Issue 5 - February 1997


Welcome to Issue 5
Opening the Door a Crack
Where I Was Meant To Be
Daily Maintenance
Looking the World in the Eye
Seventh Step
Step Seven
Chicken Soup for the Soul
What Happens When You Drink?
On-line Spanish-Speaking AA Meeting
Ten Plus Eleven Makes Three


Welcome to Issue 5

We'd like to thank those of you who provided feedback on issue 4 of the journal, which was the first HTML issue of the Journal. Although the number of responses we received wasn't great, they did contain some very sensible suggestions which have been taken up for this issue. We've added a clickable index to the articles which most respondents suggested as the best format. We've also taken heed of the difficulty reported by one member in reading the articles because the text was too small, so we've increased the size of the body text. Hope this helps!

Many thanks to those who sent us articles and poems. If you don't see it in this issue it means we've held it back for the next; we'd like to keep each issue of the journal as a single web page, so we're keeping tight control on its overall size.

The Journal Editors
MoM Group

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Opening the Door a Crack

I am Bastiaan, alcoholic. So many of you welcomed me so warmly that my responses had to be brief. I do feel a need to introduce myself.

The reason that I am able to send you this message today and not somewhere pushing up daisies is by the grace of God, alone. God intervened in my life to extend it. I live on His time, now.

I am 54 years old, have a little over three years of sobriety, am married, and have two sons. One, 25, is working in El Salvador and the other, 21, is a senior, studying philosophy and until recently substance abuse at UC, Santa Barbara (last month he checked into a rehab, and seems to be "getting" the program, a real answered prayer, he is coming to Cairo for Christmas tomorrow.

I am a retired Senior Foreign Service Officer, formerly with the UP.SO. Agency for International Development (USAID), now doing consulting work when I can get it, which for me is almost never enough. I am a workaholic as well -- somewhere along the line I was programmed to believe that my self worth depended on my work. I think it has something to do with Protestant ethic. But, fifty four is to young to be retired and besides we don't have enough money to build a retirement house on the lot that we bought last year at Lake Chapala, Mexico.

My wife, though she suffers from alcoholism (mine), is not an alcoholic. She is a Foreign Service Officer with USAID here in Egypt and the main reason that we live here--literally on the banks of the Nile--it is a river in Egypt, despite what some people in meetings say. We are probably moving to the Philippines in early March where she is slooted to take an important senior management job.

We are really displaced "Latin America hands", but now that prosperity and democracy have broken out in that part of the new world, good jobs are hard to find there in our business, which is based on other people's poverty --"Gracias a Diós." Also Gracias a Diós that I am sober today and manage to stay that way because of my higher power and AA friends.

Although I had my first drink at age seven, as a child in the Netherlands, I didn't get down to serious substance abuse until I got to college (like my son I did a lot of pot and other stuff when I was at UC Santa Barbara as a "flower child". Tried a lot of things and finally settled down to alcohol--it did most of what I wanted for a long time, was legal, and in fact was even part of the basic set of tools of a Foreign Service career.

Hey, we are not "cookie pushers"-- booze works much better to loosen lips! And duty free booze from all over the world is an active alcoholic's best friend. I could go on and bore you with stories about drinking (and diet pills and whores) in Honduras (where we lived for 7 years, starting in the Peace Corps); Bolivia (two years) was booze at 13,000 ft. -- needing to drink in the middle of the night because the altitude made me sleep too lightly (true) -- and my alcoholic General and later President drinking buddy who in coup strafed his own citizens in the streets of downtown La Paz; Costa Rica (six years) and giving a speech in Spanish on the importance of liberty to my farewell party of 400 of the country's most important people, me totally drunk--and they liked the speech); El Salvador (4 years), of war, a bad earthquake,and still more booze.

Strangely, being high most of the time for twenty years didn't keep me from rising to high places. I was even able to says dry for about three months after a State Dept. doctor discovered a "fatty liver'" in 1984--after I was "cured," I resumed where I had been.

As early as 1982, in Costa Rica, I knew that I was an alcoholic--I just thought that I could manage it. What a nightmare. Ten years of barfing up in the morning -- sometimes making it to the head, sometimes not. But always taking half a tumbler full of vodka before or afterwards just to start the day off right. My model was Churchill who won WWII on a bottle of gin a day and tried to cover the smell with cigars. Only I was winning the Cold War in Central America (and I really did help). I certainly thought that I was as great a person as he -- history just didn't know it yet. It still doesn't and even though I did accomplish some really great stuff there (in spite of my active alcoholism), I have since found out that even the fate of tiny Central America doesn't revolve around Bastiaan. In those days, forget the serenity prayer -- my definition of what I could change included almost everything (except my drinking, of course, and as it turned out only my HP could really help with that).

My day of reckoning came in Jordan after duty separated my wife and I (less control on my drinking) -- she was sent to Egypt and I to Jordan. After being in Jordan and commuting to Cairo every other week or so, things did become unmanageable. Starting with a granite stairway which I negotiated head over heels backwards and ending with high blood pressure that just wouldn't come down. Finally, I told an Embassy nurse that I really had to get some help. Well, there was no AA in Jordan after the Gulf War. So the State Department in its wisdom yanked me back to a treatment center in the U.S. Detox took five days. My sixth day sober (third step) was a miracle, nerves that hadn't felt anything in 25 years worked again. I only opened my door to my Higher Power a little crack and he/she rushed right in to fill the spiritual void. It really was a Bill W. "burning bush" type of thing.

The physical benefits of sobriety came quickly -- better sleep, lower weight, blood pressure normal and diabetes under easy control by normal diet.

After some forty days and three "shrinks" later the State Department Docs allowed USAID to send me to Egypt for temporary duty -- and temporary warehousing with my wife until my retirement. Egypt was OK with State Med. because AA is active here -- not in Jordan. They were right. AA was the answer. AA has helped me to strengthen that marvellous third step HP bond. Through AA I am still learning that HP, not I, was in charge.

We have about 50 AAs here in Egypt --in three groups-- there is a meeting a day. We are mostly "expats" with a few Egyptians thrown in. Most of our Egyptians have serious hard drug problems and they have founded an NA chapter, which we tend to help on a "big brother" basis, i.e., not our primary purpose, but we help with literature. Our AA groups are not the most stable with people coming and going and very few Egyptian drunks.

(Helpful note for anyone travelling, although the AA International Directory does try to do a good job staying updated, often the US Embassy Medical Unit in the country that you are visiting will have up to date meeting and contact info. They seem to recognize that alcoholism is an occupational hazard).

For us expats and loners AA on-line has the potential for being an extra blessing.

Bastiaan
Egypt

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An Irishman walks into a bar in Dublin, orders three pints of Guinness and sits in the back of the room, drinking a sip out of each one in turn. When he finishes them, he comes back to the bar and orders three more. The bartender asks him, "You know, a pint goes flat after I draw it; it would taste better if you bought one at a time."

The Irishman replies, "Well, you see, I have two brothers. One is in America, the other in Australia, and I'm here in Dublin. When we all left home, we promised that we'd drink this way to remember the days when we drank together." The bartender admits that this is a nice custom, and leaves it there.

The Irishman becomes a regular in the bar, and always drinks the same way: He orders three pints and drinks them in turn. One day, he comes in an orders two pints. All the other regulars notice and fall silent. When he comes back to the bar for the second round, the bartender says, "I don't want to intrude on your grief, but I wanted to offer my condolences on your great loss."

The Irishman looks confused for a moment, then a light dawns in his eye and he laughs. "Oh, no," he says, "everyone's fine. I've just quit drinking."

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Where I Was Meant To Be

Tonight's meeting was brilliant, not because I chaired it, because it was everything that AA is about. A birthday meeting, always special. An honour to be asked to chair the meeting.

Four newcomers in the room, witnessing the miracle of someone achieving that first golden candle, never to be repeated. Candles from the birthday cake for each newcomer there.

Just short of 60 years at the top table, proof that it works. A range from 1 to 27, showing that we don't all come in in schools of drunks, we come in when we are ready.

Reunited families, children, husbands, parents, work colleagues, there to support the birthday people and prove that this, greatest of all miracles (after that of actually getting and staying sober), is attainable. It can be done. It does happen.

Packed meeting, more than 100 people, many, many there specifically to come and share Peter's 13th with him, because of his service in and to the Fellowship. From the newcomers, to Robin with his 32 years and, another, John with 29, Raymond with 26, etc.

Fun and laughter, the one light is broken so reading from the lectern is a painful experience. I could hardly follow the preamble. Eventually the Traditions reader had the sense to ask for the big candle off the top table! Good natured ribbing and heckling from the room, ending with me telling them to shut up and let me run the meeting my way

Tears of joy, tears of sorrow, as Diana recounted her alcoholic career which included losing two babies at very early ages and her eventual recovery.

Deadly earnest stuff from Byron who is the type who visits hospitals week in and week out, carrying the message to the incarcerated drunks. He's a Twelfth Step fanatic, very good at it, he spoke "for" Diana, as he Twelfth-stepped her into AA.

Lightness from John, who spoke "for" Peter. He's the 27 year-old and always a marvel to listen to, for comments like "I don't understand women who marry non-alcoholic husbands. Life must be so boring. Imagine living with a guy who leaves for the office in the morning and returns home THE SAME DAY! Isn't life much more fun, to live with a guy who pops out to the corner cafe for milk and a paper at 6 p.m. and comes home THREE WEEKS LATER! WITHOUT THE MILK!!!!" He is always a big hit, because he is so well liked, so well known and has been so active in AA his whole stay, ex delegate to World Service Meeting, ex chairman of GSO, ex chairman of the Board, currently auxiliary Trustee. His depth of knowledge and his way of sharing has his listeners spellbound and makes him a very special man.

Mix and match, Peter, telling what it was like, including the drugging, including the fact that the early AAs did not give up because there were junkies in the hospital meetings. His horror story of institutions year in and year out, four and a half years of pain before he got the message. His parents were there, they haven't missed a single birthday, since his first. Poignancy of speaking about his failed marriage between two recovering alkies, giving Sarah credit for the help she has given him during his recovery, Spoke a lot about his sponsors, from the very first, through to today, where we sponsor each other.

Your chairman who had them rolling when he pointed out that there was no connection between his long hair and the rumour doing the rounds that he and Peter were to be married in the spring.

When we said the Serenity Prayer, the Presence was tangible.

Lots of cake, lots of hugs, lots of talk, coffee, home.

I'm glad I was where I was meant to be tonight.

Peter
South Africa

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Courage is fear that has said its prayers.

Daily Maintenance

Hi Folks, My name is Pete and I'm an alcoholic.

Most meetings I go to an extract from Chapter Five, "How it Works," is read out and, believe me, it's a must. It works that way for me and I try to live the Programme and don't talk about it. Because if I did talk it, I might confuse some members. I work AA principles, but to give me a bit of peace of mind and contentment, and maybe someday I will find sobriety.

But today I am feeling good and I know that it's just for today. I serviced my car, that's not bad, having had it for about three years. Last night, whilst going to a meeting in Perth Prison, the car started playing up. I don't think I've had the bonnet opened in the three years, but being the perfectionist I am, it got a really good service and everything was put on anew.

I am so lucky that I myself don't need new parts yet -- all I have to do to maintain myself is not to lift that fatal first drink, one day at a time, and continue doing plenty of meetings.

My life has got better once again! I'm going through one of those happy phases. As many of you know, I went through my sixth to seventh year in AA, one day at a time, and it was pure emotional torture.

I've still got a void in my life which is that I haven't got a partner, but they say I've got a chance even at my age! Through the grace of God and plenty of prayers I'm not in a hurry. In fact, I couldn't care less today.

I'm writing this before the Fife Convention and I'm looking forward to going as it's been a success from the very first one. So much organisation, so thanks to the committee for giving this alcoholic the opportunity of a good day out.

One of my friends from Glenrothes always gives me a lot of faith and hope when I hear her say: "God's clock is never fast or slow. It's always on time." So anybody out there finding life a bit sore, just give time time, and times will surely pass.

Time is a great healer, and the man or woman who invented time made plenty of it. The sun's going away now and it's getting chilly so I'll close for now. But thanks from the bottom of my heart for making me feel so grateful for the life I have just for today.

May my God bless all of you and your friends and families all over God's world.

Big Pete
from "Roundabout" April 1995

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If you don't make mistakes you probably won't make anything else.

Looking the World in the Eye

My name is Jean and I am an alcoholic.

My sponsor did not let me confuse or commingle the 4th and 5th. She told me to do the 4th out of the Big Book, and I've shared about that. When I said I was ready for the 5th, she reminded me of the list of fears, the fear inventory, and I had not noticed that... so I went back to work. I had to have help with it, no surprise since nameless fear was such a big part of my life. I knew that I was afraid of getting slugged if I said the wrong thing,had a good front for that, and I had plenty of times of terror in some of my escapades, like waking from a two day blackout and finding myself on the side of route 66 in Arizona with a man I vaguely remembered having met. My last memory had been the PA turnpike, and it turned out I was hitchhiking out to California... I was 17. So I knew those fears for my safety, and I knew how I pushed through to the other side of them, quickly so no one would know and I could get on with my denial and self destruction.

When I made my appointment for the 5th step, she said an hour would do. I had heard stories about day long sessions, etc. But I trusted her. We sat at the table and I started blurting out, reading from my 4th, and she said, tell me the thing you least want to admit that you did, and I did, head down, and she told me her parallel thing, and then we talked about what fears drove me to do the stealing lying, hating, sneaking, hiding, lust, gluttony, blah, blah. She had me write down the fears, and then we worked on the ways particular to me that they activated my now named defects, how those defects showed up in me.

When we talked about what my strengths were, I discovered they were the same as my defects, only the flip side. She showed me how my pride was my way of being self-pitying, and how many other 'noble' feelings I thought I had were based on pride and false pride, and how and why I could have some real pride, could see myself clearly and see how much progress I was making. I wanted to be a good person, and I could and was becoming one. I had surrendered, come to believe, made the decision, taken inventory, and it was working, ODAT. I could be honest, and that was going to be the most important skill, being honest about myself.

The 5th step gave me what is promised in the Big Book, ability to look the world in the eye, be alone at perfect peace and ease, and most of all my fears fell from me.

The way the steps worked for me was the way to faith for me, and faith and fear don't coexist. When my faith is weak, which I know because I start to worry, I look for the fear behind it. I kept the list, and I have added to it in subsequent 5th steps.

Probably the most important thing I learned is not to take myself too seriously, and I that am OK. I can get better, I have been worse, but it's no big deal and I am ok. So I don't drink, go to meetings, do what's been suggested, and I am actually a whole lot better than ok, but what a good place to start.

Thanks for letting me share and helping me stay sober today.

Jean
USA

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Alcoholism encourages you to stick to your guns -- even when they're not loaded.

Seventh Step

This "humbly asking Him to remove my shortcomings" involves some ACTION on my part, or at least so I was taught by people with much more time than me.

But how, you might ask, can there be action, other than in the asking?

What I was taught was that I should look to do those things as I go through my day that add to the world, not take away (as my actions in active alcoholism do).

For example, when I go into a public restroom, and the paper towels are overflowing onto the floor, I may sometimes push them all down in the container and add mine rather than trashing the place even more.

Day before yesterday, I washed and vacuumed out a rental car that I had, just because it needed it, even though, in theory, I shouldn't have to do that--it's someone else's job.

When I do my morning excercise, I make it a point to say hello to everyone on my route, instead of being satisfied to be "in myself" the whole time--I push myself just a bit to be more outgoing rather than the nice introverted me that is so comfortable.

When I am at work, I try to look for the way to get something done, rather than carping and complaining that I can't do something for whatever the raft of excuses is that I can conjure up.

I try to remember to throw my dirty clothes into the hamper instead of leaving them in a pile on the floor.

This is how I was taught to work the Seventh Step. The prayer promised me for the first time in my life that I am okay just the way I am TODAY, in God's eyes, and that he will make use of me if I simply allow him to employ me. This partnership, this combination of Him managing me while I simply try to do those things that I should be doing anyway, really worked for me.

Suddenly, as I work the Seventh Step, I notice (at least for me it works this way) my spirits rising, I feel better, the world looks brighter! What a deal, eh?

Thanks! Love ya'll.

Tim

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When you start calling yourself an alcoholic is when others seem to stop calling you one!

Step Seven

My name is Ed and I'm an alcoholic.

This step was hard for me because it meant letting go of basically my "former Identify." The way I was, it was my life, it was all I had. But because of the previous steps I had to learn to have faith and "let go and let my Higher Power" have what made me to fail. Accepting that, then I could let go of most of character defects, but many were harder than others to actually do.

For example, even after 21 years of sobriety I still maintain certain character defects that come back to haunt me; pride, ego etc. When I developed epilepsy 2 years ago it meant letting go of all of my dreams and aspirations in my job and my life. I still have a problem accepting that. Currently I keep a rock in my pocket at all times.

This rock represents my epilepsy. Sooner or later I'm going to forget about that rock or smash it into sand. Dropping the rock equals letting go. My new disease has inflamed some of those old character defects and that is the step I'm currently working on, because my defects are affecting others.

So when I "humbly ask God to remove my characters defects" (aka shortcomings), I have to have faith and learn to "let go" with humility and complete faith.

This share has helped me. Because it is forcing me to be honest with myself.

Ed
USA

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Self-will is the art of going wrong with confidence.

Chicken Soup for the Soul

This morning, I sat on my porch, in the cool morning air. I was drinking a rather potent cup of coffee and reading my meditation. When I finished, I reflected on what I had read, the beautiful redwood trees in front of me, and then I began my communion with God. Strangely enough, the thanking of my blessings, turned into a mini step 8. I say mini because, by the grace of God, my fourth step lists became shorter.I asked for God's help in guiding me towards his will for me and the courage to do those things I need to do to have my life move forward.

When I heard that the first person to put on your list of amends is yourself--I smiled. It took me a couple of step 8's to get to that point, but now I realise how important it is to begin with me. My amends to all those around me will have no meaning, without first having made changes in me. "The courage to change the things I can."

My willingness to make amends to all those I hurt, is seen in the actions of my life today. This week while I have some time off, I'm going to make some amends to myself, and thus to those around me. I picked some apples and will make my very wonderful apple pies--that will be shared by family and friends. I will exercise, meditate, pray--and share the serenity of my soul with those around me. I will take time with family and friends to hear about their lives--the gift of really listening to another person and showing you care.

When I was drinking, my sole focus (this could be considered a pun), was how, when and where I was going to get a bottle. As my life becomes more focused on God's will for me, my amends to myself and to others, have begun in earnest, and become something I do daily, not periodically when I feel guilty.

I found lately that I was getting very "busy" and I wasn't taking care of myself. Feeling a little stressy and snappish. Now, it really doesn't do much good to keep telling people "I'm sorry", I need to do something. So I've taken some time for Jodie, and this morning I had an opportunity to look at what needs work in me, ask for God's guidance, and do what needs to be done.

I had a whimsical moment when I read about an experience with _Chicken Soup for the Soul_ My daughter hates chicken soup, because it reminds her of when she is sick. I always make chicken soup from scratch when my children are sick--a combination of love and nourishment. That is because she feels good right now -- everything is OK. We sometimes fail to realise that we must apply a little preventive chicken soup in our lives, so that our soul can be nourished, healthy and ready to receive. That is what I am doing this week--slurping up some chicken soup for my soul.

Jodie
USA

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Write your name in kindness, love, and mercy on the hearts of others and you will never be forgotten.

What Happens When You Drink?

Erik, Norwegian alcoholic, here.

In my Home Group, and in most places I go in AA, there is not any question about drinking every day or not. Who hasn't met a so-called period drinker for one thing?

We usually say that it is not a question about how often you drink, nor what you drink (as long as it contains alcohol). It is rather a question whether what happens WHEN you drink. What are the consequences ? Do you change in a way you feel is not right--and yet you have the next one, when the time and need is there?

"One day at a time" to me means that it is TODAY--i.e. in the present--I can do anything to change, and continue to do so. I can't do anything about what has happened (yesterday), nor do I know anything about what will happen tomorrow. I have got one single day to live in and in which I can do my best to obtain my goals--and this is NOW.

There might be times when little seems to happen, but--one day at a time and given time in this way, I look back and see the big difference--I AM changing for the better.

And, by not having a drink today, I have gradually got into a life where not drinking is a normal way of living.

These are my understanding, experiences and views. I really hope you will find your platform and understanding of this. My advice would be that you stay on for as long as it takes to understand--by not drinking you are far better off regarding future development and opportunities than the opposite option.

Keep coming, and I wish you all the best.

Erik
Norway

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We do what I can't.

On-line Spanish-Speaking AA Meeting

"AA Amigos AA" is a closed, on-line Spanish speaking AA meeting with members from many countries in the world, including Spain, Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico, the United States of America and Egypt. Many of us are native Spanish speakers, but some of us are still only learning the language. Alcoholics interested in joining "AA Amigos AA" are invited to contact:
Bastiaan or Eduardo
Your entry into the group will be greatly facilitated with a positive affirmation in your message of your status vis-a-vis AA's Third Tradition. Information on sobriety date and your location (country and/or state)is appreciated but not required.

"AA Amigos AA" es una ciber-grupo AA cerrado de hispano parlantes con miembros de muchos países del mundo, incluyendo España, Colombia, México, Los Estados Unidos de América, y Egipto. Muchos de nosotros tenemos el Castellano como lengua materna pero otros solo estan aprendiendo la lengua. Alcohólicos con interés de afiliarse a "AA Amigos AA" son invitados a ponerse en contacto con:

Bastiaan or Eduardo
Su entrada al grupo sería facilitada con una afirmación positiva en relación a la Tercera Tradición de AA. Información en relación a su fecha de sobriedad y ubicación (país y/o estado) seria bienvenida pero no es indispensable.

Bastiaan
Egypt

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Ten Plus Eleven Makes Three

In deepening dark he sits and stares
at three-seat couch and four armchairs,
but read his face, there's no despairs -
more like the man has got no cares.

Perhaps this man has gone to sleep,
though every night he's here to keep
a meeting that is hard to reap,
as he sits silent, very deep.

He cocks his head, as if to hear
a Voice afar, not very clear.
On days his one eye sends a tear
or else his chest heaves with a cheer

as if to shout, "Hip, hip, hooray--
I've lived to face another fray."
In truth, the man sits here to pray
and thank his God for glorious day.

A day which ended without fight,
when he tried doing just and right,
that has no demons in the night--
his sleep will be at peace, tonight.

Tomorrow, when God's new day breaks
and as our man his first look takes,
he'll recall days of boozy shakes,
of fears and terror, lonely aches,

when he awoke, in burning need,
to find his god had paid no heed
to him at all, when he did plead
for Death to come, so he'd be freed.

But, as the then-god of our friend
refused his Black Angel to send,
the man his own life tried to end.
Now Love's brought him to comprehend

that sober living will have pain
but also a stupendous gain,
because the God of sun and rain
can feed the spirit, mend the brain

of him or her who wants the three
birthrights of Happy, Joyous, Free.
Come join us, whether he or she--
He'd welcome you, He's taken me!

Why I was called I cannot say
but, as I pen this verse today,
I'd rather sit in dark and pray
than feed the worms beneath the clay!

Peter
South Africa

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