I was sitting in a meeting, bored, listening to the same person share their story for what seemed to be the ten thousandth time and I was drifting away. Its sacrilege I know to drift and it's even a worse sin to run someone's inventory. But come on, some people are so BORING! I wanted to shout at the man to shut up!
Gratefully I started to laugh at myself. Gratefully I was able to pull myself back in from the dangerous frontier of my negative mind. For years I've fought a battle with myself and my negativity. Believe me when I say this, it's not over, not even close to over. But luckily I win now more often than I lose the battle in my brain.
My brain was so negative and sometimes it's still so negative that I can't stand to even be around me when I wake up. Two positive thoughts in my brain back to back can cramp me up for most of a day. I get scared of myself and I get scared at how bad a day I'm going to have when I wake up negative because I know the damage I'm going to cause to those around me. I also know just how much work I'll have to do to repair all the damage I caused during the day, and all those amends I'm going to have to make. There is nothing worse than the wreckage of my present. The past I can handle, but the wreckage right now is more devastating to me because "I should know better!"
I had a sign above my desk for years that taught me well. The sign said "thou shall not should upon thyself." It was a cute sign and very poignant at times. It's no fun having a negative caustic enemy sitting on my shoulders but it sits there and it loves having its way.
It's taken me years to learn how to get some control over my brain. I have had to do most everything everyone ever told me in order to get control of the grey matter between my ears. I had to learn how to pray without ceasing. I've had to learn how to wake up happy. That alone was no small feat, but I've learned how to smile instead of frown. Even today I still find myself being crabby and quick tempered in a 'nano second'.
When I was young I was so mean that no one would be around me in the morning. My poor little brother had to sit across from me in the morning and deal with me. It's a joke now but growing up it was terrible for him. I'd glare at him as he ate. I'd sit across from him eating my cereal and just vibrate with meanness as he ate his cereal.
My brother deserved it though. He was and still is one of the lucky people who wake up in the morning loving life. He looks forward to the day with childlike abandon. I think that was God's little joke on me. My brother showed me what I should be like each morning, and I was determined to drive him into discontentedness by the shear force of my will and my meanness. It didn't work. He ate his cereal smiled and hummed his way through the morning.
Years later I did start the process of turning myself around. I already mentioned one thing. I started praying without ceasing. It never really dawned on me to pray throughout the day. I was great at praying at night and once in awhile in the morning I would take stock of my day, making sure the scales were tipped in my favor. I was a really good score keeper with my own notebook. In the morning when I thought I might need God, I'd pray. But to me God was usually a safety net more than anything.
As time passed I started praying in the morning, asking God to help me get myself going. Then I started following that up with check-ins. When I stopped at a stop light or even at a stop sign I would check in. A mentor told me that whenever I found myself in a position to check in, I should check in. I started that, kept it going, and have even made it flourish in my life.
Those simple little things got me rolling. I started to change finally. But in that meeting that night while I was drifting away, all of those negative thoughts came to me as that man was talking. I've sat in meetings with the man who was sharing for a really long time, and in that time his story has stayed constant. Change is something he hasn't really embraced.
Through the years I have really come to love that man and I'd crawl across broken glass to help him. But that night my mind was a terrible enemy to both of us. It was going off on him, running his inventory and ticking off "dumb" things he was saying. I really hate it when I start doing that to my fellow members and friends.
Gratefully I turned my mind around and on to me. That's when I came up with the idea to write about different birds I've been in recovery. I hope you enjoy reading about them as much as I enjoyed writing them. They were a hoot to write. If you have any input let me know.
In the beginning using was fun, and I'm sure we all have fun stories of the stupid things we did. When I tell the truth about my drinking and using, the first stage of addiction was fun. What did Pot and Alcohol allow me to do? It allowed me to be the person I thought I wanted to be. When I used I became invincible. In reality I thought I was totally useless and had no value. But alcohol and drugs lied to me at every turn. Sure I had fun, but the fun didn't last long.
The first time I used I did so many things I wanted to do. I danced my first dance at my school. I'd never danced before in my life and I loved the feelings I felt on that dance floor. That night I also got to kiss the prettiest girl in my class.
Shelly was at that dance and I heard she wanted to dance with me. Drinking beer was cool and I had some beer and Shelly wanted some. That was fine by me. Outside I shared some beer with her and we started talking. Shelly told me I was funny and she would like to dance with me when we went back inside. It was a slow dance and she kissed me! I was a made man that night. I went from Geekdom to Stardom.
My using and drinking career lasted for seven more years. During that time I was a hummingbird. I was so bouncy and flighty. I had no way of staying focused on anything. I was always moving around, never staying anywhere for any length of time.
When I came into recovery and started looking around I was like a hummingbird all over again. I was so skittish and every little breeze that blew, took me somewhere. I wanted recovery so bad that I stuck my nose deep into what was offered to me. Immediately I was put to work setting up chairs making coffee and then pouring coffee during the meeting. My mentor told me to keep busy and never let anyone do something in a meeting I was able to do for them.
I cleaned ashtrays after meetings. I shook hands and learned how to hug and be hugged back. I had no idea what was going on but like the hummingbird I wanted to experience everything sweet that was around me. After being locked in the cycle of addiction the nectar that recovery was offering looked wonderful! My world had become very bland and lacked color of any type. Stripping away addiction, my world brightened up fast.
I had a whole new language to learn. The sayings in AA and NA seemed complicated and cumbersome in the beginning. Most of the time when people spoke in the meetings it sounded like they were speaking a foreign language that I didn't know. When I walked into each meeting I knew that I wanted the warmth of the smiles that greeted me. The people in those rooms were kind and at first it seemed that no one else in my world was kind. "Keep coming back, it works!" kept bringing me back. "It works if you work it!" confused me. I kept coming back and slowly I started seeing some color creeping back into my life. My parents helped me clean up and they took me back into their lives and home when they saw I was serious. At their home my parents had a lot of hummingbird feeders hanging from the fence and by the window where I slept. I watched those birds for hours and saw how grateful they were for what my parents gave them. I was a hummingbird at the meetings. I had no clue what was happening around me, but like the birds I was watching, all I knew was where to go to get something that would nourish me.
I was grateful for everything my parents were giving me during that time. I was scared to death that I wouldn't stay clean and sober. I was scared of most things in life and the slightest event around me sent me tumbling. Just like the hummingbird, I was running from meeting to meeting absorbing each little thing that was tossed my way. I had no idea if any of it was good, bad or just right for me; I was just out there taking everything in, trusting by faith that what I was being fed would nourish me.
Like the hummingbird I was fun to watch. I was moving around trying to be of some value, but being new to recovery, I had a lot to learn! One of my favorite stories about that time is about my parents. They wanted me to feel welcomed and my dad wanted me to feel that I was contributing something back to the house. He gave me a week to go out and dig a ditch across his property. It was a ditch that needed digging so that parts of the field wouldn't flood every spring. I spent a week digging away and at the end of the week I still hadn't finished it and I was so depressed! I felt like a failure!
My parents were happy enough with my progress and they were really proud that I'd stayed clean and sober for that week. They fed me a great meal and congratulated me on my sobriety. I had done what I thought was impossible. Since I was in high school, I hadn't been without something addictive in my system longer than a few days and my parents knew that. I was proud of my week but bummed about the ditch.
The second week, my dad asked me to finish up the ditch and then get started on some other projects. I did my best! I really kept trying to dig the ditch, but each time I tried to stick to my digging I got distracted by my own thoughts. I was just like the hummingbirds outside my window. I was incapable at that time of holding thoughts or keeping track of anything. I just moved around at random taking my feedings from the rooms of recovery.
At meetings I would fidget around a lot doing my best to listen to people. Slowly the vocabulary and the sayings started to make sense. Slowly the readings that were read at the beginning started to sort themselves out. At home, I would go to the ditch but forget to bring my shovel. I would bring the shovel but forget to wear my work boots. I was so preoccupied by what was going on inside of me that I was not much good right here on earth.
One day I finally got things right and what a total joy it brought to me! I remember the shock I had when I looked up from digging that stupid ditch and seeing just how far I had dug that day. It was a miracle to me. That was also probably the first time I took pride in something positive that I'd accomplished.
People in AA and NA meetings talked about Spiritual Awakenings? that day I had one. I found much to my delight that I could do something and keep myself on track for more than just a few minutes. I had thought I would be doomed to flitting about like the hummingbirds for the rest of my life! That day I'd finally made some progress on the ditch and it made me begin to see that maybe I would be okay, that I could begin to learn enough to survive in the world. It was a miracle to me. I was so scared that maybe I'd burned myself out and I wouldn't be able to recover.
Hummingbirds are fun to watch and they have a lot of value but it was no fun when I was feeling like a hummingbird. Now I understand why we say "there but for the Grace of God go I." When I was bouncing around in the beginning and felt like a Hummingbird, I was so scattered I was dangerous. I've also heard people describe themselves in this stage as a pinball at the mercy of the machine and the flippers that sent them reeling. Most people in the rooms make it out of this stage of recovery. We can all see ourselves here, but the next stage is funnier? life as a Crow!
Crows love to flock and scream at each other. They love to incite negativity. They love to be restless and breed irritability. Crows don't cry caw caw caw, they scream me, me, me!
Whenever anyone hurts me I don't look at myself to see if I caused it, I yell at them. "You cut me off! You suck!" If you hurt me I retaliate. I never look at the spiritual "big picture" of the situation I only look at myself and my hurts.
I have spent much time in my life being a crow. You know what a crow is? It's a loud, obnoxious, noisy bird that only eats dead things and bothers others. That was, and sometimes still is, me.
I know most of you are laughing right now reading about this. It's so true of all of us. It's easy to be a crow. I have opinions and if you want to know about them all you have to do is ask me and I'll gladly share my opinions with you. That's a trait of the crow, opinions upon opinions. But if you want help don't ask me, I don't have the time, I don't have the energy. I don't even really have the know-how to help you. My best excuse is this one. "It's time for someone else to learn that end of service work. Go ask them."
Crows love spreading death. They don't know how to spread life. I've sat in meetings when I'm feeling like a crow and all I see is everything that is negative about the people around me. Those people are wonderful glorious people but all I see is terrible weaknesses. What I see is their dumb clothes. Their bad hair cuts. The booger hanging from their nostril. I don't see the beautiful recovering soul that is them. I don't see the countless victories that brought them to the meeting that day.
Crows love spreading disease. Gossip is a disease and oh how I love gossip! Give me some good juicy gossip. The dirtier the better. Heck most of the time I don't even care if it's true, I just want to hear it and smile my knowing, judgmental smile. Gossip is a poison that is slow death. Did you know that if a dog ate a broken bottle it would die? That's dumb. No dog would eat a broken bottle! But a dog wolfing its dinner in gulps can eat lots of broken pieces of glass and the same thing would happen. The dog would die from the inside out and that's what happens when I listen to gossip. I start to die from the inside. Gossip has no light, only darkness.
Today most of the time I don't partake in gossip and if I do hear some I walk away. Gossip has no purpose in my life. I have such huge logs in my own eye that I have no business listening to a mote of gossip. The log in my eye needs to be dealt with before I can even see anything else.
The disease gossip spreads is really insidious and it permeates everything wherever it spreads. I've seen people's lives destroyed by gossip and in my own life gossip almost killed me. Something really bad happened to me and the gossip mill started rolling on me. I started hearing the incessant buzz that is associated with gossip when I came into a room. Suddenly people stopped talking and I started seeing the looks that go with gossip. It was terrible and my life paid the price for it.
Even now many years after the lie was exposed some people that are dyed-in-the-wool crows still love to share the lie about me and never share the truth. They thrive on the gossip and they love to push it forward as truth. I learned from that whole period in my life and I truly hope I stopped my cycle of being a crow. I know I slip once in awhile and regress into being a crow but I pull myself back up quickly.
Crows are a really tough bird and they die slow. That makes this a tough stage because there are a lot of payoffs here. Most people get stuck here and never move forward. The world is full of people who live the life of the crow because it's easy. The amount of work is rather low and the rewards they believe are high. It's easier to be a crow than it is to grow away from it.
I was shocked to see how easy it is to fall back into it and feel the warmth that comes from being a crow. That's why I qualified it in the beginning that even now I still fall into this lifestyle. It's easy and seems like fun. I've seen some of my personal heroes fall into being a crow. They disguise what they say as sharing their concerns, but its gossip nonetheless.
My favorite crow is a person who lives near me. This kind of person dresses like a peacock and always looks great each time he steps out the door of his home. His house is one of the nicest to look at. His car never sees dirt and the occasional time it does see dirt it's only for a few hours. When he walks into a room he always makes a grand entrance. He holds court and loves the admiring smiles he sees.
I was really attracted to this particular person. I thought that was what I wanted. I would be one of the first to put my hand out when he entered the room. I respected him so much because of the things I thought he had done. I was totally swept up by him and believed the stories about him. Then I woke up.
What woke me up? I wanted to get better! I wanted out of the cyclone that brought me to want to be in the same room with this particular person and others like him. The only way to get better is to do the work. There is no way to catch recovery. Recovery only happens when work begins. I was shocked to learn that people's personalities rub off on me and I had to start paying attention to see who I wanted to rub off on me.
People can catch others illnesses just by sitting next to them or even around them. But you cannot catch recovery! Work has to happen and that was what I learned from the crow that I was sitting next to. I caught their illness and I was furious at myself for allowing it to happen to me. It wasn't their fault. It was mine and I had to move on to get better. At first I wanted to blame them. I wanted to point my finger at them and yell at them but in my heart I knew it was my fault.
We've all heard the noise when one crow sees something it doesn't like. The noise is loud, obnoxious and incessant. The reason why is simple; crows hate change of any type because it is threatening to them. Recovery is all about change!
Growing up in Montana I never had a chance to see a Peacock for real or for that matter hear one. But when I moved to Oklahoma for a few years I got to see and hear peacocks. People there use those birds as watch dogs and for a good reason. Peacocks love to make lots of noise when they are disturbed. They love to shout out to everyone that they have been disturbed!
Peacocks are beautiful to look at. They have lots of color and those tails are breathtaking when they fan them out. They look good even dragging those tails behind them. I really loved watching those birds when they were in the fields strutting their stuff and raising those tails for all to see. With out the tails and the colors those birds have nothing else going for them. They are just bones and feathers.
That's when it occurred to me that I might be a peacock. At that time I was maybe five years into my recovery. Just a few days earlier I was at a meeting and my sponsor just happened to be in the meeting. I had been sharing some of my wisdom and I thought I was doing a particularly great job of stating truth as I understood it. Right at the best part of my story my sponsor stood up, leaned over the table, and told me to "Shut the f#%& up!"
I was so embarrassed and I was so stunned I did shut up. Then quickly I left the meeting. He caught me outside before I could get my car started and drive away into the sunset. After a long hard hour of listening to him I understood what had made him say that.
Many times I've thought about that time in my life. I also wonder why I never slugged him in the nose for the total humiliation that he inflicted on me at that moment in time. Aside from him being much larger than me there was nothing really holding me back from slugging him. But he knew what I was and he knew there was nothing to me. I couldn't do him any real harm. Peacocks don't have much to them.
Watching the peacock in the field I really understood why my sponsor did what he did at that moment in time. I was pretty on the outside. I had nice clothes and kept them clean. I had a good job and was doing a fair job of staying employable with that job. I had some great friends and I was doing an even better job at keeping them. I knew enough about recovery to share at meetings and make people laugh and people could even get something out of what I was sharing once in a while.
But I was like the peacock it was all on the outside. I was making lots of noise and I was looking good on the outside but inside I had nothing. I hadn't absorbed the program and taken it deep. I knew enough about recovery to be dangerous and that had driven my sponsor to ridicule me in front of the meeting. I was a loaded gun sitting in the rooms of recovery and every so often I got a chance to go off. I was dangerous to myself and those around me.
Instead of helping people in the rooms I was a potential danger to them. Luckily I took to heart what my sponsor had to say and I renewed myself to the program, the steps and to working the program to a deeper level.
I see peacocks around me all the time now sitting in the meetings strutting their stuff and flashing their tails just as I had all those years ago. Those wonders of the program that are just like me; they come in, get God, work the steps as fast as they can. I had no depth, only color. I got God back then so I could get girls. I worked the steps so I had something to share in the meetings when I was called on. I did those things for one reason only and that was to look good. I was still playing angles just like when I was out in the streets trying to score.
Peacocks are great birds, they have their purpose in the world but in the rooms of recovery and as a stage of recovery they are dangerous. Through the willingness of my sponsor and the support of my friends around me I got out of that stage and moved into the next one.
By now you know what I'm going to pick for the last bird. Yup you're right! Eagle! So why an eagle? Other than being one of the most majestic birds they have historic and biblical backgrounds. Eagles are just awesome birds to watch and when you see one anywhere you have to look at it and admire it. Eagles, with just their presence, command respect.
It's hard to live a life where you have to grow up, show up and do the next right thing. Eagles have no choice. That is the type of life they lead each day they are alive and they don't know anything different.
Recovery doesn't demand us to grow up, but as we grow and start to see what is before us we have no choice. We can decide to grow or we can decide on "Good Enough."
For years I heard whispers from people in and around meetings. "Don't let good become the direct enemy of better."
What the heck does that mean? I'd shout that question to anyone that was near me. What does that mean? I'd beg.
All I'd get was knowing smiles and a pat somewhere on my head or knee. I really did want to know but in some rooms people talk in code and that code isn't shared, you have to learn it all on your own.
It took me many years of time and many years of persistence until I finally found a clue to the code. I started sticking to the program. I started sticking to certain meetings where recovery was present. I stopped spreading my disease and I started to learn how to grow, change and do the next right thing.
I also found out that God's gift to humans was choice, not opposable thumbs. We get to choose the life we live and that's what separates us from the rest of the world.
So why do I sit in the rooms and see Eagles? I stopped hanging with the others and I started seeing what was going on around me. I stopped being so narcissistic and I started looking around at others. It was amazing to find out that other people weren't so interested in me. I was shocked that no one really thought much about me at all.
I stopped looking at the rear end of life and started looking around me. I was so amazed that most things don't stink. I was really amazed that life had color. I stopped eating negative things. While crows and other birds only eat dead things eagles eat live things. It's only when they are in captivity that an eagle will eat something that is dead. An eagle, when a storm is coming, doesn't fight the storm they embrace the storm and start to rise with it until they are above it or beyond it.
I've had to learn in my life how to embrace things that are alive. I had to learn how to walk away from things that have no value. Just because it sounds good doesn't make it good. Gossip is something that is dead and I've shared already just how much I loved gossip. I called it constructive sharing. Not true. I was a gossip. I found things that were positive and brought joy to people.
Positive things are alive. Daily practice of the steps. Praying each day, throughout the day. Avoiding things in my life that allow dead things to show back up. Walking away from the negativity of my old lifestyle. Learning how to change and then allowing the change to grow in my life. That is really positive. Becoming a truthful husband, father, friend and worker, that is positive. I had to learn how to be a better person at the end of each month than I was at the beginning.
The largest mistake I made in recovery was believing that because I had spent so many years working the steps and practicing the things I do each day that I had become bullet proof. I honestly believed that I had moved from man's world and was only living in God's world. I had arrived. I was a total bliss ninny.
A storm happened. It blew into my life and my family's with all its might and I was knocked to the ground by the shear force of it. I was mad! I was mad at the people that brought that storm into my life. I was mad at some of my friends for walking away from me when I needed them. I was mad at God! I was mad at God for allowing this thing to happen to me. How dare God allow this thing to happen to me! I thought we had a deal!
I found out during that time just how much of a crow I was. I was yakking up a storm to everyone who would listen until finally I had to shut up. I was told to shut up by a very wise person.
Since that time I've learned how to embrace storms. It's during a storm that God tests me. It's during a storm that I get to see where I'm at in life and just how much I really do believe in God.
I had a total misunderstanding about faith. I had a total misunderstanding about God. I was this phony bliss ninny running around talking but I had nothing but words. I had no faith to back up the words. I had no true understanding about God and what believing in God really meant. Now I have both and for that alone, walking through the turmoil has taught me how to have faith and truly believe in God.
Eagles fly alone knowing they're okay. They don't need affirmation except from the rock they stand on. They don't need others for their well being. I used to sit next to whoever I thought was the best off person in the room at the time and I wanted what they had. I hoped something would rub off on me. Bunk! No one can catch wellness from someone. The only thing we can catch is illness. Wellness is something that is accomplished by doing the work which I see as; learning to trust the process, keeping the process rolling along and having faith that all will work out as time moves along.
For so many years all I accomplished was repeating the same things over and over again. It was really hard to look back and see that, yes I had time in AA. Yes I had a few accomplishments, but the only real thing I had done was repeat the first year of recovery over and over again. I was still doing everything a few years later that I had done the first year. I hadn't moved off the ledge yet, I hadn't put my trust where it should be and done everything that goes with that.
Eagles know the process of life. They have no fear of anything. They know just what to do at each time in their life. From the very beginning when the baby eagle is in the egg pecking away at the shell, all the way to adulthood the eagle is learning, adapting and growing. Eagles don't blame the wind, they move with it. Eagles don't look to other eagles for life; they take care of things themselves. Eagles don't sit in meetings running other people down like I did when I started this whole thing.
I learned from all of this. I love to say in meetings that growing up is tough. It is tough but it can be done. I have nothing to point my finger at, where other people are concerned. The log in my eye is huge and it is enough for me to just deal with that dumb log.
I've learned in life to be like the eagle and rise up and keep myself moving. I hear in my head now, when I want to bring myself down from my own righteousness, this old saying. "Who are you to throw stones?" Sometimes it's hard, but it's true. I don't have any stones to throw at anyone. I have so much crap in my life I'm an easy target.
Eagles are birds that I've loved most of my life. They are a bird with so much meaning to me that I had to pick them to symbolize the best, I believe, in recovery. I've watched eagles most of my life. I've read stories about Eagles most of my life, and I really love Bible quotes with eagles in them.
After one meeting was over I had a chance to talk with a special friend and to tell him what had happened to me during the meeting. We both had a good laugh about my brain and we shared some other things. It was the willingness he had to let me talk to him, and his openness about himself that made me feel as if I could tell him the truth about me. That made it so special for me. My friend is an old eagle and I love him dearly for everything that he represents.