I may die with this disease, but I do not have to die of it.” ~ Anon
Here is a test. For the next few weeks, listen to how people read the 12th step in How It Works. Listen carefully. Most folks read “as A result of these steps; not, how it is really written, “as THE result of these steps.” The words of the steps were written so specifically that the message is abundantly clear. After working the 12 steps thoroughly and honestly, our result will be a spiritual awakening. This result would not be one of a number of results, but it would be THE result. This clarifies what we are working toward when we go through the steps to the best of our ability. We are trying to have a spiritual awakening which will allow us to stop craving and using alcohol. Certainly, that is the result we were seeking when we got here. Right? From that spiritual awakening, all else will blossom and grow. All that we need in life will follow in due course.
The acronym for the word Trust = Totally Relying Upon Step #12. Trust is a two way street. If I want to be able to trust my sponsor or my HP, I must be trustworthy. It is like the gossip or or sexual cheater: they tend to blame the victim first of the same things they are guilty of. It is called deflection. It allows the person who is doing the gossiping or cheating to feel less guilty of and more justified in their own behaviors. In the 12 Step Recovery Program, we get the chance to live differently. No matter how much we cheated or gossiped (or any other wrongs we may have committed) we now have the chance to right those wrongs and live as an equal among all others. We can now be trusted and believed. We no longer have to blame our victims and avoid our responsibilities. Now, that is what I call a living miracle and a spiritual awakening in the making. Thank goodness for AA.
Some members are called upon to give talks in
front of AA groups or at conventions.
This does not make them more important than
any other members. ~ 12 Step literature
The concept of anonymity in Tradition #12 directs us to see each other as one. We are one in the unity, recovery and service of the 12 step program. We hold in common not just the dis-ease of addiction, but we hold in common the goal of recovery. This is a WE program. Today, I had to let go of the board position I held for 2 years. I had to trust that someone else would pick up the slack. When I woke up this morning, I asked my HP for the right words and the right attitude for the final meeting. When I let go of the outcomes, the right things come to be. Until I got to the meeting, I had no idea who would replace me or how it would all shake out. Guess what? A relatively new person in my life stepped up to service! She is younger and more gung-ho than I am these days. The board needs fresh blood and fresh ideas. No one person is in charge, no matter how I try to be! ha ha.
So, AA practices this thing called rotation of service. That means, with the exception of General Service work, most service terms are 1 year for group representatives and committee members, and 2 years for board members. This is most effective, as no one holds sway over a service board or meeting, no one roots in and thinks that this is their career for life, and no one works solo. We work as a team, so that the decisions don’t fall upon one person. We make decisions based on group consensus. That consensus is held until a new group of board members comes along and decides what their group consensus might be. It is suggested that board members have at least 5 years of sobriety, and group reps and committee members should have at least one year of sobriety. It is easier to make commitments to the groups and to service when our brains are cleared of alcohol. Be of service, but remember to let go gently.
To be anonymous in AA means to be one among many, to accept ourselves as no better or worse than our fellows. This acceptance places us in a state of humility and makes us teachable.
~ 12 Step Literature
Anonymity in Tradition #12 means a whole lot more than just not gossiping. In most meetings you will hear: “who you see here, and what you hear here, stays here when you leave here. Here Here!” That is just a small part of it. In meetings, we are encouraged to refrain from saying things such as quoting another member by name or promoting one person above all others as the expert or the one with the longest term sobriety. This elevates one above others which is a breach of anonymity. No one is in charge in AA. We are all equal in sobriety. Even those of us who have been around AA many decades, just have today. The truth is, that whoever woke up earliest, has the most sobriety today. I got up a bit late today. I am still sober, but others have a 4 hour jump start on being sober for this day.
The thing about being on an equal par with all others, is that we can be afforded the opportunity to learn from people no matter how much education they may have or not have. I have learned the most out of people who come from the most humble beginnings. I must remain teachable, so that when the messages are delivered, I will be opened to receiving them. An old timer likes to say: “G.O.D. does not call those who are qualified to serve; G.O.D. qualifies those who are called to serve”. That make sense to me. None of us were born with innate knowledge on how to do anything. In fact, it took us at least one year to learn how to talk, walk, and feed ourselves. So, it is in AA. We need people to teach us to how to get and live sober one step and one day at a time. Remain teachable.
We have found that service works best when we have no expectations on the outcomes. ~ 12 Step Literature
I find that when there is joy in service, the service provided will be optimal. It serves no one to do things out of pity, people pleasing, or in resentment. The product of such attitudes will surely suffer. I think there is a nut for every bolt. It is up to each person to find what fits for him/herself. One of my first experiences was trying to be a group treasurer. I figured that I am an educated and intelligent person, so surely I should be able to manage a group’s checkbook. Apparently, it takes a bit of math skills! I paid out the contributions and rent costs. And, a few days later, I got notice that all of the checks had bounced. What the….! It turns out that the prior treasurer had written but not recorded some checks still outstanding. I paid the group back for the bank fees, and stepped down promptly. One lesson learned. I no longer offer to do financial work for anyone. In fact, I no longer have my own checking account. The other lesson learned was to have the group’s books audited periodically.
So, I would encourage everyone to figure out what your skills are. What brings you joy? How can you be of service? We give back freely what we were freely given. Most folks will say that just being a sponsor and showing up for meetings is enough. Do you remember that saying “half measures availed us nothing”? We need to get beyond ourselves and our own daily ruts. Jobs to do the group level may include: secretary, treasurer, literature, Grapevine display, greeter/hugger, making coffee, supplies, contact person, newcomer greeter, and leading a meeting, etc. I was told to show up early and stay late. So, for me, it is a two hour commitment and fellowship time, not to just come and go at my leisure. This is a WE program. Not only do we need each other, the group needs you. Be of service.
Ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.
~ AA Step#12.
We place principles before personalities. Good gosh, how that concept saved me many a time. In Step #12 we are reminded that no one is in charge, no other alcoholic is the leader or lord and master over any of us at any time, and that we are all just trusted servants. It is so true what they say: the things we hate in others, are the exacts same things we struggle with in our own personalities. I find it helpful to do my daily 10th step inventory as it happens in addition to the daily one done in the morning. If I happen to run into a troubling person in a meeting or while doing service work, I sit down later and try to figure out where I was wrong. Recently, I just finished updating the bylaws for another 12 step group. It took me a lot of time over 10 months to get it right and to gather the information needed from various people. Whew. I was glad to see it done.
As I submitted it for publication, the gatekeeper of the website bulked at the formatting. She had other ideas on how it ought to be written. I was not so happy with that response, so she went around me, and tried to get another board member to veto my submission. Long story short: I got mad, I did my 10th step, I spoke with my sponsor, and then (surpise! suprise!) I prayed. The notion that perhaps the chairperson is responsible for dealing with such things finally dawned on me. I know, I am pretty stubborn. I had to look at my ego issues, perfectionism, controlling, and stubbornness. What is good for the group and what is the group consensus will carry the day. As I let go of that service job, I can let go knowing I did my best, whether or not they redo those bylaws is their business, and I have a G.O.D. that can handle whatever comes as a result. Let go, bide your time and do not let personalities (especially your own) interfere with sobriety.
Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all these traditions, ever reminding us us to place principles before personalities. ~ AA 12 X 12
“The day inevitably came when that person failed us is some way, and our own recovery was threatened”. ~ Anon. I ran over this phrase I had heard years ago. It still strikes true for me. We are just human beings, trying to live in a human world, imperfect, flawed, and frail. The key word in Tradition #12 is Spirituality. We are striving for progress, not perfection. In the process of that striving, we may mistakenly believe that our sponsors will be there forever. That they alone are the magical thing that keeps us sober, or that they alone understand us. After a few big losses in AA, I have learned that a reliance and relationship with HP is the only thing I can be assured of over the long haul. I believe that sponsors are put in our paths to guide us to a certain level of recovery, then it is time for something new.
Letting go does not have to be traumatic or chaotic. My first experience in letting go was not pretty, but ever since then, I have decided that when there is a parting of the ways, both people grow as a result. Both people move on to better and greater things. We humans are a silly lot: we think the world revolves around us. When in fact, it may revolve, but we are not part of the revolution. It is like the ants on a log, that think they are steering the log down the river. Tradition #12 asks us to be trusted servants or service providers. It asks us to carry the message of recovery, not be the end all/ be all answer. No one can be asked to carry that burden. If I have learned anything: It is that my job as a sponsor is to engender a desire in the sponsee to have a constant and conscious contact with a God of his/her understanding. Then, get out of the way.
In step #12, we confirm that we have turned our backs on our old ways of living forever. We are moving in a new direction of spiritual growth. ~ 12 Step Literature
Here are the final steps to review as we move into step #12:
Step #7: Key word is humility. Freedom from self-reliance. We must be willing to humbly ask HP to remove all of our character flaws.
Step #8: Key word is self-discipline. Freedom from blame. We must be willing to admit what harm we have caused and become willing to make amends to them.
Step #9: Key word: unconditional love. Freedom from the fear of people. We must be willing to make direct amends unless it would harm them/others.
Step #10: Key word: perseverance. Freedom from complacency. We must be willing to admit when we are wrong and try to make things right.
Step #11: Key word: Spiritual Awareness. Freedom from loneliness. We must be willing to develop a conscious contact with HP and follow his/her will for us.
Step #12: Key word: service. Freedom from lack of purpose. We must be willing to give back freely what we have been freely given.
What do each of these steps have in common? Two words: must and willing. We must recover, or we will die. It is said that the 12 steps of AA are merely suggestions. True, but if you are in the middle of a storm at sea, it is suggested that you stay in the boat, keep your balance, and keep rowing to shore! Willingness is a key ingredient in recovery. Without willingness on the part of the alcoholic (as a sponsor) it will feel as if you are trying to push a wet noodle up a hill. Slow and messy! Happy rowing!