Various AA Articles

STEP FIVE CHANGED MY LIFE FOREVER
I have been sober in Alcoholics Anonymous for 22 years and step five has changed my life forever. The reason why is that I was never right from an early age. I felt like a square peg in a round hole. It seemed like everyone else had the script to life and I didn’t. I was uncomfortable around people and felt like they were trying to have one over on me. I became a victim blaming people places and things for how I felt. Alcohol made me feel comfortable. It smoothed the edges off. Made me feel like I was a part of again, where things did not bother me. I would not listen or take advice. An extreme version self-will run riot.

In my early twenties I was broken. I was crushed by this self-imposed crisis. I could not go on. I was never cut out for a crazy life even though I had some great times I wished for the end. When I arrived in AA I was beaten. My life was in the balance because I had not realised what I was suffering from.

I found a group that was getting bad press. I bumped into a group of guys that normally would not mix. They had a common purpose. A message they could absolutely all agree on. They carried the message and told me to get into good habits early. When I got my sponsor he asked me if was willing to go to any lengths for victory over alcoholism. I agreed that I was and he gave me a list of daily suggestions to do. I did them like my life depended on it. After he’d taken me through the first 3 steps my sponsor showed me how to take a 4th step inventory. My sponsor shared some of his worst bits, so that I knew what I needed to be included.

It says in the Big Book we would never overcome our drinking if we kept hold of the worst bits. That we needed to clean house and be rid of our deepest darkest secrets.

Once I was finished writing my 4th step inventory, I shared it with my sponsor; things I had never spoken to anyone else about. He told me things would get better from then on in. He was right. It has changed my life. Misery has become optional for me. Even when I get resentments, I can no longer blame anyone else. I’m the problem. I am responsible for how I allow stuff to make me feel.

What a great way to live. Taking responsibility for life and growing up. When I was drinking I never learned much and kept making the same mistakes over and over again.

For anyone who hasn’t worked the steps; don’t miss out! There’s a great life to be had. Since doing the steps I have lived an amazing life which by rights I shouldn’t have had. I should have been dead years ago and it’s all thanks to AA. I was born in Lambeth south London but grew up in Plymouth. I have a wonderful partner, 4 beautiful children, a steady job and a roof over my head. What a life!

I’ve seen AA change the lives of many others too. This is the most “equal opportunities” programme in the world. We don’t care where you come from. It’s what you want to do about it. I have had some dark times in recovery, but working this programme, carrying on regardless; I have come through to the other end and to a better place.

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TRADITION FIVE ALLOWS ME TO STAY SOBER
Tradition five in simple terms states our singleness of purpose. To carry the message which was freely given to us. Each Alcoholics Anonymous group ought to be a spiritual entity having but one primary purpose — that of carrying its message to the alcoholic who still suffers.

The main purpose of an AA group is to share experience, strength and hope to the still suffering alcoholic. In my own personal experience, I am very grateful that I heard the great message of recovery at my first home group meeting. I am convinced I would not have come back if all I heard was a constant share about drinking and not the solution. For that night I didn’t just hear one message there was a unified message by ALL group members. That was the key for me to keep coming back…. the message!
At my Homegroup, meetings are run like a well-oiled machine because the group understands the importance of Tradition 5, when a member shares they share for the alcoholic who still suffers not always solely the newcomer. Whenever I am asked to share, I always remember how I felt walking through the doors the very first time and how anxious, nervous I was and full of fear. When the meeting started I heard some amazing shares the message was loud and clear. So I always think of the nervous newcomer and hopefully try and carry a message of recovery to give them hope that there is a solution to their alcoholism.

Doing service and my home group has been an honour and another example of Tradition 5 in action. I absolutely loved the service position of “greeter”, being the very first point of contact to the newcomer, a big smile and a handshake to help put them at ease. Even if I had a terrible day at work, where all things went wrong, I would simply “suit up and smile” regardless of how I felt. By the end of the service I would feel amazing, because I was thinking of others and not myself. My service position as secretary is a bit like a conductor at an orchestra to ensure-all the elements are running like clockwork. In the preamble we always have a moment’s silence to remember Tradition 5. During the shares from the floor I will promptly ring the bell if discussion of “Problems other than alcoholism” are dwelled on. This is not helpful for the newcomer, they need to hear that “sobriety, freedom from alcohol through the teaching and practice of the twelve steps” is possible.

Tradition 5 allows me to stay sober, I wouldn’t be able to maintain sobriety if I didn’t give it away. How can I continue to work the Steps and the program of AA and NOT pass this amazing message on?
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Me, Myself and AA Comes of Age

At certain points of my recovery I have been directed to certain pieces of AA literature by my sponsor. Not long after going through the Twelve Steps, and after reading Pass it On and Dr Bob and the Good Old Timers, it was suggested I read AA Comes of Age. I found this book to be truly fascinating. My sponsor told me that before I could start taking people through the Twelve Step program myself I need to read this book. At first I thought the book was a bit of a tough read but I persevered and once I fell into the flow of what was happening I couldn’t put the book down.

The book focuses on the St Louis convention which was held in 1955. It delves right into the history of AA and explains in great detail how the current service structure of Alcoholics Anonymous came to be implemented. It also explains why the St Louis convention was such a pivotal moment in AA’s history as it's when Bill and Bob handed over the overall running of AA’s affairs to the individual groups of AA and how the structure would work from top to bottom.

It is vitally important for all fully "paid-up" members of Alcoholics Anonymous to know this history as it gives an insight into AA’s working service structure which would not be possible from just reading the service manuals alone. Hand-in-hand with the service manuals it makes the sometimes complicated service structure in AA easier to understand. The book also goes into the history of how the Twelve Traditions came into practise and gives the often humorous stories of the early AA members’ mishaps that bring each Tradition to life in a way that just reading the Traditions in the ‘Twelve and Twelve’ never could. This book provided me with a firm structure on which I was able to start to understand how the service structure outside of the home group works within AA and why the Traditions are vitally important to the survival of each group just as the Steps are to the individual.

Towards the end of the book we have three different outlooks on AA from the medical fraternity, the religious fraternity and a former chairman of the General Service Board and former Trustee. I found all of these sections of the book extremely helpful and very fascinating. The medical view particularly because of Dr Harry M. Tiebout’s contribution on how ego reduction is pivotal to an alcoholic’s continual sobriety. The way Dr Tiebout explains the initial surrender of an alcoholic and also the ability to keep the ego deflated over the long term, for me, was truly eye opening stuff and gave me a sound perspective on what sponsorship is mainly about. Like Dr Tiebout says himself: “Its capacity for rebirth (the ego) is utterly astounding and must never be forgotten” and this is something I, myself, must constantly remember and as my sponsor will surely remind me, is something I often forget.

Within the chapter ‘Religion Looks at AA’ I found Rev Samuel Shoemaker’s insights into spiritual awakenings very interesting and gave me a firm understanding into what happened with my own spiritual awakening and what happened with my fellows in AA when they spoke of their own experiences. I also found Rev Shoemaker’s viewpoints on the Steps, particularly Step Two, to be fundamental with my own experiences and with others. I also find this chapter extremely inspiring and often revisit it to remind myself what my recovery is personally about when I sometimes feel frustrated with life.

The final chapter is based upon talks made by Mr Bernard B. Smith at the first six General Service Conferences. Mr Smith was a trustee and chairman of the General Service Board 1951-1956 and I find his insights on fellowship and happiness most inspiring. I also find his insights on conference very easy to follow and he explains why it is as important to us all as members of AA to have and participate with conference. Mr Smith also summed up alcoholism for me, in one sentence, better than I had ever heard before with this: “alcohol simply served as an escape from personal enslavement to the false ideals of a materialistic society.”

So, hopefully, from this review you will see that AA Comes of Age isn’t just a boring history book that a sponsor is getting you to read, but a book alive with wisdom, encouragement and knowledge that, like the Big Book, is put in a way that speaks to the alcoholic on a level that other books just cannot do. It is a book, again along with the Big Book, that I continually revisit and always find a new and exciting way to perceive the miraculous fellowship that is Alcoholics Anonymous.

August 2014

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Dr Bob and the Good Oldtimers

This AA history book is the official biography of one of AAs co-founders, Dr Bob, and the rise of AA in Midwest America. It was published in 1980 and covers Dr Bobs life from growing up in Vermont in the 1880s to his death in November 1950.

I was introduced to this book by my sponsor and my curiosity really. Having worked through the Twelve Steps of AA and recovered from a seemingly hopeless condition of mind and body, I was enthusiastic to learn more about this fellowship that had changed my life in such a short period of time. The first book I read, other than the Big Book and the Twelve and Twelve, was AA comes of Age. This gave me an overview of the history of AA and how various aspects of the AA Traditions came about so that I could be more informed about AA, as I was shortly able to start sponsoring newcomers. The next book I picked up was Dr Bob and the Good Oldtimers.

The first thing I do with books is have a flick through and see if there’s any photos or pictures – and I wasn’t disappointed! As well as the history which is described by people who were there, there’s also amazing pictures of the early names and places involved in AA. They are all there: Dr Bob and his wife Anne at various stages in their lives, Henrietta Seiberling (who first introduced the co-founders to each other), The Williamses who allowed their house to be used for meetings by ‘the alcoholic squad’, St Thomas’ Hospital where Dr Bob and Sister Ignatia worked on many suffering alcoholics, Kings School in Akron where Dr Bobs home group met, and my favourite – Dr Bob and Bill W sat side-by-side.

The book uses accounts and descriptions of what happened, told by people who were there witnessing it first-hand. It charts Dr Bob’s life from school to medical college to his working life, all of which were blighted by his alcoholism. It then goes on to describe how he came to meet Bill Wilson and his and others’ involvement and subsequent departure from the Oxford Group. Working with newcomers is discussed as are the many growing pains and lessons learned by the young fellowship of AA, all of which have moulded the AA that we know and love today – and more importantly for me the AA that saved my life. The book ends by describing the last year or so of Dr Bob’s life, as failing health eventually lead to his death on 16 November 1950, and a sombre picture of Bill Wilson paying respects at his friend’s grave.

I’ve read this book many times over the years and I think with each reading I come to admire, respect and appreciate the people and chain of events that occurred. Using a word taken from the Big Book – I ‘urge’ you to read this book as it will enrich your understanding and appreciation of AA and the sober life that we are now able to enjoy.
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Literature and Service

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” – Winston Churchill

Churchill’s quote presumably referred to weighty matters of war and peace. However we in AA are also on “a life and death errand”, as Bill W’ call’s it. But with all the original old-timers - who made those original mistakes and had that original experience - dead and gone, how are we - the present and future generations of Alcoholics Anonymous - able to tap into that past experience and avoid the condemnation of repeated mistakes? Well the answer is obvious: the AA Literature.

We don’t have to re-design the wheel to recover from alcoholism in AA – just implement, and then continue to use, the actions in the Big Book. And in the area of Service much of what we need to do has already been done somewhere by somebody else. Their experience has been collected and written down in pamphlets like The AA Group, Twelve Traditions Illustrated, AA Service Handbook for GB, Speaking at Non-AA Meetings, etc.

While Bill and Bob saw AA go from a handful of alcoholics helping each other, to 40 to 80, to 1000, to 100,000 members, they realised that new principles and structures needed to be forged, and that these needed to be fortified by the experience of the Fellowship’s past trial-and-error. And this structure and fortification is what is found in our service literature. In AA we don’t have any special “service officer” members. All service in AA is done voluntarily by ordinary members. I know that I cannot sit back and let everyone else do the rowing – I need to help out doing tea, treasurer, secretary, GSR, Intergroup PI Officer, etc.

However this is only one part of my responsibility. My responsibility in total is to do the job and to do the job as well as I can. That doesn’t mean being perfect – humans make mistakes and learn from their mistakes. But am I being responsible if I become group secretary or treasurer without reading the pamphlet The AA Group, or if I get involved in PI Talks without reading “Speaking at Non-AA Meetings”, or become a member of intergroup without reading the guideline on Intergroups? If I do that then I’m really just throwing up my hands and saying “O somebody will show me what to do!” I am nowhere near doing the job as well as I can.

Bill W. bust a gut getting the Traditions accepted by the Fellowship. He fell out with a significant part of AA’s executive committee in trying to get the principles of the 12 Concepts accepted. Some of you reading this are maybe thinking “What are the 12 Concepts”, what’s the “executive committee”? You may be thinking that it’s okay to let someone else worry about these. But Bill was convinced of the usefulness of the 12 Concepts (evolved through trial-and-error and failure) at all levels of service - there is a Group Concepts Checklist available! And the way to learn about these is: read the service literature.

There is a large amount of AA service literature and the way I’ve done it over time is to read a bit every day. Based on the experience of my sponsor, here’s one way to order my reading over time:

1. The Big Book
2. Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions
3. Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age
4. The AA Group and The Traditions Illustrated before becoming a group secretary
5. The UK AA Service Manual before going to Intergroup
6. The US AA Service Manual once nominated for a position at Intergroup
7. All the other AA Conference-approved books

Once I’d read all these, I continued to read a page of the UK AA Service Manual every day until I rotated out of service. It’s amazing how much you can get through with that small commitment of reading each day. I became of far more use to the Fellowship, and therefore to the still-suffering alcoholic. I also found, once I started, that I developed a deep fascination for the structure and service principles of AA – something it’s clear Bill had as well. I began to enjoy my service reading, and to start to see how I could apply the knowledge of the past to the problems of the present and future.

Another reason that reading the literature is so important is that as soon as AA had more than 100 members it needed to develop a structure. If I am going to participate in service I need to understand how that structure works, and not waste the time (a precious voluntary commodity) of other people involved having to deal with my lack of knowledge and easily-avoidable mistakes.

And, looking at the simplest level of the structure: my home group has the meetings I want to go to and the people I feel comfortable with – it is attractive to me, and keeps long term sobriety and recovery attractive for me. A group where people are reading the literature is protected from the mistakes of groups that have died in the past. So I will always lobby for the service officers in my home group to be reading their service literature “to the end that our great blessings may never spoil us”.

“When experience is not retained…infancy is perpetual”. – George Santayana
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The Concepts made Simple: Concept 1

Concept 1: “The final responsibility and the ultimate authority for AA world services should always reside in the collective conscience of the Fellowship.”

Bosses in AA

There are bosses in AA. These bosses are you and me, that’s what Concept 1 says. The whole membership is, collectively, the one and only ultimate authority in AA. There are lots of examples of non-ultimate authority in AA, for example a Telephone Liaison Officer who has been given authority by the Intergroup group to run the Telephone Line, or the group Secretary who has been given authority to ensure the smooth running of the meeting. All of these authorities are allowed in AA within carefully defined scopes. There is no one person or committee in AA who has ultimate authority. Only the Fellowship as a whole can have that.

Collectively, the AA members can do anything they want to AA, because they have ultimate authority. They can re-write the Big Book, scrap the 12 Steps, change the service structure and the Traditions, fire the whole of GSO, or even give AA a new name! In all likelihood most of this would not happen, thanks to the power of the AA Tradition, our tried and tested service-structure, and the grace of God as we understand him.

This Ultimate authority is most simply represented through the fact that the way the service structure is run (e.g. publication of AA literature, GSO, Telephone Service, PICPC, Intergroup, Region, etc) is all funded by donations that individual members make to their meeting pot. If, as a whole, members become dissatisfied with how things are being done by Region, Conference, GSO or GSB, they can simply withhold donations, and then these service bodies would be forced to do what the groups said, or collapse from lack of funds. This is the ultimate insurer of democracy.

A slightly less extreme approach is through the democratic links of the AA structure. AA members come together in groups, and the groups (and therefore most AA members) are represented by GSRs. If AA members want to change anything or stop something happening in AA then the GSRs have the power to vote en masse and change everything simply by voting.

It is interesting to consider how this compares to a normal organisation. In the average large business or charity the ultimate authority resides with the Board of Directors. Certainly not with the employees. The Board can fire anybody and can set company policy and strategy no matter what anyone says (within the law of the land). And talking about the law of the land, in an average country ultimate authority lies with the government, not with the population. To understand this, consider that, once they have been voted in, the government are empowered to set taxes and laws and imprison people who do not obey them. They can even use the army against the population in times of civil unrest.

None of this is meant to be a comment on the use of ultimate authority outside of AA. Each organisation has different needs, and I’m sure Bill W would never have claimed that AA definitely had it right and that others were wrong. However this is meant to show the contrast and significance of how in AA ultimate authority lies with the membership as a whole.

Responsibility

Essentially, authority over something is power over something. So ultimate authority over AA, gives us ultimate power over AA. “With great power comes great responsibility.” This is the second point of Concept 1. Not only do we have ultimate authority, but also final responsibility. If AA all goes wrong then it is no-one’s fault but our own, collectively. It is not the GSB’s, or GSO’s or Conference’s or Region’s or Intergroup’s fault, it is our fault as a Fellowship collectively. The GSB performs prodigies of custodial service for AA as a whole, however they do not have final responsibility.

Comparing this to situations outside of AA again is informative. In an average company, if a worker thinks that their boss or the company directors have made a bad strategic decision, their usual reaction would be to complain to their fellow workers about the “incompetence” of their superiors. They may fatalistically say something like “this company is going to the dogs”. To be fair, one of the reasons this happens is because the employees often do not have the authority to advise on such matters.

Similarly when it comes to the government of a country. People may complain fatalistically about “those damn politicians” and so forth. The government is seen as having final responsibility for any number of ills and bad decisions. Some look on themselves as being powerless over it, and that elections as not really providing a choice: “it’s just one bad lot versus another!” One of the reasons for this is that the government has so much authority. (The purpose of this description is not to comment on that situation. It is merely to say that in AA the situation is different.)

In AA, the membership as a whole has ultimate authority, and therefore the membership can act on its final responsibility. There is no committee or government in AA which can “defend” itself against the will of AA membership. But the AA membership needs to work to fulfil its final responsibility. Our leaders are trusted servants. However each AA member must be vigilant that the Fellowship service structure continues to grow and follow the time tested principles, that the Steps and Traditions survive, that Conference and the GSB never become too powerful over the groups, that the principles of democracy are followed, and that the long-term good of the still-suffering alcoholic is put first.

This responsibility will often mean joining service committees where debate is required, speaking up when others are nervous to, studying the AA service structure literature, explaining to those who see it all as “unnecessary politics” that is this politics which ensure the survival of AA in its current form, for the still-suffering alcoholic who has not yet reached us. I cannot remain protected in my group doing only 12 step work, and let others do the Intergroup, Region and Conference work. I must become part of the final responsibility and be part of the ultimate authority which is the surest protection for AA against dissolution. I must speak out where I believe the principles of AA are not being practised in its service structure.

On the more positive side of this responsibility – taking such responsibility leads to great personal growth. It leads to an appreciation of the beauty of the AA service structure, and how the legacy of Service fits in with the legacies of Unity and Recovery. It is an opportunity to become more deeply part of a spiritual organisation whose primary purpose is to help others in immense suffering, like ourselves. Such service stimulates the intellect, the heart and the spirit. We humans act most powerfully in groups, as is shown by the idea of the AA group itself. However AA as a whole is also a group, and can act as a group through the service structure described in the 12 Concepts. To feel like a contributing part of this country-wide, and world-wide, group is a great thing indeed.

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Gossip

‘The unity of Alcoholics Anonymous is the most cherished quality our society has.’ Bill W. – Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions
I know this, but how often do I fall short of putting our common welfare before my own petty rivalries and jealousies?

The sick alcoholic in me loves to fault find and gossip. Of course I do. When my attention is focused on you, I can avoid looking at me. While I busy winging and moaning about another person’s behaviour, I’m not on my knees asking for my defects to be removed and I’m not occupied with trying to pass the AA message on to a newcomer. The consequence of this is that my own spiritual health suffers. All of a sudden, it’s my behaviour that’s off key and I become the focus of the gossip. As my sponsor once said to me ‘you can tell more about the accuser than the accused.’ I know that to be true. When I’m not dealing with resentment and fear in my life, you lot are all at fault. I can bore my sponsor to death with all my gripes about what he’s done now and what she’s said.

Once I’m rid of these things I start to become more tolerant and understanding. Comments from others are water off a duck's back and peoples actions aren’t deliberately intended to get at me. In fact, I’m not that bothered what everyone else is up to, because I’m too busy enjoying my own life!

The other problem with gossip is that when I do it in peoples absence, it’s a sure bet I will be talking about you when you're not around. Any form of scandalous gossip is a major contributor to disunity and flies in the face of tradition one. Listening to it is just as dangerous to my spiritual health

Without a doubt, issues and concerns need to be dealt with. However, I can deal with them in a much more effective and adult manner when I have taken care of my resentments and asked God for guidance.

Some members can’t help but nearly burst with enthusiasm about A.A. I may be tempted to ridicule them, but does it really matter. They have found God and they are happy. Exactly what the Steps promise us. What’s more, they are sharing a message of hope and encouragement that the newcomer just can’t ignore.

We do talk about each other a great deal, but we almost invariable temper such talk by a spirit of love and tolerance. If I can do that, then I am doing my tiny part to help A.A. maintain the spirit of tradition one.

‘Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends on A.A. unity’.
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Step Two

''Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity"

This Step is probably my favourite topic to share on now, but when I was new in Alcoholics Anonymous I was completely baffled by the meaning of it. Thankfully the meeting I arrived in kept it simple for me. They talked and I identified with the fact that the alcoholic, at certain times, has no effective mental defense against the first drink. And that, however much I knew myself to be an alcoholic, however desperate the nesscessity or the wish not to drink, my own willpower alone would always give way. The insane idea - to have a drink - always won out. This is the insanity this Step is descibing.

Here is an example out of my own experience, which I share at my homegroup.

With my position at work precarious and home in jeopardy I was determined to stop drinking, this time once and for good. I was more serious and determined than ever before. I had emptied the house of alcohol. It was a Sunday morning and I had arranged to have Sunday dinner with my sister, her husband and their children, just as i had done many times before - except today I was not going to drink. I had no intention to drink at all. I left my home feeling edgy, anxious and uncomfortable. I had not had a drink before leaving for a while. When I parked up I can remember feeling relieved and strangely proud that I had arrived without stopping off on the way, and I was looking forward to a nice roast dinner. Then entering their home I was greeted and my uneasiness immediatley grew stronger. I felt somehow different and not 'a part of.'

We sat in small conversation drinking tea and I was consciously portraying that I was fine, but inside I was as uncomfortable as I had ever been before. I was so uncomfortable that I started to shake, and so put down the tea and went to the bathroom. I remember thinking: "just how are they doing this? Drinking tea and making conversation?" And I remember the thought of leaving. Suddenly another thought came to me, that there was alcohol in the kitchen and I could ask for a drink. This would settle me down. It was either that or leave, and leaving would be rude wouldn't it? I'd just have enough to settle me and that's it. That wouldn't be so wrong, would it? I emerged from the bathroom and asked for a drink. And another, and another, and truth be told: I never felt 'settled'. I couldn't wait to leave and I did so as soon as I felt it was okay to. I stopped for more alcohol on the way home. This, I was to find out later, is another alcoholic trait: that once I take a drink I cannot control or moderate my drinking. And that each time I took just one drink it always led to a drunk. And drunk again I was.

I was baffled,confused and afraid. I had not set out to get drunk, in fact quite the opposite, I had no intention of getting drunk or of even taking a single drink. Yet I was drunk. The insane idea had won out again.

Hearing similar shares and identifing with these new friends I had just met, I could accept that where alcohol was concerned I was strangly insane. I had never heard it put that way before. These guys impressed me, they knew their stuff alright. So understanding the sanity part "what about this Power greater than myself stuff?" I was so fearful that this is where I would fall short. This was my Achilles Heel.Could I recover? Could I experience life in a new way like these new friends? Again thankfully they kept it simple for me. They - like me - had found that their own strength of determination and willpower always failed them. They had found that a Power greater than themselves was therefore required. A "Higher Power", which some choose to call God.

As Bill W. writes: "They flatly declare that since they have come to believe in a Power greater than themselves, to take a certain attitude toward that Power, and to do certain simple things, there has been a revolutionary change in their way of living and thinking." I thought: "But what higher power? What God?" Thankfully I was told that just a willingness to believe that there is a Power greater than myself would be enough to make a beginning. That my own conception, however inadequate would be sufficient to make the approach to Him. Could I admit that I was not the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end of all? Rightly I could see that I was not the beginning and the end so was willing to lay aside my previous prejudices, ideas and thinking and began to search for a conception that felt comfortable to me, with the assurance that I was on my way.

I was directed towards the basic text of Alcoholics Anonymous by my sponsor and particularly to the chapter We Agnostics. I began to pray to a God that I didn't fully comprehend, asking for a sober day and to be of maximum use to Him and my fellow man. I also began to write a gratitude list and work with others. All these and further actions were designed to take away my self-centredness and to change my perception of myself and the world around me. They had an immediate effect and I could quickly see that there was a place for me in this world and that I could live a comfortably sober life just like my new found friends.

Having continued through the 12 steps the result has been that I have had a spiritual awakening, my faith growing with each Step as it was taken. My personal journey of discovery and growth from darkness into light has strengthened my faith over a period of time. I have come to believe in a Power greater than myself and that that Power has restored me to sanity. I identify with Bill W. when we writes "what seemed at first a flimsy reed has proved to be the loving hand of God." These days I can, and do, openly talk of God. But I can also understand that some newcomers will be just as baffled by this issue as I once was, so I try to give them the same opportunity that was afforded me. Someone once told me "do not let any prejudice you may have against spiritual terms deter you from honestly asking yourself what they mean to you." Which I later found out was straight from the Big Book. Thank God I listened.

''Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity"

This Step is probably my favourite topic to share on now, but when I was new in Alcoholics Anonymous I was completely baffled by the meaning of it. Thankfully the meeting I arrived in kept it simple for me. They talked and I identified with the fact that the alcoholic, at certain times, has no effective mental defense against the first drink. And that, however much I knew myself to be an alcoholic, however desperate the nesscessity or the wish not to drink, my own willpower alone would always give way. The insane idea - to have a drink - always won out. This is the insanity this Step is descibing.

Here is an example out of my own experience, which I share at my homegroup.

With my position at work precarious and home in jeopardy I was determined to stop drinking, this time once and for good. I was more serious and determined than ever before. I had emptied the house of alcohol. It was a Sunday morning and I had arranged to have Sunday dinner with my sister, her husband and their children, just as i had done many times before - except today I was not going to drink. I had no intention to drink at all. I left my home feeling edgy, anxious and uncomfortable. I had not had a drink before leaving for a while. When I parked up I can remember feeling relieved and strangely proud that I had arrived without stopping off on the way, and I was looking forward to a nice roast dinner. Then entering their home I was greeted and my uneasiness immediatley grew stronger. I felt somehow different and not 'a part of.'

We sat in small conversation drinking tea and I was consciously portraying that I was fine, but inside I was as uncomfortable as I had ever been before. I was so uncomfortable that I started to shake, and so put down the tea and went to the bathroom. I remember thinking: "just how are they doing this? Drinking tea and making conversation?" And I remember the thought of leaving. Suddenly another thought came to me, that there was alcohol in the kitchen and I could ask for a drink. This would settle me down. It was either that or leave, and leaving would be rude wouldn't it? I'd just have enough to settle me and that's it. That wouldn't be so wrong, would it? I emerged from the bathroom and asked for a drink. And another, and another, and truth be told: I never felt 'settled'. I couldn't wait to leave and I did so as soon as I felt it was okay to. I stopped for more alcohol on the way home. This, I was to find out later, is another alcoholic trait: that once I take a drink I cannot control or moderate my drinking. And that each time I took just one drink it always led to a drunk. And drunk again I was.

I was baffled,confused and afraid. I had not set out to get drunk, in fact quite the opposite, I had no intention of getting drunk or of even taking a single drink. Yet I was drunk. The insane idea had won out again.

Hearing similar shares and identifing with these new friends I had just met, I could accept that where alcohol was concerned I was strangly insane. I had never heard it put that way before. These guys impressed me, they knew their stuff alright. So understanding the sanity part "what about this Power greater than myself stuff?" I was so fearful that this is where I would fall short. This was my Achilles Heel.Could I recover? Could I experience life in a new way like these new friends? Again thankfully they kept it simple for me. They - like me - had found that their own strength of determination and willpower always failed them. They had found that a Power greater than themselves was therefore required. A "Higher Power", which some choose to call God.

As Bill W. writes: "They flatly declare that since they have come to believe in a Power greater than themselves, to take a certain attitude toward that Power, and to do certain simple things, there has been a revolutionary change in their way of living and thinking." I thought: "But what higher power? What God?" Thankfully I was told that just a willingness to believe that there is a Power greater than myself would be enough to make a beginning. That my own conception, however inadequate would be sufficient to make the approach to Him. Could I admit that I was not the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end of all? Rightly I could see that I was not the beginning and the end so was willing to lay aside my previous prejudices, ideas and thinking and began to search for a conception that felt comfortable to me, with the assurance that I was on my way.

I was directed towards the basic text of Alcoholics Anonymous by my sponsor and particulary to the chapter We Agnostics. I began to pray to a God that I didn't fully comprehend, asking for a sober day and to be of maximum use to Him and my fellow man. I also began to write a gratitude list and work with others. All these and further actions were designed to take away my self-centredness and to change my perception of myself and the world around me. They had an immediate effect and I could quickly see that there was a place for me in this world and that I could live a comfortablly sober life just like my new found friends.

Having continued through the 12 steps the result has been that I have had a spiritual awakening, my faith growing with each Step as it was taken. My personal journey of discovery and growth from darkness into light has stengthened my faith over a period of time. I have come to believe in a Power greater than myself and that that Power has restored me to sanity. I identify with Bill W. when we writes "what seemed at first a flimsy reed has proved to be the loving hand of God." These days I can, and do, openly talk of God. But I can also understand that some newcomers will be just as baffled by this issue as I once was, so I try to give them the same opportunity that was afforded me. Someone once told me "do not let any prejudice you may have against spiritual terms deter you from honestly asking yourself what they mean to you." Which I later found out was straight from the Big Book. Thank God I listened.
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Experience

Experience is the mother of knowledge.

If I experience something then, hopefully, I have some knowledge of that thing. If I experience it again then I gain a little more knowledge and so on.

In my days before AA I had much experience of, well, pretty much everything. You name it I had done it, met them, slept with them, taken them, drank as much as possible of them and so on.

On arriving at Alcoholics Anonymous it was a real slap round the head. The reason for said slap was I was suddenly in a place where I knew nothing about what was happening. I was a “newcomer” and I resented that fact. I had no experience of the 12 steps or AA groups or suggestions therefore I had no knowledge to offer on the subjects. I was also, unknown to me, in a room with people like myself who had seen me coming so they knew the tricks of my trade (blagging, lying, different character on a different day and so forth) so in the rooms at first I felt uncomfortable.

Sit down, shut up and listen was what I heard. My ego was in complete turmoil. My head spinning and every part of me wanted out of this place.

Luckily I stayed in the meetings and although I did not know it in doing so I began listening to some of the experience of others. I took the advice of that experience on my first night and am now over 5 years sober. So it seems to me listening to experience works. The same as when I trained to be an electrician, at first I knew nothing, I would reluctantly turn up at work, not wanting to be there, not paying much attention yet by some miracle I picked up what the experienced guys why trying to teach me. Knowledge was passed on and some gained.
So today I am over five years sober you know!!! Do I still need someone else’s experience? Or am I now an expert on spiritual living and the Alcoholics Anonymous way?

Yes I do and no I am not.

It is true that I now have 5 years’ experience of living sober, experience of working the steps with a sponsor, of following a daily plan, of service in various positions, of being a member of a home group. So I have something useful to offer the new man when they walk in, something from the experiences above. Yet I am not done, as I am still an alcoholic. All be it an alcoholic on the road to recovery. Still I have an alcoholic mind which often wants to run the whole show, to not listen to the experience of others who have walked before me. That will disregard others’ opinions for my own seemingly right ones, while chuckling how wrong they are. Or just a mind that is afraid to take on new ideas and let go of old, to listen to someone else and be humble enough to know that where they speak from is a place of experience and why they speak up is to share that experience in the hope that it is useful. So if I do listen and take on board the experience I may save myself some time by learning something quicker. Or save myself some pain somewhere I don’t foresee.

So the passing of knowledge through experience is one of the most useful tools in the box. Be it from a sponsor or a long-term member or leader of a home group. It can come from the new man straight in the door, from the person with something to say in a group conscience or even from me, experience is everywhere. If people are willing to share their experience and give their time then that really is a wonderful thing. Even if I don’t know why, my new experience is to not discount anyone’s experience until I have sat with it for a while. Not always to understand it, just to see if it fits with the principles I continue to learn.

To learn and start to understand this, has taken all my sober years.
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Gratitude for Alcoholics Anonymous

I regularly experience great waves of gratitude these days for the new life I have been freely given by Alcoholics Anonymous. I am so grateful that I can deal with difficult, uncomfortable or painful situations with dignity and wisdom, whereas before, I would have been completely unable to cope and would take a drink to calm me down. This inevitably led to many more drinks as I sought oblivion to avoid having to take any responsibility for anything!

This uncontrolled drinking lasted for 30 years and it is a miracle that I managed to work and produce 3 children who were not taken into care or physically damaged by my irresponsible behaviour. I cannot put my hand on my heart and say that they have not been damaged emotionally because I am sure they have, and thank God

I can be there for them now and give them the love and support I was unable to provide when I was drinking. My amends to them and the rest of my family will last for the rest of my life.

I am so grateful that when I crawled into an AA meeting just over 5 years ago, I was desperate for a solution to the utter despair and self hatred I felt as a result of my drinking. And thank God I heard a clear message of recovery in that group. I was told without reservation that I need never feel the way I did again, providing I was willing to do some simple suggestions, be honest and accountable to one other person and take the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous fearlessly and thoroughly.

As a result of my desperation, the strong, clear message I heard at my first meeting and the willingness to do this to the best of my ability, I have been given a way of life and a peace and contentment that I never knew existed. By working through the 12 Steps, I have experienced a ‘Spiritual Awakening’ or a change of thought and attitude that is so complete that I am now able to live a productive, normal life that gives me pleasure!! Life was never enjoyable when I was drinking; it was a chore that had to be endured until I died. How dare I not be grateful for being given a new chance at this blessed life.

I do not think about alcohol and it is not an issue in my life. I have been placed in a safe position of neutrality, and providing I continue to put AA first and practice the principles of AA in all my affairs I know that I can continue to experience the happiness, contentment and peace of mind that I feel today.

The promises contained in the Big Book have become facts for me and I feel as though my life started when I came into AA. The gratitude I feel as I write this is overwhelming and I pray that I never start to take these blessings for granted or think that they have come to me through my own doing. Everything I am and everything

I have is because of Alcoholics Anonymous, and for that I am eternally grateful.

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We are not Boring and Glum

When I came into AA at the age of 26 I seriously felt my life was over. I accepted that I could never take a drink again. To drink meant a prolonged and painful suicide, along with the damage I would continue to inflict on anyone that was part of my life. For me not to drink meant a boring, meaningless existence full of misery. Little did I know that with AA and the 12 steps my misery was optional. I always associated drinking with enjoying myself, even though the last five years of my drinking did not hold any enjoyment. I was too young to be abstinent from alcohol. It wasn’t fair. I had some good times in my early years of drinking before my illness had progressed to the point of utter despair. I knew I had to remain sober, I was also convinced it would be hard work and the end of me having any sort of fun in my life. How wrong I was!

The thing is, when I came to AA I was still in the strange world of alcoholism. I still had that head full of negative thinking. The head that would eventually lead me to pick up the deadly first drink. I remember hearing people share at meetings: We are not a boring and glum lot. We have fun in recovery. If I were to get a sponsor and work though the 12 steps I would not only have a daily reprieve from alcohol, I would find a way of living a free and happy life. I considered this, it sounded very appealing. I was sure these men and women were telling the truth, I could see it by the way they acted. Those that put in the actions seemed happy and purposeful most of the time, always comfortably sober and at ease with themselves. To be honest, in my alcoholic state of mind, body and soul at the time, I was scared to death of these healthy people that were trying to help me. Ultimately I wanted to be like them. So after some internal tug of war and my final drink, I resolved to give the suggested program a shot. What could I lose? ......

The answer is nothing. I didn’t lose, I gained a life that two years previously I didn’t think possible. I completed the 12 steps, despite all my doubts. I am now comfortably sober, even happy most of the time. I try to be of use to others and practice the simple principles of AA in all my life. I will never be perfect in my practice of the program but I always keep trying to be the best I can, which is a lot better than how I lived before. My worst fear about taking up the 12-step program was that my life would be boring and monotonous, with no sense of excitement or fun. I found that my fears were completely unwarranted. In my short two years of recovery I have had more excitement and fun than ever. I now do the things I always wanted to, but never could. I am doing well at college on a course I love. I am a member of Theatre Company and perform on stage on a regular basis. I play football every week. I still go out clubbing with my friends and have a dance. I am engaged to a wonderful girl. My life is busy, exciting and full. It is all thanks to AA, my home group, my sponsor and the principles of the 12 steps. As an old timer in my group says, “My life is all on higher purchase from AA”. I owe my life and happiness to AA and must continue to put what I have found in the rooms first and I continue to do the work and practice the principles...............trust me it is never boring or glum.
From Dan Mc

Solution to the Problem

“Is he not a victim of the delusion that he can wrest satisfaction and happiness out of this world if he only manages well?“

Says it all, doesn’t it? Well I can honestly say that’s my experience. The story of my life. I have to succeed, be somebody. What will people think of me if I’m a nobody? I have to be as good as him. No, I have to be better than him.

I remember finding school difficult, I was not the most academic kid in the class. My preference was to disrupt the lesson rather than contribute to it. Confidence was not my strong point so I would put on a front. I was a disrupter, it was my way of being somebody I suppose. I had a lot of friends, good and bad, but I just never seemed to able to connect them fully. I was different, the special one, or so I thought. Something isn’t quite right with me. Even at a young age I was restless. It seemed like people were out to get me. Everyone around me seemed to be better off than I was. It became more and more difficult to keep up. Difficult to fake it.

Until that day I found BOOZE! Now were talking, I’m only half way through my second drink, I can feel that confidence, that charisma and glow taking effect. I’m who I want to be now. You lot don’t seem to bother me anymore. Fantastic, I had found the answer to all my problems at last. Till the next morning came and I struggled to remember what I had did the night before. Fear was on me again. I’m going to take it easy next time I go out, just have a couple then leave it, I promise. I drank for 20 years and that was a common phrase I always repeated. Even after the break-ups with my girlfriends, the lost jobs, the prisons, fights and stabbings, drink driving accidents (in which my brother suffered servere head injuries). Oh yeah, and the devastation I caused to the rest of my family. The complete trial of wreckage I left behind me and still, I had to drink.

Why? Only an insane person would drink if that’s what it did to them. Exactly I was totally insane around alcohol. I had lost the power of choice. Alcohol was my master. My thinking was always the same, I'll control it this time. Not going to do that again, no way. Trouble was being sober was worse. I got to the stage where I couldn’t look the world and its people in the eye. My self worth was on the floor, I was full of fear and anxiety almost every day. Lonely, no self respect. I felt finished. I was finished. Pride kept me from asking for help, so I drank some more. Until one day I just couldn’t take it anymore. My pride and ego had been crushed. Within a couple of weeks of that day I found myself in the west country in a treatment centre. My treatment plan was to complete six months of therapy. I completed 5 months and was allowed to leave early on good behaviour so to speak. All well and good , but I still had the same old problems, fear, anxieties, inferiorities. The very things I drank on, they had not been removed.

Luckily for me I turned up in AA in April 2006, a week before leaving the treatment centre and found a whole bunch of people who had felt like I did. It was there that I found out what the real problem was. All my life I was a self-seeker, running on my own will, had to succeed had to be the one, ruining peoples' lives to try and get there. Drinking helped me at times to get over all the disappointments and failures. I couldn’t handle failure. The other problem was my alcohol control. There was no control once I had that first drink. Then when I had promised not to drink ever again because of some tragic consequence, I did. That strange mental twist in my thinking. This time will be ok. Alcoholism. Cunning, baffling and powerful.

On arriving into AA I was introduced to the 12 step programme by a sponsor that I had asked for at my first meeting. The Steps mentioned a Higher Power. I was without power, like a drained car battery. Everyone who had been through the Steps around me were buzzing. They had a new lease of life. that’s exactly what I wanted. Since taking the 12 steps with a sponsor, I now have that power I used to lack. The battery is now charged. AA is a wonderful way of life and allows me to deal with any emotional turmoil that comes along today. I needed a God in my life to show me how to cope. Drink was my answer for many years. God seems to be doing a much better job these days.

My life is blessed in recovery today and I have come a long way. Life has its trials, which I have encountered quite a few in my early sobriety (mostly manufactured by myself). I do love a problem. There’s no problem which can't be overcome through the 12 Steps, that’s why its so wonderful. No problems, no growth. No more being a victim of this illness. When I hit a wall I don’t go down the pub, I ask God. I then try to think of someone else, see if I can be of use to someone suffering. Not always easy, but with practice I get there. Everyday I ask God how I can be of use to the world and for a look at his will for me. If I keep in this spiritual frame of mind and practice the programme I seem to become a better and nicer person to be around, so people tell me anyway.

Step 6

'Were intirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character'

At Step 6 my sponsor read to me from the Big Book 'are we now ready to let God remove from us all the things which we have admitted are objectionable?' And after having made a searching and fearless moral inventory of myself and admitted to God, to myself and to another human being, my sponsor, the exact nature of my wrongs. It was absolutely 'YES.'

Getting down to the causes and conditions of my alcoholism was an exciting thing for me. To find out what was wrong with me, that my defects of character were at the forefront of my alcoholism. That my anger at the world, it's people, places, things and institutions caused my own misery. Finding and facing these defects of character, although sometimes differcult and hard to swallow, brought true freedom and happiness to my life at long last. Why would I want to hang onto them?

I had changed so much in just a few weeks by really throwing myself into Alcoholics Anonymous. By trying to be of service to my homegroup and to newcomers. I loved reading my Big Book and the Just For Today Card and tried my hardest to do the things on it. I spoke to my sponsor every day, was honest with him and sought his experience and guideance. I started to act and talk differently, I had to. To move away from my old habits and behaviours and into new ones resulted in life taking on a whole new meaning. It was electric.

So at Step six, when my sponsor asked if I were willing to let go of my defects of character it was a simple 'YES.' Thier destructiveness was obvious. So I then took Step 7 using the prayer from the Big Book. (p76)

Two days later I had my first resentment, it came as a surprise so I told my sponsor immediately. He told me that it was my defects of character that were causing my pain and I should take inventory on the matter straight away. I remember thinking and asking that hadn't I done that two days earlier. The truth was and still is that I had made a beginning on a lifetime job. To try my best to make progress in the building of character is something I need to be willing to work towards with the help of a Higher Power.

Today I still grow towards that ideal and take inventory daily. Firstly because I have to, but also because I want to. I continue to mature and grow in AA and enjoy the freedom, happiness and excitement it brings. For that I am eternally grateful.

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I Still Remember that First Drink and How it Made Me Feel

I still remember that first drink I had and how it made me feel. It was when I was 14 and on a school trip to Austria, on one sunny afternoon myself, my brother and his friends decided to sneak off from the group we were with and went down to the local village, where we found a pub. My brother and his friends managed to buy some beers and also offered me one. Not wanting to look like a wimp, I downed nearly half of my glass. It tasted disgusting but I remember that I had a fuzzy warm feeling go right through my body. And that wasn’t all: I also felt totally free and comfortable in myself and that I had no worries in the world, it was an amazing feeling. Ever since that day I can look back now and see that I continued to drink, to try and recapture that feeling. But after a few years of my drinking I found that without a drink I would become very angry and uncomfortable until I could get another drink.

Then I started isolating myself and drinking on my own, only going out to sign on or buy more drink. I was becoming more and more uncomfortable in myself and extremely paranoid when I couldn’t get a drink. On one occasion I found myself breaking down in front of my mother, so she took me to the doctors, but I didn’t know what to tell him. All I knew was that life was painful and drink was my way out of that pain. So the outcome of that visit was the doctor giving me an asthma pump and suggesting that I see a counsellor. The next day I spoke to my mum and told her that everything was OK now and that I felt much better, so I didn’t think I needed to see a counsellor. From then on I continued doing it my way for another 9 years and it got increasingly more painful.

All I was doing was drinking and thinking about problems and how people treated me badly. At this stage I became a father and the consequences of my drinking really got bad. Where before I was only hurting myself, now I was hurting my partner and children. So I’d try and leave the drink alone when things got bad, but I would always pick up drinking again because I just couldn’t live on life’s terms at all. It felt like it was me against the world constantly, so I would always turn back to drink. Nearing the end of my drinking I found that I wasn’t able to find that escape anymore with the drink, and I was left in total despair and even suicide came into my mind.

But the thing is I didn’t think there was a way out of where I was, so I would still drink even though I didn’t want to. Finally another doctors visit with my mother, and my partner throwing me out again, I went to AA, not because I thought they could help me, but to get everyone off my back. But when I got there I couldn’t believe that there were other people like me that thought, felt and drank like me. So I continued going to that meeting, and people would share their stories about the illness of alcoholism. It was that which gave me my Step 1. They told me that it wasn’t my drinking that was the problem but that it was my thinking behind the drinking that would make me pick up the drink; and once I started drinking I wouldn’t be able to stop because it would set up a craving in me that normal average drinkers wouldn’t get.

I couldn’t even get away with just leaving drink alone because of the mental twist that comes into the alcoholic's thinking - after a while without drink the thought would come into the alcoholics mind saying it would be OK to have a drink, even though the last time would have been like hell for them and everyone involved. I was also being told that if I was an alcoholic then only a spiritual awakening - a change in thought and attitude - would save me, and that I could get one if I went through the Steps with a sponsor.

I got myself a sponsor who started me off on a daily plan where I had to do various actions through the day to keep sober; things like phoning people, meeting up with other alcoholics, turning up to meetings on time. Also I phoned my sponsor every day to say how im doing. All these things went against the grain for me but Step 1 enabled me to do these things someone else’s way. Im so grateful to have stopped from doing it my way at the beginning, as I would never have the life I have now. Step 1 has been with me for 5 years now, and it keeps me putting the actions in which make my life worth living. Step 1 enabled me to do Step 5 which in turn made me a free man and a step closer to my Higher Power. Step 1 allows me each day to have a choice where before I had no choice at all.
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Gary's Story

From the start I always struggled with life. Even as a child, I knew I was different. I had my fair share of times when I was humiliated, disappointed, terrified or even used for someone else’s gain. Growing up I had family illnesses, death, violence, broken trust and wrong paths. I could not deal with them. My mind was unstable. My emotions played tricks on me and I couldn’t connect myself to life.

I had a group of friends I started drinking with, but they used my sensitivity and self-pity against me. I had a relative that was into the drugs world. At times it was frightening. The drink helped for a time, but I couldn’t save my relative, and it got worse. I felt misunderstood, no meaning in life. I built this character which wasn’t healthy. I tried to be a good relative, find love and build a life, but I always had difficulties. I tried adult education, organisations for drink and drugs. It didn’t work. I lost my friends and became violent towards my family. So I shut myself away. Things became very dark. I was hidden behind a mask. For years I felt numb, with no purpose and no direction. I consumed a load of misery as well as the booze that fuelled it. The demons I’d created were more powerful than any normal person could imagine or understand.

I fell in love again but I almost ruined it. I became horrid verbally and couldn’t be reasoned with. Again I hit rock bottom. I thought: “Why am I here? What do I have to offer anyone? They don’t understand me.” I was all out of ideas. People that did help me were only around for a short time.

I needed something but didn’t know what, so I went to the doctor that said about AA. I was unsure because you have to talk, I thought. I was still ill, so my mum called the helpline and spoke to a guy called Mark. Then I spoke to him. For a change just speaking to him felt comfortable. He understood me. I related to him. In my mind I began to think, this is one other person that knows my thinking and why the booze is destroying my life. So he asked me to go to a meeting, which I did.

I went with a relative. It took a while to find it but we got there. He went off shopping and I stayed. People were so friendly. I went inside. I was greeted with handshakes. I was offered a cuppa and a biscuit but my stomach was still fragile. Everyone looked well. They gave me their phone numbers or asked for mine. I was worried at first but then began to feel safe. For a long time I haven’t, but this was good. I listened to those who came up and spoke to me. People got me, they understood me.

Soon I started the Steps with a sponsor. Not long after and I got stability in my life. I put my all into Step 4 and cleaned my side of the street in Steps 8 and 9, making my amends to those whom I’d hurt. I kept up with my meetings. I have had emotional wobbles but trusted my sponsor, my Higher Power and the program. I began service as I went through the Steps, which gave me a purpose and responsibility. I’m still going through the service structure and trying to be honest, humble and as helpful as I can. I have had knocks emotionally and have come out the other side stronger than ever. I have started voluntary work and I’m doing driving lessons. I’m nine months sober and building my life again thanks to AA.

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The Serenity Prayer

Jack Alexander researched the origin of the Serenity prayer and he believed the original Serenity Prayer was written by Reinhold Niebuhr. Others credited with the first writing are an anonymous English poet, an American naval officer and even the early Greeks.

The version used at meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous today was discovered in the obituary section of a newspaper by "Newsman Jack" in about 1942. He showed the clipping to the New York office and it was quickly printed on to cards and sent out to the fellowship.

Here is an original version:

God, grant me the SERENITY To accept the things I cannot change,
The COURAGE to change the things I can; And the WISDOM to know the difference - Living one day at a time; Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will; That I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him Forever in the next. Amen

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Tradition Three

The only requirement for A.A membership is a desire to stop drinking

Our membership ought to include all who suffer from alcoholism. Hence we may refuse none who wish to recover. Nor ought A.A. membership ever depend upon money or conformity. Any two of three alcoholics gathered together for sobriety may call themselves an A.A. group, provide that, as a group, they have no other affiliation. (long form)

When I first walked into the rooms of AA, utterly beaten by my alcoholism, not an ounce of defiance left in me, the last thing I was interested in was some so called traditions, I didn't say all my arrogance had left me! The closest I had come to any kind of tradition prior to AA was to regularly get wasted and screw up everything good in my life, time after time after time.

In those early days I recall skimming over the scrolls and thinking it looks like a whole load of mumbo jumbo. The only bits that told me i might be in the right place, was at the top of the steps in step one which stated we came to believe we were powerless over alcohol -never a truer word said-and on the other scroll under tradition three The only requirement for A.A membership is a desire to stop drinking. At that point I wasn't sure if I wanted to call myself a member but I certainly had a desire to stop drinking.

As time has passed I've come to understand this tradition was in fact my life line-as it will be for many more suffering alcoholic to come. No one was telling me I had to be an alcoholic, or subscribe to any religion, I didn't have to pay any money and no one cared what I had done, where I had been or who I had hurt I had just as much right to be there are anyone else who had a desire to stop drinking.

From what I have read, back in the early days of AA way before even my parents were born, there used to be many membership rules, which led to groups being fragile and all members living in constant fear and anxiety of relapsing. All I can say is thank god the founders and early pioneers of the AA fellowship were around to make and iron out the mistakes, leaving a strong set of traditions which continue to protect AA groups, members and ensure its longevity, without which, I would not be here now enjoying every day of sobriety.

That is not to say this desire alone was enough to recover. Of course, to be freed from my miserable existence and horrendous obsession with alcohol, I needed a sponsor and to be taken through the twelve steps as laid out in the basic text of alcoholics Alcoholics Anonymous, which I have done whole heartedly. At the beginning, when the madness was still on me, my life line, my way out of that misery was in that mumbo jumbo under number 3 of the traditions.

So, when you glance up at the traditions and wonder what its all about, remember tradition three is what makes us alcoholics both exclusive and all inclusive everyone one has that life line to a solution, a way out all you need is a desire to stop drinking to make that beginning.
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Step 8

'Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.'

Probably no other Step has changed, or brought about a willingness to change in, me more than Step 8.

When I came to Step 8 I was rather worried, mainly because I was looking at Step 9 which I didn't like the look of. Thankfully my sponsor and other homegroup members reminded me, as they had before, to concentrate on the Step that I was on and that with each completed step would come an understanding and willingness of the next. This was certainly true of Step 8.

I had already changed so much during my time in Alcoholics Anonymous. From arriving feeling suicidal with no strength or fight left in me at all, after getting a sponsor and reading the first few chapters from the Big Book, along with some other suggestions from my sponsor like reading the Just for Today card, writing a gratitude list, working with others and prayer, I became hopeful of staying sober and enjoying life.

After completing Steps 4-7 I began to have a spiritual experience. I had already begun to try and change my attitude and behaviours since arriving in AA. By reading the literature and the Just for Today card and from spending time with recovered alcoholics, I could see just how maladjusted to life I was, trying to run the show on self-will. I began to try and adopt new attitudes and behaviours, to move away from my old way of living and into a new way.

So arriving at step 8 I sat down with my sponsor who told me how he had done his Step 8. I had kept the list of names from the first column of my Step 4 which I could use. I was asked to write a Step 8 in a similar way to the column system used in Step 4. In the first the name of the person, in the second the harm caused and in a third column I was asked to use descriptive words of how I would feel if someone had harmed me in the same way. Just hearing how to take my Step 8, I knew the significance of this Step was immense.

So I started when I arrived home from my sponsor's and got to work. What struck me most at first was that I couldn't think of the words to write into the third column. It wasn't an intelligence issue, I seemed to lack all empathy. I was looking at first at how it made the other person feel and I couldn't find the words. The level of my selfishness ran deep. I wasn't given any advice or words to use so I had to search for them, which at first I couldn't find from within myself so I turned to the dictionary and thesaurus. My lack of humanity astonished me. I was reminded to ask myself how I would feel if someone had done the harm to me and so looked again. When I did this the words seemed to flow much easier as did the remorse, guilt and shame.

What struck me most wasn't the physical or financial harm but the emotional harm I caused others. Those who loved and cared for me. I had treated these people disgustingly. I momentarily hated myself for my behaviour, actions and pain I'd caused, so much so that when this was completed the willingness to change and make amends came strongly.

I could see clearly for the first time that as I treat the world so the world treated me. I had treated people so terribly its no wonder I arrived in Alcoholics Anonymous feeling so terrible myself. I became more willing to help others and to try and treat others as I would like to be treated myself.

Overall Step 8, like all of the Steps, I knew nothing about before I began to take it and and it changed me deep down once I had. I continued through the 12 Steps and have had a transformation in thought and attitude. I am now 4 years sober living a happy and contented life, trying the best I can to practice the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous in all of my affairs.

2009 AA Member
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