30 11, 2021

How family can clear away the wreckage of the past…

by Anonymous

A sober ex-husband steps up to help his sober ex-wife clear her criminal record.

To whom it may concern,

I am writing to ask you to expunge the criminal record of Michele S. As her former husband and an active member of Alcoholics Anonymous for more than 19 years, I feel well qualified to comment on her recovery.

I have known Michele since 1973 when she worked for me in Berkeley. We became best friends and we were married in 1976. For the next 15 years, she was the most loving, kindest and caring person I had ever known. In 1991-92 I witnessed her decline into drug addiction, but as the person closest to her I also witnessed her suffering through the demoralizing guilt and remorse over the crimes she committed.

Since her recovery started in 1992 I have been privileged to watch her not only return to the wonderful person drugs and alcohol had taken away from all who loved her, but also enjoy an unparalleled growth that continues to this day. That growth began with her successful completion of the Center Point Program. Her work as a counselor at St. Anthony Farms Recovery Center led her to complete a state certification program and eventually to her job at Serenity Knolls. 

While she has continued her work in the recovery field, Michele has been of continuous service in her private life – giving unselfishly of her time and resources, being there for friends and family, sharing her astonishing spirit with all in need.

Michele and I divorced amicably in 2006, but I still consider her my best friend. She has taught me more about honesty, courage and unconditional love than anyone. To expunge her record and allow her to advance professionally unencumbered would be a great gift to a well-deserving woman.

Most sincerely,

L.A. Craig  

30 11, 2021

Life of Joy

By Anonymous

Understanding is the key to right principles and attitudes, and right action is the key to good living; therefore, the joy of good living is the theme of A.A.’s Twelfth Step. (Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, pg. 125) How appropriate it seems that there are twelve months in a year, and we have twelve steps in the program. The joy of good living is the theme, and it blends right in with Thanksgiving in November, all the religious holidays in December, and is topped off with the New Year’s Eve celebration. The Holiday season does bring a lot of joy to most of us, but it also brings distress to some of the less fortunate ones who have not yet been blessed with the gift of sobriety and peace of mind, in and outside of Alcoholics Anonymous. (A.A.)

I used to be uncomfortable about the holidays

I used to be uncomfortable about the holidays, as I never knew how to act around normal people. I felt like a charity case and never got into the spirit of reaching out to others. My family always celebrated Christmas, and I always (due to my discomfort) would put a damper on it by complaining about the tacky gifts that people would buy for each other, the mad rush to go shopping and all the commercializing it had become. I explained this to a dear friend once, and he asked, ”Does the rest of the family enjoy it?” I said yes. He then said, ”Why don’t you just take a back seat and watch the joy in their eyes as they experience these things? I did that exact thing and have been doing it ever since. It has changed my appreciation of this time of year.

This change of attitude has inspired me to apply the unselfish lessons that I have come to understand, and I spend the holiday season looking for the opportunity to brighten the lives of those less fortunate than myself. I often do these things anonymously and without fanfare. I also consider how I used to feel when I was the one on the receiving end of a charitable gesture and am very careful to do these things in a way that preserves their dignity. I do not have to wait for the holidays to do these things. Every day is Christmas at my home. 

More recently I started to contemplate the difference between joy and happiness; I always thought that they were synonymous. They are in some respects, but they do have some different qualities. I am a happy person as the result of being very diligent when it comes to working the steps of the program and practicing the principles in all my affairs. I am not without the little inconveniences and irritations that come with my day-to-day living activities, but they are nowhere near the problems I encountered prior to becoming a member of Alcoholics Anonymous. They do not lower my level of happiness because I simply take them as they come. Over a period, as I mature in this journey, my mean level of happiness continues to rise, and I am generally very happy as the result. 

I contemplate the difference between joy and happiness

When I look at the word joy, I do not feel that I am in a constant state of joy, but I do have many little things that happen on a day-to-day basis that rise above my state of happiness. They sometimes bring tears to my eyes. We all can identify with the term “tears of joy.” Even unhappy people can have tears of joy occasionally. I was introduced to the principle that “happiness is a byproduct of right living and not an end in itself.” I have been living by that principle ever since and you can believe me when I tell you that I reap more than my share of joy.                                                                                          

30 11, 2021

Step 12 in Action

by Rob S

Step 12. “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and practice these principles in all our affairs.”  

Only a few weeks sober, I marched into my favorite bar in Santa Monica, California, and commenced to announce that I was attending AA meetings. I also pointed out to my imbibing friends that they were probably alcoholics and that they needed to join me, pronto. Not only did my bar room popularity go south at that point, but so did our 11th Tradition of attraction rather than promotion.

Best to bring out the aspects of AA that will dispel any preconceived fear

Of course, I was ill prepared to carry the AA message. I had little notion what the Twelve Steps were, save from my own vague interpretations from the club house pull-down shades. My honeymoon enthusiasm did not qualify me as having had a spiritual awakening (or experience) as the result of these steps.” (Spiritual Awakening means slowly, Spiritual Experience means suddenly—p. 567)

Eventually, after absorbing the clear-cut directions from the Big Book, I busily began sharing my newfound sobriety with other members, but when some of them relapsed I was disappointed. However, I took solace in that Step 12 tells us only that: “we tried.” However, I believe that it is vitally important that I continue to keep on trying regardless of results: “Nothing will so much insure immunity from drinking than intensive work with other alcoholics.” (P. 89). Vital means lifesaving—that means me!

I have found it best not to dwell on the steps when making my first visit to a newcomer, but to casually drift the conversation into some of my drinking experience, good and bad; happy and sad; but explain why I needed to stay sober. Then explain how the AA fellowship helped me to obtain my period of sobriety. Of course, never mentioning that he or she is an alcoholic—this is best for them to ascertain!

 I believe it is best to bring out the aspects of AA that will dispel any preconceived fear, such as: “The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking;” explaining our principle of anonymity; that we have no dues or fees; that we have no rules or laws; that AA is not affiliated with any religion or outside organization. Explain that we are not a treatment center, although we sometimes cooperate with treatment facilities.  I believe it is important to tell how we have grown to over two-million members around the world in the last eighty-plus years. The point is to replace newcomer doubt with hope! Then I like to share about my personal sobriety. The point is that the new person will have hopeful expectations before his or her first meeting.

The new person leaves with appropriate literature from the meeting rack

Upon leaving this “first meeting” I believe it is paramount that the new person leaves with appropriate literature from the meeting rack, but not too much—just three or four items. The titles make it obvious which ones are appropriate. If the new person leaves with a Big Book, I never tell them to read the first 164 pages—maybe just The Doctor’s Opinion, along with some of the personal stories. A farmer once told me: “You don’t feed a newborn calf a bale of hay, but just a little milk.”  

Of course, I point out from the meeting directory where the next meeting might be best and exchange phone numbers or email addresses. If time allows, I like to have a meeting-after-the-meeting to provide a welcome and happy atmosphere.  First impressions are very important for a lost and lonesome new AA member. These are just a few of my thoughts. 

30 11, 2021

In God’s Hands

by Christine R

“When we look back, we realize that the things which came to us when we put ourselves in God’s hands were better than anything we could have planned.”  Page 100, Alcoholics Anonymous.

A prospective sponsee: boozy, red-faced from shame and weeping.  For anonymous purposes, we will call her Luna.  A sister-woman seeking help from another; looking for open hands to hold hers; open ears by which to listen; someone open to sharing their experience, strength, and hope by working the Steps; guiding her from the present-day disaster of incomprehensible demoralization into the Sunlight of the Spirit.  All bridges were burned including some photos of her only child, a daughter from whom Luna was deeply estranged.  

You can get sober and stay sober, regardless of anyone

As with most alcoholics, Luna left chaos in her wake: DUIs, time in prison, theft and deceit toward family, friends, business associates, and loved ones.  Theft both of money and of trust.  The latest screaming match and belittling of her daughter left both daughter and mother in shellshock, with neither of them able to text or talk.  Shameful silence became the painful backdrop.

Over and over in tragic tones, Luna spoke of losing her daughter’s affection because of Luna’s alcoholic, abusive behavior. Her negligent, rageful and self-pitying conduct created a chasm of space and time, seemingly impossible to bridge.

When asked about photos of her daughter, Luna replied, “I tore them all up or I threw them in my daughter’s room with all the other trash. I don’t have any photos.”  

I replied, “How can you get your daughter back if you can’t visualize her with you? How can she stay with you if her room is full of trash?  

Then the words came to me:  “You can get sober and stay sober, regardless of anyone.  The only condition is that you trust in God and clean House.  So, trust me.  And let’s start cleaning house.” 

Trust God means working Steps 1 through 3. When we admit to the God of our understanding we are powerless over alcohol and our difficulties, we no longer come from a place of fear.  We come from a place of trust. Trust in God’s will for us is to:  Step 1.  Get sober. Step 2.  Get sane. Step 3.  Get serene

Gently building on one another.  Sober. Sane. Serene. 

Clean House: “Clean up your daughter’s room,” I said.  “Bring out photos of you and your daughter together. Let’s start where we are.”  Luna found the crumpled photos of her with her daughter; straightened them; and used them to decorate her dining room table . Within days, the daughter began to text her mother.  

Theft both of money and of trust

As the daughter’s room began to clear, the daughter not only sent Luna a Mother’s Day a card, she called her.  The daughter called Luna.  For the first time in six years, mother and daughter spoke in loving terms.  For the first time in a long time, the daughter got to hear her mother say, “Honey, I’m sober 40 days.”  

She got to hear her mother was supported by a sponsor, attended daily meetings, and had accepted a Power greater than herself.

A Visa card of $50 was included with the Mother’s Day card. When Luna got a manicure, to get “tips,” we created this photo to send to the daughter as an assurance:  Luna’s hands, on her sponsor’s Big Book, on which is written the Serenity Prayer.  Our hands, in God’s Hands, together for the creation of Sobriety, Sanity, and Serenity. 

30 11, 2021

Enabling Process

By Rick R

As a practicing alcoholic, I became very crafty when it came to manipulating the people who loved me. I made promise after promise to change the way I did things, but I always disappointed them, which only made things worse for them and for me, as I see it now. What they did not know then, was that most of the time when they gave in trying to meet my requests, they were not helping me. Well meaning as they were, they were in fact, enabling me and that only perpetuated my problem. When I was turned down, I just went to the next one on my list, until I found someone that could not say no.

After I entered Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.) and got deeper into the program I had to address my behavioral problems of the past and make restitution to those people. I realized how difficult it was for a loved one to say “No” to a child or a friend when they appeal to them the way we do. Then came the acid test for me.

If that had not happened would you be here right now?

I received a collect phone call from a divorced relative, (mother of two daughters ages 11 and 13) asking me for what was a goodly amount of money at that time. I was aware of her use of drugs and her priorities about her children. At first, she did not want to say why she needed the money, but after I insisted, she said that she was in jail and need to get bailed out. Visions of my past came back, and I was now on the receiving end of the enabling process. Writing the check would have been the easy thing to do, but as I now understand, not the right thing. I asked her why she called me instead of her friends. She replied, ”yours was the only number I could find.” I thought about it for moment then said, “If I thought It would help, I would be all over it. But, I know your track record and I know that if I bail you out, you will be running again, and your girls need you right now.That was the best thing I could do for her at that time and I have never regretted it, and neither has she. She has nothing but respect for me today for having the strength to say “No” when that was the right answer. She has been sober for about 30 years.

Every so often a new person shows up at a meeting and is complaining about the bad break that came about that brought them to the program and when I get a chance to talk to them on a personal level the first question, I ask them is: “If that had not happened would you be here right now?” and their usual response is, “Probably not.”

I received a collect phone call from a divorced relative

The right decision is not always the most popular one and I may be misunderstood when I make it, but in good conscience I do try to muster up the strength to make it. Writing the check would have been the easy way and I may have been applauded for doing it.  But for me, it would have been the more selfish thing to do. That single act may have been the turning point in her life, but no one can predict the outcome of any decision we make. As I look back on it now. If no one ever said “No” to me, I may never have changed and could have reached the point of no return and ended badly. Sometimes I must risk the disapproval of those that do not understand me. I, however, must make sure that my motives are unselfish.   

30 11, 2021

Happy, Joyous, Free Holidays

By Kathleen C

The holidays are usually a time of parties and dinners with friends, family, co-workers and neighbors. For the last year and a half, our contact with other people has been restricted, in one way or another. Now we want to get together. Because we are sober, we are more likely to be invited. But can we gather safely? Both in terms of the Covid-19 virus and our sobriety?

The Point is not the forum for discussing public health, but it is the perfect place to share how we stay sober in social situations.

The Alcoholics Anonymous-published book, Living Sober, has some practical suggestions:

We don’t worry about people asking why we are not drinking

  1. We might let the host or hostess know we are not drinking. We are not asking for special treatment, but just reassuring them that we are not insulting the quality of their wine when we say no thank you.
  2. We take a sober friend along, or talk beforehand to discuss strategy. We tell them we will call and check in with them afterwards about how the event went for us. Sharing this experience with another alcoholic is good for them as well as for us.
  3. We eat something first. There may or may not be food at the party or, if it is a dinner, the drinking may go on for a long time before the food is served. 
  4. We arrive late and, if we can, we leave early – there will be less time for drinking.
  5. On arrival, we immediately either help ourselves or ask for a non-alcoholic drink, like sparkling water, ginger ale or such. Beware of canned drinks. Some look like innocuous soda, but so-called twisted teas, hard lemonades and hard ciders have a significant alcohol content. We avoid the punch bowl; the mixture may include alcohol.
  6. We watch out for alcohol-flavored holiday foods – a friend, as a joke, once served me a piece of buche de noel, a traditional French Christmas cake – he chuckled as I took a bite and then grimaced. The cake was flavored with cognac. Used to love cognac. In sobriety not so much. 
  7. We don’t worry about people asking why we are not drinking. Hardly anybody pays that much attention to who drinks or not and the people who do can be brushed off.
  8. If they persist with their inquiry, there are many plausible explanations: My personal favorite is “Alcohol doesn’t agree with me.” We can also say we are allergic or are on a medication where alcohol is incompatible.
  9. At a dinner with an array of wineglasses next to our plate, it is appropriate to turn a wineglass upside down and the perceptive waiter will take the glass away. At a wedding or other occasion that involves a toast with champagne in flutes, we can raise our flute along with everyone else. Then if it has champagne in it, we put it back down. If we have filled it with sparkling water or something else non-alcoholic, we can safely drink it. Woo-hoo!
  10. In any social situation, from office party to wedding to dinner party, we look for what we can add to the occasion. At the office party, we thank the host for the invitation and at the wedding we congratulate the groom and tell the bride she is beautiful. At the family or friends’ dinner, we focus our attention on the people we care about the most, and make sure they know how much we care about them.

We take a sober friend along, or talk beforehand to discuss strategy

The end of the old year and the beginning of the New Year is a wonderful time to be with the ones we love and enjoy the gift of sobriety.  Happy Holidays!

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