This Above All

First thing first (and this above all): I am sober today, just for today. I have never said once, since I came into recovery, that “I am never going to drink again for the rest of my life”. That’s just setting myself up for a big fall. But I can handle the thought of not drinking today, asking my higher power to help me get through today, and doing whatever it takes to earn my daily reprieve from my disease. Living in the Now is just such an easier way to live.

It’s not that I don’t think about tomorrow, or make plans for next week, or look forward to next month (next month especially), but I don’t live there. I live in the present. I have the same worries and fears of the unknown as any other man or woman – but they are lessened today by my use of some spiritual tools called the 12 Steps. And because I do, I’ll probably make it through another day.

Selfish, self-centred and self-seeking. Not exactly how I wanted to be known. And yet my drinking took me there too. Unhappy, insecure, blaming others, not accepting responsibility – I wasn’t exactly the most joyful person to be around. And so I actually sought out the loneliness and the isolation, so that I didn’t have to put up with other people’s judgement. And I didn’t like being there either – I didn’t like myself.

What a relief when I found out that I didn’t have to live that way anymore. When I found a safe and secure place in the rooms of AA, where I could talk about myself, my doubts and fears, my sadness and my joy, my insanity and my peace… in short, my emotions and how I dealt with them before by numbing them with alcohol, and how I now dealt with them in sobriety… I knew I was in the right place.

And then I discovered what it meant to be selfless  – “to give away what I was freely given” – to give without thought of expectation, without thought of being paid back, without thought of being patted on the back – no strings attached! Here was real power – the power of anonymous giving, and somehow it helped me stay sober, and brought about many of the Promises.

That’s another of the contradictions of AA – the first was that in order to win the war against my disease, I had to surrender to it totally. And in order to keep my sobriety, I had to give it away. In order to be selfless, I had to be selfish about my program and put it first. Because if I wasn’t sober, I couldn’t be of much help to anyone, in or out of the rooms.

Somehow, that one day at a time has turned into seven years – seven years this week since my last drink. What a miserable, desperate sot I was then.

And since then? Most of the Promises have come true. I never realized that life could be like this. I’m a grandfather. I’m in a healthy relationship, head over heels in love and about to get married in another month. I owe money to no one. I have my health. I’m emotionally sober most of the time. I stopped smoking two years ago. And I’m sober one more day. Does life get any better?

In the 12 & 12, on the very first page of Step One, I am told the purpose of AA:

But upon entering A.A. we soon take quite another view of this absolute humiliation. We perceive that only through utter defeat are we able to take our first steps toward liberation and strength. Our admissions of personal powerlessness finally turn out to be firm bedrock upon which happy and purposeful lives may be built.

I took that as a Promise too, that I would have a happy and purposeful life again. And I do.

My sponsor says that 5 things, taken together, will practically guarantee that I will stay sober:
1. Don’t drink. (check… and no near-beer either…)
2. Go to Meetings. (check… still about five a week in a good week)
3. Get a Sponsor. (check… still the same guy)
4. Do the Steps, don’t just study them. (check – they are a part of me now, for the most part)
5. Do service. (check – I have a sponsee, I have done the gamut of service for both my home groups, and at the District and Intergroup levels, and I always put away the chairs…)

All that being said, I still don’t take it for granted. I still see too many people relapse, but almost invariably it’s because they forget about that second one and drift away from their meetings. Without meetings, the rest of it seems to drop away too. I need to continue to do them all.

The love of my life gave me a seven-year medallion this week, and on it she put the words “To Thine Own Self Be True”. I didn’t realize that it was from Hamlet, a father’s advice to his son. I’m sure that my dad would have said the same to me, along with a suggestion or two about not drinking. I wish that he had met my partner, and my daughters and my granddaughter. What a wonderful sentiment in those words:

Polonius’ advice to his son Laertes in “Hamlet”

Neither a borrower, nor a lender be;
For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.

This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Farewell; my blessing season this in thee!

“It must follow, as the night the day”…. if I am true to myself, then I cannot be false to others. In my mind, that’s a much better way to live and let live. I’m really glad to be sober one more day.

Harry

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