Days of sobriety are like pearls on a necklace. One pearl at a time, one day at a time, pearls line up on the strand of life. Each day of sobriety is like a pearl of great price. A great price paid for our sobriety. The car crashes, the sanitariums, the courtrooms, the prisons.

One such gem happened when I was new, desperately trying to get sober. Slipping and sliding over several months, there were no footholds or handholds in this grease pit of despair. Some people call slips “convincers.” Some say SLIP is the anagram for Sobriety Loses Its Priority. No matter what you call it, few things are worse than a belly full of booze and a head full of A.A.

I had a home group. I had a commitment. Those two anchors brought me a third one. A woman who would eventually become my sponsor. Because I went missing and because she had great sobriety, she called me. She called right a time when I was drinking. I cried out, “Kathy, I got this glass of wine in my hand. I can’t put it down.” Kathy answered, “Promise me you won’t hurt yourself and I’ll meet you at the 7 a.m. Cabin Meeting tomorrow morning.” Sure enough. 6:45 a.m. standing in the porchlight was Kathy. Kathy is a Native Alaskan. There she was in her Alaskan outfit of turquoise, fringed black leather, a bright red sweater. So beautiful, wild, and strong. Here I came: sick, white-faced, alone, and frightened. That moment of our meeting under the starlight of morning and the welcoming warmth of an AA meeting is my forever treasure.

Straightaway, she took me to those bad window shades on the wall we call “The 12 Steps.” Surprisingly, Kathy pointed not to Step One but to Step Six. “Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.” Kathy asked, “Are you done now? Are you done yet? Are you entirely ready to have these defects of character removed?”

Those three questions rolled into one brought the realization of what caused me to drink: my defects of character. My arrogance, my resentments, my self-pity, my fears. They say, “alcohol is but a symptom.” By reading Step Six with Kathy came the awareness of the “causes and conditions” for my drinking. I sensed a chance for victory over alcohol so long as I had a sponsor to guide me and the willingness to look deeper into what was really running the show.

Kathy went on to say, “The Steps are user-friendly. They are like a chest of drawers. You can pull out different ones for different occasions.”

Where there is resentment at someone for not keeping their commitment, I can say the 5th Step Prayer, “This is a sick man. How can I be helpful to him? God save me from being angry.” (Sometimes it takes a Supreme Being to save me from being angry). With the 3rd Step Prayer, turning the situation over to my Higher Power, I return to my day and into the sunlight of the Spirit. “Nothing grows much in the dark,” says our literature. Mushrooms and negatives are developed in the dark.

The practice of the Steps suggest we do the opposite of our character defects. Each Step contains a principle, or counterbalance, to those character defects.

Pearls form through the agitation of grains of sand. As a newcomer I arrived agitated, restless, irritable, and discontent. All that agitation, swirling about in the early dawn of my first day of sobriety, were the seedlings for a great necklace; to priceless pearls of sobriety.

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