by John W

Audio by John B

Whining quite a bit after my arrival in A.A.’s rooms, I felt this place was not for me. If those around me would merely heed my sage counsel, acknowledging the font of my wisdom, all would be well. As they did not, the dilemmas they confronted were predictable. My problems grew in frequency and complexity. However, I didn’t believe they were related to drinking. I saw only the penalty received, the reward denied and the justice being thwarted. Ironically, I learned the principle of justice through the steps of the program that saved my life.

After the tsunami began to ebb

In my case, after the tsunami of my bottom began to ebb, with sobriety and a sponsor I tackled the pesky unmanageability part of Step One. I was still raging about how unjust my circumstances had become. My sponsor asked questions about my drinking past. As tales of the escapades seeped out, more had indeed been revealed. 

First, there had been the teenage afternoon at Ocean Beach on The City’s fringe with my high school chums and several cases of beer. One moment I was near the top of a cliff on the beach, the next in the sand twenty feet below. That fall might have easily broken the neck of an accomplished climber, much less the inebriated kid in a blackout. 

Next came the story of the freshly minted college grad in a new (to me at least) Volkswagen Bug, driving home from the restaurant’s swing shift one evening after two too many at the establishment’s bar. I missed the freeway exit in a blackout, swerved into oncoming traffic and a head-on collision. Miraculously, bent metal was my only immediate physical consequence. My drunk’s rationalizations stretched my sponsor’s tolerance. He deftly called me on my BS. 

I tackled the pesky unmanageability part

As he then made exact the true nature of my wrongs, I began to understand justice. I should not have attained the age of twenty. Instead I deserved to be on a cold slab before weeping parents identifying their son, lost in a freak fall on a beautiful summer afternoon. Or the crashed VW Bug a decade later that brought my father to tears upon inspection with his son, the drunk driver. Dad saw repair was not an option given the extent of the damage sustained. What justice was served by my survival—simply my living to tell about it?

I survived calamities to be able to share the experience with the next guy coming in

I do not have the answers to these existential questions. I know only what happened to me. This is a personal story. Its causes and effects, while likely also familiar to others, differ from person to person. Yet those that came before me promised that no matter how far down I had sunk, my experience could benefit others. In that promise I found justice. Here was the reward I had cried for. I survived calamities and the wreckage of my past to be able to share the experience with the next guy coming in the doors. I knew how to help him stay sober through it. 

My wreckage weighed heavily on one side of the scales of justice. By admitting my faults to my fellows and turning them to a useful purpose, I began to tip the scales back towards level. One day at a time, I am justly rewarded by A.A., which gives me the daily reprieve of my life. I live, in return for my willingness and action to help others in sobriety.

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