Monday, November 21, 2016

AA Logo Art

I can't claim to be an artist. Tho', I do admit to hacking away on somethings that might be considered art like. :)  I was fiddling around and added a circle to the Dark Side of the Moon artwork. I've seen it done before, but didn't find it right off the bat.  So, here's my version.

And then something else that I was fiddling around with.

It's something simple from Google Draw.  I might come back and re-visit it and work on the "wing" section of it, to give it a more feather like appearance. 

Grab, and reuse if you wish.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Looking outside of myself. = 12th step work.

I know that it's been some time since there's been a post on this site.  I guess life can get in the way.  Not that there was any special going on, I just hadn't bothered to to come up with anything to say on the site.

In any event, it's coming around to the holiday season. It's a time of the year that I personally don't care for.  I hate all of the expectations, and I always feel that I fall short.  What exactly these expectations are, I'm not sure. It's one of those things that I try not to beat myself up over.  Silly, isn't it? 

But I DO know one thing. I always feel better about life when I give of myself.  And what better way than to help out at our local central office. So, I'll be volunteering this holiday season at our local office manning the phone banks.

From the districts web page:

For many people, a voice on the phone at the Cleveland District Office is their first contact with A.A. They want to know what they can do about where their drinking has taken them. There are also calls from out of town visitors looking for a meeting as well as members asking about A.A. activities.

The weekends are an especially important time for the voice of Alcoholics Anonymous to be available. That’s why the Cleveland District Office offers service work to local AA groups by coming in to answer phones instead of forwarding these calls to an answering service on weekends and holidays.

Due to a recent drop in group signups, immediate help is needed. Shifts are usually set in 4 hour blocks, but there is flexibility in how the schedule is set. The suggested blocks of time are Saturday and Sunday:

9:00 AM – 1:00 PM
1:00 PM – 5:00 PM
5:00 PM – 9:00 PM

If you want to know more, please check out the local office's site.

Or just go to their main volunteer page.

The hand of AA was there for me when I reached out.
I need to make sure that there's a hand for the next person seeking help.


Sunday, September 11, 2016

Dear Heroin

This past Saturday's meeting was a fairly sober one.  While we're not a "glum lot" the disease of alcoholism and addictions are serious, and they DO kill.

One of our members lost his daughter this week to heroin. He wanted to share a passage out of her diary with the rest of us, and here. 

First I'll share it written in her hand, and following that is the text that I've written out also.

Dear Heroin,

I'm writing this letter to say goodbye. I remember when we first met. I was 19. I never suspected how bad you would be for me or the devastation our future would hold. I was blinded by your beauty. You took me into your arms and enveloped me in numbness and warmth. I was floating, everything was beautiful and nothing hurt. I thought that I could control you, but soon you came to control me. The first year was good but the second summer you started to take me over.

I gave myself to you completely, almost reveling in the darkness and destruction. Indulging in the lovely ritual, the drug, the prick, the way the blood dances and swirls with you. I was completely ready to die for you. It was sad and terrible - beautiful oblivion.

I have done everything for you, given you everything and all you did was take. I have lied, cheated, manipulated and stolen. I have caused my family and friends unimaginable pain and ruined our relationships. I have lost jobs, wreaked cars, ruined my college education and put myself in many dangerous situations. I have spent 2 years of my life incarcerated because of you. I've been homeless, robbed, and raped. I have wasted hundreds of thousands of dollars. I've degraded myself and sold my body. I hardly know who I am anymore. I am so detached from myself and life. I feel lost. And I am finally ready to say enough. I am through with all the pain, bullshit and degradation. It was fun at first, but mostly it was just horrible. So it's time to say goodbye. It's been real but it's over. You will no longer have control over me.
I am taking back my life.

Erin O.

Her father also would like to also share this out of her dairy.  I'd have to agree with Erin. The only reason to be alive is to enjoy it.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Oblivion, The End of it All

It's occurred to me that one of the reasons that people hang onto the idea of religion, is that it's tied to the idea of immortality. Or perhaps it's simply the fear of death.

Follow this or that dogma, pray to this or that god, and you'll be guaranteed a nice place in the afterlife.  If you're raised in a religious family, early on in life, you're taught that you don't really die. Your pet didn't really die, grandma or whomever didn't die, but they're in heaven. Even a "Dog Heaven".  (Oh Really?)   The reality that they're gone, and won't be coming back,  just seems too scary for some, I suppose.  Why is it that so many humans find it so horrible to consider the fact that our loved ones, and even one day ourselves, will simply be gone?  Like smoke dispersing from a fire, our souls are never to be recaptured again.

If we're raised within a religious framework we're told that if we pray hard enough, give enough of ourselves, be humble enough, etc. etc., we will be given a mansion in heaven and spend the hereafter with our God. That just doesn't work for me.

Why is it so hard to just simply say.  "Hey! We're here this one time, and we ought to get it right. For no one else, other than for ourselves?  What's wrong with doing the right thing just for the sake of it being the right thing to do?  Why do we need to have all of these extra carrots?  What about teaching our children, and each other, that doing the right thing, for the right reason ought to be enough?  The reward? That we can live life with a clear conscience if we do.  What if we teach that greed, envy, hate, etc. AND other addictive activities  can destroy us?  And if they don't, they would at the very least mess with our serenity. We need, I need, to live life on life's terms.  For an alcoholic / addict, we desperately need to be able to stay sober. No matter what. Because if we don't we have a very good chance that we will fall into a pit of despair.  We'll have a life void of joy and happiness.

For me, the fact that we're only going to be here once, that there's only going to be one today, is a good enough reason.  Human life is special. We should try to treasure each other.

We all will come to an end, sooner or later. But for me, the simple fact that working with fellow alcoholics helps me keep my serenity, and sanity. Even if they don't feel the way I do about God, they help can me, and visa versa.  It's a pithy saying, but it still holds true. "Take what you need, and leave the rest."

Sunday, June 19, 2016

We say goodbye to another friend.

It is with deep regret to share this news.  Jim was a fun loving character, that I will miss.


NELSON JAMES LAWRENCE NELSON of Lakewood, OH, departed this life on Sunday, June 12, 2016, at the age of 62, when his giving heart suddenly failed. Jim was beautiful. He will be remembered for his generous spirit, his love of Lake Erie, his absurd humor, and the buoyant personality that so effortlessly carried his colorful fashion sense. Jim's short life was filled with great loves, successes, struggles, and losses. Sadly, recent years' myriad health complications and a lifelong struggle with addiction stole much from Jim, but never his positive attitude or a hope for better days ahead. He is survived by his daughter Phoebe and her mother, Nan Wilson, his daughter Jennifer, sons Paul and Kyle and their mother Mary Kay Nelson, his last wife, Mary Pat Gallagher, granddaughter Olivia, siblings Pat Burns, Nancy Rudd and Dave Nelson, many nieces and nephews, countless friends, Freedom Mortgage colleagues, fellow members of AA, and his beloved dog, Millie Nelson. Memorial open house on Sunday, July 31 from 9:30am to Noon at The Folger Home, 32770 Lake Road, Avon Lake, OH 44012. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be sent in his name, either to Ed Keating Rehab Center (Cleveland) or Cleveland Clinic Foundation. Additionally, we ask that you take the time to discuss end of life wishes with your loved ones while you can. You never know when you will need to speak for someone you love.

Published in The Plain Dealer on June 19, 2016

Happy Birthday

One our members surprised our Saturday Meeting with cake. Proving that we are not a glum lot.

But the message is a bit confusing?  6 month's sober, thanking god for Agnostic Meetings? Hey, it doesn't matter, it's a program of progress, one way or the other.  What matters is he's got 6 months in a row here.

In any event, Congratulations, Badger! 

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Westside Agnostics History, Per Jeff Cunningham

The Following was written by Jeff Cunningham, at one of the last AA meetings that he attended prior to his passing away due to cancer roughly a month later. Jeff was quite instrumental in the early days of the “Westside Agnostics” meetings.

-Randy N.

Before we start today, I'd like to ask that you indulge me for a few minutes to impart a bit of group history, which of course does not exist in written form.

We are upon our second anniversary. Our first documented meeting was January 25, 2014, but I believe our actual first meeting was a week earlier, January 18, 2014. I was elected secretary at the first meeting.

However, the credit for doing the legwork to start the meeting goes to Emily Valdez and Ryan Broadhurst, who found the venue, day and time - critical steps! Emily moved in 2015 to take a job in San Diego, and Ryan we haven't heard from since around February 2014. I have no idea what became of him.

They recruited attendees - me included - from the mother ship, We Agnostics on Sunday morning in Cleveland Heights, to attend the first meeting. With the support for many, many months from a dozen or so folks from the east side, we were able to build the meeting we enjoy today. Our weekly attendance of 40ish is larger than many well established, long-term meetings in Cleveland. Only two original members are in the room today: me and Campbell.

Our topic Wednesday reminded me that this meeting had two important principles accepted by the first group conscience to define our purpose:

I had a desperate desire - yes, I admit that I tried to impose my will - to get an agnostic meeting listed in the book as quickly as possible. A meeting where others suffering as I had suffered could find refuge in the storm. A suggestion was made that we use an alternative 12 Steps without the references to god. To get listed it was critical that we be an AA meeting - no deviations or other purposes. An operating committee member was required to attend one of our meetings. Deviating from official AA literature was not acceptable. The group opted to use standard AA literature. Our meeting started in January 2014; we were listed in the December 2014 book.

The second was equally as important to me. I had been tormented by the religiosity heard in most AA meetings, certainly the ones I attended in the western WASP burbs. I always felt like I was in a church prayer group with all the "here's what god did for me today" comments. So I was trying to escape the pressure to pray and get god. I didn't want to turn around and create a meeting where Christians would be as repulsed at god-bashing as I had been at the pressure to get god. The group conscience accepted that principle also - that we would not be a godbashing meeting. While occasionally our topics stray into that territory, for the most part we have avoided it. I'm very uncomfortable when we do because I don't want to drive anyone away.

Our purpose as a meeting is to discuss how to get and stay sober based on working the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, particularly the action steps that drive the personality change sufficient to bring about recovery from alcoholism - steps 4-7, maybe 8-9, and 10. Carl Jung talked to Roland Hazard about the most desperate cases requiring a profound mental change, a psychic change, to achieve recovery. Some of his examples were from William James, who also referred to slow, educational changes over time to achieve the same purpose.

Bill added appendix II to the second edition of the book after constantly being asked about the spiritual experience, the spiritual awakening. In the first paragraph, he defined them as "the personality change sufficient to bring about recovery from alcoholism." Step 12 reads "Having had a spiritual awakening as THE result of these step,..." If we substitute the definition, it reads "Having had the personality change sufficient to bring about recovery from alcoholism as the result of these steps,..."

So our group purpose is to help each other achieve and maintain that personality change, not to debate theological concepts. Regardless of what god we may or may not pray to, or how hard we may or may not pray, we aren't going to get and stay sober until we undergo that personality change. If praying and getting god were enough, we wouldn't have priests and clergy in the program.

Bill made this pretty clear in two very subtle phrases - three, actually - in two paragraphs of We Agnostics: bottom of pages 46 and 50. While espousing the wonderful things that happened once we had accepted god, he subtly states "provided we did certain simple things." Those certain simple things are the action steps of the program that drive the personality change sufficient to bring about recovery from alcoholism.

Regardless of what we were or are as a meeting today, that can be changed with a simple group conscience. I just didn't want that history to be lost. Thanks for listening. I'll now turn the meeting over to Don, our official substitute secretary.

- Jeff Cunning, January 2016