Sunday, October 11, 2009

It is more difficult to keyboard these days so I am sending part of a talk I gave to an open AA meeting. I am working on a health up date and hope to get it done in a couple of days. Happy reading.

The Successful AA Journey

Bob Zimmermann

July 29, 2009

I have come to believe that a successful AA journey takes us through three phases of thinking. The first phase is compliance. No one comes to AA because the day was so great and they were feeling on top of the world. One way or another, as it says in step one of the 12 and 12, we are driven to AA by one force or another: conscience, fear, the law, threats, curiosity.

If we comply by staying away from the first drink; if we go to a meeting rather than taking the first drink; if we take advice from a sponsor; if we follow the suggestions, we are in compliance. If we successfully comply with the principles of AA, we usually find that life is changing for the better. We do not have to lie anymore; a feeling of interpersonal honesty begins to come over us.

Our initial commitment (compliance) to attend AA meetings and engage in AA activities begins to take on a new meaning. We don’t go to meetings and do AA things because we are supposed to (compliance); we go to meetings because we enjoy the fellowship. We hear how others stay sober; we go for many different personal reasons. There is something about the AA meeting that appeals to us, changes us, comforts us. We feel good after a meeting. We are comfortable around AA talk and AA types. In other words we now identify with the AA program and AA way of life. We develop AA habits. Meetings are sought-out events as are social gatherings with AAs. Volunteer work and participation in the governance of AA takes on meaning--making coffee, cleaning up, going to outreach meetings. AA’s are my kind of people.

This middle stage Identification works as long as other AA’s and AA reminders are around. But what of those incidents when we are far from AA, when we may be the only AA in the midst of a typical alcohol culture: school reunion, out-of-town company party, a sporting event, first hunting trip since being sober (one won’t hurt, for old time’s sake). That is, identification alone will not protect us, our support group is not there.

How do we handle it alone, a long way (mentally and physically) from our AA support? We can handle it alone when we have internalized the AA way of life. It is where we have taken the principles and values of AA as part of our very soul. The maintenance steps (10, 11, 12) are part of our daily living. I like to think that we have moved into the life of the sober culture. You feel blessed to be free to say “no thank you” under any circumstances. There is no conflict; the mechanisms for maintaining sobriety are there. As years go by, you might drift from meetings and traditional AA activities, but the soul of sobriety stays with you. The values of sobriety are as natural as the principles of the good life: do unto others, charity, honesty, fairness, these ideas are a natural part of your very existence. You don’t have to think sober, you are sober.

How it worked

If someone were to ask me “What was the secret to your lasting and joyful sobriety? “I believe I would have to list the following;”

1. Commitment to a meaningful AA meeting schedule. Go to meetings that meet your needs and help you grow.

2. Stick with or model yourself after the winners. Get rid of your losers.

3. Share honestly with a trusted sponsor.

4. Be involved with your home (or multiple home) group.

5. Outreach--attend institutional, jail or other group meetings, help alateens, volunteer at the central office. Be prepared to make 12-step calls. Travel out of town to other AA meetings.

6. Attend meetings when you travel. We found a Friend of Bill meeting while we were on an Alaskan Cruise Ship.

7. Most important, find yourself a sober culture. There are many social organizations and groups that do not put getting drunk as a priority to having a good time. All boaters do not need to load up on alcohol in order to enjoy their boats. It is the same way with campers, hunters, dancers. You may not be threatened by the presence of booze but who wants to be around a bunch of drunks. Put it the other way, how many drunks want to have a sober person hanging around (unless he/she is the designated driver).

My final first step

My quest for a serene sober life is just about over. I celebrated my forty third anniversary on November 2008. I am at peace with the world of sobriety. What would a drink do for me? The serenity of my sober life is too precious. I want to leave this earth a sober person.

But my serenity of life has recently been shaken. I am now back at the first step, not about alcohol, but about life. I am in dire need of developing acceptance that I am powerless over life itself. I have been diagnosed with stage 3 esophageal cancer and the operation that could have removed the cancerous tumor cannot be performed because of the size and extent of the cancer in my stomach.

In other words I am dying of this cancer. I have joined a palliative Hospice program and will let mother nature take its course. I am tube fed at night so I don’t have to force food down an angry stomach. At present I am self sufficient enough to stay at home. However, I am dependent on the love of my life and my full-time caregiver (Marian) to feed me, change my bandages, and help me get dressed. Her love is a daily reward.

I am truly in the position that I must live one day at a time and cherish the experience of each day. To help me with this task I have reworded the first three steps so they apply to “Living in the light of dying.”

1. I admit that I am powerless over the course of life itself.

2. I believe I must look beyond my personal resources for help in order to restore manageability to my shortened life.

3. By turning my life over to the power of natural consequences I will find the serenity in dying that I have found in my sober life.

With these steps and the serenity prayer I hope to leave this world a sober, happy and serene man.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Hi out there.

Some folks (my daughter in particular)have wondered about my progress so I have tried to summarise our situation to date.

My decline in stamina has been gradual, if you think of weeks as gradual. I do not wake up one morning incapable of doing things. The tumor is growing in size so I cannot bend over to put on my shoes and socks. In fact it has become so large that I am no longer symmetrical. My right side bulges out a couple of inches more than my left.

I find I am good for about a 90 minute activity (visit, meeting, etc.) before I begin to feel that chronic fatigue syndrome. On occasions I can push a bit and hang in if folks are here, but most recognise my limits. We go to the church forum, but I cannot last the next hour of church. I feel best in the morning, so I am typing now. Keyboarding is strenuous since I make so many mistakes.

I keep busy every day and do have moments of serenity. The problem is the little irritations and minor pains are not conducive to the relaxation that comes with the feelings of serenity.

I still get up each morning, wash, dress and get ready for the day. But it takes a little more time then it used to and I have to rest a while when I am finished.

We are doing better at managing the pain associated with the feeding tube. Our new nurse, Stacy, has come up with some ideas to alleviate the burning pain that has developed in the area where the tube enters the stomach. Stacy is turning out to be a first rate nurse and has made our dealings with hospice (supplies etc.) much more reliable.

I think I have a few months before I have to move into Hospice housing and we will give you plenty of notice. We talked about that with the social worker last week so we are all up to snuff on those plans. Margaret, the hospice chaplain keeps me working on my celebration plans. Bob Christopher is finishing up a DVD with pictures and music, Stephanie is getting my professional stuff in order, publications, Vita etc. for display and I am making up a short music list that will be independent of the DVD. I plan on starting off with Sentimental Journey by Les Brown and Doris day, followed by Take the A train by Duke Ellington and I am working from there. Maybe Sinatra doing My Way. I am open to suggestions.

I try to live each day to the fullest of what is available. Some days are better then others.

All in all I am going well. We have an apple tutor coming in once a week to help us with our computer issues, a group of four folks from the church (UU) are meeting with us on Thursdays at 1:00-2:30, and I get to a Saturday morning AA meeting. I have been working on my AA story, it is going slow, but I have polished up the summary.

I am beginning to wear out, better send this now