1 10, 2020

Use as Directed

by Kathleen C.

How many times have we heard someone say, either in or out of A.A. meetings, something like the following? “The surgeon prescribed pain medication for me to take four times a day after my knee surgery, but I’m only taking it twice a day.”

“My doctor gave me a muscle relaxant for my bad back. I was supposed to take it only at night, but my back hurts all the time, so I take it in the morning too.”

“I am really having a hard time after breaking up with my boyfriend. I am so depressed, sometimes I think about killing myself. My program friends say I just need to do an inventory and I’ll get through it.”

What do all these statements have in common? They show that somebody didn’t read Page 133 in the Big Book, Alcoholics Anonymous, where it says:

“God has abundantly supplied this world with fine doctors, psychologists and practitioners of various kinds. Do not hesitate to take your health problems to such persons.”

I was tempted to try to help her

Most of us have physical and mental consequences, whether from our drinking or just from life. Very few of us are qualified to practice medicine, but being typical arrogant alcoholics, we do it anyway. We don’t take enough of a medication that is prescribed for us, or we take too much. We don’t seek help when we need it or, worse yet, we advise someone else not to seek help when they need it. Trying to be our own or someone else’s Higher Power is not working a good A.A. program.

I once had a sponsee who was mentally ill. She constantly asked my advice about her medications—what she should take and what she shouldn’t. I was tempted to try to help her, and I did recommend she work the steps. Yet time after time when she asked me about her meds, I told her, “Ask your psychiatrist.” Even if I had an opinion, I had no right to give it to her. She would have taken it and run with it: “It’s OK, my sponsor told me to.”

Because I asked for help with the smaller problem, I had help available

When I myself had horrible pain from radiation to my throat after cancer surgery, I was taking way more than the prescribed dose of a narcotic (by suppository, since I couldn’t swallow). I wasn’t worried about getting addicted so much as overdosing. I called Carol, the oncology nurse. “Is the pain waking you up at night?” she asked. Oh yeah, I was waking up in agony, every hour. “Then the pain is burning through the drug, and you should take whatever you need to relieve your pain. I’m glad you called me. Keep me posted.”

I called Carol the nurse instead of trying to manage my pain on my own. I practiced Step Three and turned my will, my life and my health over to the care of my Higher Power, in the form of someone who knew what she was talking about. Just like it says on Page 133.

A few years ago, I was having a bad case of the empty nest blues. My daughters were away at college and getting ready to graduate. I shared about it at meetings. I talked to my sponsor. She reminded me how much a therapist had helped her when she was going through a depression.

Someone who knew what she was talking about

I found a therapist and started working with her. I got through my daughters’ graduation and move away from San Francisco with some tears but also much joy, thanks to her help. Then my mom called. She wanted to move into assisted living. She needed help with my stepfather, who was much older. We found a nice place in Petaluma and they moved in. Then she had some alarming symptoms, was diagnosed with cancer, and died three months later. My therapist was there for me, through my mother’s illness and death. Because I had asked for help with the smaller problem of my empty nest blues, I had help available for a really big sorrow. Whatever came along in my life, I could get through it sober. HP was taking care of me, just like it says on Page 133.

1 10, 2020

Beginning of the Maintenance Steps

by Rick R.

After being in the program for a while, it occurred to me that initially, there was no way I could have performed all the measures suggested on my first go-around. Coming from an alcoholic’s approach to the issues we plan to address, we eventually come to understand that we can only give it our best effort to start the process. Understanding the disease of alcoholism takes time. First we establish a framework.

As we continue to grow, more is revealed. Step 10 becomes an opportunity to revisit past steps and fill in the empty spaces. That does not mean that we cannot address those issues when we become aware of them. If we stay sober long enough to get to this level of understanding we continue to repair our broken relations with others. We clear up legal, marital and financial problems that can distract us from looking at the deeper-rooted emotional, mental and spiritual issues. We cannot ignore the need for up-keep in the program any more than we can ignore maintenance when we purchase a new car. Brake shoes wear thin, oil gets dirty and coolant evaporates. The same things happen with recovery. If we become complacent at any level of this process we may relapse or miss out on the promises of Step 9.

Brake shoes wear thin, oil gets dirty and coolant evaporates

Step 10 reads, “Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it” (Big Book, Pg. 59). I believe that most of the members of A.A. who actually go through the Steps, as suggested in the Big Book, have been doing this to some degree since they became aware of it in Steps 4 and 5. We’re reintroduced to this topic to make it clear we’ll continue to do this for the rest of our lives. We’re never finished when it comes to taking the Steps. We cross a line if we are committed to the goal of becoming the best we can be in life. We stop asking, “Why must we do all the things that the program suggests?” We start asking, “Why wouldn’t we do these things that result in freedom of the mind?” The biggest misconception we have is the idea that, somehow, we are responsible for becoming an alcoholic. This is simply not the case.

Alcoholism is a disease. We do not have the capacity to decide to become afflicted with it when we were born. You might say that alcoholism is a byproduct of guilt, shame and low self-esteem based on habits and deeds of the past.

Naturally evolves as the result of working the steps

I am at peace mentally when my head hits the pillow

When we took our first drink, it did something for and to us that it did not do for or to the normal person. It masks our fears and insecurities temporarily, but does not erase those embarrassing behaviors from our minds or our consciences. Often we behaved poorly through our adolescence and young adulthood due to the fears and inhibitions associated with alcoholism. Who could fault the person who discovers they have a disease, treats that disease, accounts for all the faulty behaviors that stem from that disease, makes restitution and becomes a model citizen? This is the natural development that evolves as the result of working the steps and continuing the up-keep and maintenance process.  I thank God that the program of Alcoholics Anonymous took one hell of a load off my mind. I am at peace mentally when my head hits the pillow at night.  

1 10, 2020

Rules versus Principles

by Anonymous

I don’t like being told what I can or cannot do. If I had walked in through the doors of Alcoholics Anonymous and heard, “You must stop drinking” or “You need to give us money” or any other command, rule or regulation, I would have walked right back out those doors never to return. Fortunately, I was never given any orders. I wasn’t forced to donate money and to my great surprise, I wasn’t told that I had to stop drinking. Instead, I was told the only requirement to be a member is a desire to stop drinking, and a spiritual way of life might solve my drinking problem.

I wasn’t sure that I was an alcoholic. I loved getting wasted and drinking people under the table, but did that mean I was an alcoholic? My first sponsor explained that alcoholism can be classified as an allergy of the body and an obsession of the mind. That made sense but I wasn’t sure I had those problems.

She told me to go try some controlled drinking

Then she did something totally unexpected. She told me to go try some controlled drinking. I could not believe that this woman who had given her time and energy to help me stay sober was telling me that I could go drink. If she had forbidden it, I would have gotten drunk. Instead, I imagined what controlled drinking would feel like, and realized that it would be absolutely miserable! I accepted the fact that I was an alcoholic, followed my sponsor’s suggestions, and began to recover.

After being sober for a few years and adopting A.A.’s way of life, I discovered something about myself that surprised me. While I hate being told what to do, I love having structure in my life. Somehow, Bill, Bob and the founding members of A.A. created a way for our fellowship to be self-sufficient, financially sound and non-controversial, while helping us avoid fights over money, property or prestige. There are no laws and no punishments in A.A., only a set of spiritual traditions that guide the way we operate. As I incorporate these principles into my daily life, the world becomes more manageable.

principles unite our vibrant members

There are no laws and no punishments in A.A.

I continue to marvel at the principles and traditions that unite our vibrant and headstrong members. What worked for alcoholics over 80 years ago still works for us today. Each member of A.A. is considered a guardian of our spiritual principles and traditions. When a feisty newcomer, ready to fight about the rules, walks through our doors I smile and tell them I once felt the same way. When they are unsure if they are an alcoholic, I happily suggest some controlled drinking. The look of confusion and wonder on their faces brings me endless joy. When they tell me they are willing to work the program of Alcoholics Anonymous, I offer a few suggestions that just might change their life.

1 10, 2020

Julia’s Story

by Bree L. 

Julia was only 45 and battled cancer for three years. She’d been through chemo, surgery and everything a person could throw at her. Now, Julia was accepting her cancer and dying. This bubbly, happy blonde was a regular at our Bernal New Day meeting. She talked about how she used to come home from the night shift as a nurse at San Francisco General Hospital and drink wine, then could not stop. After coming to A.A. she accumulated five years’ sobriety. 

One day she said she was quitting her job, renting out the condo she owned in the Mission, and going home to her family in Vermont. A year later she returned to California. She dropped into our meetings every so often to say hello. I learned she had cancer, had gone to Vermont for treatment, and was carrying on with her life “as if.” She moved in with an old friend in Santa Barbara who, it turned out, had many drinking pals who liked to gather for wine every evening. Julia lost her sobriety.

She was so pleased with the five days she’d accumulated

A faithful pal from Bernal New Day who had kept in touch all along stepped up and offered Julia a safe, sober place in Daly City. It was a purposeful decision. Julia gathered her belongings and drove back to the Bay Area. She was so pleased with the five days she’d accumulated. Once again she was back with our Bernal meeting, which by then was on Zoom.

Julia had been here for a while, and I wondered why she wasn’t seeing oncologists and proactively fighting the cancer. It was her decision not to have any further treatment. As a nurse, she knew the difficulties of end-stage heroics and chose to go out on her own terms. I marvel at her courage and know she couldn’t have done it without the support of a program and a Higher Power.

precious thoughts fill in that new chasm

We continued with our morning Zoom meetings. Sometimes Julia would be there, sometimes not. I’d call her periodically and we’d talk about our mundane concerns, as program people do. She was always upbeat and positive. I think I got more out of those phone calls than she did.

The last time Julia came to our Zoom meeting, she said good-bye to us all in the Bernal group. She looked drawn and unwell, unlike the vibrant Julia I knew, but her spirit prevailed. “Thank you for all you’ve done,” she said. “I’m dying as a sober woman.”

I’m grateful she completed the program

In my life and my work, I have been around a lot of death. Each one brings to the front the many now gone, as well as the ones I wanted to forget, like when my mother died. And now Julia is gone, too. She died on August 24th. It’s a hole that can’t be filled. 

Over time, memories and precious thoughts fill in that new chasm of emptiness. It seems she was here for too short a time, but HP decides the timing, not me. I still remember her good-bye, and I’m grateful she completed the program. She’s at peace now. I loved her as a fellow alcoholic.

1 10, 2020


by Dan F

A power greater than my parents or me brought me into this life with a specific genetic and cultural heritage, and it maintains me in existence. 

I have come to believe my job each day is to wake up and show up, accepting my entire past and the here and now without judgment, asking in silent prayer for positive guidance this day. When I do that, I feel called by power greater than me to grow beyond my beginnings in order to see and do more in thanks for this free gift of life.

I start the day by gently waking up all four parts of my humanity: my body, emotions, rational mind, and intuitive mind with espresso, inspirational readings from all sources, and light calisthenics/ stretching. I listen to my body, emotions and rational mind.

Relaxed practice of positive attitude on a daily basis

I then wait in silence for positive intuition, accepting and leaving alone negative intuition. Both come to me from a power greater than myself. Intuition, I have learned, is the most neglected part of my humanity. I stop, look and listen, and choose positive attitudes and actions, leaving the results to power greater than me. 

I have come to believe that relaxed, repetitive practice of positive attitude and action in all my affairs on a daily basis has brought me all that I value most today.

By choosing positive intuition, I create a better world for myself and for others this day to the limits of my inherited talents, learned skills, unique experience and choice of attitude—the basic human freedom.

I wait in silence for positive intuition
1 10, 2020


by John W

Talk about “What an order, I can’t go through with it.” These words seared my soul: The insanity of alcohol returns and we drink again. And for us, to drink is to die. I knew I was going through a tough patch, but the walls of denial were so impervious that I had not realized how dire my straits were. Fortunately, these words were not the first I had to swallow. Those who wrote them realized drunks like me needed a bit of a cushion before getting the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

By the time I was confronted with this grim reality, I had already been buoyed by the hope there was a solution, even for the hopeless alcoholic I had become. I had seen “me” in print in the Big Book. No longer could I ignore the police blotter sheets for the DUIs with my name or the insurance companies’ auto coverage denials. The Big Book had objective descriptions that fit me to a tee. There was no escaping the obvious, except to me of course. After staying sober for a year, the old timers in my Home Group noted what a mess I had been upon my arrival some 16 months before. I had cleaned up nicely.

I had already been buoyed by the hope there was a solution

I was left to consider what allowed that process to occur. Getting a sponsor and working the steps was the quick and correct response, but it was an incomplete one. A key ingredient had also been regular, daily meetings. Certainly I had heard others describe their programs that were different than mine and worked. But I had also seen daily examples of those who had what I wanted, each doing the same thing, regular, daily meeting attendance.

As sober days accumulated, perseverance became my mantra. Days became years and underscored the importance of the observation. Invariably when those who slipped described their experiences, the stories had a common denominator. Each recounted how, before they had again succumbed to the first drink, they had stopped going to meetings. How often this lamentation was bookmarked between the horror the first drink became and the gratitude for the meeting where the speaker described their survival.

Active participation brought me these wonders

For those with ears to hear, these experiences were impossible to ignore. One old timer poignantly said, “Go where we go, do what we do, get what we got.” Reality checks and clever turns of phrase, however, were not enough. Reading something off a placard on the wall or listening to a tragic tale at a meeting was not the end of the lesson to be absorbed. My sponsor kept asking me: What are you going to do with your newfound wisdom? He made a point of keeping me focused on whatever action I was going to take to stay sober. I discovered if I was staying sober one day at a time, the perseverance in my meeting attendance was fundamental.

My perseverance paid handsome rewards

Sticking with this program, the steps and my meetings was the key to success. The gifts in this package, wrapped with helping others and a new attitude, were undeniable. Active participation in the fellowship brought to me these wonders and the trappings that came with them. My perseverance paid handsome rewards.

In the sunlight of my daily reprieve I discovered a group of people who shared my dilemma and who shared my desire to get healthy and stay healthy. I found myself in a growing fellowship of common survivors, regardless of how we met. Whether the meeting was in year one across the country in a city of a business trip, or on the other side of the globe a decade later in Zoom, my host of new friends was a limitless dividend I continued to receive. Some were small in scope, others were quite significant. When asked to help another work the steps my experience, strength and hope could be put to some good use. I was bestowed with a sense of purpose and value both unexpected and wonderful. Life became a 24-hour day: one hour for a meeting and 23 for me. With the sunlight of the spirit packed into each minute, this deal was not a bad bargain any way you looked at it.

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