There are many 12 Step Programs. There are even 12 Steps to follow for those who do not suffer from any addiction(s) whatsoever but are not living life the way they would like. I personally know people who have followed the 12 Steps to find themselves spiritually even though by all accounts their lives seemed fulfilling. Every 12 Step program is based on and began with Alcoholics Anonymous. Why? It worked over and over and over again. The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous says, “Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path.” The Big Book is the blueprint, the textbook on how to achieve and maintain sobriety. Regardless of any addiction(s), I have encouraged those in any 12 Step program to read the Big Book because it is more than working steps.
For those of you in AA, you will appreciate the term “Big Book thumper”. I can assure you, I am not one of those. I respect the Book completely but I don’t count the number of times certain words were used and I don’t try to analyze it in any way. I still envision that “fourth dimension” the BB speaks of as that place in my laundry room where socks and other small garments disappear! But I believe in this book; I trusted the authors to steer me in the right direction and they did. I realized it when I read “The Doctor’s Opinion”, the first thing I was told to read. Those few pages laid my condition on the line. I wasn’t weak and it wasn’t will power. I was a very sick person and that gave me tremendous hope.
The first 164 pages, we are told, is what we need to know and do in order to become well adjusted, contributing members of society; to overcome spiritual bankruptcy and to be happy, joyous, and free. The last few chapters of those pages, however, do become a bit more tedious to read (I think) because they have a certain “datedness” about them. I know that when we have read “To Wives” (pgs. 104-121 Fourth Edition) in the fellowship, many of us pay little attention because most of us are wives or were wives and trying to change the him to her and the he to she, gets a little too crazy. I think, though, that the impact that has on some of us is that alcoholism is today recognized as an equal opportunity disease and that women no longer need be ashamed or hide inside their homes.
If you are a newcomer, no matter where you are in working the steps or in reading the first 164 pages, take time every now and then and read one of the stories in the back beginning on page 171. Choose a story randomly because they are divided into three different groups. The format for one of the meetings I attend is to read these stories. I continue to be amazed at how many people who have been in the fellowship for a while share that they have not read these stories.
There are some stories I like and others I don’t. Some are too long and some are difficult to follow. Some seem dated and some are fairly modern. But we can absolutely find something of ourselves in every single story. It is not the situation or the culture, age, sex or the color of the person’s skin. It is how and what they felt. It is how they dealt with problems. It is what they had to experience before they made a decision to change their lives. There are some stories that you can read and almost think, “No wonder the guy drank” and there are others who, like many of us, hit a personal bottom that perhaps no one else was aware of.
I learned more about myself in these stories than I did in most anything I had read. It allowed me to look at my past in many ways; ways that were not a part of my Fourth and Fifth Steps because they did not have to be. For example, I believed as others have also, that we one day we become alcoholics. One day we’re drinking and the next day…BAM! Can’t stop. I have realized because of what I have read in the stories, that although drinking had not always been the biggest part of my life, when I did drink I drank alcoholically. My feelings of being the outsider, of having to be better (perfect, if you will), the way I responded to problems and people, dishonesty, all happened long before I admitted I was an alcoholic. I have had the makings of an alcoholic since childhood and through time all things seemed to fall into line to make it a reality. Do I wish I could find that specific time when I spiritually, emotionally, physically, and psychologically stopped living? I sure do but that won’t happen. That’s why if you read the BB stories, you will continue to find those little pieces of yourself that you stuffed or maybe never knew existed.
If you are not an alcoholic but have a problem with drugs, gambling, food, sex, or whatever, you likewise didn’t become an addict overnight. You also can read these stories and find so much of yourself in them.
Do you know the best part of all of these stories? They all have a happy ending; all forty-two of them. How many stories have you read lately where the main character lives happily ever after? Take out your Big Book and read or re-read about the experience, strength and hope of these pioneers. Find yourself in their words but don’t stop there. Sit down and write your story--for you. Make your own experience, strength and hope come alive for you. Be in gratitude for all that you have become and all that you can be.
Namaste’ May you walk your journey in peace and harmony.
Note: Within the past year and a half, many of you have asked me to share your favorite or your own recovery website (many different types) with my readers. Actually, I cannot “advertise” but I am going to make one of my weekly articles about sites I think readers would like. If you would like me to put a specific site into my article, please email me at the bellaonline site within the next week or two.