It seems to me that pride is the opposite of gratitude -- one of the most important tools in my AA tool box. Gratitude opens up the channel between me and my Higher Power, pride closes it. With my channel open I am capable of untold miracles limited only by my beliefs, with my channel closed my accomplishments are insignificant. I like to remember the quote "Man's greatest accomplishment is foolishness to God."

So what is it I want? To be connected to the power that created and maintains the universe and everything in it or the power than managed to get himself isolated in his darkened apartment in a dirty bathrobe drinking wine and watching reruns of Gilligan's Island day after day? Hmmm. let's see...

Certainly it's OK for me to take satisfaction in my accomplishments -- God gives us these good feelings for a reason -- as long as I remember that "i" didn't do it. There is only one Source, one Supply and one Power. It's all coming from God and it's all a gift -- "war" "peace" "good" "bad" whatever you want to call it.


I'm not sure denial is a bad thing. Toward the end if I had the ability to see my life as it really was, who knows what I might have done to myself? I was pathetic but didn't know it. It's only now 10 years later that I can see that I was in really deep trouble. While I had not yet lost my apartment or my car, I had lost my interest in virtually everything that didn't involve getting high. Alcoholism has eroded my spirituality from the inside out. I was running purely on self will -- rationalizing, justifying, or ignoring all the events of my life. Denial is probably saving a lot of alcoholics (drinking and sober) from suicide, but not all of them. It didn't save my father.

It's uncomfortable to inventory and see myself as I really am. It's uncomfortable to see how my actions harm others. It's uncomfortable to admit I am wrong and uncomfortable to make amends. It's easier just to stay in the warm cocoon of denial. I think it takes a lot of courage to leave the comfort zone and work the Steps. If you are doing this work, you are learning what I am learning: "the truth will set (me) free."

Self Will

I remember the story of a little boy who had watched Gone with the Wind with his parents. He saw Rhett Butler say to Scarlet "I want what I want when I want it." So the next day he tried this out on the little girl who lived next door. He swaggered up to her and said "I want what I want when I want it." She looked at him and said "Well, you'll get what I got when I get it."

I'm running on self will when I want what I want regardless of what God or anyone else may want. In this condition -- consumed with my own plans and ideas -- It's only a matter of time before I'll be doing mental, spiritual, emotional and maybe even physical harm to another of God's children. I'll be like that tornado the Big Book talks about ... running through the lives of the people around me.

I learned in AA that the only solution to self will is to do God's will instead. Fortunately the instructions on how to do God's will are neatly written down in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. All I gotta be is willing, honest and open minded.

The Three C's

"The alcoholic is like a tornado roaring his way through the lives of others."

This line in the BB described me to a tee. I was so caught up in me that I was totally insensitive to you. I stepped on your toes, belittled you (just being "cute" you know), and used you to get my needs met. And I didn't even realize I was doing it unless you brought it to my attention, then I would argue with you. "I didn't mean to.." If I finally apologized, it was to get you off my back or to get me out of hot water.

As a few layers have come off the onion, I am a little more in tune to the fact that there are other people on the earth besides me, but admitting that I am wrong is still not one of my strong suits. But I do it (albeit sometimes not "promptly") because I believe that the program of Alcoholics Anonymous works IF you work it.

I'm pretty much convinced that my life is a result of the thoughts I think. If I'm carrying around a lot of negative thoughts, then my actions will be negative and I'll create more wreckage. So the challenge for me today with Step 10 is to pay attention to what I'm thinking. And I can find out what I'm thinking if I listen to what I'm saying.

If I can stay away from the three C's: Complaining, Criticizing and Condemning then a better life is possible for me.

Dancing with God

After 30 years of drinking and causing wreckage and pain to myself and others, I received a moment of clarity. In a flash I was allowed to see the truth about what I had become. I saw that alcohol was involved in all the negative experiences of my life. I got a good whiff of myself and it wasn't a pretty smell. Along with this vision of truth, I got a feeling of hope. I learned later that this is called "grace" -- an undeserved gift.

I did not go to God to get this experience. He brought me to Him. He took away the alcoholic obsession and compulsion. He loved me first and that's why I seek Him today. For me it's not blind faith, but faith based on the reality of my own experience.

There is not a time when I am apart from God. He is right here in my heart and has been there all along. But my experience of Him that changes based on my willingness to seek Him.

Its like we do a little dance. By taking the actions that demonstrate my willingness, I take a step closer to Him and he automatically takes a step closer to me. When I get caught up in life stuff and forget what's important I take a step backwards and God steps backwards too.

The difference is that after 10 years of this dance when I'm close, I'm closer than ever and I don't have to move backwards as far before I realize that I'm heading in the wrong direction.

Meeting Makers Make It

There's a certain truth that exists for me in meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous that I haven't been able to find elsewhere. By the time I got here, I had heard the lies for so long I believed them totally. The lies about relationships, success, how life works, even the lies about God. I believed that it was a "dog eat dog" world and whoever had the most money and other stuff at the end was the winner. I believed that getting and staying comfortable was the number one goal. I went to any lengths to get comfortable and sometimes, for brief periods, it felt like I was winning, but the emptiness would always return. For thirty years I drank to fill up the emptiness. Today I realize that it was the spirit of God that was missing from my life.

Meetings for me are like cool clear water dripping into a bucket full of muddy, dirty water. Over time the water in my bucket has become clearer. But there are still rocks and sticks and rusty beer cans in the bottom of my bucket. Meetings will not lift these out of my bucket, only the continuous, dynamic action of the 12 steps applied to my life one day at a time has removed some of these big chunks.

Each meeting I attend has the potential of 12th step work if I am focused on what I'm bringing to the meeting rather than getting what I think I need. If I'm sitting in a meeting condemning, resentful, and judgmental, I'm not much help to anyone else. But I gotta keep coming back anyways. It's the only chance I have.

Life Changing

I'm coming to believe that my life experience today is a direct result of my thoughts yesterday. It is absolutely impossible for me to have a life that is happy, joyous and free, if I am entertaining thoughts of worry, resentment and fear. When I was still practicing, one of my favorite expressions was "life is a sh*t sandwich and it's always lunch time." This kind of negative thinking became ingrained in me -- self perpetuating. It's no wonder that I had a life that was mostly negative.

Like any bad habit, it's taken some time to reverse some of this negative thinking. This is work that I would not have even attempted while still drinking. But now that I've been able to see a little progress in the form of a better life experience, I'm enthusiastic about wanting more.

All of this has come as a direct result of increased contact with my Higher Power. The Steps and the Program of AA has made this increased contact possible. Mostly I feel my insides are cleaner today. I'm not carrying around so much guilt and shame, thus I'm not dogged by the constant feeling that something bad is going to happen. I feel lighter.

The AA suggestion of being of service is one that is serving me well. If I am truly a channel for God's Peace, Love, etc then the channel has to go somewhere. It doesn't end in me. My prayers for opportunities to be of service are being answered both in and out of the rooms. When my focus is on what I can give rather than what I think I need, my life just naturally seems to be better.

Self Discovery

I used a spiral notebook for my 4th. Pretty much filled it up. The first pages were neatly written in my best hand. These were the pages where I was intellectualizing my fears, harms and resentments. The final pages (where I was rushing to get finished before my appointment with my sponsor) looked like another person had written them. This was the true stuff, the painful stuff, the embarrassing stuff. These were the twists and crannys. I wrote this stuff down quickly, trying not to look.

Then just before my fifth, I decided to "clean it up a little." After all, what would my sponsor think if he saw my sloppy handwriting? So I rewrote it on the computer with justified margins and subheads. Like a college thesis. Even gave it a title, "Instincts Gone Awry." I reduced 30 pages to two and a half.

It took me about 15 minutes to read my "manuscript" to my sponsor. He looked at me kind of blankly and said "is that all there is?" I showed him my spiral notebook and he said why don't I read that too. Two hours later I had read it all, even the embarrassing bad handwriting pages. He gave me a hug, told me he loved me and said that now I'll never have to be alone again.

I'm coming to believe that once I crossed the line into alcoholism every drink or drug I took me further and further away from Reality. So when I came to at age 47, I had no idea who I really was or how life worked. To me the Twelve Steps is very much about discovering the Truth about myself. The willingness to go though this process of self discovery brings me closer to my Higher Power and the Promises begin to come true.

See the Light

I heard that there was a South American Indian tribe that cursed their enemies by saying "stay just the way you are." If I'm not growing and changing, I'm stagnating and dying. Which is exactly were my alcoholism was taking me before God graced me with a moment of clarity that led me to Alcoholics Anonymous.

The biggest road block to change is the idea that the best way to live is to avoid pain and to just get comfortable. I don't use alcohol or drugs to try and get comfortable today, but other things. Sweets, exercise, numbing out in front of the computer, working too much, controlling too much, and the list goes on. I'm sure I've missed a good part of life because of the fear that some new experience or a change in my routine would take me out of my comfort zone.

The New Age minister back in San Diego said there are only two reasons why we would want to change: because we see the light or because we feel the heat. Thanks to Alcoholics Anonymous I'm more willing today to try and see the light.


By the end of my drinking, I had become an expert at playing the role of the devil's advocate. I prided myself on my ability to tell you exactly what was wrong with any plan or idea you had. If I was looking at a beautiful garden, my eyes would automatically focus on the one weed. My outlook was cynical and my humor sarcastic. My favorite expression was "life is a sh*t sandwich and it's always lunch time."

By the time I staggered into the doors of AA, negativity had become an ingrained habit. Years of negative thoughts and words produced negative deeds. But I was so wrapped up in self that I was only vaguely aware of how my actions affected others. I didn't purposely set out to have a negative life, but as alcoholism eroded my spiritual center, I really had no other choice.

It's only by practicing moment by moment, the actions I learned from the Steps and from sober, recovering people in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous that have I been able to break the habit of negativity. Oh sometimes I still see the glass half empty, but generally my outlook is positive. And this positive outlook is paying dividends in a positive living experience. AA really is the softer, easier way for me.