Still sober – 67 days and counting
I went to a noon AA meeting yesterday and while it wasn’t one of the greatest meetings I have attended, as ever, I enjoyed it and came away ‘spiritually’ refreshed. When I say ‘spiritual’ I am not in any way referring to a ‘Higher Power’, I am simply referring to the ‘spirit’ within myself.
Yesterday we started reading the AA ‘Big Book’ from page one. Chapter one is entitled Bill’s story and is his first-hand account of how the co-founder of AA, Bill W, found his way to sobriety from a seemingly hopeless position. Bill, although an intelligent and well educated man, who had found considerable success in business, ended up as an inveterate drunk of the worst kind, almost completely destroying everything around him including his family, friends and of course his own life. Yet he found a way out of all this and went on to enjoy many years of sobriety and, of course to found AA. He also single handedly wrote the ‘Big Book’ which has largely been left unaltered up to the present day.
Bill W is regarded as a ‘saint’ by many recovering alcoholics, and the ‘Big Book’ is frequently referred to as the ‘AA Bible’. For any of you out there who are even vaguely aware that you might be drinking too much, I highly recommend that you read the Big Book, as most of it is as relevant today as it was on the day that Bill wrote it. It is an easy read and you will find much in there that most of us can relate to. It is freely available on line if you don’t wish to buy it. Even for those who do not have an alcohol problem, it is still a good read as it provides much insight into the alcoholic mind and behaviour and it helps you to realise just how serious and life threatening is the curse of alcoholism.
Pearls of wisdom sometime come from the most unexpected sources and yesterday at the end of the ‘reading’, someone commented that Bill must have been someone ‘special’ as he didn’t have the structure of the AA around him to get him free of alcohol. It’s a cute observation, as AA maintains that there is only one way to remain sober and that is by joining AA and working the programme. Yet Bill didn’t have AA or a programme, but he nevertheless saved himself. Of course, if you read his story, you will see that there were one or two very significant people who showed him the path to sobriety and it was from these people that he was inspired to develop the concept of AA and the 12 step programme. Nevertheless, he did it by himself, albeit with a little help from his friends, but without the auspices of AA, which hadn’t yet come properly into being.
I take a little comfort from this. Not because I think I can stay sober without the help of AA, but because I do believe that as far as alcoholics are concerned, just as no two alcoholics are exactly alike, neither is their path to sobriety. Some can only stay sober by their total immersion in AA and the AA programme, but others will use AA to a much lesser extent and succeed in remaining sober. Bill must have been one of these, for although he eventually dedicated his whole life to the AA, in the early years, it simply didn’t exist as we know it today. He was on his own, although he did have the significant support of friends.
I have met people at AA who have enjoyed many years of sobriety but still do not accept the concept of a Higher Power. Some are out-and-out atheist. Others have never worked the steps but have still achieved impressive decades of sobriety. Others have embraced the steps and the concept of an ‘H.P’ but only attend meetings once a week, or even less frequently. Yet many daily attendees will tell you that unless you make daily or even twice daily meetings, then you will eventually fall off the proverbial wagon.
I have concluded that it really is a case of ‘horses for courses’, and some alcoholics manage to achieve sobriety without ever going to a single AA meeting. However, Bill W, all those years ago, through sheer inspiration, (divine or otherwise), came up with a way of life and a ‘spiritual’ programme which has successfully brought tens of thousands of alcoholics throughout the world to sobriety. Of this there is no doubt and anyone would be foolish to gainsay it. The basic idea of AA has been adopted by many organisations throughout the world, including psychiatrists and psychotherapists and treatment clinics for a wide range of addictions, from drugs, to sex to all manner of obsessive compulsive disorders and even eating disorders. It works, no one can tell exactly why, but it does.
So I will proceed with caution. I will continue to attend at least 2 meetings a week, and in due course I will start to put my mind towards some facets of the AA twelve step programme, but not necessarily in the order they have been written and not necessarily all of them.
I missed an eye appointment today with a Pattaya ‘eye specialist’. I have glaucoma and I have been taking eye drops for more than 20 years to keep the eye pressure under control.
Last year I had some bad conjunctivitis and was recommended to this specialist. He cured my conjunctivitis but also told me that he thought that I no longer had glaucoma and I could stop taking the eye drops.
So I stopped taking them.
Two weeks ago I went to see him for a check-up and he tested my eye pressure. He said it was very high.
‘How high?’ I asked him.
‘24’ he replied.
‘How high was it last year?’ I asked.
He looked at my records.
‘18. He replied. ‘Are you still taking the eye drops?’
‘No.’ I told him
‘Why not?’ he asked
‘Because you told me to stop.’
Last night I finished watching a veritable ‘tour de force’ of TV drama entitled ‘The Promise’. It has just been shown in the UK on channel four and is a four, one hour drama series set in Palestine/Israel. There are two parallel stories, one commences at the end of WW2 when the British Army liberated the Nazi concentration camps and this segment includes some horrifying, real footage. The action quickly moves to the British involvement in the ‘then Palestine’ and the subsequent UN sponsored partition of the country. The parallel story takes place in modern day Israel, including action in the war ravaged Gaza strip.
I won’t say any more, as it will spoil it for those who are interested in downloading and watching it. What I will say is that it one of the most compelling pieces of filmed drama I have ever had the ‘pleasure’ to watch. It is dramatic, exciting, heart rending, mysterious, and even romantic. The script, acting and cinematography are all superb and above all, it teaches you about the Arab Israeli problem in a way you would never have thought possible and it is quite remarkable how many parallels can be drawn between what happened back in the 1940’s and what is going on there today. No one comes out of this piece of history with any kind of dignity or honour – least of all the British.
Ultimately it veers on the side of the Palestinians – well it has to really – but it makes a very good fist of explaining why the Israelis behave as they do. In the end, you feel empathy for both sides in this terrible, crazy nightmare and hope that the carnage of this 60 year conflict will somehow come to an end.
For those of you who have read ‘Mobi’s Story’, you will know that I am half Jewish from my father’s side. As best as I can establish, he was the victim of Russian Jewish pogroms and his family had to flee the Ukraine and settled in the east end of London, way back in the early 1900’s. Persecution of the Jewish people has been going on for centuries so it is not unnatural for me to have a tendency to side with the Israelis. However, it didn’t take this fine piece of drama to tell me that what the Israelis are doing is wrong, but it did provide me with some interesting insights into their thinking and why they do what they do, as well as reinforcing my belief that they are wrong and that peace will never be attained until they modify their behaviour and actions.
I know I have recommended a number of films and TV dramas in this blog, but if you only ever watch one of them, then let it be ‘The Promise’. I promise you, you will not regret it.
(I was horrified to discover that the audience for episode 1 of The Promise on its debut showing in the UK was a mere 1.3 million. It was up against ‘Stars on Ice’ which garnered over 6 million and some other populist nonsense on BBC which also attracted a much larger audience. What a terrible waste…..)
I am continuing to make progress on my novel. Today I wrote another 1,800 odd words and the chapter is coming along nicely, currently at around 6,000 words in total. It will probably round out at about 10, 000 words, so not too far to go now. As long as I continue to make progress, however slowly, then I am happy.