My name is Bubba and I’m an alcoholic amongst other things. I’ve learned over my years of readin’, listenin’ and askin’ questions about this disease that my drinkin’ and usin’ other pleasure inducin’ activities to excess the alcoholism is only a symptom of what’s wrong woth me. A good friend once made the statement “I’m a feel good junkie.”. He is absolutely correct as far as the statement. If it makes me feel good I want it, I want more of it, and I want it yesterday.
Today I would like to share with y’all the twelve suggestions I used to begin a lifetime of recovery. I’ve tried to express my emotions as I go through this beginin’ phase of my journey.
If you were stricken with lung cancer and someone offered you a book that guaranteed you wouldn’t die from lung cancer and you would be pain free of all it’s side affects what would you do? If you were lost in a strange area and someone offered you a road atlas that guaranteed you’d never be lost again what would you do? This is the question I was asked when I poo poo’d the idea of buyin a couple of books to help my recovery.
Today when I share my story at an AA meeting I always mention these questions. I also mention that when I first came to AA I honestly couldn’t afford the books, and was unwilling to ask fer help. (I honestly stole my first Big Book.) My recommendation to anyone that is in this same boat to steal one fer themselves. I know if they git recovery they will repay the group and AA many times over. I’d love to know how many Big Books and Twelve & Twelve’s I’ve bought and given away.
AA told me I needed two things to begin my journey, a Big Book and a sponsor. I was a business owner so had a bit of experience in lookin’ fer the proper people to do a job. My search didn’t take long. I had taken a night off work to go to an evening AA meeting. When I walked into the room the first man to shake my hand was a friend I used to drink with. I hadn’t seen him in a number of years, I honestly thought he had died. He had 5+ years of sobriety. He remarked they had been savin’ a chair fer me.
Big Al as I’ve called him fer years took me aside to talk. I thought I was the one bein considered fer the job the way he asked me questions. He did have a few rules. Number one was complete honesty to him and to myself. Number two was every Monday night we would go to a twelve step study together. Fer the first year I was not to miss this meetin’ fer any reason short of my death and then I had to give him 30 days notice. This began a longer friendship than I ever thought possible. Big Al was and is one of the Old Timers that even today teaches more by example than with words.
Now about those books. I had them in my possession but they were only gathering dust on the table. Several Old Timers had told me there was a fifty dollar bill in them if I just looked for it. My comment was yea it’s most likely a bill fer services rendered. One night @ the meeting after the meeting. (We gathered many times @ a coffee shop to talk in a more relaxed atmosphere) a man I decided to hate made a statement. “Alcohol and drugs taught me to fly and then took away the sky” When I asked where that came from he told me it’s in the book look it up.
This man was a short rotund fella that was twenty years older than me. He served in the 101st Airborne so was not an easy person to snow. I hated him with a passion fer a few years. He seemed to be talkin’ about me every time he spoke. I was sure he called my wife and family to git details just to make the story clearer. As the years past by I realized he was talkin’ about himself and our stories were very similar. As PW is fond of sayin’ we drank together in different bars, at different times, seekin’ the same results.
My first stumbling block in recovery was all the God talk. I had grown up in the Catholic Religion, even spent some time in the seminary, I felt I had enough God to last me a lifetime. WRONG !I was taught that I could choose a God of my understanding. I was also taught that my God doesn’t have to conform to any man’s concepts but I had to be accepting of another man’s God no matter what my opinion was. The old timers continued to say “Act as if you have faith and faith will be given to you.” Translated fer us hard heads it is “Fake it till ya make it”.
I still struggled fer many 24 hours till one mornin’ an old bald headed queen took me aside. Bert, bless his heart, too was to become a special friend.. He invited me to his place fer coffee. When I arrived he motioned me into the kitchen where on the table lay a Big Book, a Bible, a Koran, a Torah, and a special book about the Buddhist religions. Ole Bert, bless his soul, was an ordained minister, had a major interest in astrology, had even done charts fer many of the stars during his time in Hollywood.
Bert first took that day’s discussion topic, located it in the Big Book and turned to the other books. He abruptly stopped and remarked you need a cookie with your coffee and proceeded to set a plate of fresh chocolate chips cookies in front of me. It was almost as if needed a moment to git his mind in the proper gear. He flew through each of these Holy Books and showed me the exact same concept only in different words. I fed him several other topics that I was sure were AA concepts only. I was wrong on every count. Over the years Bert fed me many plates of cookies and even more spirituality without a formal religion attached to it. I received the highest compliment from my old friend after he passed over. He had left instructions with his executor re: his funeral. “Tell Bubba he’s the only spiritual man I trust to give my eulogy. I know he won’t mince words to tell it as it is.” Thanks to Bert, Big Al, PW, and several other Old Timers I survived the God concept dilemma.
One quote that has been around the AA rooms fer ever in this area. “Don’t drink and go to meetings and it will git better.” The first time I heard this I couldn’t grasp it. Finally an old friend shared in his story his dismay over the same quote. He had been dry fer a few 24 hrs and his wife totaled the family car and four new Cadillacs that were parked on the same street, his daughter was just divorced and now pregnant, his job had downsized him, his son was servin’ a sentence in juvenile detention, etc. He went to his sponsor in tears “If it gits any better I’m gonna drink.” The sponsor wisely took him to a mirror and told him “Look if you don’t drink, and you go to meetings, you will git better, you are it.” Ok I understood the parable but still couldn’t git a handle on the phrase. One night at the Twelve Step study group I again voiced my dilemma. Another old timer sez to me OK why not look at it this way…”You go to meetings and you don’t drink in-between and you will git better.” It was like that old Ford TV commercial the Light Came on… WOW what a concept.
These stories are just a sample of the examples of the struggles workin’ the first three steps of AA.. Step One “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol-that our lives had become unmanageable.” I knew from the git go that when drinking my life was unmanageable. Every wakin’ moment seemed to involve drinking. Plannin’ fer the next drink, gittin’ the next drink, hidin’ the fact I was drunk.. I was powerless over alcohol in fact fer a time it was my Higher Power.
Step Two “Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselvescould restore us to sanity.” My struggles with the God concept made this a difficult step. Acceptance of other people, places, and things that aren’t in my control added to this dilemma. The teaching by example was my enlightenment. Many of the old timers had to show me the way to true faith in a power greater than myself.
Step Three “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.” This was a bit difficult fer me. I was an independent, stubborn individual.(I’m told I still am.) I argued that even if I accepted this Higher Power there’s no way I could relinquish control over my life. I suppose the best response to that would be a Dr Philism…”So how’s that workin’ fer ya?” My sponsor had a bit more cynical idea. “Your life has been in the hands of an idiot and look where it’s taken you. Why not try our suggestions and see if it works better?”
In my opinion Step Four was a piece of cake…”Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.” I mean we took an inventory daily at the restaurant. We researched the shortages till there was a plausible reason found. We attempted to put stop gaps in place so it wouldn’t happen again. I studied the Twelve & Twelve regarding this moral inventory. I studied the format in the Big Book. I looked at some of the printed fourth step questionnaires. I looked fer every excuse not to do this. Finally in desperation my sponsor sez “Just do it as best you can, if ya miss anything you can do another one later.” Again this wise old man was correct. As I’ve grown Spiritually more has been revealed to me and I needed to take another fourth and fifth step.
Finally I did take my legal pad and went to the sewage treatment plant behind our restaurant to think and write. (I guess it’s an example of the quote I’ve hear so many times but still have no idea who the author is…”When the pain of stayin’ the same gits greater than the pain of change we all will change.”) Every person I’ve talked to about this activity there were some things I wouldn’t admit to anyone, some I wouldn’t even admit to myself. I wrote those down on a separate page. (The psychiatrist had told me this was good therapy, but I’d never tried it) I had exhausted every notion that I felt was needed when I realized I had covered many pages. Some of the writin’ was barely legible but it was done. I’m beginnin’ to understand what is meant in the Big Book when it sez “Alcoholism is only a symptom of what is wrong.” The big boogeyman Step Five was next.
Step Five “Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.” I thought this would be a piece of cake. I mean I went to confession weekly fer almost 30 years and didn’t have any problems. I was wrong again. First I thought I needed to completely discuss all my indiscretions. I began by regurgitating all the things I wouldn’t tell anyone not even myself. This wise old man stopped me. He explained the step sez “the exact nature of the wrongs” He claims I’m not your priest/confessor if that’s what you want you’ve come to the wrong guy. We need to discuss the reasons you think you acted in this manner and what you think you need to do to change these actions. He began by telling me of some of his defects of character and what he needed to do to change them. Even today he admitted some of these things rear their ugly head and I need to make amends. It was a long conversation and when we had finished over four hours had transpired. When I left his side I was exhausted but somehow strangely refreshed. He recommended I take a short break, perhaps have some food then move to step six immediately.
Step Six “Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.” Who in their right mind wouldn’t want God to zap ’em and all the defects be removed from their life. I was entirely ready but could I hold on to a couple just fer the fun of it please. (I gotta sick mind!) Thank goodness I was trained the most important part of this step was being ready, willin’, and able to do what it takes to have what God wants fer me. We are promised in the Big Book “…God will do what we can not do fer ourselves.” more work, more pleasure…. sounds about right.
Step Seven “Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings” Humility was the big stumblin’ block fer me. Let’s be honest I was an egomaniac with an inferiority complex. I understood bein’ humiliated, in fact this was one of my character defects. Finally in desperation I turned to the many examples of humility I had found within the rooms of AA. I saw very talented folks givin’ credit fer all that they had and the good they did to a Power greater than themselves. I heard the little quips that steered my thinkin’ to a humble way of thinkin’. (ie: “I can’t, God can, I think I’ll let Him.”) I was then guided to a group of men that practiced the “old way” of takin’ Step Seven. We joined together on our knees and recited the Step Seven prayer. It’ in the Big Book but you must live it cause it will be in your heart. “My creator, I am now willing that you have all of me, good and bad. I pray that You now remove from me every single defect of character which stands in the way of my usefulness to You and my fellows. Grant me strength, as I go out from here, to do your bidding… Amen”
Step Eight “Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.” My first impression was another damn list. I was again wrong. Most of the names on this list were already on my Fourth Step inventory. Some of the folks I had harmed I couldn’t make any amends to since they were dead. I was in a dilemma what to do. An old dairy farmer from Wisconsin came to my rescue. Jerry always hadda story to make his point. To make a long story short would eliminate some of the color but in effect he told me ya can’t milk a cow that’s dead. You can however change your ways so no more cows die… Ya gotta be willin’ to make the amend. Sometimes the willingness is changin’ your life to no longer act in this manner.
Step Nine “Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.” I’m sure ya kin see that I have run Step Eight and Step Nine a bit together. Many of us have this difficulty cause we’re in such a hurry to git the healin’ started. I know many of my amends have taken years to begin on them. The time wasn’t right or so I thought. The God of my understandin’ has a bit of a twisted sense of humor. He tends to put the folks in my path that I need to deal with when I am spiritually ready to deal with them. Yes sometimes it’s in the aisle @ Walmart surrounded by folks I don’t even know. I said “I’m sorry” too many times but didn’t change anything. Today with an honest way of life folks know when I’m hurtin from the things I did and kin see the changes that have inspired my true remorse. Some of my amends will be a lifetime commitment since they involve changin’ my thinkin’.
Step Ten “Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.” I understood the need fer this step. I understood if I immediately rectified my mistakes the pain of admittin’ my mistake would be lessened. I didn’t fully understand why till a few years later. I was diagnosed with diabetes and needed to take a blood sugar test four or five times a day. One day as I pricked my finger God put the thought in my head. My diabetes is just like my alcoholism. I need to monitor my activities frequently and with absolute honesty. I need to adjust my life immediately to maintain good health, physical, mental and emotional. My diabetes and alcoholism are somethin’ I kin live with the rest of my life. I just need to adjust my thinkin’ and my intake of all things.
Step Eleven “Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.” This was an entirely new concept fer me. I had always prayed fer somethin’. Prayed to git out of a jackpot, prayed someone wouldn’t die, prayed fer a better job, etc. To pray fer knowledge of God’s will and the power to accept and do His will was a much more realistic concept. I realize today that I was tryin’ to tell God what to do, how to make my life more to my plan. The meditation thing was also a learnin’ experience. Ole Bert taught me the proper way to listen fer God’s message with out forcin’ my opinion into it. God always makes his will known to us. Sometimes it’s softly in a dream or thought other times He needs to slam a hammer into my head to git my attention before deliverin’ the message. Again that sayin’ ( I still can’t remember who wrote it) comes into my head… “Until the pain of stayin’ the same becomes greater than the pain of change no one changes.”
Step Twelve “Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.” I have received a new state of consciousness and it was given to me freely. Call it spirituality, call it wakin’ up to the reality of life, use any of the politically correct buzz words it all ends up with the same meanin’. If I follow a few simple suggestions my life will improve immensely. The folks around me will have a better me to be with. I also know if I truly wish to be grateful for this gift I must give it away. My actions maybe the only Big Book that some folks ever read. I think there is a biblical quote that sez similar things but you’ll have to find someone who better versed in that book to tell ya about it… Ole Bert’s gone so I dunno who to send ya to… perhaps a minister could help.
I should give ya an overview of AA meetin’s. There are two basic types a speaker meetin’ (some call it a lead meetin’) this is when a member with some length of sobriety share his story in a general way. He tells how it was before AA, how he got to AA, and how it is today. The second is a discussion meetin’ These maybe directed discussions by topic (ie: Step meetin’, Big Book meetin’, or based on a readin’ from another AA book or publication) or a discussion on a problem or event that has caused problems fer someone at the meetin’ (eg: How did you handle your first weddin’ reception after sobriety mine was difficult) Each meetin’ has it’s own personality. I’ve never been to a bad AA meetin’ just some that were better than others. I’ve been told you will git anythin’ you’re lookin’ fer in AA. If you’re lookin’ fer help you’ll find it, if you’re lookin fer an excuse to drink or use you’ll find that too.
Why does this work? I dunno if I can answer that question in simple terms. I was watchin’ a rerun of the “West Wing” when I saw/heard this quote that I feel explains it better than I could; A man was walking down a street & fell into a deep constuction hole. He tried & tried to get out but couldn’t. A Dr passed by the man in the hole cried out “Doc help me I can’t get out.” The Dr wrote him a perscription, tossed it into the hole & walked away. A chaplain walked by the man in the hole cried out “Padre help me I can’t get out.” The chaplain wrote a great prayer, tossed it into the hole & walked away. A friend walked by the man in the hole again cried out “Please help me I can’t get out” The friend jumped into the hole. The man exclaimed ” You dummy now we’re both down here & can’t get out” The friend calmly told him ” Not to worry I’ve been down here before I know the way out.” Think about it.