Thursday, October 8, 2009



My father had a lot of antisocial habits.  He was a dairy farmer, with lots of cows, a few hundred acres, six live-in hired hands, some less-than-sterile habits, and he was sightless.

I remember when he was measuring liquid into a container, whether five gallons of milk for a customer, or coffee in his own giant cup, he always stuck a finger or a thumb into the jar, cup, or can, so he could tell when it was filled.  In a restaurant, he'd stick his finger into his cup (or stein) to see if it had been refilled. If it was hot coffee, he'd say "OUCH" so loud that many would hear him.

These years were the early 1940's when he was beginning to experience serious  hearing loss. I was between age 8-12, and began to copy his behaviors, as if they were "normal".  So by the time I got to college, I discovered it was difficult to impress a date, when you stick your finger into her beer, and then lick it clean.  

Many years later I entered an AA meeting room.  I was like "born and raised" in a new way of life.  Before there was Inter-Group in Naples FL, before local treatment facilities, before the now-all-too-familiar 90 meetings in 90 days, before the shouting out of "What's the POINT?", "It Works if you WORK IT!", before a LOAD of nuevo practices, rules, and regulations became effective, I had been taught simply, that if I drink I die. That was basic. And I believed then and continue to believe that, with all my heart.

And so when we in Alcoholics Anonymous began arguing about whether a drug addict was allowed in our rooms, what we should do about a "Jesus" special messenger, and do we say--or not--the (non-AA) Lord's Prayer after a meeting, I was dumbfounded.  The first time I heard the meeting topic "My boyfriend moved out...what should I do?"  I was stunned. And the first time I heard a leader at a 9th Step meeting say, "But FIRST "my sponsor" told me to forgive myself (so I would 'feel good')", I thought WTF, this is NOT the way I was raised in AA. I felt at once so alone, rudderless.

AMENDMENT:  Shadow wrote the following good point-a question:

"...what is it about change that makes us so uncomfortable. what is it about another's way, that makes us want to pull back..."
Shadow...Isn't it FEAR (Pride?).  Fear of maybe you finding out my way is not the 'only' way. Fear of me finding out my "thinker" needs adjusting. Fear that in my experience, you will only "get it" if you do it the way I was raised.  Fear of me finding out "my way" is not the best (finger-in-the-beer)...I may add these couple lines of amendment to the blog. Thank you SO much.

I crusaded to "change things", all for naught. With "adult supervision" I decided to seek out meetings which adhered to the Principles and the Traditions, as they had been taught me.  Admit powerlessness, kneel and  surrender, trust a Higher Power, turn my life over to Him.  These acts culminated in my working the next eight steps, so in fact, that is how to really work step three.

The point here is that I am comfortable when things are going my way--the way I was early-on taught--and very uncomfortable when I see some of the changes happening right before our eyes, which--to me--are how we might one day be destroyed, from within.  

It is then when I realize that we are all--sober, drunk, or neither--in God's hands always, and forever. And with God leading the meetings, the membership will learn, and will stay sober, in spite of all efforts to bend the meanings of our meaningful steps, to suit every flavor of taste in every room of recovery.

Oooops, I just spilled some HERSHEY'S chocolate syrup on my thumb...(slurrp...slurrrp!)--all clean now!

May God's Loving and sober Peace be yours today, my cherished Peeps!


wolfie185 said...

Steve I really like what you wrote! I was raised in AA by the old schooler too. I understand we need to trust God to take care of AA but we also need to be vigilant. I don't believe in the putting myself on my amends list because I am a selfish nob and will spend all my time making amends to me and screw everybody else. All I can do though is share my experience strength and hope the way it was shared with me, for better or worse.

It is great to have older member like yourself still around carrying the message. We need you and it is a shame when the older members stop going to meetings filled with younger people because they don't like the direction the meetings are going, it is then that they are needed the most.

Thanks for sharing with us.
Peace for another 24

Madison said...

I hear this complaint and hope you'll write a post one day about the way you would like AA to be, the way it was. I read this general fear that AA might be destroyed from within a lot but don't think everyone knows exactly what you and others mean. I'm also not sure where a person like my mother would fit in - a person just as addicted to drugs as alcohol. You make great points. I hope one day to read Part II.

Shadow said...

what is it about change that makes us so uncomfortable. what is it about anothers way, that makes us want to pull back...

John DeFlumeri Jr said...

Steve, you are helping God, a lot. And also so many of his people. Thanks, and God Bless You!

John DeFlumeri jr.

Dulce said...

Steve dear,
You always make me laugh... sorry, and/but I guess you like it when/if we do.
I like your stories so much... now what's one's best way? Our own way...
I love the photo -YES!

Jess Mistress of Mischief said...

And even more powerful is sticking around praying in those meetings and realizing some of those people you thought had some horrific flaws stay sober beyond your perspective and ideas, or maybe because you were willing to be the one who carried what worked for you to someone else beyond what's comfortable for me or you. I watched one dude pick up a 24 year chip the other day ... I saw that he does have a relationship with a God that I know, it's not the same relationship as I have, but it's working for him. He has the same problem I do, he loves people who don't believe just what he does and he doesn't want to contemplate what will happen to them if they don't come around to just what he believes. I respect his position, I feel the same all the time.

I heard the end of an open talk yesterday from a man who, (from my perspective) seems quite restless, irritable and discontent most of the time while he's sitting in meetings. Even more irritated does he seem to grow as people talk about firm faith in God and more so when they speak about how they went back to the God/religion of their youth and amended the relationships there to form new relationships that work...

Yesterday at the end of his open talk he admitted openly and honestly that he's jealous, and he cannot seem to stop himself from being so, of those people he knows he gives them a hard time and he knows it's because he's jealous. They have a faith that he cannot fathom he cannot even begin to accept the existence of at this juncture in his life.

I like that dude, always have, weird...but I've always paid close attention to him, always sort of been attracted to focus on him. Somehow... he reminds me of someone....

Oh yeah, Me.

I pray for all the doors to unlock for him that will allow him to be comfortable in the world and find REAL Joy, lasting Joy! I really want that for him!!! I've seen him smile at times, it's a beautiful smile, I've heard his laugh, I wish for him more laughter and experiences with that than can be counted.

Ya know what's great about AA? I have voiced my ideas over and over, we have decided by group or Power of Majority that my ideas are not best for the group (whole world)and sometimes not even for me, and ya'll still let me play with you, serve with you and still hug me when I walk in the door.

Many say, hey work with those ideas as long as they work for ya, if they don't work... come talk to me about what's been workin' in my life.

How FABULOUS is that?

A program where they aren't responsible for making me right, nor am I responsible for making them right, but if they feel somehow that everything isn't right, we can work together on a solution that works.

That's alright!

I love you Steve!!! I really really Love you!!! I believe our friendship brings Joy and greater understanding!

Ed G. said...

Agreed generally - but, I'm still in a quandary about how to preserve and uphold AA for those of us not given to chanting or topics that may not be "appropriate".

We'll figure it out...

Blessings and aloha...

diane d said...

Great post, Steve!
Great comment, Jess!!

Ann said...

Awesome and insightful post - thanks for ALWAYS giving me something to think about!

Gin said...


Syd said...

Good post Steve. I have been to open AA meetings and knew intuitively that the chanting and the weird topics were just a bit "off". And I'm not in AA but know enough people who have been in for years who express concern about how the meetings go. So they cut themselves off from so many meetings because they don't view them as being "true" AA. So my question then is, how are the ones who need to know what true AA is going to learn if those who know true AA don't go to the meetings?

Prayer Girl said...

Thought from an Al-Anon meeting today:

Dear Prayer Girl,
I will not be needing your help today.

garden-variety drunk said...

hi steve,

i had many of the same feelings when i first moved here, like where is my "real" AA that i grew up with? eventually like all things, i needed to turn those meetings into G-d and try to bring the message of AA to the meetings instead of focusing on what I'm not getting out of them.

there are days when I have to remember this, even now