I didn’t have tank fulls of honesty, open-mindedness and willingness when I walked into my first AA meeting. Fortunately, only a bare minimum of these spiritual qualities is required to make a start in recovery. I don’t really have to be honest, I just have to have the capacity to be honest. If I can say, "my name is Jeff, and I’m an alcoholic" and mean it, I probably have the capacity. Our program doesn’t require me to believe anything. I can take what feels right and leave the rest. So what is there to be close minded about? And all I have to do to demonstrate my willingness is show up at a few meetings each week, drink coffee and laugh at our alcoholic solutions to life; talk to my sponsor about my favorite subject -- me; and offer mostly parroted advice to people with less time than me. Seen in this light, I need to stop patting myself on the back for my recovery. It’s nothing I do anyways.

Our book asks whether God is everything or nothing. After years of soberly considering this question, I have settled on everything. To me this means recovery is nothing I do and everything God does. I believe whatever level of honesty, open-mindedness and willingness I demonstrate comes directly from the Source. Like it says somewhere in the other big book, “Of myself I am nothing. God does the work.” This idea causes ego to do flip flops.

Ego wants to take full credit for my recovery and all the serenity and happiness I enjoy today. Ego points out, it’s “me” who shows up at all these meetings; it’s “me” who puts a hand out to newcomers, it’s “me” who answers the phone no matter what time it rings; it’s “me” who passes on what little spiritual understanding I have in any given moment. It was  “me” who was one of the first to carry the AA message to mainland China. According to ego it isn’t God taking these actions. It’s me. Ego simply cannot accept the fact that there is no Jeff apart from God, that the “I” is an illusion—an out picturing of old fear-based ideas that we humans have been carrying around since the beginning of time.

Slowly, slowly, practicing the 12 Steps is dissolving these old ideas and opening up a clear channel to God, allowing ever greater levels of willingness, open-mindedness and honesty to flow into my life. I am learning to love more and it feels great!