Pride, Humility, Shame

The Golden Mean By Rick R.

Defining the word humility was not an easy thing to do and it took a long time to settle on an understanding that put it to rest for me. I thought that pride and humility were opposites. The final piece of the puzzle came to me when, in my 22nd year of sobriety, I was on the phone with a man who was trying to engage me in an argument. When he realized that I wasn't going to bite, he fired his last volley by saying, “Well, I've heard stories about you, and you're no angel." I thought about it for a few seconds and replied,"I have done things in my life that I am not proud of, but I am not ashamed of anything that I have done in the past 22 years.” The phone call ended peacefully. Several years later, in a Step study meeting on Step Seven the topic was humility. I remembered that phone call and realized that pride was not the opposite of humility, that pride was the opposite of shame and that humility fell right in the middle of the two. When I boiled it all down, I concluded that I should not be proud or ashamed of the things I do and that I should be in the middle somewhere. This applies to my receiving as well as my giving. On page 62 of the Big Book (Alcoholics Anonymous), it says, “Selfishness---Self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles. Driven by a hundred forms of fear, self-delusion, self-seeking, and self-pity, we step on the toes of our fellows, and they retaliate.” In Alcoholics Anonymous I learned that if selfishness was the root of my problems, I could solve them by examining my motives for all my behaviors and staying on the unselfish side of every decision I make. That one challenge has taken all the shame out of my conscience and has replaced it with compassion and empathy. As a result, I receive unselfish comments in return. Aristotle referred to this as "The Golden Mean." For example, when we are in the habit of giving compliments to our friends when they deserve it, we should not be so stoic that we cannot accept a compliment with the proper amount of appreciation when we deserve it. To me this means finding the mean between the extremes and exercising it until it becomes second nature. I have known some humble people in my lifetime and they have many things in common: They seldom bring attention to themselves, they never criticize others, they are always comforting and they are always an asset and never a liability. Humble people do the things they were taught as a child. They treat others with respect. They are trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient. Sound familiar? I learned it in the Boy Scouts. I learned the Golden Rule in church, but I was never strong enough to live by it. Today, I am stronger. If you are not sure what you are supposed to be doing, read the 11th Step Prayer in The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions or The Boy Scouts Laws or try practicing The Golden Rule. That should be a good start. When I found A.A. I was reintroduced to these values and they helped to rein in my ego. Today I am at peace with myself and with the world around me.  

A Magnifying Glass

By Dee H.

  I’ve gained a new lease on life I’ve learned to be serene  My magnifying glass doesn’t magnify  I’m focusing on the good things! Inversely proportional to my projections  My serenity sinks lower  when my expectations are higher  When I focus on the negative The worse things seem to be  I turn my attention to the positive Centered on the humanity I see Not the answers nor the problems I try never to solve them I can’t change the way you feel  I can modify the way I now feel  I am learning to love my family  My codependents have been ill  What would a god’s eye see?   Inversely proportional to my projections  My serenity sinks lower  when my expectations are higher My level of emotional sobriety is the key  Keeping my expectations right sized  I must do what is in front of me  Keeping my expectations right sized  I’m thankful for a hot cup of tea  and this old magnifying glass

Humbly Recognizing Our Shortcomings

Accessing Accessibility  By Anonymous 

  I've been in A.A. for years, and I love the San Francisco fellowship. This community means everything to me. I'm also immunocompromised and at high risk for COVID. As masks have come off and other mitigation measures have gone away, my health issues have forced me to remain indoors. I no longer have access to spaces that are really important to me, including A.A. meetings. Online meetings have been a godsend, but I really miss in-person meetings. I'd like to be able to go to them again. When masks are made optional, however, at-risk people are excluded from participating. Being around groups of maskless people indoors is too big of a risk for us to take. Make no mistake about it: This is an accessibility issue. Should we exclude people who are disabled? Elders? Immunocompromised people? People who are close to those people? Making masks optional means you can attend, but only as long as you're not medically vulnerable. This position is inherently ableist. At an A.A. conference years ago, I heard someone say that we need to look around the room, pay attention to who isn't there, and wonder why they're not there. If you're looking around the meeting and missing people you used to see, it might be me. It's no longer enough to rely on public-health guidelines. As of mid-2022, San Francisco's once-helpful public-health guidelines no longer allow medically vulnerable people to participate in public life safely. These guidelines are now designed around the comfort of those who are least at risk. These guidelines often mean that the vulnerable must avoid public spaces. Here's the good news. We can address this accessibility issue. Here are a few ideas:
  1. Just as we do for wheelchair-accessible meetings, list meetings that have COVID safety requirements in the schedule, and specify what they are. Are masks required? Is proof of vaccination required?
  2. Suggest that your meetings make masks mandatory and provide them to people who need them.
  3. Improve air quality and ventilation wherever possible. Open windows and doors when possible. Run a HEPA filter.
Let's do better. Let's make meetings more fully accessible.  

Write Now

by Christine R.

When it comes to writing, we can refer to our Big Book where the text reflects “putting pencil to paper.”  Phrases like this are here and in Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions.    As we write, we start a genuine flow from the heart, through the arm and out the hand.  One way of putting pen to paper is writing letters to incarcerated alcoholics. Once a letter is received, the prisoner decides whether or not to continue.  After their release, some stay in touch.  From some, upon release, all you hear are crickets.  Some don’t write at all.  If nothing happens, new names are forwarded from the Central Office Corrections Department.  They receive 60-80 requests a week.  Rather like working the Steps—the cycle starts all over again. When the letters arrive, guards review them with a fine-tooth comb, right down to the type of ink.  Conversation sticks to topics of recovery, alcoholism and our problems related to it.  Period.  Writers are not sponsors. Later we might choose to be—once the prisoner is released and there is continued interest. As we come to know one another, we discuss getting closer via Zoom, Skype or Facebook. For something to read along with the letter, include articles from The Point.  If you aren’t called on during a meeting, here’s your chance to give voice to a “captive” audience. A bright spot of my day is sharing my history with alcohol along with a treasured journey from victim to victory. Victory is my sponsor’s favorite word.  Paying it forward as we do in recovery, the prisoner reads victory in my letters. I don’t recall when writing to prisoners began, but I do know part of what keeps me going is the knowledge of what it’s like in prison, teaching speech at the Marin County Jail.  While there, I encountered a few women whom I know from meetings.  One  woman I did not recognize, she was so badly beaten up and beaten down. Grey-faced, with life’s spark nearly snuffed out, she turned to me and said, “Yeah, Christine. It’s me.”  She read in my eyes I did not recognize her—a woman who for years was trying to get sober.  Writing letters can be lifelines. To help keep you sober, here’s an outsider’s view of jail. Before entering is a massive personal search, of person and purse, followed by a labyrinth of winding in and out of the cell blocks, elevators and locked metal doors to find the women’s cell block.  Small, cold, bare cells with little heat.  One wall is a plexiglass floor-to-ceiling window. Nothing is personal. Noisy, with bells, buzzers, and at times, violent screaming as women go berserk.  They take off their clothes, thrust themselves against the plexiglass and howl.  Schizophrenia seems to be part of the problem.  Kind of like these brilliant women went over the edge with their drinking and drug use, never to return the same.  In a tiny yard women take turns walking around. And around. And around.  The reality of prison is horrible.  This is only a hint of what it’s like inside. More often than not, prisoners tell me they needed jail to find freedom from alcohol.  Don’t let that be your bottom. Let your energy flow and start writing. Write now.  Here’s how: General Service Office of Alcoholics Anonymous Corrections Correspondence Service 475 Riverside Drive, 11th Floor New York, NY 10115 (212) 870-3085 corrections@aa.org www.aa.org

My Identity

By Aaone E.

I was fearfully and wonderfully made, I was born to learn as I grow, while making mistakes! My feelings of insecurities left me dry, I will never overcome with a negative mind. Today I accept my flaws and all, My heart is gold to care and love!

Boom Boom Room

Three phases of my disease By Bree L.

  What it was Like I wasn’t much of a drinker, maybe a beer over a week. Then, at 21 I became legitimate and asked my father what a knowledgeable drinker should order.  “Haig and Haig Pinch, on the rocks,” he said. “That shows one knows what to order. Haig and Haig is expensive.” I was dating a guy who liked to take me to places better than dive bars.  People in bars didn’t seem to drink but sipped with sophistication. The liquor didn’t come in bottles but special occasion glasses. Goblets for brandy and special glasses for wine. Whatever one ordered had its own designated glassware. I wanted that sophistication. The Haig and Haig tasted like a mix between cough syrup and rubbing alcohol.  “It’s high-grade scotch,” my father said, “Not cheap rye whiskey or beer, good stuff, impressive.” The first sip didn’t impress me but before long the room started to soften just a bit and I became the prettiest girl in the room, sophisticated, with the funniest words. The Haig and Haig got better as well and it was time for another, on the rocks.  One wouldn’t want to dilute a good thing. I forgot about sipping.   What Happened  The Boom Boom Room. It was in the ‘70s, my husband and I were in San Francisco for some sort of medical something. You know, one of those deals where Drs must attend classes to keep up their medical license, a weekend thing. Fly in Thursday or Friday, go home Sunday. We attended a bunch of them. It was a quick getaway, tax deductible, short and sweet. Except there weren’t a lot of classes. It was time to party down, away from the kids and small-town restraints. It was my white Russian phrase.  I’d passed the Haig and Haig period and loved those white Russians with lots of Kahlua, a smooth vodka and cream to coat my stomach. Somehow, we ended up in the Boom Boom Room, late, not quite closing time but close. We’d done dinner, the meet and greet, then headed out into the wilds of San Francisco. My husband liked Dixieland. A taxi driver said the Boom Boom had Dixieland. I don’t remember much about the music as Dixieland wasn’t a favorite, but I do remember the swimming pool, well not exactly a swimming pool. It had been a swimming pool in the ‘70s. When we were there, it was more like a swamp than swimming pool.  In and around the pool edge were plants in a quasi-tropical motif. In the pool was a raft and on the raft was a four-man band playing Dixieland, wearing red and white striped shirts and bow ties.  There was a sparse audience. At the time there was a popular song called “Lay Down Sally” so I requested it . The bass said, respectfully, “We don’t know it.” I couldn’t believe a viable Dixieland band in San Francisco would not know this popular song. I re-requested “Lay Down Sally” shouted from my side of the pool. I’d had a few drinks and an incredibly short memory, so I continued to shout out “Lay Down Sally.” After all, it wasn’t that hard a song to improvise. The band didn’t see it that way. There was a short interchange, between me and the bass player as he plucked along and shouted back to me. “Don’t know it.” “Lay Down Sally.” “Sorry don’t know the song.” “Come on, play Lay Down Sally.”  “Sorry.” We were roughly escorted out of the Boom Boom Room. I probably wouldn’t remember this but one day I was taking the #1 bus down California St. and saw the small sign on the hill. “The Boom Boom Room” at the Fairmont. That’s when it all came back and I knew amends were needed on some level.  I’m praying for them and the woman I once was.   What It’s Like Now “I’ve done all my amends,” my new sponsee told me. “I want people to know the realities of life.” And I remembered talking with my sponsor working on my Fourth Step. My decision was how I didn’t owe anyone any blasted amends.  They owed me. All the injustices were down on paper, listed on my Fourth, father’s physical abuse, an ex-husband’s distancing. Some things were unforgivable in my mind. My sponsor had patiently pointed out to me how much those resentments hurt me but never touched the perpetrator. Might these people be spiritually sick like the Big Book talked about? It took some arguing for me to see the fogginess of my thinking and how it blocked me from the “sunlight of the spirit.”  It took more than a couple fortnights for me to see resentments as blocking, but with time and willingness, I came around. And now I had a chance to tell my new sponsee how destructive those resentments can be and if I truly wanted to not drink, resentments had to be addressed. Amends also have to be made, including my memories of the Boom Boom Room.