Restoring Sanity

Clearly, a power greater than ourselves had to be found if we were to be restored to sanity. ~ Step #2. 

I know a good many AA’s really just wanted help to have the consequences of their drinking behaviors removed, so that they could learn how to drink responsibly, and be done with this whole process. The first hard fact that most have had to wrestle with is that this is a lifetime commitment. AA is a lot like the Mafia; you know too much to get out. In Step #2, they run into this concept of being restored to sanity. What! You think I’m nuts? It is so hard to face these facts. But, we must face facts, or we will die. Einstein once said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” When faced with that definition, we can all cop to being pretty darn crazy. Didn’t we repeatedly go out and get tanked, get in trouble, lose most of our paychecks, break things, and cause harm to those we loved? Didn’t we swear off and then swear on day after day after day, and then go right back out there and do it again even when we were still sick from the last time?

We were insane. We were acting abnormally. We were in a great need for a spiritual awakening sufficient enough to move us beyond the havoc and pain we ourselves created. One wise person told me once, that if I wanted what they (AA) had, then I had to do what they do. That is one of the first things I learned. Since I was raised in the insanity of alcoholism, I had no clue how to live soberly. I was given a little yellow book called Living Sober back in the day, that pretty much mapped out how to live soberly. I also got a copy of How Bill Sees It. Both have been good references for me over the years. Just because we never were taught sober living does not mean we cannot learn how. Remain teachable and open to having sanity restored.

The Only Defense

The only defense I have against the dis-ease of alcoholism is a spiritual defense. ~ Anon

Once the booze was removed, I had to continue to search for and accept guidance from HP. That is the only source of reprieve I have from this dis-ease. I suppose you wonder why I usually spell it dis-ease. It is because we have this dis-ease that makes us feel ill at ease with ourselves, each other, and in our own skin. Thus, we have this dis-ease. You know it took me a long time to get over myself. I used to be painfully shy and ill at ease with everyone and everything. Then I discovered booze. It made me glib, at ease, and socially lubricated enough to leave the house and be around others in strange places. Back then, people did not seek out professional help with neurosis, panic, or stress. That was considered a show of weakness. Instead, we were taught to buck up, pretend to be okay, and if that didn’t helps, we were told “here, take one of these” or “drink some of that.” So, I did both. It worked for awhile. A good bit of awhile, to be truthful with you. So, I did what I was taught, and booze became my god. Until one day, it backfired. Instead of being the life of the party, I became the raging B that no one wanted to confront or tangle with. Then booze fueled anger became my god.

I am a walking miracle. I consider any sober alcoholic a walking miracle. It is a miracle that we survived to tell about it. It is a miracle that none of us finds drinking to be the answer anymore. And, most importantly, it is a miracle that we found each other and can support each other in the endeavor of sobriety. I am grateful for AA. I am glad I found an HP that I can trust in and rely upon on a day to day, 24 hours per day, 365 days a year, and year after year basis. My relationship with G.O.D. has grown and changed over the years. It has become a working part of my brain. I no longer have to depend upon chemicals to make me feel at ease with others. The answers are not at the bottom of any bottle or brown bag. Believe me, I have looked. The answers will come if your own (spiritual) house are in order. Enjoy the journey.

Group Conscience

The soul authority in AA is a living God as He may express Himself in our group conscience. ~ AA 12 X 12, page 132

How do we know what is God’s direction VS that of one or two strong willed people that makes the group decisions? A healthy group where everyone has a say so is the first indicator. People vote with their feet. We alcoholics won’t stay long when we feel we have no say so. It’s a control thing. The way I measure whether of not I am following my G.O.D.’s directions is that 3 doors will slam shut on me. If it is not my self will, 3 doors will open for me. I am pretty literal and hand-on, so this system helps me. I will also admit, that to this day, I insist on waiting for that 3rd door to slam shut before I admit I was going in the wrong direction. Laugh as you may, but it is true. I got this stubbornness naturally. Just ask my family.

In the group setting, the best group conscience decisions on important matters come from deliberation, waiting for one month, and asking the group to individually talk it over with their sponsors and to pray about it. When we come back together, the decision is not as immediate and dire as it seemed a month prior. Emotions will have lessened. Saner minds will prevail. I know in my personal life, waiting 24 hours works miracles in my life. My worse decisions have been haphazard and made in a time of need or fear. A lot can happen in 24 hours. I can gain a new perspective, a new solution may arise, and my emotions are not so intense (I think better that way). Take the time, pray for direction, and be deliberate in decision making. Nothing important happens overnight.


Stop Fighting It

To acquire it, I had only to quit fighting and practice the rest of AA’s program as enthusiastically I could. ~ AA 12 X 12, page 27

I am not sure who has the harder job with Step #2. Is it the agnostic or atheist like me, or the religious ones who think they already have a god and a relationship they trust? I think we all have a great deal to learn regardless of where or how we came in to AA. To the religious ones, the following questions may catch their attention:

If you have a god that you believe created you, why are you so intent on destroying his creation? If you believe your god is all powerful and all knowing, why have you been left to still be drinking? If you have a relationship with a god of your understanding, why are you not addressing your drinking problem with this god? I know those sound harsh, but they are necessary to resolve the religious barrier that many folks use  against working this program.

With agnostics and atheists, the thing that needs to be done is to unlearn everything that they think they know, focus on facts, and deal with the wording in the Big Book that has them stuck. Remind them that the Big Book was written by men in the 1930’s whose views were primarily Christian and male oriented. If necessary (I did this myself) change the wording “he” to “she/it”. “God” to “HP”, etc. Encourage them to remain open, stop debating, and to focus on what they have in common with other AA’s who may not believe in what they do. There is no right or wrong way to recover. The only wrong way to work the AA 12 X 12, is to not work it at all. AA is a great big old hoop that we can all jump through. Everyone who needs us can participate. Welcome home.

A New Life

And so it is: the beginning of the end of his old life, and the beginning of the emergence into a new one. ~ AA 12 X 12, page 26

You know, most of us must admit that we did not come into AA to have our lives changed. We just wanted the consequences for our self-destructive behaviors removed. We wanted life to be fairer and easier for us. We wanted our loved ones, lawyers, the courts, our creditors, or employers to get off our backs and let us be. We wanted the pain to stop. We thought if only these would be relieved from our heavy burden, we would not have a need to drink away our problems. The last thing we wanted to hear was that G.O.D. talk. Argh! We didn’t want that old time religion stuff shoved down our throats. Every time we heard it, we cringed, we got huffy, and many times we walked out. Still, we were powerless over the alcohol, and were soon driven back to AA. At least in AA we felt at home. We felt that these people are our tribe. They understand us more than anyone else we have ever met. So, tail between our legs, we kept coming back. We had no other options.

 In Step #2, it encourages us to find an HP of our understanding. It does not require that we believe in anything any one else in the AA rooms believe. Our own understanding. Do you know what a gift that is? For the first time in many of our lives, we are given the freedom to believe what we want, so long as it works for us. We get to pray how we want, use whatever meditation we like, and work this program in any way that works for us. If it doesn’t work, then we have the freedom to either find a different sponsor, change our choices regarding prayers/gods, etc.  I find a great deal of freedom in Step #2. I hope that you will too. AA is a big old hoop that everyone who wants to, can jump through. The only barrier to recovery exists in your own head. Stay open, remain teachable and keep coming back.

We Are One

We work together, so that individually we can recover. ~ Anon

The key word in Tradition #2 is Unity. Unity means Oneness. We share in common a dis- ease that will kill us. We must all work together, so that we each can recover. I know I have been guilty of not always practicing this tradition. I tend to run the show, no matter where I show up. I have been told that I make people feel that they cannot fill my shoes, or that I know best what is going on; or how things should be done. So, I have to practice doing only my fair share and no more! I have to trust that the less I do or know; the more others will do or learn. I try to mentor new people into the concept of service, sit besides them while they lead, and prompt people to speak up when they have something that they feel strongly about. Every voice matters.

Here are some final questions for our group’s consideration:

  • Do we hold our service providers accountable?
  • Does the group give full attention to the group secretary, Intergroup Rep, and others making announcements/giving reports?
  • Do our group members willing seek to do service positions, or do we have trouble filling certain positions?
  • Does everyone help with set up, clean up, leading, etc.?
  • Do we have annual change in service positions, or do just a few do it for many years?
  • Do each of us (no matter how old or young) do our part in keeping the meeting going? Remember that we are all One. One in recovery.


Trusted Servants

Unity does not mean uniformity. ~ AA Wisdom

What does it mean to be a trusted servant? I think it means that the group trusts their trusted servants to suit up and show up, do what they say they are going to do, report on their progress or work, and ask for help if it is needed. You would be amazed at all it takes to have a smooth running meeting. There are people in the background who are showing up early to open the doors, making sure that the coffee is made, putting out the literature and putting up the signage. They make sure there are enough chairs and tables put up. The format is in place, readers are assigned, and the topic is chosen. Even further, there are workers who order literature, do the banking, get supplies, and make sure things like sign-in sheets and formats are typed up and copied. Your group also hopefully has someone involved as an Intergroup rep who goes to the monthly meeting and brings back the notes and handouts on events, etc. for everyone. There is work to be done. Ask how you can be of help. Here are a few more Tradition #2 questions to help direct your group:

  • Do we put pressure on the group to accept one member’s ideas simply because he/she is a long term member or has the most sobriety?
  • Do we feel we have to save face in group discussions, or can we go along in good spirit with the group conscience, even if we differed with it in the beginning?
  • Do we criticize service providers, committees, or office workers, or do we support their efforts?

Strive to be part of the solution, not the problem. AA needs your service.