In March 1996, over 17 years ago, I went to my first AA meeting in London.
From that wonderful day, my way of looking at life completely changed in a beautiful way. I have not had or wanted a drink since.
I have recently been asked by AA’s local archivist to write a few words about my story, which I now gratefully and very, very humbly do.
When I arrived, I knew nothing about how AA so beautifully worked; I didn’t then realise that AA is a spiritual programme of recovery and action. I didn’t even know that the word God would be used.
That day I was completely beaten. I had drunk for over thirty years. On my journey to AA, I had tried suicide and had been in a mental hospital for a period.
The Big Book on Page 8 captures exactly how I felt when it says, ”Quicksand stretched around me in all directions. I had met my match. I had been overwhelmed. Alcohol was my master.”
At that meeting I found hope, I met people who wanted to pass on AA’s ‘simple kit of spiritual tools,’ (Page 25 of the Big Book.) to help me get and stay sober.
I had been to an AA meeting about seven years before in Peterborough. I was there for a week on a work course. I saw nothing in it, and went straight to the pub afterwards.
However, when I went to the above meeting in 1996, I thought all the people there were geniuses. Not only were they sober, they were happy, and they seemed to have a solution, not only to alcoholism, but on how to deal with life.
I was taken for a cup of tea afterwards. I didn’t want to go. I am so glad I did, In the Café I told them about my problems, and they gave me some idea of how AA worked.
Our wonderful Big Book says on Page 93, ”Stress the spiritual feature freely,” and these people did. They said I needed to find a Higher Power of my own understanding to help me get and keep sober.
They said, this could be something of my own concept. At the time, it seemed a strange idea, but it worked that day, and every day since.
The people I met, were only passing on the message contained on Page 12 of the Big Book, where it says, “ My friend suggested what then seemed a novel idea. He said, ‘Why don’t you choose your own conception of God?” They said that they had had to do it, and they had found it worked.
That first day, although I met lots of lovely people, I spent most of my time with two wonderful gentlemen. They each said that they got on their knees each night to say thank you to a power greater than themselves for keeping them sober that day.
They also said that each morning they also got on their knees, to ask this same power, to keep them sober that day, all so they could be of help to other alcoholics, to their families, and to the world.
This is in line with Page 13 of the wonderful Big Book, where it says, “Never was I to pray for myself, except as my requests bore on my usefulness to others.”
It all seemed a bit strange, but that night I did what they suggested. I did get humbly on my knees, and have got humbly and gratefully on my knees each morning and each night since then to talk/chat/pray to a God or Higher Power of my own concept, or understanding.
Each night before getting into bed, I gratefully kneel, and humbly thank God for keeping me sober that day.
Each morning I humbly, again on my knees, ask a God, of my own concept, a God, which I now realise is so loving and beautiful, to allow me to be sober that day, all so that I can be of help to other alcoholics.
This was against all preconceived ideas I had up until that time, but since doing it, over seventeen years ago, I’ve never had or wanted a drink.
When I came to AA in 1996, I was off work sick. I had a lot of physical problems, but it was not these that brought me to AA.
No it was the suicidal thoughts, the madness in my mind, the pain in my brain, and the realisation that alcohol no longer worked, that brought me to the meeting.
I live in a part of London, called Ealing, and because of my circumstances, I was able to get to lots of meetings. I attended something like at least 200 meetings, in my first three months. I found them all great, and learnt so much.
I mainly sat and listened. As I listened, I learnt more about my problem. Things like, “Our liquor was but a symptom.” ( Page 64 of the Big Book,) and also on Page 64, “Resentment is the “number one” offender.” As is often said, ‘listen to learn, and learn to listen,’ and I listened, and I learnt.
I was also constantly hearing about the spiritual solution, People were saying that by getting a sponsor and doing the steps, they were not only sober, but were enjoying life, in a ways they could never have envisaged.
I always think AA is the greatest spiritual university in the world, for people are talking about themselves and the spiritual things they are doing not only to keep themselves sober, but also to keep their spirit, happy, healthy, joyous and free.
In other words we are passing on the spiritual tools mentioned in the Big Book, all to help the newcomer find the beautiful solution, so freely given in the meetings.
I also find that the more we concentrate on the Big Book, not only do our own lives improve, but the wonderful newcomer gets the full benefit of our wonderful spiritual solution.
As I said above, I knew nothing about how AA worked when I arrived. I did not know that there were, steps, sponsors, sponsorship or service, or that it was a spiritual programme of recovery.
Thank God, I took spiritual advice from day one. I also quickly got a sponsor and under his guidance, he took me through the steps.
I obtained my sponsor, by asking God on my knees, to guide me to someone to take me through the steps. By a wonderful set of circumstances, I was taken to a meeting, where I heard my sponsor share.
He said that his life had been transformed by coming to AA, in his case in 1989. He appeared very happy and peaceful. He said he had a sponsor who had taken him through the steps.
He said, his sponsor, had given him a set of simple spiritual suggestions to do each day. He said that by doing these simple suggestions, not only was he sober, but also happy, joyous and free, and so he intended to do the same things each day, to maintain the same attitude.
He said that in doing spiritual suggestions each day, he not only maintained his sobriety, but was also very, very happy, healthy and peaceful.
I now realise that this is in line, with Page 85 of the Big Book, where it says, “We are not cured of alcoholism. What we really have is a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition.”
As I did the steps, I started to feel really well. Not only did all the promises come true or into my life, but the spiritual awakening promised in the Big Book also happened.
I just couldn’t describe how well I was feeling, it was beyond anything I could have imagined. Words fail me when I come to describe it, but I knew something was happening, and it was and continues to be, very, very, very beautiful.
The Big Book, on page 8 describes it far more adequately than anything I could, where it says, “I was soon to be catapulted into what I like to call the fourth dimension of existence.
I was to know happiness, peace and usefulness, in a way of life that is incredibly more wonderful as time passes.”
I found doing steps four and five the most wonderful experience. I would recommend it to anyone.
To look back at the past with the guidance of my sponsor. At my resentments and defects of character, things I didn’t realise I had when I arrived, and realise that the problem wasn’t what had happened, but always how I reacted to it, or how my defects of character came into play.
It was so wonderful, to look back at my past, my secrets, my fears, my disappointments, things that held me down, things that were going to the grave with me, things and thoughts that made me drink.
I now realise with the benefit of the steps, that the things, or resentments that were going to the grave with me, were actually taking me to the grave, for these were the things that without knowing it, I drank on.
They would have led to my early painful death, without beautiful AA, the steps and sponsorship.Am I grateful, boy am I grateful, and everyday I thank God for AA, and all the wonderful beautiful people init, particularly my sponsor, and wise spiritual people that I met on my first day.
And yet when I arrived I didn’t think I had any resentments. how stupid of me, and yet I thought I was quite bright. I now realise that before i came to AA, I actually knew nothing about life and its purpose.
Wasn’t I stupid, wasn’t I silly, but boy I am so very glad that God gave me the opportunity, to become a friend of Billy.
I was told by my sponsor, I had 14 defects of character. Pride, self-pity, self-centredness, arrogance, sloth, dishonesty, lust, envy, jealousy, impatience, intolerance, selfishness, greed and gluttony.
They are basically an expanded version of the seven deadly sins, and the seven deadly sins are called deadly for a reason, the reason is that they will kill us if we don’t deal with them.
For our defects of character lead to resentments, and if we are not able to realise what they are, and control them through the spiritual tools of AA, then resentment will take over our lives, and that is very serious.
As the Big Book says on Page 64, “Resentment is the ‘number one’ offender. It destroys more alcoholics than anything else.“ Sad to say, but how very, very true. My defects of character and resentments, not only made me drink, but also to act so stupidly, selfishly, and self-centredly, in so many social situations.
When I finished step five I just felt so great. I had felt good since going to that first meeting, and later getting on my knees that first night.
However, after finishing step five, I felt even more wonderful, and that joy, that is inside me, that is inside us all, continues to grow and expand yearly, monthly, weekly, daily, hourly, minutely, secondly, as daily I try to improve my conscious contact with a God of my own understanding.
Of course the Big Book says it even more effectively, on Page 75, where it talks about step five; “Once we have taken this step, withholding nothing, we are delighted.
We can look the world in the eye. We can be alone at perfect peace and ease. Our fears fall from us. We begin to feel the nearness of our Creator.
We may have had certain spiritual beliefs, but now we begin to have a spiritual experience.
The feeling that the drink problem has disappeared will often come strongly. We feel we are on the Broad Highway walking hand in hand with the Spirit of the Universe.”
Wow what powerful words, I find them all to be true, and they become even more wonderful and beautiful each day, as daily I practice the wonderful spiritual programme of Alcoholics Anonymous.
This is of course also promised in the steps. Step eleven says, “Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understand Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.”
So daily with my sponsor’s guidance, I seek to IMPROVE my conscious contact with Him, Her or It, and daily I see more of God’s beauty not only within myself, but within the world.
This is also of course mentioned in the Big Book on Page 161, where it says, “They had seen miracles, and one was to come to them. They had visioned the Great Reality – Their loving and All Powerful Creator.”
Life is, and a number of things have happened to me since I first arrived in AA. When I first I arrived I was very physically poorly, and after two years, I was eventually diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I had to take early retirement from my job on health grounds.
In 2006, I had to have a heart operation. However, while both these things were going on, even though I wasn’t so well physically, I felt absolutely wonderful in mind and spirit, because I was following the spiritual programme of AA, with my sponsor’s guidance.
Poorly as I was on occasions, I daily did the spiritual things suggested. I got on my knees morning and night, I had ‘home groups,’ I went to other regular meetings, I wrote daily gratitude lists, I daily read AA literature, and of course I phoned newcomers, and tried to help them as much as possible.
Today, I have never felt better or healthier, not only in mind and spirit, but also in body, but this is of course mentioned on Page 133, of the Big Book, where it says; “Now about health:
A body badly burned by alcohol does not often recover overnight nor do twisted thinking and depression vanish in a twinkling.
We are convinced that a spiritual mode of living is a most powerful health restorative.
We, who have recovered from serious drinking, are miracles of mental health.
But we have seen remarkable transformations in our bodies. Hardly one of our crowd now shows any mark of dissipation.”
I have also had three lovely girlfriends in my time in AA, relationships, that all ended amicably.
However, the most beautiful relationship that I have ever had, has happened whilst I have been in AA, and that of course has been with beautiful God or my lovely Higher Power, a relationship that continues to daily expand or grow.
Today I feel fantastic in mind, body and spirit, and I know this is all because of AA, and the spiritual programme of recovery, that I have so lovingly and freely been shown.
I still do the spiritual things that I have done since day one, I still have the same sponsor, and I still daily do the same super simple spiritual things that he suggested when I met first him.
I still get on my knees each morning and night, something I have done since my very first night in AA. I daily do service, write gratitude lists, make a few phone calls to other alcoholics, at least two of whom are newcomers.
I also daily read pages from the Big Book, and the AA book Reflections, and daily I read the ‘Just for Today’ card daily try to put its ideals into practice.
I also attend regular meetings, usually at least four a week, of which two are home groups, at which I do service. I love going to them. I have always enjoyed them, and have done service, even from my second day when I helped pick up the chairs.
After about three months in AA, I started to have regular ‘home groups,’ at which I got commitments.
As my time in AA went on, I did other service. Secretary, GSR, then service at Intergroup; first as PI Officer, then Share Rep, then Regional Delegate, and it was whilst involved at Region, that the fantastic North London Assembly was started.
I love AA, it has certainly saved my life, but not only that, it has given me a life, of which I could not have ever have imagined. All the promises, mentioned on Pages 83 and 84 of the Big Book, have come true for instance.
But the greatest thing that has happened to me is the spiritual awakening, mentioned in step twelve, which to me is the absolute certainty that a Power greater than me exists.
The world calls this power God. In AA this former agnostic, has most definitely learnt that God exists, that God is not separate from me, that it exists inside me, that it exists within us all.
It is absolutely wonderful to know that God exists, and that He/She/It is part of me, and part of everyone else thank you for allowing me to have this knowledge, dear wonderful God.
It is often referred to as the spirit or soul, and AA has allowed me to realise that I am one with it, or as it says on Page 161, “They had visioned the Great Reality – their loving and all Powerful Creator.”
Again I have to say wow. All I came to AA for, was to stop drinking or to stop my misery. I had no idea of the beautiful spiritual life that is on offer. I often feel that if people knew what was on offer, there would be lines of people a mile long waiting to come into the meetings.
I have read in the AA magazine SHARE, that in the USA, people are turning up at meetings, looking for the spiritual changes they see in their relations and friends, by coming to AA. Again wow.
Again, AA is certainly not just ‘one day at a time,’ or ‘just keep coming back,’ it is a daily spiritual programme of recovery, for as it beautifully says on Page 85 of the Big Book, “What we really have is a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition.”
This I understand to mean, is that daily we have to do spiritual things to keep ourselves sober. We have to be humble before a God of our own concept, and then to use the beautiful gifts of sobriety, health, energy, and joy that He/She/It gives us, all to help others.
My life has certainly changed in all areas for the better. I now lead a God centred spiritual life, which I find beautiful and remarkable.
I love living this way, but I also realise that it is essential that I live this way, for as the Big Book says Page 83, “The spiritual life is not a theory. We have to live it.”
Thank you God, thank you AA, thank you to everyone I have met in it, and thank you dear God for allowing me to meet people who willingly and freely passed on the simple spiritual message of recovery, or as it says on Page 25, “there was nothing left for us but to pick up the simple kit of spiritual tools laid at our feet.”
Every day, I ask lovely God; if I may likewise, pass on the same beautiful, wonderful spiritual message, in the same beautiful wonderful simple fashion.
I also always realise that whatever I am allowed to do, will never ever, ever, repay the beauty, joy, health, happiness, purity. zest and enthusiasm for life that I have been given.
Thanks for reading this; I was kindly asked to open this website. It has been a joy to do, and I pray that it will help other wonderful people, and we are all wonderful people, on the beautiful, wonderful lovely AA sober spiritual path.
You’re all in my prayers, in fact the whole world these days is in my prayers, as, God willing, I am in yours, and may we pray that lovely AA, does happily and healthily spiritually grow and glow.
God bless AA everywhere, and everyone in it, in fact, God bless everyone everywhere, Dennis.