Willing to go to Any Lengths

If you want what we have, and are willing to go to any lengths to get it . . .

Another phrase that I believe has changed meaning since it was written.  Or has acquired an additional meaning.

This is what frustrates me about chronic relapsers.  I’m allowed to be frustrated by them, since I was spectacularly one of them in the program, in your meeting, in your face, for six years.

I did a lot of very good things during those years, but I didn’t do everything.  I don’t know that I was capable of it, and they probably aren’t, either.  I’m just supremely lucky in that I lived through it long enough to recover.

We’ve talked about this at meetings, how somewhere in the Big Book it says we may have to go to awful, dangerous places.  All of my life I’ve lived in the suburbs of cities, fairly safe from harm and also fairly nearby people who aren’t so safe.  But this isn’t the time when AA is beginning and, here in my suburb, I get a letter from headquarters telling me about some desperate someone who is all alone and wanting to recover.  In my time and place, people show up with slips to be signed, sent here by the courts, glad they got off or resentful to be forced among us or, every once in a while, ready to change.

Every few years (in only my experience, again), when someone acts dangerously at a meeting, there are many cool heads and strong bodies to make sure he (sorry it is always a he) doesn’t hurt anyone.

*****Caveat*****This is my experience.  It doesn’t mean that AA meetings are safe places or that AA members are safe people.  People are victimized all the time, and, unfortunately, everyone going to an AA meeting needs to have their wits about them.  Better yet, bring a friend.**********

But the history of any lengths has little to do with my chronic relapsing or the people I know who do it today.  Today, to me, any lengths means

  • working the steps
  • really working the steps
  • making amends
  • changing the behavior
  • going to meetings
  • even when I don’t feel like it
  • even when I have other responsibilities
  • telling my story when I’m asked to
  • even when I don’t feel like it
  • talking to people in the program
  • even when I don’t feel like it
  • working the steps again and some more

The people who I know, who struggle, leave some part of that out.  Or lots of parts.  Usually it’s meetings, but not always.  It wasn’t meeting in my case!  I went to lots of them, often drunk.  I left out the steps.

To stop thinking about this, I end up hoping that the relapsers I know will stick around until they want to stick around.  That may sound really wrong to a critic of AA.  I wouldn’t suggest this approach with, say, a church.  But people who end up at AA meetings have very few, if any, options left.  Or if they have options it is my experience that they will exhaust these options and end up back at AA, minus their jobs, families, health, and/or dignity.  I wish for them that in the beginning, before they lose those things but when they still just aren’t feeling it for AA, that they would wait and stay until they want to be there.  I want to be there now, and I’m just lucky I lived long enough to experience that particular miracle.


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