July 19, 2013 step seven in mind: in my own personal opinion, and I emphasise my own personal opinion, the 12 steps and the 12 traditions are timeless principles which work in most conditions to liberate and free an individual to make the best choices possible one day at a time. The big book, "Alcoholics Anonymous," explains the principles and then shares stories of early recovery. These stories of early recovery show the similarities and the diversity of how the principles of living work no matter what has happened, the background of people and the diversity of people. The principles are not tablets of stone, the principles work if we work them and provide freedom of choice to any individual contingent on the current conditions of the day.
Most of the time I find the greatest freedom and liberty by following the principles, listening to people in meetings of Fellowship, finding the wisdom of experience being shared helping me understand how best to approach so many different and diverse situations that life can offer. Sometimes we encounter people who have high control needs, feel the necessity to lay down rules laws and regulations, and they can be confounded by how Fellowship and groups find their autonomy through the group conscience. The group conscience is not about laying down rules laws and regulations, it is about ensuring good principles can be put into practice and that no one takes control of others in the pursuit of happiness. It is very difficult to violate suggestions, it is easy to violate other people's sensibilities, attitudes and behaviour on any given day. Forgiveness, tolerance and love for oneself hopefully leads to forgiveness tolerance and love of people generally who we encounter in the world and in Fellowship.
Anonymity at the level of press radio and film can be a very hot topic. The fear that the Fellowship can be undermined by the behaviour of people associated with the Fellowship of AA can be a ghastly prospect. At same time anyone who shares a message of experience strength and hope, and takes this on as a way of sharing rather than instruction can probably be guided most effectively by the understanding of what is attraction, and what is promotion. Over the years of sharing, attraction equals: "what you see is what you get," and that is the same as you find in meetings. And promotion equals: "an idea that I can fix you or that Fellowship can fix you in some way," which is absolutely not going to work, each person still needs to work at sober living one day at a time. And simply, "one day at a time" is the absolute measure of how we are doing. Spiritual: the ability to cope with the reality of now, by the moment, minute, hour and by the day. Recovery is and remains as good as it can be, "just for today."
There is a meeting today which is called, "just for today." And as part of the meeting somebody reads out the just for today card, which has very positive affirmations about how today can be if we have a positive attitude and can behave equally well and keep sober. And there is good news and bad news in this, I don't always agree with all the things I read on the just for today card, because sometimes I am a grumpy old sod. I am still an emotional and spiritual being subject to the conditions of the day which can be good, bad or ugly or all three happening at once. And sharing the just for today card with a newcomer can make them apoplectic and very disgruntled. Better just to start with step one and accept that in early recovery life can be horrible indeed!
My first meeting of Fellowship was on a Sunday morning, driven without knowing by my sister to a meeting locally and she told me, "go in there and sort yourself out!" It was quite a shock, I did not know I was going to an AA meeting, and surprised having got there to see some of my neighbours, people from the arts club and my mother's best friend in the front row, and my mum's best friend said, "About time you got here…" The message of experience strength and hope did not stick too well, although one of the attractive girls did give me her telephone number which I promptly lost at the pub. I met her five years later, and was able to hear her words about recovery. Fear, pride and ego kept me away for those five years. And even then it was a rocky start from rock bottom…
Some people come to a meeting of the Fellowship and are immediately plugged into the idea of recovery. Some people find they have to try one or two other ways of trying to get sober, and you never know that might work. And there are other ways to get into recovery. But most people seem to be like me, happy to have found a place where it is okay to start over and try a new way to live. However we get to a place of sobriety, however difficult it might be, I feel we can all be assured of one thing, rock bottom is the most unpleasant place in the world and anything which helps us find a path of recovery is certainly worth pursuing.
Courage to change takes time, faith in doing the next right thing does not happen overnight and our self esteem and confidence will grow as we make mistakes and learn from experience, have successes and learn from those experiences. And we keep on learning the wisdom of life. In my early days, I was able to tolerate quite a few people telling me what to do, because I thought they knew better than me. Fortunately I realised quite early on that the people telling me what to do were those who had found their own story of success and enjoyed imposing it on other people. I do like what Richard Alpert used to say at the end of his lectures and presentations of philosophy, "of course I could be wrong." Richard Alpert is also known as Ram Dass. And I do believe that he is right, "of course I could be wrong," this applies to me every single day if ever I tell you what to do, you know what you can tell me to do, and I will do my best to accommodate your reaction!
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