the big meeting in the sky.

the big meeting in the sky just got another newcomer.

harry will be now making the coffee and greet all who enter.

i was 20 years old, and moving back home from college.  i had 2 months of sobriety, and honestly, i’m not sure my parents knew what to do with me.  my dad said that he knew a man.  harry m., who worked with him.  that he was sober.  and that he could take me to meetings.

he, 54…and me…20 years old.  we were quite a pair.  cigarette hanging out of the corner of his mouth.  an infectious smile and laugh.  everywhere we went he introduced me to the women.  he showed me the program in the south, and i understood from him that it was my job to just keep going.  we never talked about my inventory; he never was disrespectful.  he showed up, brought me to you, left me alone and drove me home after coffee.  he explained what our big book said, that we are engaged upon a life-and-death errand, every single day.  that we are to be there for the newcomer, that it will ensure our sobriety more than anything else.

this weekend, at the pow wow in palm springs, he suddenly crossed my mind.  briefly.  and i wondered what that was about, since i hadn’t thought of him in 30 years.  this morning, i got an email that was forwarded by my dad to me.  that harry had gone to the big meeting in the sky.  that harry lived a full and joyous life for 87 years.  he was the epitome of living a happy and useful life as a result of staying sober in our beautiful program.

it’s weird.  i know about alcoholic deaths.  they are gruesome.  the girl who drank herself out in the field and froze to death.  the countless people who’ve had unremarkable deaths.  they got drunk, and they simply died.  the ones who ended up in being murdered, after thinking they again could drink in safety.  these are the funerals with the most weeping.  once i gave a eulogy of a girl who i had sponsored.  she decided that she could dance with the devil too.  the last time i saw her, we were doing her fifth step; the next time she was in a casket.

these deaths.  they break our hearts, and we all rush out to meetings to ensure one. more. day.

but the people who die after living a long beautiful life.  they are my inspiration.  i spent the weekend with some great friends.  one who was 40 years sober, and in the meeting i felt ray.  our ray.  ray h, who she and i loved more than words could say.  his cigarette, his flip flops.  the first time i went to an aa potluck at his house.  and i turned to her with a shiver and said, carol.  ray is here.  between us.

this got me thinking…of all of them.  and i thought of ken r., who helped me build the fresno fellowship tables…or maybe i helped him, who loved me as a daughter.   of gwen and dee.  and jini mac.  these people who lived a life of quiet dignity.  and taught me everything i know about how to stay sober.  of sitting at annette’s table writing letters to new york.

i like to think that the reason i felt ray in the meeting on friday, was that he was getting harry’s chair ready for him.  i am still that little girl, with the fairy tale ending, and in my mind, i envision laughter and back slapping and welcoming.

i was blessed to know him.  he will keep the chairs full, and the coffee brewing.  everyone will have a big book, and he will reach his hand out to all who follow him there.

welcome, harry…you are in good company, and thank you for everything.

love, linda

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cupcake sobriety.

Most people who read this blog know that I am sober, and have been since 1979.  Long standing readers know that most April posts are about my sobriety.  I got sober as a 20 year old, and have been that way for 33 years.  I’m not outing myself here, it’s simply a fact.

Alcoholic deaths are ugly.  I’ve witnessed too many to count.   I got to thinking today, after spending time with some friends after a meeting.   I love going to meetings, and to sober events.  It’s not like in 1979, when there was still a stigma about being in the program.  Now, everyone knows what #xa means on Twitter, and the 12 Steps have seeped into every aspect of our culture.

But.  Somehow we have given the notion to newcomers that activity is what will keep you sober.  Going to meetings, to coffee, to sober barbecues, blah blah blah.  That activity alone will keep your alcoholism at bay.

And it makes me think of this cupcake.  The foundation of the cupcake…the flour, eggs, etc.  That is the steps and God of our program.   If you were to have only the bottom of the cupcake, it might seem bland, but it would fill you up.  So, you add the frosting because that is the good stuff.  The meetings, the friendships, the sober dances and weekends.

Frosting alone only lasts so long, and doesn’t sustain me.  In fact, too much frosting without any cupcake sorta makes me sick.  That’s why I can’t stomach more meetings as a solution to my disease.  It simply does not make sense.  In fact, I can get sicker by going to meetings only, and not doing anything else.   And I know that after 33 years, I still need and work the steps, and I work them diligently.

The cupcake.  Delicious, all of it.  But.  If you’re only eating the frosting, at some point, it won’t be enough.

In Which I Give Up Twitter…

Twitter.  I loved you. 

You introduced me to TNT, and training for my first marathon.  I shifted from blogging and commenting to interacting in more efficient ways.  Arnold Schwarzenegger’s office responded to my tweet about losing my job in 2009, and they helped me navigate the system.  When Michael Jackson died, it was Twitter who gave me the news first. 

I had long, lonely days and nights where I could non-stop tweet about anything I want.  And, you loved me.  You embraced my non-sensical noise and let me ramble on about running, about parenting, about ex husbands and such.  During Dodger games, I tweeted from the MLB app, exhibiting getting deeper and deeper into the social Twitter web. 

You weren’t like chat rooms, or blogging, or message boards.  Oh, I had done them all.  Quantum Link, Weight Watchers message boards, Smart People (or something like that…).  I had long, lengthy opinions about everything, until you came along.

You, with your 140 character limit.  Until I found the Holy Grail of Bit.ly, Tinyurl, etc.  Until I found a way around your silly limit.  Like most things in my life, I found and broke the rule, and lived outside of even your box. 

I entered contests.  I retweeted with a vengeance.  I met runners galore.  I even met my coach on Twitter.  Some of my best friends are there…Yet, I abused you Twitter.  I had too much fun.  It was like going into a pub after a long, hot, hard day, and pounding the bar at 2am wondering how I had stayed so long. 

I likened Twitter to a coffee shop.  A big hall of table after table, where I could stop and enter a conversation with ease.  I often had direct messages with people I should not have been talking to.  If Twitter was a coffee shop, we were in our own room, and if you are somebody else’s mate, then I am out of bounds.  Toward the end of my Twitter run, I started noticing that I was adding more and more people, but interacting less and less. 

Twitter, you were the good friend who introduced me to other good friends.  I bashed Facebook in favor of you, and I defended you to the end.  I reluctantly joined Facebook because I started dating my out of town Harley Guy.  He was a Facebooker, and we stayed connected through that medium.  He also joined Twitter, and we professed our love for each other on both sites.  I started adding Twitteratti to my Facebook page.  Yet, I could not have both worlds.  I had to choose.

Most readers of this site know that I can be addicted to anything that God made more than one of.  You’ve seen me in my sobriety,  to giving up Diet Coke, trying to give up things that I abuse.  And, because I’m in a relationship with a sober man, my Twitter behavior simply had to change.  But not just for him.  For me.  For my sobriety.  I gave up Twitter to get closer to my God.  To who I really am.

No longer was it appropriate for me to DM (direct message) a man.  Men friends who had previously talked privately with me, were getting that message loud and clear:  I don’t DM with married men any longer.  No longer was it appropriate to flirt in the public timeline, or much worse, be suggestive.  One day a wife came on to the public timeline, and answered a tweet I sent to her husband, as if to say, “Okay.  That’s enough now.”  I heard it loud and clear, and started paying attention to my so-called persona. 

Don’t get me wrong Twitter.  I’m not judging your format, or other people who Tweet.  Everyone has their own set of rules.  But, because I’m looking for sobriety throughout my life, I simply had to let go.  I called a friend from New York as soon as I saw the addiction.  I went through my 900+ followers, and lo and behold, the 40 or so that I knew personally were on Facebook.  My New York gal pal stayed with me on the phone while I deactiveated my account.  Forever. 

It’s been 10 days.  It didn’t hurt in the beginning.  It doesn’t hurt now.  If you are looking for me, I’m on Facebook, posting 4x a day at most.  I’m liking and poking to death, so yeah…I’ll have to eventually look at that too, but I have a new set of standards as a woman in a relationship, in love with a man who I want to honor.

John Mayer did it.  Even Miley Cyrus gave up Twitter.  I guess it was also time for @MsV1959 to hang up her hat.

32 Gifts of Sobriety

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32 pictures of gratitude.

for my sobriety.

coffee and the dodgers and lisa and laura

mom and dad and

bill

my heart

highway 99 in the summer

and photos before marathons

hopes and wishes

sometimes met

mentors

and my girls debbie, ali, row, mac

running

always running

and friends who send me books

and bad dogs and computers.

my boys

lukas and willem

for teaching me how to show up

but most of all…gratitude to bill w.

who one day had to give it away.

to keep it.

thank you for my life.

32 Years Ago Tonight

32 years ago tonight, I had my last drunk.  My last big drunk.  I had been drinking straight for a week, and my medicine wasn’t working, for the first time.  And, I couldn’t get sober.  It had been a week of drinking Gallo Red Wine, sometimes with 7-up, (pre-Wine Cooler).  I was a lying, theiving, cheating, disgusting girl.  I was 20 years old. 

I remember vaguely someone bringing me upstairs to the sorority house I lived in at Fresno State.  I remember lying there thinking I was going to die, or that I wanted to die.  Suddenly, that thought that all alcoholics get:  the moment of clarity.  “You are an alcoholic.”  That thought, as I know today, came from God.  I started bargaining, and pleading.  “I will be anything but that.” 

The next day, two friends brought me upstairs after my professor had kicked me out of school, one more time.  He said, “Your skin is gray, you need to go home.”  One friend said “Stay with us, we’ll help you not drink.”  The other friend was halfway down the hall, calling Alcoholics Anonymous.

*disclaimer here:  I do not speak for AA.*

My very first meeting was tomorrow, March 27, 1979.  I ended up drinking a *sip* of amaretto on the way to a meeting when I had 9 days sober, and I had to change my sobriety date.  April 6th, I will have 32 years of continuous sobriety.

I’ve given birth to two beautiful boys, and lost 3 other babies in early pregnancy.  I earned my advanced degrees and licenses.  I’ve worked with dozens of classrooms of children.  I’ve worked with the Red Cross & Cub Scouts.  I have been given the gift of service.  I am finally and happily in love with a sober man of great integrity.

In 32 years, I have loved deeper than I ever imagined. 

I have lost some loved ones along the way:  the ones who drank and died, the ones I buried, the ones who went away, and the ones I simply lost track of.  I’m still looking for Joanne J., if you’ve seen her.  She was my best friend in my first year of sobriety, and I love and miss her still.  I pray she is sober and alive somewhere. 

Tonight I remember all the women and men who helped me on my way, who made time when there was no time…to talk with me at 2 in the morning, to cry with me, and to comfort me.  People who helped me do the 12 steps, and suffered my incessant whining.

32 years ago tonight, I got a new lease on life.  I went to bed a drunk, and the next day woke up as a member of AA. 

God only knows what’s in store for me next.  I trust it will be the perfect plan.  I do.  I have 9 more days until my actual sobriety birthday, but tonight is the night that I remember.

Sobriety is Everything

I don’t often blog about my sobriety.  It’s not that it’s personal, it’s just that I have very little left of the action part of sobriety to blog about it.  Those in recovery will understand this. 

However, last weekend, my Grandsponsor, C. came to speak in a small town closeby.  Oakdale is 30 miles to the east of my town, and my town has 15000 in it, and is super small.  So, for months we knew he was coming, and my girls and I were pretty excited about it.  My sponsor had given me direction as to getting his hotel room ready, picking him up…

Three of us picked him up at the airport, and I was so excited I could hardly stand it.  Here was a man I intently listened to at the First Yosemite Conference in 1984, who’s tape I played no less than 100 times, who gave the best talk on alcoholism I’ve ever heard.  I remember sitting at that conference with Sheryl.  I can hear her laugh on that tape, and she like so many others, has gone out and drank, and I never saw her again.  Like Rita, who was in my wedding, and the last time I was with her was at her funeral, talking to her kids about how much she loved them.  Because they had a good idea, and it ended up with a drink.

We got him in the car, delivered him to the Oakdale Group, but they were busy.  So we got to be with him all day. The stories he told, the love and I respect I had, the time talking about important AA topics like anonymity, self centeredness, group politics…everything.  I soaked it all up, moment by moment.  It’s really hard to even write about it, because it was so personal to me.  I love my sponsor so much; her direction has saved my life, when I was ready to drink at 25 years of sobriety.  6 years later, I’m having the best time.  I’ve lost everything, but gained everything.  She taught me to have a relationship with her, to be honest…true.  She gave me what C. gave her.

So, I’m sitting out in the freezing wind last Saturday night, listening to him talk.  It was the 75th anniversary of a huge moment in AA history, where Bill W. was at the hotel:  Cocktail sign on one side, and the phone booth and church directory on the other.  And, Bill made the phone calls that finally resulted in meeting Dr. Bob, and the birth of Alcoholics Anonymous.  C. speaks as though you are there.  We were outside on a lawn at a school.  But, you could have heard a pin drop.  I listened to him tell the same stories I’ve heard for 31 years.  About how alcoholics have to understand they have a problem with drinking.  And with sobriety.  That’s why we have a first step.  My life is unmanageable, with or without drinking.

And when it was over, I knew I touched just a bit of AA history.  I don’t even really know how to explain or write about it.  I have a small group, 3 meetings in my town.  My sponsor and grandsponsor’s home group has 1000 people in it, every Wednesday night in Los Angeles.   And yet, it all starts the same way.  With one drunk, talking to another.

It will make no sense.  But.  I am sober, and I get to pass it on.  Every day.

Marathon Sobriety

I’ve been sober 30 years.  I’m active in AA.  I have been running since 2007. 

Just like in AA, I have many people that are my friends that help me on this journey.  I have a few people that I talk with daily, hourly, just to shake out my thoughts.  But, just like in AA, I have one sponsor…and on this running journey, I have one coach…They are eerily similar.

So, here are the 12 steps of Marathon Training.

1.I admitted I was powerless over training on my own, that my life had become unmanageable.  After reading countless magazines, websites & books, self help manuals, etc., I realize that my training was all over the place.  On my own, I give up easily.  On my own, I eat a donut and go back to bed.  I was an unmanageable runner. 

2. Came to believe that a Power greater than myself could restore me to sanity.  At some point I realized I needed help.  I looked around for that quality that I really want in a coach.  Someone who can give me direction, and not buy into my manipulation.  My coach sent me all kinds of stuff the week of the Nike Marathon.  On his own.  For nothing.  When I decided I was going after a goal, he was the first guy I called. 

3. Made a decision to turn my training over to the care of my coach and other runners.  He has taught me how to give up Diet Coke, how to run 14 miles without walking, how to stay focused in this week’s training, not the Marathon.  He helped me get long range goals, like Boston, under control.  I decided to turn it over.  I have decided that there are a few running gurus that I will listen to, no matter what.  I found most of them on Twitter, but also continue to read older bloggers that I find helpful.

4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of our previous running tactics.  Like, okay, I use salt tabs, Gu, Gel, I use fields as restrooms sometimes, I hate podcasts (but am warming), I like feeling superior to drivers, I don’t always eat right.  I judge people who talk during races.  I feel envy when someone passes me.   I like to flip off drivers who barely miss me by inches.

5. Admitted to my coach, to myself, and to my running partner the exact nature of my wrongs  I tell the truth.  I tell my running partner everything that goes on in my head.  I have also accepted that I am in the 50 year age group…that I will not feel like a 20 year old, but with proper training, I can age gracefully…and can have a PR at the same time.  I tell my coach all of my physical limitations.  I tell him when I’ve had bad news at the doctor.  My running partner gets all the therapy out of me before and after our runs.

6. Were entirely ready to have these running habits removed. No stopping, ever (well, unless nature or old age calls), no Diet Coke.  I was ready, but didn’t wanna, so I had to get ready.  Became willing.  Became willing to not drink at every water station, to run my own race, to trust my body.  I listen. 

7. Humbly asked for help.  My coach answered every question, even when I was going batshit crazy giving up Diet Coke, when I cried when running by my ex husband’s house and he told me to suck it up, when I started opening my mind to the fact that I stay focused on today’s training, not the finish line.  I used Glenn to help me on IM, when I was having a particularly bad night…He helped me focus my dreams.  I have Shannon to talk me off the ledge.  I have Mike to give me direction nutritionally.

8. Made a list of all bad running habits, and was willing to let them go.  I eat because I run.  I love to run, so I can eat.  But, the worst habit of all is that I manipulate my food based on how far I’ve run.  Like, I’ll get a burger if I think I burned those calories.  Not a great strategy.   Working on it.

9. Made direct promises that I would run every run, not question my coach, give up bad foods, etc. This is a work in progress.  Progress, not perfection.

10. Continued to take personal inventory and when I blew it, promptly admitted it. Finally had to admit that sometimes I have bathroom issues.  Gotta go.  Sorry.  I have missed very few runs, but when I do, I promptly text him and tell him why.

11. Sought to improve my contact with my coach, stay honest, log into Buckeye, which I find inane.  Get out of my head.  Take direction.  Be a part of a team, which is NOT in my nature.  I am trying to stop being so damned special. 

12. I try to carry this message to other runners and to practice these principles in all my affairs.  I share what I’ve learned with other people on Twitter, on blogs, with my running partner.  We help each other to complete the runs.  When she is ill, I ask her, “Do you want to stop?” Her answer is: “We can’t stop, we don’t have a choice.”  I am a better runner when I am giving it away to others.  High fiving, saying thank you to volunteers, being a good ambassador of the running community.

One day at a time.  When I was first sober, my sponsor used to say, “You don’t have to stay sober for the rest of your life, just for today.  Which is exactly what my coach reminds me.  The finish line is a long way off, and we don’t talk about that week until it gets here…which is sort of a lie…but it works.  It works in every mile I put in.  When I think, “I’m almost there…”, I remember that my feet, after all, have to continue to move in this moment.

Just like sobriety.  Today is the day that I don’t drink.  Right now.

*Disclaimer: I don’t speak for AA, and here are the 12 Steps from the General Service Office of Alcoholics Anonymous