Bones In The Backyard


Cutey-wooty pet pictures - what the internet was born to do.
Biting off more than I can chew.  Story of my life.

A few years ago, there was a young man who I supervised at work.  He was intelligent and well spoken.  But his performance wasn’t up to par.  He was very much involved with union politics and tried to leverage it and any sort of loopholes attached to them to his advantage.  He didn’t work very hard, and I had numerous run-ins with him about his lack of effort.  Although he was a subordinate, he acted much differently.  Now, I have dealt with this type of person in the past.  In fact, I’ve dealt with much worse and I never really let it bother me before.

But this guy bothered me.  I dreaded when he was on my shift.  I sometimes went out of my way to avoid dealing with him.  He was a thorn in many people’s side but it didn’t seem to disturb my colleagues as much as it did me.  I let this guy rent space in my head for free (Scallywag!  Barnacle! Moocher!) and I certainly took him home with me in my mind.  I allowed him to attract my thoughts, my inner wrath, my muttered monologues.  There was just something about this guy that was like a hair in my mouth that I couldn’t quite put my finger on and remove.  A splinter in my spirit. I was newly sober at the time, I must add.

Now, I am a proponent of the whole “if you spot it, you got it” mentality. That is, when I find something disturbing about someone, it’s usually because there is something about them that I find unsettling about myself. It sounds twisted, but it’s often where I find the bone in the backyard and follow up with a big woof of delight and serenity soon follows suit.  So that thing that drives me batty about someone is deep inside me too.  It’s like two magnets of equal polarity trying to connect – it can’t as there is an internal and intrinsic pushing away of.  A repelling of sorts.

Using my
Out damned thoughts, out!  Can’t a man just take a shower in the outdoors without getting stuck with these things!?

So with this cat, it was easy to put him on my grudge list, my list of resentments.  And damned if I couldn’t find out what it was of mine that he cut into.  Talking about and thinking about and praying about what bee was getting in my bonnet (I like bonnets) got me nowhere.  And for over a year (!) I could not get this dude out of my head.  Even on vacation this guy would travel with me, like a gremlin stowaway, chewing me up from the inside out. Then the lad quit and I didn’t have to deal with him any more.  He eventually faded out of my mind.  But once in a while I would still wonder what it was that grabbed me about him.

Then the  other day I was thinking about some stuff that was bubbling beneath my emotional cauldron.  I was starting to see something in me that I never thought I was or had.  And when I started to pull together the fragments in my mind about this, something clicked.  Finally, the reason why this guy was in my head so much became clear.

He was a complainer.  And a whiner.

And so was I.

And still am.


There it is.  It was the fact that he pointed the finger at others, that he tried to remain blameless, that he raged against the machine of humanity was what really irked me.  And that was because I did the same my entire life. And even these days, I have noticed that I have been complaining.  A lot. So I want to register a complaint – against myself (or is that complaining again?  I’ll get this right, believe me.) For complaining so much.  Here on this blog and in real life.

It’s a hard thing to admit.  It’s like when I realized that man, yeah, I am also lazy and I procrastinate.  Never in a million years would I have checked that off the list of traits that I embodied or showed.  Like everything else in my life, I had a construction of who I was and the way I presented myself to the world.  I was a hard-working man who never uttered a single complaint or gossiped or spoke poorly of anyone.

Right. Sure.

The thing with taking inventory of one’s self is that we get to see past the fog of our own ego and get down to brass tacks.  I got to see that I had a myriad of character defects that I never would have attributed to myself.  It wasn’t until I put pen to paper was I able to get clarity on how I ran my life (into the ground) and how the stories of my life were, in so many ways, false.  My life was constructed on lies that at the time seemed concrete, but were paper thin, as the winds of reality continually brought them down.

Riding away from the big fog. Wheeeeee!!!!
Riding away from the big fog. Wheeeeee!!!!

I’ve noticed the tone of my posts lately.  I’ve seen how I have slowly come from a place of positivity and hope to the dungeons of drudgery and griping.  Not that I have to sugar coat my life and my recovery.  There are ups and downs and I am nudged to share them.  But for me I see that I am going down a very familiar path and as far as I remember, it’s not a Disney ride.  The bushes get thornier and the concrete turns to gravel and there are more mosquitoes down there , sucking the blood life force from me.

Mikey mentioned in one of his recent comments here that we can choose misery if we want. And I understand that. I’ve heard that said before and didn’t think it applied to me.  Well, guess what?  I’ve been choosing misery lately.  I was going to write today about how hard  this 4th year of recovery has been. But you know what?  It isn’t.  It really isn’t.  It’s how I am choosing to view it. Once I take the complaining away and replace it with gratitude, well sweet swirling onion rings, things change in a heartbeat.

Complaining takes a backseat to gratitude.  That’s the only place it can be, unless gratitude is removed.  The simple fact is that I can choose what’s driving that bus.  When I allow the Divine to drive, gratitude is the navigator.  When I drive it, I have my rag-tag team  of ne’er-do-wells along for the ride.  So what do I choose here?  I can continue my streak of misery, or I can make a quick pit stop and switch seats.

This guy's got gratitude nailed.
This guy’s got gratitude nailed.

Switch seats it is.  I get a better view too, and don’t have to worry about the directions.

Today I choose to not gripe and moan about stuff.  I choose to live in the solution and not in the problem.  I ask to have any resentments and fears removed by The Driver.  I come into the day with an open heart and open mind.  I choose to see the good, and not the negative in people, places and things.  I choose to shut my trap when someone bemoans something and I naturally want to one-up them in the pain department.  I choose love over fear.

In the final analysis, I may be powerless over alcohol, but I have power in everything else.  I have power in how I react to things.  I can’t control others, but I can control how I perceive and receive them.  And that’s the glory of having Eyes Open.  When my eyes are shut, I see what I want to see.  I try to block it all out and block out the good as well.  The only way my eyes remain open is if I choose to do the things that help me along that keep me spiritually fit. When I allow ego-centric things to take up my time, ego builds.  And eyes start to shut.

Got any complaints?  Tell this guy. He really cares.
Got any complaints? Tell this guy. He really cares.

We’ve all heard it before, but faith without works is dead.  And when I don’t put in the effort to stay connected, when I decide that I am going to run the show, when I think it best to complain or gossip or get lazy, when I think my way is the best way, that’s when I start stashing more bones in the backyard.  That’s when I disconnect and have a run of feeling dry and not recovered.

As they say in The Time Warp, “it’s a bit of a mind flip, you’re into a time slip, and nothing can ever be the same”.  And that’s all it takes.  A shift.  A decision.  A willingness to turn things around.  Sometimes I can do it on a dime, sometimes it takes me a while.  But in the grand scheme of things, it’s a new way of life.  And I have to be kind to myself and remember that it’s not an overnight matter.

Thanks to everyone and have a wonderful 24 hours ahead of you.




45 Comments Add yours

  1. Yeah, I was thinking, “Man, he’s such a Debbie downer…” jk. I think this post is rather timely for me. I was speaking with my sponsor this morning because I was feeling a bit snarky. I was complaining about my ex-husband and how I will never understand how he can be so one-sided and how all that ever motivates him is how he will appear to others. This is a problem for many reasons.
    One- Where is God in any of the above bit&* fest?
    Two- The general focus here is having the power to change me not other people, places and things
    Three- The main reason I called my sponsor was that my 16 yo doesn’t want to come to my family reunion and I was pissy about it. What would my family think if she’s not with me? How would that, (gulp, sigh, roll eyes) LOOK?
    Well, hello Kettle. I’d like for you to meet my good friend, Pot.
    Just as the complaining nature of your coworker had the ability to set you off base, so do the ways of my ex. Obviously, because I am comfortable wearing sweats and my hair up to Walmart doesn’t mean I am relinquished of my ego.
    So, yeah, this day was good once I got out of myself and rig myself of thinking I was going to control anything other than my blinded, pissy attitude.
    Thanks for the post; I’d like to take that bone from the puppy up top and beat some sense into myself… although an AA meeting would be a better alternative.

    1. The first question you have there is always the most important one – where is God in all of this? Usually when I put Him out of the equation, it all goes pear shaped.

      “Obviously, because I am comfortable wearing sweats and my hair up to Walmart doesn’t mean I am relinquished of my ego.” – you always make me laugh, Linda, and you got me with this one…ha ha.

      Ah don’t bother with beating yourself up – we did enough of that while we were out there. Let that dog lie…ha ha. Talk to a newcomer. See how she’s doing. I will take my own advice and do the same. It’s also time I call my sponsor too. Have a nice chat 🙂

      Thanks for bringing it down to earth for me, Linda. Love your comments. You rock.


  2. Debbie says:

    Love you, Paul 🙂

    1. Right back at ya, Debbie 🙂



  3. NotAPunkRocker says:

    I choose love over fear =I need to start saying this to myself every morning.

    (special recognition goes here for the use of the Victor Melgrew picture 🙂 )

    1. “I don’t believvvvve it…” lol. Good catch, my friend 🙂 Always had a soft spot for that bloke. It was either him or a Monty Python pic with the sergeant (Graham Chapman).

      And yeah, I have to say the same thing, Jeanette. I had too long a stretch lately where I chose fear. That song got tired (like the entire “Frozen” soundtrack that my kids play every single day!!)

      Hope you’re well 🙂


  4. byebyebeer says:

    I definitely needed to read this for the message on whining, choosing to look for gratitude, and (re)taking inventory. You’ve no idea probably how you help me. I also needed the reminder that it takes time. It all takes time. We’re doing fine. Much better than fine, really. Thank you.

    1. Thanks Kristen. Glad you got something out of this. Sometimes I have to remind myself that others feel the same…crazy that even after all this time I sometimes feel that I’m the only mad bird in the nest 🙂

      Congrats again on 3 years, my friend. You wear it well, and I mean that. Your serenity and level-headedness is something I admire. Thanks for dropping by – I baked some cookies for you 🙂


  5. fern says:

    This resonates with me. I need to get out of my own head or my mood can take a nose dive. I have yet to figure out how to turn it around on a dime but I’m beginning to acknowledge my shortcomings and that’s a start!

    Great post, Paul.

    1. I have no magic formula for turning it around right away, Fern. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t. Usually willingness is the lynchpin in it all, to be honest. Sometimes I just don’t *want* to turn it around and just sit in my own filth. And I have been doing a lot of that lately and I am rather bored and annoyed by it. So why not go the better route? It’s tough at first because it seems to be against “who I am” (whatever that means) – yet another front for my ego. So I bear down and do the things even if they are against my own will (that’s the point, yes?)

      I was just reading a discussion on a recovery thread, and someone was talking about this. I am actually going to cut and paste (I hope he doesn’t mind):

      “I’ve had to do it the hard way for as long as I could take it. Then try some more beyond what I could take………until I guess I’d hit another bottom in that area of my life and either keep on digging (as I’ve done in a handful of areas even up to the present) or finally surrender, turn it over, and start instituting some new actions in my life………almost always actions I didn’t want to do or believe would work……that were actions that someone who DID have faith would take. Actions that someone who did believe would take. I’d feel like a fraud because many of the times I didn’t believe…..didn’t have faith…..but I was just so worn out from trying everything else I didn’t have any other options that I could think of.

      Thankfully, I’ve learned to say “uncle” a lot sooner…..most of the time. I’m a lot quicker now-a-days to surrender. Also, as the result of making daily prayers, and more importantly making it a habit to just practice a lot of the principles of the program whether I feel like it or not…..I’m just naturally in a better position (in a better relationship) from the start of a problem and the seeking is just part of an ordinary day anymore.”

      This is sort of what I was trying to convey in my post. When I surrender more and become more willing to do things that may frighten me, or go against my ego’s wishes, then more gets revealed.

      Funny how that works.

      Thanks for being here Fern. It helps me a lot 🙂



      1. fern says:

        Really good stuff – thanks for the quote. Yes, I’m near the point of making a huge commitment to surrender. So close yet fears pull me back. Last week a woman at a meeting said, “It’s as if we are hanging onto a cliff by only our fingertips and we are afraid to let go; but when we do we realize the ground was right there.”

        My next post should be called, “Fake it until you make it.” Pretty much doing all those things in your friend’s quote. My sponsor has suggested this to me a few times. I’m so close but I’m afraid to let go even though what I’m holding on to is keeping me prisoner.

        I love how clearly you seem to understand this internal battle with self-will. You are a super-sensitive guy who writes a great blog!

        Hugs back,


        1. One thing I have come to learn, and need to re-learn all the time, is that it’s never as bad as I make it. As the old joke goes – there are two things alcoholics hate – when things remain the same and when they change…lol. But I get it, and understand where you are. We get comfie in our places, even if they are harming us. I am in the same boat with some stuff, but am using faith and courage now to move past them. For example, I’ve been thinking of changing sponsors and reworking the steps with the new one. It scares me because I don’t want to hurt my current sponsor;s feelings (which I know they really won’t), and I am also afraid my new sponsor (IF he takes me on) might get me to do some WORK…ha ha. But I know it’s the right thing to to do.

          And I have a few more things like that. But I just pray and act even when I don’t want to. Like amends…ha ha.

          Anyway, hope you find your way too, my friend 🙂


  6. Tracy says:

    Never sugar coat anything Paul! It’s life…the good, the bad, and the ugly:-) and we can’t numb anymore…so speak your mind and your heart!!!😊

    1. Thanks Tracy – yes, we can’t numb any more. Not an option. So where does that lead us? Oh yeah, life on life’s terms. okay, sign me up. Oh, I did get signed up! So I will try to stick to an even keeled road – no drama, no unnecessary baggage. Not an easy thing, but it’s doable and will certainly bring me some upswing.

      Thanks for the support!


      1. Tracy says:

        Easy said sometimes than done right??!!

  7. BrAVO, Paul! You nailed it. Another way of looking at it is that people who irk us in that special way lay bare our own idols. We were made for worship, and when we’re not worshiping (Him) aright, we are worshiping something else: control, pleasure, people. The things we despise in others we hate to see in ourself and shove it deep down, trying not to. And complaining is a posture of entitlement, right? Whereas gratitude is one of clear-headed humility. That no, we don’t deserve what we’ve got.


    1. “when we’re not worshiping (Him) aright, we are worshiping something else: control, pleasure, people. ” You are the one who nailed this one, Diana. Absolutely true in my case. When I am after my glory and not His, then things go pear shaped.

      Your insights are always illuminating and add so much to this space. Thank you so much – have a blessed day, my friend 🙂


  8. Paul, you’re such a deep thinker, and I love reading the thoughts you share and the eloquent way you articulate those thoughts in text.. My mind was all over the place, lol. I was thinking that had you been in the desired upbeat, positive frame of mind, would you have discovered this aspect of yourself? That you saw certain quirks about yourself in another? While I was writing a post I ran across this quote by Richard Feynman:

    “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool.”

    So, in an ironic sort of way you can see the positive in what you may have consider negative. Growth came from the experience. Here’s another irony — we generally learn and grow from our mistakes. Another thing to think about is that by sharing posts like this you help others grow too.

    I look at life in seasons. It can’t be spring and summer all the time. Pruning takes place in the autumn and winter. There are some morsels of wisdom in the bible. One being in Ecclesiastes 3.

    There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

    So I’ll add to that. There’s a time to whine and a time for gratitude. I suspect that spring is just around the corner for you. You’ve been doing a lot of pruning lately. 🙂

    Hope you have a fantastical weekend.

    1. Ah Victoria…you bring me back to the seasons. I forgot about them, which is weird considering I have written about them so many times in this very space! So thank you for that gift, and the gift of your insight. You are absolutely right – it’s in the darkness that we begin to see the light. This is the very reason that I declare myself a grateful alcoholic. That alcoholism, for all it’s pain and misery, might have been the best thing to happen to me. Because it’s brought me to this place of introspection and awareness. You and I wouldn’t be having this dialogue if it weren’t for the pain and suffering that both you and I have had, no? You and I would be blissfully (?) unaware and just trudging along in some fashion. But we’re both here, both sharing our experience and growing.

      You are a such a wonderful friend for me, Victoria, and thank you for all that you do for me and others.


  9. Paul says:

    Ahhh, much better Paul. 🙂

    1. It is, isn’t it?

      Thanks for being here, Paul. Always calming to see you around 🙂

  10. mike says:


    Welcome back Papi. Was worried about you.
    You remember when you were drinking, and there were those days, that you wanted to drink, buy you really didn’t want to drink, because you never were sure how it was going to turn out?
    And you said ‘fuck it’ , ‘I’m drinking anyway’. That’s like surrendering and jumping off a cliff into the unknown,no? Sometimes in sobriety, that kind of surrender comes in handy too. You know what I mean?

    For me, defects of character is maybe a misnomer. I see it as more like an overabundance of certain characteristics and a deficit of others. When I am fearful, I am actually lacking courage and or faith. Lately, I try not to dwell on the -negative- fear part and concentrate on the -positive-courage part. When I do inventory, I’ll identify the negatives, then concentrate on the positives of my personality to try and turn the negatives around. A thesaurus or list of antonyms comes in really really handy.

    When these things pop up during the day, instead of only asking for then to be removed, I also go to the thesaurus/antonym/opposite word app in my phone and find the opposite of what I am feeling and try to incorporate that into the solution. Works for me. Gets me out of the dwell.

    1. mike says:

      Oh forgot. When I identify what it is that is bothering me, i’ll look up its synonym and that will break em down to something more palatable, -which is a great help in understanding- then find the antonym for it and incorporate it into the solution.

      1. I did something similar Mikey, with spiritual principles. Someone asked what the principles were, and someone else said to get the antonym of the character defect…so dishonety -> honesty. Etc. And that’s what you’re doing here. There is a chart somewhere I saw that had all these.

        Click to access character_defect_list.pdf

        Thanks again Mike!

    2. byebyebeer says:

      Case in point why comments are so important: “When I am fearful, I am actually lacking courage and or faith.”

      This is really helpful for something I’m struggling with. Thank you, Mike! And Paul!

      1. Mikey’s got some great insight…love having him here.

    3. fern says:

      This idea of using the antonym for my negative stuff to turn it into a positive gets me one step closer to doing a 4th. Great thoughts…exactly what I needed to hear as I prepare to “let go.”


    4. Thanks Mike.

      I like the analogy of the fuck it’s, but reversed in sobriety. Damn straight…I like that.

      I also like your addition to the 10th step there…gives us something to focus on instead. I am going to use this. I really enjoy this. I am going to find a thesaurus app today and try this. Another tool in the toolbox!

      Glad to be back, so to speak Mikey. Thanks for all your help in this…I look forward to paying it forward!

      P.S Do you mind if I send you an email? I have it (it comes when you send a reply to the blog) – I am looking for some counsel in changing sponsors / re-working the steps. Let me know if that’s okay.

      1. mike says:

        Sure. Send.

  11. lucy2610 says:

    If you spot, you got it? Never heard this before. Paul you’re like free therapy!! 🙂 xx

    1. Ha! Yes, one of the collective tidbits from the rooms…lol. Actually, I am not sure it’s original birthplace, but it’s often said. There is another one – they say that when you’re pointing your finger at someone, there are three fingers pointing back at you…lol.

      Hope you’re doing well, my friend 🙂

  12. A very brave post Paul. It is one thing to realise something about yourself that you don’t like and another to admit it publically. I applaud you and your honesty. It is very true that we either chose misery or gratitude for our companion. I catch myself sometimes in the same dilemma and try so hard not to whine… At times I cringe when I hear myself! It’s so good to see a post with such insight and optimism. You are not a whiner in your writing, you are reflective and thoughtful, and I have never thought of your writing as whinging.

    1. It’s funny that people would comment on my honesty…considering that I was such a dishonest louse for so long…ha ha. I guess I see it as sharing. A by-product of all those years in therapy and now meetings. I have to watch myself when I am around “normal” people (whatever that means) that I don’t overshare!

      Thanks for the kind words. I know myself too well and know when I am whinging…but thanks for saying that it doesn’t come across as such 🙂

      Hope you are well…keep tickling those ivories 🙂


  13. Dede says:

    Loved this, thank you. There is a guest post on Marc Lewis’s blog, Memoirs of an Addicted Brain, that speaks to this. It’s about refocusing. Choosing what we pay attention to. It really made me think….and then you posted this. I think maybe the universe is trying to tell me something!

    1. I love when the Universe is nudging us (or is VERY blatant!) to where it is we are needed. That happens to me often…but it’s whether I answer the call or not. I am ashamed to say that sometimes I go directly opposed to what is put in front of me…ugh. Ego damned you! But being aware of it in the first place is a good start at least!

      I will check out that blog…thanks for passing it on and for being here 🙂


  14. leahpolvinale says:

    Great post! Perspective changes everything 🙂

    1. Sure does 🙂

      Thanks for being here!


  15. Seriously, Paul. I don’t think you could have written this post at a better time. I was literally JUST speaking about the way I have been reacting towards other, as well as my own self-pity and mindful dwellings, this morning at the gym. A good friend of mine works at the front desk and she could tell I was on edge– not the normal “light-hearted and easy going Gina.” At least, this is how I am perceived by others most of time.

    But lately, I’ve been very edgy and not in the dark, mysteriously attractive way.. more like the snappy, huff and puff while managing to complain about everything… except food. Food always makes me happy.

    I think I let my boss of eight years get inside my head. Just like the young man who you supervised at your job was able to make a home inside your thoughts… well, this is what my boss has been doing lately. I let her spiteful and ill-mannered actions take away from the light and kind spirit which lives inside of me. Through her misconceptions of how other human beings are supposed to respect and act toward each other, I am brought down to my knees, begging God to help me stop reacting the way I have been… as of late.

    The problem with our path is we were used to numbing complaints and tantrums with our old buddies… Wino, Vino, Bud, Dirty Marty, ect. Even my own boyfriend told me recently I never used to complain the way I do now.

    I love when you wrote, “In the final analysis, I may be powerless over alcohol, but I have power in everything else. I have power in how I react to things. I can’t control others, but I can control how I perceive and receive them.” Even though its extremely challenging at times to control our perceptions, we must still try our best. I absolutely detest the fact that I have let someone get in my head and waste precious time and moments I could have spent thinking positively. I firmly believe in the power of the universe and what we choose to put out into it. This is why my boss is always miserable so her emotions try to slither their way over into my sacred spaces.

    I’m working on this. I’m sure you are, too. This was such a great piece and I’m glad to have experienced it at a time when I needed it the MOST.

    1. thanks Gina for the fab comments as usual and for sharing what’s going on with you there. I have been curbing my complaining a bit more since I wrote this, but hell, I catch myself still. I am not pristine white, but what I do is try to watch and follow and mimic those I know who don’t kvetch and complain. I am very well aware that it’s at work where it’s at its nadir. It’s something I get caught up. I wasn’t like that early in my sobriety. Very much went out of my way to avoid that, then again, I was new to the job and didn’t know enough about others and the system to complain…lol.

      I allowed someone to get into my head too this week. Not as bad as what you described, but the fact that I was thinking of what this person said on my days off here was enough to warrant investigation.

      Well, have a wonderful July 4th weekend! (I apologize for the tardiness of this – I am so behind on my comments…ugh)


  16. Mrs D says:

    No you are not the only mad bird in the nest Paul. Great post as always xxx

  17. I’ve been a little light on the gratitude myself these days. Thinking it might be time to list 5 things in my morning journal. Thanks for the reminder about that. It’s sooooo easy to try and drive, to think you got it all under control … until you don’t. You’re right, it’s better to just let the Universe drive and let gratitude navigate. Brilliant!

    P.S. I have seen that statue of the dude with the babies in person. I LOVED it and absolutely squealed with delight when I saw it on your blog 🙂

    1. Yes – that statue is in Oslo, isn’t it? Fascinating 🙂

      As for gratitude, I often have to drag myself kicking and screaming towards it. But like many things in my life, once I get there and do it, it’s all good. It’s like “why don’t I do this more often?” and then I forget it quickly and get dragged back into it again…lol.

      But gratitude is something I preach because I so badly need to reset myself constantly, or else I get batty! Like that statue….lol.

      Hope you’re doing well!!


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