Tuesday, January 31, 2006
4th Step Bus Stop
Like many valued learning experiences, the 4th Step Workshop is not what I expected, but exactly what I needed. I completed the 3rd of five workshops this last weekend. And like many exciting journeys, getting there is half the fun.
Spending two hours on a bus to attend an hour and a half lecture isn’t my idea of fun. That’s why God invented MP3 players. But every once in a while, it can get a little interesting. In a waft of odor, a drunk plops down in the seat in front of me. It’s not so much the smell, it’s the burning of the eyes. Then it occurred to me, this is the first time I’ve smelled alcohol on someone since, well before I stopped drinking. It’s odd: that ability to smell alcohol had vanished for the first couple months I was sober. I don’t know why, and I’ve been asking people in the program if they’ve ever heard of it, but haven’t really gotten any definitive answers. I’ll have to ask my doctor about it. I had to call this one into Tom S.; Sponsors eat this stuff up.
The 2nd 4th Step Workshop was more of a review of the first (workshop, not step), so I’ll kind of combine my learning experience for both weekends in this post.
Surprisingly, the 4th Step is not about confessing your sins. It’s about itemizing your resentments. It’s these resentments that will kill you.
Harboring these resentments is also not what this workshop is about. I was secretly hoping Christine A. would sit next to me again, so I saved a seat for her, and she did. Christine is this simple looking, beautiful, petite lady who I got to know a little the previous weekend. I mean, she’s not strikingly beautiful, but her smile and mannerisms are so lively. She’s attractive in just the right way.
“Hi Christine!”, I calmly said.
“Hi. It’s Wax, right?”, she responded. For those who haven’t figured it out yet, Without Wax is my alias, and Christine A. is not her real name, nor are any of the names posted in this blog; A technique borrowed from the infamous James Fray. That fact is supposed to be in my profile, the one I’ve only written in my head as yet. Suffice to say, I was happy she remembered my name.
It took a few introductions to finally quiet the room down to the point where you could actually hear them, but when it came her turn, she proudly announced, “Christine, alanon.”
Alanon? The enemy? No! This couldn’t be. God is playing another little joke on me. The laptop wasn’t even funny, but this? How could’ve I missed it? She introduced herself last week sitting right next to me. Did I miss it? Was I not listening? Possibly, since I remember her name from her personal introduction, not to the group. Or maybe she was to nervous, shy, ashamed to admit her true evil nature.
Don’t react! Don’t look her way; keep looking straight ahead. Pick a spot on the wall. It’s not safe to stare into the eyes of the enemy; they’ll suck the life-force out of you. Use peripheral vision. She’s staring straight ahead too, with that contemptuous gleam of pride. Her tangential gaze exposes her interest in my reaction; she is admitting her nature for the first time.
Alanon, alanon, what do I know about alanon? Okay, she has an alcoholic lover. Husband? Look for a wedding band. NO! She’ll notice. Okay, look down, then over; do it now. Hey, she’s got gorgeous petite hands; no piano lessons, that’s for sure. I wonder if they’re soft? Don’t get distracted; that’s what she wants. Just concentrate. No band. Did she chuck it, in anger maybe? Do the sober even do that? I know I did.
I looked up! Damn! Head turns; retina-lock. Her intoxicatingly blue eyes send me back to when I first stared into them and started to fall, reminded me of why I saved her seat. Her smile grows and becomes contagious. There’s no danger here.
What? Of course there is. She’s the enemy. She’ll break your heart if you let her. I’m distracted when the speaker says, “Adults don’t raise children; Children raise adults.”
The direction of the conversation leans towards adolescents. Christine mentions something in passing regarding how immature her son can be. Is she referring to the alcoholic in her life? Not an alcoholic lover, alcoholic loved one. This is promising.
What step are we on, the 13th? Oh, no the 4th. Okay, last week’s workshop concentrated on the 3rd Step, which dealt mostly with resentment. Ask yourself, is it possible to be angry and happy at the same time? This brought up thoughts of only the strictly devious. Even then, can one truly be happy? Assuming you can’t, then you must really examine your resentments.
Are you angry at someone for something they did, or at the way they reacted towards something you did? Where is your fault in all this? So we have to examine our part in all this. Were we selfish or dishonest? Could this have caused someone to react, in a health way, to a self-seeking or dishonest person? Didn’t we manifest our own resentment.
Anger takes a lot of energy. If we were to live, we had to be free of anger.
I’m angry at a woman who I barely know because she’s an alanon. What’s the problem with alanon? What’s my problem with alanon? When I introduced my wife, more like pulled her dragging and screaming, into alanon, something scary happened. An alanon speaker told her that she was empowering me by assisting while I was in treatment. After that meeting, she was nearly ready to divorce me then. They’re clearly the enemy.
I mean this is a selfish program, isn’t it? It’s all about me. She attends alanon so I can feel better about all the crap I did to her. “Where in this program do I discover my ex-wife’s flaws?”, I blurt out.
Our host laughs at this and responds, “A.A. is not a selfish program, but rather a self-interest program,” as if intuitively projecting my thoughts.
I must release this anger, confront Christine. There is only one course of action: sleeping with the enemy. It’s a noble sacrifice, I know. In all seriousness, let me use Christine as an example. We’ll see how applying this new knowledge works in this case.
Following a few threads of resentment, we find June N. (ex-wife) is clearly damaged by my inebriated actions. In trying to protect herself, she takes defensive actions advised by someone from alanon, who herself was damaged by an alcoholic. Now I’m faced with divorce for trying to help June into alanon. I resent alanon.
In treatment, this last time (well after loosing my wife), we were visited by another alanon speaker; oh joy. She handed out her alanon card to everyone. She spoke of how alanon helps victims of alcoholic husbands and fathers, yada, yada, yada. I sat there in anger, the blood rushing to my head drowning out anything constructive advise she might’ve said. I was barely holding onto that card when I sneezed and dropped it. What do I need alanon for? I’ve already lost every loved one alanon could possibly effect. After faking a few more sneezes, I promptly excused myself.
So now I’m angry at Christine for something I did to June. That’s insane. I should try to talk with her next weekend. Aren’t alanons by nature attracted to alcoholics anyway? Just bat my blues eyes and she’s in bed. Wait, that’s not the goal. The Soup Nazi: No bed for you! But she’s so cute. I’ll just approach her with an interest in understanding alanon; save the history for questions she might ask.
Alright, it’s obvious I’m thinking with the wrong head, so I’ll wait until next weekend to learn more. Back home I go. This night I catch a different bus, one that transit assures me will take me to my transfer. It drops me off at a transit station in Uptown Minneapolis, in eyeshot of Calhoun Square. I had just read an ad in The Onion for The Independent. I’ve got time until my transfer arrives, so I check it out.
Knowing full well walking into a bar alone early in sobriety is simply your demon planning your next relapse. Is this coincidence? Having no money was the final straw that justified my actions. I was thoroughly disappointed. The ads made it out to be more than what it was. But the demon’s seed had been planted. I’ll have to watch for its sprout.
On the bus back I hung out with the driver attempting to gleam some knowledge of Uptown. She was a very pleasant young black lady with a helpful disposition. Approaching the next stop, I can already hear the fare’s obnoxious tone. I’m paraphrasing:
“I can drink tonight. I’m not on duty,” he spouts out. “See ya tomorrow,” he says to whomever was keeping his company. Hi Shamika,” as he stumbles to one knee getting onto the bus. ‘While you’re down there, why don’t you genuflect’, I think to myself. As soon as he crosses the threshold, his odor announces his altered state. “Oops, sorry.”
It’s funny how apologetic alcoholics are for injuring themselves.
“I can drink tonight,” he repeats, “I don’t work ‘til six.” He flashes some kind of employee badge with brown lettering, nothing that looks like payment, then sits down across from me just behind the driver. Mumbling some incoherent phrases, he spouts out loudly, “Do you mind if I sing?” This is not a karaoke bus, but that doesn’t stop him. The bus driver rolls her eyes. Thankfully halting his performance, he says, “I’m celebrating tonight. The Minneapol…err, Minnesota government has decided in our favor. So tonight I drink. I don’t have to drive ‘til tomorrow.”
The obnoxious rants and songs are cut short by his destination. “See ya tomorrow Shamika.” Off he stumbles out the door.
He left me with a nagging question: “Did he say he didn’t have to drive tomorrow or drive until tomorrow?”
“Drive until tomorrow,” the bus driver grunts.
“Good thing he didn’t drive home tonight at least.”
“He can’t. Doesn’t own a car.”
Confused, “How do you know?”
“He’s a co-worker.”
The badge: “For MetroTransit?”
“Dare I ask what he’s driving tomorrow?”
Long pause. “What route...so I know to avoid it?”