearing more about living a happy, useful, contented life without needing alcohol? In the Big Book, this Step is described on pages 89 - 150. Many tips on how to carry our message of recover to another alcoholic are found throughout chapter 7, and many tips on how to carry our message and practice these principles in all of our affairs are found throughout chapters 8 - 10.)
Berkeley Heights "Into Action" Big Book Group
Friday, 12 September 2014
The image to the right is the legendary Greaser Grease wig.
Wednesday, 6 August 2014
Thinking about blogging after another break has yet again got me thinking if I have anything worth saying. The truth is, probably not. In reality, I don't think I every had to any great degree, but that's fine, that's blogging. The facts remain the facts, my feet are up and all is well.
Saturday, 14 June 2014
As a cyclist this is an argument that I often encounter. Irrationally angry, Jeremy Clarkson inspired people seem to have a huge problem that I like riding my bike. Why interrupt your day to complain about this? But if you are going to complain and moan and yell at me, please at least have a coherent argument as to why I shouldn’t be on ‘your roads.’ There’s certainly a few misconceptions regarding road
Firstly, there is the belief that cyclists should pay road tax for using their bikes on the road. I’ve got news for you. Road tax doesn’t exist. It was abolished in 1937. Even Winston Churchill campaigned against it. What motorists mean when they say ‘road tax’ is Vehicle Excise Duty (VED). VED is calculated based on vehicle emissions. Band A cars, which fall below 100g/km CO2 emissions, are exempt as their emissions are so low. Unsurprisingly, a bicycle is also exempt. Why? Well, how much CO2 does a bicycle emit?
Complaining that cyclists don’t pay VED is like complaining that somebody that has never bought anything doesn’t pay VAT. Secondly, there is the belief that cyclists don’t pay for the maintenance of the roads. Again, I’ve got news for you. There is no specific spend from VED on our roads. Road building and road maintenance is funded by council tax, which most adult cyclists pay as they often have homes, and secondly from general taxation, which most cyclists pay as they often have incomes.
The very suggestion that cyclists do not have a right to be on the road through having not paid for it is absurd. It’s like saying you cannot possibly visit any other council district in case you use something, a pavement for example, that has been funded by a council to who’s taxation pot you do not contribute.
So I will continue cycling on the roads safe in the knowledge that I am in fact allowed to be there.PS. 87% of British Cycling members also own a car. So that means most cyclists do actually pay ‘road tax’ anyway. I cycle, drive a car and ride a motor bike.
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Friday, 24 January 2014
It's an odd thing, every year around the time of Bill Wilson's death I start thinking just how much difference one man (or woman) can make.
Lots of great things have been written about Bill over the years and there can be no doubt that what Bill and DrBob started in the mid thirties has saved and changed many, many lives.
But let's remember, Bill was just a man. A great man no doubt, but a man all the same. And this is important, it's important because if just a man like Bill Wilson can make such a long lasting change in the world, so can we.
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Sunday, 5 January 2014
I like reading in the bath reading what I like. Not much more to it then that really.
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Saturday, 4 January 2014
I ride a bike, I drive a car and I cycle. Each of these forms of transport have brought me lessons and opportunities to learn and grow in there own ways. Lately these lessons have been coming to me on my cycle rides to work. I get on my push bike at least a couple of times a week and just about every time I find myself surprised, no amazed at the way some other road users carry on. Including fellow cyclists.
A few years ago I got myself through my bike test, the guy who did my training said that if i assume every other road user is going to do something mighty stupid, ill probably survive. Little did I know how spot on he was. Most days I make it home convinced every other bus, taxi, car, bike, boat and goat has but one primary purpose, to kill me dead.
So, what's the lesson ? you may well ask. For me the lesson is clear and simple. For the most part people are worried about themselves, nothing much else comes into it. With this in mind it gets much easier to deal with selfish self centred road users. And once I can do that, the rest of the day is simple..
As parents we all have a great responsibility to educate our children, a responsibility that I for one take very seriously. Part of this responsibility calls for the correct delegation on who will educate and in what areas. For example, my job was to show Jack the ways of the force. Of course I did this by walking him through each and every StarWars film obviously delivered in the order the were made. A truly wonderful experience I must admit. A right of passage some would say.
That being that, tonight it was time for mum to step in and deliver her film education to the boy. Tonight we sat down as a family and watched the first Harry Potter film together. Home cooked food with hot mince pies and ice cream while storms raged outside gave for a memorable experience in anyone's book. Hopefully this will be the case with Jack over the coming months as the wonder, laughter and darkness that is Harry Potter unfolds.