15 Years of Sobriety— All Hail Alcoholics Anonymous

Today marks 15 years of sobriety for me. I am not the most devout member of Alcoholics Anonymous, but I do try to practice these principles in all my affairs.

The “Big Book“, which is actually titled, “Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How Many Thousands of Men and Women Recovered from Alcoholism” is one of the most influential texts of the 20th century and was created and edited by a process we now know as “crowdsourcing”.

The 12 steps of AA are radical and simple. The meetings themselves are an odd and wonderful combination of rote conformance (the recitation of the steps, the format of the talks) and completely unpredictable local variation. The result is we can walk into a room, anywhere in the world, and have an immediate fellowship and sense of purpose with others. This centralization of mission and decentralization of operations is the basis for myriad movements.

Here’s what works for me:

  • I never eat food that has (or is supposed to have) alcohol in it. Never mind the idea that the alcohol burns off in a bourbon steak, or the chef can forgo a boozy sauce. I’ll have something else, no big deal
  • When someone says, “let’s get a beer”, innocently and with a sense of camaraderie, I have to immediately say, “I don’t drink”, and offer a coffee share. Otherwise I don’t advertise my status as a member of AA, but I just can’t countenance someone on Earth thinking I drink
  • When in a restaurant, if I am offered a drink, I have to say, “I don’t play that way”, politely. Not sure how this one started
  • I have zero issue being around alcohol/ bars/ etc. Normal life. But I do stay away from people, places, and things that feel alcoholic. Hard to explain this one, but it has very little to do with actual alcohol consumption. It’s one of the mysteries of AA— ya can’t drink, but it ain’t really about drinking. It’s about fear and resentment. Weird, right?
  • If I have some real trouble, I write/ call my ad hoc sponsor. You know who you are

Pretty simple program. I want to be a better AA. If you have any questions about recovery, hit me up.

Alcoholics Anonymous

All Hail Our County’s Catholic Sherriff, Making Life Harder for Pimps

Those of us who live in Chicago, which is wholly nestled in the great county of Cook in the oblong state of Illinois, have an amazing person working for us. Here’s Paul Krugman, this morning, in the New York Times:

Sheriff Tom Dart of Cook County, Ill., wrote tough letters to Visa and MasterCard, calling on them to stop allowing their cards to pay for sex ads on Backpage. Both companies effectively agreed. To its great credit, American Express in April stopped working with Backpage for adult ads, so as of the beginning of July pimps had no easy way to pay for advertisements.

Flummoxed, Backpage responded by making its basic sex ads free, but, even with a fee to promote a free ad, that’s not a business model that can sustain it. Backpage is suing Sheriff Dart, but my sense is that pimps won’t be using their credit cards again on the site any time soon.

“If it’s down for six months, that’s six months of children who aren’t raped,” says Yiota Souras of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

So bravo to American Express, MasterCard and Visa — and to Sheriff Dart — for getting results where Congress failed.

That’s who I’m interested in hanging out with— public officials looking to make our lives better, writing letters to the financiers, getting sued by jagoffs, looking out for the most vulnerable. One-day-at-a-time work, for us. We really do have a gem among us— it’s good to stop a recognize it sometimes.

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart talking with David Eads and Heather Billings in front of Shaw's Crab House, March 2013