Why I Won’t Be There

November 12, 2009

Please Excuse Me

Please Excuse Me (click to enlarge)

Greetings, fellow trudgers on “the road of happy destiny”…

Sometimes getting to twelve-step meetings is a real hassle for me. Then, just because I might miss a time or two, it starts—you know, the phone calls. Obnoxious pushy people calling to ask probing personal questions like “How are you?”

I finally figured out what I need: a multiple-choice Meeting Excusal Form. For your convenience, I’ve attached a downloadable version of this handy form* I created. It’s for those special circumstances when life just won’t wait. Like every day. Now, next time you or anyone you know just “doesn’t feel like it,” remember: why go to a meeting when you can just fill out the form, fax it in, and get back to what really matters!

Happy Trails!

* PS  Click on the link below to download a PDF of this handy Meeting Excusal Form!

Please Excuse Me

The Tools

November 5, 2009

Using The Tools

Using The Tools

Greetings, fellow trudgers on “the road of happy destiny”…

What do you do when you’re working hard using the tools of recovery—and stuff isn’t getting better? What if it’s getting worse? Do you ever “Let Go and Let God”—only to get “Whacked Upside Thine Head“?

Like many a curious soul exploring “The Secret,” and the whole Power of Positivity craze, I’ve been simply bursting forth with notions of Abundance, Prosperity, and damn good Ju-Ju in general. Obviously, I’m not doing as instructed: the universe has been responding with locusts. I love Pima Chodron, but what do I do if I “Start Where I Am,”—and it Sucks Dead Bears? I’ve tried “Being In the Now,” but what does Eckhardt Tolle want me to do when “The Now” bites the Big One? What if I’m “turning it over” and finding dog poop underneath? What is up with that?!?

Family and friends in medical crises, everyone around me in financial free-fall, clients acting like mental patients, serenity-busting nonsense at spiritual gatherings…  there are some mighty unhappy-looking shoppers passing me in the aisles these days. My stomach sounds like I ate a live mole rat for lunch. Did the universe figure out I was faking it? Did the power that created the cosmos decide that a bucketload of bat guano on my head would be good medicine?

I’ve been using The Tools of recovery, diligently working the Twelve Steps.* Okay, maybe in my own unique way, but I think it’s a good approach! For instance, I like to start with the Twelfth Step, and work my way back to the First. What’s that you say? “Hey—you sound so serene, I’m interested!” I’ll just bet!

So, here’s how I’ve been doing it:

12. I start with Step Twelve—bringing the message to others. All others. I reach out to them, whether they have the good sense to ask or not. I give advice I haven’t got time to heed, but it’s always good. Feel free to ask.

11. After that, I turn to Step Eleven—meditation and prayer. I use these to improve my conscious contact with myself. I can almost read my own thoughts!

10. Once that’s done, it’s on to Step Ten, continuing to take inventory. I go over events and replay them until I find I am not at fault. I diligently take personal inventory of others until I can clearly see where they went wrong.

9. Then it’s time for Step Nine, the amends. I’m not proud – I’ll ask for an amends from anyone who has done me wrong. Once in awhile, I’ll apologize to folks in spite of not knowing what it is they dream I may have done to them. Once I’m finished with those amends, I’ll make a list and go to step 8.

8. Maybe in my list, I realize I missed a few. Quite a few, as it turns out. Okay. Well, later for them. I will get to it, but today I am booked solid.

7. Next, I like to get to Steps Seven and Six, you know, asking to have my annoying quirks lessened. This is where I work hard at becoming a completely humble person—and I succeed. Plus I’m going to act better, much better, according to me. I apply my own rigorous standards to whatever it is I think I should be acting like. I’ll even ask “How am I doing?”

6. Then I become “entirely ready”—to see how my plan is going.

5. After that, I like to sit down with someone in the program, or maybe a bunch of people in a meeting or something, preferably people who don’t know me well, and share “the exact nature”—well, at least the approximate nature—of my wrongs. And how I feel about it. I don’t bother writing it all down. I’ll remember it later, and if not I can always explain it better in a meeting, preferably one where they don’t time shares.

4. Once that’s done, I’ll do that “fearless and thorough moral inventory” by jotting down a few “defects” (or “quirks” as I call them) I might have missed for future reference. I usually file those under “Things To Do”. My Step 4 is now complete.

3. Moving right along, I’ll “make a decision to turn my will and my life over”—by asking a Higher Power to pitch in. This requires my saying “Hey! How about a little help here?!??” This shows I am willing. I’m not proud! I’m willing to let God chip in when asked.

2. If my polite requests for help go unanswered, I realize I might need a change. I might be asking the wrong Higher Power. That’s when I come to believe. I believe I better redefine my Higher Power. I can start with a new theological philosophy. I’ll use the same approach, different God.

1. Once these steps are complete, I can address that pesky business about life being unmanageable, and that I’m powerless to change it by myself. This is one step that gives me fits! I don’t understand it… I’m working the other eleven so HARD. But I know if I do them again HARDER they’ll work. I read it in The Promises.

So—if you’re feeling the same way, try my approach—practice using just the Tools of the Program by working the Twelve Steps in any order you want! And be sure to let me know how it goes.

Happy trails!

* PS For a complete listing of The Twelve Steps, in the correct order, the entire AA Big Book is online — just Google it.

Let Me Out of My Way

November 1, 2009

Let Me Out of My Way

Let Me Out of My Way

Greetings, fellow trudgers “on the road of happy destiny”…

Today, a war story. Some years ago, friends and I crashed a fraternity party at a local university. As the evening’s “designated driver” (back then we called it “the short straw”) it was my job at the close of festivities to herd the primates safely back to The Zoo (our school, a humble institution that couldn’t afford luxuries like frat houses, classes—or grades).

At the head count, I couldn’t find Michael. The last anyone had seen of him, he had mumbled something about being “too hammered,” and wandered off, presumably to catch a quick “Barf ‘N Nap.”

After a brief safari, I found him in the frat house basement. The room was decorated in the style I refer to as “early psychedelic dungeon”—Hendrix and Dead posters, black lights, colored bulbs (the reprise of disco balls being a ways off still), pounding music—and Michael. He was passed out cold in a nastily frayed and stained Queen Anne chair. I yelled over the music, “Michael, we have to go!” but he didn’t budge. I yelled louder and shook his shoulder, still no response. So, I screamed “MICHAEL!!” and whacked him upside the head, us being close and all.

That time I think he heard me. His eyes exploded open, he lunged up and grabbed me by the shirt, flailing his arms around and dragging me with him. I tried to steady us before we went down in a looming puddle of beer, and he turned to me in a fit and shouted…


Years have passed, but not much time goes by one of us doesn’t remind Michael of that now-famous line. Lately that idea keeps coming up for me: indeed, please do—let me out of my way.

Whether I use words like “compulsive self-reliance,” “Let Go and Let God,” “Turn it over,” or the hundred other euphemisms I’ve heard for the Third Step in the Twelve Steps of Recovery (“3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him.”), the message remains the same: left to my very own best thinking, I ended up needing help in more rooms of recovery than I can count on one hand. And I have seven fingers on one hand. Do the math.

Sometimes I’m blessed to get useful reminders—both gentle and not—of some basic facts:

1. I am not the architect of the arc of my life

2. I am not the “director” of this particular production [for more on this see the AA Big Book, “How It Works,” pp 60-62]

3. I am not in charge of you, him, them, it—or anyone or anything else

It is then that I remember that I’m not powerless. I always have the power to resist changing. I have the power to deny that I need help from  you, from recovery, from a Higher Power. I have the power to forget to pray and meditate, to rationalize missing recovery meetings or reading literature. I have the power to indefinitely postpone working on a step. I have the power to refuse to grow up. I have the power to avoid the “hundred pound phone” and isolate when I most need to reach out for help. I am powerful indeed.

I’m blessed to be reminded of these things on a daily basis (sometimes via the “tiny miracle,” but more often via the “total screwup”). I begin to open the door to let powers greater than myself in. From there, I’m more able to receive and accept the direction, strength and hope that leads me to peace of mind, blessed connectedness to you, and great joy in being able to fully experience all of it—the ups and the downs—wherever I am in this most amazing process of change.

In every case, it’s about me getting out of my own way…

Happy trails!