One could say that our program has two stages. The first stage is a well known one. We reached a point where we had to give up our drug of choice. Our drinking, drug usage or eating habits were creating havoc in our lives. We admitted our powerlessness and entered the fellowship. We had entered the world of sobriety. Once we made that decision, many if not all of the problems caused by our drinking and drugging disappeared. As long as we maintained sobriety, these types of problems no longer dogged us.
However, there was a second stage to the program. We quickly encountered many other life challenges totally unconnected to our abuse of substances. This was a bit of a surprise to us. We had thought that putting down the alcohol, drugs or food would mean smooth sailing from then on. It was a rude awakening to encounter a whole new set of problems. At first we blamed everyone else about our life situation. Then gradually, we began to learn about emotional sobriety. We learned that it wasn’t so much about people places and things as much as about our attitudes. We needed to retrain our minds to begin to take personal responsibility for what happened to us in life. Even when there was enough blame to go around to include others, our task was to focus on our part.
Personal Reflection: Do I still play the blame game?
While we were using we had all kinds of preconceptions about what the program was like. When we finally walked down those steps into a meeting, we were a bit startled. Many of us were expecting to see a group of old and bitter men who were bemoaning the fact that they couldn’t drink or drug. Instead, we encountered men and women of all ages. More to the point, there was often a lot of laughter and good feelings in the rooms. In particular we sensed that there was a strong bond and sense of camaraderie amount the members. We also noticed that unlike when we were active, people paid attention to their health. In the past many of us had been afraid to go to the doctor because we had great fear about what he would say. We feared being we would be to stop using or that we had already done serious physical damage to ourselves. What really gained our attention was that we were exposed to a group of people in recovery who could live a happy productive life without drugs and alcohol. As we listened to their voices we also came to understand what emotional sobriety meant as well.
Personal Reflection: What do I find attractive about the program?
A women was sharing about an incident from her early days of sobriety. She was a few minutes late for work. When the timekeeper from the firm saw her, she was informed that she would be docked for her tardiness. The program member exploded in anger. She got into a full blown screaming match, first with the timekeeper, then with the manager and finally with the owner. She was lucky she didn’t get fired. Later in the day she relayed the incident over to her sponsor. The then newcomer said, “How dare they dock me. I was only a few minutes late. I give so much to that firm. I got caught in traffic and that was why I was late”. When she finished her tirade, her sponsor responded and said, “that wasn’t very sober behavior was it? The sponsee sheepishly admitted that indeed her behavior had not been sober. She might not have been drinking or drugging, but all her actions belied that fact.
It is so easy to fall into the “how dare theys”.
How dare they double park.
How dare they go before me.
How dare they speak to me like that.
You can fill in the blank for your own personal “how dare they”. It’s important to remember that how dare they thinking is the antithesis of emotional sobriety.
Personal Reflection: Do I still engage in “how dare they” thinking?
Years ago, I went with my sponsor to a meeting. He said, “Do you see those people over there”? I nodded my head in acknowledgement. “They don’t drink and they go to meetings; and you don’t want to be one of them”. At first I was confused. I knew a number of people from the group he had mentioned, and they had long-term sobriety. Over the next few weeks and months, I came to see why he had made his statement. In listening to their shares and observing their behaviors I came to realize that it was true that they didn’t drink. However, emotional sobriety had eluded them. Many of them were what we called “dry drunks” They exhibited many of the characteristics of the addict without using. They were still bundles of fear, resentment, pride and self-centeredness. They were certainly not people who I wanted to emulate. On the other hand, there were people in the rooms who really had transformed their lives. They were the ones who were honest in their dealings, humble, open and given to doing service. Many of them today are my friends. Personal Reflection: Are you one of the winners?
One of the joys of the program is that meetings are available in almost every city, village and hamlet of the world. Whether you’re taking an exotic cruise, exploring the French countryside or are visiting relatives in South America; a meeting is usually not far away. Quite often, there are English-speaking meetings in far off places. Sometimes of course there are not. Yet when we sit in a meeting conducted in a foreign language, we still feel very much at home. We recognize the serenity prayer and the Twelve Steps, regardless of the language. More importantly we feel the sense of kinship from our brothers and sisters in 12 step rooms across the world.
On a deeper level, the program has no fixed address because it resides in each and everyone one of us. As members of the program, we carry the message wherever we go. We are taking it with us of course by maintaining our sobriety. It is also taken with us when we conduct ourselves with emotional sobriety. We tap into our Higher Power wherever we are found; for G-d is certainly not limited by physical boundary.
Personal Reflection: How do you take the program with you?