Imagine you found yourself in a deep dark hole. It was so deep in fact that there was absolutely no way that you could just jump out or pull yourself out of it. The only way you could get out of the hole was if there was a ladder you could use to climb out with.
Addiction is similar to that deep hole. Left to out own devices, we found it impossible to extricate ourselves from it. We tried many strategies but we always seemed to end up back in that hole once again. The programs of AA, NA and OA provided us with a ladder to help us depart from the hole of addiction. Each of the rungs of the ladder represented a different aspect of the program to help us climb out. Some of those rungs included going to meetings, getting a sponsor, working the steps, taking service commitments, practicing daily prayer and meditation and helping another member of the fellowship. By climbing the rungs we found that we could extricate ourselves from that dark pit. We also found that when we neglected various aspects of the program we began to slide back into the hole. It was not something we could say we were ever free and clear off.
Personal Reflection: Am I going up or sliding down the ladder?
Over and over again you hear in the rooms how difficult it was for people to enter the program. There was often huge resistance to even going to a meeting. Shame about our disease kept us out of the rooms. Denial that we had a problem prevented us from crossing the threshold. Then, one day, a miracle occurred and we actually made it to a meeting. The bigger miracle was that for many of us, that date became our sobriety date, the first day we refrained from using our drug of choice. Congratulations! That moment was a truly awesome one.
Hopefully we began to realize that a lifetime of personal dysfunction followed us into the rooms. Drugs, alcohol or food were just a symptom of the problem. Our accumulated dysfunction required a lifetime of personal, transformative work. The program provided an excellent framework for beginning that work. In particular, the process of going through the steps could be life altering. The establishment of discipline and commitment by going to meetings and calling our sponsor was also crucial. Everything was laid out in front of us to initiate the process of personal change. What now mattered was our level of engagement. Our failure to do so often catapulted us back into our addiction.
Personal Reflection: What issues of mine still require work?
We encounter all different kinds of people in the rooms. What we have in common is that all us have stopped using our drug of choice. Beyond that we are like a wildflower garden with a thousand varieties. There are of course the external differences. We come in different genders, ages and hues. Probably we are the only institution in the world that has so many varied religious beliefs sitting under one roof at the same time. But, there is another aspect to our differences. Some people in the program are truly “happy, joyous and free”. Initially, one might chalk us this up them being born that way. “They’re one of the lucky ones like the Hollywood stars who were blessed with great looks and perfect teeth”.
The reality is that our fellow members would be the first to say that they used to be negative, bitter, unhappy and ungrateful people. Their journey of personal transformation did not happen overnight. They have spent years on working the program. Every day they allot serious time for the maintenance of their sobriety. They speak with their sponsor, go to meetings, and take service commitments. Perhaps most importantly they integrate the steps into their lives. So, if they have a resentment they do a tenth step and when they are wrong admit it and make amends. Every time they let go of a resentment, their happiness quotient rises.
Personal Reflection: Am I happy, joyous and free?
I recently overheard an interesting conversation between two AA members. A fellow was describing his first meeting. At that meeting, he saw the shade with the 12 steps hanging in the front of the room. When the meeting was over, he loudly exclaimed, “ok I got it, I read the twelve steps on the chart. I’m done. I’m good to go”. He really thought that all he had to do was read over the steps once, and be free of his addictive behaviors. Of course, he had a rude awakening when he went out shortly thereafter. We need to have a very different attitude. There are no quick fixes. The elevator is indeed broken. Recovery is not a speedy process. If we want to maintain physical, emotional and spiritual sobriety, we need to methodically go thru the twelve steps. We need to take them one at a time. Quite often, we need to return to various points on the steps and begin our ascent again. Sometimes, we even need to return to the first step and admit our powerlessness and unmanageability.
Personal Reflection: Which step are you working today?