Step Three calls for affirmative action (Step Three continued)

Like all the remaining Steps, Step Three calls for affirmative action, for it is only by action that we can cut away the self-will which has always blocked the entry of God— or, if you like, a Higher Power—into our lives. Faith, to be sure, is necessary, but faith alone can avail nothing. We can have faith, yet keep God out of our lives. Therefore our problem now becomes just how and by what specific means shall we be able to let Him in? Step Three represents our first attempt to do this. In fact, the effectiveness of the whole A.A. program will rest upon how well and earnestly we have tried to come to “a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.”

This may be why for me, the whole AA program was not effective and I drank again and again and again in AA.  Because I did have faith.  I believed that the program worked for those people who said it worked for them.  But when it came to actually turning my will and my life over, I didn’t do it well enough or completely enough to stay sober.

I think it’s a fairly simple proposition.  What it means to “turn it over” in this context is to work the rest of the steps.  I had to also follow suggestions well enough to get some sober time.  I had to go to meetings, I had to call people before I drank, things like that.  But my own mind would change sufficiently until I put a concerted effort into all of the steps.  That’s what “turning it over” means to me.

April 21, 2016 (this day)

Photo on 4-21-16 at 6.30 PM

Carole marked 20 years sober yesterday, and I gave her my 20 year coin, which she had given me on my 20th anniversary.  I will have my 32nd anniversary May 1, God willing.  And the creek don’t rise.

It’s been an extreme blessing to be married to someone in the program.  I’ve written about it way back when, but we met at an online AA meeting in 1996 when she was just getting sober and I had a measly 12 years.  I wouldn’t meet her in person until she had a year, but by then we had fallen in love.  Online.  I still felt badly about it, even when Carole had a year, and a friend asked me, “How long does someone have to have in order to date you?”  I didn’t know how long, but more than a year I thought.

Anyway I trust that the ensuing 19-year-and-counting relationship has shown I wasn’t out to take advantage of her newcomer status.

Recently at a meeting I heard someone say something like, “….my truest sponsor, my wife …” which would not be a sponsor in the legal, literal or suggested sense.  But I understand.  Carole and I have talked a lot of AA through the years.  We’ve been to a lot of AA through the years.  I remember being afraid to meet her and get involved, afraid that she would drink or fade away from AA the way, sadly, most people do.  I told her that being an active and sober AA member was a prerequisite for being with me.  It was still a terrible chance I took.  Looking back, I’m amazed I did that.  But my then measly 12 years must have been driven sense into me because it’s worked out so very well for today.  I wouldn’t want to do sobriety (or any part of life) without her.

Don’t Drink and Go to Meetings

Basic advice sometimes given to flustered newcomers who don’t know what to do.  To not drink is the first, necessary part of recovery.  My mind, under the influence, could not absorb anything or advance in any way.  “The disease that tells you you don’t have a disease” comes to mind.  It’s like a part of me wanted desperately to keep drinking, and it would not stop for any kind of reason.  With alcohol in me, it didn’t matter what I believed or didn’t believe.  I was bound to go for more.

Going to meetings begins to put in place all the other changes and learning that are needed for recovery.  At meetings we hear instructions.  We hear what people have tried and experienced.  We hear from other alcoholics.  That has always been an essential part of the program. Sometimes people who cannot recover given treatments and medicines and therapy can recover when given the experience of someone just like them.  Meetings are where the people are.  The people who can help me and the people who need my help.

April 2, 2016 (this day)

My daughter of the trip-to-Greece-all-alone saga is engaged.  She’s 30 years old, and has never been endangered by my alcoholism.  This month Carole will have 20 years sober.  Next month I will have 32.  All these happy situations are brought to me by AA.  It works!

Made a Decision (Step Three)

Step Three

“Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.”

PRACTICING Step Three is like the opening of a door which to all appearances is still closed and locked. All we need is a key, and the decision to swing the door open. There is only one key, and it is called willingness. Once unlocked by willingness, the door opens almost of itself, and looking through it, we shall see a pathway beside which is an inscription. It reads: “This is the way to a faith that works.” In the first two Steps we were engaged in reflection. We saw that we were powerless over alcohol, but we also perceived that faith of some kind, if only in A.A. itself, is possible to anyone. These conclusions did not require action; they required only acceptance.

“This is the way.”  What is the way?  The Steps are the way.

How much willingness?  I think it takes a lot of willingness.  Maybe just a tiny bit to begin, but for me not having a huge amount of willingness results in failure.  It did when I was “trying” to stop drinking.  A little willingness kept me going back to AA, it kept most of my attempts to resist the urge to drink successful, but not all.  Eventually I would give in and drink.  I don’t think I became truly willing until I perceived that I had to sober up or die.

Now.  I believe that these principles have the power to transform my life still, if I would follow them.  I love being associated with this program.  I love working with these words and thoughts over the long haul of my fortunately-long life.  I am going to ask myself, when I set out to knowing do the wrong thing, if I’m willing to turn my will and my life over.  Either to a supreme, super natural being or to the good direction that I know brings results, or both.

March 18, 2016 (this day)

IMG_0335A mighty fortress is our God, a good defense and weapon.

Very long time readers will know that eight years ago, I was heavily involved in getting Hillary elected.  Mostly as a supportive spouse, but very involved.  It was heartbreaking to see her not make it, and I swore I wouldn’t personally care much about a candidate until there was a nominee.  But of course that couldn’t count for this time.

*******Important Service Announcement******   AA does not endorse any candidate in any way or take any stance on any outside issue.  These opinions are only mine.  I include them because they are very important to my life, and I want this blog to be as clear a reflection of my life through AA as it can be.  I truly hope anyone reading can understand that.  AA is not involved in politics.  Not even a little bit.  That’s part of why it has lasted. *******End of Announcement*******

So here we are again, and this time it may happen.  Amazing.  I’m so fortunate I got to see Obama be president, and I will be so much more so to see Hillary come next.  Whew.

Something completely unrelated to that but well related to AA.  Carole and I are reading “The Runner’s Bible” which was used in early AA.  The part we read today said “Who knows but that you may have been delegated to answer someone’s prayer?”  I tend to relate these things mostly to work, because we read it before I set off to work.  Working with people who have severe, multiple disabilities gives me the opportunity to answer prayers all day long.  I’m sure everyone I work with has had uncountable prayers said for them, things like, “God, please make the people who care for my son be kind and good and  skilled.”  But in AA, we have the opportunity every time we participate to answer someone’s prayer at least in part by keeping the program alive and accessible.

Do the Next Right Thing

What to do?  What to do?  Maybe it seems there is nothing to do.  Maybe it seems there is too much to do.  In early recovery, figuring out what to do while trying to live without alcohol can be daunting.  There are stories of saintly sponsors who will guide a new person through each minute of the day, through each choice of socks.

We could say, “Do the NEXT thing,” but when we’re trying to live right, it’s important to discern the next RIGHT thing.  Most next right thing lists would go something like, “get up on time, make your bed, shower, brush your teeth, feed your (family, critters, self), go to work, do the job you’re paid to do, run errands, go home, take care of your surroundings and dependents, go to a meeting.”  Repeating those actions over and over can lead to a happy life.

Sometimes, in despair, just doing the next right thing can help you through the next little while.  Wash the dishes, take a shower, go to a meeting, and before you know it, it’s a new day, one without regrets of undone things from yesterday.

For me now, I can easily make a list of the right things I fail to do, or to do enough of.  The basics are in place.  I do them consistently.  I still often do the WRONG thing, but at a level that doesn’t destroy my life or hurt other people.  Maybe the next right thing would be to meditate on this, and up my game.