“I am responsible. When anyone, anywhere, reaches out for help, I want the hand of AA always to be there. And for that, I am responsible.” (AA “Grapevine”, every issue) AA also tells us that our primary purpose is to maintain our own sobriety but to carry the message to the alcoholic who still suffers. If you are in AA or any other type of 12 Step Recovery program, you know that all of this means we must give back what we have received.
Within the past week, there were two occasions that forced me to think of the responsibility and purpose of a recovery program. The first was mentioned to me in an email. A friend of mine recently moved to another state. He was mentioning to me how he felt some of us he knew well worked a good program. He went on to say that the meetings in his new location were very different and that the people there think working a program means going to a meeting. What he was suggesting was that their sobriety was what I consider the “isolated” type.
My immediate thoughts went along the line of “I’m sure glad I don’t live there”; “They all sound rather righteous”; and lastly, “These people sure do not know how to work a good, solid program.” And then I realized that I was judging people I did not know and judging them based on another person’s judgment of them. More important I was thinking of myself and meetings I attend. How often do I believe that because I attend a meeting, particularly one where I know most of the people, I am doing a great thing? How often do I share at a meeting because I feel I must be heard? In other words, how often do I go to a meeting and make it all about me? Do I truly listen to others when they share and most important, am I willing to speak to a person in need at the end of the meeting.
We forget, or should I say I forget, that although newcomers are important, every single man and woman in recovery regardless of the length of sobriety need the help and support of others. Sobriety is a life-long commitment and the person with 20 years of sobriety has an equal chance of losing sobriety as a newcomer for many reasons. Alcohol is cunning, baffling, and powerful and is an equal opportunity demon. Do I offer help and compassion to anyone or only to those that make me comfortable?
The second incident this week is about a young woman who just can’t seem to stop drinking and drugging. I honestly do not know her but she called me recently because I was a name on a list. Actually, she called me a couple of times but did not leave a message. I finally did speak to her and gave her my suggestions and advice. She did admit to me that she has been in and out of the program on a regular basis. I mentioned to her that if she continued in that vein, she would probably be in the “out mode” and die. We ended the conversation with her agreeing to attend a meeting the next evening.
In the meantime, I felt this girl needed help and emailed someone to see if she was sponsoring. In all fairness to another alcoholic and myself, I did not want to take another sponsee at this time. I received an email back from my friend who said she would be interested in a sponsee unless it was ------ (girl’s name). I could not believe it! We were talking about the same person. When I saw my friend that evening she told me about this girl and the experiences someone else had with her as a sponsee and that she wasn’t serious and wasted everyone’s time, etc. And, at that moment I had this feeling that I had wasted my time on the phone the other evening and that this girl was going to have to do this recovery on her own or at least not with my help.
Today I realized that this had to be the inspiration for this article. I wanted to examine my own conscience and I wanted to ask all of you to examine yours as it pertains to our responsibility to others. How can we judge a person because they can’t get the program? How many times did we try to get sober? Do we forget these (we) are very sick people? Do we say they waste our time because they don’t listen and do not follow our suggestions? If we allow such people to consume our lives, did we not know how to set boundaries? My point, friends, is that when we refuse another help even if they are a royal pain in the you-know-what, are we refusing out of our own fear and discomfort? Do we prefer to pick and choose those we help? This means we absolutely must look at ourselves.
We can’t be all things to all people. There are definitely suffering addicts out there who need help and not everyone is capable of helping certain types. I know a woman who loves helping the lowest bottom addict. Many others would not. I am also not suggesting that every addict really wants help. But if they show even a slight interest in getting well, shouldn’t we at least offer them some hope?
We are responsible for our own sobriety and by offering our hand and carrying the message to the alcoholic who still suffers, we carry better sobriety insurance. We cannot isolate within our recovery to only associate with those we already know. This week I would offer you a challenge that I likewise will take. Reach out to another addict in need but someone you would not normally be drawn to. Go beyond your own comfort zone. Pray the Seventh Step Prayer that God may “grant me strength as I go from here to do Your bidding.” This is giving back what we were so freely given. It is faith in action!
Namaste’. May you walk your journey in peace and harmony.
Like Grateful Recovery on Facebook. Kathy L. is the author of "The Intervention Book" available in print, e-book and audio.