Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Short-Supply Thinking.

Al-Anon was the first place I heard this term. It was explained to me as the driving force behind a lot of impulsive behavior - the idea that if I don't snatch at this whatever-it-is right now, I'll never get another chance at it.

Short-supply thinking side-steps my judgement, shuts off my ability to reason a problem through, and fills me with anxiety.
If an opportunity arises, I don't get a chance at it, and I'm operating under the premise of short-supply thinking, I can feel deprived, depressed, and resentful. I can waste my precious time looking backwards at what didn't happen, instead of living in the only time I truly have - this moment.

Jerry Seinfeld had a great routine about the phrase our mothers used: "Don't eat that, you'll ruin your appetite!" He joked that as an adult, if he wanted it, he ate it, because you know what? He'd discovered there'd be another appetite coming along later.

I loved this, and used it to help myself remember not to view the incidents in my life with short-supply thinking. If I couldn't join friends for an outing for some reason, that was ok, there'd be another outing coming along later. This applies to almost everything in life. Very few happenings are "one-time only."

Letting go of that frantic need to snatch before thinking, has kept me from having to experience the problems associated with impulsive behavior. I don't have to spend all that time wallowing in regret or remorse. I can stop, consider, decide, and maintain my serenity.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Self-Deception, And Sponsorship.

From the ODAT, page 181:

"We share with the alcoholic one common enemy: self-deception."

When we are newcomers to program, with all our defenses firmly in place, carefully barricaded and reinforced, we often have no idea how much of what we think and say is self-deception. I know I didn't. It was all very simple and clear to me - the alcoholic was at fault, I was blameless, what more could anyone need to know about our situation?

It was, and still can be, a laborious process to unwind and disentangle my self-deception, so that I may arrive at a place where I'm able to perceive myself with some tiny element of objectivity. This is why we are encouraged to get a sponsor, and work with them on the Steps. Someone else can almost always regard my excuses and defenses with more clarity than I am able.

Recently, I was asked by someone newer to program than I, how did I know when I was making progress, and not just spinning my wheels, since with our propensity for self-deception, we can easily justify the indefensible? In hindsight, I believe it was when a comment from my sponsor, pointing out my errors in thinking, caused me to laugh, rather than to stiffen and become offended.

I began to see the humour in my own insanity.
To get there, I had to have some self-love under my belt.
In order to have some self-love, I had to have had the members of my home group demonstrate love and affection towards me, when I could feel none for myself.
That required weekly attendance at meetings of one particular group, in order for members to begin to know me well enough to feel love and affection for me.
That meant forcing myself out the door to attend a meeting, in spite of my mental static assuring me that I could easily miss just this one, I was so tired, life was so chaotic, yada yada yada.

If I don't go to meetings, I can't reap the benefits of meetings. This sounds ridiculously simple, asinine almost, but it's a truth that some of us cannot see at first. For me, the daily readers are a great resource, but nothing beats sitting at the table, and hearing the members of my home group share their experience, strength and hope. I may drive to a meeting feeling exhausted, but without fail, I will walk out the door revitalised.

I digress. To return to self-deception, one other line in that reading really leapt off the page at me:

"Each unconsciously suppresses facts that might reflect badly upon him and her, and exaggerates the other's faults."

I did that, too. I was very selective in how I tried to present myself - I would conveniently leave out the hurtful statements I'd made, but be sure to include all of the aspersions and insults of his, in my recital of an argument to my sponsor. She interrupted me once, to ask, "What was that comment of his in reference to?" and I froze. I'd recited his response to a very nasty remark of mine, which I'd somehow neglected to mention. I tried to throw some dust in her eyes, but she wasn't having it. She asked the question again, and with great reluctance, I confessed my comment. She asked how I felt, telling her what I'd said. I replied that I felt great shame. She hugged me, and suggested that a good rule of thumb in our dealings with others, is not to say anything we wouldn't be willing to admit to, before a person we respect and admire.

I found that suggestion beneficial when I was engaged in a struggle to control my temper - I'd be on the verge of making a scathing comment to the alcoholic, and stop to ask myself ,"Would I want to admit to having said this?" and in almost every instance, the answer was no. I'd swallow the comment, and either say nothing, and try to smile, or resort to filler comments: "Oh yeah."
"You could be right."
"Isn't that something."

I believe we need a sponsor, to help us gain clarity with regard to our characters. It's very difficult to winkle out one's errors of thinking all by oneself. Much easier to have someone we trust, who can listen, and then (as my present sponsor will start a sentence I don't want to hear) say,

Another benefit of meetings, is hearing our own thinking coming from the mouths of others - it never seems to have that same power of argument it does when it's circling inside my head. I have heard some of my thinking reflected back to me and been so grateful for 12-Step, and the mirror it offers to me, free of charge, no strings attached, with love.

Keep coming back, it works.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Direct Is Best.

Ever have one of those conversations where you feel, the entire time, that there's some kind of subtext running, of which you are unaware?

I've had one of these recently, and had a vague sense that I was being played, but couldn't determine just how. That emerged with time. When further events made it possible for me to understand just what exactly was going on, I had to laugh. Had she asked me outright, for the favour for which she was angling, I'd have most likely have said yes. Instead, because I had the feeling that she was trying to manipulate me, I politely refused.

She achieved the opposite result from the one she sought, and only because she couldn't be honest about what it was she wanted from me.

I have a little saying I use with sponsees: "Direct is best." I was a skilled manipulator when I came to Al-Anon. If I had two choices, and one was to ask outright, and the other was to approach stealthily, with my wants obscured behind a thick screening of camoflage, I chose the latter. This was the way I'd learned to deal with my alcoholic ex, and I took a perverse satisfaction in manipulating him. When I was full of resentment and anger towards him, it was as though my manipulation was compensation for the wounds he inflicted upon my ego, with his verbal abuse.

I thought of our relationship in terms of battle - winning, or losing. And I was a sore loser.

I recall sitting in an Al-Anon meeting one night when I was a relative newcomer, and hearing a member talk about acceptance. She said, "I don't get to pick and choose what I'll accept and what I won't - it's a package deal, I have to take the good with the bad. Sometimes when I ask my Higher Power for something I want, the answer is "No." Part of maturity, is learning to accept that with good grace."

I've learned that if I want to respect myself, and feel comfortable in my own skin, I can't use tools such as manipulation or coercion to get my own way. I have to detach from the outcome or reply or result, ask for what I'm wanting or needing, and then accept a possible refusal with good grace.

I can't see into the future, and I can't see how something I may want with all my heart at this moment, doesn't fit into God's plan for me. I have plenty of past examples of this very truth, however, with which I can console myself, if the answer happens to be "No."

Direct is best - it frees my mind to think of other, more positive concerns, instead of wasting my time plotting to satisfy my will.

Children...and Parents.

I was in a department store yesterday, and witnessed something that I haven't been able to forget - a small incident in daily life, but the gratutitous cruelty of it was, and is, disturbing to me.

A mother and small girl, maybe 5-6, were waiting in line at the top of the down escalator. When it was their turn, the mother stepped on, but the little girl hesitated, she was afraid. She called to her mother, but the mother wouldn't even turn to look at her, just said "Oh well, I'm going, I'll see you at home."
The little girl cried out with the beginning of fear in her voice, her mother responded "You'll have to find your own way home," and the child fell to her knees weeping, real terror in her face and voice.
A woman waiting in line behind her knelt down, introduced herself and comforted her, saying she would help the girl go down the stairs if she could do that, and help her find her mummy? Meanwhile, the mother wouldn't even turn to look, just kept going, reached the bottom, and walked away, leaving her child weeping in the compassionate arms of a stranger.

Seeing a child in that place of anxiety and fear, saddens me. I had so much of those two emotions when I was a small child. Panic in a child's voice slams me in my chest, and catches in my throat, with a power that never seems to dim, no matter how far I get away from my own childhood in time.

Little vignettes such as this, bring home to me a truth I'd rather not face - there are many more children struggling through their childhood in the same terror and sorrow that I experienced.

I say a prayer for that little girl, in the hope she has someone with loving arms to gather her up when she is feeling most abandoned by those who should protect her. Sometimes the only way I can deal with this sort of thing is to do that, pray for the child, and then say the first two lines of the Serenity Prayer, to calm my own distress.

Friday, June 26, 2009

I Just Want To Feel Better.

I've had physical problems for years, ever since a work accident long ago. Once I was out of the hospital and things had stabilised, I was faced with what to do with the chronic pain that resulted from the injury. I hadn't been a couch potato, I had a dog, so I walked a lot, and I adored bicycling. But apart from that and gardening, I've always hated sports, so I didn't do regular structured, scheduled exercise.

My doctor, who I've always felt embodies the phrase "iron hand in a velvet glove," was an irresistable force on the subject, ramming home the information that my pain level was, on the whole, going to be directly tied to my exercise level. I have found this to be true. I practise yoga, go for long dog walks, and if I'm having a day with more discomfort than usual, I will exercise a bit more, rather than less.

Often, when someone with physical difficulties asks me how do I manage my pain, the scenario is the same: focussed interest as they ask the question, and then a sort of shying back when they hear my reply.

Some folks know they want to feel better, but that wanting only goes so far - if they have to do some actual work to get the relief, well then, they don't want it that badly. I had one lady in my Al-Anon group who kept taking me aside in the parking lot after meetings, asking me repeatedly, how did I deal with the pain? I'd give my stock answer: "I have a regular structured exercise program, which I follow on a daily basis." I could see that this wasn't the answer she wanted, but we'd have this conversation every week, with her giving long enthusiastic recitals of her physical misery, and how awful her life was, and how she could do less and less as time went by, until finally, one day, after my reply, she burst out with, "Don't give me that sh__, tell me something useful!"

That was when I realised that she didn't believe me, and had never believed me; all along, she had thought I was fobbing her off.

We stood there, beside my car, with her glaring at me - she was breathing loudly through her nose, lips pinched together in disgust and frustration, anger radiating from her in palpable waves.

I said "You ask me that question, I tell you the truth. I exercise for at least an hour a day, not including dog walks. I have a yoga program I follow - stretching exercises to keep me flexible. That's the unvarnished truth; that's what works for me."

She swung around on her heel, stomped off to her car, got in, and drove off in a huff. She never returned to the meetings.

I had to really work at letting go, so as not to feel as if I'd failed her somehow, or feel responsible for her not coming back to the meetings. (I can feel guilty about anything, given some encouragement to do so.)

 We want relief, but sometimes we don't want it enough to work for it. That's why we as Al-Anon members may also have to hit bottom - to reach a place where we are truly willing to do whatever is required to achieve serenity and peace of mind.

There are days when I am grumbling and muttering to myself as I begin setting up for my yoga practise - moving the chair, unrolling the mat - because I don't feel like exercising, I'm stiff, I'm sore. But experience has taught me that this is a given: if I just push through my own reluctance, and do the work, I am always, without fail, grateful afterwards. Always.

12-Step is as simple, or as complicated, as we choose to make it.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Taking Other People's Inventory.

This can be an enjoyable pastime for those not in recovery - one can feel superior in many ways, while castigating the other person for their human frailties.

The wisdom of generations suggests that we not judge others, rather, that we look within, since we are always mid-reno ourselves.

We cannot know the stresses and strains under which other people are struggling along; a smooth, unruffled exterior can hide any number of anxieties, and any amount of pain. Rather than decide that I know how someone else should act, I can instead shift my focus to my own sphere, and work to be more compassionate. My first sponsor, whenever I'd start to complain about the alcoholic, would ask with dangerous sweetness, "All finished working on yourself, then?" and smile brilliantly.

After the first few times, I'd always laugh when she posed this question. I've now been in Al-Anon for quite some time, and although I can see how far I've come, I still seem to faced with the same number of self-improvement projects, they are just of a different sort than they were at the start. It's more detailed work at this stage of recovery. In the beginning, I was, in effect, hosing the room down with a power washer to remove major surface grime. Nowadays, I'm down on my hands and knees, scrubbing grout with a toothbrush.

There is always personal work waiting for me. It's not up to me to be looking elsewhere, and deciding that someone else should be cleaning their household. That's their business; I need to allow them the dignity of making their own choices in the matter.

I would not want to be harshly judged for my past, present, and future mistakes. I pray to be filled with empathy and compassion, for the suffering of my fellow human beings.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

You Feel What You Feel.

Before Al-Anon, I met rudeness with disbelief and self-doubt. Had I done something to provoke this? How could a reasonable person behave like that? Why would this person treat me in this manner? Yada yada, much outrage and fuming. But only to myself, and always with a lurking doubt that I had any right to my feelings. Because I had no healthy way to deal with rudeness, I lost my equilibrium completely, and if it was a co-worker, or family member, or friend who was rude to me, I could be upset for days on end.

After I'd been in Al-Anon for a while, and was introduced to the idea that it wasn't their rudeness that was pushing me off my perch, but rather my own reaction to it, I could grasp the concept, but still wrestled with my feelings. The longer I was in program, the more I began to give weight to the mistaken idea that if I was truly dealing with it, I wouldn't have any feelings about it. I can still occasionally lose sight of one truth:

I feel what I feel.

How I deal with my feelings, the choices I make, are all secondary to that. I have a right to my feelings. Until I accept them, acknowledge them, honour them, I can't let go. My ability to deal with rudeness or unkindness with courtesy in turn, is not predicated upon my being an automaton with no feelings. This isn't Stepford Al-Anon.

My feelings are my essential self. There are times when I heave a deep, tired, sigh over the childishness of that self, but locking it into a dark closet with no dessert, isn't an effective teaching method for helping it to mature and grow. Years ago, when I worked as a counsellor on the crisis line in the city, our supervisor would remind us, "People need to be heard." That goes for me, too. I need to be heard, by myself first of all, and then by those around me.

When I feel heard, my choices click into place with consumate ease - I can say "I didn't like it when you...." and leave it at that. No attacking, no blaming, no character assassination, no suggestions of how the other person should have behaved. Just a simple statement of fact.

I have found that this calmness on my part clears the path, and eases the way.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Long-Winded Speakers.

Two of my favourite blogs today are adressing the issue of crosstalk, and MrSponsorPants
also addresses those who have a tendency to go on forever. In my home group, we have 3 of these. When all 3 are at a meeting together, the combined self-absorption can swallow the entire share time, leaving the rest of us voiceless.

How do we deal with this? None of the three are newcomers. All of them have been at meetings where it has been pointed out that we have quite a few people, and not a lot of share time, and that hasn't slowed them one iota. They cannot, or will not, self-regulate in this area of their recovery. One member will talk for 15-20 minutes non-stop, if permitted.

I came into Al-Anon with an enormous self-loathing, which stopped me from saying much more than one or two sentences at the beginning; nowadays, recovery keeps my share nicely curtailed, now that I'm more comfortable in my own skin. I have a horror of blathering away, driving my fellow members to thoughts of welding my mouth shut just to silence me, so I am very aware of my time speaking.

Most members have an ability to regulate themselves, some do not. What then, are the options for the rest of us?

One night, when I was chairing the meeting, I tried mentioning to the one long-winded member, that I thought perhaps she was losing her focus, and the ferocity of her response left me patting my face to make sure my nose was still safely attached. (This is manipulation through hostility. More on this at a later date.)

MrSponsorPants mentioned timer meetings - I've never heard of this, but I just love the idea - talk about equality! I'm going to bring this up at the next meeting, and see what sort of response I get. But I'm not holding my breath.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Why Do I Keep Getting Involved With The Same Kind Of Person?

I've been asked this many times by sponsees, and it has come up again recently. Women will separate from a lover, husband, or boyfriend, and within a short time, find themselves attracted to another man with all of the same problems. Why does this happen?

(This doesn't apply only to women; an Al-Anon friend once told me a story of her brother being at a work party with about 200 people, and the one woman he caught sight of from across the room, and to whom he felt inexorably drawn to go introduce himself, was a carbon copy, in her unhealthiness, of his ex-wife. He was horrified, my friend was amazed, I felt a little shiver of fear ripple up my back, hearing this story. Oh, the hideous power of our insanity!)

I've heard, and read about, many explanations for this pattern. It's been suggested that we define "love" a certain way, and we seek out those who fit our definition. I believe this has a certain truth, because we begin to define love from whatever model our parents demonstrate: if our parents are cold, withholding, punishing and verbally abusive, guess what kind of partner we will be drawn to? Ghastly, but true, unless we've had some kind of therapy, in which we've sought to redefine "love" for ourselves.

Another explanation, which I bucked against with all my strength when it was first offered to me, is this one: We will be attracted to those who are at the same level of health/dysfunction we are. So if I've never had any spiritual growth, to change not only how I see the world, but also how I behave in my world and my relationships, then I will seek out those at my same level, because that's where I feel comfortable.

That comfort comes because I know how to deal with it - I can do it with my eyes closed, hands tied behind my back, half my mind otherwise engaged, and never miss a beat. It's an old familiar tune, I know all the steps, and have danced to it for years. I may not even like the music, but I know the lyrics off by heart.

Before Al-Anon, I used to feel most comfortable with those who were at about my same level of craziness.  Now that I've been working on myself for many years, (sometimes with great success, and other times feeling as if I'm marching in place for months on end,) I feel more comfortable with people who have recovery, self-knowledge, and lead an examined life.


I'm a mad gardener, and a few years ago, began to get involved in hybridising daylilies. This has proven to be one of the most maddening/satisfying gardening endeavors I've ever undertaken. There seems to be a strange corollary in daylily hybridising - the more spectacular the bloom, the fewer of them one gets, at least in a northern climate.

So the red seedling, above, nice enough, nothing to make it stand out, just another red flower, will have 19 buds, and then a stunner of a bloom, a nice creamy pink, with a good ruffled edge, and an outer rim of glittery gold, the sort to make one gasp out loud upon first catching sight of it, will have 9 buds.

I've learned from my mentor to be ruthless, and discard anything with less than 15. But it can be difficult at times, when those big luscious blooms are open.
If one works towards only selecting those with good plants underneath them - lots of increase, good bud count and branching, then slowly, slowly, one gets a superior strain of daylilies to use as a base for hybridising. I do admit to having saved one last year with a pretty sad budcount just because I adored the bloom, and it rewarded me this year with...the same. 8 buds. Since the blooms of daylilies, as one might deduce from the name, only last for one day, that's a big 8 days of bloom in one year, unless a couple open at once, and then it's even less. Grrr. Never fails.
Good lesson in patience, though. And self-discipline. And perspective - one has to be able to look past the ephemeral beauty of the bloom, to the plant itself. I don't make decisions until after the blooms are gone, as to what to keep and what to discard. I go around after blooming has finished, and anything I've marked gets examined for the scape: how many blooms? Less than 15? Into the compost it goes.
I only have so much within my control - my selection criteria. After that, no matter how magnificent I may think a cross is going to be, it is out of my hands. I've had quite a few of the crosses I had high hopes for, prove to be duds. Onwards and upwards, and look forward to next year's batch.
Gardening is all about hope, faith, and beauty.

Friday, June 19, 2009


I learned to use humour to defuse hostility, to disarm those who might otherwise disapprove of me, and to keep people at a firm distance, while giving the illusion of closeness. (That last adaptation is the most destructive of my recovery, because it keeps me isolated, in my own cocoon of co-dependency. More on that later.)

Humour can moderate animosity; it can be almost impossible to regain one's initial level of exasperation, with someone who has just made you burst out laughing. This opens the door to compromise, more easily than almost any other approach.
Levity can be a stealthy method in which to sidestep social defenses which might otherwise be erected against us, through fear, or ignorance.
Humour, when there is no specific target, but rather a general commentary on the wonderful silliness of human behavior, gives us a sense of shared humanity.

Joking, and laughter, can be a balm, a tonic, a soothing release. It can also be an impenetrable defense. I discovered, somewhere along the way, that making people laugh made them feel closer to me, and I could use it as a way to give that illusion, while actually keeping them from knowing much of anything about my internal, private, life.
When I did my first Step Four, I had listed humour under the "positive character traits" heading. My sponsor suggested it be put under the "negative character traits" heading, as well. I argued against this, how could humour be a negative character trait? We then had a long and to me, excruciating discussion on the ways I used humour to keep people at arm's length. My sponsor mentioned the most recent encounters she had witnessed, in which someone would share with me, then ask a question which was an invitation for me to share, in turn, how I was doing. In every case, I had neatly sidestepped that invitation by adroitly shifting the conversation's topic sharply away from me, through the use of humour.
My sponsor said she'd watched as the other Al-Anon members appeared to feel as if they'd had a warm encounter with me, but in truth, the sharing and openness had been strictly one-sided. I had cushioned my rejection of their invitation with sufficient humour that they'd seemed unaware. She suggested that I go to one or two or three of them, and ask them about this.

I was appalled. She was suggesting that I reveal myself, to an extent I found utterly terrifying. We went back and forth about this over the next few months, slowly evolving that idea from a complete impossibility, to a vaguely likely happening, to a compelling necessity.

When I did get my nerve up to do this, I found that in every instance, the person to whom I spoke, hadn't really ever considered whether their sharing was returned, because my use of humour, gave that sense of connection which fostered the illusion of closeness. But once we began to discuss it, they'd look at me with a dawning realisation, and say any number of versions of: "I've told you things I've never told anyone else, ever, and you've never really told me much of anything, now that I think about it."

I'd agreed with my sponsor before each of these discussions, just what I was comfortable revealing, how far I was willing to go, what I could do if I began to feel anxious or threatened.

Each time, I'd dredge up a piece of information about myself, (the revealing of which felt as though it should be accompanied by thunderous musical chords to mark the momentous nature of this self-revelation; I've written elsewhere on this blog about my tendency to take myself too seriously,) only to be met with warmth and encouragement and validation. Each time, I'd feel the hot sting of tears in my eyes, at this response.

That was one of the most challenging pieces of Fourth Step work I've ever done. It's gotten much easier over the years, because part of not being able to take myself so seriously, has come a sense of humour about my own frailties. Now I can use them to make us both laugh, when I'm talking to a program friend.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

One Ringy Dingy...

All this past week, my husband and I have been commenting to each other that it was strange the way the business calls had fallen off, and we hadn't heard from so-and-so, and wasn't it wierd that we were getting so many hangups, why was no-one leaving a message?

I had been feeling some low-level anxiety about the fact that I hadn't received a call from, and couldn't seem to contact, my sponsor. Then yesterday, my husband had an idea, got out his cell phone, and called the landline, only to discover that the answering machine had reverted to the default message, (a borderline rude: "No-one can take your call right now!" Click!) and wouldn't allow any incoming messages.

The machine was defunct, hence no messages. We bought a new setup. I spent an hour or so trying to figure it out, (I'm middle-aged, I'm not technically literate; when I was in high school, we didn't even have calculators, we had to use pen and paper. I know, sounds like the 1800's, right?) and after wading through forty-six pages of instructions, I decided this was far more technology than either of us required, returned that one to the store, and bought the horse-and-cart variety of answering machine - only 3 pages of instructions.

What I found interesting about this experience was my assumption that I must have offended my sponsor somehow, and that's why I hadn't heard from her. I know her very well, as she knows me - the likelihood of that happening is so slight as to be nonexistent, yet that's the explanation which instantly jumped to my mind. I must have done something wrong, and that's why she hasn't called. In reality, each call I'd made to her, she'd tried to respond, even driving over to my house to see if we could connect that way - my husband and I were both out at the time, and she didn't think of writing a note, she knew she'd see me at the meeting tonight.

I know she isn't the type to sulk or give me the cold shoulder,
so why did I make this rather nervous assumption? Fatigue, perhaps. I haven't been sleeping well, for various reasons, and I'm operating upon about half the regular amount of sleep I consider sufficient. This absolutely affects my thinking, my responses, my ability to cope. I need to work my program rather more intensely than when I'm getting a good night's sleep. I need to "reason things out with someone else," because those ideas which seem so beautifully logical and astute when idling gently inside my head, prove to be eyebrow-raisers when voiced to an objective listener.

I need to recognise that my conclusions are far more likely to be the result of old thinking patterns when I'm this fatigued. If I am not thinking as clearly, then I need to respect that, and not decide that my interpretation of whatever event is the correct one, without obtaining outside information to test my hypothesis.

Don't speculate, ask. When in doubt, ask.
Difficult to remember when one's brain is in a pleasantly foggy state, as mine has been lately.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


This is a term used in the helping professions to describe a type of emotional conflict in which one person has to be "right" regardless of truth, reality, or circumstances. A "right-fighter" insists upon having the last word, and being seen as the winner, in every altercation. These people can be exhaustingly stubborn, and resistant to help; their self-image is so damaged and fragile, they tie their very self-worth to being "right."

Before Al-Anon, I was a right-fighter. I could never, ever, allow the alcoholic to have the last word. Or anyone else, for that matter.

12-Step works its magic because it allows us to see ourselves mirrored in our fellow members around the tables, and if we are fortunate, to begin to view our personality traits and defects with some objectivity. I recall a meeting from my early recovery; I admit I was daydreaming a bit, as the member speaking had a tendency to be long-winded in her shares. I tuned-in again just in time to catch her saying: "I feel like if I ever admit he's right about anything, it's the beginning of the end for us."

Over the next week or so, that comment kept materialising into my consciousness like one of those floatation devices that one can push underwater with some effort, but the moment one relaxes one's grip, up it comes, to bob gently on the surface. And then just as a reinforcement of the point, page 29 in the Al-Anon daily reader "Courage to Change" came up, either in a meeting, or when I was reading it in the morning, as is my habit; I can't recall.

I'd catch myself about to make some comment or remark to the alcoholic, and ask myself, what was the purpose? Was I speaking just to be "right?" If so, could I let that go unsaid? I tried to do this elsewhere in my life, also. I'd allow myself at most two or three comments on a subject, then regardless of how the other person was responding, agreeing or arguing, I'd stop talking. If asked why I'd suddenly stopped talking, I'd say, "Oh, I'm just thinking."

If I felt the heat of annoyance rising in my chest after my first remark, I'd stop talking immediately, before I had the chance to say anything further in service of my desire to be "right."

After some time of practising this new behavior, I found myself able to detach from many situations in which I'd have previously felt obliged to argue my corner. It was great, I could just make a non-committal noise, and let it go. I found, to my surprise and delight, that very few topics in a week truly required my input.

To quote one of my sponsors: "You will never regret not blurting something out."

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Character Defects - Part 2.

Frustration is a good indicator that I have become mired in one of my character defects - perfectionism. I would feel intense frustration when anyone would say, "That's good enough, leave it alone." Leave it alone? It was so obviously not perfect, how could I just walk away and leave it like that? If I did manage to tear myself away, I'd still be there in mind and spirit, biting away at it, worrying and nibbling and chewing it over endlessly.

If I don't keep a tight rein upon this aspect of my personality, the damage it can do is pervasive. Nothing is ever done to my satisfaction, because nothing is done perfectly. (As my old sponsor used to say, "Welcome to real life, dear!")

I've had to delve deeply into my past, in my efforts to find the roots of this poisonous weed of perfectionism, and what I've discovered, is that I have a belief that if I can just do whatever it is perfectly, no-one will be able to criticise me. It's a preventative measure, in effect.

I was astounded to realise this. I had always thought that I just liked to do things "properly." Finding out that what truly drove me was not a desire to do things in the correct way, but fear of criticism if I failed, was mind-boggling at the time.

It was one of those revelations that jolted me like an earthquake, and when it finished, had shifted me off my foundations by about an inch or so. I felt unsure and unbalanced. I began to see my rationalising as a smokescreen, instead of an explanation.

Now, when I feel that familiar rising sense of frustration, I can stop and ask - what do I fear, and why? Fear tormented me, inspired my behavior, influenced my thinking and worldview, shortened my tolerance - fear was my driving force. Fear can still grab the wheel if I'm not paying close attention, and then the accelerator is rammed to the floor, the engine races, and we careen along at breakneck speed, fear and I. It's never a pleasant drive in the country with fear in the driver's seat.

I can be afraid, and choose to set my fear aside, and act as if I would were I not afraid. This means I stop, take stock, choose to detach as far as I am able, and ask my Higher Power to remove my fear. I can let "good enough" be just fine.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Step One.

"Admitted we were powerless over alcohol,and our lives had become unmanageable."

Step One is surrender. My dictionary defines surrender as: "to yield, to deliver up."

When this was explained to me, as a newcomer to Al-Anon, I felt an immediate, furious resistance. Why should I surrender? My entire focus was upon making the alcoholic, my ex-husband, surrender. After all, I had right on my side; he was causing anguish to all who loved him: he was destroying his health and sanity: he was ruining his business...all true, all irrelevant to my recovery.

Al-Anon is for us, and until we can shift our focus from the doings of the alcoholic to our own small arena, we may not be able to see just why we need to take Step One. I came to it only when I was so exhausted from all my other efforts, and their obvious futility, that yielding began to seem less an abandonment of responsibility, and more a relief from the stress and obsession which consumed my every waking hour.

I don't live with active drinking anymore, I've got a new and different set of life-problems. I use Step One when I am feeling overwhelmed by life. I use it when I can't find my balance, because I'm unable to extricate myself from whatever circular thought pattern in which I happen to be entangled.

When I awoke this morning, and was putting on the coffee and feeding the dogs, I realised I needed to take Step One again, to deal with the stresses of death and illness of those I love.

I am powerless over all of it. What can I do? I can extend a loving hand of support, I can speak of my feelings, I can offer to help out with the daily round - but I can't change the fact of the illnesses, not with all the wanting of my heart can I change the facts.

I work Step One to regain my centre, my balance, my serenity.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Some Days You Eat The Bear, Some Days The Bear Eats You.

I first heard that saying, when we moved out of the city to a very small town - a hamlet, really, perched on the edge of the ocean. (I remember being "downtown" in this tiny place, and looking around, wondering just what on earth I'd signed up for. I had no idea. None. It was....an experience. I was happy when we moved back to civilisation as I knew it, years later. Let's just leave it at that.)

I've always liked this saying, because it seems to contain a certain wisdom, about the rather random nature of life's vicissitudes. Life isn't fair. Things happen, and we must struggle to deal with them as best we can. Some days we manage to triumph, and we have bear steaks for dinner, feeling great satisfaction as we saw and chomp, because today, we were victorious.

In other encounters, the bear is dining on us, while we kick and scream and fight to survive. Some days, we feel as if we are still alive while he tries to rip our heart right out of our chest.

I've learned in program that I cannot eradicate all the bears from life. I cannot stop them from wanting to dine upon me and my loved ones. I can use my common sense and good judgement to be careful, but this must be within the framework of a life worth living, and not so bounded on all sides by fortification that the sun is blocked out in the name of aiming for safety.

For the rest, I will rage and weep and rail, against fate and life and the cruelty of illness and death at stealing the people I love away, and then when I am finished weeping, and am spent and exhausted, I will work to accept that which I cannot change.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Cycle of Life.

I think I'm having trouble processing all the sadness which keeps piling on. I spent an evening this past week, with a pal who had lost a long-term friend to sudden death. Recently, I heard that a friend of mine is in hospital, and unlikely to come home again - a terminal condition. Another friend is very ill with cancer.

I've tried to write the last couple of days, but find myself sitting facing the monitor with my hands resting in my lap, and my mind empty.

I have a rose in my garden, which my friend who is dying of a brain tumour, rescued from the neighbour's bulldozer when he was renovating - she ran over from her house, waved at him to stop for long enough to allow her dig it up for me, and pot it, so it would be saved - it has grown to over six feet tall, and is in full bloom in the side garden as I write this - the palest of pinks, and has a delicious fragrance.

I've always felt a special fondness for this rose, because of the memories already attached to it. When we moved away, my friend came to visit, and couldn't believe the size and strength of the rose she'd rescued for me - we agreed it would always be a special rose. Even more so, now.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Readers, and Writers.

Thankyou to all who read, and all who comment - Syd
was the first person who would leave comments, and it was so encouraging to get those - it helped me to know that I wasn't just "shouting into the void."

I really appreciate all your comments - we are all in this recovery together, and the encouragement and positive energy I've received over my years in Al-Anon has been one of the largest blessings in my life. I try to be that same positive energy for others - what goes around, comes around, in 12-Step.

Waiting It Out.

When I was in my teens, any "negative" feeling aroused such an agitation within me that I'd take some frantic impulsive foolhardy action, anything to try to relieve the feeling. After I'd lived with active alcoholism in my first marriage for quite a few years, I'd shut my feelings down to the point that life had to be pretty stressful for me to feel much of anything at all, so when I did, it was for good reason - something awful had happened.
Barring that, I lived most of my time in a state of comfortable numbness. I didn't feel bad, but I didn't feel good - I didn't feel.

I thought, when I did think about it at all, that this was a pretty satisfactory coping mechanism. (This demonsrates how far gone into the insanity of co-dependence I was.) That numb state saved me a lot of pain. I also couldn't enjoy myself, but that didn't happen very often anyway, so hey, it was a trade-off, and one I was willing to make.

When the great thaw of my feelings began, I had no way of coping with them. As mentioned elsewhere on this blog, to use the term often used for very young babies, I couldn't "self-soothe." I could wind myself up, I just couldn't wind myself back down.

When I finally got up the nerve to ask for help with this at a meeting, the overwhelming majority of replies were in favour of hard physical exercise, while repeating one of the Slogans, or Step One, or The Serenity Prayer, as a way to block the obsessive thinking. I was very doubtful about this as a suggestion, but what did I have to lose? I was also advised to take action in the beginning of the feeling, rather than waiting until I was in full anxiety mode.

I remember getting myself and my dog ready for a walk, while my hands shook, and I felt an unhappiness that I envisioned as a tsunami that was going to wash down, sweep me off my feet and take me somewhere I didn't want to go. I had been numbed out for years by that point, and feelings were truly terrifying - they felt like a loss of control.

My dog and I walked and walked and walked that evening - she thought this was great, we went about 5 times as far as we usually did, and I somehow, without noticing it, began to relax, and drifted from a state of repeating "God grant me serenity" while trying to regulate my breathing, to a place I'd never have believed possible under the circumstances - calm, and relaxed.

I only realised this when it dawned upon me that I was admiring the various gardens we were passing, and that the knot in my stomach had disappeared.

Over the years, I've learned to self-soothe. I've learned what not to do, if I want to maintain my serenity, and what to do if my serenity is disturbed by my responses to life.

I've learned that I will have times when all I can do, is work my program, and wait the feeling out. I'm having one of those times the last few days. I don't get myself stressed out, worrying about, "What does this mean, that I'm feeling this?" In some instances, I can easily find a reason for my feelings; other times I can't. It isn't important. I can accept without knowing.

In the last week, everywhere I look, I'm seeing good people dying before their time - ones I know personally - my neighbour, and strangers to me - the guard at the Holocaust Museum.

I feel sad. That's acceptable. I don't have to fix it. I can allow it, and wait it out. This too shall pass.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

How Do I Deal With....

Strong personalitites can be great forces for change - those people can carry the more fearful along with them, encouraging, badgering, remonstrating - pushing forward into innovation, breaking free of stagnation and old habits. They can also create enormous tension and stress, in their attempts to satisfy their will. (I believe I'm sensitized to this lately, I seem to be seeing it everywhere I turn.)

We have a situation right now, in my home group - two strong personalities clashing, and rebounding to clash again. (I'm reminded of male mountain goats smashing their skulls together with a resounding percussion.) Somehow, the purpose of the meeting gets lost in the personality difference, and much glaring, sighing, and pointed ignoring takes place.

It's a blessed relief when one member doesn't attend, as the tension level falls back to normal, and the air in the room just seems easier to breathe. I know I've been hoping that with no action on my part, the situation would resolve itself. This has not been the case; instead, it appears to be deteriorating - the rudeness becoming more brazen, the power of the wills involved rising to fever pitch. It's affecting the meeting negatively.

So this week, we are having a group conscience, and I'm dreading it. I've seen business meetings disintegrate into power struggles between these two people, and have had to really work my program this week, as the day slowly approaches, not to be consumed with fretting over how uncomfortable it might be. In the past, I'd have just not gone to that meeting, anything to spare myself discomfort. But I'm learning that if I want a healthy meeting, I must be willing to be present, and willing to work towards creating, a sustaining meeting. I can't just leave it up to others, and hope they will do what I am reluctant to do.

It may be uncomfortable, but my Higher Power will be at the meeting with me, and if I pray to be granted the strength and the clarity to speak for myself only, not to step even one toe over the line separating "mine" from "not mine," I'll survive it. I may learn something incredibly useful to my own recovery. I may just be a voice for another who hasn't the ability to speak up yet. If the worst comes to the worst, I'll be hideously uncomfortable for an hour and a half, and then be able to walk out to my car, taking great gulps of fresh air, and thanking God for being with me through that.

If I don't make it into a melodrama, my life is manageable.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


Some days, I despair at the amount of noise surrounding me in everyday life - peace seems almost impossible to attain. If it isn't lawnmowers or weedwhackers, it's radios and yelling. My neighbours are bellowers and arguers. Even out in the garden, they argue over where to place a plant and how deeply - I've sat in our gazebo and had giggling fits over some of the things they argue about - they have the same iron will, and determination to be right, and there are times when it sounds like the Monty Python skit - "Argument:"


My neighbours seem to thrive on the conflict - for the listener, particularly if one is feeling at all stressed, it can be tiresome. If I'm in a good mood, it's patently ridiculous, and funny; if I'm not, it's maddening. We have privacy fencing and hedging all along the property line, but I've had times where I've wanted to sail a paper airplane over with the message: "You're both right, or you're both wrong, either way, could you please observe 5 minutes of silence, to give the rest of us a break?"

Today, I had to come indoors, I couldn't stand it, one set of parents is also out there, so we have two more people arguing. It's never about anything important, it's just an endless quibbling, and refusal to give an inch over anything. It works for them, and it's beyond my control.

So much of life is bearable or not, depending upon my own outlook and mood. I always have choices. I can garden in the front when they're in the back, or vice versa. I can play in the side garden on the other side of my house. I can go indoors, I can go out with a friend. I'm not trapped, I'm not helpless. It's my choice how much I allow this to affect me.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Character Defects.

From Courage to Change, page 160:

"Step Six speaks of being entirely ready to have God remove all my defects of character. Yet I find that I often cling to my defects because they give me a certain amount of pleasure."

This reading goes on to speak of the author getting pleasure from revenge fantasies - I spent a great portion of my time doing this, when I was living with active alcoholism, and new to Al-Anon. I'd invent long complicated scenarios in which I'd emerge the victor, having sliced and diced the alcoholics with cutting remarks and my brilliant responses. (Even in my earliest days in program, I had no trouble whatsoever identifying with any suggestions that we as co-dependents have our own form of insanity.)

This reading goes on to ask:

"Are the small, temporary pleasures I get from my defects of character worth the price I am paying to keep them?"

I needed to work with my sponsor for quite some time, before I could dimly comprehend that I was the architect of my own unhappiness - I was firmly entrenched in blaming the alcoholic for all of my misery. It was his fault, if he'd just yada yada yada, life would be fine. Perfect. Marvellous.

And then my ex did quit drinking, for nine agonising months, and I had a whole new set of complaints about him and his behavior. That was my first revelation that this wasn't only about him, it was also about me, and my ability to cope with life.

If I wanted change, I had to work for it. Working for it required that I be willing to identify, and then ask for removal, of my character defects. This meant I had to become comfortable with the idea that I had some. My ego was very shaky, my self-image largely negative, so this was a frightening prospect. My sponsor encouraged me to start with the small obvious ones - impatience. I could easily admit I was impatient, because I didn't have various shaming labels and interpretations attached to that - a person could be impatient, and still be a good person.

Admitting to that allowed me to take the next step - why was I impatient? Just what was I thinking, that made it possible for me to believe that all things should arrive with lightning speed the moment I decided I wanted them? Once I had that in hand, work from there - small steps forward.

I still struggle with those of my character defects most deeply rooted. I have learned that I can stop my futile thrashing about, breathe deeply, calm myself, and ask God for help removing whatever it is.

I did this last night - I could feel myself beginning to obsess, and I couldn't stop - all my usual ways of getting off that path weren't working. I asked for help, and I received it.
Bliss, just to get relief from that ghastly mental circling.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

A Tree Falling In The Forest.

We were out with the dogs last night; it was a beautiful evening - a cool wind had arisen. We had just nodded a greeting to a young couple walking towards us, when an ominous cracking noise began, and then, with a thunderous crash, a huge tree went down. It was awe-inspiring to feel the ground shake when it hit. We agreed we hadn't realised the wind was strong enough to bring a tree down, we'd thought of it as a "light breeze," when we'd discussed whether or not we should wear sweaters for our walk.

I was thinking about that later, and realised that my perception of life is often limited. I can't see past my own small area of concern. I'm so caught up in my self-absorbed thinking, that I may not even register that which can be earth-shaking to someone else.

From Hope for Today, page 119:

"God sees the whole picture, whereas my knowledge of what is best for me is based upon my fluctuating perceptions of my tiny world."

Fluctuating perceptions, indeed. They do vacillate, with my mood, the weather, my state of health, when I'm hungry, angry, lonely, tired. Before Al-Anon, I didn't realise this, and would feel as though I was always going to be frustrated, or never going to get relief from my pain. I thought, and spoke, in absolutes. I would take a rash action, to relieve my feelings, and then be faced with an aftermath of that action, which could be far worse than my original problem.

In 12-Step, I've learned to relax a bit, to allow for the perceptions of others as input in my decision-making process. Not the deciding factor, necessarily, just input. I welcome the chance to step outside my "tiny world" and see what's out there. I can grasp the idea that this too, shall pass. I don't often have that panicky sensation that I must do something to relieve the pressure of my feelings.

I understand that my way is not the one, only, correct way. My way can be the right way for me, but completely wrong for another. I pray for the maturity to allow that reality to permeate my stubborn detemination. I ask for the ability to see further than my tiny world.


A reader asks how long was I in Al-Anon before I asked someone to be my sponsor?

About a year. I was not able to trust other human beings with much ease or speed back then, and the very idea of pouring my heart out to another person was terrifying. I wanted a guarantee that this information wouldn't be used as ammunition to hurt me. I wanted a signed statement, before umpteen witnesses, that this information I was going to give, would be kept private.

It took me about a year to understand that there are no guarantees. Al-Anon operates under the principles of anonymity, trustworthiness, and discretion, but I had to decide - how badly did I want this sanity and serenity? Would I be able to survive, if my trust were broken? What's the worst that could happen? The worst for me, was that I'd be very hurt by the betrayal, and perhaps embarassed and ashamed.

But I'd survive. Once I'd had that realisation, I decided to ask someone to be my sponsor. I knew that I needed more in-depth conversation with an Al-Anon member, to help me work to discover which of my long-held beliefs were standing in my way.

I chose to put my trust in another person, and I took it very slowly, revealing myself in small increments, so that I was comfortable with the process. (The first person I asked, wasn't a good fit for me, and I ended up asking someone else with whom I felt more comfortable.)

I had been in awe of my sponsor, she seemed so calm, and relaxed. In working with her, I learned that she was a fellow traveller, with her own frailties, and I grew to love her. She wouldn't let me get away with anything, it seemed, and offended me a lot with her early observations - and we had some great laughing fits recalling my offense, when I had a few years of recovery. (I took myself very seriously when I first came into program - lots of drama and self-pity.)

A sponsor can be incredibly helpful, if we allow it.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Life Is Fragile.

I'm in shock tonight, I've just heard that my neighbour of two houses down died this week - she was only in her late 40's. I didn't know her at all well, but I did have gardening conversations with her over the years we've lived here. I'd stop to talk when she was in her front garden, and I was passing with my dogs. She had a gentle voice, and a friendly manner.

At times like this, I am reminded of the fragility of life, and the terrifying celerity with which our loved ones can be snatched away. On my walk tonight, I met an elderly friend who lost his wife of 32 years late last year. When I asked him how he was managing, he replied that he hadn't thought he'd ever have to do anything as hard as just continue living, after the woman he loved had died.

My neighbour was still a young and healthy woman - just recently, she had purchased a new car. I saw it sitting on the street in front of her house this evening, as I returned from my dog walk. She barely had time to enjoy that gift to herself, before she was gone.

The wolf is always at the door.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Evolution Of My Prayer.

I was an atheist when I joined Al-Anon; I felt that no just God would have permitted to be done to me, that which was done when I was a child.

When I did begin to believe in a Higher Power, and to try praying, I mostly was asking for specific results: "Please make him stop drinking, God." Or: "Please make this happen, because I really really want it." I understood the concept of praying for God's will, but was reluctant to do so. I was still at a stage in my recovery where I was firmly positive about what would be the best outcome, and I couldn't see the harm in putting in a request for that. I also didn't fully trust God not to do something sneaky and underhanded.

My first sponsor once said to me, exasperated, "Do you really believe that your Higher Power has brought you this far safely, only to fling you out the window now?"

I stopped talking and stared at her. I had never viewed it in quite those terms. Did I believe that? No. I didn't. Somehow, without realising it, I had grown to trust that my Higher Power was looking out for me. So, reasoning from that basic premise, I had to change what I was praying for. I've moved from those specific requests, to asking for serenity to accept. I ask for "knowledge of His will for me, and the power to carry that out."

Many years have passed since that conversation. Time and again, God has worked life out in a way that was beyond my imaginings, and some of the happenings which seemed so negative at the time, were necessary, in order for amazingly wonderful life changes to be possible. I have slowly grown to be increasingly able to believe that though I may see only darkness before me, if I walk in the knowledge that my God is beside me, I will experience moments of total release from fear.

That's a miracle of program, for me. I was always afraid, before Al-Anon - my fear may have waxed and waned, but it was unremitting. It drove my choices and behaviour, it kept me distant from other people, it was a fact of life.

There's an interesting freedom in truly knowing that I cannot control most of what goes on around me - I allow life to unfold as it will, (and does, with or without my agreement and acceptance. The latter just makes it more comfortable and relaxing.)

I ask for knowledge, and power, and the ability to let go. If I truly am sincere in my asking, I will receive it. If I'm asking before I'm ready to do any of that, it doesn't work for me. I have to have worked it through myself first - that's my part. Then and only then, I can Let. It. Go. And feel: Aaaaah, that's better.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


How do I achieve this? First and foremost, I let go of that which I cannot change - other people. This frees me to work upon the one person I can change - myself.

Then, I accept. I accept others just as they are, today, with no improvements desired or requested or expected. I accept their frailties, and I make the conscious effort to concentrate instead upon their strengths. It never ceases to amaze me how much of the "I can't stand it when he/she does this or that..." has fallen away as I practise program. (I said how much, not all - when I am tired and grumpy, I may choose otherwise for a time, but the habit is strong enough now, that I will revert to my positive attitude eventually.)

A program friend says, "That which I feed, grows." So simply true. I used to feed my anger and resentment, and then couldn't understand why I was unhappy so much of the time. In Al-Anon, I've got it on a starvation diet, and it has shrunk from the mountain taking up the entire skyline, to a rock beside my foot - I can still injure myself if I decide to give it a good hard kick, but I can walk around it, if I so choose.

I no longer give much headroom to what others may think of me - I care more what I think of myself. But I do recall, with a shiver, the way it felt to be so obsessed with that particular misery - it tainted everything.

I live in the moment as much of the time as I can manage. (This isn't to say that I don't make prudent plans for future security, but we're not talking about RRSP's, here - we're talking how to live mindfully, and with peace.)

I strive to be the best person I can be, and then I turn the rest over to my Higher Power, and I go out to play.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Computer Glitches.

I've missed a few days of posting, due to ISP problems.

The technician arrived, performed his magic, clicked his ruby slippers, and pronounced it repaired.

When he first arrived, he was eying our hookup dubiously - the long convoluted run of phone cord between my computer and the one phone connection in the house - up hill and down dale, around doorways, across walls, meandering over fully half the house before arriving at the destination.

Meanwhile, there was a phone jack directly behind the computer, but that one wasn't functional. Instead of calling to have someone come out and activate it, which would have been the sensible thing to do, we had just used the 4 miles of phone cord we had available, to run out to the active phone jack, in the livingroom.

The phone technician decided, that even though the interior connection wasn't what was causing my problem, he just couldn't tolerate our haphazard set-up. He activated the phone jack directly behind the computer, and jokingly suggested I use the old phone cord for tying up parcels, or plants.

After he'd left, I was laughing to myself, thinking this wasn't the first time I've made my life unnecessarily complicated, and achieved a rather half-baked solution, because I had to have instant gratification.

Talking to a program friend tonight, I touched on this - how I've done the silliest things, in service to getting instant results, and instant relief. Heaven forfend that I should suffer through feeling my feelings for more than a few disagreeable moments - fix it now, with whatever hunk of ancient cord is lying around. My instant fix may create future predicaments, but in my short-sightedness, this moment's relief is the only salient point.

Al-Anon is teaching me that my feelings are not going to destroy me. They ebb and flow with life itself, and if I recognise my emotions, name them, articulate them to a trusted friend, they are manageable. I used to view my emotions with fear and trepidation, I couldn't self-soothe. I didn't know that many times, just waiting them out, and working my program while I wait, is solution enough.