I believe Alcoholics Anonymous works on the principle of enlightened self-interest. I benefit every time I share. If anything I say helps another alcoholic, it’s icing on the cake. I can’t get anyone sober, but sharing with others is absolutely necessary for me to stay sober and grow. It’s all about me.
I try to share what it was like, what happened and what it’s like today. I pass on the touchstones of my recovery. I share about the first time I admitted I needed help, about my moment of clarity, about what my pink cloud felt like. I share about the relief of having the obsession lifted clean out of me. I share about my first meeting -- about feeling like I had finally found my way home after a long journey. I share that I wasn’t sure I was an alcoholic until a man said that once he took that first drink he never wanted to stop. I thought, “Yeah, that’s me. I never want to stop either.”
I was taught to start out talking a little about my drinking and my feelings of guilt, shame and remorse about the people I hurt with my drinking, including myself. Some say that the most important word in the Big Book is “Remember.” I never want to forget what it felt like to be me in those last few years as the disease dragged me down. The frustration of failed relationships, the terror of running out of money, the insanity of believing a new job was going to fix everything. I share about feeling paralyzed to take any positive actions to look for work or even to clean my apartment. I don’t drone on and on in a never-ending drunk-a-log, but the newcomer needs to know that I drank alcoholically, suffered consequences, but kept on drinking anyways. Unless an alcoholic can identify with my drinking, he or she won’t pay attention to my solution.
I try to keep it light. As an alcoholic who suffers from terminal seriousness, it was the laughter in the rooms that kept me coming back in the early days. I try to share at least one humorous episode about the insanity of my drinking. Like how shocked the California Highway Patrol officers must have been when they saw me driving directly toward them going the wrong way on the Golden Gate Bridge. If we can get a newcomer to laugh, there’s a good chance he’ll come back. If we can get him back to the meeting day after day or week after week, God will do the rest.
Most newcomers have been beating themselves with the whip of self-hate for years before they find their way to AA. I know I did. I share about what I learned on the first day in the treatment center: Alcoholism is a disease like cancer, liver or heart disease. It’s not my fault if I have it, but now that I know I have this disease, it’s my responsibility to treat it. If I fail to do so, my life will become a living hell. I suggest they check their whip at the door and use the energy to treat their disease by taking the actions prescribed in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous.
I talk about willingness. I put myself in the center of AA by demonstrating willingness. Willingness to me is not simply “go to meetings, get a sponsor and work the steps and don’t drink.” Equally important to me is demonstrating willingness by asking for help, allowing people to know me, putting my hand out to the new person and being of service to the group. By demonstrating willingness, I put myself in the center of the AA herd where I am safe. If I try to hang out on the outside with half measures, I’m fair game for the disease to have its way with me.
I firmly believe anyone can keep sober, grow spiritually and enjoy a beautiful fulfilling life if they are willing to go to any length. What is any length? Like what was suggested to me when I was new, I recommend a newcomer spend more time taking recovery actions each day than he or she did drinking and using. This equaled six hours of recovery a day for me. When I suggest 90 meetings in 90 days I watch the newcomer’s eyes roll back. I know he is thinking “you’ve got to be kidding me!” Most won’t commit, but those who do seem to have a much better chance.
Today my life feels useful and contented. I enjoy peace of mind much of the time. I have a newfound capacity to stay balanced regardless of how fast life is spinning around. I continue to take the actions that keep me in the center of Alcoholics Anonymous, not because I’m afraid I’ll drink, but because my life feels so much better when I do. My HP doesn’t play favorites. My message to newcomers is you can have what I’ve got if you’ll do what I do.