Grrr's recovery tales

Pass 'em along as you wish... maybe let me know, or send me a copy.
If you claim this as your own work or make money off it, a pox on you.
The dates given are when each of these cowpats were originally published, though I've been correcting typos and grammar oofs as I retyped 'em here.
"__.A." or "_____ Anonymous" appearing on these pages can be replaced with the 12-step program of your choice (to which some might say, "Some choice.") But not me. The siblings from the program I call home will have no trouble recognizing the sentence fragments that give Grrr away. It's not where he was that counts, but where he is going.

Dear WSO:

We've got a problem up here, and we're hoping you can help.

__.A. has been successful here in Sacramento - a bigger hit than we ever dreamed. From seventy meetings a week ten years ago, to sixteen hundred now; half the police department laid off, along with a third of the health care and court personnel; weirder still, the general population smiles more and is nicer to us. Our treatment centers are still filled up, but they're all out-of-towners.

Liquor stores are closing here at an amazing rate.

We look around and wonder how all this happened. Several things may be helping. The maturity of our _AToddler outreach to preschoolers must be a major factor. The diagrams and illustrations in the Ninth Edition of the main "textbook" have also helped many. And our efforts to bring meetings into jails and treatment centers get the word out so well that newcomers seem to be finding our groups much earlier in their disease than we did.

The average length of clean time for all members here is just over six years. We've checked our figures over and over, but there it is. We average one relapse (to use the old term) for every four member-lifetimes. Due to the unearthly honesty and trust we share, we can say with complete confidence that this is so.

We weren't prepared for results like this.

Our relationships are terrific, our jobs are secure and ever-improving... we're communicating and participating - and legislating - all over the place.

We don't know how much more of this we can stand. Try to put yourself in our place. We look around ourselves one day, and - we're unified! Unaffiliated! Self-supporting, suggestion-following, anonymity-protecting, principle-keeping, message-carrying and unrecognizable on 3-vid! We've memorized the books and all sixty informational pamphlets, we know each other's innermost thoughts and original hair colors.

Actually, newcomers are getting, well, mobbed by potential sponsors of their own gender. (The rehabs are limiting us to thirty outside visitors at a time now, can you believe it?) The monotony - no, the success is getting to us.

We need... crisis again! We crave a purpose! Oh, maybe a deadlocked group conscience at business meetings where someone raises their voice out of turn!

There is a suspicion growing among us that we never realized how good we had it in the '80's. And an empty feeling when newcomers are hard to find. There are 20-year token holders joking about using, just to pump some life back into things here. Solely for the good of the fellowship, of course...

We need fresh meat! It's urgent. Please fax assistance right away!

American Creek Sector
Trusted Upper Interweb

July 1989 - obviously before I understood why a World Service Office exists...

Know what I mean?

Here we go again. That stop at the tool store held you up some, but you made it to the day care place well before six, clawed yer way home through the mess at Northgate and threw some hot dogs on the stove. She'll be home any time now...

Nobody knows where the cat is, and the meeting starts... in thirty-five minutes.

Your oldest keeps rambling on and on about some new kids she met. Your usual grunts and quick answers aren't doing the trick, you realize when you look right at her... Forehead crinkled, eyebrows pointing down. In her eyes, we got some real concern, here. You ease onto a chair and downshift your voice, and the real story rushes out: fears of rejection, or losing face.

Kids are so transparent... just like her old man.

You're there for her, but on that wide screen way in the back of your head, images of last night are playing... Your sponsor, looking at you hard, with that laserbeam gaze of his. Silent, for a while - and suddenly comes one of his patented questions, slamming home wetly, sticking deep. Yikes. Right to the heart of the matter -

You look right at your rug rat again, offer a couple of reminders of past victories, bigtime encouragement and a bear-hug. She seems more relaxed as you dish out the hot dogs...

And here comes your woman with the little monster clinging around her neck.

Time to jump in the shower.

Hardly start dryin' off, and two voices yell to pick up the phone. It's D____, who's a little older than you and came in right around when you did. He sounds stopped up... all the day's garbage packed down. He's picking his words too carefully, for D____, anyway, and his voice is a little too quiet.

You're pulling on a shirt as you yank his chain a little. A back-and-forth thing; other times when you're blocked, he tugs it out of you. Tonight, though, when you've stretched thin enough already - yup. You name a diner, ask if he'll be there by nine? Okay, nine-thirty. D___ sighs just as he's hanging up, and you know him well enough to know that's a good sign.

You pull your boots on and think about the first time you met D___. It was so hard, back then, to sit still long enough to comprehend anything...

Tell your wife that he called, you'll be a little later than usual, steal a cigarette and a good kiss...

And fire up the truck, nine minutes till and you just might sneak in under the wire. Maybe that new kid will show tonight. The one who swore up and down he'd call ya for a ride or just to shoot the sh- uh, breeze. He was comin' down hard last week, and man but he just wasn't able to let ya finish a sentence.


We too are one

Nothing illustrates it like a convention. Jocks, hardcores, button-down types, scooter tramps, bohemians... mixing without the big bang. The old-timers and service junkies. Newer types, still restless or listless, glazed or dazed. This is one place where the principle fairly knocks you over. Walking, clapping, maybe steering another member along.

Unity. Now there's a word we live until we learn it, hah? Every meeting and event. Sometimes it comes together so easily, and others we probably couldn't even buy it. But it keeps the doors open and it lets us stick around. Everything rides on it.

It isn't a surprise that we tend to disagree. I'd be suspicious if it didn't happen a lot; recovering body snatchers, or something. Whatever the issue, we still manage to meet and listen to each other, and the meeting directories keep getting passed around. This is due to Higher assistance.

I think dissent is good for us. (It doesn't mean the same thing as division or disunity. Open up your dictionaries.) A lot of us are inclined to question authority, but no trouble can result until we act on the conclusions we draw, and even then we might still get away with it. Leaders are sometimes wrong. The majority opinion is sometimes wrong.

Speaking ability, a big vocabulary or a lot of years in __.A. can be pretty intimidating... but sounding good doesn't automatically mean that a speaker is accurate or unbiased. We must have more information. For the sake of unity, we need to lovingly hear from you if you see it another way. This works for our common welfare, never against it.

We can afford to discuss our differences, keep other informed, fearlessly consider the other side's concerns. Unity can cover; it stretches really well. Without the exercise we give it in asserting ourselves and our own views, it may well be that it would become brittle and inflexible.

Use it or lose it? Well, maybe give it a good workout or watch it waste away. We got to __.A.; we got this far; we're still here. We've already made it through controversies that would just love to split us apart and nudge us back into the bag... but it didn't happen. We are not the same, individually or as a fellowship, as we were a year ago, five years ago, ten.

November 1992

It's working...

Call him Rolo. The airhead of my bike club, sitting across the carved-up table from me in the church basement. His voice plods on through the smoke, talking probably about the third step:

"...the thing is, I can have everything going great, all except for one thing that pisses me off. Sittin' there like a dog turd on the front lawn. And I'll focus right in on that turd, get bent about it, and not even see all the good stuff happenin' in my life..."

Well, it clicked with me. From the mouths of babes and all that. He went on to talk about attitude; how he's got everything right in front of him to make this a good day or a lousy day. Some Roloisms stick with me, even if he didn't come up with them himself.

The "little turd" concept applies a lot more often than care to admit. Jobs, dates, supermarkets. People, places and things.

Though emotions run a little higher, it can even work with __.A. stuff. A phrase like "our common welfare" reminds me:

My goal here: choose to focus on the good stuff, not obsess on the little turd. Make fertilizer...

November 1992


The last notes from the string section - flesh and blood players, yet! - fade out in the warm, moist night.

Laying there stock-still, with only the tape hiss left to be heard... but the thoughts are from years and time zones away. How far have I come - have we all come?

This song, after all, was the champeen bummer-inducing tune when it came out, and for years afterward. No good reason... it just was. That's how I've remembered it since '75. A long way from there to here, yessir. Too unreal.

Who can prepare for this? A trigger, tested and proven reliable to flip the best buzz over, twist it into bone-deep regret and despair. But no more. Through some superhuman alchemy it's become something to look forward to, a song to play on purpose, the ache mysteriously converted to hope and light.

A guy at the meeting tonight put his finger on it... realizing a truth he'd never been sure of before, but was trying to believe because we believed it already: he is not the same man. With every step "done" and piled on top of the immediately preceding one, his personality - his self - has changed so completely that the body he used to run around in is occupied by a near-stranger now. The steps are his method; God has already drafted the specs.

Not the same guy anymore. This can happen, will happen, is happening right now to you.

November 1992

If you couldn't figure out what song was referenced, you're in the majority for once. The title refers to Goodbye Yellow Brick Road by Elton John.

Cover Me

When a cell divides, it loses half its contents. This turns out to be good for cells as a whole, because there's more of them; but at the time, letting that much protoplasm separate itself and go out to make its way in the big bad world might well seem like a bad move.

Cells eat through their "skin". Losing a lot of your skin would probably be a cause for concern, if your cellness was capable of getting concerned about anything.

Some organisms are loners, and don't look beyond their own "cellfish" needs. Others work together, signalling each other... taking on threats and dangers as a team.

Thankfully, __.A. members aren't cells. Groups aren't cells, and service committees aren't cells, either. A little reminder can't hurt...

December 1992

Stick around

So it starts all over again. If you made it through the holidays clean, I salute you. If you didn't, we saved your seat. The meetings are better with you in 'em.

Got a call at work from another addict. After we got the business stuff out of the way, he said something I've been feeling for the past few days: "It's gonna be a good year." No evidence to prove it... can't point to anything specific and say, "Oh, that's why" - but he's got the definite idea that some things are lookin' up. And so do I.

To read the papers, this attitude doesn't seem all that sensible. The past fifteen or so months were not my favorite ones in recovery, to put it mildly. I'm ready for a change.

So maybe this is just a simple attitude adjustment more than anything else. I dunno. Hang in there a while, and you just know there'll be all kinds of excitement along the parade route of Clean Living, the boulevard of broken nightmares we cruise on. Terrific events and bogus events and some events that may go either way, or both bogus and terrific at the same time. Isn't it better not to know exactly what's coming? More exciting?

How would your day be affected if you knew for a fact some big news was about to come down?

Today by today we pile up more experience. It'll all be put to use, inside or carrying-the-message, or else there'd be no point at all, no reason for it to have to happen. Higher Power does not make mistakes.

January 1993

No proper nouns

Crash-landing in __.A., I feared and wanted to learn the rules. Had to stay here, dreaded the thought of what it would take to do that... Surprise - no timetables, no thick handbook of social commandments. We live by the "spirit" and not the "'letter o the law" (take it easy, it's just a cliché.) The general principles by which we live our own lives are the best way to get things done as a group, fellowship or area. When it comes to pulling together to stay clean and carry the message, the most important of these is in our name.

Anonymous to the outside world, except where and when I choose to become known as a member. No monitoring or ID cards, please. It works the other way too: you'll hear about my outside pursuits on my terms. Except for identifying ourselves as addicts, which is optional despite the chorus of "Who are you?" that occurs when somebody doesn't introduce themselves, we usually start out in __.A. unknown to each other, revealing what we dare to and what seems related to recovery... at our own pace.

Something mystical starts with the opening prayer. It's bigger than socializing, which is important in itself. We need to watch over what we have, so we and those have yet to join us can discuss what we want to do about our problem, and how the members of the group can help.

We are a fellowship whose members work a program. If we could do this thing solo, you can bet most of us would. Unless locked up, we need to meet together and we need to do the things that will make us grow, both individually and as a group. (What I call a "need", here, can be postponed - if I'm willing to pay the price. I can go without food for a couple days, but it'll impact just about everything I set my hand to.)

You can say anything you want at a meeting - but how constructive is that? Since when does the practice of honesty give me a license to hold the meeting captive to whatever thoughts cross my mind? Aren't some things better left unsaid, or at least deliberately said in a way that will address our primary purpose for having a meeting at all?

"Where the hell is he going with all this?" Here's a proposal: the name of my employer, my grocery store or my church are of no benefit to a meeting of ____ Anonymous. I can express myself without the actual names, and avoid the least possible chance of endorsement, side-tracking the topic or "one-upping" anybody else. What you and I talk about after the meeting is a whole different matter. Around the tables, though, my goal is to tell the truth, hopefully in a way that prevents you from assuming or reading something unintended into it.

So, for me - no proper nouns. While in a meeting, I choose to "forget" the names of related facilities and outside enterprises. In the long run, this is best for me, for you, for the meeting and for ____ Anonymous as a whole.

April 1993

No more, no less

The path of least resistance, natural and easy, is to sit in judgment of everyone outside myself. "You are different. You are also out of my control... you must be wrong." This drove me further and further away from you when we were both Out There. Defenses of a lifetime have to be unlearned if I'm going to stay around __.A.

You do not need me to approve of your recovery, your message or your life. It serves no purpose for me to judge you. Not anymore. Not here. You are fighting your own battles just to stay clean, some of which I know to the bone and others I can't begin to understand. You are too important to my survival for attitudes or ridicule or casual dismissal. From me, just another member of __.A., you deserve better.

April 1993

Your serve

Set up chairs and tables • put out literature • pick up stray cigarette butts • bring a cake on birthday night • make newcomer packets • write something for the local program newsletter • take a shift on the phone-/hot-/helpline • mop the meeting hall floor • attend a PI meeting and learn about speaking to non-addicts • wash ashtrays • think up a motto for a Unity Day/convention/roundup • make copies of event or meeting flyers and take them to a meeting that needs support • offer to help fill literature orders • sell soft drinks at a dance • scour the coffee urn • offer to chair a meeting in non-badged institutions • send a letter to the organization's national newsletter or magazine • take a newcomer out for coffee...

April 1993

When you say you are

Addicts don't seem to be "joiners" by nature. Most of us did our share of following, I guess; and some sort of membership just couldn't be avoided. Sometimes we could put up with it in order to keep a relationship or a job.

It can be bad enough trying to believe with all of your guts that you've got a problem that's gonna kill you if it's left unchecked. Worse still is getting told that your ideas and methods aren't gonna work - no, that they'll get ya dead even quicker.

What you need, see, is to come down and hang out with us. Get straight and come on back and listen to how it was for us, and how it is now. And call us. Really. We mean it. Same time, same place, next week, - wait, what're you doing tomorrow night? See, there's another meeting right over at - oh. Well, how about at noon?

And you look at the person talking at ya, and the two or three others nearby. Before you wouldn't have been caught dead with these people. You sure wouldn't let yer roaddogs know you knew them. These lops are... straight. And proud of it. I didn't come here to listen to th... oh, yeah.

Were you there once? Do you remember?

You knew you needed to learn something they already knew, but you didn't want to get... well, involved in all this.

Maybe you came because that senile ol' P.O. gave you that freakin' card to get filled with signatures, after yet another test came back dirty. Or you just wanted to get a handle on your using, get torqued only on the weekends... So you looked for an out. You knew you were different from those clean and sober nerds, yet there was still the feeling that they might throw you out on a technicality. But their posters and all those pamphlets are... lacking in rules and regs. You thought of that one dude who seemed least geeky of the bunch, considered givin' him a call and asking him... subtle, half-hopeful.

No dice. All you need to belong is a desire to stop. Everybody's a member who wants to be, if they want to stay clean. This bites... your escape hatch slams shut. Disappointment. And relief.

And so it goes, a hundred times a week just in this area alone. We must make this clear to the suffering peers new to our rooms, poisoned as surely by their terminal uniqueness and self-destructive "committees" as by the drugs: Nobody has to rack up dirty tests or an angry "ex" or death-defying street stories to make it into __.A., or to make it in __.A. Just a desire to stop. Period.

Come as you are... but come back.

See, our lives depend on it.



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version 1.03     07oct1998

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