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June 1976


This AA pasted fancy labels on her defects of character

I CAME TO AA just like everyone else--unique! Blessed with a desire to stop drinking, I hung on, white-knuckled, trying to figure out how to change enough to reach a comfortable level of sobriety, whatever that was.

I was eager, but deaf. I heard discussions on topics like immaturity and efforts to escape reality. But I thought I was deeply concerned about the sick state of the world, and no wonder such a sensitive person couldn't face that reality. Self-pity? Not me. I bled for everyone else, then suffered because nobody credited me with noble compassion. Resentments? I didn't know what AAs were talking about. I wasn't mad at anyone. I was a disillusioned idealist, despairing about the world in general and everyone close to me in particular. In my self-involved myopia, I had decided that life had betrayed me. Self-willed? How could that be? I had known that alcohol was a problem to me for twenty years, battled it with the "I'll do it myself--I am captain of my soul" attitude. Wasn't that what any strong character would do? I had to admit, though, that I had lost the war.

I couldn't verbalize much at the beginning of my AA life. After I put down the drink that had anesthetized unbearable emotions for so long, I was struck with so many feelings running wild that I couldn't recognize any one of them for what it was. And my rationalizations stayed in the way as walls against acceptance of the real me. My sponsor told me I had a case of the "yes, buts," and that sounded so simple that it must apply to someone else, not to this unique person. She was right, of course. I was "yes, butting" all over the place.

I was sober, but uncomfortable and nervous, so I began to listen better. "Some of us have tried to hold on to our old ideas and the result was nil until we let go absolutely" (Alcoholics Anonymous, page 58). Okay, but what were these old ideas for me?

I was calling my defects by grandiose, pompous names. Immaturity was "dark, stormy reflections on the condition of man"--meaning I was stamping my feet because I wasn't getting my own way. Self-pity was "If my family didn't make so many demands on me, I could write a deeply significant novel"--meaning I wasn't willing to take the risk and searched out others to blame. Acceptance? "Weighted by current problems and knowledge of man's ultimate cruelty to man, who wouldn't drink?"--meaning I couldn't handle my own life, and I wanted out.

Immature? You bet! A neon sign finally lighted up inside. This was the emotional immaturity they were talking about. I realized that I had lived in my emotional playpen long enough, blaming people, places, and things for my drinking. When I didn't like the way I felt, when I was overburdened by taking on responsibility for everyone but myself, I drank. And it had to be "their" fault.

Through sharing the experience, strength, and hope of fellow AAs, I began to accept myself as I was. Because members told me about their inner hearts, I found mine. Instead of remaining a tragic figure caught in a gigantic hoax, I began to shed some of the inner grandiosity. I discovered that the Twelve Steps were specific directions for making necessary changes in my attitudes.

Day by day, as I learn what my defects really are, I grow more willing to give them up, asking God as I understand Him to remove my shortcomings. I'm trying to grow up. No more tragic dramas, because my heart is filing more and more with gratitude for my sobriety today. I am an alcoholic, trying to keep it simple and to live a day at a time. I love being sober. Now I'm comfortable!

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