About Me

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I have recovered from the disease of Alcoholism. I believe there is only one person really,.. everybody. And that peace of mind is everything. -So treat your neighbor as you would treat yourself, because your neighbor IS yourself. I think most of recovery is what I would call common sense, but that learning to be ordinary is a true gift very few people acquire. My ambition is to accept everything unflinchingly, with compassion, and therefore be intrinsically comfortable in my own skin, no matter what. I am comfortable being uncomfortable and am willing to go to any lengths to improve my life. I believe the Big Book was divinely inspired, and is extraordinarily powerful. Unfortunately AA's best kept secret a lot of the time. (In my opinion). I just try to do what works, no matter what it is.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

What is unreasonable?: The more polite you are, the more you second-guess yourself

I spoke to a woman less than five years sober recently about difficulties she was having a relationship. I would not describe her as a shy person, but to some degree she suffers from (what I call) spinelessness and lack of confidence in standing up to unreasonable behaviour. I do not think this is because she is a spineless person, I think this is because she doubts herself, in that she is not sure whether or not she is justified in rejecting unreasonable behaviour. I think this is because she questions herself constantly. This is because she is so incredibly polite. It is part of her nature to think extremely carefully about what she says in case it causes offence. This makes her very pleasant company and very polite company. I think she is afraid of labelling another person's behaviour untoward, for fear of appearing Draconian or rigid. She is so busy minding her p’s and q's and terrified of appearing domineering and unfair. This approach is like a ball and chain around her feet when asserting her preferences in a relationship.
When I meet people like this I label this behaviour "Catholic guilt". I don't know if it is Catholic guilt or not, as it's just a label I use so that people see this pattern when it repeats itself more clearly. Normally when people present themselves in this way,

racked with self-doubt whilst unwittingly permitting (or enabling) unacceptable behaviour,

the first thing I say to them is something like "That's Catholic guilt". Along with some comment to the effect that as far as I know they are not catholic etc, so why are they suffering from Catholic guilt? I probably know some Catholics but their religion is irrelevant as so many people suffer from this particular trait.

When I meet somebody who has difficulty assessing another person's behaviour as unreasonable, because they are essentially a "nice" person. I start questioning them along the lines of

'If the roles were reversed, would YOU behave the way this person is treating you?' ..If not, why not?

So for instance if the other person is being very demanding, and the doormatty/polite person is doubting themselves and making excuses for their friend/partner, I just say to them something like "well so and so, if the circumstances were different and you were in the position you find your partner in, would YOU act in this particular way? For instance "would you be demanding and needy at unreasonable moments?" Meaning would YOU behave the way your partner/friend is behaving? If not why not?
The person I am talking to invariably looks back at me with complete shock, because it would never ! occur to them to behave in such a manner. And in that time, it becomes clear to them that they have been making excuses for their partner, for something they would never !! dream of doing themselves, because this type of behavior would be completely out of character for them.
This type of analysis, only really works with the type of woman who is polite, reasonable, and quite generous, as these are the types that are more likely to be bullied and dominated by friends and partners. This reasoning would not apply to a person who was a bully himself or herself.

I identify much more closely with women who are bullied than with women who bully, as this tends to be what happens to people who are reasonable. I find that the more unreactive I am, that the safer others feel in presenting their irrational emotional states. So sometimes people ‘blow a gasket" simply because they know they can, and that I will not retaliate or punish. This unfortunately is the burden of being reasonable under emotional pressure. The nicer you are, the more people feel they can say pretty much whatever they like to you. This means that I have to be prepared to enforce my boundaries at any time. Thankfully I have learned how to do this over the years, so I am not so easily hijacked. Occasionally I get a unexpected rapidfire attack from out of nowhere, which if peculiarly unpleasant leaves me feeling quite unpleasant until I recover. But other than that people do not get much of a chance to treat me unfairly or cruelly for very long, because I do not let them.

Anyway I have a rather ! tedious shopping trip to get done before I make my way to a meeting that serves coffee after which I think is the part of the meeting I like best. Anyway have a lovely Saturday :) I hope to achieve as much as I can today, as I am catching up with loose ends regarding chores at home that have taken a back seat since study consumed most of what was left ! of my free time.

By the way, PG made a comment about speed reading in relation to reading my post. I know !! exactly how she feels :) It is precisely because of this that I invested in a acereader pro software. I think it costs about $20 or something. That means I can read online material by cutting and pasting into the software at a rate of about 1000 words a minute. Basically I really like this piece of software and it helps me to read a lot of the blogs that I do, even if I don't manage to comment on on them as much as I would like. So that's my speed reading tip for the day. Have a lovely weekend! ☺

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The ‘anti-something’ brigade: AA Politics, and people who rant generally..

Sorry for the long post but I decided to use my old dictation software instead of typing.. ☺

I recently had the misfortune to bump into a very new and very ! angry member of AA. He was about three months sober, I think he had relapsed regularly before. He said he had been feeling suicidal, and generally was not having a great deal of success with the AA program. My first impression of him was that he was incredibly angry and restless simultaneously, and that these two things in combination may very well be major contributors to his reasons for relapsing previously. I did not ask as to the circumstances of his last relapse, but I have to admit that I find those stories very interesting, because they reinforce, or educate me as to why people relapse. As it happens I didn't get the opportunity to discuss this with him in more detail because he proceeded to talk ‘at’ me in machine-gun style delivery about why he thought certain meetings were ‘wrong’.

Just so you know, I gave up on the whole notion of (what I call) ‘politics’ a very long time ago. Perhaps politics is the wrong word. When I say politics, what I'm referring to is criticism, moral superiority and backbiting from certain AA members who feel it is their ? moral duty to take AA individuals or groups inventory. Perhaps as a means of ? declaring their own self-righteousness?, or identifying (what they see as) an undesirable trait, they believe they have a moral duty to be angry, indignant, contemptuous or self-righteous about? Their anger justifies trumping the AA tenets of both ‘Live and let Live’ and the principle of Unity. I assume they feel justified in breaking with these AA suggestions due to what they see as a ‘wrong’ way of practicing the AA programme. I see this as going against the tradition that each group is autonomous. But hey. They seem to be ! blissfully unaware of these things..

Even before I came to AA, I was never terribly attracted to people who were easily preoccupied with criticising others. Nor did I surround myself with friends who took pleasure in running other people down. I have never liked ridicule, even in its most watered-down forms. This is unchanged since I came to AA. I am as an interested in slagging off ‘people places and things’ as I was long before I came to AA. So if you're looking for a ? fight, or an argument, or to prove some ? theoretical point, or prove (!) how ‘wrong’ another person, or group is, I am afraid you have come to the wrong place. ☺

It is hard for me to appreciate what pleasure is derived from this activity. I have simply never wanted to do it or enjoyed doing it. I suppose when I was drinking I enjoyed being a nonconformist, and was accustomed to receiving criticism for looking nonconformist back in the day. I had always thought of myself as a bit of an ‘artist’ and so I hung around with other artists and people on the fringes of society. Perhaps now they might be seen as quite ordinary, but back then they were thought of as a bit 'out there'. They were certainly people who ! looked as though they were living on the fringes of society! In truth I had a wide range of friends from both wealthier and slum-type homes, but I was very drawn to the people who looked as though they did not fit, and who were thought of as slightly odd. Personally, I didn't find them odd at all. It was people who looked ‘normal’ that gave me the creeps or were harder to figure out.
So back in my drinking days, I thought it was incredibly shortsighted to judge people based on looks, or immediate impressions, without knowing more about their lives. I suppose what I mean is that there are two sides to every story, so I do think there is a little bit more to it than first meets the eye. So when certain people were judgemental or scathing or made assumptions about me, I just thought they were terribly unintelligent and unobservant and not nearly curious enough about these people they were putting down.

I can only guess as to why they do it, as I have not found myself doing the same, so I have ? no idea why people get so much pleasure from slagging off other people. I just don't know why people do it. I'm ? guessing there is some self-righteous satisfaction derived from declaring one's superiority at the expense of another person's. I think it's more likely that they are unaware of their superiority and self-righteousness in such moments and that's why they are carried by a wave of resentment justified by what looks like a very self-righteous motive, which blinds them to the uselessness of their anger. Gawd knows. I think most that are regularly hijacked by their anger do not ‘see’ their anger very clearly at !! all.

Don't get me wrong, I get irritated just like everybody else, but I don't ! believe my anger. Nor would I follow heedlessly the inclination to take another persons inventory or talk to them as though there was a ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ position, where I held the ‘right’ position they held the ‘wrong’ position. I just don't think life is that simple, nor is life that rigid. In some cases it is possible to be very definite but usually only about the most basic elements of the programme. For instance it is generally a good idea to try and get enough sleep, to try to talk to people and eat fairly regularly in the first 90 days. Hanging around in bars isn't generally a good idea in the first 90 days. You know, stuff like that.

This guy was a sort of real-life ‘troll’. Spouting vitriol of an anti-? Something nature. I think I will have to call these people be anti-something brigade. In cyberspace we call these people trolls. But there is no ? equivalent word for a person who behaves this way in real life. So I am going to call them the anti-something brigade.

Not that it matters, but the upshot of the story is, I felt sorry for him, because there was a strong possibility that the anger he was feeling might make him drink again. So instead of ignoring him, and ending the conversation, I think I managed to succeed in showing him how this anger was ultimately unkind and inconsiderate, and that there might be an alternative interpretation rendering his perception merely relative as opposed to an absolute truth. Basically, when I left him he did not look like he was frothing at the mouth, which he did ! look like when I first started talking to him. But I have to say it was a very unpleasant conversation, and not one I particularly want to repeat regularly.
Thankfully it is very uncommon for me to be on the receiving end of bile and resentment in such large quantities. People are not usually that angry. But this guy was.
In the course of the conversation he told me that his sponsor condoned his resentment towards certain AA members and groups. I may ask his sponsor what he makes of this, and see whether there is any truth in this. As I know his sponsor, and I haven't got the impression that his sponsor thinks it's okay to hate! certain meetings or people. But who knows? I could be wrong. I'm sure if I ask I will find out…

What I'm trying to say is that life is too !!!! short to spend your time wasting your valuable mental and emotional energy is pitting yourself against a battle you cannot win. That battle being the imperfections of people places and things. And even if you DO identify a cruel and unpleasant trait in another person or another group, you are sure to find something very similar inhabiting your own consciousness, so there is no !!! moral victory. Besides, it looks terribly ! unattractive to be pre-occupied with ‘anti-something’ thoughts. You look like a ranting person. Frothing around the mouth. It doesn't look good.
Whatever. The bottom line is that I am powerless over AA members who choose to ‘contend against’ or hate each other and gossip and badmouth each other. There will always be people in AA who do this, and I will always find them terribly ! unattractive. They will not be my buddies in AA. They will not be the people I spent time with in AA. And I will never be able to stop it occurring. Basically AA has always been full of very resentful people, so it's hardly surprising that it attracts people who rant or like to prove themselves ‘right’ in some way or form. But there you go. Nothing I can do about it. I will help the occasional newcomer who looks like they are about to drink because of it, but other than that I won't be hanging around those people for very long.
God knows we all get annoyed with AA, and AA members, we wouldn’t be human if we didn’t! But when this is ‘acted out’, manifesting outwardly as behaviour such as overt ? slagging off, attacking, criticising, publicly running down, bitching or badmouthing, well that’s another thing altogether. Well I think so anyway.
I choose NOT to contend with the ‘world’ a day at a time. Or to make a problem out of things, despite encountering those practicing the opposite very ! regularly.
Hey ho. Well it’s a gorgeous day over here so I’m going to go out run to the shops in the sun to pick up a few things.. See you all later..

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Motive: It's not what you say. It's where you're coming from.

Hello there. Thanks for your kind comments and well wishes re study grief :) I feel a LOT !! less stressed about my crazy ol study schedule as I think I have FINALLY stumbled across a method of processing the workflow that matches the content and requirements. Phew. A method that seems to work :)
Takes me a while but I figure it out in the end. Now all I need to do is apply the strategy to all the work I have bumbled around doing so far.. Oh well. Better late than never. I had a nice little routine worked out last year which matched the requirements very nicely, but this material is much more scattered and hard to keep track of. I use my computer a LOT when I study so nearly all my work is done reading on the puter. Very little actual reading of Books. But hey. There you go. There is some catching up to do which is a bit scary, but I hope I can catch up fairly easily.

Anyway. About the heading. "It's not what you say. It's where you're coming from"

I really think that it doesn't really matter what you say, but it matters MUCH more WHY you are saying it.
Ie. What is your MOTIVE for saying that?
Ie. What is your MOTIVE for doing that?

"he has no attitude of Holier Than Thou, nothing whatever except the sincere desire to be helpful"
(p18, AA Big Book)

as opposed to being CHRONICALLY SELF OBSESSED about 'what's in it for me?' when you are engaging with others, that life is INFINITELY simpler. You can make stupid errors of judgment and get it wrong, and others sense that its 'ok' because your heart is in the right place.
That's not a license to be kack-handed and heedless BTW. No. what I mean is your inevitable errors will not be taken badly by the other. But if you are just too lazy to pay attention to what you are saying, then I'm not sure this will get you off the hook :)

Btw when I say " your heart is in the right place." I mean there is NO ATTACHMENT TO ANY OUTCOME. Or as the buddhists would say .'No clinging'
you are not being a control freak
you are not trying to score points
you are not trying to wangle a friendship
you are not trying to be 'a better aa member'
you are not trying to become enlightened
you are not trying to 'do good'
you are not trying to 'get rid of your anger'

No. you are just doing what you do (being kind or nice to people) BECAUSE THAT S WHAT YOU DO. Because experience has shown you that it fosters wholesome mind states which make it easier to approach the problems life throws at you with equanimity. Or as the aa's call it 'acceptance'.

So you see. Theres no self centred/ self obsessed motive for being NICE
You just do it because the book tells you you should, and experience suggests that this approach helps you practice the principles in all your affairs.

So. Next time you hate someone
Are pissed off with someone
Are jealous of someone
Are really irritated by someone
Feel contempt for someone
Secretly hate that persons mannerisms. Or their laugh.
Hate the way they speak
Feel repulsed by them
Feel outraged by how un-spiritual' they are
Get hugely irritated by how drippy and overly-spiritual they are
Hate them because of the WRONG way they are working their programme..

Stop trying to be nice, because it doesn't work. They can tell you hate them. Really.
So go away and really ask yourself

You cant bullshit a bullshitter.

Don't think they don't know you hate em. They do.
So you would do more good if you go away and try to speak to them later WHEN YOU HAVE CALMED DOWN AND YOU ARE COMING FROM A BETTER PLACE.
Don't just say nice stuff through gritted teeth. Trust me, they KNOW how you feel.

Al I know is that my life turns to CRAP if my motive is OFF
So I check my motive if I think I am on thin ice, or coming up to a difficult bend in the road.
My motive is my protection. Provided I am willing to pay attention and go to any lengths to practice these principles in all my affairs.

That's why the first 100 members whisper in your ear on page 102..
“Keep on the firing line of life with these motives and God will keep you unharmed.”
(p102, AA Big Book)

See? WILL, not might. There's a BIG difference.
Its never !!!! let me down yet. Nor other old timers I knew from waaaay back when I was new.
My fave old timer used to say (bless im)

"Feeling without action is sentimentality
Action without feeling is an empty gesture"

"Service is gratitude in Action"

So yeah. Get yourself a REALLY NICE motive, and let that motive 'abide' in you when you connect with those difficult people. REALLY hang on to the motive. Nomatter HOW much they annoy you. :)

And sit back and watch the miracles happen :) hehe
A self centered motive turns your world to CRAP
A SELF FORGETTING motive makes the world a magical place, nomatter what is happening.

So yeah. That's my experience anyway. So go out there motive-shopping and find yourself a shiny new one to practice on your guinea-pig friends. :)

BTW this is a very PRIVATE exercise
NOBODY REALLY knows what your motive is except YOU
It is INVISIBLE to the naked eye
It will NOT be evidenced by certain words or actions
Its about WHAT YOU REALLY FEEL INSIDE. Do you wish them well? Do you want them to find their still centre while the world spins? Do you want them to understand that they are LOVED? That they are OK? Do you want their suffering to end? Can you empathise with their excuses and habitual negativity? Do you want them to die sober? ..thankful of the connections they made while they were alive?
THESE are the thoughts I cultivate when I want to engender a good motive.

And that's why it is such a PRIVATE and INTERIOR matter
You are looking at your INTERIOR LANDSCAPE. Nothing more.
Not really at the words
Not really at the actions. Although that doesn't mean 'be heedless'
Just keep the PRIMARY focus on WHERE YOU ARE INSIDE
Contempt? Bitterness? Tightness? Irritabilty? Jugement?

"he has no attitude of Holier Than Thou, nothing whatever except the sincere desire to be helpful"
(p18, AA Big Book)

Focus just on the interior landscape. Do you mean well? Or are you trying to punish with indifference or in a passive aggressive way by sounding like you don't really care? 'yeh whatevea'

So go on. Give it a whirl and tell me what happens :)
The tricky bit is 'holding your centre' when buffeted by outward 'unpleasant' words or behaviors.
This is a much more PRIVATE and UNKNOWN aspect of service than making the tea' or 'setting up the meeting' (Not that there's anything wrong with making the tea..)
I like it because it is 'secret' and only I !!! know when I am doing it hehe
Plus I love watching the effect it has on people :)

So there you go. Try it. I love it. You will LOVE the effects :( its very cool. In my opinion. Plus the first 100 member seems to rate the idea too ;) and they have yet to give me a bum steer :)
Right well Im off to do some study prep. Have yourselves a fabulous Wednesday :)

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

FadeText: Put your favorite slogans into a screensaver on your desktop (Macs only)

This is for Macs only I'm afraid, but its freeware and I'm sure there is a PC software that does the same thing.
I found this. I love slogans but forget them easily so like to be reminded. This screensaver (if you have a Mac) is freeware, so no cost which is nice :)

Its called fadetext and you can download it from here..

Anyway hope you all are well and dealing elegantly with all the very un-elegant (!!) things that life has a habit of throwing at you :)
I'm up to my EARS in a new year of study. Different from last year. HARD!! I am in the process of figuring out how to ?? keep up with the relentless !! pile of new stuff. :)
So yeah, that's what I'm up to. Hence the silence online. When I have !!!! tons of stuff to do I don't want to go to many meetings because I feel I never have enough time to study, but I just end up getting stressed and not actually being very productive because I can't settle on any one thing. So its swings and roundabouts. The hardest thing about study is not getting freaked out by it. The subject itself isnt so bad, but the mind games are pretty relentless. It feels very overwhelming starting a pile of new material in a more demanding format.

Us AA's wear our hearts on our sleeve. We verbalize our anxieties and broadcast how difficult it seems, while most others keep all this to themselves so you get a lopsided view of how you are doing compared to everyone else. Its hard to get a handle on how you are doing in relation to everyone else and if I am doing enough.

I know enough to know that I always fear utter defeat and that this has proved to be baseless in the past, but each time it feels the same no matter how many times I get it right. My brain is hardwired to anticipate failure. I'm not sure there is a cure for this as no amount of reassurance from others or previous success seems to make any difference. Other old-timers with TONS of success have told me they feel the same..
I just have to keep on keepin on and not listen to what my head tells me, or mistake my fears and anxieties for any kind of reality, present or future.


Whatever. Another ! roller-coaster of a year begins. !!!! Thank god I know enough to not listen to my head!
I seem to swing between fear that makes me very restless and concentration difficult, and complacency!! I would like to inhabit the middle ground, but until that happens, I will have to just not listen to what my head tells me :)

I have been watching videos of Ajahn Chah on Utube
to help chill me out a bit :) What a cool guy :) He looks GREAT in Videos. So free. So unfettered. There is no 'burden'. He is full of joy. Thank god for these living examples as otherwise I would have no clue ! what I was trying to achieve.. Step 11 always points me in the right direction. It gives me an example of the things I learned about in AA. Here Ajahn Chah shows me what 'happy joyous and free' looks like. This is useful as there are not nearly enough examples in the world to learn this from. BTW the video called The Buddha Comes to Sussex - Part 1 and 2 is very cool. I love monks and nuns :)

Here's a quote
Venerable Ajahn Chah "The mind of one who practises doesn't run away anywhere, it stays right there. Good, evil, happiness and unhappiness, right and wrong arise, and he knows them all. The meditator simply knows them, they don't enter his mind. That is, he has no clinging. He is simply the experiencer." - Ajahn Chah

Anyway thanks for listening and hope you have a great Tuesday :)