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Progress.

5 November 2012

At the beginning of a lot of AA meetings, we read the opening to chapter five from Alcoholics Anonymous. Most of the critical aspects of AA are listed there, including the twelve steps. But one aspect, one which I think is responsible in large part for the success of the program, contained there is almost included as a throwaway line: “We claim spiritual progress, rather than spiritual perfection.”* I think this is utterly important for us in many respects, because life, in general, can be really discouraging.

It’s hard to see progress in the face of discouragement sometimes. This is true for me in many areas of life. My career is in total flux. I will almost certainly not have this job soon, which makes submitting the grant I am working on a matter of some difficulty. It’s very unlikely to be funded on the first try, and if it isn’t I’ll have no job from which to resubmit. And I’m actively trying to find a new job anyhow. So, hopefully, the score won’t even matter (There’s essentially no chance that I’d be able to take the funding with me if I were to go elsewhere, the rules of this funding agency don’t allow it except in special circumstances.). Hopefully, I’ll have a new job and there will no need for the grant to be considered one way or another.  The job I’m hoping to get would not be interested in my receiving that grant anyway. So career progress is hard to see at the moment.

Progress in other arenas is often similarly frustrating. I’ve  been very lax with respect to my fitness regimen lately. I’ve run only a few times in the past month. I have continued to see my personal trainer an hour a week, which is definitely useful, but it doesn’t substitute for 20 miles a week of running. But, even with that lapse in discipline, I’ve maintained. This weekend I went out and ran five miles, making the first 5K in thirty-two minutes, which remains a respectable time for me. And in general, the fact that I can simply go out and run for more than half an hour without stopping represents a massive achievement considering where my health was only five years ago. Only three years ago.

But where progress is usually apparent to me is in my sobriety. And in that of others. And I’m very grateful for that. I’m meeting with my new sponsee after work today. We’re going to go over his step one work. I’m hopeful it’ll be good. He’s clearly a sensitive and thoughtful guy. He’s prone to isolation and anxiety. And he’s a drunk. And these things all go together. I can imagine it might be hard for him to see progress in himself. It often is for us in the beginning. But from the outside, progression is obvious. He talks a bit longer at meetings now. He makes jokes. He came out for dinner with us after the meeting last week. I could tell he was a bit uncomfortable. That’s fine. He needs to make friends. The social system is an enormous part of what saves us.

And of course, I can easily see the progress in myself now. I haven’t had a drink in more than four and a half years. That alone is incredible progress. Time spent not-imbibing is incredibly restorative. I don’t know all the medicine, but I know that our brains and bodies don’t recover immediately from decades of abuse. It takes time, lots of time, to improve. But we do, and I have. I am, indisputably, in the best health of my adult life. And it’s pretty good. All my blood work was normal last time I had it checked, and my blood pressure hovers around 115/70. I still have a paunch to lose, but I’m in good shape and getting better.

And of course, the crucial measure of my progress is that I’m generally happy, generally healthy, and I know how to be a part of the world, to be of service, to help others to achieve sobriety. All my anger and frustration can pile up, but in the end, it’s just feelings. Feelings matter, of course, they’re critical. But how I live in the world is determined by how I act on them. These days, in sobriety, I can act responsibly and with circumspection. And that generally allows me to be content.

And it allows me to take responsibility for my own life and happiness. I’m impulsively flying away on Wednesday. Not saying where. I’ll only be gone for a few days. But I needed to do something silly and wonderful and fun and impulsive and foolish and exciting. So I am. I’ll be back Tuesday.

_________

*As usual, “spiritual” need not mean “magic”. This concept is perfectly compatible with humanism, for example.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Syd permalink
    5 November 2012 11:30

    Just as long as my steps are in the right direction, then I am on the journey and it will take a life time. It’s okay because I know that each day I am making some progress.
    Enjoy your time away.

  2. Mona permalink
    5 November 2012 12:23

    Good post! Thanks for posting. Have a great time being silly internationally! 🙂

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