“Alcohol gave me wings, then it took away the sky”
“Alcohol gave me wings, then it took away the sky”
Step Five Rewards
By Bob S.
My Fourth Step inventory focused the light of truth onto unrealized driving forces of selfishness, dishonesty, resentment and fear. It also provided certain necessary tools to face and be rid of these newly discovered grosser handicaps (a great reward!) but still, countless other destructive little demons of the grosser variety lurked in some dark dank space deep inside. They freely frolicked in this invisible environment, happily protected from the sunlight of the spirit. It was as though they were protected under a very opaque umbrella, weaved with the fabric of the Twelve Steps: The grosser handicaps of selfishness, dishonesty, resentment and fear.
My sponsor informed me that Step Five was to include a detailed revelation of these grosser defects of character and shortcomings. Those little demons and devils of conceit, jealousy, carelessness, intolerance, ill temper and all the rest were about to be exposed—not only to my sponsor, but to God! Although my sponsor had not the power to close that umbrella, the Big Book tells me that God could and would if he were sought! (Those little fiends must have been trembling down there!). The sunlight of the spirit was about to shine on those little demons, for they cannot survive in the sunlight of God’s truth!
The Fifth Step promises on page 75 tell us that we now begin to have a spiritual experience. Well, the realization that God is soon to remove the very things that blocked us from seeing and acting on the truth in drink indeed speaks to a radical inner transformation! I believe the main goal of this vital step is to allow us (me) to realize exactly what dominant inner forces have blocked the truth in drink. Only then will I know exactly what imperfections to ask God to remove in Steps Six and Seven.
It was very important that I acted before my mind decided to remember only what it wanted to remember. I believe that the Big Book timetable is very important here! We are told to do Step Four “at once,” Step Five at “first opportunity,” review for a short period and then” (not later) do Step Six, go right into Step Seven “when ready.” Steps Five, Six and Seven are often referred to as the “same day steps.”
Although I am still plagued by past guilt, I have the above tools to find relief by simply living in the spirit of Step Ten. When attacked, I ask God for help at once and discuss with others (maybe at my next A.A. meeting). I try to think of what I can do to help other alcoholics and to be a better person. This gets me—as Bill Wilson’s Oxford Group Sponsor, Sam Shoemaker, stated: “Out of self. Into God. Into others.” This sometimes immediately relieves me from the bondage of self and the demons subside their torment.
Of course, Step Eleven helps as well. Before going to bed I often review whether I have been resentful, selfish, dishonest or afraid. If so, I ask for God’s forgiveness. I believe that self cannot relieve self of self with self. The same goes throughout the day when experiencing a guilt attack.
I believe that going to meetings on a regular basis prevents irrational guilt from appearing on the radar screen. I need to remain in fit spiritual condition!
I am very happy that my sponsor, Carl, helped me close that umbrella via the Big Book directions. I haven’t taken a drink since joining A.A.—thank you, God!
Our Group Conscience, Our Higher Power
By Jamie M.
In the early days of A.A. we had some great support from various professional practitioners including, at least indirectly, Carl Jung. The quote from Herbert Spencer about “contempt prior to investigation” has been helpful to many. I would like to add another 19th century scientist to the forbears of A.A.—Sir Francis Galton. Here’s why: he was perhaps the first scientist to discover the wisdom of the group. In a famous natural experiment he took data from a contest to guess the weight of a prize bullock and averaged all of them. The animal weighed close to 1,900 pounds. The average of all the guesses was within about one pound of the actual number! Various experimenters have done much the same thing using a jar full of jelly beans or marbles and collecting guesses about how many are in the jar. It works! The wisdom of the group is a scientifically observed and real thing.
To me, this validates the idea that when we actually form a group conscience we are as much discovering something as we are creating something. Our group has a conscience, and we are articulating it when we form a group conscience through education, discussion, listening to each other, understanding both majority as well as minority opinion, and putting it into a form that can be communicated to each other and where applicable and necessary, to other groups or A.A. as a whole. It’s obviously more complicated than just getting a number as shown in the examples given, but to me it’s still a thing. And there’s a key thought that, for me, applies: In the example, some people’s guesses were way off—but all guesses count toward the final result. How many times have we been in a business meeting and someone had input that seemed tangential? Yet our commitment to A.A. unity means that we don’t have the dubious luxury of disregarding a person whose input isn’t comfortable or convenient. Whenever anyone participates in good faith, we are all part of the group and part of the group conscience.
Another point that I think about when I reflect on the wisdom of the group is the common idea that a person who rejects theologically based concepts of a higher power may use the group as their higher power. No need for capital letters, reference to holy books, etc. The group definitely has greater wisdom than the individual. The group is not a substitute for “the real thing.” As with other spiritual concepts in the program, accepting one version doesn’t mean rejecting another. It’s a both/and view, not an either/or view. An early Christian writer once portrayed our existence as each person being like the spoke of a wheel, with the center of the wheel being God. Because all the spokes converge at the center, anything that brings us closer to each other takes us toward the center of the wheel. So whether we are atheist, agnostic, monotheist, or other, we still have a standard that works. Whatever brings us more into harmony and closeness with each other is what works. When we work in the context that “love and tolerance is our code,” whenever we participate with love and service to carry a message of hope and recovery to anyone who wants it, we’re on the right path.
A Step One Poem
By Dee H.
Powerless without my stinking thinking
Sick and tired of being sick and tired
God wants me to stop drinking
Concretely and abstractly
My Father Mother God loves me
I align my will with God’s—I am free
I am creative, spiritually toiled
I’m an individual—a moral savage
In the flow of all that’s good in the world
One with the power of the universe
and no longer ravaged
Powerless but feeling more powerful
Sick and tired of ugly hang overs
In sobriety, I’m a peaceful gal
There’s nothing to question anymore
God wants me to be a sober female
Liver disease and penniless insanity
Await me If I take another drink
I will die—demoralized and pitied
Everything gone down the sink
From a woman who’s no longer pretty
Yellow eyes, inflated belly, yet boney
Paranoid—nothing makes sense
Recklessly spending money
Staggering, reckless and feckless
Honestly—no good to anyone
I’m powerless yet more powerful
Free to live and love my loved ones
No debt to that resentful creditor
Alcohol has no power over some
Today I live in gratitude and rapture
I don’t need alcohol—it’s too wild
Can’t have it. Allergic!
Nothing left to solve
Grateful for sobriety
and my sponsor, Theresa
For we are girls gone mild
Getting Old While Sober
By Lizzie R.
This afternoon, I found myself sinking into one of those dark icky funks. No reason, no particular cause—just a malaise that caught hold of me and wouldn’t let go. I’d been noticing all the ways I am getting old and feeling totally wretched. I was Miss Cranky-Pants, judging just about everything and everybody—even the cat. I couldn’t remember one darn thing to drag my sorry ass out of it. I forgot every slogan, tool and prayer—even the simplest one, “Help!” Didn’t think to pick up the 300-lb. telephone where I have some terrific people on speed-dial. No, I was just wallowing in this muck. My one creative idea was chocolate.
I walked uptown and bought three Justin’s dark chocolate peanut butter cups and a box of Haagen-Dasz coffee almond toffee crunch bars (the equivalent of about six vodka tonics) and hurried home to get my chocolate fix. When I came in the door, I saw it was 6:05 p.m. and remembered it’s Saturday night, time for the women’s meeting. So, thank God, I jumped on Zoom and saw the beautiful faces of 10 women! I felt immediate relief but still thought I’ll just listen. What do I have to offer? Nothing.
Then the secretary said it was a discussion meeting and asked who wanted to propose a topic. We all sat in silence for a bit. I knew I had nothing positive to suggest. But I opened my mouth and just said, “I am having a horrible time with getting old. And I don’t know what to do. I need what you have.”
And then the magic started happening. (You know how that is!) Women just started talking about where they are. One woman had just had a booster shot and felt drained and low, but here she was, in the meeting. Someone else talked about taking care of her father who has dementia and what she does to help him. One woman said she was only 43 and not qualified to talk about old age, but described how she’s coping with physical losses: Shee has only two years of sobriety but is on Step 12 and it helps a lot. Another reminded us about the 1-2-3 waltz and I secretly thought, “Oh yeah. I forgot that.”
Another old friend harkened back to when she had a brain disease 17 years ago (in sobriety) when she was only in her 50s and thought this is the end of life. And after three surgeries it was gone, and she’s gone on to have a wonderful life. She talked about how ever since then, she’s been grateful every day for everything. One of our members has had to move to another state and is grateful for Zoom so she’s still a member of these local meetings which were with her when she first got sober. One woman said something about living alone when you’re old and how younger people show up and offer help. And she’s getting over feeling insulted about that!
Every single share picked up my spirits and I remembered why I love meetings so much. Especially this women’s meeting which has sustained me and my sobriety for over 26 years. I do know to pick up the Big Book, to say the Serenity Prayer, Third Step Prayer and Seventh Step Prayer, to call someone and ask them how they’re doing. But meetings? Meetings are for me, the best thing of all. I always get answers from my HP in the voices of other recovering alcoholics. Always. From day one to this very day!
I’m telling you, I do not feel old now, two hours later! I mean, that’s nonsense, of course. I’m still old. But my whole attitude is entirely transformed! My oldness is no longer a source of pain or dread or self-loathing. I am restored to a place of acceptance. Gratitude. Connection. Community. I am restored to peace and the real joys sobriety—of growing old while sober.
At the end of the meeting I raised my hand again and thanked everyone for the incredible gift of their shares. I told them I felt the love in the room. This getting sober and living a sober life—in community—is all about love. Tonight I learned that really all that was going on with me earlier was a bout of loneliness which morphed into self-criticism. Chocolate wasn’t the answer. Being a member of my beloved A.A. community is. It is indeed all about love. I am a sober alcoholic who is loving and loved. Thank you, God.
Now I think I’ll have one of my ice cream bars.
What More Could a Person Want
By Rick R.
In my early days of sobriety, I was hearing a lot of words that were unfamiliar to me and I did not pay much attention to them at the time, since I had bigger fish to fry. I had a drinking problem and everything else took a back seat to that. I was overwhelmed by marital, legal and economic problems. Words like love, patience, spirituality and forgiveness were foreign to me and I did not see how they mattered when all I wanted to do was quit drinking. I stayed close to that group, and they started calling me the fortunate one. At the age of 28, I was the youngest one in that group. The rest of members in the group were over 40 and it stayed that way for quite a while as drug problems had not evolved enough at the time (1969) to affect the influx of younger members. I felt like the elders of that group took a special interest in me and that endeared me to them in a special way.
I was always listening for the magic word that would inspire me and give me a purpose in life and one day it happened. Tears come to my eyes when I recall the memory of the gentle voice of an old farmer named Harlan. As he talked about all the trials and tribulations in the past that he had endured, he explained how he had stumbled into A.A. and that all the answers were there, but he did not understand it until he had a goal to reach for. The next words that came out of his mouth changed my life forever. He said, “All I want from life is peace of mind and a quiet heart.” The next thought that came to me was, what more could a person want? To this day, I still quote Harlan and credit him with the inspiration. He passed away in 2007 being sober 51 years.
I have been through the Big Book and the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions many times and have made a slow but very purposeful attempt to rid my mind of all the tormenting memories and regrets of the past, and as I processed each one of them, the more I realize that peace of mind is the natural result 0f living by these principals. Clearing the wreckage of the past and changing those behaviors that caused it, and practicing unselfish behaviors with the help of seasoned veterans like Harlan, I move closer and closer to the promise: “We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace.”
My books are marked and highlighted over the years as I evolved through the Step study meetings or checked out the references to the Big Book in Daily Reflections. Recently I have been focusing on the word peace and underlining it. It is amazing how often it is linked to other words that seem to get more attention. Peace of mind encompasses the spirit of recovery in Alcoholics Anonymous and I will be forever grateful that God saw fit to lead me to this wonderful program. Harlan, rest in peace and thank you for the inspiration.