When I was asked to write an article for the lifeline, it became apparent to me how fitting it would be to render a few of my thoughts about the many gifts I have received from AA, of course, a natural subject to reflect upon this time of year. I came to AA in 1988 to save a marriage. I had absolutely no idea what I was getting myself involved with. No idea how the program or way of life, as I like to perceive it, was going to change my existence in so many ways through a series of gifts given to me by the Supreme Power. A divorce ensuing, separation from my family and a business ready for the scrap-heap, I was finally brought to my knees. I complained to an employee about my wife continuing to follow through with the divorce unless I did something about my drinking. I couldn’t afford treatment and the health department had no room for me. He suggested AA, and I replied, “I don’t need more car insurance, I need help with my drinking!” He laughed and said, “No. AA, Alcoholics Anonymous.” I asked, “What is Alcoholics Anonymous? “He then told me it’s a place where all these old guys get together and talk about getting drunk. Well, I’m a drunk for sure, maybe this is for me. I attended my first meeting in June of 1988 and became completely sober on July 4th, the same year. That, my friends, was the first gift. The compulsion to drink continued for about five months after my last drunk. I was told if I prayed the Power would remove it. My desperation for sobriety and fear of losing everything allowed me many hours in prayer to have the obsession removed, and finally one day, it was gone. Gift number two. However, the obsession to use my old ways of thinking, that included my fear-driven character defects, lingered. It was suggested I may try to take the steps with a sponsor. I thought drinking was my problem. Wrong. I thought if I stopped drinking and using all mind-altering substances, all would be good. Wrong again. These defects of character as described in the Twelve and Twelve, only amplified themselves. The excruciating pain created from these defects, specifically resentments, forced me to override the fear of change, and to take the steps very seriously or drink again. Of course, to drink again was to die. I have come to believe the idea of being thorough from the very start is imperative for permanent sobriety. The taking of a fearless moral inventory revealed that, resentments from harm caused by others, was a major issue within me. I didn’t realize how much personal power I was giving to these resentments until I shared my 5th step with another person. The exact nature of my wrongs included “conditional” forgiveness towards others at a sub-conscience level that kept me in bondage of self. Today I have a new attitude toward resentments and forgiveness. I believe the word forgive is a combination of two words – for and give. I think about forgiving as “giving before the fact.” I was not willing to forgive others before they asked for it. Writing a letter to other people, places and things includes things such as; “Yes you hurt me and it was very painful, however I hold you harmless for that.” “I love you and care about you deeply. It’s okay now and I no longer hold you responsible. I no longer hold you in bondage or expect you to do anything about it.” “I am big enough and capable enough to handle the harm done to me.” I don’t send these letters, I only write them and deposit them into my God Box. I don’t forgive others in order to help them; I do it to help myself. That is true “unconditional” forgiveness because, when I am injured, I only have two choices – either to forgive or resent. Forgiveness implies a foundation of strength that is large enough, capable and strong enough to handle adversity from others without crumbling or seeking revenge. The principle of unconditional forgiveness not only relieved me from the bondage of self, it also relieved the fear of people, as stated in the 9th Step Promises. Walking in the light of unconditional forgiveness has given me a new freedom that I have never felt before. It freed me from endless hours of hashing over the wrongs others have done to me. I believe this is the greatest gift of all from Higher Power for mankind and me to receive, to grow to become better people. The 29 years I have been sober has been a special blessing and gift from God, that I am extremely grateful for, especially the gift of forgiveness. -Jumpin Joe, Alcoholic.