Group Inventories NOV. 6 & 9 (DCMC Letter)
by Jackie B
Why does our Area and District take an inventory? For the same reasons we as individual recovering alcoholics take a “fearless and moral inventory” in our step work. “A business which takes no regular inventory usually goes broke. Taking a commercial inventory is a fact-finding and fact-facing process. It is an effort to discover the truth about the stock-in-trade. (Alcoholic Anonymous, Chapter 5, “How It Works” p. 64). AA groups and service entities – such General Service and Intergroup – conduct their own searching and fearless group inventories to evaluate how well they are fulfilling their primary purpose, to help the suffering alcoholic.
Service commitments in General Service typically last for two years. These two-year terms of service are called “panels.” We are currently in Panel 71, because 2021 is the 71st year our Area – California Northern Coastal Area 06 (CNCA 06) – has sent a Delegate to the General Service Conference. Panel 1 took place in the first trial year of the Conference in 1951. In the first year of each Panel, which happens to be the odd year in our Area, it is customary for both our Area and District to hold an inventory. The Area-wide Inventory will take place at the Fall Inventory Assembly on Saturday, November 6, 2021 on Zoom. Our District Inventory will take place during our regular District meeting that same month, on Tuesday, November 9, 2021.
Some groups take inventory by examining how well they are abiding by the Twelve Traditions. At the District and Area, we sometimes look at our relationship and understanding to the Twelve Concepts of World Service. Ultimately, the inventory questions are up for the group conscience to decide. A great place to start thinking about possible Group Inventory questions is one of the most important – and most under-utilized – pieces of literature we have in AA: The A.A. Group pamphlet (p. 29).
If your group decides it would like to hold a group inventory, your friendly neighborhood District Committee Member (DCM) or your District Officers will be more than happy to point you in the direction of a facilitator or service sponsor who can guide you through the process.
In Love & Service,
District Chairperson (DCMC), Panel 71
California Northern Coastal Area 06 (CNCA 06) – District 06 San Francisco =www.sfgeneralservice.org
Ego: Good or Bad?
by Rob S
Here is a description of the evolution of our ego, followed by Sigmund’s Freud’s disclosure of its purpose. From an evolutionary perspective, ego is surmised to have evolved from self-awareness. Self-awareness is particularly advantageous for social animals like us — humans. It gives us an idea about our strengths, weaknesses, our role and position in the society and also to understand other’s behavior. When Freud developed psychoanalytic theory, he used the German word es (Ego in English) to describe the part of the self that is responsible for decision making.
I understand our ego is an inherited filter that protects us from outside hazards and perilous internal decisions. Without our egos humans could never have survived the slings and arrows of time. Our ego is to be considered a benevolent human psychological component. As Dr. Freud explained, it is a thought filter—a decision making apparatus.
Although this may seem an unusual glowing report for which is often given an extremely bad rap around the AA tables, we can experience a benevolent healthy ego that keeps us happy, joyous and free (Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 133). However, our egos sometimes may go out of whack and become disastrous to us and to our fellows:
An inspired ego filter takes precedence over the fear and destructive behavior of the secular driven ego
The secular driven ego filter that lives in deep fear and elevates ordinary situations out of proportion. We begin to consider ourselves big shots (egomaniacs), unable to see another’s point of view, often insulting, uncaring of others, self-centered to the max, and all the rest of it. We can easily see how this dangerous disorder can lead alcoholics to that first drink.
As the result of living the Twelve Steps, an inspired ego filter takes precedence over the fear and destructive behavior of the secular driven ego. The problem (mental obsession) has been removed. It does not exist for us so long as we remain in a fit spiritual condition (Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 85).
I have a choice
My mental obsession has been removed although I have not remained in a fit spiritual condition every day though many years. Appendix II, Spiritual Experience, tells that we can have a personality change sufficient, “just enough” to bring about recovery from alcoholism (Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 567). In other words, my ego does not have to be one-hundred present on-the-beam of happy destiny all the time. Of, course it would be impossible to be free from lurking subconscious drunken monkey demons crashing into the alcoholic’s conscious mind.
But then, isn’t that what Step Ten is all about? It tells us when these things crop up to ask God for help, to discuss with another person, make amends if we have harmed anyone and turn our thoughts to someone we can help. I notice that when I really do this, my ego filter returns to a “God Inspired” condition (Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, Step 10). My self-propelled ego remains confined and I reman free. Is ego good or bad? I have a choice.
Cure for Loneliness
by Christine R
“More than most folks, alcoholics are tortured by loneliness … There was always that mysterious barrier we could neither surmount nor understand” (Twelve Steps & Twelve Traditions, Step Five). How did our authors know we were coming along some 86 years later? Paul B., who lived with the Lakota Indian nation, came to understand through their teachings that loneliness is particular to humankind. When I tell you, “I’m lonely,” you know what I’m talking about. Likewise, when you say, “I’m lonely,” I know what you are talking about. There’s no need to quantify, qualify or clarify our feelings of loneliness.
Lakota elders told Paul the cure for loneliness is found through the human touch. They went on to tell how, through the human touch, we can find Great Spirit / higher power. Great Spirit comes through connection with one another. As alcoholism means disconnection, recovery is connection. And through our connections we find a source and strength greater than ourselves.
The cure for loneliness is found through the human touch
Our meetings, on the phone, on Zoom, or in person, provide that connection, that “touch” for one another. Since the pandemic, we seldom hold hands and chant the way we once did. Nonetheless, we still touch one another as we give voice to our loneliness with our shares and ease our lonesomeness with our commitments to bring us to the meetings.
On the afternoon my mother died, I went to a meeting. At the Reno Triangle Club, I found myself taking in a meeting. Not drinking. But oh, so sick at heart! So lonely! Wouldn’t you know? The young woman sitting next to me said her father died only 3 days previously. Instantly, we had connection. No, who set that up, do you suppose?
Next came a cold January afternoon at the San Rafael Alano Club and I’m sharing my grief around my mother’s death. Wouldn’t you know? Sitting next to me is a grief recovery specialist and a long-time member of our fellowship, Caroline. After the meeting, Caroline informs me she happens to be a grief recovery specialist and she can help me. Who set that up?
Not only did she support me through my grief recovery, she also insisted I find a newcomer. Even through the depths of my grief, I agreed. Within 24 hours, up comes a smiling newcomer, asking for my sponsorship. Who set that up?
Together we worked Step 1. She with her powerless situation over alcohol; I with my powerless situation over death. Together we found Hope in Step 2 and the sense of sanity as described in that Step. The 12 Steps are for the lonely to find companionship, connection, and Great Spirit. A very Great Spirit indeed. To watch people recover, to see them help others, to watch loneliness vanish, to see a fellowship grow up about you, to have a host of friends—this is an experience you must not miss.
by Bree L.
I woke up on the ground at Seventh and Market. The check cashing place was on the corner, and I was lying next to a man I didn’t even know. He was just someone there. I fell asleep, woke up and started walking away. I had the shakes really bad and felt empty with nothing inside. I tried to figure out what to do because I had to do something. I’d been living on the street for twenty years and here I was at forty knowing I had to have a plan but didn’t have a clue. I kept walking.
I had to learn to tie my own shoes
I thought the shakes might get better if I walked away from where I was. I ended up in a women’s homeless shelter on Turk and Mason. A friend who worked there sat down and prayed with me. We were both Native American, I am a Navajo, Sioux and I don’t know her tribe, but she was a really good friend, and I could see she was sober. She gave me ten dollars to go to detox and I started thinking, “What would I do with two or four dollars?” It wouldn’t do me any good, but I held onto it until I got to detox. I stayed in the shelter until a space in a program came up. They let me stay longer knowing I was eventually going into a program.
I ended up in a Native American Indian program called Friendship House. There are therapists and psychiatrists on staff. They provide groups, individual therapy, spiritual needs, and Native American sweats. It’s co-ed and they provide services for all cultures throughout the states. They have clients from all over North America.
In the beginning, I had so far to go. I had to learn how to be a mom, how to tie my own shoes, and to remember to pick up my daughter. I learned to go to work every day and to get my small family on a schedule.
This was my second time at Friendship House. The first time I’d gone there for a guy and had stayed less than ninety days. I was not there for myself, and it didn’t last as I was drinking and pretty much an emotional wreck. I’d loved someone I couldn’t have, a man who loved his drugs more than anything. I’d had a daughter so there were many contingencies.
My life is full of blessings
My second stint at Friendship House, I was without children to bring along and there for myself. I completed the two-year program and afterwards, moved to Harbor House with the Salvation Army. It was 2003 and I’ve been there ever since.
I’m now a resident operations manager at Harbor Lights on Ninth and Harrison with the Salvation Army. I work to keep the building safe from intruders and I work with families that have been homeless or lived in their cars, helping them find permanent housing.
Today I live in an apartment with my dog. My daughter is twenty years old with a child of her own and she works in health care. I’m living a full life and go to meetings regularly. I must keep going forward so I won’t ever fall again. My life is full of blessings. I use sage and cedar as part of my Native American beliefs and pray every day. I’ve held onto my seat like they told me. The membership loved me until I learned to love myself.
On October 18, 2021, I celebrated eighteen years sobriety.
She Kicked the Cat
by Caroline M
I was hung over again, head pounding, in a terrible mood. It was also a school morning so I was rushing with breakfast and lunches for my two kids and getting myself ready for work. I went to get milk from the fridge where the cat was weaving back and forth, making a fuss to be fed. I stuck my foot under its belly and hefted it out of my way. Roughly. The cat yowled. My kids yelled, “Mom, what are you doing?” I slammed the fridge door shut by way of an answer.
When I was hungover like that, I just wanted everyone and everything to get out of my way and now! Today I cringe at the memory of what my kids had to put up with when I was drinking, never mind booting the innocent kitty out of my way.
Following another horrible hangover at Thanksgiving in 1984 I put myself back on the wagon, which I had done many times before. I was always shocked that even after years of not drinking I still couldn’t have one sip, or one glass, without getting drunk – sick drunk. The fun had stopped years ago but I still harbored the illusion that maybe it’d work for me like it used to. Maybe this time it would relieve the tension I’d feel going into a strange setting, maybe it’d help me just one more time to shake off the rough day at work and be a more relaxed happy mom. But instead I’d turned into a mom who kicked the cat and put our lives in danger on the freeway.
I’d turned into a mom who kicked the cat and put our lives in danger on the freeway
Now it was Christmas and without my nightly bottle of wine I was restless, irritable and discontent while others around me were full of the joys of the season. I decided to celebrate in the spirit of grandiosity and throw a British-style Christmas party for all my clients. But I just couldn’t imagine Christmas without sherry. Even though in my mind I wasn’t going to drink it, I thought I would find a way to use it in a recipe so I bought something cheap from Safeway and began cooking.
Pies were in the oven and I thought I should now make a sauce using the sherry. A sauce for what didn’t really matter, the important thing in that moment seemed to be opening the sherry. I just couldn’t keep my eyes off that bottle. I’ll never forget the comforting thunk of the cork as it sprang free and the smell of that cheap sherry that seemed to instantly seduced me, like the whiff of an old lover’s aftershave.
I couldn’t resist its lure. Without a second thought I began guzzling straight out of the bottle and within a few minutes the kitchen started spinning so badly I had to steady myself against the counter and I thought I was going to throw up. I knew I wouldn’t be able to finish the holiday pies so I called my son to the kitchen, telling him I wasn’t feeling well and to turn off the oven at a certain time. He looked at me, saw the bottle on the counter and said those words that pierced my heart “Oh Mom. You didn’t!”
Something in me just broke. I had a strong physical sensation in my chest, like a door slamming. I knew in that moment, without question that I was done drinking. In that moment, I conceded to my innermost self that I had lost all control of my drinking and was undeniably an alcoholic.
I learned how to go on a date sober, go to clubs, parties, dances, to go out for coffee
I staggered off to bed and the next day, Thursday, December 20, 1984, having not slept at all, with a pounding head and a heavy heart, I walked into the noon meeting at the Marin Alano Club in San Rafael. The room was full of cigarette smoke. There were only a couple of other women, and many of the men there looked like they were on their break from a construction site, guys I wouldn’t normally mix with. But it didn’t matter. I knew I was safe and felt an instant kinship with everyone there. Most importantly, I was ready, really ready to listen to direction for the first time in my life. I had been a know-it-all, hated others telling me what to do. But all that changed, in fact had to change. I heard them say 90 meetings in 90 days. They said, “Keep coming back.” They said, “Easy does it.” They said, “One day at a time.” I soaked it all in and did my best to follow instructions. When I called other women in the program, the wisest responses were along the lines of “Well honey, I don’t know how to solve that problem but I do know not drinking and getting to a meeting will help.” And it always did.
Following directions, eventually I found a sponsor, worked through the steps and in turn re-worked all the steps with sponsees. It’s a wheel that keeps on turning and each day I get to start again. I still appreciate waking up without a hangover and a clean slate for the new day. I ask God to let me be of service, however it would be in the best interest of the other person. It’s not always comfortable or convenient, but I’ve learned how to stretch out of my little comfort zone and little by little I make spiritual progress. I notice my reactions are kinder; I’m slower to anger; I make sure to stay connected to God through the 11th Step. Each night I review the day for things that might have been done better and write a gratitude list for all the blessings I enjoy.
Through God’s grace I haven’t found it necessary to take a drink for any reason including divorce, breakups, deaths, illness, loss, financial concerns, and I can take no credit for that. We don’t get sober on our own, nor do we stay sober without ongoing attendance at meetings and working the steps with a sponsor.
Over the years I’ve learned to mourn sober, to cry and write and talk out the pain of loss and disappointment through the 4th and 5th steps. I’ve learned how to look at myself honestly, accept my human frailty, be satisfied with “progress not perfection,” and do my best to amend behaviors that are harmful to myself and others.
Old habits die hard, but the new habit of sobriety was oh so much easier than the shame and guilt that came with hangovers and cringing at ugly memories of bad behavior. The new habit of going to meetings – ninety in ninety for my first 3 months – was a revelation. After a year or so I learned how to go on a date sober, go to clubs, parties, dances, to go out for coffee, ice cream, movies, join a church, take walks on the beach – all without alcohol, something I could never have imagined possible.
Over time I’ve also learned how to be a better friend, parent, listener, team member. I don’t take offense nearly as easily as I used to. Through the 4th and 5th Steps I became aware of how my actions affect others, and even though I know I’m not responsible for how others react, I can be more sensitive to the fact that others have feelings and take those into consideration. I think things through a little better instead of instantly giving others a piece of my mind because that would make me feel better in the moment. The instant gratification monkey stays safely in its cage.
In AA we learn about the benefits of pausing when agitated and I’ve found that my daily practice of the 11th Step slows me down. I actually do get to pause before speaking or acting. I had a really awful habit of interrupting, I just couldn’t wait to share my thoughts and opinions, but I’m learning to wait my turn and hold my tongue. I’m still me, but an improved version. Thank you AA for the incredible, blessed makeover.
Snoopy and the Principle of Honesty
by John W
I had a drinking problem long before I was ever able to honestly admit that simple fact to myself. So many times, too many to count, I would stare at myself in the mirror, reliving the events of the previous 24 hours and wonder why that face staring back at me had done those things. I mentally could not connect the fact that the face into whose eyes I peered was mine. That face at which I stared, who had driven into oncoming traffic in a blackout or had just been released from incarceration following an alcohol-related traffic stop, was not me. It was just a reflection of that person I did not want to be — but was. I could not be honest with myself about that harsh reality.
When big-time marital discord drove me towards a solution rather than a drink one day, the thought of attending a 7:00 AM meeting as suggested by that anonymous voice on that anonymous 24-hour a day hotline, seemed a half-baked idea that was equally only coolly received by me. That the location was on my route to work and barely five minutes from my home was small consolation.
Only illusions of Snoopy as the WW I Flying Ace and his Dawn Patrol comics character succeeded in bolstering my efforts to make that meeting despite its ridiculously early hour. Since this was the only meeting I attended for the first two months, I did not know that their practice of not reading How It Works was unusual. I had my own Big Book, to demonstrate to my spouse that I was working the steps. But having a Big Book and reading it were two very different things.
Picturing Snoopy as the WW I Flying Ace bolstered my efforts
The result was that I failed to grasp the principle of honesty which was fundamental to the start of my recovery. While I had been honest about starting to attend daily meetings, an admission needed to stave off (at least for the moment) divorce court, the little asides about having a sponsor, working the steps and not drinking between meetings were all false. I am sure it was no surprise to those who tolerated my occasional complaints during the meetings, I had tried to remain anonymous you see and this included saying nothing to anyone, that I was not getting the benefit of How It Works. For me this time could only be described as my continuing journey through Hell.
Thankfully my miracle, and the hope for those who follow, coincided with my first honest statement about my drinking. At the time I did not know of this coincidence. It was later pointed out to me by someone who heard my story several months after I got sober. She observed that is was immediately after I had, for the first time, honestly told my 7:00 AM group that I was a newcomer that my fortunes had begun to change for the better.
I finally hung around long enough after the meeting to talk
Men in the meeting started to reach out to me to share their experiences and I finally hung around long enough after the meeting to talk to them. They talked to me about the difficulties I was facing as a newcomer, how best to confront them and how to stay sober when doing so. I was inspired by one woman’s tale about getting sober only because she wanted her children back in her life, a dream I had. She was able to explain the uphill battle before me and that, even in rejection (which I was to experience like she had), I could stay sober. One old timer after kind, but daily, quizzes about whether I drank the day before, gave me her 16 year chip so I could “lean” on her sobriety when I needed to. Sadly, cancer took her before she could get 17 years, but I have her chip in my pocket, cuddling mine for the same time, reminding me I am never alone in my daily struggle.
In the 20/20 vision hindsight provides, it is now easy to see how the principle of honesty was the key to my salvation. Without it, my lies to myself about the effects of my drinking and the people it was harming, prevented me from effectively taking my first step in recovery. Thereafter, the rigorous honesty my sponsor has schooled me in over the years has often been a real challenge. I would not be honest were I to pretend the case to be otherwise. However, with the aid of my higher power, I have been developing a better sense on when I should just keep quiet and exercise that restraint of tongue and pen. In such moments, I have found that, at worse, I may be only considered the fool, but when I rashly or imprudently open my mouth, as is my bane, I invariably remove all doubt. As for How It Works, I have come to believe it was no coincidence that the founders of the program which saved my life mentioned honesty three times in the opening salvo – they were just relaying the honest truth of their recovery.