Thursday, 27 January 2011

How quickly should the Steps be worked?

Recovery is painful. Now, that statement is not what it seems. I am not in recovery. I have recovered. I periodically have to go back into 'recovery' to clear out build-up, but I do not stay there. Where I have to live if I want to be happy and sober is Steps Ten–Twelve and all three sides of the triangle in the AA logo. I do not hang around in the recovery stage, because Steps One–Nine hurt!
Life is not painful—my reaction to life: the filters through which I perceive the world, my 'ideal' for what I think (in delusion) would make me happy and satisfied, and the gap observed between the two are what make me unhappy. Whatever the situation, health, harmony, happiness, peace, joy, connection, and love are possible. All that stands in the way is what is in my mind.
Recovery is the process of having my mind dry-cleaned, if you will excuse the pun. And that, too, is painful, because the ego fights it every step of the way and kicks back in retaliation as it perceives me, the person taking the Steps, as the instigator of the change, the culprit. That is why recovery is ideally quick. Not hasty. Quick. Now, I periodically go back into 'recovery' (the process of Steps One–Nine), clean everything out, make all the amends necessary, and then get on with Steps Ten–Twelve. Only if momentum is great enough does the joy of release outweigh the pain of the unhooking from ego. In Steps One–Nine I deal with heavy luggage. I come back for the hand baggage as I go through Steps Ten and Eleven.
It takes a short, sharp burst of energy to get a rocket into orbit. Once it is in orbit, very little energy is required. I cannot get into orbit slowly, because gravity will drag at my momentum, and the rocket will never make it.
If the process is conducted too slowly, all of the work to unpick the ego is undone as the ego is always in the process of rebuilding. And I can get to the end of the process and discover I'm still on the earth rather than in orbit. Bang in the three dimensions I started in rather than the fourth I was heading towards.
I do indeed drift out of orbit and start heading back down to earth, sometimes, and need another jolt to get me back into orbit, but that is the nature of being inside the human condition. Nothing stays quite the way it is. Nothing wrong, therefore, with spring-cleaning. Nothing wrong, therefore, with the annual overhaul of the car.
Where happiness lies is being a channel for God's power.
The purpose of the work on myself is to generate the willingness in me to have God get me out of my own way, to get the channel unclogged of resentment, fear, and guilt (which are the only three problems I have, and which all derive from a forgetfulness of the love and totality of God). It is not to manage my life better under my own steam. It is to have God lift me up out of the muck and the mire—to flick the God switch and let God do all the heavy lifting. Then, my action feels effortless.
A business which takes no regular inventory usually goes broke.
A business which only takes inventory usually goes broke, too.
Get in, get out, get free, get on with a life of action.
"I felt lifted up, as though the great clean wind of a mountain top blew through and through." (14:2)
"Many times I have gone to my old hospital in despair. On talking to a man there, I would be amazingly lifted up and set on my feet again." (15:1)
"… working together toward an undreamed-of future." (119:0)
"We have found much of heaven and we have been rocketed into a fourth dimension of existence of which we had not even dreamed." (25:1)
"Yet we had been seeing another kind of flight, a spiritual liberation from this world, people who rose above their problems." (55:1)
"We have come to believe He would like us to keep our heads in the clouds with Him, but that our feet ought to be firmly planted on earth." (130:1)

Sunday, 23 January 2011

The great delusion and the catapult

I cannot evaluate an insane belief system from within it. Is it only when I have been placed outside it that I can look back and see the contrast. Once I have something to compare it to, I can see its insanity.
There is a belief system so pervasive that questioning it tends to provoke violent responses, because it could not possibly be that so many people are so wrong, that society is built on false foundations, that one's whole mode of being is upside-down and inside-out by being, if you'll excuse the pun, outside–in.
The belief system can best be summed up as follows:
"Is he not a victim of the delusion that he can wrest satisfaction and happiness out of this world if he only manages well?" (61:1, 'Alcoholics Anonymous')
Let us look at this delusion: it suggests
(1) satisfaction and happiness are possible (which they indeed are)
(2) the direction is outside–in, i.e. the flow is from the world to me
(3) it is up to me to make sure that satisfaction and happiness are generated by maintaining the flow.
The most obvious examples—although they are myriad—of what it is in the world I want to make me happy: your good opinion, your respect, your love, your admiration, your stuff, your ... whatever.
Put most simply, this mode of living involves determining what I (think I) want, going for it, and being happy and satisfied as a result.
Is this not how most people live?
Trying to live on this basis produces flashes of pleasure, largely from little kicks to the ego and the morphine haze of ludicrous fantasy. Generally, however, this basis of living produces anxiety, constant hurt feelings, frustration, crankiness, confusion, boredom, apathy, and depression.
But that is not the insanity of this delusion: the insanity of this delusion is the fact that, when it is pointed out to me that my whole basis of living has failed—F.A.I.L.E.D.—I set out to defend it with every fibre of my being.
You would think that, if this manner of living were going to work, it would kick in at some point in the second, third, or fourth decades of life. If I have been adopting this approach since the mid seventies and I still wake up every morning with a huge rock to push up the hill, I really ought to start questioning my belief system.
Back to the defences: they tend to express themselves like this:
"But isn't it natural to feel hurt when people reject you?"
"Of course I'm upset—anyone would be when they're trodden on and knocked back like this!"
"It's natural to be angry."
"Anyone would be scared in this situation."
"Doesn't everyone want to be loved?"
Bizarrely, I can find myself choosing resignation to inevitable unhappiness rather than questioning the belief system that has set up me up for this unhappiness. I then label it 'the human condition' and pronounce myself a hapless victim of it.
Truth is: I cannot think my way out of this one. Steps Four through Nine are not there to lead me logical step by logical step from my insane belief system to a sane one.
"I was soon to be catapulted into what I like to call the fourth dimension of existence. I was to know happiness, peace, and usefulness, in a way of life that is incredibly more wonderful as time passes." (8:2)
Steps Four through Nine do precisely this: they take me from one belief system to an entirely new world from the vantage point of which I would be insane to want to return.
"Quite as important was the discovery that spiritual principles would solve all my problems. I have since been brought into a way of living infinitely more satisfying and, I hope, more useful than the life I lived before. My old manner of life was by no means a bad one, but I would not exchange its best moments for the worst I have now. I would not go back to it even if I could." (42:3)
"Follow the dictates of a Higher Power and you will presently live in a new and wonderful world, no matter what your present circumstances." (100:1)
Is it possible to be happy and satisfied whatever happens? Totally. But you will never believe that unless you have experienced it, because it runs counter to the belief system forming the fabric of pre-recovery life.
I had life backwards, upside-down, inside-out.
"You, as well as your husband, ought to think of what you can put into life instead of what you can take out. Inevitably your lives will be fuller for doing so. You will lose the old life to find one much better." (120:0)
Happiness and satisfaction have come for me when I have been entirely focused outwards, not inwards: the flow is from me to you, not from you to me. When I am empty, I must give utterly of myself. It is entirely counter-intuitive—anything in the material realm that is empty needs filling to be filled. Anything in the spiritual realm that is empty needs emptying to be filled.
I cannot inch and slouch my way to the fourth dimension. And, let me tell you, I have tried. I have tried half measures in AA, a little bit of inventory, a whole bunch of meetings, but never fully taking on board the idea that God is everything and my reliance must be 100% on Him, never making all my amends (and getting people to counter-sign my get-out clauses to slim down the list), never truly admitting the delusion that I have utterly failed to make myself happy on the basis of living in accordance with what I think I want. I have tried combining these half measures with all sorts of therapies and approaches involving increasing my intellectual understanding of 'myself' and my 'problems' in the hope that my unhappiness would be chipped away at, that I would be nudged in the direction of peace.
And the result was nil. Because anything less than full measures will jam the mechanism of the catapult, and, yes, I will be shot out of it, but it will not be the fourth dimension I land in.
I pray that I am kept by God's grace in the life I have now, because I do not want to go back. But the job of maintaining my spiritual condition is up to me—without daily action, I can perfectly well fall back into the sleep of delusion.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Chapters Seven to Nine: the spiritual 'don'ts'

A list of the 'don'ts' in Chapters Seven to Nine. Overly specific instructions have been ignored; what is set out below is a list of general spiritual principles. Duplicates are ignored.

Criticising (89:3)
Forcing yourself on people (90:4)
Pleading hysterically (90:4)
Being over-anxious (91:0)
Putting pressure on people (91:2)
Moralising (91:3)
Lecturing (91:3)
Nagging (91:1)
Taking offence (94:1)
Being contradictory (94:2)
Wearing out your welcome (95:1)
Exhibiting passion for crusade or reform (95:1)
Talking down from a spiritual hilltop (95:1)
Prodding (95:3)
Pushing (95:3)
Discouragement (96:1)
Avoiding responsibilities (97:1)
Depending on people ahead of God (98:1)
Arguing (98:3)
Fault-finding (98:3)
Participating in the quarrels of others (100:2)
Thinking of what you can get out of a situation (102:0)
Withdrawing (102:1)
Intolerance (103:1)
Hatred (103:1)
Bitterness (103:2)
Hostility (103:2)
Fighting anything or anyone (103:3)
Condemnation (108:1)
Anger (111:0)
Being a killjoy (111:2)
Hurry (113:1)
Crowding people (113:2)
Taking sides in arguments (115:3)
Resentful or critical disagreement (117:3)
Expecting too much (118:2)
Urging attention for yourself (119:1)
Dampening enthusiasm (119:1)
Complaining (119:2)
Reminding others of spiritual deficiency (120:2)
Arranging others' lives (120:3)
Guiding the appointments or affairs of others (120:3)
Wrapping others in cotton wool (122:1)
Placing others on a pedestal (122:1)
Having fixed ideas about others' attitudes towards you (122:1)
Interest in having your wishes respected (122:1)
Demanding that others concede (122:1)
Playing the lead (122:2)
Arranging the show to your liking (122:2)
Measuring life against that of other years (123:1)
Reproach (123:3)
Digging up past misdeeds (124:3)
Gossip (125:2)
Ridicule (125:2)
Making careless or inconsiderate remarks (125:2)
Placing money first (127:1)
Self-pity (127:3)
Self-justification (127:3)
Rancour (134:3)
Bias (134:3)
Standing in judgment (135:2)
Pettiness ('making a burning issue out of ...') (135:2)

Chapters Seven to Nine: the spiritual 'dos'

A list of the 'dos' in Chapters Seven to Nine. Overly specific instructions have been ignored; what is set out below is a list of general spiritual principles. Duplicates are ignored.

Cooperate (89:3)
Be helpful (89:3)
Be patient (90:1)
Put yourself in the other person's place (90:2)
Wait (90:3)
Be sane (94:1)
Be quiet (94:1)
Be full of human understanding (94:1)
Offer friendship (95:1)
Offer fellowship (95:1)
Use discretion (96:3)
Concentrate on your own spiritual demonstration (98:3)
Be considerate (99:1)
Increase the pleasure of others (102:1)
Attend to your business enthusiastically (102:1)
Be of good temper (111:1)
Use your energies to promote a better understanding (115:3)
Defuse heated discussion (118:1)
Be tolerant (118:2)
Be loving (118:2)
Live and let live (118:2)
Show a willingness to remedy defects (118:2)
Count blessings (119:1)
Think of what you can put into life (120:0)
Cheer others up (120:1)
Ask how you can be helpful (120:1)
See what you can give (122:2)
Face and rectify errors and convert them into assets (124:1)
Be thankful (127:0)
Praise progress (127:0)
Be flexible ('yield here and there') (131:2)
Thoughtfully consider the needs of others (131:2)
Insist on enjoying life (132:1)
Cheerfully capitalise trouble (133:0)
First things first (135:5)
Easy does it (135:5)

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Step off the ghost train

"Is it not because each wants to play the lead?" (122:2)
The 'actor' metaphor runs through and beyond the first 164 pages of the book 'Alcoholics Anonymous'. We have the actor trying to play the director but producing confusion and harmony, and we have the actor who thinks he is the chief critic in one of the stories.
But there is another aspect to this metaphor which is not discussed so often.
I am the actor, not the part.                                                                        
That means you are the actor, not the part, too.
Sounds pretty obvious, really.
Except: do I believe that the drama that can go on in my mind is real? It produces emotions, just like the emotions I will feel when watching a film at the cinema, which can be so visceral, I feel sick or frightened or whatever, in a genuine physical sense. The mind is the ultimate source of my behaviour and emotions. Even though there may an external stimulus, my mind has to be receptive for that stimulus for the train of dominos to start falling.
What I experience, when I am in the middle of the drama, is these 'real' emotions, and, because the emotions 'feel' real, and I can point to external stimuli—your criticism, your actions, your drama—I judge the drama itself to be real. I am no longer the actor—I am the lead part, so engrossed in the role that I have forgotten who I am.
Before I came to AA—and for years afterwards—I was on a ghost train. Strapped in, totally absorbed in the horror, shuttled from one ghoulish 'experience' to another, the whole time bedevilled by sets of emotions prompted not by the cardboard, neon-painted demons and cobwebbed skeletons flashing up before my eyes but because of what I thought they represented. Thought.
"Therefore, the main problem of the alcoholic centers in his mind, rather than in his body." (23:1)
My problem rests not in my life but in my perception.
"So our troubles, we think, are basically of our own making." (62:2)
What is worse is that, once I realise this, that my thoughts are the problem, I become so identified with my thoughts I cannot choose otherwise.
"So we think cheerfulness and laughter make for usefulness. Outsiders are sometimes shocked when we burst into merriment over a seemingly tragic experience out of the past." (132:2)
"A man may criticize or laugh at himself and it will affect others favorably, but criticism or ridicule coming from another often produces the contrary effect." (125:2)
Laughter at myself takes me from being the lead in the drama to being the observer of the drama. At first, I can still feel the heat of the fire, but, as I gain more and more distance, I realise how unreal every aspect of the drama is.
"... a strenuous effort to face, and to be rid of, the things in ourselves which had been blocking us." (64:0)
"We have been trying ... to discover the obstacles in our path." (72:1)
"If we still cling to something we will not let go, we ask God to help us be willing." (76:1)
Step Four and Five, according to the Big Book, have as their purpose the identification not of who and what I am but the identification of everything that I am not.
I am not that which blocks me.
I am not the obstacles in my path.
If something can be let go of, it was never 'me' in the first place—it was something I acquired and wrongly identified myself with.
I did not learn this principle for a very long time in AA, and feel very fortunate to have learned it now.
I have been down paths since coming to AA which, rather than releasing me from the drama by showing me I am the observer of the drama, not the drama, deepened my identification with it.
I have seen brilliant therapists and psychoanalysts. The purpose of the therapy and psychoanalysis was understanding, liberation, and change.
The result—and I in no way blame the therapists or therapies—was this: I became so identified with my thinking patterns, my childhood suffering, my neurotic reactions to life originating in a past I had no control over that abandonment of self (the fabricated drama) was then unthinkable. Whenever freedom loomed, I would 'remember' the past hurts and humiliations and bring them into my present and they would become my filter for reality in that moment. The information learned in therapy was invaluable. For me, it was not, however, enough.
I am so grateful to the people in AA who have shown me how to dis-identify with the tons of junkyard garbage. The process has been simple:
(1) catalogue the thinking and behaviour to be discarded (Step Four)
(2) discuss with other people (Step Five)—not as wounded heroes but as dispassionate, amused observers
(3) forgiveness of everyone and everything
(4) amends to everyone I have hurt
(5) reliance on God in thought and action
The purpose: abandonment of self, whatever the form.
And, on a good day, I step off the ghost train and out of the 'funfair' and stride into world.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Current agnosticism-buster

"God had done for him what he could not do for himself." (11:3, 'Alcoholics Anonymous')
Have you had this experience, with the relief of the obsession to drink and improvement in other areas that could not have been wrought through information plus will-power alone?
"... you may be suffering from an illness which only a spiritual experience will conquer.
To one who feels he is an atheist or agnostic such an experience seems impossible, but to continue as he is means disaster, especially if he is an alcoholic of the hopeless variety. To be doomed to an alcoholic death or to live on a spiritual basis are not always easy alternatives to face." (44:1–2)
Drinking aside, is there an area of your life where you are struggling hopelessly and facing doom, because whatever you have done to date has not worked? Are you without hope? Do you know that you need God in this area but cannot summon the faith or hope and find yourself trapped in your current ways?
"When we saw others solve their problems by a simple reliance upon the Spirit of the Universe, we had to stop doubting the power of God. Our ideas did not work. But the God idea did." (52:3)
"When we look back, we realize that the things which came to us when we put ourselves in God's hands were better than anything we could have planned." (100:1)
"... they found that a new power, peace, happiness, and sense of direction flowed into them. This happened soon after they wholeheartedly met a few simple requirements." (50:4)
When you look back, are there areas of your life where, when you relied on God and met the few simple requirements (acted in accordance with that reliance and applied the Steps), you experienced the above?
"Our stories disclose in a general way what we used to be like, what happened, and what we are like now." (58:2)
Make a list of such areas of your life.
Describe what you used to be like in these areas.
Describe what happened.
Describe what you are like now.
"Do I now believe, or am I even willing to believe, that there is a Power greater than myself?" (47:2)
Ask this, not as a general question, but in the area in which you are having difficulty, the area where you do not currently believe God can help.
"We found the Great Reality deep down within us. In the last analysis it is only there that He can be found." (55:3)
"If our testimony helps sweep away prejudice, enables you to think honestly, encourages you to search diligently within yourself, then, if you wish, you can join us on the Broad Highway. With this attitude you cannot fail. The consciousness of your belief is sure to come to you." (55:4)
When you search diligently, do you find that God is already working in your life in other areas? Has this exercise swept away prejudice against the idea of God working in the area of difficulty?
"... our former thinking was soft and mushy when we threw up our hands in doubt and said 'We don't know.'
When we became alcoholics, crushed by a self imposed crisis we could not postpone or evade, we had to fearlessly face the proposition that either God is everything or else He is nothing. God either is, or He isn't. What was our choice to be?" (53:1–2)
If God can work miracles in one area, do you agree it is intellectually 'soft and mushy' to deny that possibility in other areas?
What IS your choice to be? Are you now willing to start living in ALL areas of your life on the basis of God-sufficiency rather than self-sufficiency?
"Some of us have tried to hold on to our old ideas and the result was nil until we let go absolutely." (58:3)
Am I willing now to let go of every idea, emotion, attitude, plan, and design in this area, and to let God lead me moment by moment to an "un-dreamed-of future" (119:0)?

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

The insanity of resentment

"Resentment is the 'number one' offender. It destroys more alcoholics than anything else. From it stem all forms of spiritual disease, for we have been not only mentally and physically ill, we have been spiritually sick. When the spiritual malady is overcome, we straighten out mentally and physically." (64:3)
"It is plain that a life which includes deep resentment leads only to futility and unhappiness. To the precise extent that we permit these, do we squander the hours that might have been worth while. But with the alcoholic, whose hope is the maintenance and growth of a spiritual experience, this business of resentment is infinitely grave. We found that it is fatal. For when harbouring such feelings we shut ourselves off from the sunlight of the Spirit. The insanity of alcohol returns and we drink again. And with us, to drink is to die," ('Alcoholics Anonymous', 66:1).
"... a God personal to me, who was love, superhuman strength and direction," (10:4).
"Had this power originated in him? Obviously it had not," (11:4).
"We found the Great Reality deep down within us. In the last analysis it is only there that He can be found. It was so with us," (55:3).
"He stood in the Presence of Infinite Power and Love." (56:4)
"Patience, tolerance, understanding and love are the watchwords. Show him these things in yourself and they will be reflected back to you from him." (118:2)
When I am resentful—disturbed in any way because my perception of reality does not match the ideal I have deemed necessary for me to be happy and satisfied—I am always (falsely) perceiving a disruption in the flow of love towards me.
Sometimes this is obvious—I am snubbed, disregarded, criticised, rejected, etc. Sometimes this is less obvious—I am thwarted at work and an ambition is scotched . . . ultimately, the goal of career success, for example, is the approval, recognition, and, well, love of others. I may have mistaken the means for the end or have a distorted perception of what love would look like, but love it is that I am after.
When other people are blocking love towards me, it is because they are cut off from God, the source of all their power, and they are relying on the substitute, ego, to supply them with what they think will make them happy and satisfied. The ego is profoundly confused. It believes that its wholeness depends on getting not giving—an insanity which is never overturned by confrontation with reality—and will act accordingly: it becomes a tornado (cf. 82:3), sucking anything that comes near it into its path, wholly disregarding the welfare of others in its greed. When ego has completed one of its jags, the tornado disappears, as if into thin air, and all that is left is devastation.
The tornado is not out to get me, personally. I am just in its way.
If, in response, I resent, I will block the flow of love from me to them. In doing so, the flow of love from God to me is blocked in equal measure, as flow requires outlet and inlet. So, cut off from the source of my power, I start relying on the substitute, ego, and I, myself, become a tornado.
Tornados cannot be fought with tornados.
Retaliation does not protect.
Resentment doubles the problem and turns me into precisely what I am resenting in others—the loveless tornado.
Resentment, therefore, is totally insane, even before we get on to the matter of the unhappiness it itself causes and the risk of drinking it entails.
God is infinite love, and my responsibility is to keep the channel within me open to that source of infinite love. If that channel is totally open, I will never lack. Resentment is the number one offender because resentment—in any form—blocks that channel. That is why from resentment flow all forms of spiritual disease.
The mind can be confused. It rightly perceives the blockage in the flow of love, but, having upside-down thinking, believes the problem lies in the flow of love in others towards me. What is really happening is this: it is projecting that blockage outwards onto others to explain the lack of love felt.
The truth is this: I feel lack of love from others only because I am not showing them love. The only love I have ever felt from others is the reflection back to me of the love I have shown them. The proof is this: how often have I been shown love by other people but been totally unable to feel it because there is no love extending outwards from me, because I am merely a vortex sucking in light but returning none?
God is love, God is everything, God is infinite, love is infinitely available. Infinity minus one is still infinity. A blockage in the flow does not reduce the quantity of love in the universe or the quantity available, personally, to me. All it represents is the illusion of separation from that love, existence in a non-existent limbo outside the infinity of God. Your self-imposed limbo does not have to be mine unless I choose to join you by resenting.
My choice when faced with resentment—of any kind—is this: do I want to continue in my idiotic belief that my resentment is somehow protecting me, or do I want release? If I want release, I must call upon God, now, to enable me to forgive and accept others and myself, 100%, no exceptions, no delays, no 'buts'.
"God is everything or else He is nothing. God either is, or He isn't. What was our choice to be?" (53:2)

Monday, 10 January 2011

Step Four . . . once? More often? Regularly?

I wrote my first Step Four in 1993. I have written a number of Step Fours since then. I wrote a major Step Four last April, then another one on a particular area in around October. Step Ten seems, in the Book, to suggest adjusting the steering wheel as I am going through the day. Step Eleven seems, in the Book, to suggest reviewing the ups and downs of the day. If I've got serious s**t going on, I do a Step Four as laid out on 64 et seq.

I tend to do a 'comprehensive' Step Four once a year plus ad hoc ones if Ten and Eleven do not clear the trouble. My ego is powerful and, at times, not amenable to the steering-wheel adjustment of Step Ten or the wrist-slapping and sock-pulling-up of Step Eleven. It needs a thermonuclear detonation of Step Four plus multiple Step Fives, total surrender in Six and Seven and a round of amends to bring me back to a state of grace where Ten and Eleven become, once more, sufficient.

Some people say that, if you do your Step Four properly, you never need to do another one again. That has not been true for me. My first Step Four, in 1993, did not address, in advance, what my ego managed to do with entirely new situations that arose in 2010. Other people may not have an ego that creeps up and spreads its roots deep DESPITE a diligent approach to Ten, Eleven, and Twelve, but mine does. Perhaps I have a nastier ego. Who knows? All I'm interested in is what works to keep me well.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Emergency pack: triangle check-list + resentment-/fear-/guilt- & shame-busters

The AA symbol—the triangle in the circle—represents the wholeness, the soundness of mind, body, and spirit, that comes from living inside the triangle it contains, the triangle of recovery, unity, and service.
This will serve as a check-list for anyone concerned with slipping from the grace of God or identifying where the shortfall or deficiency may be in their application of the programme.
Steps One–Nine
  • Do I have a sponsor who practises the Twelve-Step programme of recovery set out in Alcoholics Anonymous ('Big Book')?
  • Is my sponsor taking me through the first nine Steps?
  • Which Step am I on? Which part of that Step am I on? What action am I taking today on that Step?
  • If I am blocked, is that because I am unclear what to do next, or is the problem lack of willingness?
  • How soon can I call my sponsor to discuss what action to take to remove the block?

Steps Ten–Twelve
  • Am I practising Step Ten today, throughout the day (see below)?
  • Did I carry out the 'when we retire at night' Step Eleven exercise last night (see below)?
  • Did I carry out the 'on awakening' Step Eleven exercise this morning (see below)?
  • Am I pausing when agitated or doubtful (see below)?
  • Am I making and taking every opportunity to give away everything I have learned and been shown in AA to those who are newer or struggling more than me?
  • Is there any area where I am not practising Steps Ten to Twelve?

"But there exists among us a fellowship, a friendliness, and an understanding which is indescribably wonderful... The feeling of having shared in a common peril is one element in the powerful cement which binds us. But that in itself would never have held us together as we are now joined.
The tremendous fact for every one of us is that we have discovered a common solution. We have a way out on which we can absolutely agree, and upon which we can join in brotherly and harmonious action. This is the great news this book carried to those who suffer from alcoholism." (17:2–3)
"Life will take on new meaning. To watch people recover, to see them help others, to watch loneliness vanish, to see a fellowship grow up about you, to have a host of friends—this is an experience you must not miss. We know you will not want to miss it. Frequent contact with newcomers and with each other is the bright spot of our lives." (89:2)
"Any two or three alcoholics gathered together for sobriety may call themselves an A.A. Group, provided that, as a group, they have no other affiliation." (Tradition Three, Long Form)
  • Am I going to meetings of a fellowship(s) where people have the same addiction(s) as me?
  • At those meetings, do people talk as much or more about this solution as they do about the common problem?
  • Am I joining in before, during, and after these meetings?
  • In between meetings listed in the meetings directory, do I spend time on the phone and in person sharing experience on the solution to our common problem?
  • Do I have fellowship with people who are newer, people who are peers, and people with more experience?

"For if an alcoholic failed to perfect and enlarge his spiritual life through work and self-sacrifice for others, he could not survive the certain trials and low spots ahead. If he did not work, he would surely drink again, and if he drank, he would surely die. Then faith would be dead indeed. With us it is just like that." (14:6)
"Our very lives, as ex-problem drinkers, depend upon our constant thought of others and how we may help meet their needs." (20:0)
"We had a new Employer. Being all powerful, He provided what we needed, if we kept close to Him and performed His work well." (63:1)
"Our real purpose is to fit ourselves to be of maximum service to God and the people about us." (77:0)
"Your job now is to be at the place where you may be of maximum helpfulness to others, so never hesitate to go anywhere if you can be helpful." (102:2)
  • Do I perform group-level service ('unity commitments')?
  • Do I perform service which involves carrying the message (sponsorship, helping newcomers understand the basics of the programme, public information/health liaison work, etc.)?
  • Do I apply this principle in all my affairs: "Do not think of what you will get out of the occasion. Think of what you can bring to it," (102:0) and follow through with practical action?

Step Ten basic instructions (84–85)
  • We continue to watch for selfishness, dishonesty, resentment, and fear, as we go through the day.
  • When (not 'if') these crop up, we ask God at once to remove them. Note there is no analysis. Do not seek to 'understand' as a method of 'processing' these. Understanding comes automatically from this process. Note that we ask God at once, not at the end of the day.
  • We discuss them with someone immediately. Apply this if you are so deeply involved in your own drama you cannot function. Otherwise, get on with being helpful wherever you are.
  • We make amends quickly if we have harmed anyone.
  • Then we resolutely turn our thoughts to someone we can help. Take whatever action suggests itself on the basis of this.
  • When disturbed, we ask God to show us how to be loving and tolerant. We use love and tolerance as our yardsticks for making decisions and treating others.

"God, have me watch for selfishness, dishonesty, resentment and fear. When these crop up in me, have me immediately ask you to remove them from me and have me discuss them with someone. God, help me quickly to make amends if I have harmed anyone and have me resolutely turn my thoughts to someone I can help. Have me be loving and tolerant of everyone today. Amen."
"God, have me carry the vision of Your will into all my activities. How can I best serve You? Your will be done! Have these thoughts go with me constantly. Have me exercise my will power along this line. God, the Source of all knowledge and power, grant me strength, inspiration, and direction. May Your Spirit flow into me. Amen."
Step Eleven basic instructions (86–88)

At the end of the day, carry out a 5–10 minute review of the period since the last review. This is part of the evening meditation. Start with realising that a loving God is present with you. Then ask God to show you the truth. Do not beat yourself up for what you find.
  • Were we resentful, selfish, dishonest or afraid? Pick the top one of each and resolve to discuss with a sponsor or friend the next morning.
  • Do we owe an apology? Make a list of people to apologise or make amends to the next day, where applicable.
  • Have we kept something to ourselves which should be discussed with another person at once? Make a list of such matters and whom they will be discussed with.
  • Were we kind and loving toward all? What could we have done better?
  • Were we thinking of ourselves most of the time? Or were we thinking of what we could do for others, of what we could pack into the stream of life?
  • Be careful not to drift into worry, remorse or morbid reflection, for that would diminish our usefulness to others.
  • Ask God's forgiveness (and know that it will be totally given).
  • Inquire (of God) what corrective measures should be taken. Keep it simple (a couple will do). Check them out with someone with more experience in the programme if you are new to this or unsure.

At the beginning of the day:
  • We ask God to direct our thinking.
  • We ask God especially that our thinking be divorced from self-pity, dishonest or self-seeking motives.
  • We consider our plans for the day. If we have none, we ask God to show us how to be useful and draw up plans.
  • We consider how the corrective measures from the night before can be applied.
  • We ask that God show us the way of patience, tolerance, kindness, and love (83:2).
  • We ask God to show us how we can help anyone who is suffering from alcoholism (164:2).
  • If we face indecision: we ask God for inspiration, an intuitive thought, or decision. We relax and take it easy. We don't struggle.
  • We pray some set prayers that emphasize the principles of AA.
  • We read some spiritual literature and ask God to show us how we can apply it to our day.
  • Finally, we pray that we be shown all through the day what our next step is to be, that we be given whatever we need to take care of such problems. We ask especially for freedom from self-will, and are careful to make no request for ourselves only. We may ask for ourselves, however, if others will be helped.

If agitated or doubtful:
  • We ask God for the right thought or action.
  • We constantly remind ourselves we are no longer running the show.
  • We say to ourselves many times each day "Thy will be done."

Resentment buster (64–67)
Use this when you are angry, resentful, hurt, threatened, sore, burned-up, or injured, are holding a grudge, or are feeling your life is being 'interfered with'.
  • Do I want to be free of this anger, resentment, etc?
  • Do I want to continue being dominated by the actions of others or my own failings?
  • I realise that the person who I think has harmed me is spiritually sick—driven by a hundred forms of fear, self-delusion, self-seeking, and self-pity—just like me. The harm—real or fancied—is not personal. It is an expression of their self-centredness, just like my harm to others.
  • I ask God to help me see things from their point of view (the 'entirely different angle') and to show them tolerance, pity, and patience.
  • I pray this prayer: "This is/may be a sick man. How can I be helpful to him? God save me from being angry. Thy will be done." Note that I am the one who needs saving, not him.
  • I avoid retaliation or argument (including mentally).
  • I ask God to show me how to take a kindly and tolerant view of the person.
  • When thoughts of the resentment reoccur, I bless the delinquent briefly and get on with my day.

Fear buster (68)
  • I realise I am scared because I think I will not gain something or lose something I need to be happy or satisfied. Self-reliance has failed me.
  • I realise that God can provide whatever I need if I stay close to Him and perform His work well.
  • I make the decision to trust infinite God rather than my finite self.
  • I make the decision to let Him demonstrate through me what He can do.
  • I ask Him to remove my fear and direct my attention to what He would have me be, both in relation to the situation in which the fear is arising, and right here, right now, in the situation I am actually in.

Examples of what He would have me be (pages 77–83 and elsewhere):
Patient, tolerant, kind, loving, understanding, sensible, tactful, helpful, forgiving, calm, frank, open, considerate, humble, quiet, sane, etc.

Guilt and shame buster (28, 76–83)
Make amends now for recent harms.

  • I find the person I need to make amends to and ask for a little time to talk.
  • I list the wrongs.
  • I express regret. I say I was wrong.
  • I ask if there is anything else I have done wrong.
  • I ask what I can do to make things right.
  • I do it.
I then remember a few points:
"It should not matter, however, if someone does throw us out of his office. We have made our demonstration, done out part. It's water over the dam." (78:1)
We all get to make mistakes. If I make amends, I then have to treat the matter as dealt with. I cannot wait remorsefully for the forgiveness of others.
"... all of us, whatever our race, creed, or colour, are the children of a living Creator with whom we may form a relationship upon simple and understandable terms as soon as we are willing and honest enough to try." (28:2)
"... intelligent agents, spearheads of God's ever advancing Creation ..." (49:1) 
This means I am of infinite value, as a child of God, as are you, and cannot be worth more or less than anyone else, whatever I do or do not do. Without us, nothing can be achieved. We are all of vital importance in God's creative endeavour.
"... humble without being servile or scraping. As God's people we stand on our feet; we don't crawl before anyone." (83:3)

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Step Six

[Unless otherwise indicated, the quotations are from 'Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions'. The square-bracketed number is the paragraph number.]
"When men and women pour so much alcohol into themselves that they destroy their lives, they commit a most unnatural act. Defying their instinctive desire for self-preservation, they seem bent upon self-destruction. They work against their own deepest instinct. As they are humbled by the terrific beating administered by alcohol, the grace of God can enter them and expel their obsession. Here their powerful instinct to live can cooperate fully with their Creator's desire to give them new life. For nature and God alike abhor suicide," (Step Six [6]).
Firstly, if the only problem in which my alcoholism consisted had been alcohol, this statement would have been entirely true. However, the problems caused directly by alcohol were relatively inconsequential—as I saw them—when set against the problems caused directly by my inability to function in the world sober, with alcohol as the solution to those problems—or at least to the consciousness thereof—albeit an increasingly ineffective and unreliable solution with a terrific sting in the tail.
It was the humility brought about by the terrific beating administered by alcohol and the terrific beating administered by living under the cosh of my own ego with its insistent demands, constant malevolent chatter, and venomous, hydra-headed attack on the marrow of my being that allowed the grace of God to enter my life.
Secondly, by the time I reached AA, I had no desire to live. Being sober represented death; the only 'life' I had really known—the only time I felt connected and joyous and optimistic—had been when I was drunk or high with one of my other addictions. A one-hundred-and-eighty-degree turn was necessary for me to start cooperating with God's desire to give me new life.
"But most of our other difficulties don't fall under such a category at all. Every normal person wants, for example, to eat, to reproduce, to be somebody in the society of his fellows. And he wishes to be reasonably safe and secure as he tries to attain these things. Indeed, God made him that way. He did not design man to destroy himself by alcohol, but He did give man instincts to help him to stay alive.
It is nowhere evident, at least in this life, that our Creator expects us fully to eliminate our instinctual drives. So far as we know, it is nowhere on the record that God has completely removed from any human being all his natural drives.
Since most of us are born with an abundance of natural desires, it isn't strange that we often let these far exceed their intended purpose. When they drive us blindly, or we willfully demand that they supply us with more satisfactions or pleasures than are possible or due us, that is the point at which we depart from the degree of perfection that God wishes for us here on earth. That is the measure of our character defects, or, if you wish, of our sins," (Step Six [8–10]).
To simplify these ideas:
(1) Our desires are natural
(2) But we want too much
The implication is this: our defects consist in wanting too much, so we must want less. The image that occurs to me in this context is being trapped inside a medieval suit of armour that is a couple of sizes too small—the 'solution' (should I adopt it) will involve constriction, suppression, repression, and down-sizing to a modest, scrimping life of resigned poverty.
When I am living inside a system of defects, this is always how the removal of the defects will appear to me.
It is not very attractive, this prospect. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that work on their removal can be faltering and lacking in the only component I can bring to the process—willingness.
The text of Step Six then goes on to describe the main obstacle to the removal of defects as the enjoyment we are getting out of them, e.g.
"We live in a world riddled with envy. To a greater or less[er] degree, everybody is infected with it. From this defect we must surely get a warped yet definite satisfaction. Else why would we consume such great amounts of time wishing for what we have not, rather than working for it, or angrily looking for attributes we shall never have, instead of adjusting to the fact, and accepting it?" (Step Six [17]).
The Step Six text in the 'Twelve and Twelve' implies a parallel between gross defects and alcoholic drinking—as with drinking, when I face ultimate self-destruction, I capitulate, and I am saved. The text also draws a distinction between gross and minor defects, suggesting that the grosser defects are somehow easier to become willing to have removed (on grounds of self-interest), yet the more minor defects are more troublesome (as we are getting a kick out of them—see above).
"Practically everybody wishes to be rid of his most glaring and destructive handicaps. No one wants to be so proud that he is scorned as a braggart, nor so greedy that he is labeled a thief. No one wants to be angry enough to murder, lustful enough to rape, gluttonous enough to ruin his health. ...
We who have escaped these extremes are apt to congratulate ourselves. Yet can we? After all, hasn't it been self-interest, pure and simple, that has enabled most of us to escape?" (Step Six [13–14]).
My experience is that, unlike the writer of the text, self-interest totally fails to keep me from even the most egregious excesses. If self-interest were the key factor, I would have stopped drinking at 17, when the trouble began. If self-interest were the key factor, I would not have had a problem with other addictions, or with the pride, vanity, domination, pugnacity, argumentativeness, arrogance, obstinacy, or other defects that made my life a living hell for years. At the first sign of trouble, self-interest would have stepped in and, in touching companionship and cooperation with God, I would have stepped back into humility and the service of God.
Furthermore, I do not fully subscribe to the distinction between gross and minor handicaps. I am capable of being entirely miserable for a whole day because of one tiny thing not going my way. A small gripe with another person can totally block me from genuine connection with him. There are no orders of magnitude in disturbances to my consciousness. There is a binary distinction between being in the present and not being in the present. Either I am here, or I am not. Either I am at peace, right here, right now, or I am not.
My perspective on Step Six is this:
(1) My drives for love, connection, peace, joy, happiness, and harmony are the real underlying drives. This is my true will, my heart's desires, and, simultaneously, the will of God.
(2) The fulfilment of these is unlimited—as God's will is, itself, without limitation.
(3) My defects are not wanting too much but going about getting it the wrong way. One example: rather than relying on God for validation of my infinite value as a spirit housed in human form, I rely on other people valuing particular characteristics (looks, possession, achievement), and I become 'unstable in all my ways', as the prices of these commodities, in the eyes of others, constantly rise and fall. I then become fixated, say, on achievement, and criticise and condemn those get in my way, am envious of those who achieve more, am jealous of those who usurp my position, and feel superior to and distance myself from those who are lower on the 'pecking order'. All problems arise from this: outlining how I think happiness is to be achieved in my life. THIS is self-will.
(4) Precisely the same principle applies with my drinking—I was looking for love, connection, peace, joy, happiness, and harmony, I found it temporarily in drink, and I continued drinking for well after it stopped working, because I had no other option.
(5) Willingness to have God show me a different way requires the following realisations: (a) What I ultimately want—love, connection, peace, joy, happiness, and harmony—I am entitled to in unlimited measure; (b) I have no idea how to get love, connection, peace, joy, happiness, and harmony—if I did, I would not be unhappy; (c) I have to scrap all ideas of mine about how to get love, connection, peace, joy, happiness, and harmony; (d) I have to be willing to be led blindly by God, step by step, moment by moment, down new paths of thought and action, without outlining the destination or questioning God's purpose.
To sum up: all my difficulty—whether with addiction or with other defects—arises from looking for God (love, connection, peace, joy, happiness, and harmony) in all the wrong places. It arises out of confusion. The infinite drives within me are God-given—in nature and magnitude, too—the problem is merely one of how those drives are directed, and the real problem, therefore, is reliance on my limited perspective: my misinterpretations of flawed perceptions of only a fragment of God's universe.
I only ever hold onto a defect (whether an addiction or another defect, whether big or small) because I am getting some temporary benefit out of it. I need to rise above the blinkered vision of this benefit and see the true nature of the defect: the illusory glow of the benefit and its true, destructive nature.
Even once all apparent benefit is stripped away, there is one final obstacle—I have to admit that I was wrong and, of myself, can do nothing to change myself.
Willingness to be shown a different way must be unlocked—willingness, indeed, is the only commodity I can bring to this process:
"We have emphasized willingness as being indispensable. Are we now ready to let God remove from us all the things which we have admitted are objectionable?" (76:1, 'Alcoholics Anonymous')
And this is the key to willingness—seeing defects as objectionable.
The 'Twelve and Twelve' draws a distinction between the unnatural self-destruction of alcoholic drinking and the natural drives which, when distorted, cause our defects.
I believe that all drives—including the drive to attain what I sought to attain through drink—are natural.
I believe that the distortions in those drives wrought by misperception—whilst 'naturally occurring'—are unnatural, in the sense of being out of alignment with God's will, because from these distortions flow all destruction, and destruction, as the opposite of God's creative force, is therefore against nature.
An exercise to finish on:
Take the above paragraph 6 from the Step Six reading of the 'Twelve and Twelve' and substitute, for alcohol, whatever the character defect is. Let's try resentment.
"When men and women pour so much RESENTMENT into themselves that they destroy their lives, they commit a most unnatural act. Defying their instinctive desire for self-preservation, they seem bent upon self-destruction. They work against their own deepest instinct. As they are humbled by the terrific beating administered by RESENTMENT, the grace of God can enter them and expel their obsession. Here their powerful instinct to live can cooperate fully with their Creator's desire to give them new life. For nature and God alike abhor suicide," (Step Six [6]).
Resentment is, indeed, suicide. The weapon is always turned, instantly, on me. The same goes for fear. The same goes for envy. The same goes for any defect, because it stops me living right here, right now. It is this observation, whatever the defect, whatever the magnitude, that fosters my willingness, as I finally start to see the objectionable nature—objectionable to me!—of all of my defects.
There is nothing for me to give up but suffering.
There is everything for my ego to give up—its entire existence.
Provided I recognise that I am not my ego, entire freedom is entirely possible.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Step Ten checklists

Square-bracketed numbers refer to the paragraph number in the 12 & 12 ('Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions').

Set out below are some checklists derived from the 12 & 12, to support the instructions on Step Ten and the Step Eleven review in the Big Book ('Alcoholics Anonymous') (pp. 84–86).

Basic disturbances to watch for:

• Anger [3]

• Fear [3]

• Jealousy [3]

• Envy [8]

• Self-pity [8]

• Hurt pride [8]

• Pride [11]

• Vengefulness [11]

• Anxiety [19]

Specific negative thinking/behaviour patterns to watch for:

• Speaking or acting hastily or rashly [11]

• Unkind tirades [11]

• Wilful snap judgements [11]

• Quick-tempered criticism [11]

• Furious power-driven argument [11]

• Sulking [11]

• Silent scorn [11]

• Vengefulness [11]

• Indulging in fantasies of still greater victories over people and circumstances [12]

• Prideful self-confidence [12]

• Playing the big shot [12]

• "Being possessively loving of a few" [15]

• "Ignoring the many" [15]

• "Continuing to fear or hate anybody" [15]

• Making unreasonable demands on those we love [16]

• Withholding kindness [16]

• Constructive criticism—to win a useless argument [21]

• Constructive criticism—to feel superior by pulling others down [21]

• Hurting those we love to punish them [21]

• Complaining we feel bad to gain sympathy and attention [21]

Specific positive thinking/behaviour patterns to cultivate:

• Self-restraint—restraint of tongue and pen [11]

• Fair-mindedness [11]

• Tolerance [11]

• Kindness [16]

• Courtesy [16]

• Going out of our way to understand others [16]

• Going out of our way to help others [16]

• Love [17]

• Doing to others as I would have them do to me [17]

• Honest regret [21]

• Genuine gratitude for blessings received [21]

• Willingness to try for better things tomorrow [21]

Questions and answers:

Is inventory-taking not an exercise in self-absorption?

Do I have to wait to take inventory?

• "This doesn't mean we need to wander morbidly around in the past. It requires an admission and correction of errors now." [3]

Surely there are times our disturbance is the fault of others—and therefore excusable?

• "It is a spiritual axiom that every time we are disturbed, no matter what the cause, there is something wrong with us. If somebody hurts us and we are sore, we are in the wrong also." [7]

Surely anger is sometimes justified?

• "We have found that justified anger ought to be left to those better qualified to handle it." [7]

How do I decide whether the inventory is Step Ten, a Step Eleven review, or Step Four?

• "There's the spot-check inventory, taken at any time of the day, whenever we find ourselves getting tangled up. There's the one we take at day's end, when we review the happenings of the hours just past. Here we cast up a balance sheet, crediting ourselves with things well done, and chalking up debits where due. Then there are those occasions when alone, or in the company of our sponsor or spiritual adviser, we make a careful review of our progress since the last time. Many A.A.'s go in for annual or semi-annual house-cleanings." [4]

• "The consideration of long-standing difficulties had better be postponed, when possible, to times deliberately set aside for that purpose. The quick inventory is aimed at our daily ups and downs, ..." [9]

How do I respond to the recurrence of familiar problems?

• "We need not be discouraged when we fall into the error of our old ways, for these disciplines are not easy." [10]

How do I avoid big-shot-ism?

• ". . . we can often check ourselves by remembering that we are today sober only by the grace of God and that any success we may be having is far more His success than ours." [13]

How can tolerance and love be fostered? Is there EVER a point to anger or hurt?

• "Finally, we begin to see that all people, including ourselves, are to some extent emotionally ill as well as frequently wrong, and then we approach true tolerance and see what real love for our fellows actually means. It will become more and more evident as we go forward that it is pointless to become angry, or to get hurt by people who, like us, are suffering from the pains of growing up." [14]

Does Step Ten/the Step Eleven review require deep or protracted analysis?

• "When prideful, angry, jealous, anxious, or fearful, we acted accordingly, and that was that. Here, we need only recognize that we did act or think badly, try to visualize how we might have done better, and resolve with God's help to carry these lessons over into tomorrow, making, of course, any amends still neglected." [19]

What are the Step Ten promises in the 12 & 12?

The loss of fear of tomorrow:

• "Our inventory enables us to settle with the past. When this is done, we are really able to leave it behind us. When our inventory is carefully taken, and we have made peace with ourselves, the conviction follows that tomorrow's challenges can be met as they come." [3]

The automatic nature of self-examination:

• "Once this healthy practice has become grooved, it will be so interesting and profitable that the time it takes won't be missed. For these minutes and sometimes hours spent in self-examination are bound to make all the other hours of our day better and happier. And at length our inventories become a regular part of everyday living, rather than something unusual or set apart." [5]

Emotional balance:

• "A spot-check inventory taken in the midst of such disturbances can be of very great help in quieting stormy emotions." [9]

The conversion of failure to asset:

• "Even when we have tried hard and failed, we may chalk that up as one of the greatest credits of all. Under these conditions, the pains of failure are converted into assets. Out of them we receive the stimulation we need to go forward." [18]

'The answers aren't all in the Book!' Really?

'The answers aren't all in the Book!' is a refrain that can sometimes be heard in AA.

That depends what the question or problem is, the answers to which are at issue.

The Big Book ('Alcoholics Anonymous') certainly does answer the following questions:

(1) What are the defining features of a 'real' alcoholic?

(2) Is alcoholism of this type a progressive, hopeless, fatal condition?

(3) Can ordinary psychology plus religion—or any other combination of human measures—help such people?

(4) Can—and does—God?

(5) How can God be reached? What do I have to do?

The real subtext of the opening statement is, "I have problems that the Big Book does not address—do not hope for too much."

This is in direct contradiction to the following statement: "Quite as important was the discovery that spiritual principles would solve all my problems." (42:3)

This is, indeed, a bold statement.

Clearly this is not talking about plumbing or dry-cleaning. If I have a plumbing or dry-cleaning problem, I go to a plumber or a dry-cleaner.

What this is talking about is the living problem, what is summed up on 51:0:

"Once confused and baffled by the seeming futility of existence, they show the underlying reasons why they were making heavy going of life. Leaving aside the drink question, they tell why living was so unsatisfactory."

It is THESE problems we are really concerned with, and this is the focus of the question: does the Big Book really have the answers?

I agree totally with those who say it does not, but perhaps not for the same reason.

The Big Book contains all of the instructions, not all of the answers. Where the answers are found is suggested here:

"We finally saw that faith in some kind of God was a part of our makeup, just as much as the feeling we have for a friend. Sometimes we had to search fearlessly, but He was there. He was as much a fact as we were. We found the Great Reality deep down within us. In the last analysis it is only there that He can be found. It was so with us.
We can only clear the ground a bit. If our testimony helps sweep away prejudice, enables you to think honestly, encourages you to search diligently within yourself, then, if you wish, you can join us on the Broad Highway. With this attitude you cannot fail. The consciousness of your belief is sure to come to you." (55:3–4)

Capitalisation typically denotes God, in some way, in the Big Book . . .

And has God—whom I have found deep within me, after the actions of the programme enabled the blockages of fear, resentment, and guilt and shame to be removed—solved my problem (alcoholism) and ALL my problems (with life)?

Emphatically, 'yes'. But before I come back to that, some additional points:

Sometimes outside help is needed and the Book points to the outside world: 28:3 suggests membership of religious bodies, for those so inclined. 133:2 advises against belittling good doctors or psychiatrists and indicates their services, at times, to be indispensible. 87:2 suggests seeking spiritual guidance from outside AA.

Provided I avail myself of these resources where necessary, I can find all other answers within myself and within AA.

Where is forgiveness—the answer to resentment—found? Within, by identifying with the 'culprit' as a co-sufferer of spiritual disconnection and, by identifying, understanding and, ultimately, loving—extending to him the love and forgiveness that has been extended by God to me through you (pp. 66, 67).

Where is courage backed by faith—the answer to fear—to be found? Within, by relinquishing reliance on my own will-power and fulfilment of ANY plans and designs contrived out of fear or grasping, instead placing reliance on God for guidance and strength to do His will, which is hard-coded beneath 'self-will' as my inner purpose (p. 68).

Where is atonement—the answer to guilt and shame—to be found? Within, by identifying those I have harmed and asking God for the willingness to approach them to make things right (p. 76 et sqq.) At one with them, I am at one with myself and at one with God (28:3).

The rest of the programme—staying close to God and performing His work well—relies on looking inwards to God's voice for two things: direction and power.

I'm quite willing to concede that there may be people for whom this programme will not work, for whom happiness, freedom, and joy are not attainable despite giving themselves ENTIRELY to its suggestions.

However, I've never seen this happen.

Some questions if I feel that that programme has not worked or is not currently working.

(1) Do I undertake a regular Step Four moral inventory and share it with others (note the regularity and the plural Step Five partners—64:1, 94:2)?

(2) Have I made every amend for every harm in my consciousness, writing letters were I cannot see the person in question?

(3) Step Ten: "Every day is a day when we must carry the vision of God's will into all of our activities. 'How can I best serve TheeThy will (not mine) be done.' These are the thoughts which must go with us constantly." Do they?

(4) Step Eleven: do I follow the instructions on pp. 86–88, daily?

(5) Do I spend much of my spare time (19:1) engaged in carrying the message set out in the Book?

(6) Do I engage in fellowship on a regular basis with people who have the same addiction and are living THIS solution (cf. page 17)?

(7) "Our real purpose is to fit ourselves to be of maximum service to God and the people about us." (77:1) Is this my purpose?

There are many other such questions that can be asked, to identify gaps.

For fifteen years in AA, I would give the Big Book its fair dues, but be quick to tell people its limitations.

For fifteen years in AA, my answers to the seven questions set out above would have been 'no'.

For a couple of years, my answers to the seven questions set out above have, increasingly, been 'yes'.

For a couple of years, I have been quick to tell people that this Book has no limitations in the transformations following its instructions can have in a person's life. Specifically mine.