Happy Father’s Day

Today is Father’s Day.  Friends were discussing gratitude and their fathers’ at a meeting this morning.  That brought up some mixed feelings for me.  My father died 20 years ago at the age of 78.  We had not talked in several years.

My father and I had more father/son misadventures than most.  For example, we were towed in by the coast guard in three countries.  While working on the farm with him, I saw him get his ribs broken by an angry steer and got his front teeth knocked out by a tractor.

He taught me many useful personal vocational skills such as welding, working on and with tractors, construction, aquaculture, fishing and how to read a map while navigating open waters.  He also taught me horribly dysfunctional social skills that have wreaked havoc in my relationships with others causing great pain in my life.

In recovery, I have learned how to not shut the door on the past.  Today I was able to focus on the good things in my relationship with my father and be grateful for those times.   My biggest regret is that I did not know then what I know now about relationships.   We could have had a great relationship filled with love and good times instead of the unhappy ending that we endured.

My father was vastly more successful in his career as a pilot than anything I will ever come close to.  My relationships with my friends are better than anything he ever had in my life.

I am grateful to my father for the good parts of our relationship.

One Month and 35 Years

It has been a month since my last Gratitude blog post.  No particular plan there other than lacking the gumption to post.    Achieving 1400 posts exceeded all my hopes and expectations when I started this blog in late 2012.   It would be good to keep blogging on a daily basis, but for now I am ready for a break.

35 years ago today on June 18th, 1981, I was paralyzed in a tractor accident while logging near Mt St Helens when I was 22 years old.   It could have been worse.   It could have been better.

I am grateful for having written these 1400 posts on gratitude, it has helped rewire my brain (“the neurons that fire together wire together”) in a better way with my compassion and empathy for myself and others.  I am also grateful to be alive with good medical insurance and a decent pension.

Trudging Along

Page 164 of the big book of Alcoholics Anonymous is the last page of directions on how to work the AA program of recovery.  That is followed another 400 pages of personal stories and appendices beginning with Dr Bob’s Nightmare—which is the story of how AA co-founder Dr Bob Smith of Akron Ohio got sober.

Our book is meant to be suggestive only. We realize we know only a little. God will constantly disclose more to you and to us. Ask Him in your morning meditation what you can do each day for the man who is still sick. The answers will come, if your own house is in order. But obviously you cannot transmit something you haven't got. See to it that your relationship with Him is right, and great events will come to pass for you and countless others. This is the Great Fact for us.

Abandon yourself to God as you understand God. Admit your faults to Him and to your fellows. Clear away the wreckage of your past. Give freely of what you find and join us. We shall be with you in the Fellowship of the Spirit, and you will surely meet some of us as you trudge the Road of Happy Destiny.

May God bless you and keep you - until then.

I struggle with depression, obesity and other health care issues in my journey on the road of happy destinies.  Nonetheless, I continue to trudge along.

I am grateful to be where I am at today.   My basic needs of food, shelter, clean water and good relationships are all met.   My biggest problem is my own best thinking.   The 12-step solution for that is a better relationship with a power greater than myself that many choose to call god.  I know that my solutions to my problems tend to result in abject misery.  I am blessed to know and believe in better alternatives.

The Nine Steps to Forgiveness

This morning’s meeting topic was  forgiveness.  The following is from an article on forgiveness.

1. Know exactly how you feel about what happened and be able to articulate what about the situation is not OK. Then, tell a couple of trusted people about your experience.

2. Make a commitment to yourself to feel better. Forgiveness is for you and no one else.

3. Forgiveness does not necessarily mean reconciling with the person who upset you or condoning the action. In forgiveness you seek the peace and understanding that come from blaming people less after they offend you and taking those offenses less personally.

4. Get the right perspective on what is happening. Recognize that your primary distress is coming from the hurt feelings, thoughts, and physical upset you are suffering now, not from what offended you or hurt you two minutes—or 10 years—ago.

5. At the moment you feel upset, practice stress management to soothe your body’s fight or flight response.

6. Give up expecting things from your life or from other people that they do not choose to give you. Remind yourself that you can hope for health, love, friendship, and prosperity, and work hard to get them. However, these are “unenforceable rules:” You will suffer when you demand that these things occur, since you do not have the power to make them happen.

7. Put your energy into looking for another way to get your positive goals met than through the experience that has hurt you.

8. Remember that a life well lived is your best revenge. Instead of focusing on your wounded feelings, and thereby giving power over you to the person who caused you pain, learn to look for the love, beauty, and kindness around you. Put more energy into appreciating what you have rather than attending to what you do not have.

9. Amend the way you look at your past so you remind yourself of your heroic choice to forgive.

My life is better when I forgive myself and others for the all too many poor choices and mistakes that have been made along the way.  Forgiveness works a lot better than continuing to live in resentment and self-pity for what others have done to me—especially while frequently ignoring what I have done to them.

I am grateful for what forgiveness I have for the harms that I have done and endured with others. There is (as always) room for more for more progress.   My mental health and emotional well-being is a lot better than how it used to be as a result of my forgiveness.

Right Action

I used to be extremely confused as to what I needed to do to live a better life.  My own best thinking put into action resulted in a painful confusing life for me that was not working  Now I know that I need to take/do right action to make my life better.   I still have a huge need to do a better job on the action front, but at least life is no longer nearly so painful or confusing.

I am grateful for a life that is less confusing than how it used to be.  My higher power, friends and others are vital in my being successful today and everyday from here on out.

Being Of Service

Got a call from a new guy that I meet last week at a meeting.  He had relapsed on meth and alcohol and wanted a ride to the ER due to concerns about possibly overdosing/having heart problems.  My roommate and I went to get him 20 minutes away, gave him a ride to the local ER, ran our errands for the next several hours and then gave him a ride home.  It seems that his heart was okay after they give him a pill to lower his blood pressure.  We will meet again on Saturday to go to workshop on sponsorship.

I am grateful to have been of service to another addict in need of help.   It got my roommate and I out of ourselves and into service to another still suffering addict.  After never having done this together in the last 3+ years, this is the second time we have done this in a month.

A Sea Of Green

We are halfway to summer after the end of a wet winter.   It has been a warm spring with several days of record high temperatures.   The vegetation is as green as it gets with grass, flowers, bushes, shrubs and trees all racing towards the sun to grow as much and as fast as possible.

I am grateful to live in a place with a lush abundance of flora flowering in spring.  It is beautiful and provides a sense of continuity with nature.

Facing My Fears

For a bunch of reasons that are ultimately self-destructive, I am a very private person that does not easily let people into my life or even my home.  I am unreasonably afraid of rejection and humiliation.

Sponsorship is a key part of 12-step recovery.  I have not sponsored nearly as many others in recovery as would have been good for me.   My life is poorer as a direct result of my not working with others nearly as much as I could have.

I am going to a sponsorship workshop this weekend.  It is another step in my efforts to do a better job in being of service to others and getting out of myself.

I am grateful for 12-step programs in showing, teaching and having me practice better ways to live my life that what I can come up with on my own best thinking.

Fort McMurray Fire

There is a giant fire burning in Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada.   That is 1000 miles NE of Seattle.  They have not had measurable rain for two months.  Fort McMurray is near the center of the Canadian tar sands petroleum mining of the Athabasca oil sands.   The Athabasca oil field is the third largest reserve on earth after Saudi Arabia and Venezuela.

According to the Toronto Star, this will be the largest natural disaster in Canadian history.  That might be true by cost, but it is unlikely to match the death toll of Spanish flu or Halifax explosion.  No matter what, it is a big fast burning fire projected to double in size in a day or two.  Hopefully the 40% chance of rain this weekend will pan out to retard the fire.

I believe man-made climate change is happening.  Maybe this will be the event to event to turn the corner on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.   Sooner is better than later.  This fire will certainly slow down tar sands mining for years to come.

I am grateful to be living in a place not so horribly impacted by drought and/or other calamitous weather changes.   We had more than average precipitation this year.   That is a wonderful thing compared with the horrible consequences of multi-year droughts.  Future wars will be fought over water.

Still Muddling Along

There are many choices in my life that I could have done differently with an eminently reasonable expectation of better results.   For whatever reasons due to nature or nurture, I was gifted with a huge streak of self-destructive behavior that continues to manifest itself in my life.

That crap sucks and it would be great if it were different.  However, I am blessed to still be alive with reasonable cognitive ability.  I am still working on making a better life for myself and those around me.   That is a lot better than any of the alternatives.

This topic came to mind (again) with details of the death of the musician formerly known as Prince.   He was my age, hugely successful and seems to have died from opiate addiction at the age of 57.  

I am grateful to be alive and of sound mind so that I can continue to work on making a better life for myself and others. 

Wright Brothers

My friend Charlie went to the National Air and Space museum at the Smithsonian last weekend.  When asked what was most impressive, he said the Wright brothers airplane with the quality of workmanship on building the frame and stitching on the wing fabric.  I did not realize that it was done with such a high quality.  I incorrectly assumed it was a couple guys with a bicycle shop that slapped some fabric on a wooden frame.  my favorite Wright brothers’  statistic was that their propeller was a remarkable 66% efficiency.  Today’s best wood propellers top out at 85%.

I am grateful for all the modern miracles resulting from flying.  Jet planes, float planes, helicopters, and rockets make the world a much smaller place.   Orville and Wilbur made the world a much better place.

Feeling Better

Had a mildly upset stomach for the last five days combined with an overwhelming lethargy that made for a quiet time at home.  Feeling better today, I made it to a meeting, lunch, and some time in a record-tying 87° gorgeous spring day.  It was a “cool” 87° since that was 10° warmer than yesterday and even more so than tomorrow’s forecasted 74°.

I am grateful for feeling better and long warm sunny days.

Small New Experiences

Sobriety is a journey of joyful discovery. Each day brings new experience, awareness, greater hope, deeper faith, broader tolerance. I must maintain these attributes or I will have nothing to pass on. 

Great events for this recovering alcoholic are the normal everyday joys found in being able to live another day in God's grace.  From AA’s Daily Reflection for April 27th.

A big part of life and my recovery is enjoying small new experiences.  For example, today we brought a Whole Foods carrot cake to our morning meeting to celebrate Mike having two years.  I never went shopping for cake for a fellow trudger with two years at 9 AM before.  There was a a bountiful selection at Whole Foods.  The carrot cake was an excellent choice.  The clerk offered and wrote “happy birthday Mike” on it for us with a quickness.

We passed around a card for the people at the meeting to sign.   Maybe half of them knew who Mike was.  Most of them signed it.   Mike was moved to tears of joy by having others help him celebrate his progress.

I am grateful for the awe and joy in the small things in my life today.   A small cake was a great value when it made a wonderful contribution to the joy of the group.  It was a powerful symbol of our new life in recovery and delicious.

Home Alone For Almost Two Days

My roommate spent the weekend with her 20-year old daughter.  I was home alone with my non-neurotic self for the first time in 4 years.  It was quiet and pleasant for almost two days.

By non-neurotic self, I mean having serenity with being concerned about others that were MIA from recovery or being stuck in the insane negative thinking of not-using active addiction.  There was no peace in that.

I am grateful for quiet serene solitude, that my roommate was gone, that she had a good time and that she made it back.

I Love My GP MD aka Primary Care Physician aka Family Doctor

I have to see my doctor every month for a blood-clotting factor ("pro-time" and/or INR) test due to being on the anti-coagulant warfarin.  Dr Lucy Hwang is kind, sweet, personable and smart.   I dislike having to go in for the test every month, but really appreciate the high quality of medical care that I get as a result of such frequent visits.

Today I was also seen by Leah the clinic nurse that specializes in diabetes treatment.  Her ability to communicate empathy, compassion, caring and sound medical expectations is impressive and comforting.

I am grateful for world class high quality medical care from kind sweet caring experts that do their best to help me live a better life.

Computer Skills

I bought an Intel NUC (next unit of computing) last week to use as a Home Theater PC (HTPC).  It is a powerful PC in a 4x4x2 inch cube that came with no operating system. 

I got a Thunderbolt/DP cable to plug it into my TV.   That did not work.  I dug around my cable stash and found a mini-HDMI cable.  That worked.  Turns out that the NUC needs an OS and and software drivers to get the Thunderbolt port working.   HDMI is working fine.

I have wi-fi from my front room to my bedroom.  That makes for a working internet connection but is way too slow.   I had a brand new Ethernet cable that I could not get to work.  Turned out the cable was bad.   Never had a new cable fail on me before. That sucked.   Bought another cable off Amazon that will be here in two days.

I have a solid training in TCP/IP networking skills that I rarely use beyond power-cycle the hardware or plug this into that.

I am grateful for the computer skills to turn a barebones computer into a high-speed HTPC server. Years of academic and vocational college really comes in handy sometimes—like when I want to watch TV faster!!!   
3 Days Of Record Temperatures

The unseasonable April heatwave continues for a record breaking 3rd day of temperatures over 80°.  It is nice having warm sunny weather.   The sun and heat is driving spring plant growth into hyperdrive.   Blooms, buds and growth are 3-4 weeks ahead of their usual pace. At this rate, we will have an extra two months of a growing season—or a 50% long growing season from 4 months to 6 months.  Our last freeze was in early January.

Yesterday was 89°.  The previous high on April 18th was 80°.   That is a staggeringly large jump in 120 years of weather records.   Certainly the largest increase in the daily record temperature I can think of in a lifetime of living in the Seattle area.

I am grateful for the warm weather and also grateful that we don’t live in a place that gets truly hot when it has a record-busting heat wave.

Becoming A Better Role Model

I have helped my roommate go from active heroin and crack addiction to getting on methadone to being in her 3rd quarter of college in the last 37 months.   That is easily the best thing I have ever done to help another person in my life.

We have been meeting with two other couples in 12-step recovery at the local hang-out mall for two years.  They have helped us get along and work through many of the issues in our lives and relationships.

Now it seems that it is time to bring my roommate along with me to lunch with my friend Sandy.  Sandy and I have been meeting on a regular basis for almost a decade.   That is the best long-term most consistent friendship in my life.  

I am an introvert that likes to isolate.   My roommate can make me look positively gregarious with her isolation skills.  She has decent people skills in that she makes conversation with eye contact and such.  

Three years ago when asked what she was thinking or feeling, she would reply with “what does it matter?”   She still answers a question with a question about half the time, which might then segue into a conversation.  The other half the time she responds more directly.

It would be hubris for me to say or think “you need to do xyz…” for another person.   I do believe and research proves that for the vast majority of us, relationships are the most important part of living a quality life.

I am doing a better job with my relationships to make my life better and as a way to best help my roommate.

I am grateful for the quality relationships in my life today for being able to be of service to others.

The Hottest Day In Seven Months

It was 80° today in Seattle.   That last time that happened was seven months ago on 9/12/15.  We are in the midst of breaking multiple high temperature records.   Today shattered the previous record high on this date by 6° by moving the mark from 74 to 80°.  Tomorrow will be several degrees hotter.   I am okay with heat records in April.  It is the ones in July and August that are too warm for my taste.

I am grateful for warm sunny weather in April.   It is a wonderful change from cool and dreary.

I Bought Stuff

I am not a materialistic person.   In the last week, I bought 2 vacuum cleaners (upright and dustbuster), a computer, got a new cell phone on warranty, fancy jewelers pliers on warranty, a miniaturized PC by Intel called a NUC along and 2 polo shirts.

These will make my life better and I appreciate having them and being able to afford them.   Was not much of a “retail therapy” high associated with buying them.   I did feel much better than usual last night when I got home.  I think most of that was from a good meeting with my NA sponsor.

I have both a nice Miele canister and a Hoover upright vacuum cleaner.  The Miele makes less dust but does not work so well for me to use from my wheelchair.  I got the Hoover used 13 years ago and the plastic power switch mechanism was dying.  Costco had new Hoovers on sale last night on my way through the store.  I passed them by, circled back and got one.

The dustbuster is for cleaning my car.  They lack power but will certainly be better than going months between gas station vacuumings.   I have a mental barrier on vacuuming that makes for a messy car floor.   The dustbuster will make for a cleaner car carpet.

My cell phone was not working on handset audio (vs speakerphone audio that did work).  Was less than a year old and so under warranty.   Same model of phone.  Took less than an intermittent hour to swap phones via activation and updates.   That went well.

The new NUC (Next Unit of Computing = full power computer in 4 x 4 x 2 inch case) PC will be used as like a TIVO controller for my TV.  My previous TV controller laptop lacked graphics oomph.  This has Intel’s latest onboard 6100 graphics chip and be all the graphics power I need for years to come.

A friend’s husband lost a lot of weight 8 years ago.  She gave me his shirts.  They were at least as nice as what I would buy or even a lot higher quality.  I have not had to buy shirts in years.   I bought a couple of inexpensive shirts since it is getting on time to upgrade my wardrobe and I want to get a special mini-HDMI cable tomorrow for my new PC from Amazon that required spending $35 for 1-day delivery.  Thus, 2 new shirts.

That is more hardware than I have bought in the last 18 months.   Just kind of happened that way on the time-line of all coming together this week due to the pliers and phone breaking last week.  Ordered the NUC last week.   It had to be assembled and shipped from Oakland.

For several years, my TV controller was a giant insulated/soundproofed tower PC case.  Now it is about ½ a thick paperback novel for a fanless more powerful PC.

I am grateful for the ever shrinking power of modern electronics and for classic designs like polo shirts, Hoover uprights and dustbusters; and for being able to afford to buy these formerly  luxury items at will.

Doing the Footwork

Went to an AA meeting at the local prison by myself this evening due to my road buddies not feeling well.  Got to the prison, waited 30 minutes and found out that there was not a meeting due to some other annual event using our meeting space.

I was totally okay with my having made the effort and it not working out as planned.  I was kind, patient, and polite to staff and with my self-talk.   Stopped by Costco on the way home filling their giant car with “impulse buys” that was mostly stuff I planned on getting in the next month, just not right then.

I am grateful for having made the effort and having had a good trip to Monroe, Costco and home.  That is a lot better than being pissed-off over events beyond my control.

Apartment Maintenance Issues

I have lived in my apartment since 2013.   There is a serious need to replace the worn-out carpet, paint and fix other minor issues.

Management is balking.  The current manager went on a 3-month medical leave.   There is an acting manager that has worked here for a few months.  Maintenance staff used to be great.   The last two years has watched service quality plummet.  Talking is not getting it so far.

I have mad skillz with scorched-earth conflict resolution.  That often gets the physical results I am seeking at the cost of relationships.  At this point, I am not sure I have much to lose.

Last week, maintenance fixed two bolts holding my toilet to the floor.  They also smeared feces on the wall, toilet tank lid and a few spots on the floor.   I have had that repair done before—never with such messy results.  My roommate is trying to get the wire racks in her closet fixed.   The waist-high rack is missing and the upper rack bracket tore out of the sheetrock.  Maintenance put a tiny screw in the sheetrock next to an existing gaping hole and left a note on scratch paper threatening to charge us if it ever breaks again.   Cobwebs could break that “repair”.

This afternoon, I wrote an email to the acting manager including photos of the note and closet workmanship.  I left the address blank so I would not accidentally send it.  I shared the email with my roommate and edited it again tonight.   I will read it again tomorrow and then send it off.

This is the second email asking for a repair plan of action.  The first email resulted in an inspection letting me know the carpeting needs work and they will get back to me with a plan.

Most people would move to a new apartment.  This one works really well for me and my wheelchair with flat level ground between the door, car and trash.  There are few places in this price range and location that have that feature.  I would prefer to not live in a place with an elevator.  All too often, broken elevators have either trapped me or blocked me out.

I am going to stay here.  I just signed another  year long lease starting in May.

I will be living in a place with nicer paint and carpeting.

I am grateful to have advocacy skills and options in my life today to deal with my esthetic problems of deferred maintenance.  None of these issues deal with functionality—that part works greats.

A Victory Lap

My roommate went to lunch with her ex-husband, son and daughter yesterday.   It was the first real interaction with her daughter in 5 years.  It went really well with love, joy, laughter and an invitation to spend more time with her daughter over Memorial Day weekend at her home in rural Snohomish County.

I did my best to be supportive Sunday morning and for the preceding week.   It was an emotionally loaded positive event—which is where we alcoholics are highly prone to self-destructive behavior.  It was new behavior for us to not blow-up before or after the event.

We celebrated by taking a “victory lap” with those that had been of vital importance to us along the way. 

Sandy was my first friend to meet Lea, or at least see some woman nodding out in my car while we went to lunch 3 years ago.   We each wrote a nice note on a thank you card and give it to Sandy while having lunch with her today.   It was glorious to get to celebrate that success with her.  No way I could have helped Lea like I have without Sandy’a loving support while I vented all kinds of frustration over the years.

Lea called Margie before meeting her family and then we met them at a meeting afterwards to review the experience (aka bookending).   It was a very successful moment for all of us.   We would not have made it without Margie and Charlie’s support along the way.   We have been meeting every week for over a year in a sort of family or group sponsorship along with help from Mike and Diana.   We needed all the help we could get in how to do relationships in sobriety.

Lots of other people helped us along the way.  Karen, Leslee and Greg definitely get a shout-out.   Bill had no problem being amused by my weekly dramas.   Thank you all very much.   Lea’s daughter doesn’t even know you exist, yet you changed her life for the better by helping me help Lea get recovery.

I am grateful for all the positive, loving, supportive role models in my life.

Not So Terminally Unique Anymore

Prior to and for years after coming to 12-step recovery, I was filled with self-pity and terminally unique.  Now I am not nearly so terminally unique.  I still take myself, my foibles and my problems way to seriously, but it is near-infinitely better than how it used to be.

I am grateful for my progress in learning that I am much more nearly your garden variety alcoholic.   That is a treatable condition with great results for those that do the treatment.

Families Reunited

My roommate walked out on her family 15 years ago to go use drugs in a serious way with no time for family in her life.   Tomorrow her ex-husband is taking her to lunch along with her 20-year old daughter and her fiancĂ©.   It will be the first time in 5 years she has seen & talked with her daughter.   Her family relations have been a painful issue for a long time.  Even a good thing is stressful.   My roommate is doing relatively well with this event  compared with other previous dysfunctional responses to both positive and negative stressful events.

Granted this is not Ozzie and Harriet forever.   It is a large positive step in the right direction.   That is good enough for tomorrow.  I hope it goes well for all of them.

I am grateful for how much progress my roommate has made in 37 months of methadone and recovery.  That sure beats the alternatives.