I Thought I Was Being Responsible

By Anon I always thought I was actually the responsible one in the equation. I thought that the “other half” of the relationship, whether business or marital, was what needed fixing. Most certainly if you had the kind of “partners” I had, you would drink too, and you would certainly know why I drank. I didn’t drink because of a problem, I drank at a problem. Despite all of my being responsible, things still fell apart. My drinking more at those things sure did not help. As I finally tried to start climbing out of my bottom, one day at a time, with Twelve Steps in front of me, I heard something that rang so true. A woman shared that she had been fixing her husband with her drinking. She said she realized her method was like trying to get rid of the rat across the room by drinking the poison herself. It did not work!  WOW! Did that ever sound familiar! I thought that the dutiful dad I was, who worked long hours to pay the bills at home, as well as carry the load at the office, was entitled to a wee nip [or 12] after work, to take the edge off a brutal day. I did not realize, until the nature of my wrongs were gently pointed out by my Sponsor, that while I thought I was being responsible for a lot of positive things, which was true, at the same time I was responsible for inflicting a lot of harm upon those I cared about the most. As the sun set on that Fifth Step I realized my perception of responsibility was terribly distorted by my obsession with alcohol. What began to germinate in me, though I don’t believe I realized it at the time, was a new attitude about what it meant to be responsible, especially when it came to my alcoholism. As my days started to become years, I was better able to accept the responsibility that I too had to carry the message to the next drunk who might stumble through the door. But I saw there had to be a “door” to stumble through. Somebody had to pay to have a “door” to stumble through and for that too, I was responsible. I was certain I was responsible while supporting my clients, my business or my family, so the shock was in realizing I now needed to support our meeting, our program and our hand reaching out to the alcoholic who needed help. That was a switch. That was a change of outlook. That was most certainly a change of attitude. As I witnessed how it worked, I saw that to get something to transmit, where before there had been only a vacuum, I needed to take action. I had to do something to help the “door” be both there and open. Regular meeting attendance seemed pretty straightforward and putting a contribution into the basket passed made sense too. Commitments which I volunteered for helped me finally feel a part of, at home with, our group.   My Home Group would not falter unless we let it. Our daily task is simple, yet profound:  Be ready to give to others what we have so freely received. I saw that when newcomers showed up, and we were there to offer support, there was a meaning to life which before was missing.  My Sponsor put the sublime into clearer terms when he observed I was feeling this way because I was finally being responsible, not just acting responsible. I was investing myself in something, our AA Program and its life saving potential, rather than just paying bills and reviewing balance sheets. By belonging in and to our AA Program of Recovery, he showed me also how I was actually becoming, in my small way, responsible for it. This return on the investment was one I never expected and now work each day not to lose. 

We Will Not Regret the Past

If We Are Painstaking

  By: Rick R. Unless you were born with a total understanding of alcoholism, had the desire to become an alcoholic, and had the capacity to make the decision to do so at birth, I cannot see how anyone can be held responsible for becoming an alcoholic. It would be like saying  you had a choice of whether to itch when you have poison ivy. It is a disease. To my knowledge, there is no definite understanding of what causes alcoholism, for if there were, we could treat it before it became a problem. We are not responsible for becoming alcoholic. We are, however, accountable for our behavior, whether we are drinking or not. Most alcoholics whom I’ve known have had an abundance of things in their past they wish they could erase from the records. Some of those memories we would like to take to the grave with us. These secrets, I believe, are the biggest hurdle to stand in the way of the peace of mind and the feeling of wellbeing we all strive for. Most of these behaviors can be rectified by making amends and restitution using the 12 Steps. By doing so, we change that behavior and no longer do those things/habits we regret.  One of the promises of the A.A. program is, “We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.” I believe I have reached that level of growth. However, I do have deeds in my past I regret having done, and they can never be erased. I have discussed those things with trusted advisors over the years. And while we do that, to admit and to be accountable for those things is a good start, but what can be done about those deeds that can’t be mended? They can never be erased, but they can be resolved by replacing my old, selfish habits with new, unselfish deeds, spiritual in nature,  allowing me to repay my debt (one pebble at a time) to the many people, less fortunate than myself, who could use a hand up. This can be done in a spiritual or in a material way, whichever the situation requires. By doing this, anonymously and without fanfare, it allows me to balance the scales and to heal my conscience. I try to be kind and understanding. I do my best to be an asset and never a liability. I try to bring more to the table than I take away. I try, always, to be honest with myself about my motives. In these endeavors, perseverance and time will heal the guilt and shame. I believe I will always have some regrets about having done those things, but I will not be plagued by them. Today I am right with myself and with the world. I am a very grateful alcoholic today, only because I contracted the disease of alcoholism in my youth, suffered desperation, forced myself to swallow my pride, came to A.A., and recognized the value of surrendering to it with the desire to live a life at peace. I try to go through each day without doing anything I REGRET. Today I am happy and content. I can’t imagine ever having found an approach to life that could have come anywhere close to the life I live today as the result of taking these steps and practicing these principles in all my affairs. Today I wouldn’t trade places with anyone on this planet

The Principle of Humility

By Anon While it had certainly become clear I had lost complete control over the grog I, of course, was absolutely in denial about that simple truth. Equally certain was I had no practical conception of how that reality was affecting those around me, particularly those I loved the most. For my part, I espoused the hubris required to assure all with whom I might come into contact that all was right with the world and my place in it. Because I was experiencing a modicum of success in my chosen field of endeavor, and seemed the dutiful father to those parents and teachers who coexisted in the universe our children and their classmates inhabited, life was a dream – to me.  I sadly failed to realize this was a dream, nay a fantasy, I experienced while fully awake and then only when day’s blackout commenced sometime after the children were asleep. Then the serious drinking finally took its toll. When my ‘streetcar’ stopped at the last house on the block at a 7:00 a.m. AA meeting, I am not sure what I was prepared for, but certainly it was not to stop drinking and absolutely was not to stop drinking for the remainder of my days on this planet. However, like the proverbial prolonged and consistent drip of water which, over time –sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly - splits even the most solid block of granite, prolonged and consistent contact with the AA message finally split me to my core. That I even got into the rooms was proof of my willingness, albeit of the reserved and retiring variety upon arrival, and for months to come thereafter. Now what was my next step? I hoped just the effort would right things on the home front; that my show of a good faith attempt at such a monumental challenge would smooth the ruffled feathers, calm the anxious fears and, most importantly, stop the nagging to quit “cold turkey.” When my half measures continued to avail me nothing, my miracle happened and the honesty of my condition escaped my lips for the first time at a meeting. It was as if I stepped out of a darkened closet into a sunlit room, abounding with friends, none of whom I knew, just that, indeed, they were friends. I soon found that although I was basking in the Sunlight of the Spirit, I was still a drunk. My disease had gone nowhere. I had not been cured. I had only succeeded in finally admitting to myself and to that new host of friends, not just who I was, but what I was. When I made that first call to Louis, selected from the group’s phone list because he was the only face I could put with a name on that list, Louis' first question broke the dam of resistance.– He asked simply:  “Do you have a sponsor yet?” As we talked about that question and my negative response, I began to realize I could not do this alone. Equally important, I realized no one expected me to. Guys like Louis actually wanted to help. I also realized that I needed help. I believe now this was when the seed of humility was planted. The seed took root, akin to any nourishing fruit, and grew into a daily, sustaining diet, a sustenance I needed to achieve for a life-continuing daily reprieve from drink. But as the days had rolled into weeks, then months and even, unbelievably, into years, so too the product of this seed evolved. I dutifully read and believed that without more of this precious quality, I could not live to a useful purpose; and it would be good insurance when confronted with that real emergency sure to be in my future. At times, these concepts seemed to me to be only words on a page, voices in my brain, the echo of a heartfelt share which sounded so profound in the hearing, it now rang as at a growing distance and hollow. Like those first 100 “came to believe,” I, too, found there was an infusion of this belief into the marrow of my bones. Anything less was only lip service to an idea, not a taking of the Second Step. In the Principle of Humility I have discovered the same to be true. I must infuse it into the marrow of my soul. I hear it so often said “You don’t have to do this alone.” I believe this Principle of Humility tells me I cannot do this alone.  I have come to believe this Power Greater than myself is always there for me. True humility tells me there are those I would meet in this fellowship too, as I trudge the road of happy destiny. For they are the lifeblood of my program and I need them as surely as I need air to live.  Without them I am lost. When my spirit is so focused on those I am with in this fellowship, its wind fills my sails and my course ahead is sound. 

Just Seven Words

By John R. W How could it be that this was so daunting? The process so far had been as advertised Yet lingering somewhere still was a notion haunting That by these Steps I was being tricked, mesmerized. To a dictionary to know humility I was pointed, For only arrogance and control had I ever known. Those traits too finally abandoned me. I was left disjointed With them, so alone; without, despite me, change was sown.  It had not seemed like much when first I sought advice, But I had never asked for it before, much less listened. Yet there it was, I was asking for help, me, not once, but twice. In the asking, my humiliation, the shame of my plight, lessened. Just Seven Words, this the extent of the suggestion before me. Only Seven Words, still at times a tome’s length seemed shorter. Just Seven Words upon which to progress to be set free. Only Seven Words, but more precious than gold to a smuggler. But my hoard of gold I could keep only by giving it all away. With this fresh wind now filling the sails of my life, I saw That in the giving I could actually be useful during my day. No longer useless, this transition made still fills me with awe. 07/30/2017 To Kim K. for the Brilliant Observation  

PLAY BALL

Baseball in Alcoholics Anonymous

By Christine. R

Our Big Book describes us as “enthusiasts.” Apparently one big enthusiasm we enjoy extends into the game of baseball. Here’s the lineup of baseball references: 

When all our score cards read “zero,” and we saw that one more strike would put us out of the game forever, we had to look for our lost faith1.      

We began to get over the idea that the Higher Power was a sort of Bush-league pinch hitter, to be called upon only in an emergency2.  

Here is a baseball term to toss your way: To balk. Balking is an illegal move. An occurrence in which the pitcher stops suddenly or makes a move after starting to throw a pitch, to deceive a base runner. 

So when we “balk,” we perform an illegal move. We go the wrong way. We stop balking when we get honest with ourselves and concede to this innermost being, “I’ve got a problem with alcohol.” Once we tell the truth, we can’t be spectators in the grandstands. It’s time to move off the bleachers, come down and play ball. 

Before the call up to the Program, my play book had eroded into a ninth inning with two strikeouts and no pinch hitter.  

No home runs – only forced outs.  

The short-stop was the liquor store.

Bases were loaded and so was I.

No one rooting in the stands.  

A screwball who didn’t know how to be a team player, living life in the backfield.

Ground-rules – another baseball term meaning rules of the game. Or in this case, the game of life and how to play it. A working knowledge of the principles of the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions becomes the ground rules with a working game plan for us to live a well-grounded life.

Similar to baseball, we have many unwritten rules in Alcoholics Anonymous – such as find yourself a sponsor or don’t date in the first year. The funny thing about unwritten rules is people abide by them almost as much as the formal ones. Especially alcoholics who don’t like to be told what to do. We don’t do rules, but we do take suggestions! 

Unity in Baseball and A.A. Throughout history, groups wishing to unify themselves find a way through a common purpose or goal. Professional baseball players are unified as a team for the dual purpose of playing baseball and to win. So what, as in baseball, what in A.A. unifies us? What is our common purpose, or goal?  

The solution lies in our 12th Step, “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps….” Our solution is spiritual. An awakening, a turning toward a Higher Power because no human power could call us out. Our work in AA. takes us to the home plate.  Our “Welcome Home” signs suggest we are out of the strike zone.

As baseball players continually practice their game, so we continually practice working the Steps to catch those curve balls life lobs our way every now and then.

The feeling of having shared in a common peril is one element in the powerful cement which binds us. The tremendous fact for every one of us is we have discovered a common solution6.  A common solution to our common problem unifies us. The problem brings forth the solution. The wound becomes the gift. Like the phoenix rising, we arise to an incredible life.

My latest 12 Step includes working with a sponsee who describes the Higher Power as a “great big catcher’s mitt.”  “God catches me in that mitt on a sea of troubles, and I know He’s got my back. I’m in a place ‘safe and protected.’”  Having played with a lot of baseball mitts, I can’t think of anything so spongy, strong and safe as a catcher’s mitt. Truly an Upper Decker Higher Power. And a homerun with me.