Have you ever gone hiking and suddenly realized that you’ve lost the trail. You try to retrace your steps and most of the time find the last trail marker on a tree that you somehow missed. No problem; you now make that left or right as required instead of walking straight ahead. Occasionally, you retrace your steps and realize that you have gotten yourself good and lost. You start to panic and then in the distance see the well worn path of the trail. Breathing a sigh of relief you head towards the path and resume your hike.
For many of us, drugs, alcohol or food was our map through the forest of life. Initially, it worked fairly well for us. It helped us buffer some of the pain, fear and loneliness that we often felt. At some point it stopped working. It was like straying from a path as we stumbled deeper and deeper into the forest.
When we had strayed very far from the path we suddenly came upon a trail marker. It had the letters AA, NA or OA on it. We began to follow that trail and a guide appeared who became our sponsor. He or she had also been lost in the forest but had found their way out. They acted as a compass for us on a daily basis.To make sure we didn’t stray far from the path they gave us a Big Book to study. It provided us with a set of directions for almost any path we choose to take. We also started to attend meetings where we met many other travelers who helped guide us as well. At some point we even began to guide others who had become lost.
Personal Reflection: Do I still stray off the path?
Many of the joys of living in modern society are simple in nature. For example, in most cites, suburbs and even rural areas there are wonderful libraries. Even the smallest towns often have fairly extensive book collections. Beyond that there are DVD’s, digital books and periodicals. Sometimes, it’s fun to just visit the library and just browse. Given that there are thousands of books, how can we randomly choose a “good” book off the shelves? One trick is to select a book that is worn and dog eared. This indicates that many people have borrowed the book and it is probably a good one.
For those of us in the program, the same principal holds true for one book in particular in our homes. If our copy of the Big Book looks well worn, that’s a good sign. It indicates that we reference it frequently and have made it a part of our lives. Many of us have even committed to reading two pages of the Big Book every day.
On the other hand, if our copy of the Big Book looks untouched, that’s probably a bad sign. Chances are we are not working our program to the extent we should. There is good news however. We can take our copy of the Big Book off our shelves any time we want. When we do so we have a blueprint for living a sober life.
Personal Reflection: Has my Big Book been gathering dust?
Countless people have entered AA because they had a desire to not drink. People in other fellowships entered because they wanted to stop using drugs or eating compulsively. An early suggestion to these newcomers was to get a copy of the Big Book and read two pages a day. Invariably the newcomer complained about this. “Why do I have to read a book with hundreds of pages? All I want to do is stop using my drug of choice. You could tell me how to do that in less than one page”. They are actually correct on this point. If the program were only about not drinking or drugging, a magazine article at most would have sufficed. But, the Big Book and the program are much more. They are literally about a new way of living where we undergo a psychic change. It is about developing a connection with a G-d of our understanding. Through the program we learn about emotional sobriety and all that it entails. Part of that sobriety is a daily review of our actions and making amends where necessary. We also learn about the necessity of doing service. In reality, given all it contains, it’s pretty amazing that the Big Book is as short as it is.
Personal Reflection: What did I learn from the Big Book today?
Regardless of our fellowship, we respect the anonymity of others. Many people would not come to meetings if this weren’t the case. They want to keep their membership in the fellowship on a need to know basis. For them, public knowledge of their membership in the fellowship might jeopardize their career, personal relationships or standing in the community.
On the other hand, many of us are not concerned with others finding out about our alcohol, drug or food addiction. In fact, at times we are quite open about it. The majority of us break our anonymity when we feel that it might benefit someone who is not yet in our program. We “try to carry the message” to others who are still sick and suffering.
This is a wonderful service that is being performed when we do so. There is one proviso however. Once we have broken our anonymity, we have become a public representative of AA, NA, OA or any other fellowship we belong to. As such, our behavior and actions must reflect the highest ideals of the program. If we identify ourselves as being a program person and then act inappropriately, the repercussions can be quite serious. It might delay or even prevent someone from entering the fellowship. This can be a life or death decision which we have influenced.
Personal Reflection: Am I a good advertisement for my fellowship?
Many philosophers say that we are born with a blank slate. By this they mean that our lives are not pre-determined. This gives us the opportunity to craft the life that we want. What a fantastic notion. We can live a life that allows us to fulfill a destiny unlike any other. There is also a down side to being born with that blank slate. Our lives do not come with an instruction manual. Those pages were left out of the birth and growth process. Without that manual, some of us turned to alcohol, drugs or food to solve the daily challenges of life. When we final gave up on that solution, we turned to the fellowship. Luckily for us, we now do have an instruction manual. It is called “The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous”. Within its pages are guidelines for living a sober, productive and happy life. As many of us have discovered, reading the book is not enough. It’s critical that we put into practice all of it’s instructions and principles. When we find that our life is not working for us, we need to go back to that manual for direction. A good starting point is to find a step or a slogan that we can utilize to deal with our current problem.
Personal Reflection: what step or slogan do I turn to most often?
The Alcoholics Anonymous preamble is read virtually at every 12 step meeting. It says in part that “AA is not allied with any sect, denomination……or institution”. As such, it is clear that the program is non religious in nature. You don’t have to be of a member of a particular religion to gain entry. You are not required to read the Old Testament, the New Testament, the Koran or the Torah. Members of the fellowship, have discovered the program to be of a spiritual rather than of a religious nature.
As addicts and alcoholics we had found that our lives had become unmanageable. Left to our own devices we had been unable to deal with our addictive actions. It was clear that we needed help from outside of ourselves. We needed a blueprint for living. Not only a plan to help us stop using, but a plan to help us start living. For millions of members in the program that plan was disclosed in The Big Book. Somewhere in its stories we uncovered areas of identification and instruction. The entire twelve step program was contained in its pages. Whether members were believers, agnostics or atheists they all utilize the Big Book. Without religious connotation, it has become the bible of recovery for millions of people.
Personal Reflection: How do I utilize The Big Book?