Worse Than Death

September 7, 2014 Leave a comment

deathfuckA friend in recovery told me once that AA is like mafia: “Everywhere you go, you’ll find us there. And if you decide to opt out, you will surely die.” I remember it made me laugh and shake my head at how true that was. But today I recall it for a different reason. Today I think of how I hear it often at the meetings: “If I go out to drink again, I am going to die.” It makes me wonder how people say that, as if death is the worst thing that can happen to them on their alcoholic spree.

I don’t mean to say that death or thinking of it doesn’t bother me. I am sure it bothers me less last several years that I’ve accepted the fact that life ends with death, natural state of life and soul progression, so I don’t care too much about it. It’s what it is, it’s how we humans are designed. It’s what we believe about life and death that matters. If we believe we’ll be in a happier place after we pass on or we go travelling in space, or get reborn as someone or something else, we have less reasons to worry. So it does surprise me that so many people in the meetings that admit they were raised as Catholics do worry that drinking would kill them.

Now, since death doesn’t scare me personally, what does make me worry is going crazy from going back to drinking after being sober for almost a decade. I was getting hopeless and desperate by the time I quit last time. I was talking to myself, caught up in a loop of endless repeated thoughts. I was losing it, no doubt, so if I didn’t stop, I’d be committed for sure. Going back to drinking would probably get me there quite fast.

Or I’d get incarcerated for raising hell. Not a fun idea either. Sitting in a cell, not having so much in life as I used to, knowing and recalling every day that you’ve messed up someone else’s life just because you couldn’t handle your own. I wouldn’t want to go through that more than passing away.

Back on that thought, going cuckoo and/or getting jailed would be rough, but turning into a walking dead with no goal, no hope, no control of any kind, roaming the streets for the search/purchase of booze all the time; living through hangovers, puke, headaches, spasms, seizures; begging money, stealing, lying, cheating; knowing you screwed someone over again and finding an immediate justification for that, – all these would be even worse to experience if I went back to drinking. And they would all take place, I know that for a fact. I could see it coming before. I can see it in others, so how am I different?

Surely, there are things far worse than death, unless it is a slow death from liver failure or something. There are so many painful and dark emotions, desolate gloomy places, and loss of all respect for ourselves, crush of all dreams and goals that can come to us, making us think death would be the easiest of them all… or almost all.

It doesn’t worth it to break the good you have, no matter how fragile, confusing, challenging, unappreciated, and unsupported you may feel about it. Talk to others about it. Don’t stay alone. Cherish the good you have achieved, even one single day. It will grow into many strong and satisfying years. You just have to keep pushing forward every time you think don’t like it, or can’t make it, or it’s too hard, or, hell, too easy. Living is a gift when you know what falling apart is like. But sanity is no less a gift when you know what going insane is like. Personal freedom and privacy are so necessary, especially when you know in your own experience what not having those is like. Staying sober is so much cheaper, freer, gratifying, and serene.

[picture was copied from 'ere. thank you!]

Who We Aren’t

September 1, 2014 Leave a comment

The following post has an interesting history. I started writing it in the airport flying off to my vacation in Europe in July last year. In the airport I bought fresh Guitar World magazine that made special feature dedicated to Jeff Hanneman about whom you will read later. Since the story of his life and death is alcohol related, I thought it would make a good story for AA Grapevine. When I came back from the vacation I wrote the story and sent it to Grapevine. That was in August 2013. Since then I reminded Grapevine at least three times of my story but there were always loaded with requests and other stories and wouldn’t do anything. I don’t hold grudges – they already published my story several years ago. Nevertheless, I thought it would be such a great story for people in the early time of sobriety. So now it’s been a year of sitting and waiting and the good story shouldn’t go missing, so I am putting it here. Hope you’ll enjoy reading it. Thanks.

When I still drank, booze and music were my main life drivers. Growing up I was getting into a lot of confusion and worry. With that I needed something or someone to stand by me, to guide me, to keep me still. My parents weren’t it. Although they were very caring people, they weren’t realizing, I think, what I was dealing with. I didn’t have many friends because almost nobody seemed to like what I was into. I needed a friend or a guardian that would understand my mind, protect my dreams, and explain to me the things in the way I’d understand them.

With that, I’ve chosen exactly what fitted best at the time. I’ve chosen alcohol. Liquid, amorphous, changeable. Shape-shifting, lying, cunning. Transforming, twisting, destroying. Not only it felt good on my tongue and on my mind, but it also seemed all of my heroes, great writers and musicians, were doing so good while drinking. At the time I didn’t know that Stephen King was a drunk and pill popper. I didn’t know that both James Hetfield and Dave Mustaine of Metallica and Megadeth fame were alcoholics, and that Peter Steele of band Type O Negative had a serious drug addiction. Sure, I knew AC/DC’s Bon Scott‘s death was a shock for rock music world when he choked on his vomit after a night of drinking in 1979 and that Ozzy Osbourne was clearly crossing the line, but for the most part rock’n’roll kept pacing hard and fine, and the books and records were great.

I loved alcohol, I glorified it. I felt power in alcohol that I thought helped me to get through things. It was an illusion, of course, but I only saw that later. As Hetfield said in 1985, “beer is our fuel and with it we’ll kick your ass!” or something like that. Problem with me, I remembered that phrase and practiced that rule everywhere I went. Drinking before, during and after school, always after work, and everywhere in between became my lifestyle. Listening to music intoxicated was a different and more exciting process than doing the same thing sober.

I drank hard and worshipped rock music harder. As I said, drinking musicians always attracted me more than others. I loved the fact Metallica and Motorhead toured hard and drank like the devils. I also loved how Jeff Hanneman of Slayer never seemed to smile and held a can or bottle of booze in his hand on every second photograph of the band. Slayer’s music was fast, heavy, dark, and angry sonic violence. In the beginning, around the age of 16, it even scared me. But it appealed to my confusion and frustrations toward the world I lived in and it was about that age I listened to them first that I started drinking more than usual. Slayer’s music, especially chaotic sharp, twisted guitar solos of Hanneman (author of Slayer’s most classic songs) and Kerry King was a fitting soundtrack for my marching through the unfriendly world, sometimes inspiring me to clench my teeth and break through, sometimes just spend long lonely nights somehow without hurting myself anymore. And at times like that the long haired blond Hanneman seemed cool and was appealing to the way I wanted to be. To walk without emotion, for showing it would cost me serenity.

So I wanted to be like them, the rock heroes. It was a reckless life I wanted to have because I didn’t like what I had, the same grey life of endless schooling. No real friends. No real love. No more-or-less realistic observable future where I’d picture myself happy. No desire to be anything but play in a band, but (paradox!) doing so little to get closer to it. From there came frustration, anger, dissatisfaction, depression. Since alcohol is a depressant, the wicked cycle was guaranteed to lock in.

When the necessity to sober up for good became inevitable, it was hard to let go, but not just of intoxication. It was hard to let go of the whole fantasy, the legend of healing powers of drugs and alcohol, of the self made god that I learned so hard and so long to worship. I tried to drink like others, to learn how to drink right. I read of how my music heroes drank and tried to follow their advices about drinking. I’ve completely warped my mind with this information. When the time was right, I had to bring my psych back to the normal level. It is known that after severe damage due to consumption of alcohol or/and drugs a person needs months to recover his/her body and years to recover the mind. My body was OK in a month or two. My mind – that took some time. I might be still dealing with some of the damage done.

Sober, I still listen to a lot of music, and still listen to and read interviews with the bands I was so much into while I was drinking. Yet often I find myself shaking my head with a wry smile, because the craziness they talk about, mentioning sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll, – I know too much about these things and don’t want to go back to it. By now both Hetfield and Mustaine did their time in the rehab, Jon Schaffer of Iced Earth and Stephen King joined the Twelve Step programs and are doing so much better. And blues guitarist Gary Moore, Wurzel of Motorhead and Peter Steele and now Jeff Hanneman died because of heart and other vital organs problems connected to previous consumption of alcohol and substances, just like E.A. Poe and W.A. Mozart way before them. And so many others are still wrecking it.

jeff-hanneman-tribute-1What happened to Hanneman? Two years ago Jeff was bitten by a rare spider which resulted in developing a flesh-eating condition. He could have his arm amputated, but that passed. Long months of recovery and physiotherapy brought him back to normalcy but he couldn’t play as well as before. So another guitarist replaced him in the band for a while and the fans all over the world, me included, kept wondering what was going on. And then the news of his death came in May 2013. Couple weeks later the cause of death was pronounced: 49 year old Hanneman died from liver cirrhosis due to regular alcohol intake. It turned out he was getting depressed from not being able to play in the band anymore and kept drinking harder. Recovery had to be supported all the time and the pain was constant. Isn’t booze the best painkiller?

It still sounds crazy to me that after years of popular knowledge of how harmful alcohol is people still ignore the message. Hanneman must have hung out with thousands of fans when touring the world and had a chance to see what booze does to people. But I failed to see that just as well. It took me quite some time to see damage done to myself after years of staring at the nightmare and destruction of mind and spirit I inflicted, with my inner peace gone, sanity questioned so often.

What I ended up idolizing in the shape of alcohol wasn’t just not perfect. It was not even good. More than that, it wasn’t even real. I believed that other people’s lives could give something to me while I was not making an effort to get closer to their level of creativity. And when I started trying to get somewhere with my own way of creative expression, I was too buried in “a dream within a dream”, illusion and make-believe. I glorified the magic potion that I thought made me feel and write better, come up with greater ideas, and in the end this lifestyle almost ruined me because I lost control. I managed to wake up at the right time and do the right thing. It took a lot of time to choose the right path and the right power, higher than me, to stand by.

Hanneman’s death, and its cause especially, shocked me. He was my metal music hero. I even wanted to call my dog Hanneman. Originally I wanted to call my dog Scott for Bon Scott. Wouldn’t it be ironic if I did call him Hanneman and two years later Jeff succumbed to death due to alcohol, just like Bon did? Anyway, Hanneman’s death also served as yet another reminder: alcohol is not my friend. It kills and it kills bad, annihilating body, mind and spirit. Strong people, weak people, young and old, educated, genius, and not, – alcohol spares no one who has a disposition to alcoholism, the disease that I carry. I have to remember that even pushing eight years of sobriety now, I still cannot “drink like a gentleman,” never did and never will.

Thank you for my sobriety, you the people who guided me for all these years, even when I really didn’t want to listen and looked for inspiration elsewhere, at the people I once wanted to be like. Whoever I wanted and want to be, I am who I am, with my faults and strengths, my addiction and insight. I have to walk my own path, without envying, idolizing, or copying others, or I will fall into another trap. There are certain things that I just cannot do.

And thank you, Jeff Hanneman, for your music and for the reminder. I will miss you like crazy.

[the front picture was copied from 'ere. thank you!]

No Cure For You

August 23, 2014 Leave a comment

trading-emotionI was trying to run away. I was fighting. I was kicking and screaming and biting and clawing. They were trying calm me down and say that it was OK, but hell, I wouldn’t listen. It was too complicated. I couldn’t stop looking around and everything seemed menacing. They had to give me some sedative. Then they checked me all over. Then they came to me and spoke:

“We’ve examined your case very carefully. At the end of our investigation we have some information for you.

Facts first: we found that you are human. That means you are going to react to life in a similar way that other creatures that walk around you on two legs: you will experience sadness, joy, hate, love, frustration, loss, new beginnings, hope, desire for destruction and love. In other words you are not alone – there is plenty of other who deal with this state as well, and the overall majority cope with it quite well. You are going to feel vulnerable, exposed, broken, and disillusioned, just as much as you will feel strengthen, relieved, and cared for.

The bad news is being human cannot be cured. There is nothing we can do.

The good news is you may very well enjoy this state, this journey, and find the development making your existence worthwhile.

We prescribe the following medications to support you on in the immediate future:

“no worrying,” “acceptance,” “letting go,” and “asking for help.” These will keep you connected and not let you fall between the cracks of life that some call very hard. They are well tested, there are no side-effects Smile, eat well, work out, talk, read books, find new things, and keep walking forward.


[the front picture was copied from 'ere. thank you!]

Categories: writing

Rememberance of Powerlessness

August 17, 2014 Leave a comment

It was a strange week.

thFirst, on Sunday I found that a musician from Greek metal band Astarte that I admired lost her battle with leukemia. News of her been diagnosed was the first ever news of the 2014 and it was sad to learn of that. A couple of their songs that I heard long time ago became ones of my favorite of all time. Guitarist, vocalist, and leader of Astarte, Tristessa was also very beautiful, so it was sad in all ways. I then read she was getting better and surgeries were successful so it was a complete shock to learn she passed away, leaving family behind.

Then two days later my day started with walking the dog and reading paper on the newsstand when I learned Robin Willams killed himself. That was another shock. Not only Williams was a fantastic actor, I knew he had substance abuse issues. I didn’t know he was bi-polar and suffered immensely from his depression states. It was hard to swallow. I watched Jumanji that night, though I felt it was not a good tribute, since it was not a comedy, and yet he played it very well. Dead Poets Society movie was recommended to me by my high school teacher and I think it was his best, in a sense how it related to me. still-of-robin-williams-in-dead-poets-society-(1989)-large-picture I remember reading of Williams 2006 relapse in the paper and my AA sponsor and I discussing it. It sucks learning this person who as the media claim was so kind and attentive to others couldn’t save the positivity for himself. In his sixties he probably could’ve hoped to have his depression go away at last, but not only that didn’t happen, in addition he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. I guess he couldn’t stand the pain anymore. As an addict with depression issues and no stranger to suicidal thoughts, I feel like I lost a friend who I never really knew but nevertheless very much respected and felt for.

Mental health is such a fragile thing. We often had no idea what we’re dealing with and it seems that still the people we entrust with our health history don’t know how to help us. I didn’t know I was an alcoholic for a long time. I only started to learn of alcoholism leading to depression couple last years of drinking. I also thought I had ADHD, but then figured that I was not as miserable as others, and maybe there were other things I could look into to learn about my mental state. And when there are others going through this and I learn about them after they succumb to their death, not being able to make it any other way, it hurts.

Same day my friend of whom I wrote earlier and with whom I regained contact texted me saying he couldn’t come to the Big Book study that night for he dropped a heavy object on his foot at work that day and needs to recover. He came later that day to pick up some ice packs for recovery and that was the last time I saw him.

He is the one I worry about now, since it’s not wise worrying for the dead ones I feel I’ve lost this week. I can’t beat another person’s illness, be it cancer or flu. And I can’t cure a man’s depression or any other mental illness. But can I help someone else some other way? Every time I wouldn’t hear from this friend of mine for longer than 1.5 days, I knew he was drinking. He’d admit it every time after. So this time he was off my radar for 2.5 days and wouldn’t return my messages. Finally, on the third day around 2pm he texted me back explaining nothing, just saying he is going to go and sleep it off. Which threw me off guard: he must have been very busy all night AND all morning.

So I come to realization, yet again, that this is another situation in which I can do nothing. I can’t worry and care for this person. I can just hope and pray. No matter how much wisdom I try to teach him, conventional or not, it is up to him to absorb it and act upon it. I spent all of the Friday night and Saturday morning wondering and texting him, only to lose my own peace of mind and yet there is nothing I can do but let go. When I realize I have no power, the only right thing to do is ask for power, and to me that is to pray.

With that in mind, I think I better bring the remembrance of my powerlessness back into my morning and daily prayers, for I often forget about it. The things I accomplish often make me feel important and special and even though I am those things, I need to remember that besides the things I can change, there are also those that I can’t change or have control over. This friend of mine knows what is out there and that he needs to take action to change his life and that he is not doing it alone. All I can do is let him know he is welcomed to come, that I do have time for him, and that I do not judge. Everything else is beyond my reach. I better accept it and remember it well.

[front pictures were copied from 'ere and 'ere. thank you!]

Put Yourself on the List (Body and Mind)

August 9, 2014 Leave a comment

human-body-and-mindFriends of mine went to a party on the weekend. They had a good time, didn’t get out of their line drinking and didn’t cause any trouble. I was a bit envious that their place didn’t stink of alcohol after they slept it all out, and that even with their coming back home at 3:30am and only having five hours of sleep, they still weren’t having spitting headaches and their washroom didn’t reek of vomit. Yes I was envious, because all these things would happen to me when I drank. I’d usually drink at home, so walking around the city ‘til the middle of the night was out of the question. Yet still I would be only relatively safe, because I drank much more than a regular person and didn’t know how to stop.

These thoughts brought me directly in the middle of the sharing at the AA meeting that morning which was dedicated to Step Eight – “Made a list of all people we’ve harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.” © Alcoholics Anonymous. How is it related? Well, here’s how.

When I was 1.5 years in recovery, completing my Steps, my AA sponsor looked at The List and said: “There is one person missing from this list.” When I asked him how in the world he would know that, he said the person was me. “Don’t tell me your body didn’t get all possible kinds of beating after drinking for over ten years! You’ve got some amends to make to yourself.”

I never thought of that, but it made sense. I only paid attention to my body when I was done pouring jugs of alcohol into it and it was hurting, twitching, convulsing, covered with rashes and scars. I poisoned it and lacerated it, and it didn’t like any of it, so it screamed, but I rarely listened.

Human body is a wonderful thing. You have all the reasons to hate it and to love it. Why hate it? Because most of the people don’t like limitations. Why love it? Because it is beautiful and so complicated. Everything in our house of bones is interconnected. Is that a coincidence that each human body has 206 bones and that we have no more and no less than 600 to 850 muscles? Now, if we look at what’s happening when we drink, do drugs, smoke them, or inhale them, besides injuring heart and liver, we also destroy the cells. Brain cells are responsible for breathing, movement, swallowing, and for our nervous system. How can we recover fast if we destroy the apparatus responsible for our moving, thinking, and making decisions?

I remember I hated blacking out when I was drinking. It did happen on several occasions and a couple of times I was getting myself in stupid situations because of that. Now I know why I was blacking out. My body simply couldn’t take that insane amount of alcohol that I was pouring into myself. This booze could have killed me, poisoned me. So my body was shutting down on me and I’d black out, so I would take no more of the poison. Now I understand. My body always cares for me. It doesn’t let me lift the weight I shouldn’t lift. If I object to that and do what I think I should do, I pay the price days later, suffering of pain in the back, wondering what has happened. I can only lift what I can. Within weeks I’ll be lifting what I wanted before, but to get there I need to go slow. There is a different progression, for my body and for my sick mind. I always have to remember that and play along with it.

Also, I remember stepping on a nail once (actually I was real good with stepping on nails in my teenage years). It hurt of course, but I ignored it and kept running for the rest of the day. Next day I couldn’t get out of bed, because my foot has swollen. I couldn’t walk for the whole day. And when I tried I’d get tired faster, because my legs were working much harder to get my body transported from point A to point B. I needed more energy to get around.

When you’re sick with cold your body is fighting for you to get better. All the time. You get tired faster because your immune system needs energy, dealing with the infection. That’s why you’re always tired when you’ve got flu.
And in case of recovery from addiction, we do too much damage to the body here, too much damage to the brain there. It all takes too much to heal. We wonder why, but even with the same amount of bones in each of us, we have different ways of how our brain works at times, and it all happens differently, with every person.

My mind was going absolutely crazy, thanks to my destroying so many of the brain cells by drinking so much. Even now that I am sober for quite a while, I still have my mind often going 100 mph, thinking of all possible and impossible things: ideas, resentments, desires, cravings, joy, hate, love, surprise, and I don’t know what else. I have a hard time often putting them on hold, having patience, opening up with tolerance, taking a break. When I was drinking still, I had all of these ideas coming up as well, but most of them were painful and the only reason it was that way was because I made it happen. So besides all of these thoughts, and besides all possible sensations that cannot be controlled, my mind was also occupied by plenty of guilt.

So when I put myself on my Step Eight list I am not making a big deal of it by saying “Hey, man! I am a victim too! Hey, look into the depth of my pain and acknowledge that I don’t even know what I am doing so let go of all that judgment against me!” That is not the purpose. The reason I am doing this is to let go of the guilt, to forgive myself, to let go. Because I know very well that with me thinking this much all the time, the guilt will cut through me with wild persistence to drive me even more crazy that I am already.

If I tell myself that I’ve hurt myself, and did that enough and make an apology letter to myself, explain what is it that I did and perhaps why I did that, I’d let myself go off these resentments and guilt faster. If I forgive myself for what I did to myself, I’d be able to move forward with less pain and start working on making amends to others and to let go of all the crap I’ve made through the years. But if I don’t start with myself, how much peace of mind and serenity can I rely on for the near and further future?

[the front picture was taken from 'ere. thank you!]

Admitting It

August 1, 2014 Leave a comment

This one time we discussed Step Ten at my home group.

Step Ten stands for “Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.” (Alcoholics Anonymous, third edition, p. 59) The thing that stood out for me was that somehow admitting mistakes to me is just as vital, as being grateful, and I always had issues with expressing gratitude. There are at least two kinds of gratitude that I can pin-point.

Firstly, there is saying “thank you” to my Higher Power. Once I’ve seen there are lots of great things happening in my life through my recovery, I started to have much less issues with thanking the One over me. Weird it might seem, considering I never liked or respected authority, but it’s working quite well for me.

Secondly, there is saying “thank you” for something that is done just for you or done with you in mind, directly or indirectly, done for some time before you get it: a birthday gift, a mailed parcel, your roommate did all the dishes you thought of doing for the whole day, etc. Those are things that I felt I had to be thankful, or rather expected to be thankful for, and yet when I was younger I had issues with expressing gratitude almost as strong as with asking for an apology.

Thirdly, there is saying “thank you” to the people that might not care for doing anything for me, but it is their job to do it nevertheless. I am talking about bank clerks, salespeople, etc. For some reason it was really hard for me to even acknowledge these people as actual people for quite a while. I guess with my shifting from one mood to another, one social stand to another, drinking, being depressed, etc., with excuses, with no excuses, I didn’t care much for people I didn’t know. To me these folks were just a link in the chain that I needed to get through from point “wake up” to point “go to bed.” I’d stand in line waiting for my groceries to be processed and there will be someone in front of me and I’d be thinking “come on, move it already!” I’d be more interested in getting my stuff paid for and if the sales clerk said “thank you!” I mumbled something and screw off. I wouldn’t see the clerk as a person. I wouldn’t be thinking about why the clerk moved so slow. Maybe they got headache since morning, or whatever. I am not trying to say we all have to consider that, but I notice that if I do think about these things, and wonder if the person is doing OK or not (and if not, what it could be), I get more patient and tolerant.

First couple years of my recovery from alcoholism were OK in terms of actual recovery, but not everything was perfect in my social life and I had no real private life that I wanted. I guess I was a bit grumpy about that, so some days I’d walk paying little attention to what I am doing and what I am saying and how I do that. One day I was shopping and I just dismissed the valid clerk comment about something and as I started walking away I realized that even though I was not in the wrong, I was certainly in the grump, and there was no particular reason for that. So I started thinking about that. I figured that the job these people do is not something I could do. I remember walking for Subway for a short period of time and for a longer time in a bookstore and I was terrified of working the till, dealing with money. I also resented being on the front line, talking to people, be polite, and settle customers concerns, complaints, etc. So I told myself that if they are doing something I sure can’t do, I should give them a credit for doing so. After all these folks are dealing with hundreds of people every day, and they might deal with plenty of assholes like me, and they still do it. The only way I could give credit to them is by acknowledging their work, the way they are being helpful, and by saying “thank you.”

It was one of those things that work miraculously without you realizing it. I started expressing gratitude toward people who were there to help me, even though they could’ve hated my guts, and yet they served me fast and well. A simple thing, a “thank you!” that I gave them back started to change my life for the better almost immediately. And the funny thing is that when I felt I was treated wrong, when it was a poor service, it was too slow, the clerk was grumpy, etc., – if I said “thank you!” and “have a good day!” in the way that I meant it, it felt good. It felt like I didn’t have to jump over the counter and beat the crap out of them, even if they deserved it. I didn’t have to go and talk to their manager. By saying “thank you!” I’ve let it go. Most of my mental steam under pressure was gone and I could continue with my day without too much frustration saved up. It felt like it evaporated before concentrating.

What does expressing gratitude has to do with admitting fault? I guess, considering all of the above, saying “thank you” is not just being grateful for what another person did for me. It is not a ritualistic expression that might mean nothing at all, but it has to be expressed anyway, for it is expected. For me saying “thank you” these days is a way of overcoming my ego, pacifying my frustration, letting go of my impatience. It is similar to my saying “thank you” to my Higher Power for keeping me sober when I’d find myself passing by a liquor store and realizing I can’t help but look at it and wonder about how well it looks and what it’s got. So my being thankful is just like saying “I’ve got issues, I am trying to deal with them. I am trying not to unleash my righteousness if I think I am right. I am trying not to express my superiority when I know I am at the position of power. Thank you for doing what you’re doing, and if you are in the wrong, I’ll try to cope with that without freaking out or making you feel like crap.”

And, strangely enough (strangely again), saying “thank you” started to allow for more easiness in my saying “sorry.” I began finding forces and convincing myself to apologize and mean it where I thought there was nothing more embarrassing than that. And yet I’d take an effort, have a conversation and feel good after and often make another person feel good as well. Letting go off the feeling of self-importance is quite important for me. It is the best way is to say “thank you” to someone who’s doing something that I can’t do. I guess it might work as a delegation of power to another person, or at least admitting they are in the right or in service to me.

Message or Mess?

I was to a meeting the other day and I heard one of the old-timers speak. Among what she said was “what will a newcomer hear: a message or a mess?” I don’t remember now where she was going with that, but that one line was very wise and I kept thinking of it.

Each time a new person comes to the rooms of a Twelve Step meeting he/she is welcomed as the most important person in the room. Why?

1) Because this person seeks help. Otherwise would they come into the room full of strangers? So we should be helpful to them as someone was helpful to us. Pass on the good thing

2) Also because this person reminds us of ourselves, what we used to be like when we came in first. The things this person will say is a good note, giving us flashback of what drinking did to us. It is important thing to remember the past even if we are way better off now. This is what the newcomer brings.

So we should treat them well. And it doesn’t mean we have to hug them and lead them to the best seat in the room. We just have to welcome them and let them know they are in the right place. When I came to AA I had no idea where else I would go. I was reminded of it again at a meeting a month ago when we talked about the AA Traditions, that we should be self-supporting. At the times I was still very sick from alcoholism I needed a place to go to deal with my problem. But I had no money to go to a house rehab. I had a job and a place to keep. AA turned out to be the perfect place. These folks seemed to have it together. But will they be friendly? Will they try to shove their wisdom down my throat? All these questions made me wonder and each time I went to an AA meeting, the less doubt I had. I was shown that it was the right place and right people and I will be OK if I just come and listen and speak.

This is how a newcomer should be treated. Any new comer really, Twelve Step meeting or any other social gathering. There are folks who feel very comfortable in any situations. They are like fish in the water in any setting. Then there are those who aren’t. They are shy and they feel awkward. They are afraid to say a word out of fear they’d confuse something or make themselves look stupid. They are the kids that sit at the back of the classroom and rarely speak or raise their hands and when they are asked, they speak quietly and their voice tremble. I’ve been one of those kids. I would never be where I am at if didn’t try to change that, but I had to have someone’s friendly hand and a smile to make the step toward that change.

Another thing about welcoming newcomers is the verbal message. In the beginning of the meeting there is a part when the chair person asks someone to speak to the newcomer. It usually goes well. Yet sometimes crap happens. When we have the good stuff working for us, we want to share it all with others. And yet we can be so full of ourselves, and of knowledge of our importance and wisdom, that we can’t hold it all inside and start talking for hours in a loud voice. And guess what? People don’t like that very much. You might be giving the most important message, so positive in the hindsight, but it’s coming out as loud and too bright for the person who is not used to it. You are trying to say too many things at the same time so anyone not prepared to it (and even the veterans) would suffer and informational overload. Often you keep using AA jargon many people outside of the circle have no idea of. And often you wouldn’t know that because you are not looking at what you’re doing. It is natural to you.

Along with that, we should remember that our sharing should never be judgemental. And not just when we talk to the newcomers, because they are always there and they always listen. Every once in a while I’d hear people share about how they were treated negatively, especially women. They were given hell when they should’ve been cared for. Many men out there still don’t know how to do things right with women, so I won’t go there. Find and read a book from a professional counselor instead. But it is true that we often don’t know how to say the right things without pointing a finger at the person we’re addressing. There’ve been a couple times I’ve heard such talk and I felt like leaving the room. That’s me with a couple of sober years under my belt. Guess what the unprepared, fresh out-of-the-bottle newcomer would think?

They are us. They should be treated with patience and respect just like we would like that. Never forget that!


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