Showing posts with label harms to others. Show all posts
Showing posts with label harms to others. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


I have finished the classroom part of the Captain's license for un-inspected passenger vessels.  This coming weekend I'll be in the classroom for the Master's license.  This license will be for either a 25, 50 or 100 ton vessel, depending on the amount of sea time that I have and the size of the vessels on which I've worked.  I think that I'll probably have enough time (360 days) on board to get the 50 ton license.

I have five exams to take.  The first two, Navigation General and Deck General, will be taken this Thursday.  I hope to take the next two, Chart Plotting and Rules of the Road, on July 6 and July 7.  After those are done, then I will take the exam for the Master's.  Rules of the Road is the subject that requires a lot of memorization. It is also considered to be the most difficult because out of 30 questions, only 3 may be missed.

I have spent my time studying. I've also found that, while my memory is good, it is not nearly what it used to be.  All the little day shapes and lights and sounds for each vessel type are starting to come together but not at the point where I feel as if I can just reel them off.  I study them for a few hours each day, while also studying for the other exams.

I am not having much fun with this since there is so much material.  It is like being back in college on finals week.  But I keep telling myself that in another couple of weeks, it will be over.  Maybe then, I won't be driving down the road and see two white lights in a row vertically and be thinking "Those are lights for a tug whose tow is < 200 meters".

I have mentally been bemoaning that I haven't been having much fun lately.  And just when I do this, I get a reminder that what I'm doing for these few weeks isn't bad, not dangerous, not going to hurt me.  That reminder came in the form of a share at my home group meeting last night. It was the one year anniversary of J.  I remember when she first came to Al-Anon last summer, a shy young woman who just graduated from high school.

Last night, she told her story of being born in Mexico and at age 9 crossing the U.S. border with her mother and two brothers.  They had been told by the "coyote" to bring enough food and water for a day's walk.  After getting what belongings they could carry, the group of people started walking towards the border.

The walk across the desert turned into three days and four nights during which all ran out of water and had very little food.  J. told of seeing dead bodies as they walked, of people on the journey who became sick and were left behind, of the heat and thirst the group endured.

The group eventually arrived at a house where people brought over by other "coyotes" were staying.  There were perhaps forty people in each room.  The "coyotes" carried guns and threatened to tie concrete blocks to the legs of the children and sink them in the river unless they were paid.  J's mother was waiting on money to be sent from her sister in Florida, but it didn't arrive right away.

After several days with threats from the "coyotes" and with violence among them as one group tried to take guns away from others, the police arrived.  J. and her family escaped from the house during the commotion and found their way to a 24 hour convenience store.  They had no money but thought that they would be safer there than in the woods.

During the late afternoon, a woman and a man drove up in a van.  The woman bought something in the store, came out, and kept looking at J. and her family who were a road worn and sad group.  She eventually came over and asked them if they were okay.  J's mother told her what had happened.  The woman went to the van, said something to her husband, and came back to invite the four of them to their house.  They stayed with this kind couple for three weeks until the money finally arrived from Florida.  The family then boarded a bus that took them to pick oranges in Florida.

After the orange harvest, they traveled to South Carolina to pick tomatoes.  J.'s father arrived here after his border crossing.  The family decided to stay in SC and were offered work on a farm where the mother cleaned, the father and sons worked in the fields, and J. took care of the animals.

Not long after their arrival in SC,  J. was raped by her step-brother who had come to visit.  She was raped later by a cousin as well.  She didn't tell anyone immediately because she had been told that she would be killed if she told.

By this time, she was enrolled in school, being tutored in English and making excellent grades.  The first rape happened on a Sunday.  Because she didn't want to miss school, she went as usual on Monday.  At school, some of her friends knew that she was troubled so she confided in them about the rape.  Soon the teachers knew and J. was taken by a counselor to a hospital where she was examined and evidence collected.

After the rape, she became despondent. She couldn't concentrate in school.  Her grades slipped.  She kept going to therapists but mostly they would ask, "How do you feel today?".  Finally, she was assigned to N. who really listened to her.  J. began to trust N. and talked to her not only about the rape but about how both her parents were alcoholics.  It was through N. that J. got to Al-Anon and the little meeting that I call "home".

J. is a remarkable young woman.  She graduated in the top five of her class in middle school and in the top ten of her Senior class in high school.  She has been verbally and emotionally abused by her father, yet she feels compassion for him.  Her full brother who is a drug addict stole all of her saved money from her.  She called the police who deported him.  She works whenever she can taking care of animals and babysitting.  Her hope is to become an American citizen, go to college and become a nurse.

I know that there are so many people like J.  She has come a long way since struggling across the desert.  She shared that she has found people to trust in Al-Anon, people that she can call, people who won't judge her.  And that she has found her own Higher Power who gives her comfort.

I heard just what I needed to hear from this young person at the time when I needed to hear it.  Amazing how that works.

For the first time, on the road north of Tampico,
I felt the life sliding out of me,
a drum in the desert, harder and harder to hear.
I was seven, I lay in the car
watching palm trees swirl a sickening pattern
past the glass.
My stomach was a melon split wide inside my skin.

"How do you know if you are going to die?"
I begged my mother.
We had been traveling for days.
With strange confidence she answered,
"When you can no longer make a fist."

Years later I smile to think of that journey,
the borders we must cross separately,
stamped with our unanswerable woes.
I who did not die, who am still living,
still lying in the backseat behind all my questions,
clenching and opening one small hand.— Naomi Shihab Nye

Thursday, February 16, 2012


It was a good day yesterday spent taking an old classic sailboat down the coast to a boat yard for surveying.  The potential buyer is coming in today.  Hopefully, the old boat will have a new owner and be restored back to her former glory.  She is a gem that was custom built in 1978 at the Cheoy Lee yard in Shanghai for a former Navy Captain and his wife.  She was sailed throughout the Pacific and then over to the East coast where she was owned by a gentleman who can no longer give her the TLC that she needs.  Yesterday, she moved like a dream, and we all enjoyed feeling the sturdiness of this boat as she was underway.

Last night, calls of confusion came in from my wife's mom.  She was saying that there had been a party and all her china was broken, she hadn't had anything to eat all day, and no one was home.  Jessica, the caregiver, called to tell us that Mom was having a bad day.  Some days she is perfectly lucid and others days she isn't.

An older friend told my wife that some caregivers abuse their patients, slamming them into wheelchairs and slapping them.  We know that Jessica and Brad are great people and treat Mom with love.  And we stop by often to see her.  I suppose that there are those who just reach the end of their rope with taking care of others, whether it's the elderly, the physically and mentally disabled,  or low bottom alcoholics.  We are supposed to have compassion, but the human psyche can only take so much stress.

Sadly, the number of people who have caregiver burnout is increasing as more caregivers take on the job without getting the help they need, or try to do more than they are able to--physically or financially.  Those who are burned out experience fatigue, stress, anxiety and depression which sometimes can result in wanting to hurt those for whom they are caring.

I think that living with active alcoholism has the effect of burnout.  All the positivity of a life can become filled with anger and frustration.  Feeling that there is no one to turn to, no one to share the secret with can create such isolation that life seems hardly worth living.  And the alcoholic is likely feeling the same way--isolated, ashamed, lonely, desperate, filled with loathing.  More than one person gets lost to the disease when there is no respite from it.

We all need breaks from whatever stressful activity we are doing.  I needed it when I was working so I would take vacation days.  We give the caregivers a break by either staying there ourselves or bringing in temporary help.  And I give myself a respite now and then for no particular reason by spending a shining day on the water on an old boat.  Just keeping things in balance. It really helps.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

What can I do?

I have been reading about the Bang Bang Club, a group of four photojournalists who covered the Apartheid conflicts from the time that Nelson Mandela was released from jail until the elections in South Africa.  I read that two of the photographers won Pulitizers for their photographs.  The photograph that resonated with me was that of a small girl, striken by famine in the Sudan, who is being stalked by a vulture.
Pulitzer prize winning photo by Kevin Carter
Kevin Carter who took the photograph had been documenting the famine in the Sudan as well as covering the bloody conflicts during Apartheid.  The intensity of the work affected him deeply, and he began to use drugs and alcohol to get by.  He was criticized for not helping the child in the photo.  

The death of fellow photographer and friend, Ken Oosterbroek, affected him deeply. Maybe he saw too many horrible things.  But he committed suicide, writing that "he was "depressed . . . without phone . . . money for rent . . . money for child support . . . money for debts . . . money!!! . . . I am haunted by the vivid memories of killings & corpses & anger & pain . . . of starving or wounded children, of trigger-happy madmen, often police, of killer executioners . . . " And then this: "I have gone to join Ken if I am that lucky."

I can read about the horrors that we inflict on each other and cannot imagine what it must be like to witness these things first hand.  My wife has talked some about her time in Ethiopia which was for the most part happy.  But not long after she left, many of the people she taught were killed.  She doesn't dwell on this painful part.  Yet, I know those memories are palpably painful.

I have been fortunate to not have had violence in my life.  Yet, so many live in fear every day. And the situation appears to be more desperate than ever here and abroad.   I don't know where I am going with this, other than to say that at this moment, I wonder how it was ordained that I am in the life that I have rather than the one of suffering that so many experience.

I ask myself "What can I do?"  Maybe I cannot do much about the world situation, but I can reach out my hand to another who is troubled, listen to them, smile and be a voice if asked.  I know that there is much more to be done. I am searching for that answer today.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Pretty photos and a rant

I want to share a few of the sights of yesterday. The weather has been terrific! I need to focus on the pretty here because the not so pretty is bubbling up.

The dolphins are abundant this weekend. I watched them jumping out of the water and cruising by. They seem to find the boat interesting, often swimming right beside it.

The beach had its share of crazies but all were located in one area. Once the gauntlet is run, there is nothing but peace and quiet. The shrimp boats come near the beach, plying a nearly lost trade in this area. Foreign imports and fuel prices have made most go out of business.

The sand dollar is actually related to the sea stars. When alive, these critters move along the bottom feeding on algae and small invertebrates. Most of the ones I find are the shell. These are fragile and often broken by the waves.

The ghost crab is one of my favorite beach critters. It can see in all directions with those stalked eyes. Most are hiding out in their burrows during the day. At night, they run to the water to wet their gills.

I don't know how much longer I will be coming to this little island that I treasure. I have spent some wonderful days and nights here. It has been a place of peace. Summer though brings some fairly wild and crazy people with a lot of bad behavior. I have written about the stuff that happens here before: the drinking, unsafe boating, the loud profane music and the women that denigrate themselves by pandering to the sexist males on the power yachts.

Today, I am just fed up. I heard a fellow call a woman some terrible names yesterday. He was about to back into our boat, and she was scared. I have to say that one of the things that throws me into a rage is someone talking disrespectfully and rudely about women or to an individual who is doing no harm. It is hard, saddening, and frightening to watch real people in the real world say hateful things.

The woman was deflated and horrified. She evidently was a guest on his boat. Because his boat was caught up in an anchor line, our two boats were side by side. He eventually offered a kind of off hand apology after I said to knock it off. An apology is not a solution. The real solution is to to be aware and to change behavior.

Words do hurt, even if we are taught that they don't matter. If someone makes sexist jokes, says crude sexist things, and perpetuates sexist ideas that women don't have brains or that they are not valuable unless you think they are sexy, whatever that means, they are low lifes to me.

The gleeful skewering of another person, the disregard for their thoughts and opinions, and the total lack of respect for another person, whoever they are, leaves me sad. I know that this happens every day to all manner of people. And I know that we each have our moments of disregard for others. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t sad to see this happen up close.

And since this incident involved a woman, I want to note that the kind of sexism that places value on women’s appearance before anything else is rampant in our society. Flaws can and will be found with any person if hateful people need them to be there.

What I think this incident reveals is the degree to which hateful beliefs can become ingrained and invisible, and come out especially in moments in which a person feels threatened. When an instinctual, and later intentional response is predicated on racism or sexism or any kind of bigotry, we owe it to ourselves not to sweep our actions under the rug and say we are really a good or nice person, except this one time. Instead it is time to take an honest look at what the root of the issue is.

I needed to write about this because I sorely wanted to kick his ass. That is the instinct that I am inventorying.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

the games toxic people play

Occasionally, there will be a sneak attack that happens when I least expect it.  Things will be going along just fine and then....wham...someone will surprise me with their meanness.  I am not going to be specific here because that isn't the point.  What I have to do is inventory what happens within me when someone or something is done that is hurtful. 

I know that the hostility triggers something in me that makes me want to get away from the person as soon as it happens. My inventory tells me that: 1) I am frightened of the rage, 2) the rage brings up memories of my father's anger and my wife's behavior when she was drinking, 3) I am finding that the rage is detracting from my friendship with the individual, 4) I am becoming resentful of this person, and 5) I don't believe the words "I'm sorry" unless there is a change in behavior. 

I don't want to take the inventory of another.  I want to see the best in people.  But when someone has been deliberately judgmental, mean, and spiteful, it makes me want to get as far away from them as possible.  I know that there are people who are miserable and want to see others be miserable too.  I am truly sorry for them.  But I quite frankly don't want to be around those who spew their stuff on me or others. 

The whole subject of toxic people is fairly interesting.  So I decided to read more about toxic people and the effect that they can have if you let them.
Here is what I found:

* Every one has had a toxic person in their life at one time or another.

* A toxic person will continue to hurt you, until you stop allowing them to do so.

* You are powerless over the actions of the toxic person, but you can walk away from the toxic person and not allow them into your life anymore.

* Toxic people can drain your health, energy, well being and sanity. Get away from toxic people and associate with those who are positive and around whom you feel good.

* Trust your instincts. Toxic people exude the dark side of human nature. If you allow them to, they will create pain, craziness, and aggravation. If you feel sick and empty and experience negative physical feelings, then it is likely that you are in the presence of a toxic person. Once you identify someone as toxic, you can begin to eliminate them from your life.

* A person is toxic because of their own issues. It has nothing to do with you. Toxic people don't take responsibility for their own actions. They like to turn things around so that you feel bad, you feel guilty, and you feel at fault.

* The best thing you can do when dealing with a toxic person is to walk away. If you cannot walk away, then mentally walk away. Allow yourself to disengage, disassociate, and detach. Detachment is the best process to get you back into yourself.

Like my sponsor tells me, "Keep the focus on yourself". It's good advice. I have learned in Al-Anon to forgive and let go of others who do harm because they are sick in their soul.  They have their issues too and in many cases they are living their life without the benefit of spirituality.  I can shrug off the crazy comments that someone will make. I no longer have to buy into anyone else's stuff. They may be offering it for free but I don't have to own it.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The fellowship is a safe place?

We hear that the rooms of Al-Anon are a safe place.  I certainly have felt comfortable to share my story at these meetings.  But there are situations that may arise in which a spouse or relative is "stalked" by an alcoholic who comes to the meeting. 

I have read that if a wet drunk shows up at an AA meeting, that person is helped by a couple of the members.  I can't find anything about what to do if an intoxicated person shows up at an Al-Anon meeting.  I would like to think that this is a rare occurrence but with individuals who are separating from the alcoholic, such a situation could indeed arise and in fact has occurred recently.  

The first thought that came to mind was that a couple of men who were there could see if the "new" man would like to go talk in a separate area.  Or perhaps a couple of the women could take the crying spouse to another room.  This presents a potentially explosive situation though.   Maybe the best course is to ask the intoxicated person to leave and if they don't, then call the police.  I was wondering what the thoughts are of those who have experienced this.

The thought that someone would feel unsafe at an Al-Anon meeting hasn't crossed my mind until now.  Most of us believe in "Live and Let Live" and aren't too comfortable dealing with potentially unsafe situations at a meeting. However, Tradition One states that "our common welfare should come first".  Al-Anon needs to be a safe place for people who are troubled by someone else's drinking. 

Any suggestions would be much appreciated.  It is a subject that will likely be brought up at a future group conscience meeting.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

What about compassion?

For the most part, I hear a lot of compassion in Al-Anon meetings. I know that the program may get a bad reputation from some. There are a lot of Al-Anon jokes. And I can laugh right along with the rest because they are funny.

Most of us aren't hard nosed, although there are a few that label themselves as "black belts" in the rooms. But for the most part, I don't see the program as teaching how to land a good round house kick on the alcoholic but about how to become centered within ourselves and become spiritually and emotionally whole.

But there are occasions when I hear something that makes my hair stand on end. Not long ago I heard a share from a woman who said that she had found some photos and letters from another lady when she was cleaning out her husband's things after a divorce. She realized from the photos and letters that her husband had an affair with the other woman for quite a few years. So she packed up the material, except for a few photos, and mailed it off to the "other" woman's husband.

She was really proud of herself for doing this. Most of us sat dumbfounded. Wow, I thought, this is going to be one heck of an amends to deal with if that time ever comes.

I prefer to deal with my resentments in a more constructive manner. And to do no harm to those who are really innocent. In fact, I don't wish to do harm to anyone. That is a real miracle of this program.

By the way, I can do a decent round house, but I think that kind of thing is better used at the gym than in Al-Anon.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Working Saturday

Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect. ~Chief Seattle, 1855

There is an open house at the marine lab today. This is one of those events in which we have a lot of displays and information available and the public comes in to see what we do. It's generally a fun event with children and adults alike enjoying seeing critters and going out on the boats.

I think that the best part of my work is getting the message about the importance of the marine environment to the public. I used to think that the best part of what I did was publish papers and do research. I think that my attitude changed when I came to realize that there is a sense of urgency about taking care of the habitats that we have left. With more and more people moving to the coast, there is a real need to impress upon people that the water and marine resources that everyone loves is getting sick from careless development, overpopulation, and generally being taken for granted. Awareness and education are key to getting the message out.

I wish that more academicians came out of the ivory towers of learning and mingled among the general public. Not all but many are simply out of touch with what is happening in the real world. I don't think that I have the luxury anymore of simply doing research because it's something that interests me. I feel that I have a responsibility to do something that is going to make things better.

Off my soap box for today and off to pass the message of "Do no harm" to others or to the environment.

I'm grateful for:
  • Being able to pass the messages that I've learned on to others
  • Having a chance at experiencing another day
  • Doing what I can for a better way of life and hoping that others do the same
  • Having seen that nature puts on a better show than Spielburg and it's all for free
  • The wonderment of kids over things that many of us take for granted.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Toxic people

This weekend I had an opportunity to be around someone who I consider to be a trusted friend. Unfortunately, I also witnessed rage in this person that was blown entirely out of proportion to the situation that occurred.

I have suspected for some time that this fellow has adult ADD. He is a long-time recovering alcoholic. I've witnessed several other episodes of rage by him in the past.

I know that the rage triggers something in me that makes me want to get away from the person as soon as it happens. My inventory tells me that 1) I am frightened of the rage, 2) the rage brings up memories of my father's anger and my wife's behavior when she was drinking, 3) I am finding that the rage is detracting from my friendship with the individual, 4) I am becoming resentful of this person, and 5) I don't believe him when he tells me that he is sorry about the anger.

What I'm wrestling with is whether to back away from the friendship entirely or to continue it at a limited level. I talked with my sponsor and expressed my feelings. The similarity between feeling emotionally battered when my wife was drinking and the emotional upheaval that resulted from my friend's tantrum are similar. In other words, it triggered feelings of wanting to get far away. I don't believe the remorse and think that the words "I'm sorry" are meaningless because they are said over and over without a change in behavior.

So I decided to read more about toxic people and the effect that they can have if you let them.
Here is what I found:

* Every one has had a toxic person in their life at one time or another.

* A toxic person will continue to hurt you , until you stop allowing them to do so.

* You are powerless over the actions of the toxic person, but you can walk away from the toxic person and not allow them into your life anymore.

* Toxic people can drain your health, energy, well being and sanity. Get away from toxic people and associate with those who are positive and around whom you feel good.

* Trust your instincts. Toxic people exude the dark side of human nature. If you allow them to, they will create pain, craziness, and aggravation. If you feel sick and empty and experience negative physical feelings, then it is likely that you are in the presence of a toxic person. Once you identify someone as toxic, you can begin to eliminate them from your life.

* A person is toxic because of their own issues. It has nothing to do with you. Toxic people don't take responsibility for their own actions. They like to turn things around so that you feel bad, you feel guilty, and you feel at fault.

* The best thing you can do when dealing with a toxic person is to walk away. If you cannot walk away, then mentally walk away. Allow yourself to disengage, disassociate, and detach. Detachment is the best process to get you back into yourself.

Like my sponsor tells me, "Keep the focus on yourself". It's good advice. This is something that I'm not going to resolve immediately, but it is something that the program will help me get through.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

A fence or a wall?

I met with a sponsee last night for a couple of hours before the meeting. He is progressing with work on Step One. And I'm gradually learning about his life. I can't relate to all of his story but can say that like most of us who come to Al-Anon, he has built walls to hide the pain in his life. But at the same time, he has only some broken down fences with which to establish boundaries for himself.

When I first heard about boundaries, I knew that I had breached many with a lot of people. And I had no good idea how to establish those that I needed to take care of myself. By admitting that I was powerless over others and accepting that I could not make anyone do anything, I have gradually learned that a healthy boundary is one that I can enforce. It isn't one in which I ask the other person to establish the boundary for me.

For example, I might say something like: "If you show up drunk again, I'm going to ask you to leave." That is something I can't enforce. But if I said, "If you show up drunk again, I'm going to leave" that is a boundary that I can stick by.

Broken down fences are like broken down defenses because I'm left vulnerable to whatever may decide to jump, slide under, or glide through the fence. And I've had to shore up my boundaries with those who are potentially "toxic".

It's a familiar thing in Al-Anon. How to deal with someone in our life who is causing a great deal of pain? Detaching with love and setting boundaries are good ways to do that.

I got to the point before the program that I didn't like hurtful people in my life, but I also didn't know how to get them out of my life or how to detach from them.
It has taken me a while to realize that I don't have to like everyone nor do I have to stick around those people who have the potential to be harmful to me. I used to try to ignore them but found that it's hard to ignore the elephant in the living room. Turning the other cheek never worked because I would just get slapped on the other one. And I don't wish to be a martyr. Now, I'm done with people that I don't want to be with. I inventory myself and make a decision on whether I want the drama or the potential of a serenity "breaker".

"In the last analysis, the individual person is responsible for living his own life and for "finding himself." If he persists in shifting his responsibility to somebody else, he fails to find out the meaning of his own existence." Thomas Merton

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Day

Today I learned that the thief took several of the Christmas presents that had been wrapped and under the tree.  Thankfully, I didn't learn about it until after Christmas dinner when my wife discovered that a gift to her mother was missing, and I remembered a sweater that I had wrapped for my wife and it too wasn't there. 

I would like to say that this didn't affect any of us but that wouldn't be true.  I am dealing with it but feel that learning about the stolen gifts brought back all the feelings from Friday when I learned that the rings had been stolen.  I'm sure that I'll deal with this latest insult okay.  But having to call the police again is just another agitation.  I am wondering now what else I'll discover to be missing.  

I need to get to a meeting for sure.  I need to get my mind off this whole thing and focus on something that is good, happy and peaceful.  

I hope that each of you had a wonderful day.  The day itself is still wonderful no matter the circumstances that interjected themselves into it.   

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Letting go of past hurts

The topic in today's meeting was letting go of past hurts. I used to be really stuck in the past but over the past several months, I've come to realize how the steps have helped me to let things go. It started with Step Four when I wrote out my resentments and fears and looked at how I contributed to those things in my dealings with people, many of whom were from my past.

It got better when I did Step Five with my sponsor. It was a relief just to discuss my life and the way I've felt with someone else. And now with Step Nine, I'm seeing that it's possible to feel unchained from all the stuff that dragged me down. That's not to say that sometimes my mind doesn't go back to the old way of thinking, it's just that I'm able to get myself back to where I need to be through recognizing what I'm feeling. It seems that I'm able to look at what I've done and think of it as a part of my life history, both the good and the bad, that has formed who I am. What I can be rid of is the guilt, the resentment, the self-pity that used to bury me in the past. I think that working the steps has provided the best way for me to let go of the past and just focus on this moment and this day.

"I wanted to forget the past, but it refused to forget me; it waited for sleep, then cornered me." Margaret Atwood

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Did things change?

I guess that everyone remembers what they were doing on September 11 2001. I had taken my mother for an ECT treatment for her depression and was sitting in the family lounge at the hospital when the TV announced that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. Then the second plane flew in and the rest is history, as they say.

I didn't know the repercussions of what had happened and how far reaching the aftermath would be, but I felt a sick feeling that this act would bring about a war, more bloodshed, and perhaps threaten the world as no other conflict had. Some of my earliest thoughts weren't off the mark. We have a war, we have more bloodshed. Although our world continues to revolve around the sun, I feel restless about the well-being of this country and the state of the world in general. I fear that the bully-pulpit and self-interest greed of our nation is going to have dire consequences for years to come. Maybe it's my feeling of powerlessness, but I don't want to see more tributes and events on the news. I don't want to hear more about the "Axis of Evil" or how everyone is a potential "terrorist". I don't have much faith in the current administration and have become much more skeptical about the individuals who are entrusted with running the government.

Because of 9/11, I fear that we are more likely to have our civil rights violated by the government; we are less likely to have needed social services, adequate health care, and good education because of the continuing war. What we are more likely to have are erosions to Constitutional rights because of the endless "war on terrorism"; and we are more likely to witness environmental degradation because the focus is on having a capitalistic society.

I was hoping that the tragedy of 9/11 would be the kind of wakeup call to this country that would bring about something positive in the world. That we would be looked upon with respect because we had learned to take care of each other here so that people would be better educated, have better health care, housing, and a feeling of connection to the other nations in the world.

I think that the real tragedy these years after 9/11 is that we haven't learned real lessons about the rest of the world and how to take the best of this country and use it to the benefit of other nations. President Kennedy, in his speech inaugurating the Peace Corps, said something like: "Those who have so much will not be able to keep it if they are unwilling to share with those who have so little." In other words, we have to give it away, in order to keep it.

Genuine, national self examination would be a tribute to those who tragically died on 9/11. Perhaps we could prevent similar horrors in the future.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Shift Shaping Reptiles

The meeting tonight was a good one. For some reason, we were locked out of our usual meeting room, so we went into another part of the church and sat on the floor. It was a more relaxed feeling than sitting in chairs. Everyone was just sprawled out. I really like this meeting. There are usually about 30 people there and there are a lot of people who are thoughtful and have many years of recovery.

This isn't the meeting that the dominatrix runs. I go to four different Al-Anon meetings a week and several noon time AA meetings. I decided that the more meetings I go to the more I would learn. In addition, the dynamics of the individuals in the group and the variety of topics is good. Every group has a different feel to it. I get something from every meeting that I attend.

I have thought about Micky's parody of How It Works (see his comment on the Sept. 3 blog called How it Sucks). I think that Micky may have potential as a comedy writer because what he has written is quite clever. The strange thing about us Shift Shaping Reptiles that Micky doesn't understand is that I can read what he has written, see the humor in it, and not be offended. This part is especially interesting:
"There are those, too, who are gravediggers and undertakers, but many of them do become ZOMBIES if they have the capacity to be dishonest. Our stories disclose in a twisted way, who we like, what happened, and who we hate now. If you have decided you want a cup of tea and are willing to go to any lengths to become emotionally shutdown, SHIFT SHAPING REPTILES - then you are ready to take certain steps."

I would acknowledge that there are a lot of zombies out there who are dishonest. Lots of them are running the country, and then there are others who are just ordinary people in a state of denial about truth. And yes, I've written and talked about those I liked, what happened, and who I don't like now in my fourth and fifth step. That's a given for Al-Anon. I'm not so sure about reptiles being emotionally shutdown though. Take the iguanas that I recently saw in St. Thomas. They just seem serene to me--rather accepting and happy to lie about in the sun, eat mangoes, reproduce, and generally hang out. I think that I often emulate some of that behavior and it's not a bad life. One reptilian day at a time.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Watching the light go out

At the meeting last night, I read from one of the books about how to stop hurting others as we work through recovery. One of the readings asked the question, "Have you ever watched the light go out of someone's eyes?" I can visualize that because I've not only seen it but have contributed in many ways to it. While one could interpret the reading as referring to death and dying, it really was referring to how unkind words and sarcasm can take the light away.

I've felt the light in my own eyes ebb over the years. It wasn't due to alcohol or drugs but to a loss of spirit and an emptiness within. But I've contributed through my own selfishness and fears to diminishing the light in other's eyes. Thankfully, I didn't have the power to extinguish that light.

Through the program, I'm coming to terms with the harms that I have done. I'm working at trying to balance my character defects with some positive affirmations. Today has been a day to not only think about the wrongs that I have done but to try as hard as I can to forgive myself.

The HP has been working so hard today in my life. My SO found and read my fourth step inventory and is having a hard time coming to grips with what was written. The application of the Ninth Step of making direct amends except when to do so would injure them or others is not an option for me now. The harms are there, indelibly imprinted and have filled her eyes with tears. I'm doing what I can to affirm my love and caring. I'm not sure that anything will work this time so I've got to just let it go this evening and trust that somehow this fits into the HP's plan.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Anger hurts

I've been thinking about how anger is a hurtful thing. I saw it on the ship this time and heard about it from several people. Just seeing someone go off on another indicates the amount of physical and emotional energy that anger takes. It's not a productive emotion for me and seems to take away my enjoyment of people and opportunities around me. The words that are said during an angry interchange can maim the soul. But after an angry outburst, it takes me quite a while to get the event out of my head because I go over it and try to figure out what happened.

It seems that angry people like to think that they are justified with making themselves and everyone around them miserable. Anger seems to be selfish because things can't always go the way that I or others want them to. People won't do what I say. Things in life aren't going to run smoothly for me or anyone else all the time. I have to accept that and just deal with it. Getting angry isn't going to change anyone's viewpoint or make things run more smoothly. In fact, I've found that anger has the opposite effect.

Maybe it's the nature of the alcoholic to be irritable. I've wondered about that because I've seen a lot of irritability with an alcoholic friend on my last cruise. He became enraged with other people on board. He cursed and generally acted out. Is this stress or just the alcoholic mind at work? My friend has been sober for many years and I've never known him to blow up like this. I know that he has issues with hypoglycemia, but somehow I think that it was linked more to stress.

I've read that alcoholics can have hypoglycemia that makes for irritability. Eating sugary foods seems to make the situation worse. I don't know the answer but having been on the receiving end of alcoholic frustration at home, I know that it is painful for both parties. The person who is angry feels bad about losing control and self-esteem seems to suffer even more. I basically don't want to be around someone who is angry so that adds to more feelings of isolation. Apologies that are repeated over and over don't work anymore.

So now what I have to do is my part--forgive those who have been angry and who have lashed out; accept that their anger is theirs to own and not mine; and remember to think before I open my mouth with hurtful words.

"An angry man is again angry with himself, when he returns to reason. "(Publilius Syrus)

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Step Four

I've been thinking quite a bit about step four which I'm about to begin. In Al-Anon there is a work book that is used to help with this step which is a "searching and fearless moral inventory" to include resentments, fears, harms to others, and sexual conduct. I've heard that some people fear this step. For me, I'm looking forward to doing this work. I've been to therapists and told them my story. With Al-Anon, I think that this step will be more helpful than going to a therapist because I'll be focusing on the attitudes, thoughts, beliefs, fears, actions, behaviors, and the behavior patterns that have caused my failure to deal with the alcoholic and many other aspects of my life. I also understand that Step Four is a repetitive thing as are all the steps. Hopefully, I'll get new insight into why I so often feel defeated, discontented and often so empty.

I know that there are people that I resent. Primary on that list will be the alcoholic. But I also realize that it is the disease that I dislike so much as my qualifier is one of the best people that I know.

What do I fear? I fear a slip. I fear loss of the ones that I love. I don't fear for myself, yet I probably should have a fear for loss of myself and my own well-being. That is what I need to work on--taking care of myself and fearing for my own sanity.

The harms that I have done to others will make quite a list. I have been selfish, resentful, jealous, bitter, and aloof many times. I've put way too much emphasis on work and not enough on just having fun. I've harmed myself in as many ways as I've harmed others.

Sexual conduct is an area of the inventory where I will need courage and strength. Working this step is a matter of trust also. My inclination is to be ashamed of thoughts and actions around this topic. But like eating my first oyster, it's best to take a deep breath, swallow and not chew on this topic for too long.

God grant me the strength....