Step One A Brief Outline – Walsh, Brian_Lifeline April 2015

Step One A Brief Outline

“Admitted we were powerless over alcohol, that our lives had become unmanageable”.

1.Every “natural” instinct cries out against the idea of a personal powerlessness (defects of the thinking mind). 2. We perceive that only through utter defeat are we able to take our first step toward liberation and strength (making the admission we are unmanageable by us). 3. Until we have humbled ourselves (accepting the devastating weakness and all its consequences) our sobriety if any will be precarious. 4. The principle: We shall find no enduring strength until we first admit complete defeat (that probably no human power could have relieved our alcoholism.  5. We are the victims of a mental obsession, thinking (droning is only a  symptom) so subtly powerful that no amount of human will power could have relived our alcoholism). 6. By going back in our own drinking histories, we could show that years before we realized it, we were out of control, that our drinking even then was no mere habit, that it was indeed the beginning of a fatal progression. 7. Few people will sincerely try to practice the AA program un- til they have hit their bottom in utter defeat. 8. In order to practice AA’s remaining  eleven steps WE MUST ADOPT NEW ATTITUDES AND TAKE NEW ACTIONS. 9. We must become as open minded to conviction and as willing  to listen as the dying can be.

Walsh, Brian.

 

Sober Life, Beautiful Wife – Alan – 2015

Today is my sobriety birthday.  Through God’s grace, and one day at a time, I have been sober twenty-five years, a quarter of a century.

It has been an ordinary day filled with extraordinary events.  I kissed the most beautiful woman in the world, read the Psalms, listened to Beethoven, walked by the sea, and had a fresh baguette with tuna and sweet corn for lunch.

I celebrated my birthday by going to an AA meeting at the Phoenix Centre in downtown Brighton.  My seatmate, piercings at each orifice, tattoos on every square inch of his body, hair in a topnotch, studs on his jacket, and holes in his jeans, was as far from the white-bread suburban Mormonism of my youth as one can get, but we are brothers in this disease and were there to help each other stay sober.  The chair was a young man from Tipperary, Ireland, whose story, with only slight transpositions in place, time, and upbringing, could have been mine.

I had some adventures getting to and coming from the meeting as well.  On the way, the police were arresting a drunk who had become violent on a sidewalk; it took three policemen to wrestle the drunk to the ground where one held him down, the second twisted his arms behind his back, and the third applied the cuffs.  Coming home on the bus, another drunk, disheveled and filthy, staggered on board and then to the upper deck.  God is good to remind me what my options are if I choose to pick up that first beer which surely will take me off to the races and then down to the dumps.  I am sure that one of those options will NOT be kissing the most beautiful woman in the world the next morning.

However, it appears that, so long as I stay sober for the balance of the day, I am rich in opportunities for this evening.  Among many other lovely choices, I can get some free CLE (mergers and acquisitions) over the internet, go to hear a lecture by Antonia Fraser, a well-known British historian, or stay home and read a book on Shakespeare’s sonnets.  Or I can experience British culture of another kind by attending a meeting at St. Mary’s church around the corner where some little old ladies in tennis shoes are organizing an opposition to a proposed development in our back yard.  In any case, I’ll be happy, full of joy, and free.

Blessings to all.  Alan.

 

My Story – Calvin B – 2015

I was the quiet kid; the shy one sitting in the back furiously reading to avoid having to talk to anyone. I gave off the illusion of studious enthrallment so you wouldn’t talk to me. So that the “world” wouldn’t talk to me. The “world”, that lidless surveillance camera quietly keeping record. No wonder sleeping was so hard.

School was my anxious temple; my cursed solution. A place of terror with a built in escape route. Like church. It is no coincidence I started drinking in church. At ten I was obsessed with the sacramental wine. I spent entire church services yearning for a shot of its bitter divinity. I was a vampire even then, greedily drinking Christ’s blood they called the wine of life. No one told me it was a metaphor. Maybe if I were Catholic it would have been different.

In school I was an “immersive” reader. I applied the same euphemism to my drinking career. I used immersive tactics to survive myself, missing the irony of using a paranoid solution to cure a paranoid problem. I thought if I just read hard enough, drank hard enough, ran hard enough, I would reach the end everyone promised me (or I promised myself). I would loaf in the heaven of retirement eating all the carrots I spent my life pursuing; my suffering would earn me the grace of an eternal high in the Eden of Xanadu. The laws of physics, of substance use, of language, of society and of habit formation were suggestions I brushed off with drunken nonchalance. I didn’t want to accept that I was human, one human amongst 7 billion humans trying to wade through this messy inheritance. So I tried to drink/read/write/run myself through the earth and into the clouds. The clouds? The stars? Such were the barstool atmospherics I made out of every “I tried to” or “I needed to” out of every desperate experiment with the first drink.

Turns out the bush I had filled with a thousand birds was just a bush I had lit on fire. And it burned. I crossed the finish line in a hospital with tubes down my throat, nurses shaking their heads, and me, hurrying in a blue gown down the street proud I’d eluded the hospital bill. The bill arrived two weeks later. It was ten years late.

My dean said I needed to go to a counselor. My counselor said I needed to go to AA. AA said I needed to get a sponsor. My sponsor said I needed to work the steps. The steps said I had an unmanageable life and needed to surrender. I drank in desperation after every “said,” afraid of the monotony my life would become. Over time these periodic boomerangs happened less and less frequently. Such is the grief process of quitting something I loved; such is the grief process of growing up.

It’s been almost four years and I am still the quiet kid in the corner. Socializing drains me, though not because of fear. The phone still weighs five hundred pounds but I’ve grown a little muscle. The litany of the “recovery church” makes me bristle, but I get to look at why I feel that way. My sobriety is made out of the little acts of courage I surrender to others and myself. Conceding to myself that I am alcoholic is surrender. Doing a fourth step is surrender. Making amends is surrender. Meditation is surrender. Paying my rent is surrender. Going to work is surrender. Writing is surrender. For me, surrender as a spiritual principle is the generous, “giving up” of oneself for the peace of belonging to something other than myself. In the context of recovery from addiction, a disease of isolating self persecution, surrender is an extended hand.

 

 

 

From Your Chair – Wendy W – March 2015

Greetings, Salt Lake Central Office. After a brief hiatus, the Lifeline is running again. All Standing Committee positions are now filled, with the exception of the Volunteer Chair. Yay Central Office! Thanks to those of you who have stepped up to be of service to your fellows.

As the Chair of the Board, my participation at the Central Office Committee meeting is limited by our Bylaws to facilitation of the meeting. I have no vote except in a tie, and I attempt to keep my opinion out of the discussion. This Newsletter is my opportunity to share with you my perceptions.

The Board has been elected to “Oversee the operation of Central Office and its functions in accordance with 1) the A.A. Guidelines – Central or Intergroup Offices published by the General Service Office (GSO) of Alcoholics Anonymous; and 2) the Twelve Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous.” Copies of these documents are available at the Central Office and online at www.aa.org. I am very proud to serve an all-volunteer Central Office, which keeps our 36 spiritual principles, the 12 Steps, 12 Traditions and 12 Concepts, in the forefront.

The Volunteer Chair vacancy prompted a special meeting between the Board and the Volunteer Coordinators, where it became evident that the authority and responsibilities of the volunteers needed clarification. An ad hoc committee was formed at the February business meeting to discuss and document the operation of the Central Office. A report or recommendation will be given at the March business meeting.

In addition to questions of authority and responsibility, an issue has been forced to the front that is in direct conflict with our principles, our practice of selling coins, or chips or medallions, whatever you want to call them. This practice was approved by the Salt Lake Central Office Committee at some time in the past and in recent times, the Volunteer Chair has purchased coins, but the provision for purchasing and selling coins was never included in our Bylaws, past or present. The selling of coins at a Central Office does not appear in either of the documents the Board references in the overseeing of the operations.

…Continued on Pg. 8

In the May 1948 Grapevine, Bill W. wrote: “…Tradition 6 also enjoins the group never to go into business nor ever to lend the A.A. name or money credit to any “outside” enterprise, no matter how good.”

The selling of coins is currently at a profit at the Central Office, a profit we don’t need. We have reduced our literature prices to the fellowship in an effort to maintain our Bylaws’ financial prudent reserve. From the same Grapevine article, Bill states “…But money is not the life blood of A.A. With us, it is very secondary. Even in small quantities, it is scarcely more than a necessary nuisance, something we wish we could do without entirely. Why is that so? We explain this easily enough; we don’t need money. The core of our A.A. procedure is “one alcoholic talking to another,” whether that be sitting on a curbstone, in a home, or at a meeting. It’s the message, not the place; it’s the talk, not the alms. That does our work. Just places to meet and talk, that’s about all A.A. needs.”

But the real problem with selling coins at the Central Office lies not in the money, but in the rest of the 6th Tradition, which states in the Long Form, “…While an A.A. group may cooperate with anyone, such cooperation ought never to go so far as affiliation or endorsement, actual or implied. [my emphasis] An A.A. group can bind itself to no one.” By selling items from a for-profit company, (or non-profit, for that matter) we are affiliating with a company and endorsing the product it makes. Even if we sold the coins at cost, we would still be affiliating with and endorsing an outside enterprise.

Alcoholics Anonymous does not sell non-conference approved items or anything the AAWS, Inc. or the Grapevine, Inc. doesn’t produce. Why would a Central Office do that? A Central Office is part of A.A., not the Conference structure, but it is more purely A.A. for the fellowship. There is no need for the Salt Lake Central Office to sell coins, in terms of availability. There is a shop located two miles away which sells coins, literature and a large array of other recovery related items. Google returns 13.4 million results from a “recovery coin” search, most of which are retail outlets. There is no lack of availability.

One of the more popular rationalizations for selling coins is that “We’ve always sold coins.” It brings to mind something I heard Madeline P., past Pacific Region Trustee, say from the podium about certain A.A. practices, “Just because we’ve always done something doesn’t mean it’s not incredibly stupid.” The Salt Lake Central Office has no opinion on the use or efficacy of coins, they are an outside issue, just as any other type of merchandise or product would be. Our Bylaws have provision for the purchase and sale of AAWS, Inc. and Grapevine, Inc. literature, nothing else.

We are extremely good at justifying behavior that is not in accordance with our principles. Drinking the way I drank was not in accordance with my principles, but I found a reason to do so. It is a slippery slope that leads to further rationalizing until we’re just doing what we want, when we want it, principles be damned. Which Step would you not take, based on your own desires? Why would not adhering to Traditions be any different? This is dangerous for us individually, and to the fellowship of A.A. as a whole. We are the protectors of our integrity, our actions are our legacy.

Ask yourself these questions, “Are these coins an outside enterprise? Is selling them at the Central Office in conflict with our 6th Tradition?”

This program is simple, but not easy. We can change. We can improve. We can grow in effectiveness and understanding. We demonstrate over and over with each step we take in creating a Central Office that serves the fellowship better by following our principles ever more closely.

I don’t expect to make any friends by making these statements. As Joe Hawk used to say, “The 12 Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous are not popular in A.A.” I’m well aware of the passion this particular topic arouses. My passion is aroused as well. I was elected to uphold our principles, I’m doing that to the very best of my ability.

In loving service,

Wendy W.

971-235-5240

 

Spiritus Contra Spiritum – Carl Jung’s Letter to Bill Wilson January 30, 1961

“Spiritus contra spiritum” literally translates to “spirit against spirit”.  Loosely translated, it refers to “a spiritual experience to counter addiction to the spirits (alcoholism).” Spiritus in Latin means both alcoholic beverages, i.e., spirits, and the highest religious experience. In relating this simple phrase,  Jung confirmed for Bill that the A.A. program aimed at spiritual development and a spiritual awakening, as treatment for alcoholism, was the correct direction.

On January 23, 1961, Bill sent a letter of appreciation to Dr. Jung thanking him for his contribution to A.A.’s solution for alcoholism through his work with Rowland H. The Big Book refers to part of the story on pages 26 & 27. This letter, dated January 30, 1961, was Dr. Jung’s immediate reply.

Dear Mr. Wilson,

Your letter has been very welcome indeed.

I had no news from Rowland H. anymore and often wondered what has been his fate. Our conversation which he has adequately reported to you had an aspect of which he did not know. The reason that I could not tell him everything was that those days I had to be exceedingly careful of what I said. I had found out that I was misunderstood in every possible way. Thus I was very careful when I talked to Rowland H. But what I really thought about was the result of many experiences with men of his kind.

His craving for alcohol was the equivalent, on a low level, of the spiritual thirst of our being for wholeness, expressed in medieval language: the union with God.*

How could one formulate such an insight in a language that is not misunderstood in our days?

The only right and legitimate way to such an experience is that it happens to you in reality and it can only happen to you when you walk on a path which leads you to higher understanding. You might be led to that goal by an act of grace or through a personal and honest contact with friends, or through a higher education of the mind beyond the confines of mere rationalism. I see from your letter that Rowland H. has chosen the second way, which was, under the circumstances, obviously the best one.

I am strongly convinced that the evil principle prevailing in this world leads the unrecognized spiritual need into perdition, if it is not counteracted either by real religious insight or by the protective wall of human community. An ordinary man, not protected by an action from above and isolated in society, cannot resist the power of evil, which is called very aptly the Devil. But the use of such words arouses so many mistakes that one can only keep aloof from them as much as possible.

These are the reasons why I could not give a full and sufficient explanation to Rowland H., but I am risking it with you because I conclude from your very decent and honest letter that you have acquired a point of view above the misleading platitudes one usually hears about alcoholism.

You see, “alcohol” in Latin is “spiritus” and you use the same word for the highest religious experience as well as for the most depraving poison. The helpful formula therefore is: spiritus contra spiritum.

Thanking you again for your kind letter

I remain

Yours sincerely

C. G. Jung

*As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God.”(Psalms 42:1)

Step 1 – Anonymous Member of AA – 2015

In my experience Step 1 was the hardest for me to come to terms with. Even before I started drinking it was necessary for me to perpetuate the illusion that I could control and handle my environment. Alcohol assisted me in following this delusion and had warped into my only solution to life’s problems. The idea that I could no longer control the one thing that had brought me so much relief or that I could not handle what my life had become was beyond frightening.

I hadn’t suffered many of the external consequences of drinking that I heard of in my first AA meeting. I excelled in my career, had my own place and hadn’t ever been arrested. I never considered that my bottom could be an emotional one. I rebelled against the notion that I couldn’t handle this and chose to go at it on my own.  I’d hit a wall, pick myself up, then carry on as if nothing had happened. I lived in this cycle for many dark and pain filled years.

My alcoholism lead me to believe that my only problem was you and the rest of the world. If only I could manage this well then I could be happy. The more unbridled my drinking became and the more chaotic my life was the harder I tried to exert my will upon things. Still operating on old ideas, I was defiant to seek help. The only solution I could see was to make my world smaller. I took a position that allowed me to work from home and began to recede from any real contact with the people I cared about most. Slowly the gravity of not being able to master the world, you or even my own drinking sank in. Alcoholism had annihilated all the things I had once found pleasure in.

I was gifted a moment of clarity one night while crying alone in bed. I could see my life playing on the same way for the next 10 years as it had been for the last 10. The image of continuing on this path was bleak at best. Thoughts of ending my life were the strongest they had been in a long while. What struck me with fear most was that the will to fight them was no longer there. A voice of a friend, who had taken me to my first meeting, popped into my head and asked two simple questions: Are you still having fun? How much more do you want to dig?

At this time of desperation I was able to be a little more honest with myself as to the true state of my life. I was now willing to concede that I what I had been attempting to do wasn’t working and that perhaps those AA’s might be able to help. I am forever grateful to the fellow alcoholic who answered my call.  In the past, I would have never imagined that an act of surrendering would be so empowering. I now see that a seed of hope was planted that night. The hope that what had worked for you could, just perhaps, work for me too.

-Anonymous

 

My Spiritual Awakening – Joseph A (Los Angeles, CA) – 2015

“You need to know, you are in sudden danger of dying at any moment.”   Not necessarily the words one wants to hear from his doctor, but there they were.  The next thing I knew I was being rushed to Cedar Siani Medical Center in Los Angeles and promptly landed in their Cardiac Critical Care Unit.  The feeling was surreal.  There were all these specialists running around, poking and prodding me with various tubes, hooking me up to several monitors, taking countless blood samples, rushing things to the lab, and it was all so serious.  The intake nurse came to my bedside and began to ask the basic questions: my name, where I lived, phone numbers, insurance, and then she asked me my birthday.  I simply said, well if you do a really good job, I’ll be 43 next month.  December 12th to be exact.

Then the attending doctor came in.  He was quiet and pensive.  He looked me right in the eye and said, “You need a heart transplant.  And you need to get your affairs in order, as we don’t know if we can do the protocol in time to get you one.”  Then turned and walked away.

Upon hearing those words, something extraordinary happened.  I had a spiritual awakening.  No big flash of light or burning bush mind you.  It was clear, visceral and quiet.  I became acutely aware that I was not my body.  It’s important to note, this was not an intellectual assessment, it was simply my knowing.  I distinctly thought, well if it’s time to go I am perfectly OK with it.  I got that I was not this physical apparatus, with arms and legs and organs and skin and bones.  I had this keen sense of knowing that I was an eternal spirit, that I was simply inhabiting those things temporarily.

And at the same time I recall thinking, well if I was to stay here on planet earth, I was OK with that too.  I honestly wasn’t attached to either way.  It’s like I became an observer of this drama that was playing out in the emergency room.  I was filled with peace, a peace that was beyond anything I had ever felt before.  It’s like when our book talks about being rocketed into the fourth dimension.  Talk about freedom from bondage!  My conscious contact was as though I had become one with this Infinite Intelligence, with my Higher Power.  I don’t know how long I was in this euphoric state, but it lasted quite a while.  And then I made a decision, that I was going to find a way to heal my heart.

It’s like when I walked into the rooms of AA and made a decision to get sober.  I didn’t know how that was going to happen, but you told me all I had to be was willing, open and most importantly, honest.

So if it worked for one fatal disease, I decided to approach this in the exact, same way.  The fact that it was my heart told me that something was off with my personal integrity.  That I was not in alignment with my core values and therefore God.  And in hind sight, I clearly had not been for a long, long time.

After 30 days in the hospital, with my trial medications and a pacemaker /defibulator firmly implanted, they sent me home to wait for my new heart.  Over the next several months I began another rigorous moral inventory, one that rivaled my cardiac rehabilitation.  I had to dig deep and see where I was not being honest with myself.  I was in a relationship for over a year and a half which was very unhealthy, where I compromised my values.  And my body was trying to get my attention.  The anxiety, loss of energy, stress, unhappiness, frustration, etc. were all early signs that I had ignored.  The irony that it was my heart that became sick had not escaped me.

This is a much bigger story than can be told in 650 words, but I will tell you this. Through the 4th Step inventory, I became very clear about my part.  I realized I was not a victim of the circumstances.  I took full responsibility for my actions, cleaned house (sound familiar), trusted God and kept going to my morning meetings.

Fast forward to my 9-month cardiac check up.  The doctor sat me down and said the following: “ In my 28 years of being a cardiologist, I’ve never seen this.  Not only do you not need a new heart, you no longer need your pacemaker.  And quite frankly, I’ve never taken one out!”

Well, to the point, I did end up healing my heart.  But I am under no illusion.  I believe just like with recovery from alcoholism, it is a daily reprieve, based on my spiritual condition.  I must continue to clean house, trust God and help others.

What an amazing and powerful program we have.  It truly is a way of life.  For Real!

Love, Joe : )