Principle 4: Courage

by John W.

Click for audio by Alan G.

Long before I became a grateful alcoholic (never thought I would describe myself in that way), I heard the gift of courage described as fortitude. I had an intellectual sense of “fox-hole courage” but having never been in the military, I had no literal reality to frame the term. When I began losing my battle with the disease of alcoholism, the consequences led me to A.A. I experienced the miracle which allowed me to achieve a daily reprieve from my disease. In that awakening, with the help of others, I worked the 12 Steps, sought to live the 12 Traditions and even learned of the 12 Concepts.

March came in like one lion and left as a pride of them 

As I strove to practice these principles in all of my affairs, I had to ask myself what on earth did that really mean? Dearest Maggie, a darling octogenarian with over half of that time sober, drove my Home Group to tears of laughter. She said she thought compliance with this suggestion meant she needed to increase her liaisons with different men. But when the laughter subsided, she put the joke aside to burn into your consciousness as only she could: what it had been like when she drank, and how she made it to A.A. She would put flesh on the skeleton of the principles without naming them.

My sponsor conveyed the 12 Principles through the oral tradition of A.A.: Honesty, Hope, Faith, Courage, Integrity, Willingness, Humility, Brotherly Love, Justice, Perseverance, Spirituality and Service. As I worked the steps each principle was vaguely recognizable. Yet they seemed as elusive as a finger of fog beneath the bridge on a blossoming October morn in The City. 

The principle of Step Four is honed with inventories

Like good friends who arrive when needed, the principles shed light and guide to the next right thing in spite of doubt or fear. These days I Zoom from one virtual meeting to the next. It’s a March that came in like one lion and exited into April as a pride of them. Not a lamb to be seen. The principle of courage is on the near horizon. 

Born from a faith which knows the only thing to fear is fear itself, fortitude carries this alcoholic through troubled times. No difficulty is so great that we can’t confront it with integrity. I heard the principle of courage expressed in those sharing their experience, strength and hope in my Zoom Rooms—and I needed to hear it. I attended a Zoomer from my home town to strike back at the feeling of aloneness the Shelter In Place mandates fostered. I tuned in elsewhere just for a change of pace.

photo credits available upon request to thepoint@aasfmarin.org

The response in the end was always the same: Have courage, you are not alone in this battle. I saw in my Zoomers how vital and necessary it was to have been searching and fearless when I had taken that inventory. That tool in my spiritual kit, the fourth principle of courage, was now put to use in ways I had never imagined. A few weeks before it would have seemed impossible.

The arch through which we passed to freedom

Courage, the principle of Step Four, is honed with inventories. Today it meant confronting the fears of the pandemic. This was me in real time practicing the principles in all my affairs to build “the arch through which we passed to freedom” (Big Book, p. 62).

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