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29 02, 2024

ALCOHOL – THE GREAT ERASER

By:  Christine R.

Alcohol is a great eraser.  Put alcohol on a clothing stain and “Voila!”  The stain is erased.  Vanished. Gone.  In fact, alcohol erases just about everything for us alcoholics.  It removes: your job, your driver’s license, your car, your marriage license, your home, your family, your children, your friends, and eventually, your life.  Works wonders, eh?

This morning, a newcomer shared the reality of alcohol, the great eraser.  He’d lost his home, wife, kids.  He’d lost himself.  He could not account for the time lost.  Alone in a far-away hotel, a friend finally found him and took him to rehab.  Once out, the newcomer had the craving to contend with.  30 days is barely the DNA of the head of a pin of sobriety.  Yet somehow there’s the sense now the drink problem is solved. “We are unable to bring with sufficient force the memory of the suffering and humiliation,” the anguish of even a few days previous. BB p 24.

My first 30 days – everything went swimmingly.  New car. New home. New boyfriend.  New job.  Elated and to celebrate, out came the bottles of wine.  Without spiritual tools in my toolbelt, I drank.  Over-elation leads to inebriation. The next day my sponsor advised me I had to “start all over again as a newcomer.”  Outraged that I was not told the “Rules of the Program,” I started over again.  This time angry, hostile, and resentful. And, of course, I drank. 

This second round was like a flaming oil rig.  No way to douse the flames of craving for yet another drink and another and another.  The flames of alcohol consumed my new home, my job, my lover and nearly my life.  The only thing to save me was my home group, The Cabin.  The one thing I’d done right was to have a commitment and steady attendance there.  When I went missing, a member woman came to fetch me.  She brought me back and I’ve been coming to that same meeting ever since.  

Came, came to, came to believe.  First we have to come.  Get to a meeting. Know when and where the next meeting is.  The home group saved me.  Having at least one place where I could tell the truth and listen to the answers from others saved me.    

Where is your next meeting?  Here’s one hour to put our lives on hold and have the privilege of listening to someone else for a while instead of the constant clamoring for another drink. Always cast for the next lily pad of sanity. As a morning, noon, and night drinker, I went to meetings morning, noon, and night.  90 meetings in 90 days turned into 2,000 meetings.  Sometimes, it’s not one day at a time.  For some, it’s one minute at a time. 

As I came – I began to “came to.”  Sobriety began to sink in a little at a time.  That muzzy-headed feeling lifted.  I began to realize birds sing, not shout.  Fears subsided.  As I came to, I came to believe.  

I came to believe there was a Power to restore me to sanity.  The Power was my home group and the membership.  Looking about me, I could see people getting well and restored to sanity, to home, to family, to their lives.  If they could, so could I.  Thanks to the people around me, I was given hope by their example. 

Alcoholism makes us say things we don’t mean to those we love.  Makes us spend money we don’t have on something we cannot afford.  We drink and we lose everything.  We stop drinking and we gain everything.  One woman said to me, “You aren’t giving up drinking.  You are gaining your life back.”  Thus it can be for us all.  More than that, we have the unique ability to help others who are sinking in the mire of our disease. We can help when no one else can. BB page 89.

Completely empathetic on the phone with a newcomer yesterday, I could hear the disease had her by the throat.  Alcoholism was erasing her home and her mind.  She helped me as much as I did her.  With that conversation I remembered with total recall, the crazy madness, the incessant murmuring, the cooing of alcoholism.  The great eraser. Yet, whatever may have been erased, with our Program we can rewrite our life stories in a fine bold print: Sober Today. Just For Today. One Day At A Time.

29 02, 2024

COMING CLEAN THROUGH THE STEPS

By  Caroline M.

My life, while under the influence of alcohol, resembled one great, messy knot. A wet one, an alcohol-fueled one. No matter how hard I applied self-will, arrogantly believing in my own smarts to figure out my way through any situation, I seemed to end up entangled in all sorts of problems; never free of worry about what would happen next.

Coming clean through the steps, pausing when agitated, taking life one step at a time, all lessons learned in sobriety, even mundane household chores can flow more easily.

For example, this afternoon I was doing laundry. When I opened up the lid of my washing machine I found a great twist of aprons, dish towels and cleaning rags firmly locked in an embrace of the central agitator paddle. Strings from aprons had woven themselves throughout this heavy, wet knot and it was impossible to pull the load free. Had I been drunk, I’d have taken a pair of scissors to it, which of course could not have cut through such a thick wet mass. But such logic would have eluded me.

After a few futile attempts to shimmy the load past the agitator, I proceeded to pick and pluck at small sections until I loosened first one apron string, which in turn freed up the corners of a twisted cloth and then another, and so on until eventually the knot was resolved and the load came free. It probably took about 5 minutes and since I was not in a rush and sober, the aprons and cloths remained intact. As a bonus there are no accidental stab wounds from scissor blades gone askew. At times like these I realize how much I love being sober, Saturdays without a hangover, especially.

Thank you AA and to God, the mysterious, patient, creative, loving source of all wisdom and life.  

 

29 02, 2024

Yeah But – I Had Made A Decision

By John W.

Before, it had always been so linear. When confronted with a problem, or otherwise looking for a solution, I applied my best analytics to the circumstances and made a decision. If things turned out bad, I had a drink. It made the mistake seem not so glaring. If things turned out well, I had a drink. After all, one was entitled to “take one’s comfort” [in my case it was of the “Southern” variety] after a successful venture or experience. Of course before the decision was confronted or chosen, I had to have a drink to allow me to get focused on the problem, to clear away the distractions, as I once explained to my bartender. My problem was that “one” was never enough. “One too many,” was never more than enough.

When finally driven to A.A., and not on a string of victories, a man tried to help.  He  actually answered one of my calls when no one else would. We talked about my predicament, wife, job, children and, of course, my drinking. He told me that while I likely would not believe it, if I were willing to follow a few simple suggestions, my life would change. He further predicted it would be in ways I could not then imagine or believe possible. To which I responded, “Yeah, but you see my circumstances are different.” Then I would explain things to Mike.

This badinage continued for a bit. To each observation as to the unmanageability of my life served by Mike, I would volley back a “Yeah but” retort. Like a Wimbledon champion on the court with a rank amateur, he ran me from side to side, baseline to net. I was always a step too slow or a return too weak. Every point I thought I made was shredded by Mike’s simple observation of the truth I obscured with my denial. My “Yeah buts” met their match.

So I asked him what I would have to do to be as successful as he had been in the Program of Alcoholics Anonymous. He replied, “Just work the Steps like your life depended upon it, because it does, and you’ll be OK.”

With new-found conviction, I hooked up with a sponsor and we started the process.  My “day at Wimbledon” broke  down most of my barriers.  My sponsor took care of the last vestiges of grandeur and denial I harbored. Still my thinking was linear, still I expected that “treat” to  focus, to console or to congratulate. A pattern that demanded change. So I asked my sponsor “What do you have to replace this process within me – that is all I have ever known?”  It was then we discussed The Decision. While turning over my life seemed to make sense, and I was  convinced it was unmanageable, turning over my will was not the same thing.  

By then I learned the suggestions worked. I was willing to try. As it worked with the drink, now I could  live this new life I was given by the same spiritual principles that saved it. What an order! Could I go through with it? At times it seems anything like the answer to this inquiry is the foregone conclusion of “Yes.” I believe the journey I have walked thus far, one step at a time, one day at a time, demands I repay that Power which brought me here. I have learned I must do so with the respect and honor the drowning man would give the sailor who had hauled him to safety from the foaming sea. I can offer nothing less for the life I was so freely given. Still the doubt is there, the “Yeah but” rears its hooded head, ready to strike with cobra’s speed to infuse the venom of doubt into my veins. I know not what works for others. Nay, only what has worked for me, where my only defense against this lethal apparition is to say something like:  “God, I offer myself to thee, …”  However, I can also truly say it works – it really does. This is a change, neither imagined nor predicted, but with which I can live today.

29 02, 2024

Accept the Things We Cannot Change

95% is OK with me.

By Rick R.

About 90% of the Alcoholics Anonymous meetings I attend close with the Serenity Prayer. God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. There are a lot of words synonymous with serenity and they all amount to what I would call, Peace of Mind. On page 417 in the book Alcoholics Anonymous it says, “And, acceptance is the answer to all my problems today.) Bingo!! So why has it taken me so long to settle on this simple sentence? The desire to drink alcohol was lifted from me from my very first meeting in A.A. and has never returned. Prior to that, from the moment I woke up each morning until I got my first drink, I was an emotional wreck. The absence of that mental obsession to drink freed me. And I became highly influenced by the collective message of the meetings that I attended. 

Over a long period of time, I started to recognize the cause and effect of my defects and shortcomings. I began to address these issues with the help of the members of my group who  seemed to have the answers for me. Dealing with the wreckage of the past and in an environment where we talked about these issues made my journey much easier than I thought. I had to deal with a failed marriage, child support, parenting issues, legal matters, and an assortment of life issues stemming from my neglect and irresponsibility. One of the things that often goes unnoticed during the process of clearing up the wreckage of the past, is I stopped making those mistakes which caused all my grief. As a result of practicing the principles I learned in the A.A. program I regained the respect of my first wife and have been married over 50 years to my current wife. I got it right the second time around, while not dismissing my need to correct the damage done in my first marriage. 

Having said all of that, where do I address the acceptance statement? It would be easy for me to rest on my laurels, as they say, but I am never finished when it comes to examining my motives or how I act today. If I were finished, why would I still attend A.A. meetings? Over the years in the program, I noticed some habits we alcoholics seem to continue to discuss before and after a meeting such as: traffic on the freeway, red-light systems, not enough parking at the market, inconvenience of a rainstorm, politics, and religion, criticizing other people, places, and things. For some reason, talking about all these inconveniences seems to be my way of distracting attention away from our own thinking and behavior.

Simply put, there is a percentage of people driving on the freeway who travel faster than the speed limit, a percentage will drive slower than the speed limit, and others who may cut me off. That is never going to change. I cannot talk about politics and religion over and over. I am never going to change the other person. I have two choices while traveling on the freeway. My first choice is to take it and my second choice is to leave it and take a back road. If the speed limit is too slow on the back road, maybe I’ll take the freeway. All the issues I struggled with are pro and con percentages that will never change in this lifetime. Today I accept the things I cannot change. As a result, I am at peace 95% of the time and that is good enough for me.

 

29 02, 2024

Nighttime Engagement

By Dede H.

A galaxy of souls shines
From the center of the universe
The other side of the picture
Movies of light and shadow
Nighttime is our real existence
Rest and relax with God
Dreaming your ultimate reality
Daytime is so hypnotic
Its horrors not lasting
Awaken from your nightmare
Seek the kingdom of God
Here is your real Joy
Be drunk with spirituality
Experiment with yourself
God’s altar is within you

31 01, 2024

FROM OUT OF THE BLUE

By Christine R.

A long-time member of my home group went out on vodka. A person with many years of sobriety, a member with shares right out of the old E.F. Hutton advertisement, “When this person speaks, everybody listens.” Boy did we listen! He spoke of the Big Book, Steps, all the literature and all the experience with a tremendous amount of humor and bravado. He could tell a great tale. Then, from out of the blue, he drank.

Or was it from out of the blue?  Here’s his story: 

“I’d stopped going to meetings. I didn’t have a sponsor and I wasn’t working
the Steps. While up at a headliner event at Lake Tahoe, I went to pick up a
couple of drinks for my friends at the bar. While walking back to our seats,
the drinks sloshed on my hands and…. 

Quick as a flash, I licked it all up.  

Had it been water, I would have thought, ‘Oooh! Water! Nasty stuff!’ And
wiped my hands on my trousers. But because it was vodka, and I didn’t want
to ‘waste it,’ my hands went into my mouth and started the craving all over again.”  

That’s how it starts isn’t it? The drink is simply the last point before we start drinking again. Like a train heading to the roundhouse, there are many stops along the way.  Those stops in AA are: going to meetings, sharing, commitments, reading, sponsorship, keeping in touch. “Alcohol is a subtle foe…Cunning, baffling, powerful” and patient!  Patiently awaiting a night as described above for a person without defense or stop gaps against the first drink.  He literally went off the rails.

What alcoholics forget with our broken rememberer is once we drink we let loose the craving.  Ahh, the craving!  The craving then sets us back on the Ferris wheel of round and round terror, bewilderment, and frustration.  And eventually, death.

And so it was with our friend who died of alcoholism about a year later.  He died as so many of us do.  Who knows where or with whom.  

“Mental twist,” “emotional twists,” and “twist of character.” These and many more like them are referenced throughout our literature. Could our texts be saying we are twisted people? Probably from all the wine we drank, how ironic we have to untwist ourselves from the human corkscrews we have become!  

To clarify, here are a few of the mental twists foreshadowing a relapse:

       1)  I can handle it.

       2)  I’ll show them, him, her.

       3)  I miss the fun.

       4)  It wasn’t that bad.

       5)  Life is passing me by.  I should have this, that, him, her.

       6)  Is this all there is?

       7)  One wouldn’t hurt.  I deserve one.

       8)  Next time, this time, it will be different.

       9)  What’s the use?

These describe the subtle insanity driving us to the first drink. 

Once upon a time we had old-fashioned 8×12 AA statements typed in Edwardian script floating around the walls.  One was:

It means, if you are thinking of drinking, Think again. Think again. Think again.  After about the third time of thinking and remembering the devastation and the craving, chances are you won’t take that first drink, because you thought the drink through.  

Up ahead may be another drink, but not another recovery.  That’s what keeps us vigilant and active so nothing comes to overthrow us  “from out of the blue.”

 

31 01, 2024

A Ledge To Die On

 

By John W.

As the blizzard worsened the sparrow faltered,
It tried and tried, but now sought only a ledge to die on. A Ledge To Die On.
Life had become too difficult. Its course could not be altered.
It felt not the hand of Providence though sensed Its Nudge to live on.

But what could this one feathered friend do alone?
It had no flock, no gaggle, none like it with which it could roost.
It had no place to rest its weary wings, always on the move, no home.
That Nudge from Nowhere had helped, had given it the needed boost.

With his newfound strength, that room he became willing to enter,
As she walked in, she now felt unmistakably again that Nudge from Nowhere.
The flock inside welcomed him, no ledge this, only respite from foul weather.
She had her “birds of a feather,” their nest, now a home near and dear to share.

               No bird a-flight was this lost soul, but still in despair and alone.
               The discovered flock, a posse, a first step for a common disease to atone.

 

01/23/2024 –  For Dad, 41 Years Later

31 01, 2024

Being Honest with Myself

The Denial Within Me Was Gone

 

By Rick R.

Years before I came to AA, I was aware there was something dreadfully wrong with me but not one person ever suggested I might be an alcoholic or that I should try AA. Perhaps that was due to the denial of the people around me who drank like I did. Suggesting I had a problem with alcohol would mean outing themselves and others. Looking back on it now, I feel fortunate I survived those last few years of failed attempts at life and when I ran out of options, I came to AA looking for answers. The denial within me was gone. My mind was open and for the first time in my life I was desperate, and I was listening. At my first AA meeting, I was moved by what I heard. It was different from anything I experienced before. The people were being honest and candid about things that only brought shame and guilt to me in the past. I felt safe for the first time in my life and could discuss those things openly that had been taboo up until then. Prior to then, everything in my life was a façade. 

At that moment on October 15, 1969, my perception of the world changed, and I have not wanted a drink since. Call it a Spiritual Awakening if you like, it was for me, and it came in the form of a Profound Change in Perception. In Appendix 2 2, in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, it describes a man who had “undergone a profound alteration in his reaction to life.”I began to question all the decisions I made in the past, and how the residue of those decisions tarnished and eroded any chance of a successful, happy life. I became aware that the value system I learned as a child, at church,at the Boy Scout meetings, etc., was lost in the dust and was replaced with guilt and shame. I was in trouble when I violated my own value system. I now realize I was not a bad kid, but I was a child  who was not strong enough to do the things I knew to be right. The more I broke the rules, the easier it became, and moral standards were meaningless. Soon drinking was the only thing to ease  my conscience. When that quit working for me, I found myself at the doors of AA. 

Once I had that change of perception, I knew what to do. It may be as simple as “trying to stop doing the things  I regret” but the key to it all is, “Being honest with myself,” and never going back to my old way of thinking. I said I was fortunate to have survived those last few years of drinking and I came to AA looking for answers. Being desperate enough to ask for help was the most important part of the experience. I do not believe anyone could have convinced me to stop drinking against my will. I may have stayed dry long enough to get the heat off, but I doubt that I would have surrendered to the degree necessary to have that change of perception and therefore a spiritual awakening. Getting off in the right direction from the start was especially important to any success I have had in AA. I know I only live once, and I do not want to waste one moment of the precious life God gave me. Today, as I continue to practice all the things I have learned in the Program, it has resulted in a peace of mind that was unimaginable when I first walked through the doors of AA. And that, I am extremely grateful.

 

31 01, 2024

Step Two – When The Chips Were Down

By Anonymous

Following the suggestions I heard at meetings, and shortly after the miracle of sobriety came into my life, when the obsession to drink literally vanished on Saint Patrick’s Day, I got a sponsor. The decision to select one, although made in March, remained pending until Summer.  The delay was due to my fear of being honest with another person about my drinking, the wreckage it was causing and what I was going to have to do to address my alcoholism. Because I had a strong and positive religious background, although different from that of my sponsor, Step Two seemed a real “no brainer.”

Of course I believed in God. I had for as long as I could remember. I had no trouble with the concept of God.  I did not need to find Him in a quiet moment in the Redwoods or atop the rocks at Lands End, the surf pounding in my ears. I knew He was always there. Heck, He had taken away the obsession. If He could do that, He was powerful enough in my book to do anything – almost.

Thus became the dilemma. Sure this power greater than I had flexed His muscles and relieved me of the obsession to drink, of that there was absolutely no doubt. My sponsor and I affirmed that reality in short order.  Next, my sponsor presented the compelling and wonderfully logical argument that, if this Power was so great and could relieve  my obsession to drink, why would I not consider it powerful enough to turn my will and my life over to its care? Later in the process of working the Steps, succumbing to the same argument, made taking the book down from the shelf to contemplate the work so far done in Steps Six and Seven which followed, so much simpler and straightforward. But as the one day-at-a-time of this program kept marching along, I heard things like “more will be revealed” and “life on life’s terms,” at my meetings. I paid particular attention to the warning that I would be in trouble if I thought I had this program “wired” and could afford to rest on my laurels.  

Since so much of what my sponsor shared with me came to him through his own schooling in the class of hard knocks, I expected things could go South, even if I were fortunate enough as I had been, to remain sober during and in spite of my early trials and tribulations. Though it seems not so with every alcoholic in recovery, many, as was my case, at one time or another get some real challenges tossed in our path. It has been said that real growth can only come from confronting adversity and surviving it with integrity. So it was with the challenges I had to contend with and they arose on several different battlefronts.

Though each of us likely have stories of our life’s struggles which we have overcome, it seems too we can come to a junction, we can come to a line, a level of pain, a point in time when  we just silently scream for all and none to hear: This is too much. It must stop. I cannot go on another step. As I hit that point, I did so without Jose Cuervo, my former bodyguard. I was defenseless. I had no power. I thought I was doomed. All the imagined scenarios were ending up under a freeway ramp and dying alone of cancer by week’s end.  

This is where my disease was leading me in its ruthlessly cunning and oh so powerful way.  Its lure had all the subtlety of the sounds of frivolity Bill spoke of coming from that bar on the other side of the hotel lobby. Just as he was running out of nickels then, my disease was working me now. It was All-In on this deal. I was sober and had been for many moons. I was working my program. I had commitments. I sponsored other men. But I had not been cured of my alcoholism. I was just living my daily reprieve in recovery. So when the crisis hit and hit hard, with wave upon wave of problems, for days without end, I reached the point where I was sure they  would overwhelm me. Now where was I to turn?  

This was when I really began to understand what gratitude truly meant. Gratitude for those who come before me, for those who started the Fellowship to which I now belonged, for those who held out the hand of sobriety at my meetings. I heard of their lessons and asked myself the question they had suggested I pose when the chips were down: What Steps could I apply to the challenges confronting? Although it had been years since I had “let” [ha, ha] my Higher Power restore me to sanity, I began to see in this intense adversity what the words “came to believe” were all about.  For if I truly did believe in this God of my understanding, then I also had to know, I had to come to believe that all would be well, despite my perceptions of the injustices which beset me and my fears of what the future had in store.   

Indeed, more has been revealed. With the serenity of being at peace with the notion that all would be well, over time all was well. The complexities of the problems seemed to melt into unexpected clarity. Instead of continuing to bang on the doors that had been welded shut against me, I saw new doors appear, these were ajar with hope, so when pushed with honest action, they opened to resolution. All did not break my way, but my difficulties were taken away. In the aftermath, I was able to bear witness to the truth that when the chips were down, I could turn to my Higher Power and know, really know, all would be well. This was a whole new attitude and outlook upon life. A promise made and a promise kept. 

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