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September 1976

This Sobriety Business

After eighteen years of failure in AA a salesman discovers a secret

TWENTY YEARS ago, I attended my first AA meeting, and for eighteen years tried the program intermittently, In different parts of the country, with little success. Also during these eighteen years, I tried everything else humanly possible to solve my drinking problem. Then, two years ago, it all came together for me. It was not a spiritual awakening as such; but over a month's period, everything seemed to fall into place, and I've enjoyed two years of good sobriety with practically no difficulty. This is strange, for in my vocation, advertising-sales, alcohol is more or less a way of life. I am traveling by air weekly, with conventions, much entertainment, country clubs, and a hotel-motel environment. Nearly all my business associates and social friends, other than AA members, do partake of spirits, and in greater than average quantities.

In the last two years, I've had the unique, enjoyable, and necessary experience of visiting with more than 220 different AA groups in twenty-five states and in Canada. My AA directories resemble a well-used 1940 edition of the Webster dictionary.

Why, after eighteen years of trying everything humanly possible to find the answer, did I discover it only two years ago? Why, after at long last finding the answer, have I had such a comparatively easy time staying sober?

Two years ago, my wife was informed by psychiatrists and other medical doctors, as well as seasoned AA members, that seldom, if ever, had they seen a person recover who had reached my mental and physical condition.

Without trying to elaborate, I feel that the solution for me lay in the shocking realization that I truly stood alone. Everybody, and I mean every human being, had thrown in the towel on me. And knowing for sure that spiritually I was agnostic, I was backed into a corner for the first time in my life, with absolutely no place to turn. I was down for the full count and knew it--thoroughly defeated.

I had truly reached bottom. That bottom is not physical. Who or where one is, what one has or does not have, has nothing to do with it. Rather, it came to me crystal-clear that one could become just as repulsive, obnoxious, and sick drinking high-priced, imported wine and liquor in a first-class airplane cabin as he could drinking canned heat and cheap wine in a freight car. A top executive with a leading corporation could hurt and lose just as many wives, children, and friends as a caretaker in a cheap hotel. One could kill or injure as many innocent people on the highways driving a Cadillac as driving an old pickup truck. And certainly someone buried in a tailored suit at a state funeral with thousands present is just as dead as someone laid to rest on the side of a hill, wearing Salvation Army clothing, with one paid grave-digger in attendance.

Approximately two years ago, a college professor, an AA I admired and respected, put it to me this way--loud and clear and perhaps with a little disgust: "Why don't you quit running around looking for God? He is not lost." I have found my Higher Power and have come to realize that He is and always has been right here with me and with each of us.

Bill W. emphasized from the beginning that the AA program is simple. It is an action program, but effort is required. If one wishes to cross the street, he has to get up and walk across. An extremely successful businessman in AA explained his success in the program this way: "When I finally got myself together, twenty years ago, it required a 100% turnabout of my entire life. I looked at the principles of AA strictly from a business standpoint, and I used the Twelve Steps as the basis. I took the first three Steps, and paid cash for them. The last nine, I took on the installment plan." This brought it home to me. I fully understood: investment--installments; default--repossession. A contract to preserve my life.

I can honestly say that staying sober has been a minor problem for me. All the meetings and AA fellowship are a big factor, but it goes beyond that. The more I associate with AA, the more I realize the true depth and entirety of the program; what it offers goes beyond solving the drinking problem itself.

All the AA meetings I've attended are composed of sober people, yet only a certain percentage of those people have the complete, happy sobriety that carries over into everyday living--home, business, and all other phases of life. Also, I've observed that the length of one's sobriety has nothing to do with having this complete program. Far be it from me to say I have it's but I recognize it, and know it's there and can be achieved. How? By daily living the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous.

It's really very simple. Solving any problem is like chasing a butterfly--the more you chase it, the more it eludes you. But if you turn your attention elsewhere, before you know it the butterfly will be fluttering on your shoulder. Let drinking be the problem. To solve it, turn your attention to living the principles of AA, and before you know it. . .

A simple program, but one that requires action. At a meeting I attended this past spring, an old-timer put it this way: "I have a feeling that even God has difficulty guiding anything that will not move."

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