THE HEALING STEPS.
I pray that whoever reads this, obtain some benefit from it, and that it helps them on their AA journey, and in their journey through life. A life, which we pray, with the benefit of AA, and its spiritual programme of recovery, is sober, happy, healthy, joyous and free.
This section of the website, contains little notes on each of the twelve steps, steps that have changed mine and countless others lives.
Like a lot of people, I knew nothing about the steps, when I first arrived in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous, in 1996. I pray these words will help people understand a little better how they work.
Over the years I have often written about them. This is an attempt to bring these writings into one place.
It is just another way to freely pass on the beauty that AA has brought into my life, since my first meeting, over 17 years ago.
I pray that you enjoy what I have written, that it causes no offence, and that it helps you and others on their AA journey and their journey through life.
Anyway, God bless all, and may we pray that lovely AA does happily and healthily spiritually grow and glow, a very, very grateful, Dennis.
When I arrived in Alcoholics Anonymous in 1996, I knew nothing about how it so successfully works.
I had no idea that there were things called steps, that there was sponsorship, or that AA was a spiritual programme of recovery, involving a fantastic life saving, life altering book, called Alcoholics Anonymous, also know as the ‘Big Book.’
I certainly had no idea that the word God would be mentioned at meetings, or that it was a word used in the steps. God to me at that time was a nasty word, a word only used by me in a profane way.
I also had no idea how my life was to change, in all cases for the better, by following and putting into practice the wonderful simple spiritual programme, of Alcoholics Anonymous.
The forward to the First Edition of the book Alcoholics Anonymous states, “To show other alcoholics precisely how we have recovered is the main purpose of this book.” (Page xii 4th edition,)
At my first meeting I met people who knew precisely how to keep sober. They were doing the simple spiritual things suggested in the ‘Big Book.’ All they wanted to do was help me, by passing on the gorgeous gift of sobriety, by suggesting that I did the same precise spiritua things. that they did
Page 44 of the Big Book says, “If, when you honestly want to, you cannot quite entirely, or if when drinking, you have little control over the amount you take, you are probably alcoholic .If that be the case, you may be suffering from an illness which only a spiritual experience will conquer.”
I know this now, but had no idea of it on my first day. I did not know that I was suffering from an illness which only a spiritual experience will conquer.
From my first day, however, I have been daily doing spiritual things, for as it says on page 85 of the Big Book; “We are not cured of alcoholism. What we really have is a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition.”
In other words, to remain sober, we have to do spiritual things, and do them daily, and by doing spiritual actions daily, not only do we maintain our sobriety, but actually improve our spiritual condition.
Like most people who come to AA, I not only had a drinking problem, but a living problem. In fact lots of problems. People told me to put AA first, and that everything would fall into place.
This seemed strange at the time, but I found this to be true, by putting AA first my drinking stopped. and over time everything did fall into place.
My drinking started over thirty years before, in the early 1960’s. At first it was great, mainly social drinking, but as the years went by, I was drinking more and more to try and ease the problems of life.
The day I arrived, alcohol no longer worked, it was my master. I was full of fear, self-pity, self-loathing and self-disgust, very depressed, and again suicidal.
A girlfriend had just left me, and alcohol my friend for so many years, no longer worded. Whether I drank or not, the pain in my head would not go away.
My first meeting was very inspiring. I was given hope. These were people who thought like me. I identified right away with the sharing. People seemed to be talking about my life.
I loved the honesty. Up until that moment, I had no idea that any other person in the world had similar thoughts, ideas or problems.
We went for a cup of tea afterwards, for the ‘meeting after the meeting.’ I didn’t particularly want to go, but it was suggested that it would be a good idea.
I now realise now how important that was, for it enabled me to not only talk about my problems, but also to talk about the solution.
The people that took me for tea that day were happy, smiling and getting on with their lives. They had not had a drink for some time. They said they had also arrived with lots of problems similar to mine, but that I could be like them.
Of course I didn’t think it would work for me, or that I could be like them, but they said they had had the same doubts and it had worked. I was desperate, and as was pointed out to me, what had I to lose.
At my first meeting, I was told that I need never drink again, provided I did certain simple spiritual actions daily, things which they did every day, all in line with the spiritual recovery programme of Alcoholics Anonymous.
I was asked, if I was ‘powerless over alcohol,’ the first part of step one. When I said ‘yes’ they said that I needed to find a Power greater than myself to stop me drinking.
They said that this Power could be anything I liked, any concept I wanted. This to me at the time seemed a bit strange, but in retrospect it is a unique, simple and brilliant idea.
They hadn’t made this up; they were just freely passing on spiritual information from the Big Book, where on Page 12 it says, ”My friend suggested what then seemed a novel idea. He said, ‘Why don’t you choose your own conception of God?”
This is what they were suggesting to me, that I should devise my own concept of God.
I was advised that I could chat, talk or pray in a friendly way, to a God, a Him/Her/it of my own understanding. I didn’t need to use the prayers that I was taught as a child.
It was pointed out to me, that there was probably a lot going on in my mind anyway. I agreed that that there was, and was also able to agree that I was constantly chatting or talking or even shouting at something. Constantly criticising myself, moaning about the world, the people in it, and the hurt I was in.
In my case lots of nasty things were being said such as, “Why did you let that happen to me,” or Why did you let her be taken away from me,” or “I hate life,” or “I hate you,” and very often, “Please let me die tonight,” or “Please don’t let me wake up in the morning.” There was usually a lot of swearing involved.
As we talked in the Café, I had to admit that I was talking to something. These people just said why don’t you change the conversation, or talk in a pleasant as opposed to an unpleasant way to whoever I was talking to, something of my own concept, whatever that might be. How very, very, wonderful, and how very, very simple.bed that night,
It was also suggested that I should get on my knees at night, and say thank you to this Power of my own concept or understanding, for keeping me sober that day.
I did ask why I should get on my knees. I was told that it was what they did, and that it was also a way of being humble and grateful.
Years later I am now able to appreciate that it is a sign of humility. A way of getting ride of my arrogance, ego and pride, also things know as defects of character. Defects that I didn’t really appreciate were so dominant in my life, things that were actually killing me.
I did get on my knees that night, and have done it every night since. I have not had or wanted a drink in that period. I was also advised to pray for my ex-girlfriend, for her health, happiness and well-being. This also seemed strange, but I did it.
I then got into bed and slept for eight hours. It was a wonderful sleep, very peaceful, the best for best I had had for years. I have slept every night since. I now know that praying for my ex-girlfriend or anyone who upsets me is mentioned on Page 552 of the Big Book, what great spiritual advice.
Next morning when I woke, it was suggested, that I also get on my knees and ask my Higher Power of my own understanding to keep me sober that day all so I could be of help to other alcoholics.
This also seemed strange, but I did it, and have done it every day since. I now appreciate that this is mentioned on Page 13 of the Big Book, where it says, “Never was I to pray for myself, except as my requests bore on my usefulness to others.”
That day for the first time in my life, I took spiritual advice from people with whom I identified. Fellow alcoholics. I was only doing what they did.
They had been sober for some time. They were only doing what was in the Big Book, and the spiritual advice they were giving to me, had been passed on to them by their sponsors, and the people they had met at the meetings.
It was the start of my AA spiritual journey. I started going to lots of meetings, I started to see and appreciate the beauty and recovery within AA. I quickly got a sponsor, who I still have today.
A sponsor is someone who has been guided through the steps, and who is willing to pass on the spiritual programme as outlined in the book Alcoholics Anonymous, to others, who are known as sponsees.
The guiding person or sponsor, should also have a sponsor, who has a sponsor, etc, etc. Therefore today for instance, I sponsor people, but I also have a sponsor, who also has a sponsor etc.
I am very grateful for my sponsor. He is on my gratitude list every night, as is lovely God, beautiful AA, and all the lovely wonderful people in it.
My life as per the second part of step one was also “unmanageable.” My sponsor was able to help me manage my life, not only with his good practical advice, but also by passing on spiritual principles to help me deal with it.
I am very grateful for his guidance, the wonderful steps, and now with God’s love and the spiritual solution of AA, I am able to manage it successfully, soberly, purely, happily and healthily. Thank you God, thank you AA.
Step two; marvellous step two, the step that says, “Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”
As mentioned, when I first arrived, I knew nothing about how AA worked, or that it was a spiritual programme of recovery, involving steps, sponsorship and service.
From my first day, I was introduced to spiritual principles. I put them into practice that first night, by getting on my knees, and I’ve never had or wanted a drink since.
From the start I went to lots of meetings, I live in London and there were plenty to choose from. I went to at least one meeting a day for my first six months. I enjoyed going to them, still do, and I was learning so much.
Even today I still go to at least three meetings a week, two of which are home groups. I enjoy them all and at each I try to do some service, trying to pass on the sober spiritual gift that I have been so freely given.
They are all wonderful to go to. They are safe, hospitable places, and I go to them all with the aim of helping the newcomer, passing on the beautiful gift of sobriety, so freely given to me, by passing on the same spiritual suggestions, that were so wonderfully and freely given to me.
It was lovely to hear people share. It was a wonderful learning experience. People were talking about the despair they were in when they arrived, how they had been introduced to the concept of a Higher Power or God in their lives, and how they were developing or improving their relationship with it.
To me AA is like a spiritual university, where you learn from people how they are developing spiritually, and how they are improving their relationship with God. For at meetings people describe their own spiritual journeys, journeys which daily improve, providing they maintain and enhance their spiritual condition.
I started to learn more about spirituality or the spirit. These people had the same illness as me. They had the same problem, and they were describing the spiritual solution they had found in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous.
They were describing the spiritual things, or the spiritual tools they were using, to keep sober. I was willingly listening, and putting into practice the things that were mentioned, actions that were in the Big Book, and finding they worked, for not only did I not want to drink, but I was also feeling happy and cheerful.
At one meeting I heard a girl share that at work that morning she started to feel uncomfortable. She then said that she went to the office toilet, got on her knees and asked God to help her at that moment. She said that this had made her feel better, and she was able to go back to her desk and get on with job.
I thought it all very odd, but about a week later I was also at work. I felt a bit uncomfortable. Remembering what she said, I went to the toilet, also got on my knees, and asked God for help and guidance at that moment. I then got up and went comfortably about the rest of my day, and went to a meeting later that night.
I was so glad that I heard that girl share, or rather pass on the spiritual knowledge that there is a toilet or ‘prayer room’ in every building. Strange as it may seem, over the years it is a place I have often used to communicate, chat, talk or pray on my knees to a God of my own understanding, and i also know, that I am not the only one gratefully using it for this purpose.
But this passing on of spiritual tools or suggestions is described on Page 25 of the Big Book, when it says, “When, therefore, we were approached by those in whom the problem had been solved, there was nothing left for us but to pick up the simple kit of spiritual tools laid at our feet.”
Daily doing the spiritual things suggested, made me feel great, in fact I had never felt so good. It was impossible to describe, but I did know that it was because I was going to the meetings, doing the spiritual things suggested, under the guidance of a sponsor, and allowing a Higher Power or God into my life.
My own words could not describe how good I felt, but Page 25 of the Big Book does, where it says, ”We have found much of heaven and we have been rocketed into a fourth dimension of existence of which we had not even dreamed.”
There is no way I could have conceived of what was happening to me. It was beyond anything, that I could have comprehended, but the above words from the Big Book do give some idea of how fantastic I was feeling, and still do.
It’s been said that doing the steps, leads to inner peace, and we start to live in harmony with ourselves, with God and with the world. This was how I felt, it was very beautiful, it still is, and it was something I had never experienced before, and is there for us all, provided we adopt a very simple, humble, spiritual attitude. Truly wonderful.
I also knew that it was because I now had a connection with God, a loving God, a God of my own understanding. I was also realising that it was this connection with God that was keeping me sober.
I was not finding it difficult. I was just following the simple spiritual guidance being given to me by my fellows. I was enjoying being sober, I was enjoying my new way of life, and I have to say it was also nice to have a loving caring God in my life, God, was something that I had dismissed for years, but I was now realising how beautiful it was to have this connection.
What I was doing, just seemed so natural. Things that I would have baulked at some weeks earlier were just becoming part of my life. Getting on my knees morning and night, chatting to God throughout the day, saying the Serenity Prayer, writing gratitude lists, doing service, these things were all now part of my day. They still are.
I should not have been surprised by what was happening to me for it is described in the Big Book, on Page 53 where it says, “When we became alcoholics, crushed by a self-imposed crisis we could not postpone or evade, we had to fearlessly face the proposition that either God is everything or else He is nothing. God either is, or He isn’t, what was our choice to be?”
My own pain had made it very easy for me to listen to people and to put into practice the spiritual principles involved, reaching out to a God of my own understanding. Page 55 of the Big Book says, ”Actually we were fooling ourselves, for deep down in every man, woman, and child, is the fundamental idea of God. It may be damaged by calamity, by pomp, by worship of other things, but in some form or other it is there.
For faith in a Power greater than ourselves, and miraculous demonstrations of that power in human lives, are facts as old as man himself.
We finally saw that faith in some kind of God was a part of our make-up, just as the feeling we have for a friend. Sometimes we had to search fearlessly, but He was there.
He is as much a fact as we were. We found the Great Reality, deep down within us. In the last analysis it is only there that He may be found. It was so with us.”
These words I find so true. They describe me, in fact everyone of us. I now realise that the Big Book is my autobiography. I have often heard in the rooms, that the Big Book is the best book in the world, for it is the book that has saved our lives. The information in it has certainly saved my life, and millions of others, and it was written by us, our wonderful early members.
Are we not blessed, that a solution to our drinking problem has been found in our lifetime, a solution for which people have searched throughout the ages. The chapter, “We Agnostics,” is the chapter in the book, that deals with Step Two, the Step that allows me to realise that God, or a Power greater than me has restored me to sanity, enabling me to lead a life that is happy, healthy, sober, joyous and free.
Thank you God, thank you for my sponsor, thank you for AA, and for all the people in it. All beautiful and wonderful, each person with their spirit, their soul, their God bit, and all are on their journey through life.
They are all in my prayers, in fact everyone in the world is in my prayers these days, for AA has allowed me to realise that we are all one, all connected. Thank you God, thank you AA.
Step Three, another one of our beautiful life giving wonderful steps. This is the first step that mentions the word God, a word that I gratefully use a lot today, but rarely used except in a profane way, before coming to AA.
AA is a spiritual programme of recovery, and one of the great beauties of AA is how simple the spiritual solution of obtaining a connection with God is made for us.
Before arriving in AA, my interpretation of the word God was not very nice. I had been brought up in a religion which had its own dogma and rules, and which I rebelled against. All religions have their rules or dogma, and I’m sure that whatever religion I was brought up in, I would have rebelled against it.
My rebellious nature meant that I was not able to accept what I was being taught, so by my late teens I had left my religion, and had little or no connection with God. I felt I didn’t need one. I felt I could do life on my own, and that I was in charge of my own path.
How silly, how arrogant of me and how painful was the road I was to follow, for when anything went wrong, I had no spiritual connection to rely on. All I could do to ease my pain was drink.
As more and more things went wrong, I had to drink more and more, with inevitable consequences. A suicide attempt, a period in a mental hospital, and after more years of drinking, pain in my head so bad, that I was forced to come to AA.
At that time, alcohol no longer worked, and I was again having suicidal thoughts. In AA I was allowed to pick up the spiritual tools suggested. These have not only allowed me to stop drinking, but have also allowed me to transform my life, in all cases for the better.
AA in its wisdom gets around the God connection, by the simple method of allowing us to have our own concept of a Higher Power or God. It allows us to develop our own relationship with it, and because of the pain and despair we are in, we are willing to try AA’s spiritual suggestions.
When I arrived in AA I did not know that the word God would be used.. It surprised me, but then the book virtually apologises for having to mention it. On Page 45 it says, “That means we have written a book which we believe to be spiritual as well as moral. And it means of course, that we are going to talk about God.
Here difficulty arises with agnostics. Many times we talk to a new man and watch his hope rise as we discuss his alcoholic problems and explain our fellowship. But his face falls when we speak of spiritual matters, especially when we mention God, for we have re-opened a subject which our man thought he had neatly evaded or entirely ignored.
We know how he feels. We have shared his honest doubts and prejudice.”
When I arrived in AA, the only concept I had of God was a nasty one. It was of someone or thing that seemed to be punishing me. However, my pain made me take the plunge. It made me listen to learn. It made me open minded enough to start developing my own relationship with a God of my own understanding; something that I now appreciate is very wonderful and freeing.
A sponsor is one of the many beautiful gifts of AA. I got one after about six weeks, but I had been taking spiritual guidance from my first day. When I asked him if he would sponsor me, he asked me the question, “Was I willing to go to any lengths.”
When I said “Yes”, he asked me to phone him each morning. We agreed a time. This I started to do, and after about three weeks, he invited me around to his flat to do some step work. We talked about the first two steps.
For step one I gave him examples of how I was “powerless over alcohol”, and examples of how my life was “unmanageable” because of my drinking.
We then discussed d step two. I told him of the spiritual things I was doing since coming to AA, how they were keeping me sober, and how they were rekindling in me a belief in a power greater than myself, or a belief in a God of my own understanding.
After we chatted for a while, he then asked me to read from “Being convinced, we were at Step Three,” on Page 60 of the Big Book, to “we were reborn,” on Page 63. Whilst I read this he went to make some more tea.When he returned he asked me if I agreed with what I had read, and when I said “Yes,” he then said we would get on our knees and say the step three prayer together, the prayer on Page 63 of the Big Book. Although
I had heard the step three prayer mentioned in meetings, I had no idea that it was in the book. My pride, would not allow me to ask anyone where it was. How ridiculous, how arrogant, how stupid of me.We said it together on our knees that night. He said that he said it every morning on his knees, and had done so ever since he had also said the step three prayer on his knees with his sponsor, seven years previously.
He suggested that I did the same thing, and since that day I’ve said it each morning on my knees. Whenever I’ve sponsored anyone, I’ve done the same, and passed on the same instruction.
I find it a very lovely prayer, “God I offer myself to Thee, to build with me as Thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy power. Thy love, and Thy way of life. May I do Thy will always!”
We are asking God to relieve us of the bondage of self, of the ego, of that selfishness and self-centredness, so dominant in all of us. When I came to AA, I would not have said I had these things to any large extent, but I now appreciate that I do. I appreciate that the spiritual tools of AA keeps them in check. I also realise that I have to do daily spiritual actions to keep them under control.
The step three prayer also mentions, “Take away my difficulties.” I now appreciate that “my difficulties” are basically my defects of character. Something I never knew I had before I cane to AA.
AA taught me about them, and by doing the steps and living a spiritual way of life, I am able to keep them under control. As I now appreciate, it is not what people do that is my problem, but always how I react to it, or how my defects of character come to the fore. Doing the spiritual suggestions of AA is a great way of keeping them under control.
Step four, another of our wonderful life saving steps. The steps that not only keep us sober, but also allow us to change our outlook towards God or a power greater than ourselves, and also our outlook as to how we look at and deal with life.
Of course I knew nothing about step four when I first arrived in AA. I thought alcohol was something that helped me deal with life. Life was difficult, people, things, events would upset me, then I would need a drink to deal with them. As the years went by, I needed to drink more and more, as more and more problems arose.
This is what I had done since I first was introduced to alcohol in my late teens. For many, many years it did work. It helped me ease my way through life. It helped me get over many disappointments; it even enabled me to celebrate the occasional success.
However, by the time I came to AA, alcohol didn’t work. Whether I drunk or not the pain, the despair, the depression, the self-pity, would not go away. I was caught in a drinking cycle. I wanted to stop. I knew it was bad for me, but I couldn’t see anyway out. I thought I would not be able to stop.
I would either have to have another suicide attempt, or else just carry on in complete and utter despair, until my body eventually packed in. I thought suicide the only option, but I didn’t want to put my family through all that pain again. It had caused so much pain, when I tried it, years earlier in 1986.
I was at a very desperate point, when I phoned Alcoholics Anonymous. I was only the latest in a long line of sots, looking for a solution. A solution only found in the mid 1930’s, a solution only available inn our lifetime, a solution which man has been looking for ever since he discovered alcohol, are we not the fortunate ones, in other eras only an alcoholic insane death awaited
People I met in AA knew what was wrong with me. They had been there, and had found a solution. A fantastic book had been written. This gives precise instructions on how to recover. In fact the forward to the first edition says, “To show other alcoholics precisely how we have recovered is the main purpose of this book.”(Page xiii 4th Edition.)
Then again look at the titles of some of the paragraphs in the book.
“There is a solution”, “Into Action,” “A Vision for You,” all positive, all talking about recovery, all showing how we can change.
My sponsor quickly, after we said the step three together, got me onto doing step four. He knew how important it was, and the benefits one obtains from doing it.
Page 63 of the Big Book emphasises this when it says, “Next we launched out on a course of vigorous action, the first step of which is a personal housecleaning, which many of us had not even attempted. “ I certainly hadn’t.
Page 64 of the Big Book also gives information about alcoholism, about which I had no idea. It says, “Our liquor was but a symptom. So we had to get down to causes and conditions.”
On the same page (64) it also says, “Resentment is the ‘number one’ offender. It destroys more alcoholics than anything else. From it stem all forms of spiritual disease, for we have been not only mentally and physically ill, we have been spiritually sick. When the spiritual malady is overcome, we straighten out mentally and physically.”
I did not know this. I realise it now. I realise how critical or important it is to deal with resentments. I have to deal with them, for if I don’t deal with them as and when they arise, I will not be ‘happy, joyous and free,’ to use a beautiful expression from Page 133 of the Big Book, I also have to say that I am not un-educated, but I knew nothing about them or their disastrous consequences, until I came to AA. From talking to others, I realise that I was not the only one.
On Page 64 it also says, “Though our decision (to change) was a vital and crucial step, it could have little permanent effect unless at once followed by a strenuous effort to face and be rid of, the things in ourselves which had been blocking us” Step Four allows us to look back at our past, step ten allows us to deal with resentments, as and when they arrive.
Steps four and ten were a new ball game to me, but with my sponsor’s guidance, I quickly did step four, and I quickly came to realise and appreciate its benefits.
My sponsor introduced me to my defects of character. He said there were fourteen; Pride, Self-pity, Self-centredness, Dishonesty, Arrogance, Sloth, Lust, Envy, Jealousy, Greed, Gluttony, Impatience, Intolerance and Selfishness.
I quickly realised and still find, that these 14 defects of character cover all the things or emotions that come into my mind when a resentment or something upsets me.
He showed me how to write them in three columns. In the first column to put the name of the person, who had upset me, in the second, what they had done, and in the third column to write which of my defects of character had been affected.
He advised me to do some work on it each day, an hour at least. It took me about three months to complete it, the benefits of doing it were immense, they were fantastic, they were beyond the description of ordinary words, and if I had known what the benefits were, I would have done it twice as fast.
As well as doing step four, I was doing step tens as and when resentments arose. At first I didn’t realise that I got so many. Now with the benefits of my sponsor’s guidance I was able to see them for what they are. When the world doesn’t go the way I want, or something upsets me, the thought will fester in my head until I clear it.
Step ten allows me to do this. I would write them as I wrote my step four in three columns. In the first column the person’s name, in the second what they had done, or what had happened, and in the third my defects of character that were involved. The writing of it would allow it to dissipate. It was quite remarkable and wonderful, my head would be clear.
Writing about it and describing it like this, it just seems so implausible or far-fetched. The only way of realising the power of steps four and ten. is by doing step four with a sponsor, and then you’ll understand. The ‘proof of the pudding is in the eating.’ Be your own judge.
I am so very, very grateful for step four. Like so many others I had to go through all my life pain and anguish. I now realise that it was all necessary, for it brought me to AA, made me listen to learn, made me find a sponsor, and made me put into practice the whole spiritual programme of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Resentments, which I knew nothing about before coming to AA, are horrendous things. Page 66 of the Big Book bears this out. It says, “It is plain that a life which includes deep resentment, (and mine did, although I did not realise it) leads only to futility and unhappiness. To the precise extent that we permit these, do we squander the hours that might have been worth while.
But while the alcoholic, whose hope is the maintenance and growth of a spiritual experience, this business of resentment is infinitely grave. We found it is fatal. For when harbouring such feelings we shut ourselves off from the sunlight of the spirit. The insanity of alcohol returns and we drink again. And with us, to drink is to die.”
Step four followed by step five, was something I never thought I would do, or be asked to do. I can only say it has been the best thing I have ever done in my life, for it has freed me from my past, and allows me to be “‘happy, joyous and free.” I would recommend it to anyone.
As it says on Page 43 of the Big Book, ”My old life was by no means a bad one, but I would not exchange its best moments for the worse I have now. I would not go back to it if I could.”
Arriving in AA in 1996, I knew nothing about how it worked. I did not realise that it is a spiritual programme of recovery.
On my first day I was advised to get on my knees each morning and night and talk or chat to a Higher Power or God of my own conception. This was to help me develop a relationship with God, all to help me stay sober, all so I can be of help to others.
This Higher Power I was told could be anything I liked, provided that I was humble before Him/Her/It.
That first night, I did get on humbly and sincerely on my knees, sticking Higher Power of my own understanding on a pedestal, and just said thank you to this Power for keeping me sober that day.
I was also advised to pray for my ex-girlfriend, for her health, happiness and well-being.
I then got into bed and slept soundly for eight hours. On awakening, I then got on my knees again, to ask my Higher Power to keep me sober that day all so I could be of help to others.
This I have done every morning and night since. It was lovely that first night, and each subsequent day and night since.
A wonderful person bought me a Big Book on my first day, and I quickly got a sponsor.
Going to meetings made me start to realise that there were these things called steps. I knew nothing about them before I arrived.
People shared about them, they said they were the backbone of AA, and that they were very, very important.
I started to realise this, and felt that some steps looked all right to do, but I didn’t like the look of steps four and five, and thought I would never ever do them.
However, with my sponsor’s guidance I did steps four and five. I can only say doing them, was the most wonderful, beautiful, freeing experience.
After coming to AA, and getting a sponsor, then doing steps four and five is without a doubt the next best thing I have ever done in my life.
The benefits are unbelievable. I can extol the beauty of doing them, but you will only realise their full beauty by actually doing them yourself.
The Big Book, says on Page 75 regarding 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, Wow, Wow, a million wows, what wonderful, and oh so true words.
This is how the Big Book describes how you feel when you finish step five. This then is a description of how the first AA members felt when they had finished their step five in the late 1930’s.
This could also be a description of how I felt when I finished step five, over fifty years later.
When I talk to others who have also finished step Five as laid out in the Big Book, including sponsees, they are also able to concur with these sentiments.
Yet beautiful as these words are, they still don’t fully capture or describe the beauty of what has happened, no words can. The beautiful words above, are describing the completion of step five, and it is a wonderful thing to do.
However, the Big Book on Page 72 does give the main reason why you should do it. This says,
“In actual practice, we usually find a solitary self-appraisal insufficient. Many of us thought it necessary to go much further, we will be more reconciled to discussing ourselves with another person when we see good reasons why we should do so,
The best reason first; if we skip this vital step, we may not overcome drinking.
Time after time newcomers have tried to keep to themselves certain facts about their lives.
Trying to avoid this humbling experience, they have turned to easier methods. Almost invariably they got drunk.”
When I did my step five, I did not know that the above was in the Big Book. I just did it under my sponsor’s guidance and felt and realised the benefits.
Now I realise how true the above is. Lots of people come to AA, they know they have a drinking problem, they want to be sober, but they are not prepared to go to any lengths.
As the Big Book says, they were not prepared to go through with step five, “and almost invariably they got drunk.”
Page 73 not only says, “they took inventory all right, but hung on to some of the worse items in stock,”
but also, “But they had not learned enough of humility, fearlessness and honesty, in the sense we find it necessary, until they told someone all their life story.”
At the end of Page 73 it also says, “We must be entirely honest with somebody if we expect to live long or happily in this world,”
Page 74 says, “We have no right to save our own skin at another person’s expense.Such parts of our story we tell to someone who will understand, yet be unaffected. The rule is we must be hard on our self, but always considerate of others.”
When I finished steps four and five, I felt “at peace and ease,” with the world. I felt wonderful, and still do, thank God.
Someone once said on completing his steps four and five, ‘I feel in harmony, with God, the world and myself.’ I am very grateful to say, thank God, that I know exactly how he feels, and still, thank God, do.
Step six, one of our beautiful alcohol freeing steps, life saving steps.
Something I knew nothing about before coming in utter despair to the wonderful healing rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous ion 1996.
AA is a spiritual programme of recovery, and from my first day I was introduced to simple spiritual suggestions. These, and the other spiritual things I later learnt, I do daily, for as it says on Page 85 of the Big Book, “I am given a daily reprieve, contingent on the maintenance of my spiritual condition.”
I went to lots of meetings. I quickly got involved in service, got home groups, started to read the literature, write gratitude lists, and quickly got myself a sponsor.
He showed me how to do step four, and after my last step five session with him, he said I was free to do Steps Six and Seven as soon as I could. They only cover three paragraphs in the Big Book, but what powerful paragraphs, what powerful words, and oh how important they are.
The full wording of Step six is, “Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character”. When I arrived in AA, I did not even know that the word God would be mentioned, nor did I have any idea that I had any defects of character or that I had any resentments.
Through the help and beauty of the people I met, and AA’s very simple but very effective spiritual message of connecting with a Higher Power, I was able through the steps to re-establish a connection with a God of my own understanding, and to understand about my defects of character and resentments.
This started by me getting on my knees that first night, What started as a flimsy read has developed into a connection of joy, of love, of happiness, of complete and utter certainty that a power greater than myself exists.
This power, the world calls God, and in AA I am able to have my own connection with it. One that is very freeing, very invigorating, in fact a connection that is just sheer bliss.
In AA we get to realise how loving God is, for not only does he allow us to be sober, but also He allows us to be “happy, joyous and free.”(Page 133 Big Book). This is achieved by putting into practice certain very simple spiritual ideals, or by daily trying to put into practice what is on the ‘Just for Today ‘ card.
God I now know loves me; in fact He/She/It loves me, and wants the best for all of us. How do I how this? Well as I said, I have been sober since my first day in AA, and I know that something greater than myself has done this.
The world calls this power God. I certainly could not have done it on my own, for not only have I been sober for more than sixteen years, but as mentioned, God has allowed me to find a new peace within myself, a new calmness, a new usefulness, or to use the phrase from the Big Book, God has allowed me to be ‘happy, joyous and free.’
AA also taught me about defects of character. How could I ask for them to be removed, if I did not know what they were? It was only by doing the steps four and five that I learnt about and how they controlled me. As it says in the Big Book on Page 64; “Resentment is the ‘number one offender.”
Before I came to AA I did not know I had any resentments. By doing the steps I learnt about them and defects of character, and about the control they had over me. Things are always going to happen in life. It is how we react to them that is the problem.
AA allows me to pick up the spiritual tools of life to enable me to deal with them on spiritual lines, allowing me to remain sober and to have a beautiful happy, healthy spiritual God loving and giving life.
The Step Seven prayer on Page 76 in our beautiful Big Book has only 56 words. The whole paragraph relating to it only 69, but what beautiful words. Words that when I said them for the first time, after finishing the first six Steps, brought tears of happiness to my eyes, and joy to my heart.
They include words that I had no connection with before I came to AA. However, doing the steps changed my perception of things, and altered in a loving way, how I looked at the world, and how I looked at or how I perceived God.
In doing the steps, I began to realise that there was a Power greater than myself, and that this Power was looking after me. Before I came to AA did not have a relationship with this Power or God, but AA makes it so simple to start, develop and maintain such a relationship.
This is something I need to do if I am to remain sober, for as i says on pages 14 and 15 of the Big Book, “For if an alcoholic failed to perfect and enlarge his spiritual life through work and self-sacrifice for others, he could not survive the certain trials and low spots ahead.”
On Page 35 it also says, “he had made a beginning. His family was re-assembled, and he began to work as a salesman for the business he had lost through drinking. All went well for a time, but he failed to enlarge his spiritual life.”
Maintaining a spiritual life or spiritual connection, I now realise is important for everyone, but for us in AA it is imperative. I began to rely on Him/Her/It more and more. I realised that God existed, for how else was I able to explain my sobriety, for not only was I sober, but I was also very, very happy, healthy and well.
People started to comment on how well I looked and acted, they still do. I also know it is really nothing to do with me, it is because I have a God or Higher Power in my life, and I do daily spiritual actions to maintain this relationship, actions that at the start I was forced to do because of the pain and despair I was in.
Doing these spiritual things, gave me a peace and calmness in my head that I had never known before. Page 72 of the Big Book says regarding Step Five, “The best reason first; if we skip this vital step, we may not overcome drinking.”
The first Five steps or Proposals are also mentioned on Page 75 of the Big Book, in a Part relating to Step six, where it says, “Carefully reading the first five proposals we ask if we have omitted anything, for we are building an arch through which we shall walk a free man at last. Is our work solid so far.
Are the steps properly in place. Have we skimped on the cement put into the foundation. Have we tried to make mortar without sand?”
I knew I had omitted nothing, for I had told everything to my sponsor about my life. I had set it out in three columns as he had suggested, and read it to him in that format. The minor things, the major things, the things that were going to the grave with me, in fact these things were actually taking me to the grave, for those were the resentments I drank on.
Having finished Steps Four and Five, I was in one sense clear of the resentments of my past. What I had done and how I felt is described on Page 75 of the Big Book, “We pocket our pride and go to it, illuminating every twist of character, every dark cranny of the past. 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 belief, 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.”
I was now asking in Step Seven for all my defects of character to be removed. This was something I knew nothing about a few months earlier, they were the things that caused my resentments. I was now asking for them to be removed, all so I could be closer to God or my Higher Power.
I was asking for them to be removed all so I could be of help to my fellows, for as it says in the Step Seven prayer, Page 73 of the Big Book, “My Creator, I am now willing that you should have all of me. Good and bad. I pray that you now remove from me every single defect of character, which stands in the way of my usefulness to you and my fellows. Grant me strength, as I go out from here, to do your bidding, Amen.”
Steps Six and Seven are beautiful steps, I still remember the joy, happiness, energy and love that filled my heart and body when I first said the step seven prayer after finishing step six.
The first two words alone, “My Creator,” how beautiful.
The thing that created me/us, the thing that loves me/us. I am speaking directly to Him/Her/It. I am thanking my Creator, the thing that created me. I know it loves me, for it keeps me sober.
I am asking my Creator for my defects to be removed, all to help me love my Creator or God more, and also, so I can help everyone I meet, greet or think about, in my every thought, word and deed.
Thank you God, thank you my Creator, thank you my Maker, thank you my friend, for allowing me to know You so well, and please allow me to give all your love, joy and light away to everyone I meet, greet or think about. Thank you God, I love you so much.
After finishing step seven, I was soon in touch with my sponsor about doing step eight.
This is of course in line with the Big Book, which states on Page 76, “Now we need more action, without which we find that ‘Faith without works is dead.’
The actual wording of the step is, “Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”
Page 76 of the Big Book also says, “We have a list of all persons we have injured and to whom we are willing to make amends.”
My sponsor gave me very valuable advice regarding how to make such a list. As always he guided me perfectly.
He said I was to look back at my life, and make a list of all people I felt I had harmed. If needed I could use my step four as a guide.
He said, I was again to do it in three columns. I had to look at the harm I caused them from their point of view.This time, however, I was to put in the first column, those whom I had harmed.
In the second, how my actions effected them, and in the third column, and most importantly, how I would have felt if I was in their shoes.
This I found a wonderful step, it enabled me to see how my actions had affected others, and it also prepared me beautifully for step nine.
My sponsor had much earlier told me not to attempt to make any amends until I had completed step eight, and then I was only to make amends with his guidance. I was very grateful for his advice.
Again this seemed strange advice at the time, I thought I should be making amends as soon as possible, but I did take his advice, and as always I benefited from it.
Also, as is often pointed out, the steps are in an order for a reason. They are to be taken one at a time, leading to the spiritual awakening mentioned in step twelve.
I wrote about forty names on the list. Lots were family members, some were ex-girlfriends, and some were to do with financial amends I would have to make.
To give an example, one was to do with my late parents. In the first column I put their names, Mum, Dad.
In the second column, I wrote how my actions would have affected them. I had a separate entry for each parent.
For my Mum and Dad, for instance I wrote, “For not being and behaving like the son she would have liked.” For others on my list I wrote appropriate wording, as to how my actions, would have effected them
I then wrote in the third column how my actions did effect them.
Here I used a Thesaurus to help me find adequate words. I wrote words such as ashamed, disgusted, disappointed, embarrassed, upset, distressed, humiliated, mortified, appalled, dejected, offended, hurt, sickened, despondent, downhearted, let-down.
As I wrote I realised the problems that not only my alcoholism had caused, but also how my selfishness and self-centredness had affected my life, and how this then had effected others.
As I wrote, I also realised that stupid and silly was I was, my Mum and Dad and family, never stopped loving me or wanting to help me. Did I start crying, of course I did.
Tears of happiness, for the realisation that God and my family had always wanted the best for me, and now through the steps, I was getting the opportunity to see it.
In my madness I could not at the time see this, and now through the beauty of the twelve step programme of Alcoholics Anonymous, I was being given another chance, not only at life, but to making amends.
A chance to ask for forgiveness. A chance to say and make amends, and to be in harmony with God, my family and the world.
Was I grateful? Of course I was. I was realising how beautiful God is. How He/She/It so loves, and has given us, the beaten, the people at their rock bottoms, such a powerful spiritual programme of recovery.
I was also realising that the steps were allowing me to change my attitude towards God, , and I was starting to love Him/Her/It, whatever my concept was of it. Thank you God.
I also started to realise that by loving God, I was starting to love myself, and of course I am then able to love the world and all in it, for basically we are all ‘brothers.’
How wonderful to be given this new grasp of life, thank you God, you are so loving, I often feel I don’t deserve it
In return, all I have to do is to try to pass on this gift to others constantly, not only in AA, but in my every thought, word and deed, to everyone I meet, greet or think about, so basically the whole world is in my loving prayers and thoughts.
Thank you dearest. lovely, loving God, thank you for AA, for my sponsor and all the people in it, and thank you for all the people I have met and continue to meet, on my journey through life.
I am so very, very grateful. I often feel I don’t deserve all the benefits you allow me to receive, but I certainly appreciate and thank you for them all, lots of love, Dennis.
Steps eight and nine are obviously connected. When I had completed my list I went and saw my sponsor. I read my step eight to him. He again made valuable suggestions regarding the third column.
As mentioned there was about forty names on it. Straight away he reduced it. Anybody he felt would be hurt or discomforted by me going to them to make an amend; he removed their name from the list.
This was in line with the step, which actually says, “Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”
For example, ex-girlfriends. He said they would be getting on with their lives. Some of them would be married, and they did not need me coming back into their lives to disturb it. This is in line with Page 79 of the Big Book, where it says, “Usually other people are involved. Therefore, we are not to be the hasty and foolish martyr who would needlessly sacrifice others to save himself from the alcoholic pit.”
I there fore took my sponsor’s brilliant advice. If I had followed my own ideas. I would have gone back to ex-girlfriends, and said something like, “Look I have changed, I am sorry for what I did, can we get back together again.” This would have been completely wrong, and not in line with the spiritual life I was now trying to live by,
Of course my sponsor had already gone through with the process. He even gave me advice on what to say. He said I was to call on each person. I was to explain to them that I was a member of Alcoholics Anonymous. I was to say that AA is a spiritual programme of recovery, and that part of that process, was that I had to look back at my life and make amends wherever I thought it appropriate.
I was then to ask them, “If they were able to accept my apology,” a mere saying sorry, was not good enough. At that point I was to stay silent and listen to what they said. And if they wanted discuss the situation.
This was in line with Page 83 of the Big Book, where it says, “Yes, there is a long period of reconstruction ahead. We must take the lead. A remorseful mumbling that we are sorry won’t fill the bill at all. We ought to sit down with the family and frankly analyze the past as we now see it, being very careful not to criticise them.”
I found that it was a delight making my amends. Everybody only wanted the best for me. They were glad to see that I was getting on with my life, and living it on different terms. I have found the same happened with others who have done step nine the way I was shown, which is the way it is laid out in the Big Book.
Some of the people I saw I knew, for instance family members, but some were the representatives of concerns or organisations I had harmed in the past. Until that moment I had not met them. The manager of one place I had to visit was only half my age, yet all were very supportive. They were all slightly surprised, for this was not something that happened to them on a regular basis.
They were all very helpful. Some were financial amends. I did have the money to deal with this, in total it came to approx £2,500. When I was with them, we did talk about AA. They also had no idea of the spiritual nature of the recovery programme. A few said that they knew a family member or a friend who they felt could benefit by going to the meetings. One of them I remembered said, “This has restored my faith in human nature.”
My sponsor had said that when I went to see anyone about an amend, or when I was doing anything for AA in an official capacity, such as giving P.I. talks or doing P.I. work then I was at that moment the face of AA, and should dress becomingly, the expression from ‘The Just for Today Card.’ For me this meant wearing a suit, shirt and tie.
I found all my amends uplifting, and doing them very freeing. Doing them certainly reduced my pride, all part of the ego deflating process of Alcoholics Anonymous. To start with I was a bit nervous, but the doing of them, gave me confidence. As time went on
I just looked forward to doing them, for I realised that by doing them I was working towards obtaining the promises, mentioned on Pages 83 and 84 of the Big Book, which comes just after the part relating to step nine.
I still remember the first time that I read the ‘promises.’ I was in a Café with other members. Even as I read them, I thought this unbelievable; there is no way that these things can happen to me. They virtually include everything a man could want.
They mentioned all the things I was looking for when I was drinking. Happiness, serenity, peace, freedom, are just some of the words used. The chaps I was with said, that they were coming true in his life, and there was no reason to think they wouldn’t come true in mine.
After my last amend, which was a small financial amend, I just felt great. The promises, those beautiful promises, were all coming true in my life. Looking back over the years, I can certainly say they have all come true, and that they are there everyday, providing I maintain my spiritual condition.
Lovely as they all are, something even more greater has occurred, and this is the absolute certainty that God exists, and that He/She/It is loving and caring for me constantly. Thank you God, thank you AA.
The wonderful beauty and healing power of Step Ten is impossible to describe until you practice it yourself, under the guidance of a sponsor. When I arrived in AA, I knew nothing about step ten, or of its efficiency with dealing with resentments, things I didn’t realise I got.
After going to meetings, sharing with my sponsor, talking to others, and of course reading the Big Book, I started to realise that alcohol was but a symptom of my problem, that my real problem was life or the difficulties or situations of life.
Over the years, things would happen, things I didn’t like. I would get upset, frustrated, and to try to relieve that upset I would turn to drink. For many years it worked, it did help me deal with the difficulties of life.
However, by the time I got to AA, alcohol would not ease the problems of life. In fact in retrospect, it was actually making things worse, for alcohol is a depressant and I now know, that the more I drank, the more depressed I became.
In other words, I was unhappy with life, that’s why I drank. So my drinking was really a symptom of my unhappiness or of the deep resentments I had. This I now know, but I had no idea before I came to AA in 1996.
Of course the people in AA knew about resentments and their destructive power. In fact Page 64 of the Big Book says, “Our liquor was but a symptom,” and later on the same page, “Resentment is the ‘number one’ offender. It destroys more alcoholics than anything else.” How true.
Before AA, I never realised that I had resentments, or that they were a daily challenge. I also didn’t realise that I had any defects of character. Wasn’t I so very, very silly and unaware?
In AA I’ve learnt so much; about defects of character and resentments, and about how to deal with them on a spiritual basis, giving rise to a happy, healthy sober life.
I feel that AA is the greatest spiritual university in the world. For AA is a spiritual programme, and we learn in the rooms, about the spirit and how to keep it strong and nourished by doing daily spiritual exercises. The spiritual things we do, keep the spirit strong, allowing us to mix freely and soberly in the world.
Page 25 of the Big Book reflects this, where it says, “When, therefore, we were approached by those in whom the problem had been solved, there was nothing left for us but to pick up the simple kit of spiritual tools laid at our feet.”
Like others I can only say that by picking them up I have found much of heaven and have been rocketed into a fourth dimension of existence of which I could not have ever dreamed.”
I had been shown how to do step tens, by my sponsor. He showed me how to do them when he introduced me to step four. Step four was there to deal with the resentments of the past, and step tens are there to deal with resentments as they arise.
When something or someone upset me, I was to get pen and paper, and write out a step ten as quickly as possible. I was to try and do it right there and then, allowing the sunlight of the spirit to continue to flow through me, and realise the beauty of God.
It was remarkable, I would write the resentment out in three columns. In the mere writing of it, the resentment would just dissipate or disappear. It was unbelievable; I would never have thought it would work. I just did what my sponsor suggested, all per the Big Book, and it worked. It seems far-fetched, but the only way to prove it or realise its efficiency is to start doing them,
I also know they have to be written out; they can’t be done in the head. I must stress that all these tools come as a package. They must be done daily. You cannot just pick and choose which steps you want to do, or which spiritual tools you want to pick up.
As I did them I quickly realised that my problem wasn’t what was happening to me, or who or what was causing the resentment, the problem, was always my reaction to it, or rather my defects of character coming into play.
My sponsor said there was fourteen of these; pride, self-pity, self-centredness, dishonesty, arrogance, lust, envy, jealousy, greed, selfishness, impatience, intolerance, gluttony, and sloth.
By doing step four and step tens, I found out what resentments were. Writing them out as described, they just dissipated.
Very wonderful, and very remarkable I was told that this would happen, but until I did them myself I didn’t really understand the beauty of them; miraculous, marvellous. I continue to do step tens today, life is, things happen. I still get resentments, but much less than before, but now through AA I have the spiritual tools to deal with them.
Regarding step ten, it says, on Page 85 of the Big Book; “It is easy to let up on the spiritual programme of action and rest on our laurels. We are headed for trouble if we do, for alcohol is a subtle foe.
We are not cured of alcoholism, what we really have is a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition.
Every day is a day when we must carry the vision of God’s will into all our activities. ‘How can I best serve Thee-Thy will (not mine) be done.’ These are thoughts which must go with us constantly.”
Another point made on Page 85 of the Big Book concerns how our attitude to liquor changes, “We will see that our new attitude toward liquor has been given us without any thought or effort on our part. It just comes! That is the miracle of it. We are not fighting it, neither are we avoiding temptation.
We feel as though we have been placed in a position of neutrality-safe and protected. We have not even sworn off. Instead, the problem has been removed. It does not exist for us. We are not cocky nor are we afraid. That is our experience. That is how we react so long as we keep in fit spiritual condition.”
Since I came to AA I’ve just done the spiritual things suggested, all mentioned in the Big Book. Just as it says above, I’ve never sworn off. I just feel the problem has been removed, provided I do daily spiritual things.
I enjoy doing them, for not only do they keep me sober, but also they daily enhance my spiritual condition, allowing me to help newcomers, and to improve my conscious contact with God.
Thank you lovely God, and thank you for everyone in AA. Thank you to our founders, for producing a book giving ‘precise’ instructions, not only to keep us sober, but also to allow us to be happy, healthy, joyous and free.
Step eleven mentions “prayer and meditation,” wonderful things to do now, but neither of these activities were part of my life style when I first arrived in AA in 1996, over sixteen years ago.
Today they are a vital part of my life, in fact they are an essential part of my life, for as it says on Page 85 of the Big Book; “We are not cured of alcoholism. What we really have is a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition.” Therefore to remain sober, I have to maintain my spiritual condition. For this meditation and prayer are essential. I also try to do daily what’s on the ‘Just for Today’ card.
I knew nothing about this or AA when I first arrived. I did not know it was a very simple spiritual programme of recovery. From day one, or rather night one, I was advised to get on my knees, and start developing a relationship with a Higher Power or God of my own concept.
This is one of the fundamental ideas of AA, and is beautifully described 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?” How beautiful, how freeing.
How tremendous, how wonderful, and oh how simple. That night I did get on my knees, and started a new relationship with a Higher Power or God of my own concept. Every night before I came to AA I use to say something like, “Please don’t let me wake up in the morning,” or “Please let me die tonight.” Both these thoughts, would have been accompanied by a lot of swear words. At that stage I would have described myself as an agnostic.
When I was taken for tea after my first meeting, and told this to the people I was with, they asked me, “Who was I talking to?” This made me think, who was I talking to. The same people then said, whoever or
whatever you are talking to, why don’t you change the conversation, and be more grateful and humble.
They said that they got on their knees every night, as a sign of gratitude and humility. They then had a conversation or chat with their Higher
Power, or a God of their own understanding. They said that since doing this, they had never had a drink, and they had been sober a long time. They also said something like, “Why not give it a go, what have you got to lose?”
I did it that night and the next morning, and have done it every night and morning since, and have not had or wanted a drink in all these years.
This relationship, which started as a flimsy reed, has grown, and grown, and grown, until today it is the most important thing in my life.
It is my main relationship. I am never alone. God is with me always, has always been with me, and always will be with me.
God, He/She/It, I now know gives me everything, including the gift of free will. This gift of free will is given to every one. With it, however, I tried to do everything on my own, without acknowledging a God in my life. I even tried to destroy myself through drink, and a suicide attempt.
Now I was to try to surrender my free will, and try to do God’s will,
which is basically to acknowledge there is something greater than myself, and with the love, health, sobriety and energy He/She/It gives me, try to help my fellow man. I have heard the phrase, “Surrender, surrender, and you won’t go on a bender.”
Pages 87/88, also says, .”“We constantly remind ourselves we are no longer running the show, humbly saying to ourselves many times each day “Thy will be done.”
How true, and what wisdom shown by our founders, when they wrote the Big Book, and of course we have the wonderful “Serenity Prayer.”
What beautiful words of wisdom, and what calmness this prayer brings to the mind by saying it. A non-denominational prayer, and of course in AA we learn the first word ‘God,’ can be replaced by ‘Higher Power,’ ‘Universal Creator,’ whatever you feel is right for you to say at the time. Whichever or whatever word you are using, you are establishing, a connection, with something much more powerful than yourself. Today I do use the word God. I can certainly vouch that I said the ‘Serenity Prayer’ thousands of times at the start of my AA journey, and still say it today. It is a wonderful prayer, an important spiritual tool that I use today.
Since coming to AA I’ve never asked God for anything, except, as it
might be useful or helpful to others. So from day one, I’ve said on my knees, something like this, “Dear God/Friend/Mate, if it is Thy will, may I be sober today, all so that I can be of help to others, particularly my fellow alcoholics.”
This is of course in line with Page 13 of the Big Book, where is
says, “Never was I to pray for myself, except as my requests bore on my usefulness to others.” and Page 87 of the Big Book, where it says, “We are careful never to pray for our own selfish ends. Many of us have wasted a lot of time doing that and it doesn’t work. You can easily see why.”
Before AA all my prayer or chats to God, or rather my demands, or rather my begging demands to God were for things for myself. Since coming to AA all my chats or talks to God, are only asking for things, if it is “Thy will,” all so I can be of of help or of use to others.
When I came to AA, there was no spirituality in my life. Now it is an
essential part of it. I often visit religious buildings, of all the different religions, in different places and times, and enjoy them all, finding them all very beautiful peaceful spiritual places, all with the common thread, that people come to each of them to connect with God, a God of their own understanding, with whom they pray and chat, helping them to fully realise God’s beauty, wisdom and love.
I am not part of any religious group, but I can now see the beauty of all
religions, and can now appreciate, the peace they bring into peoples’ lives. I also do lots of yoga, which I would recommend to anyone.
One of the things that I have learnt in AA is that to be comfortable in this world, you must have a connection with a God of your own understanding, and AA makes this very simple to achieve and develop.
Step Eleven does say, “Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him,” How beautiful, how true, and the more I pray and meditate, the more of God’s beauty and wonder I see and understand, always with the realisation that there is always more and always will be more to see and understand.
Thank you lovely God for this unique gift of AA, for allowing me to be sober each day, and for being allowed to understand your beauty more and more. Thanks oh thanks, dearest, beautiful lovely God.
Step Twelve, wonderful step twelve, fantastic step twelve, tremendous step twelve, the final step beautifully described in the chapter, Working with Others,” starting on Page 89 of the beautiful brilliant book Alcoholics Anonymous.
I knew nothing about this, or the steps, or that AA is a spiritual programme of recovery, when I first arrived in the wonderful spiritually healing rooms, over sixteen years ago.
Now when I look back I am able to see how well people worked with me when I first arrived. I am able to see how wonderfully my sponsor so freely passed on to me the wonderful AA message, and I am also able to look at myself and see if I am passing the same wonderful message on in the same wonderful way.
I well remember the day I arrived. I was suicidal, full of fear, and self –pity. I hated myself, and alcohol my ‘friend’ for so many years, no longer worked. I had tried everything, the best of doctors, psychiatrists, nothing worked, and no one understood me, there was no solution, only a painful death awaited.
How wrong I was. I met people who had been where I had been, who felt like I felt. They offered a solution. They said I could change, that I need no longer drink again, if I just did what they did, which was the twelve step spiritual programme of alcoholics anonymous.
Page 89 of the Big Book bears this out. It says, “This is our twelfth suggestion. Carry this message to other alcoholics! You can help when no one else can. You can secure their confidence when others fail.”
Later on the same page it says, “but it happens that because of your own drinking experience you can be uniquely useful to other alcoholics.” How true, how wonderful and beautifully true.
I experienced this on my first day. I identified with people I met and heard. For the first time in my life, I met people like myself, people who thought like me. People, who drank like me, people who did the same silly things. It was wonderful.
They knew me better than I knew myself, for they had been like me. They said I could also change. They had been shown how to, and all they wanted to do, was help me. Brilliant, terrific, tremendous, gorgeous, loving, freeing, healthy healing. Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow and a million more wows. There was a solution.
We went for tea afterwards, and we talked about our drinking exploits. We talked about the pain it caused, and how it could kill.
As it says on Page 92 of the Big Book, “Continue to speak of alcoholism as an illness, a fatal malady. Talk about the conditions of body and mind, which accompany it. keep his attention focused mainly on your personal experience. Explain that many are doomed who never realize their predicament.”
The other wonderful thing that happened that day was that these men I met told me exactly what had happened to them.
They told me how they had stopped drinking and had changed their lives around, by following some spiritual ideas. That day they introduced me to a God of my own concept, a loving one. One who allows me to be happy, joyous, sober and free each day by doing some very simple spiritual suggestions, this under the wonderful guidance of a sponsor.
I now appreciate that this was all in line with Page 93 of the Big Book, where it says, “Tell him exactly what happened to you. Stress the spiritual feature freely. If the man be agnostic or atheist, make it emphatic that he does not have to agree with your conception of God.
He can choose any conception he likes, provided it makes sense to him. The main thing is that he be willing to believe in a Power greater than himself and that he lives by spiritual principles.”
I am so grateful to AA, and all the wonderful people in it. I am particularly grateful to my sponsor and those tremendous men that I met that first day who helped a complete and utter stranger so beautifully, lovingly and wonderfully.
They wanted nothing in return, they only wanted to freely pass on to me the gift of sobriety, that had been so freely passed on to them. Are they in my prayers, of course they are, as is everyone in AA, in fact as is everyone in the World.
The first part of step twelve says, “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps.” When I arrived, as I say, I knew nothing about the steps and I certainly knew nothing about a spiritual awakening.
I can only say that by doing the steps, with the guidance of a sponsor, has lead to a spiritual awakening. That is something that is unbelievably beautiful, in fact it is sheer bliss. Words cannot describe it, but it is there for everyone, who does the twelve step spiritual recovery programme, with the guidance of a sponsor, who has a sponsor, who has a sponsor etc. As the Big Book says on Page 16, “Some of us, look no further for Utopia.”
When I asked my sponsor to sponsor me, he did ask me the question, “Was I willing to go to any lengths,” I just said ‘yes,’ I didn’t realise the significance of the question, or the beautiful things that were going to happen to me, but it does say on Page 79 of the Big Book, “Reminding ourselves that we have decided to go to any lengths to find a spiritual experience.”
What has happened to me had already happened to my sponsor and to millions of others. Aren’t we gifted, aren’t we the fortunate ones, who not only have been shown a way to live a sober life, but by doing the steps with the guidance of a sponsor, who has a sponsor etc, we get a spiritual awakening, again, wow, wow, wow, wow, a million wows.
It also says on Page 161 of the Big Book, “They had seen the miracles, and one was to come to them. They had visioned the Great reality-their loving and All Powerful Creator.” Again wow, wow, wow, wow a million wows. Thank you lovely God, thank you wonderful AA, and thank you for the gift of sponsorship.
Thinking about the beauty of my wonderful loving welcome on that first day can still bring tears of joy and happiness to my eyes. Each day I ask lovely God to help me give away freely this beautiful gift of sobriety, health and happiness, that I was so freely given then.
Thanks everyone, thanks for reading this, God bless you all, always in my prayers, and may we pray that lovely AA does happily and healthily spiritually grow and glow, so that more people are saved from the ravages of alcoholism. Thank you lovely God, and thank you for AA.