1 09, 2022

First Things First

By Dede H


My first act of service
is to love myself
so I may love others and you
It may not be the self you know
but I must tell you I have received
Clarity for which I am thankful
and Freedom to be Love
for my True Self which is You

Everyone may enjoy our recovery
as each day offers endless ways
to share our True Selves
with our families and friends and
fellow travelers who love us too
We share a Spiritual Awakening
for we cannot keep it unless we do
for that is what spirit does

It moves and thrives between us
Just as God gives a bird wings
to fly and it must or die
We take our chance for if we don’t
we might also shrink and lie
When we walk into a gathering
in a room or join friends on ZOOM
our happiness and joy is free
Why wouldn’t we give it away?

Spirit moves and heals and thrills
us in an ecstasy we only need
to claim as it is our daily meal
As spiritual beings having a human
to our Higher Power holding us
in its arms when we sit in a chair
or lie in a bed and stare into
our minds eye

1 09, 2022

Being by Doing

By Megan B.

Before sobriety, I was hollow. I had a presentable exterior, a shell; a big kid job, a car, my own apartment, a boyfriend (sometimes), cute clothes, a nice butt. I was proud of the life I had built, proud of how it looked, without realizing it was only a facade. 

I showed up to that job high and hungover every morning and wasted my days mostly pretending to work, reading Buzzfeed listicles and bullshitting with colleagues on Skype. The car was a family hand-me-down, nothing earned. The apartment, a hideaway where I spent hours each evening alone, sunken into the middle cushion of my enormous green corduroy couch, drinking wine and smoking weed out of an apple while I vacantly binged Netflix and wondered when life was going to get good. The attention from men, the clothes, the body: they were all things I prioritized obsessively, driven by a need to measure up. I walked around feeling deeply satisfied with how I imagined my life looked from the outside, but inside I felt mostly shame and fear. 

By the time I hit my bottom, things were getting embarrassing. I’d made a career change, convinced it would fix me. Now I was back on the bottom rung in a job I believed I was above, but somehow I was fucking that up too. The guy who I thought for sure was The One was getting sick of my nonsense, which dashed my ambitions to be married by 30. I spent most nights sequestered in the guest bathroom of the house we shared with a beer and a laptop on the floor, alternately watching episodes of terrible reality TV and myself getting high in the mirror.

Seeing my face like that, looking into my own eyes, I saw how sad I was. And scared. Because by that point I wanted to quit. I’d been trying. I’d tried therapy (and hypnotherapy), yoga, journaling, and my own willpower which was by that point only good for about eight miserable hours of abstinence. I desperately wanted to stop and couldn’t do it. It didn’t make sense. In that desperate state, I found the willingness to try the very last thing on my list, which was this Program.

When I started going to meetings, I didn’t know what to do. You all showed up and you showed me. A woman offered to sponsor me. I was scared of her, so I just did what she told me to do. If she told me to read a thing, I read it. If she told me to meet her somewhere, I showed up and I was on time. Until then, I was late to everything. I was just a late person, unreliable, that was how I thought of myself. I started to see that I could be on time to things. I started to see myself as a person who showed up

In a meeting about a year in I heard someone share, “We build self esteem by doing esteemable acts.” That’s when it clicked for me. How I see myself, how I feel about myself, relies on my actions. By that time I’d found I could show up for things beyond my scary sponsor. I could show up for meeting commitments and coffee with newcomers, and eventually for sponsees. The trust those women placed in me, their vulnerability and gratitude, that felt like something real. It had weight.

I wasn’t hollow anymore. 

Today, I’m made of something, of many small imperfect actions. I still mess up, and I still get caught in my own ego. But each time I show up for this Program, I’m released from agonizing self-obsession for that moment. If I’m in the present with my feet on the ground, looking to see where I can be useful, that’s who I get to be. And that’s a person who, for today, doesn’t need to drink.

1 09, 2022

Temporary Problem, Permanent Solution

By Anonymous

When told How It Works, we are warned that alcohol is “cunning, baffling and powerful.” Often old-timers have suggested that the word “patient” be added to this list of John Barleycorn’s attributes. The history of those who marked the path which all recovering alcoholics trudge, also made it clear that mental issues can persist even after the obsession to consume alcohol has lifted and the desire to drink relieved.

So it is that we learn in the program that sometimes even those who have heard of the suggestions and exhibited a great desire to follow them, have not always been successful in achieving that goal. As such, it has also been the unhappy experience to hear that a life has been lost and that it was taken by one’s own hand, not solely by the ravages of alcohol. 

Not being a psychologist or psychiatrist or even knowing the difference between the two, I am by no means able to opine on the deepness of the medical and psychological conditions that might cause someone to take their own life. My own experience, both in the throes of my alcoholism and even after getting sober, was enough to validate how real the thoughts can be and how vital  it was to not feel alone in those thoughts. For the loneliness I found to be the driver of these feelings for me, the intercession with another human being became in my case the prescription for a cure. Yet despite the interactions we can have with our fellows, a tragic end can still be the unwanted result, where what was in life really only a temporary problem leads to a permanent solution. Such has been my experience and only of this can I speak. 

Whether you have 27 years of sobriety as did my dear friend and conga drum player or are struggling to no longer be a newcomer, as was the recent painful case of a dear member of my home group, the powerful nature of this disease and its patience persists. 

It leaves those behind to wonder, often in anger: Why did this happen? Why was it that what appeared to be a temporary problem would succumb only to the horrible permanent solution? 

I have no answers to these questions. I do not know why this becomes the will of a Higher Power in the life of a person near and dear to so many. The presence of so many mourners at our member’s memorial was a testament to the fellowship in which they were enveloped during life before they decided to end it. The simple answer at which to jump is that by all appearances this tragedy made no sense, it was a waste and otherwise unexplainable. 

When reflecting in meditation over the most recent loss, I took great solace in the observation  shared under similar circumstances decades before by one who then was over two decades sober, although my junior in age. He also knew my dear friend the Conga Drummer. His experience and strength told me that sometimes the spirit just needs to be free. While so sad for those left behind now that the drum beat was forever silenced, the spirit of our conga drumming was now set free. My friend’s advice and his belief, which then became my hope, was that my Conga Drummer’s spirit would now be at peace. 

I have come to learn on too many occasions since that drum beat stopped, that if we persist in the program, we will hear of the passing of another member. That is Life on Life’s Terms.

But the presence of psychological problems an individual may have before succeeding in getting sober, as I have seen and heard, do not always simply resolve because one has achieved sobriety. That the help of professionals outside of the program could be vital for someone attempting to achieve sobriety or for someone newly sober might seem to be self-evident. However, the stark reality, so poignantly brought to light in the painful recent event of loss, is that it is perilous to ignore the fact that the help of such professionals may be called for or absolutely needed even after the plug has been put into the jug. I believe that the loss experienced, under the circumstances where the desperation of life seem to leave only one permanent alternative as the unavoidable conclusion, deserves comment. 

While frank acknowledgement and discussion of the event’s occurrence may not alleviate the pain of the experience, it might serve as a lighthouse for someone caught up in the storm who needs help. That is truly my hope. 

The sad, tragic, unthinkable reality of the event now passed can be a beacon for the next man or woman trudging the road. If this transparency can help save that next traveler in this lifetime who feels they have lost their way and are contemplating this permanent solution to a temporary problem, then the loss will not have been in vain, despite the hurt of the passing.

1 09, 2022

A Journey

By Sandy B

I have always (until recently) fought with the opening of all our meetings and Chapter 5 in the Big Book. What was I fighting with? 

“Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path. Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program, usually men and women who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves.” 

I thought that the words themselves were negative and could turn off newcomers as they came to meetings. 

Recently as I sat in a doctor’s office I started thinking about those words and myself prior to going to my first meeting. Suddenly a light bulb went on. Of course, I had to get honest with myself otherwise A.A. would never have worked for me. That is one day at a time! I had to:

     See It
     Acknowledge It
     Own It
     Before I could seek to change it.

That was December 1, 1981. I did not have the vaguest notion of how to change but I knew I had to do something. So, I ran to A.A. friends that day. They guided me through that day and that night I went to my first A.A. meeting.

WOW! Graduation Day! If A.A. could work for me then I was an alcoholic and not a besotted drunk. I finally:  

     Saw my alcoholism and what I was doing to myself
     Acknowledged the effects of my alcoholism 
     Owned my alcoholism
     I owned it to the core of my being
    I was seeking to change my besotted drinking into sobriety

That night I knew nothing. You did! You taught me that it was a 24-hour Program that I did not have to quit drinking for the rest of my life—just today. You helped me to see that I had a disease and that I was not crazy.

You showed me I had a new family, one that would step up to the plate and help me get sober.

But like all newcomers there was an immediate problem. There is always an immediate problem. Mine was on the wall in Step 2 and Step 3. Back in the day, priests and nuns always taught that we had to adore God and be in His service. But do not go to Him with your problems. He was too busy helping others. Pull yourself up by the bootstraps and solve your own issues.

I was afraid that A.A. could never work for me. Step 2 said: “Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.” Step 3 said: “Made a decision to turn our will and lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.” 

God did not want my problems. Yes, I knew He got me to the meeting but at the door it was as if He said: “there you go kid. Listen, learn, do what they tell you. Good luck!” 

Early on someone suggested that I could make a beginning on my alcoholic problem by surrendering to the group when it came to alcohol. In a flash, you became my Higher Power. 

That was over 40 years ago. My faith in a Higher Power morphed from the group to my God. He has become “Father” and for me this is the most precious gift of this program. It ranks first to the second precious gift. For the last 15 years of her life, my mom knew she had a sober daughter. 

I could feel my spirituality grow under your direction. Now I understood that I was the daughter, and He was the Father. I was safe. However, I could not put it into words. Then I tripped over a book called The Souls of Animals and there it was. 

Spirituality is the awareness of self within a larger universe. A sense that the universe is a big place, and I am a small cog with a job to do. It does not get any better when this is accompanied by a sense of wonder about it all. 

My friends you taught me, held my hand and lifted me up when the going got tough. You are responsible for my sobriety. You showed me how to be accepting and forgiving. You led me in a 40 plus year search for spirituality. I am so grateful to you! All my love. 

My name is Sandy and I am a very grateful alcoholic.

1 09, 2022

The Turning Point

by Christine R

We sure do a lot of turning in this Program. Out of the 46 known instances for “turning” or “turn” in our literature, here are a few you might recognize: “We stood at the turning point.” “A great turning point in our lives came when we sought for humility.” “Turning our will over to a Higher Power.” With this dizzying array of turning going on I decided, in turn, to look up “turning point” in the Cambridge Dictionary which reads: “the time when a situation starts to change in an important, especially positive, way.”

One “important and especially positive way” for turning our lives around comes when we realize we don’t need to wait until Friday, New Year’s or next week to begin that turn. The big journey begins with small steps that include lots of turns along the way. The turning point, so often discussed in our meetings, can be any time—day or night. 

We don’t need to wait until morning. At any second, we can start to turn our lives around. As an alcoholic, the time to stop drinking is “later.” “Tomorrow.” “Next week.” As Mark Twain so aptly put it. “I know how to quit drinking. I’ve done it a thousand times!” 

My first turning point happened at the Cabin—a 7 a.m. meeting in Mill Valley—shivering and sick, sitting on a hard, wooden bench. Across from me a woman announced she had a year of sobriety. A year of sobriety!! What a shock! I could not believe it! After picking my jaw up from the floor, came my tear-filled share, “I cannot imagine being sober for a whole year much less these 3 days.” Through holidays, birthdays, heartaches and triumphs, beyond my comprehension was a full year without drinking. After the meeting, the woman crossed the floor saying, “I’m finishing up my 12th Step. I’m looking for someone to sponsor and you’re it.”

Her demonstration of how it works was a big turning point in my sobriety. A real-life example of someone turning across the floor, with love unconditional, to help bring my life back. A beginning. 

Beginnings and endings are part of the human experience. Between each beginning and ending is the space we call “The Now.” Each precious now is an opportunity to turn and listen to our Higher Self. More often than not, my turning points involve gratitude. Gratitude to be granted a way up and out. Not just “out.” But “Up and Out.” Turning upward to be reminded of the spacious presence of my Higher Power. 

A new day, a new turning point, is here and now. Through the fog of alcohol, I couldn’t see a new day dawning right in front me. Today, as my turning points arise (and they do), I seek a time for pause to ask my Higher Power for “protection and care” to persevere and continue. Even if it’s a short, “God help me!” And do so, “with complete abandon… and let go absolutely.” 

The cabin meetings are located across from the Fernwood Cemetery. Recovery is on one side of the street. Death on the other. Illumined like a lantern in the early dawn, you see the cabin with bright windows, porch and doorways. On the other side, the darkened cemetery. 

It’s the same for us. With alcoholism, you either show up early and turn into the cabin meeting. Or you turn and head for the cemetery. Over the last four months, three members died of this disease. They thought they had “nowhere else to turn.” Their memorials were heard at Fernwood. 

Sometimes the turning points are just that stark. And just that simple. Only the alcoholic is silly enough to sit in the middle of the road and think about it. For us, there is no middle of the road solution. Sit long enough, you’ll get run over anyway. That’s when all the turning stops.

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