Articles on recovery and fellowship written by members of A.A. in San Francisco and Marin.

6 04, 2022

Step Four: Was I Ready?

1, 2, 3 and Out   
By Rick R.   

When I attended my first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, I had no idea what any of the steps entailed, but at that meeting I heard the things that were read and sharing about steps, and I now realize that I came away from that meeting a different man. My life took a 180% turn and I have never been the same since. For the first time in my life, I saw a refreshing new approach to living and all I had to do was show up and listen. That may have been the taking of Step One, but I did not know it at the time. I realize that from that day on, I have had a huge change of perception and I have learned to recognize faulty thinking and to find the answers to life issues as they were articulated by the collective sharing in that meeting.

I have heard people in the program when attending a structured step study meeting say that there may be as many as 35 people at the meeting when they started Step One, but by the time they got to Step Four they might be down to 12 or 13 people left in the room. They say it is like, 1, 2, 3 and out. There seems to be something in Step Four that their ego would not let them address at the time. Like myself, I had things that I thought I would take to the grave with me. When this happens, I believe that they may not be ready for this step yet, and if they are hurried into it, they may start to search for an easier softer way. If they stay on that softer path for long, they may end up having a “half measures approach, which avails them nothing and they may waste precious years, or worse, they may relapse and do irreparable damage that cannot be undone. When I hear of a person who has a relapse after having long-term sobriety I often wonder if it was due to skimping on Steps Four and Five, which leads to a much more superficial approach to the remaining steps. Thoroughness is the watchword when taking these steps.

I use the Fourth Step in the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions to illustrate what I mean when I try to describe the way reading and hearing the things that they describe in Step Four are things that we live with every day of our lives. Each time we read them again, we realize that we have addressed some of these issues without being aware of them. I have heard people who have not taken Step Four yet using terms such as, “restraint of pen and tongue or “remove the word blame from my speech and thought” and, without realizing it, they are reducing their problems as the result of this different mindset. If they are honest about not being ready to take Steps Four and Five, it leaves the door open for the time when they are more confident and they will be able to revisit these steps and make a clean slate of it without feeling guilty or being in denial about it.

I believe that the main reason why they wrote and published the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions was because they did not want to establish a precedent of editing Alcoholics Anonymous(the Big Book), and they wanted to give amplifying information and examples of how to navigate the Twelve Steps It is a road map, if you like. We can tell stories and drunkalogues of our drinking days and that’s fine, but if we don’t go through a meaningful process of addressing the causes and solutions to our problems, we will be selling ourselves short, and life is too precious to waste. The question is: If this applies to me, am I strong enough to revisit Step Four and Five?

6 04, 2022

Bill W. Letter from the Train

Bill W’s Letter from the Archives   

In celebration of Intergroup and Central Office turning 75 this year, The Point is sharing this letter from the Archives Committee, highlighting the history of the Intercounty Fellowship of A.A.

Bill W. made several visits to San Francisco during the 1940s and 1950s and also visited San Quentin to support the newly formed H&I meetings. This letter from Bill and Lois in March, 1948, was written on the train after one of those visits, expressing their gratitude to the Fellowship.

6 04, 2022

Step Four : Into Action

Step Four : Into Action   
By John W.   

            It was not long after I started to find the serenity of sobriety that I heard a living legend in my home group, affectionately known as “our old-timer,” share something I was to hear again and again over the years. They talked one day about their work with a reticent sponsee who was challenged by Step Four.  The concern being expressed was that if one did not do a “searching and fearless moral inventory” they would drink again.   Although no hard data was ever offered in support, the lore was clear:  If you don’t do a thorough Fourth Step, you drink again and that takes you out, for good.

            Still being “wet behind the ears” in the sober world, the fear that not doing an effective Fourth Step would lead to this fatal result scared the living daylights out of me. I wanted nothing to do with the threat of this lore and wanted everything to do with the success of being searching, thorough, and fearless.

            In confronting this inventory taking, I was told that I could be fearless because I had already “made a decision.”  Since I had been armed in Step Three with the knowledge that the task of taking an inventory would not be done alone, it had immediately appeared less daunting.   I was able to contrast this with the fear and loathing I heard from some in my fellowship when they described how they had struggled with this inventory taking, putting it off for any myriad of reasons.  When these descriptions were rendered, the speaker seemed always to conclude that they had simply given different names to the same bogeyman: fear.  “Knowing” I would have the help of my Higher Power had displaced the fear about this unknown inventory process which it had first posed.

            This left me to grapple with my labels for this bogeyman, my ideas that I might pull a “work around” to the Fourth Step or handle it with my usual “mañana, all ahead, half steam” approach.  But I knew in my heart that these were not and could not be acceptable alternatives.  This made me even more motivated to take the plunge and take the step.  I also didn’t have to look far to find the prescription for dealing with my inventory. It was handily laid out right in front of me, in our literature, complete with columns, descriptions of how to use them, and antidotes of what I should be looking for to accomplish my goal.

            At first, especially given my personal character defect of procrastination, what was not clear to me was the speed with which this task, once confronted, needed to be commenced.

            Having a sponsor to guide me again proved the value in getting one in the first place.  When I asked, my sponsor gently reminded me that our literature is replete with examples of a problem being set forth and the solution to the problem delineated almost immediately thereafter.   My sponsor told me, as to the transition from Step Three to Step Four, that while my “decision made” was crucial and vital, it would likely have little permanent effect if I didn’t take action upon it immediately.   He quickly reminded me, yet again, that my drinking was only a symptom of the conditions that were blocking me and that this inventory would be my first real action to address my shortcomings.  As I read again about my task in the Big Book, I also noticed that his use of the phrase “vigorous action” was neither by accident nor original.

            No longer could my procrastination or its partner in crime, Jose Cuervo, be a buffer between me and the task at hand. No longer could I use the excuse that I would “get to it” . . . some time, as the justification for avoiding the hard look that I needed to take of myself.  For years my approach to “solving problems” was accomplished while sitting at a bar, often presenting my side of the story to a listening ear behind the bar.  I would then come to conclusions about just how my problems would be solved tomorrow, especially after just one more drink today. Of course my problems not only would not get solved the next day, they often were never even addressed.  My “solutions” were just part of the sediment left in my dirty bar glasses or my empty bottles conveniently stashed in my neighbor’s recycling bin. 

            I knew the inventory was indispensable, I needed no proof of that beyond the circumstances of my own unmanageable life.  However, having my Higher Power now with me and able to help me in the process was icing on the cake. I now knew I was no longer alone, I was no longer feeling helpless.  I actually had a plan of vigorous action to go forward and to stay sober doing it. Only now, years later and in hindsight, can I see that this was the first of those Ninth Step Promises opening up for me.  It was doing so in a way I had never imagined and had never hoped could be in my future. 

            I had made my decision and I had vigorously turned to the Fourth Step with a plan, a sponsor and a Partner.  One of my mates likes to say we can either get busy living or be left to be busy dying.  I wanted to get busy living and Step Four was my rocket into that fourth dimension about which I had heard others marvel.  I discovered later that while I had indeed turned on to that broad Highway called Recovery, I had not then even realized it yet.  But as promised, the benefits of that Journey have kept me sober ever since and for that I am eternally grateful.

6 04, 2022

1988 Secretary’s Letter

1988 Secretary’s Letter from the Archives   

In celebration of Intergroup and Central Office turning 75 this year, The Point is sharing this letter from the Archives Committee, highlighting the history of the Intercounty Fellowship of A.A.   

                                                

This Secretary’s Letter from April 1988 offers a glimpse into the past and what was important to the fellowship at that time. Some things never change; we can see literature and the 7th Tradition have always been hot topics at the group level. There is also the introduction of the new Apple MacIntosh and the hopes of better communication and service to the fellowship. 

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