There are many people in Twelve Step programs with years and even decades of sobriety. These very same people often make many meetings every week. To a person outside of the Program this might seem strange. “Why do you need to continue going to meetings?”, they often ask. “You haven’t had a drink or a drug in years.”
The simple answer is yes, it’s true we haven’t used in many years, but that’s because we believe we get a daily reprieve. Just because we’re sober today, doesn’t mean we won’t face challenges to our sobriety tomorrow. Going to all of those meetings keeps us “on the beam” so to speak.
On a more profound level, sobriety means much more than not just taking a drink or a drug or going on a food binge. For us, sobriety is a life path. It includes how we treat our family and friends and coworkers. It puts the spotlight on how we conduct ourselves in traffic when someone wants to merge into our lane and at the local supermarket when the cashier is as slow as molasses. Perhaps most importantly, sobriety is about how we treat ourself when we make a mistake or get hurt by another.
True sobriety takes time. The only way to deepen our sobriety is to continue making meetings, reading the Big Book, calling our sponsor, and doing all of those things which help us grow individually and as a member of our the fellowship.
Personal Reflection: Have I deepened my sobriety lately?
Wherever you are in the world, there is almost always an AA meeting available. That being said, not being familiar with a particular locale, many of us have wandered around trying to find the meeting itself. Hopefully, they’ve put out a small AA sign by the door, but that is not always the case. What has saved us and often gotten us to the meeting is the ubiquitous butt can at the entrance. That butt can has served as a beacon to guide us down the steps to a meeting.
In the early days of AA those butt cans outside the meeting were unnecessary. When you entered any AA meeting you would have been greeted with clouds of cigarette smoke.
At a meeting recently a member was reminiscing about those days where the room was a cloudy haze. He observed that even though we no longer have clouds of cigarette smoke surrounding us, we still have clouds of smoke surrounding us. He went on to explain that it was in AA meetings that he felt the perceptible presence of God. For him, it was almost like a comforting ether of spirituality. He viewed the words spoken in the shares of others as messages from his Higher Power. In meetings, he often had insights that he attributed to the God of his understanding.
Aren’t we lucky in AA? We can experience those clouds of smoke without ever having to take a puff.
Personal Reflection: Do I connect with my Higher Power at meetings?
In 2003, after 3 years of sobriety, I discovered that I had a serious case of cancer. It wasn’t until 2005 that I was cancer free. Along the way, I had multiple surgeries, various Chemotherapy sessions and a treatment which resulted in me contracting a form of tuberculosis.
Although I remained sober over that time I was seething with resentment towards God. Every day while I was sick I repeatedly heard a voice shouting in my head saying things like, “How could you do this to me? After all the work I’ve done to become sober this is my reward? I’ve worked for over 30 years and as I approach retirement I won’t even be able to enjoy it! You’re supposed to take care of me and my family, not take my life away.”
Although I had healed by 2005, a year later I was still walking around with those resentments toward God. In the spring of 2006 my wife told me about a shaman from South America who healed people from both physical illness and emotional trauma. She didn’t even charge people money and just asked for a voluntary donation.
I knew that my resentments were destroying my serenity so my wife and I decided to visit this healer. When I met the shaman she asked how could she help me? I told her that I needed help in forgiving God for what he had done to me.
She looked at me and said, “I see that you are a religious man. Do you believe in God?” I replied yes. She then asked, “Do you believe that everything that happens in the universe comes from God?” I once again replied yes.
She then said to me, “My friend you are asking for the wrong thing. You said you wanted me to help you to forgive God for what he had done to you. You need to ask God to forgive you for not having faith and trust in Him.”
When she said those words I felt like an electric current had passed through my body. I realized that I had been walking around for years totally off point. I had turned my lack of faith in a Higher Power into a resentment of major proportions. That moment with the shaman was the beginning of my truly understanding the third step which says, “made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him.”
Personal Reflection: Have I truly surrendered my life and will to a Higher Power?