Hope for the Hopeless Drinker: Why I Go To AA Meetings

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The letter that follows was apparently written in the earlier days of Alcoholics Anonymous. It is reproduced exactly as I found it–with one exception. I removed three words that do not change the message one iota but were offensive to me. The author is unknown.Hope for the Hopless Drinker

It brought tears to my eyes because I’ve also known the struggle of alcoholism. However, my tears are not of hopelessness but of gratitude. Finally a solution.

WHY I GO TO MEETINGS

We died of pneumonia in furnished rooms where they found us three days later when somebody complained about the smell.

We died against bridge abutments and nobody knew if it was suicide and we probably didn’t know either except in the sense that it was always suicide.

We died in hospitals, our stomachs huge, distended and there was nothing they could do.

We died in cells, never knowing whether we were guilty or not. We went to priests, they gave us pledges, they told us to pray, they told us to go and sin no more, but go. We tried and we died.

We died of overdoses, we died in bed (but usually not the Big Bed).We died in straitjackets, in the DT’s seeing God knows what, creeping, skittering, slithering, shuffling things. And you know what the worst thing was? The worst thing was that nobody ever believed how hard we tried.

We went to doctors and they gave us stuff to take that would make us sick when we drank on the principle of “so crazy, it just might work,” I guess, or maybe they just shook their heads and sent us to places like Dropkick Murphy’s.

And when we got out we were hooked on paraldehyde or maybe we lied to the doctors and they told us not to drink so much, just drink like me. And we tried, and we died.

We drowned in our own vomit or choked on it, our broken jaws wired shut.

We died playing Russian roulette and people thought we’d lost, but we knew better. We died under the hoofs of horses, under the wheels of vehicles, under the knives and boot heels of our brother drunks. We died in shame.

And you know what was even worse was that we couldn’t believe it ourselves, that we had tried. We figured we just thought we tried and we died believing that we hadn’t tried, believing that we didn’t know what it meant to try.

When we were desperate enough or hopeful or deluded or embattled enough to go for help, we went to people with letters after their names and prayed that they might have read the right books, that had the right words in them, never suspecting the terrifying truth, that the right words, as simple as they were, had not been written yet.

We died falling off girders on high buildings, because of course ironworkers drink, of course they do. We died with a shotgun in our mouth, or jumping off a bridge, and everybody knew it was suicide.

We died under the Southeast Expressway, with our hands tied behind us and a bullet in the back of our head, because this time the people that we disappointed were the wrong people.

We died in convulsions, or of “insult to the brain,” we died incontinent, and in disgrace, abandoned.

If we were women, we died degraded, because women have so much more to live up to. We tried and we died and nobody cried.

And the very worst thing was that for every one of us that died, there were another hundred of us, or another thousand, who wished that we could die, who went to sleep praying we would not have to wake up because what we were enduring was intolerable and we knew in our hearts it wasn’t ever gonna change.

One day in a hospital room in New York City, one of us had what the books call a transforming spiritual experience, and he said to himself “I’ve got it” (no, you haven’t, you’ve only got part of it) “and I have to share it.” (now you’ve ALMOST got it) and he kept trying to give it away, but we couldn’t hear it. We tried and we died.

We died of one last cigarette, the comfort of its glowing in the dark. We passed out and the bed caught fire. They said we suffocated before our body burned, they said we never felt a thing, that was the best way maybe that we died, except sometimes we took our family with us.

And the man in New York was so sure he had it, he tried to love us into sobriety, but that didn’t work either, love confuses drunks and he tried and we still died.

One after another we got his hopes up and we broke his heart, because that’s what we do. And the worst thing was that every time we thought we knew what the worst thing was something happened that was worse. Until a day came in a hotel lobby and it wasn’t in Rome, or Jerusalem, or Mecca or even Dublin, or South Boston, it was in Akron, Ohio…

A day came when the man said I have to find a drunk because I need him as much as he needs me (NOW you’ve got it). And the transmission line, after all those years, was open, the transmission line was open. And now we don’t go to priests, and we don’t go to doctors and people with letters after their names.

We come to people who have been there, we come to each other. And we try. And we don’t have to die.

Welcome to AA.

(author unknown)

The Serenity Prayer: Original Version

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The Serenity Prayer: Original Version

In 1943, theologian Reinhold Niebuhr wrote the Serenity Prayer for a church sermon. This prayer, an appeal for grace, courage and wisdom, has become closely associated with AA, often recited at meetings all over the world. Adopted in the late 1940’s by AA, it remains a favorite prayer for Alcoholics Anonymous, Al-Anon and other 12-step groups.

Interestingly, the prayer was changed from “give us grace ” to “grant me the serenity”.

Niebuhr’s daughter, Elisabeth Sifton, wrote the book, “The Serenity Prayer”, which explores the circumstances that led her father to write the prayer.  The book can be found many places online. I ran across this audio interview of Ms. Sifton on the NPR website a few years ago and have included a link to it here:  NPR Audio Interview

Lasting about 20 minutes, I hope you set aside time to find out more about this humble man.

OrigSerenityPrayerFind a framed copy at our website.

The Serenity Prayer – Original Version
Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971)

God, give us grace to accept with
Serenity the things that
Cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things which
Should be changed, and the
Wisdom to distinguish the one
From the other.

Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a
Pathway to peace.
Taking, as Jesus did,
this sinful world as it is, not as
I would have it. Trusting that
You will make all things right If
I surrender to Your will, So that
I may be reasonably happy
In this life, and supremely happy
With You forever in the next.
Amen.

Doing the Prep Work for Your 4th Step

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I’ve found it is so much easier to write about doing a 4th Step than it is to actually write a 4th Step. If you’re having trouble getting started on this vitally important Step, you’re not alone. I talk with people all the time who struggle with this Step. In fact, most comments have been about More

The AA Sponsor: Mentor or Tormentor?

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As someone in AA and Al-Anon, the word “sponsor” always conjures up many memories. I can still see the face of my first sponsor, Marilyn. Round face and big eyeglasses. Brown, wavy hair cut in a short, practical do. A little on the “mature” side. She had 10 years of sobriety and liked to have fun but understood the seriousness of her task as a sponsor.

Back when I was 2-3 months sober, I told her that I was thinking about finding a new group. When she asked why I would want to do that, More

Family Warfare vs Common Welfare

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When I first hit the doors of AA, it was not a stretch to admit that my life had become unmanageable. I was a divorced 30-year-old part-time mother who had just moved back home and was living in the basement. I say “part-time mother” because my two children lived with their father 9 months of the year. I worked the 12-steps like they told me and found a certain peace within myself and a renewed love of God. But I continued to settle for less than good relationships.

FAMILY WARFARE

My own childhood was a picture-perfect family–of the alcoholic kind, that is. My memories were that of More

Carrying the 12-Step Message in the Digital Age

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Tradition 11 states,

“Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, films, and TV.”

My recent search on the Internet for the words “12-step program” got 633 million hits (in .16 seconds, by the way)!  Whoa. Bill W. and Dr. Bob would be blown away with that fact, huh?

Both the AA and Al-Anon 11th Tradition speaks of maintaining anonymity “at the level of press, radio and television“.  We’ve come to add the Internet into that mix, too. In fact, both organizations (they are separate, if you didn’t know it) have guidelines in place for those who want to take the Program on to the Web. I am the “webmaster” (for lack of a better word) of my Al-Anon home group’s membership website. And there are many, many other groups that have made the leap.

So that brings up the question: are websites “promoting” the Program instead of “attracting”, like the 11thTradition states? More

The Problem of the Alcoholic…Family.

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We’re told that for every alcoholic, there are five people who are directly affected by the disease. Logic would then follow that Al-Anon meetings would be five times larger than AA meetings, right? Sadly, if you’ve spent any time around AA or Al-Anon, you’ll agree that this is not the case. Which says a lot about the state of recovery from the FAMILY disease of alcoholism.

My interpretation is that “family recovery” is way behind in the attention and help that alcoholics and drug addicts receive. If we take a quick glance at the family situation, it’s easy to think that if the alcoholic/addict can get sober/clean, then The Problem in the family will go away. The family’s hopes are pinned to this idea. And, quite frankly, so are the hopes of the alcoholic/addict. Just ask any recovering alcoholic who has been to treatment more than once. If they work an honest program, they will tell you that (with some exceptions) going to treatment was a quick and effective way to get the family (employer, judge, etc) off their back.

So just how DOES a family hear that they, too, need recovery? More

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