AA is my church. The sharing of one alcoholic with another is sacred because God has brought us together. Holiness is of little value in the AA church. We connect through our mutual brokenness. My drunk-a-log my be different than yours, but the feelings I drank over are exactly the same. We share together not to save each other’s souls, but to save each other’s asses.

I learned everything I know about AA and sponsorship in my first home group, Mt. Soledad Men’s in La Jolla, CA. The meeting was run by the book. The group emphasized sponsorship and an abundance of qualified men put their hand out to me. I chose Larry, the one with the new Mercedes. :) I learned we all need three things from our sponsors: love, discipline and direction. Larry supplied all three. He taught me to tell the truth by sharing his truth. I learned about his fear, his abandonment issues, and the problems of his life. I learned to sponsor in much the same way Larry sponsored me.

I've had the great good fortune to work with a number of men during my time in AA, especially in Shanghai, China where I lived for sixteen years. Shanghai was a perfect place for an alcoholic to hit bottom. The bars stayed open late and were filled with attractive "talking girls" Foreigners could act out without consequence. A few found their way to our fledgling AA group. Even at only four years I was graced with an abundance of opportunities to sponsor that would not have come my way in San Diego where there were many wiser, more qualified alcoholics. Many of  the men I worked with weren't ready to receive the gift, but I grew every time.

When I'm sharing with another man, sometimes it feels like God is speaking through me. Sometimes when I hear the words come out of my mouth I say to myself. “Wow! I didn’t even know I knew that.” Passing it on to others is truly a major source of joy in my life.


When life get’s me down, it’s a sure sign I’ve lost my connection to my HP. I know when this happens because it feels like I am slogging through a swamp up to my knees in quicksand. I can’t muster up enthusiasm for much of anything except sitting, staring at my computer and eating. When this happens my knee-jerk reaction is to do the exact opposite of what my program teaches me. Instead of putting my hand out and re-connecting, I isolate. Fortunately, this doesn't happen very often these days.

I heard in a meeting once that isolation is a dark room where we go to develop our negatives. It’s a catch 22. Self-will takes over as I sink deeper into isolation. When I’m running on self-will I don’t have the power to free myself from isolation. Depression could be right around the corner. Thanks to my recovery program, I am sensitive to my tendency to isolate. I become “sick and tired” of suffering before I get sucked all the way to the bottom.

Reconnecting with life starts with me calling other alcoholics and talking about them, not me. I force myself to get to a meeting and share in a general way what’s going on. I put my hand out to newcomers. I do some writing. In a day or two I’m back t seeing the glass half-full. My attitude and outlook has changed.

I try to remember, it’s not life on my terms, but life on life’s terms. Life is calling the shots. Is life always fair? No. Is life always comfortable? No. But life is always real. As I continue to let go of all the old ideas that stand between me and life, truth begins to shine through. Unity is restored.
Happy Thanksgiving!

A New Life

I am not the same person I was when I walked into my first AA meeting. I feel I have been reborn into a new life. This miracle is nothing I did and everything God did. Even though my ego wants to take credit, my life is Grace pure and simple — a gift I did nothing to earn.

Nothing is wasted in God’s world. I needed to drink every drink and to tell every lie. I needed the drunk driving arrests, the painful relationships, the job loses and the bankruptcy. I needed every meeting I attended, every step I worked and every alcoholic who showed me the way. I could not have arrived where I am today with one less of anything.

I’ve received countless gifts in sobriety beginning with the moment of clarity that led me to AA, but I believe the most important gift I’ve received is the gift of willingness. Without willingness, I would not have continued to take the actions necessary to awaken to a brand new life.

Somewhere along the way I entered the flow. Instead of swimming against the current of life, I floated with it. Oh, I still have problems but today I know they are in my life to help me grow. Today I feel a part of life, not apart from it. Today I enjoy peace of mind most of the time. My life feels useful and contented. It’s true I’ve taken the suggested recovery actions, but God supplies the fuel—willingness.

I drank for thirty years to quiet the termites of anxiety that lived beneath the surface of my life. The termites are gone. There’s no reason to drink today, even if I could drink like a gentleman.

Giving Up Control

"We alcoholics are men and women who have lost the ability to control our drinking."

I'm coming to believe control in any form is spiritually deadening--even when I used to try to control how much I drank! My need to control comes from self-centered fear. Like it says in our book I'm afraid I won't get what I need to live comfortably or I’ll  lose something I already have that I can’t live without. This fear causes me to try and control the people and situations in my life. This need to control--to try to impose my will on reality--blocks me from my higher power and causes me all the pain there is.

Giving up control is a slow painful process for me. It sounds so simple. Just let go and let God. Get up in the morning and say the Third Step Prayer and skip on down the road to happy destiny. Talk about delusion!  My faith grows by feeling the fear of a situation, sitting in discomfort, and doing the next indicated thing anyways.  It’s amazing how quickly situations resolve themselves if I just let them be and not try to fix them by imposing my will. Of course I didn't know any of this before Alcoholics Anonymous.

My faith grows every time I walk through an uncomfortable situation without picking up a drink or otherwise trying to change the way I feel. As I grow in faith, my need to control dissolves. Oh, I still have fear, but it no longer paralyzes me. The process of growing my faith pays a lot of dividends. I’m better able  to accept life just the way it is, I’m more comfortable in my own skin, and I no longer need to depend on anyone else to tell me I'm okay. It's simply a great way to live.


I remember whining to my sponsor when I was new about how some of the people in my life weren’t following my script. “Do you always expect to get your way?” he asked. “Yes, of course" I replied. "Well then you had better prepare yourself for a life full of disappointment because it’s never going to happen.” I was shocked. Of course I expect to get my way. Doesn’t everyone? Isn’t that the way life works?

Many years and thousands of AA meetings later I see that disappointment, resentment and disillusionment are tied directly to my expectations. It is impossible for me not to have expectations -- to completely let go of others -- but my life is infinitely more peaceful if I don’t hold my expectations too tightly. When I demand others follow my script, unhappiness follows. I try to keep my expectations as preferences. Then, if they are met, great. If not, well, that’s OK too.

Perhaps the biggest payoffs in holding expectations loosely is in intimate relationships. Throughout my life. When I allowed myself to be vulnerable, I expected the other person would never do anything to hurt me. When they didn’t love me exactly like I thought they should, I closed down in self-protection. I’ve learned the hard way that pain and suffering results from trying not to love. I aspire to allow everyone in my life to be exactly who they are.

I’m not there yet, but I'm closer than ever.


I am a recovering know-it-all. For most of my life, self-centered fear made it impossible to accept ideas that didn't square with mine. I had hard and fast opinions about everything and everyone. I would argue to the cows came home to prove I was right. Slowly, slowly the steps melted away self-centered fear and my mind began to open. I am beginning to realize that I know only a little. Today I feel much closer to true open-mindedness than ever before. Today I'd rather be happy than right.

I continue to have strong beliefs about what actions it takes  to recover, but even these beliefs are beginning to soften. Go to meetings, work steps, be of service and develop a working partnership with God. These actions were passed onto me by those who came before me. They worked for me and I believe they will help anyone who truly wants relief from alcoholism and a more peaceful, fulfilling life.  But sometimes they don't.

I'm often wrong when I try to predict whether or not a newcomer will make it based on their efforts for the first ninety days. I'm coming to believe that those who are supposed to "get it" will and those who are not "supposed to get it" won't. My job is simply to accept everyone exactly as they are and to help where I can. What an order!

Perhaps my strongest belief is my need to have a connection with a spiritual power to solve my problems. Yet, I no longer judge those who say they are atheists or agnostics. I know less about God and life today than I did when I started my spiritual journey in Alcoholics Anonymous. I'm coming to believe I cannot know anything in this ever-changing universe for sure, much less what's in the mind of God.


Just before I sobered up, if you had asked me if I needed to change anything about myself, I would have said "yeah, my employment status." I needed a job. Oh, not just any job, I needed a big, high-paying job with lots of responsibility. In my mind the reason why I sat home all day in my messy darkened apartment drinking red wine, smoking pot, and watching lame daytime television was because I wasn't working. A new job would fix everything. I had been a success before and would be again. A phoenix rising from the ashes. I needed my outsides to change but my insides were just fine, thank you very much.

I lived life in a growing web of dishonesty. Over the years I kept piling on the lies, embellishments, and half-truths in the belief that if I could only get you to like and accept me, then I could finally learn to like and accept myself. Toward the the end I was more or less a fictitious character who could mold himself to whatever he needed to be -- good employee, understanding boss, gentle lover, loving son, loyal friend. But the truth is I never had any real heart in any of these roles. I fooled a lot of people with my play acting, but I could never fool the man in the mirror who watched me shave. I walked through life knowing I was a fraud.

I showed up on the doorstep of Alcoholics Anonymous without a clue about the truth of who I really was. I used the tools of the program to slowly, slowly chip away at the falsehoods. Today I am not so much learning who I really am, but more so learning what I am not. I am no longer a liar, a cheat and a thief. And that's a hell of a deal.

My Eskimo

My Eskimo was a massage therapist named Bill S. Thirty plus years ago, Bill came to my home weekly to iron out the kinks in my super stressed-out body. Bill came over at 5, just as I arrived home from the office. Sometimes he had to wait a few minutes while I gulped down a couple of quick scotches - to get relaxed enough to be massaged!

I was at the top of my career and had recently married a beautiful actress. Bill wasn’t at all like my friends at the golf club. Yet there was something about him I was drawn to. I know today that Bill had spirit working in his life.

As he worked on me, he told me his story. Just seven years earlier he had been an alcoholic/drug addict living on the streets.  Now he was married to a professional manager, had a nice car and owned a home. “What did you do to change?” I asked. “I sobered up in AA,” he said. And went on to talk about his experiences.

I acted interested, but I really wasn’t. Quit drinking? Me? No way. But the next week he brought me a Big Book. I skimmed the first 164 pages and a few of the stories in the back, then promptly gave it to a friend who really needed it.

Fast forward a few months. The big-pay job was gone and my marriage was breaking up. Unable to take any responsibility, I blamed alcohol. I decided to quit drinking as an experiment. Next time Bill came over, I told him I wasn’t drinking. “Do you want to go to a meeting?” He asked.  I wasn’t sure. “Is there anything besides AA? “Well some folks go to Adult Children of Alcoholics, he said. What’s that? I asked. “in AA you have to admit you are an alcoholic and you can’t drink. In ACA all you have to do is admit your father was an alcoholic and you can drink all you want, he said.

I went to ACA for a few months and even half-assed worked the first few steps. I stayed sober for thirteen months and my life started to improve, but soon I went back to being large and in charge and picked up a glass of wine without a second thought. That one glass of wine began a four year deep decent into what I hope was my final bottom. Thanks to Bill, when I hit that bottom I knew exactly where to go.

More Will Be Revealed

God, as I misunderstand God, revealed itself to me for the first time on the first day of my recovery and God has been revealing more and more of itself to me ever since. I have no idea who or what God is, but I am absolutely convinced there is a loving power guiding my life to perfect balance, harmony and order as long as I do my part.

My first realization of God was on the day I signed up for outpatient treatment. That evening I realized I hadn’t thought about a drink all day. And I didn’t think about a drink the next day either or the day after that. I was struck sober. Before my first meeting, before I got a sponsor and before I worked any step, the thirty year desire to change the way I felt with alcohol and drugs was lifted clean out of me. I didn’t know it was God then, but today I absolutely believe that God does for me what I can not do for myself.
Today, I see glimpses of God everywhere I look:  In the eyes of little children, in the beauty and destruction of nature and especially in the intuition that shows me the way out of every painful experience without picking up a drink. When I’m paying attention, I feel the presence of God in every meeting I attend.

God continues to become real for me as let go of my opinions of how life should be and do the next indicated thing. My job is and practice honesty, open-mindedness and willingness to the best of my ability. Today I enjoy a faith that works in all conditions.

More is constantly being revealed to me. A few years ago I realized that my alcoholism is a gift from a loving God. There is no way I could’ve traveled from where I was 25 years ago to where I am today without having a disease that was going to kill me unless I treated it spiritually.

Don't Fear the Reaper

I’m one who firmly believes the idea in our book that nothing happens in God’s world by accident. To me this means every single thing that happens in the universe is God’s will. Birth, death and every other experience of life all happen exactly as they are supposed to happen at exactly the right moment. This means that what we call accidental death is really no accident. 

It wasn’t death I was afraid of toward the end of my drinking. It was life. I was locked in the self-centered prison of my old ideas. My world had shrunk to the size of my messy apartment. I had no real friends, no job and no interest in much of anything besides drinking. I lacked the power to live life fully. Back then death might have been a step up.

Today the certainly of death teaches me life is precious. Death motivates me to experience as much of our beautiful world as I can before my time is up. I want to experience as much joy as possible by being of service: to continue to make living amends; to continue to grow and change and continue to become an ever greater expression of the One who has all power.

Acceptance is the key. Death is one of those things I cannot change no matter how courageous I am. Recently a number of close AA friends have moved on to the big meeting. I could tell each of them reached the point of total acceptance. Sure they had physical pain from their illnesses and injuries, but they did not suffer. With acceptance I believe death can be an exciting adventure instead of something to dread.


"I try hard to hold fast to the truth that a full and thankful heart cannot entertain great conceits. When brimming with gratitude, one's heartbeat must surely result in outgoing love, the finest emotion that we can ever know." (Bill W. As Bill Sees It. Pg. 37)

I love this quote. It is a beautiful reminder that gratitude is the fuel for a beautiful life. It helps me remember that my life is nothing I do and everything God does. Love doesn’t begin and end with me. It flows through me out into the world. I am just a channel that St. Francis talks about in the Eleventh Step Prayer. Gratitude keeps my channel open and flowing. Conceit, along with resentment, self-pity, and fear close the channel off and sooner, or later, I’m restless, irritable and discontent wondering what hell happened.

Left to my own devices, I want to take credit for all the good things in my life and blame God and you for the not-so-good stuff. I am grateful today for the feeling I have just enough of everything. Not too much. Not too little. Just enough. I can’t begin to explain how wonderful it feels to not need anything or anybody.

God’s expressions of love take countless forms. With my channel open, I am capable of unimaginable creativity, unbounded happiness and an inner peace beyond all understanding. The more I express gratitude for my life the more life I experience. Certainly prayer and meditation are one way, but there are other expressions of gratitude. A simple, honest, sincere smile to a perfect stranger is an expression of gratitude. These kinds of behaviors come naturally to some, but not for me. I'm definitely a work in progress.

I practice an attitude gratitude because it feels good. Sometimes I forget to practice, but when I catch myself being kind, loving, compassionate and generous. I remember it’s not me. It’s God’s love flowing through me.

Fourth Step Resentments

I had it all backwards. I always thought it was natural to want to be loved, but in AA I learned it is not being loved that matters. It is being loving. I can’t expect to be loving if I am holding resentments. Resentment blocks me from enjoying the full power of God working in my life.

My father was the first name on my resentment list. He was cold, critical and a strong disciplinarian. He pushed me hard to achieve success on his terms and never seemed to be satisfied with my results. I resented him all my life for not loving me the way I thought he should. I drank against the hurt of never being good enough.

It wasn’t until I was confronted with the fourth column on my first Fourth Step, that I could begin to realize my father was spiritually sick just like me. When I saw he was alcoholic –driven by the same demons that drove me — the resentment began to dissolve. I began to develop compassion for his pain and ultimately forgive him. My father did the best he could. Today, without anger distorting my memory, I can focus on the things about him which were positive and loving.

In AA I learned to take responsibility for my life. I no longer blame my father or anyone else for anything that happened to me. I know that somehow every single experience, no matter how painful, is intended for my highest and best good -- to help me grow.

Sobriety Bank Account

I'm pretty sure that if I ever have to take that first drink, the last thought I'll have before I swallow is "what's the use in staying sober? My life can't get any worse." Of course it will get worse, but, by that time, I will be in so much pain that death or an institution might look like a step up.

At this point I will have severely overdrawn my sobriety bank account. My disease -- whose number one job is to convince me to drink again -- will have won.

I look at maintaining a fit spiritual condition much the same way as maintaining a fit financial condition. If I am spending more than I am making I'll go into the red. I can't stay in this position forever. Sooner or later the creditors will take away anything of value.

I deposit spiritual currency every time I practice a principle of our Program, every time I attend a meeting, every time I pray and every time I put my hand out to others. If I maintain a big fat spiritual bank account, I won't be thrown off the merry-go-round when it starts spinning out of control.

Feeling restless, irritable and discontented is a reminder that I'm drawing down on my sobriety bank account. I can't afford these feelings. It's time to get back into action.
Have a great sober week.


In the Chapter to the Agnostics on page 57 we read:

“What is this but a miracle of healing? Yet its elements are simple. Circumstances made him willing to believe. He humbly offered himself to his Maker-then he knew.”

This is one of my favorite passages in the Big Book. It reminds me that my recovery, my whole life really, is a miracle. It is nothing I do, but everything God does. I heard there is no in-between when it comes to believing in miracles. Either I believe everything is a miracle or I believe nothing is. Today, I choose everything.

My first miracle was when the obsession was removed from me. This happened before my first AA meeting, before getting a sponsor and taking the steps, before practicing any principles. The desire to drink magically vanished from consciousness. I had been drinking daily for thirty years. Now the thought of a drink was nowhere to be found. What the hell had happened?

Today I know this new freedom and happiness was Grace-a gift I did nothing to earn unless you count being a slave to alcohol for thirty years. This experience is the bedrock of my belief in God.

Through the years, all the miracles of the twelve promises have come true for me. Today financial fear is gone, I have no regrets about the past and I know what serenity feels like. I rely on my intuition -- that small still voice inside me -- more than ever before. Recently I have noticed I am much better I’m much better at keeping my mouth shut instead of putting my foot in it. This Is a major miracle!

I find the phrase "then he knew" to be downright mystical. Then he knew what? I know much less today than when I walked into my first meeting twenty years ago. I know that my life feels better when I’m being of service. I know there is a plan for every one of us even if I don't know what the plan is. I know that all the sickness, disease, war and poverty in our world is not the result of some cruel God punishing us for our so called “sins” but a loving God simply setting us up for a miracle.

Easy Does It

Easy Does It is impossible when ego runs the show.
I met a beautiful woman a year and a half ago. A true gift of recovery. She lives in the desert two hours away. I’ve been driving back and forth to visit her every other week. On most days it’s a beautiful drive, but last Thursday ego decided to grab the steering wheel.

It’s a winding two lane road through the mountains. There are very few passing opportunities, but there are turn-outs about every five miles with signs that read, Slower Traffic Use Turn-outs. Well, I got behind a slow poke who refused to turn out. I started heating up when he passed by the first turn-out. Just before the second turn-out I got up close behind him and turned on my bright lights. Still he refused to turn-out. Now the committee in my head was going crazy. I stewed for five more miles until just before the next turnout. This time I tailgated, flashed my lights and blew my horn. When he refused to turn-out, I became homicidal. I was so angry, it felt like black smoke was pouring out of my ears.

Then Grace happened. Somehow a thought intruded into the chaos inside my head. “This doesn’t feel good.” I realized I had been torturing myself for thirty minutes for no reason. I took the next turn-out, turned off my car and waited ten-minutes. Peace was restored and I went on my merry way.

Our book says, "it's a spiritual axiom that every time I am upset, there is something wrong with me." Today I know that what other people do or say is never the problem. It's always my reaction to what they do or say that is the problem. I am grateful today that I don’t suffer as long before I recognize these ego traps. I am grateful today that I no longer beat myself up for giving away my serenity. I am grateful today to be alcoholic. There is no possible way I could have traveled from where I was to where I am today without having a disease that was going to kill me unless I treated it spiritually through practicing the program of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Program for Living

In the movie Shawshank Redemption as they were walking a prisoner to the execution chamber they yelled out, “dead man walking.” That was me before AA. A lifetime of trying to control every aspect of my life left me spiritually empty. I had no interest or enthusiasm for anything; I had no real friends; I had nothing to look forward to except the next drink.

My life, once filled with so much promise, had shrunk to the size of my messy apartment. I had successfully separated myself from God and everything good in life. I lived in the wilderness of my own stinking thinking. Mine was not a program for living, but a program for dying.

Then I was graced with a moment of clarity that led me to Alcoholics Anonymous. I tried to stay outside the circle, but you guys wouldn’t let me. You pulled me in with your welcomes, pats on the back and your laughter. Especially your laughter. I had no idea what was going on, but I knew I wanted what you had (well, some of you anyways!) and was graced with the willingness to do what was suggested. Slowly, slowly I began to change.

Growing along spiritual lines is a never-ending journey. There is no finish line. God keeps gently pulling me forward into ever greater expression. I cooperate by following our Program for Living to the best of my ability on any given day. Today I enjoy greater peace of mind than ever before, but I feel I’ve only scratched the surface of what is possible.

Too Much to Lose

I’m enjoying the best life I’ve ever had, but it is dangerous to think I’ll never drink again. What I know is that I probably won’t drink today because I’m taking some actions that show the universe my desire to stay sober. I’m sharing my ESH with you guys and heading to a face to face meeting later today. I’ll also get out in nature for a hike – my eleventh step practice. These recovery actions maintain a nice fat balance in my sobriety bank account.

These actions fly in the face of ego. Ego wants me to think I have this drinking thing handled. Ego tries to convince me I’m fine. I don’t have to go to the meeting today because I went to one yesterday. My life feels useful and purposeful, but the ego lie is I can feel better. I don’t think about a drink anymore, but ego occasionally reminds me how much I used to enjoy smoking marijuana.  Ego points out that since it is now legal, what would be the harm? Gratefully I’ve seen what happens to those alcoholics who try the marijuana maintenance program.

Yesterday during lunch with another active, long-term member, I asked what we would be doing with our lives without AA. Neither of us had an answer. My life revolves around my AA activities. AA is my church. It’s where I get spiritual sustenance. It’s where I meet my friends.  My higher self wants me to continue to grow and change. I simply can’t imagine what life would be like without AA. I’ve got way too much to lose.

Denial is not a River in Egypt

I visited a therapist five days before I walked into my first AA meeting. I had been to this lady a few months earlier for help to quit smoking. I thought smoking was my problem. I hated myself for smoking. I was able to quit with her help and an addiction to Nicorette gum. But my life didn’t improve. I continued to wake up every morning with an ache of fear in my gut. I had no interest, energy or enthusiasm for looking for work or much of anything else.

I had just finished a book about men my age undergoing mid-life crises. I figured this was my problem. This must be the reason I wasn’t looking for work; this must be the reason I had no interest, energy or enthusiasm for much of anything; this must be the reason my life felt so heavy. I fully expected the therapist to confirm my diagnosis, comfort me and give me a new coping strategy.

She let me whine about my life for a good thirty minutes, then she said something that shocked me. She said, “I don’t think I can help you, Jeff.” She said, “from what I know about you, I don’t think you have an ounce of humility in your whole body; your brain is so cloudy from your daily drinking you can’t get any clarity on your life; and you seem to have the emotional maturity of a thirteen-year-old. I don’t think I can help you but maybe the treatment center up the street can.”

The voice inside my head was screaming, “you can’t let this bitch talk to you like this, Jeff.” But somehow, I was able to keep my mouth shut. Then she looked directly into my eyes, like she was looking at my soul and said, “you’re in trouble, aren’t you, Jeff?” The voice told me not to admit anything to this woman. I looked down at my shoes for a long moment. Finally, I whispered, “maybe.” It was the first time in my forty-seven-year-old life I admitted there was something I couldn’t handle. Apparently, my half-assed admission of powerlessness cracked the thick wall of denial just enough to let the light shine in.


A year or so ago my girlfriend gave me a bracelet that says, “it is what it is.” I rarely take it off. It’s a great reminder to accept whatever is showing up in my life. I don’t have to like what’s going on. I just must accept it for what it is, God’s will. I suffer whenever I am unable or unwilling to accept God’s will because, in essence, I am arguing with reality.

Acceptance for me is not resignation. It is not giving up or giving in. It is simply acknowledging that God placed the person, event or situation in my life to help me grow. The experience may not feel good. It may be tragic. It may scare the hell out of me, but somehow every experience is necessary for my spiritual growth. I can’t hope to benefit from any experience until I first accept it.

I am much better at accepting God’s will today than I was when I began my spiritual journey in Alcoholics Anonymous. Back then I had no choice but to resist any experience that didn’t jive with my insane belief system about how life should work and how other people should behave. I had no choice but to react in fear and resist any kind of change. The longer I resisted God's plan for me, the more painful my life became. Today I look at these painful experiences as gifts. I'm grateful for the pain because there is no way I could have traveled from where I was to where I am today without them.

Through the years, AA and the Twelve Steps melted away much of the self-centered fear that kept me a prisoner to ego-mind. Most of the fear that walked through the doors with me is gone. It has been replaced by a faith that works in all conditions. Today I have the faith that I’ll be shown the way through every painful experience and I’ll come out the other side a more peaceful, happier and contented person. Acceptance is the first step.

Staying in Today

I was a couple of weeks sober and sitting in the sharing circle in the out-patient treatment center. When my turn came to share, I said, "I feel so good, I'll never drink again!" The short, round woman who ran the center, an ex-heroin junky from New York, snapped back, "That's just ego bull shit Jeff! We don’t say crap like that in here. You'd better just do everything you can to stay sober today and pray it's enough.” This was a great lesson for me.

Today, right now, I’m OK. I’m safe. Sure, I have challenges, but I’m OK. Everything that can go wrong will go wrong tomorrow, or next week or next year. My life is unmanageable in the future. The only time I have a fighting chance at a great life is today. Now.

Anytime I feel restless, irritable or discontented it’s a sure sign my mind has catapulted into the future. I worry about all the things that can go wrong. Trying to push these feelings under the carpet with alcohol and drugs never worked for long. The key for me is to pay attention to these negative feelings when they arise and take some action. I need to pick up one of our tools and get back to today. Picking up the phone and calling another alcoholic usually does the trick for me.

Living in tomorrow separates me from God. I lose conscious contact, cut off from the source of all power. Ego tries to tell me it doesn’t need God, that it has my life handled. But this is a lie! Without the power of God flowing through me I have no chance for a life that is meaningful much less happy joyous and free. Without the power to act in my own best interest, I’m back to sitting on the couch in my messy apartment drinking cheap wine and smoking expensive marijuana twelve hours a day. There, I’m all alone and dead inside.

Even after a few twenty-fours, my mind continues to try and slip into tomorrow. The difference today is I’m aware of it sooner. Then I can take some action to bring it back into today.

Growing or Going

I quit drinking as an experiment after my first marriage broke up in 1989 after three years. I blamed alcohol for our breakup. After all, we drank throughout the evening, argued incessantly, and often went to bed angry at each other. I was sober for a week or so when a friend recommended AA.  AA sounded too drastic. I asked him if there was anything else. He said some people go to ACA (Adult Children of Alcoholics). “What’s that?” He told me in AA I had to admit I was alcoholic, and I couldn’t drink, but in ACA all I had to do was admit my father was an alcoholic. Perfect!

I went to ACA meetings once a week and stayed sober for thirteen months. My life began to improve. Not drinking felt good. I enjoyed getting together with a dozen or so other ACA’s and sharing about our parents and our lives. I half-assed worked a few of the steps. Then a new job took me from LA to San Diego and staying sober lost its priority. It wasn’t long afterwards I was sitting for lunch with friends in a beautiful garden restaurant in the bright sunshine. The waitress poured an expensive Chardonnay in our glasses. I didn’t hesitate, even for a moment. I had no mental defense.

What followed was a six-year, progressively more painful, descent into what I hope was my final bottom. Finally, I was graced with a moment of clarity that led me to AA. As I sat in my first meeting, I had the sense I had finally found my way home after a long, painful journey. I loved everything about AA and still do.

I recently made a list of my goals and plans for the coming year and some actions steps. One of my AA goals reads, “continue to grow and change.” I intend to discover some new meetings, work with some new men and explore other spiritual pursuits. My life is better than it has ever been, but I can’t afford to stay the same, to rest on my laurels. I must continue to expand and grow my program. I know what happens to those of us who take their foot off the gas and let up on their program of action.

A Fabulous New Year!

My recovery is nothing I did. It is everything God did. It was God who supplied the willingness to reach out to a therapist and asked for help. It was God that graced me with a moment of clarity and a glimpse of truth about what I had become. It was God who supplied the motivation for me to sign up for the treatment center even though I wasn’t sure I was an alcoholic. It was God that had me walking through the doors to my first AA meeting in 1994. These God Shots have continued for the last 24+ years. If I keep doing what I’m doing, I fully expect them to continue throughout my life.

Keeping it fresh for me is about new sobriety friends, sponsorship and deeper understanding of spiritual principles. Yesterday I had the honor of giving my best sobriety buddy a 41-year chip. I watched him walk through some unpleasant stuff during the past year, but he didn’t drink. Instead he picked up a newcomer and went to a meeting every day. Two months ago, I snagged a willing newcomer. He reminds me of myself when I was new. God supplied me with the desire to get what you guys have had and the power to do what you did. The new man doesn’t need prodding or prompting. He’s enthusiastic about his recovery and he’s beginning to see the benefits. Both men are joys in my life.

My intention for the coming year is to continue to change and grow. I will continue to ask for help from God by attending meetings, putting my hand out to newcomers, practicing principles to the best of my ability and being of service wherever I can. I intend to explore new meetings and make new sobriety friends. I’ll continue to share my ESH with you guys on a weekly basis. I know from experience that my willingness to continue to take the actions you suggested to me when I was new will result in another fabulous year.

The Habit of Sobriety

It was as close as I have ever come to picking up a drink. I was three years sober and had just lost a job I thought was much too good for me. The itty, bitty shitty committee in my head were all yelling at me at the same time. Then the chairman called for a vote. They went around the table: guilty, guilty, guilty…! It was unanimous. I was a worthless piece of crap and would never work again. I had no right to a good life. The fear was excruciating, but instead of picking up a drink, I picked up the phone and called my sponsor. I am absolutely convinced that the habit of sobriety kept me from drinking that day and saved my butt countless times since then.

Besides job losses, the habit of sobriety has seen me through financial set-backs, health issues and the death of my wife in 2014. I moved to Shanghai, China for work in 1997, long before it became the modern city it is today. My sixteen years in Shanghai was filled with frustrations. I didn’t speak the language, the weather was lousy, and the traffic was horrendous. There was great pressure to drink from the Chinese I did business with. Gratefully there were five other alcoholics and three meetings a week when I arrived. It was definitely an AA “light” program, but I didn’t drink. Because I had the habit of sobriety, I made it to every meeting, got a local sponsor (actually we sponsored each other) and kept in close touch with some AA friends in the US by email. I joined ESH and attended our online “meetings” every week.

I began to develop the habit of sobriety right out of the gate. I wasn't a joiner. I was aloof. My heart was completely closed. Left to my own devices I would have stood on the outside of Alcoholics Anonymous, but you wouldn’t let me. You welcomed me with open arms. You pulled me into the center of the herd where I was safe. I resisted your hugs, but you didn’t care. The only thing you seemed to care about was that I kept coming back.

I really wanted what you had, and God supplied the willingness to do what you did.  I took suggestions. I showed up at meetings daily despite the voice in my head telling me I had more important things to do. I got a sponsor and made my way through the steps. I have never said "no" to an AA request. I made coffee, bought the doughnuts and picked up cigarette butts in the parking lot. I became a part of the fellowship and began to warm myself by the fire of Alcoholics Anonymous. My program really took off when a man asked me to sponsor him. I was one of the first Americans to carry the AA message to China where I had many opportunities to sponsor that I would never have had in the US. Today sponsorship is the bedrock of my recovery program. It is a tremendous source of joy for me.

I acquired the habit of sobriety by doing the same things over and over again -- meetings, steps, service. These actions keep my spiritual channel open and God’s power flows through me out into the world. It’s simply a great way to live.