AA Resentments

I've sat in many a meeting feeling resentful at other members. They are sharing too long, they are sharing the "mess" and not the "message," they shared the same story last week, they walked in late (again!) oblivious to the disturbance they cause, they don't volunteer for service, they don't put anything in the basket, yadda, yadda...

What I'm coming to believe is that when I sit in a meeting judging others, finding them guilty and being resentful about it, I might as well not be there. Resentment (fear) blocks off my channel to my Higher Power and I cannot partake of the spiritual atmosphere and my own sharing is flat. As always my resentment is only hurting me. (It's certainly not hurting the woman (16 yrs) in our group here who shares frequently about the trials and tribulations of her pet rabbit.)

Learning how to stop judging and resenting others in my meetings is important work. Because if I can't do it in AA I certainly can never hope to to stop doing it outside the rooms in a world where so much judgement and hatred exists. I have found that If I really want to, I can overlook or quickly let go of what other people say or do. But I gotta really want to and I gotta ask my Higher Power's for help. I try to remember that I need to accept others exactly as they are if I want to be accepted exactly as I am. When I see the guilt in others, I am only reaffirming my own sense guilt.

I'm not worried about what newcomers are hearing from someone with no program, because to do so would mean to give power to words of ignorance. There is no power in the words of fearful people to get anyone drunk. There is only One power and to the extent that I am channelinng this power in what I think, say and do -- I am being responsible.

I think AA is just fine the way it is with all its pimples and warts. If it was supposed to be different it would be. If anyone needs to change, it's me not them.


I sense that unity is one of those spiritual principles that I’m supposed to be practicing in all my affairs along with forgiveness, acceptance gratitude and all the rest. While an honest inventory about Tradition One shows that I do pretty well in my group, it is clear I have a long way to go to becoming a unifying presence in the world at large.

I come from a culture and upbringing that rewarded individuality. I was taught that each of us separate not only from each other, but also from God whose place is in heaven while I grovel around down here on earth. Instead of connecting with others, I learned to judge and compare. You are either better than me or worse than me, but never the same as me. I had to compete against you to make the team, to make the grade and to make a living. The problem with competition is that someone has to lose -- hardly a unifying force in the world.

I lived in conscious separation from other people and God for most of my life. It’s no surprise that during the last days of my drinking I ended up in almost total isolation -- drinking all alone in my darkened apartment day after day. I remember thinking how good it was that no one else was in my life. No one to hassle me about my drinking or give me any crap about not looking for work. How sad it is for me to recall these thoughts today.

My experience in AA has been very much about reconnecting with life itself. I was able to leave enough of my ego at the door and do what was suggested which placed me firmly in the center of AA. As I began to connect with Group Of Drunks -- I began to connect with my Higher Power too. Even though it was scary at first, I learned that being "a part of" rather than "apart from" was a much more satisfying way to live.

"...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?" If my choice is "everything" then I must believe that every person, place and thing in the entire universe (including Osama bin Laden) is God. Even though we all look different on the outside and each of us has unique talents and experiences, each of us is just God in drag.

Fellowship of the Spirit

After I crossed the line into active alcoholism -- going from wanting to drink to needing to drink--I spent hours alone drinking in my darkened apartment. I also engaged in another harmful activity--thinking. By then I had chased everyone out of my life. In my delusion I thought having no one around to bother me was a great way to live. Today this thought is a sad memory, but also a clear indication that I was losing my connection with real life and plunging ever deeper into the sea of insanity.

The book says "bottles were only a symbol." I believe I drank the way I did because I always felt disconnected from life--like I was on the outside looking in. Recovery for me means reconnecting with life. Another word for life is spirit. I don’t use this word in any religious sense, but only to describe a force that keeps the universe, and everything in it, in perfect order and harmony. Alcoholism is called as a "dis-order." As I strengthen my connection with spirit and my life becomes harmonious, there is no longer any need to drink.

When I walked into my first meeting, it was like walking into a cozy room from out of a snow storm. I had a feeling of being home. I know today it was spirit I felt -- the fellowship of the spirit. It’s the same reason I usually feel better walking out of a meeting than I did walking into the meeting. I connected with spirit. Of course if I sit through the whole meeting taking everybody’s inventory or worried that I won’t sound good when it’s my turn to share, then I don’t feel better, sometimes I feel worse -- like I need a meeting. Some days are like that.


Like most of us I began my practice of self discovery reluctantly. I was afraid to look at myself because I knew deep down the image I had of myself was false. I was living a lie. I was not "a pretty nice guy who just drank a little too much." I was a liar, a cheat and a thief.

If I didn't have a disease that was going to kill me, I'm certain I would have left the door closed on the truth of what I had become forever. But because I wanted what you had, I found the courage to do what you did. Dutifully -- under half steam -- I listed my so-called sins and shared these embarrassing things with my sponsor. I did a couple of subsequent inventories this way, usually in the form of "annual house cleanings."

At about nine years sober my program shifted and so did my inventory process. One summer night I finally became sick and tired of constantly reacting in anger to the words and actions of the people around me. It became clear that for the better part of 50 years I had been giving away my serenity without any fight at all. I realized it wasn't what other people said or did that was the problem, it was something in me causing my fearful reactions. What was it? That evening I pledged to make peace of mind my number one goal, and when I did erupt in anger, to try and discover the source within.

Today my inventories are motivated more by curiosity than guilt. When I lose my peace today I don't beat myself up, I get quiet and try to discover the cause. I keep asking why.

Sense of Belonging

I heard a speaker say that she was so cold when she arrived in AA that she was frozen. That describes me. I was frozen and I've been spending all these years just thawing out. In my 30 years of drinking I had erected a huge ego wall that separated me from you, God and everything good in life.

I didn't realize it at the time, but I wanted so much to fit in to AA to belong to the group, but my insecurities kept me posturing on the outside looking in. I stiffened up like a board if you wanted to give me a hug. I acted the part of a happy camper, but I was not.

I was showing up at a lot of meetings but not really feeling connected. Then at 90 days sober the 70 men of my home group elected me the doughnut guy. Looking back this was one of the truly significant events of my life. For the first time I felt like I belonged somewhere. I felt a sense of usefulness. I was part of. Not only that, I got to scarf down 2-3 freshly made doughnuts right out of the oven on my way to the meeting. What could be better than that?

I learned through this experience to make sure the newcomers in the meetings I attend regularly have opportunities to be of service and I give them a push to volunteer.

Don't Drink No Matter What!

Here in China drinking to excess is part of the business culture. In the Chinese mind, getting blasted with your new business partner is supposed to create a bond of trust. Thankfully this is slowly changing.

There have been a few occasions in the past where my not drinking and therefore my trustworthiness has been questioned by my Chinese host. "Not even beer?" they ask. With my Chinese wife's help I tell them that drinking, even a tiny bit, makes me deathly sick (and this is not a lie). Usually they back off.

We had a visitor in our meeting that told this story... "I was at a lavish banquet with my new Chinese business partners and immediately they began pouring small glasses of liquor for a toast. I told them that I didn't drink, but they kept insisting. I said that drinking alcohol makes me sick. Their response? "OK, next time we will pick a restaurant next door to the hospital!"

That I have been able to stay sober in China for all these years is not something that I did, but definitely the work of my higher power. I just try to stay willing to grow.

Motives and Intentions

In The Doctor's Opinion in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, the good doctor says that I must undergo a deep psychic change or else I will drink again. The trouble, he points out, is that I can't change me. I need spiritual help to change. Oh I can change some behaviors for a short time, but I can't change anything deep down. Only my higher power can change me. But this is not gonna happen against my will. I gotta be willing to be changed at depth, no ifs, ands or buts.

I have learned that just saying I'm willing is not enough. I must demonstrate my willingness to be changed. Taking the actions prescribed by Alcoholics Anonymous, the same set of actions they taught me when I was new, is the way I demonstrate my willingness to be changed. I am learning that a true demonstration of willingness is taking the actions with the right motive or intention. And this is the fly in the ointment.

"This odd trait of mind and emotion, this perverse wish to hide a bad motive underneath a good one, permeates human affairs from top to bottom." 12x12 pg. 94

Going to a meeting demonstrates my willingness to be changed, but if I'm sitting there in judgement of others then it's not a demonstration of willingness. If I am involved in service as a way to build up my ego then I'm not demonstrating. If I cross the line into trying to control sponcees, then I'm not demonstrating. Working the steps for the good it will bring me rather than preparing myself to be of maximum service to others is not demonstrating willingness.

I don't do any of these things perfectly. I am not a saint. But, instead of sleepwalking through life, I am trying to pay attention not only to my actions, but also to my motives and intentions. I've found it takes practice, but it's worth it.


Once peace of mind became the most important thing to me -- more important that my work, my relationships, and my 401K -- I began to look at things differently. I saw that I had developed many habits of thinking that were not peace bringing. I saw that every time I reacted negative to the people and situations in my life I was giving away my peace -- most often to people I didn't even know!

Reacting impatiently when I am held up in traffic is a prime example: I start to worry that I am going to be late and then I begin to feel anxious. My anxiety grows and I start the blame game. Sometime, if I'm in a taxi, I make it driver's fault. Other times it's the idiot in front of me who's driving too slow. Some days it seems the whole world is conspiring against me, making it impossible for me to reach my destination on time. Yelling at the taxi driver, blowing my horn and generally just hating every other driver on the road only serves to make me more upset.

A few years ago, I came to realize that I was squandering many hours of my life in fear and anger and upset. This impatience in traffic is just one example. I had become "sick and tired" of this behavior. I wanted to change, but how?

When I became willing look for causes and conditions in Step Four, I was led to the truth. I was shown that a major cause of my impatience was perfectionism, the fear that unless I do everything perfectly, you will judge me unworthy on some level. As a recovering perfectionist I must make it OK to be late sometimes. When I allow myself to be late -- to be human -- my impatience in traffic almost disappeared!

Today, after a few years of practice, when I start to feel anxious and impatient, I hear this message: "Hey, it's time to practice patience." As I continue to practice patience, the situations in my life that cause me to become anxious and lose my peace are fewer and fewer.

Right on Schedule!

My first sponsor had a saying that used to drive me crazy. After I'd be whining about one facet of my life or another he'd say "looks like you are right on schedule!" I'd be thinking to myself, "on schedule for what?" Was there a secret AA schedule that nobody told me about? Of course being a know-it-all, I couldn't simply ask him what it meant so I just pretended I understood. It sounded wise so I began repeating it to my sobriety pals when they were talking about how crappy their lives were. "Looks like you are right on schedule," I'd say with a knowingly smile. None of them ever asked what it meant either.

It took a while, but I finally came to realize that I am always right on schedule. I am always in the exact right place for my highest and best good. At every moment, my thoughts, words and deeds are moving me toward a drink or away from one. Either way, I'm right on schedule!

I've found there's no such thing as standing still in recovery. I'm either moving toward my HP or away from it. The direction I'm heading depends entirely on my willingness to grow and to demonstrate that willingness by doing what is suggested by the AA program.

Reconnecting with Life

For most of my life I saw the glass as half empty. I became an expert at telling you what was wrong with anything or anyone, including you and you plans and dreams. I was the perfect devil's advocate. As my disease progressed this negative thinking became habitual and automatic. My favorite expression was "life is a sh*t sandwich and it's always lunch time."

I was cynical in outlook and sarcastic in expression. For the last few years of my drinking I was all alone except for a few lower companions I would see daily at my neighborhood bar where I went for cheap drinks and dinner on the free happy hour snacks.

But even toward the end I don't remember feeling lonely because long before I had somehow erected a wall between me and the rest of the people in the world. In fact I liked it better when people would stay on the other side of the wall. I was uncomfortable when people would try to come over to my side. I suppose my personality developed to keep people away. It worked real well.

My recovery has been a process of tearing down this wall one brick at a time. Even though my wall is still high enough to crouch down and hide behind, enough of it is gone that I can see that the sweetness of life is happening on the other side.

What's the Point?

Before I stumbled through the doors of Alcoholics Anonymous, growing along spiritual lines was the farthest thing from my mind. I didn't need to strengthen my relationship with God because there wasn't anything wrong with me that a big paying job couldn't fix. And as soon as I landed the job it would be easy to attract a new, sexy girlfriend who would tell me how wonderful I was. My problem was motivation. I couldn't seem to muster up any energy to look for work. No job turned me on. The jobs I was qualified to do seemed beneath me. The others looked too difficult. Months went by as the balance in my checking account plummeted. I began waking up (coming to) gripped in fear. Finally, I went to a therapist who, thankfully, told me many painful truths about myself. She doubted that I could get any clarity on my life as long as I was still drinking. One week later I walked into my first AA meeting. At age 47, it felt like I had found my way home.

Like all of us that stick, my life began to improve. The obsession was removed. I really enjoyed the meetings and my new AA friends. As I repeatedly worked my way through the steps, I began to get comfortable for the first time in my life. I no longer needed the warm cocoon that alcohol provided to feel right with the world.

This sense of ease and comfort that AA provides is wonderful, but a danger lurks. An old timer told me once if I was totally comfortable in AA, I wasn't doing it right. If I am willing to grow along spiritual lines, I have a willingness to do the uncomfortable things as well as the fun things. I am willing to continue to inventory and see my character defects face-to-face rather than sweep them under the carpet. I am willing to admit when I am wrong and make sincere amends. I am willing to do battle with the voice that tells me I don't have to go to the meeting today because I went yesterday. I am willing to put the interests of other people ahead of my own. None of these things come naturally to me. My first impulse to avoid doing anything that might bring the slightest bit of discomfort. However, another part of me realizes that it is my willingness to do the uncomfortable things that hold the greatest potential for growth.

A Part Of

Even though I wasn't fully aware of it, something had changed inside of me as I stood at the doorway to step 12. It was as if the previous eleven steps had ignited a little pilot light and a tiny blue flame was burning in my consciousness. But I was only 90 days sober from 30 years of serious drinking. My cells were still saturated with the ism, negative thinking patterns were hyper-active and the voices of self doubt were chattering constantly.

Without both parts of step 12 the flame may have died out. I needed to begin to pass it on -- not to save another drunk's ass but my own. I didn't own many principles at the beginning, but I began to practice anyways. I suited up and showed up early to set up the chairs. I called other alcoholics every day -- a difficult assignment for an isolator with an inferiority complex. I became willing to listen to what my sponsor and others had to say. I held out my hand to newcomers. I made AA the top priority in my life.

In this way I developed the feeling of being "a part of." This feeling is alive in me today. By practicing step twelve I remain a member in good standing. It is the warm breath of my Higher Power that keeps my flame alive.

Life on Life's Terms

I'm coming to believe that at every moment I am given exactly what I need to grow. Wherever my feet are is the exact right place for my highest and best good. The experiences that bring joy and happiness and the experiences that bring pain and suffering are all by the grace of a loving universe to help me see the truth of what I am, a spiritual being having a human experience.

I didn't used to think this way. Back before I stumbled through the doors of Alcoholics Anonymous when something "bad" happened, I wondered cynically how a loving God allow it? And what about all the poverty, cruelty and killing in the world? The only answer I could come up with is that it was punishment for my/our so-called sins. Somehow, I/we had it coming.

I suffered with the belief that I was in charge, that I was the doer of my life, and if there was a problem, there was always something I should have done differently. Since I thought I was in control of outcomes, I beat myself purple with the whip of my own self-hate when things went wrong.

The program of Alcoholics Anonymous has given me a new pair of glasses. Today I'm beginning to see that life is neither good nor bad, it is simply Life. I am not living life, I am being lived. I continue to set myself up for suffering anytime I think life should be different from what it is at any moment.

As proof that life knows what it is doing, I have the disease of alcoholism. If I didn't have this deadly disease, there is no way I would have been willing use the steps to begin to see life differently. I could not have arrived at the place I am today from where I was. My alcoholism is grace, my recovery is grace. It's all grace.

Just Do It!

My practice of Step eleven has changed often throughout the years I’ve been sober. I’ve experimented with many different prayers, different meditation techniques and different inspirational readings. I searched for that one magical spiritual formula that would allow me to feel the strong, loving arms of my Higher Power wrapped around me. I never found it. Instead it often feels like I am saying my prayers with my fingers crossed behind my back.

What I finally came to realize is that Step Eleven, like all the other steps, is not about feeling, it’s about doing. When I make the time just to sit still and be quiet with intention of communicating with my Higher Power, all sorts of marvelous things happen. I demonstrate my willingness. I put myself in a one-down position to God, inviting him to come into my life. I relax my mind and crack open the door to spiritual help. I’ve learned that help always comes when I sincerely ask for it. I may not even realize when help arrives and it may not come in the form I expect. But it comes. I’m sure of it.

The only prayer I’ve practiced consistently throughout my sobriety is a simple prayer of thanks. I say this prayer every night while I lie in bed, just after I turn off the light. I say “thank you God for a beautiful day.” That’s it. I’ve said this prayer for so long, I find I can’t fall asleep unless I say it. What I find remarkable about my prayer is that I say it even if my day has not been outwardly beautiful. A few months ago my wife lay suffering in the hospital following complicated surgery. I heard the words of my prayer come out of my mouth and the voice of my ego said, “hey, wait a minute, how can you think this has been a beautiful day?” Another voice answered, “I don’t know how I can think it, I just do.”

Power of Choice

I went from "liking to drink" to "wanting to drink" to "needing to drink." It was that last shift where I lost the power of choice. By then my alcoholic life seemed normal to me. I had developed a core belief that if I was feeling "bad" alcohol could fix me. If I was feeling "good" alcohol could make the feelings better.

Today I don't need a drink because the obsession to drink was removed from me. I've been able to keep it from coming back thanks entirely to my Higher Power who speaks to me primarily through taking the actions suggested in the big book of Alcoholics Anonymous.

An honest inventory reveals many areas of my life where I do not yet have the power of choice. I sill get impatient when delayed, defensive when criticized, and angry when treated inconsiderately. I still try to figure out most everything with my mind instead of turning within for guidance. In these and other areas my reactions are habitual and automatic.

It's my experience that getting down to the "causes and conditions" of this ego noise is a slow, never ending process. Step 10 helps me become aware of my reactions to the people and situations in my life. It's only in this awareness that I can regain the power of choice.

Working Steps Six and Seven

After taking my fifth step with my sponsor, It took me only five minutes to take steps six and seven by following the directions in the Big Book. I felt cleaner inside from the unburdening of my fifth step, but, even after repeating the seventh step prayer with as much sincerity I could muster, I quickly realized I had every single one of the character defects that I had five minutes earlier. I realized later on that God removes my defects on His schedule not mine.

So if God does all the work, what can I do to "work" steps six and seven? It's taken me a while to realize that six and seven are not about doing anything, but about becoming aware of the truth about myself and continuously demonstrating the willingness to be changed.

It says in the book that after a time a person's alcoholic life seems normal to them. I would not have quit drinking, if I had not become sick and tired of the un-manageability alcohol was causing my life. The same is true of my character defects. Most of them seem normal to me. Until I am able to be consciously aware of the damage caused by a character defect, there is no chance that I will be ready to give it up. And if I am not ready, there is no chance God will remove it.

I "work" six and seven by identifying my defects through 10th step inventory. I try to recall the times during the day that I lost my peace of mind. Since my peace of mind is directly related to my happiness, it follows that anything that causes me to lose my peace of mind, even for a moment, is causing damage to my life. So it is the constant process of identifying the defect, and becoming sick and tired of the same fear based reactions to the people and events over and over again.


May you find Him NOW! I was taught I can't have a spiritual experience then. It has to be now. I can't live on yesterday's grace. My HP sends me today's grace today. Each day, if I'm quiet and paying attention, I receive the instructions on how to make the most of my life for this day only. I can't practice yesterday's instructions today, and tomorrow's instructions will be different because by tomorrow absolutely everything in the universe will have changed.

My HP supplies me with freshly baked bread every day. Why would I want to eat the stale bread left over from yesterday or last week? But that's exactly what I do when I ignore my quiet time. I try to live off yesterdays inspiration or intuition. Soon I wonder why life doesn't feel so good.

I can't hear today's instructions if I am reliving yesterday's fears and resentments. I must start each day with a clean slate and not let what happened yesterday spoil today. I must let go and forgive at all costs or pay the price.

In this moment I have everything I need. More trouble comes when I project into the future. There I am alone without power because my HP exists only now. It helps me to remember to just do "the next indicated or right thing." If I don't know what the next indicated thing is I do one of these things: go to a meeting, take an inventory, call a couple of alcoholics, put my hand out to a newcomer, read the book, be grateful for something and try to turn it all over. I also try to remember that I can start my day over at any time.

The Habit of Sobriety

My program has to be just good enough to get me through the worst thing that can happen to me without picking up a drink. Death of a family member, my own terminal prognosis, financial ruin, becoming handicapped. Any of these things could happen at any time. There are no guarantees for any of us. If I have to experience that intense pain and fear that might accompany one of these events, only the habit of sobriety and faith in my higher power will stand between me and that first drink.

The habit of sobriety is remembering that I don't drink no matter what. It's picking up the phone instead of picking up that drink. It's sharing honestly about what's going on. It's allowing myself to be loved and supported by the fellowship. It's realizing my powerlessness and turning inward where the real power is. The habit of sobriety will get me over the initial shock -- the time when I am most vulnerable to looking for an escape from the pain. I develop the habit of sobriety by staying in the center of AA and continuing to do all the things they told me when I was new.

Once I am through the initial shock without a drink, then faith takes over for the dark hours, days and weeks ahead. Regardless of how weak I feel, faith tells me that I will be given the strength to get through it. Faith tells me that there is a reason for what happened even if I can't see it. This is a faith that works under all conditions.

At three years sober I experienced a job loss that thrust me into a pit of fear and pain so intense that I could only fall asleep by endlessly repeating the serenity prayer. The habit of sobriety and faith in the Higher Power that I found in AA pulled me through.