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July 1988

Let There Be Lightning!

Step Twelve

When I was a kid, I was frightened of rainstorms--frightened but fascinated. Lightning was especially scary because of the flood of light it would pour into my fragile world.

How like that childhood experience was my early dalliance with the Twelfth Step. Having a spiritual awakening, it seemed, could only be compared to being struck by lightning--fascinating but terrifying. As for carrying the message, did it mean anything other than showing off my flair for sober melodrama and new clothes? Since the only principles I knew were our slogans, which didn't even appear in the Steps, and since I had no affairs--not business, or community, or love--this Step seemed a snap!

In the childishness of my early sobriety I would go out in storms, half expecting my alcoholism to be permanently arrested, if not cured altogether, with the first bolt. I had yet to learn that the principal purpose of spiritual awakenings is to illuminate; they neither kill nor cure. I find, too, that spiritual enlightenment extends only as far as my general well-being will permit. Like my disease, my recovery is also threefold. I must see to my physical "awakening" (e.g., eating, sleeping, and bathing regularly; medical checkups) and my mental/emotional "awakening," too (e.g., learning to rely more on my mind instead of my feelings). ". . .The most important meaning of it," says the "Twelve and Twelve," speaking on the subject of a spiritual awakening, "is that he has now become able to do, feel, and believe that which he could not do before. . ."

A further thought about lightning. It used to be said that lightning never struck twice in the same place. As a Step-conscious member of Alcoholics Anonymous I began to see that spiritual change (awakening) can "strike" often, and always in the same place--me.

Light of another kind was thrown on the Step when I heard a fellow AA share that he had a one hundred percent success rate in carrying the message. His secret? He didn't pick up the first drink. And as long as he continued to stay away from that first one and did the best he could on any given day, he regarded himself as a successful person. What wisdom!

Along the way, I discovered another word of wisdom; a word, tucked into the middle of the Step, that protects my trials and errors and assures me the maximum of success in practicing this Step: ". . .we tried. . ."

How to carry the message of recovery? Participating in my home group is the most immediately rewarding way. Some other ways: chairing an institution meeting; sharing my story with my doctor; participating in local public information meetings; sponsorship; supporting my local intergroup/central office, my area committee, and my General Service Office (GSO). I count myself as one of the alcoholics mentioned in the Step and carry the message to myself through my involvement in AA activities.

It is also suggested I try to practice the principles embodied in all the Steps in my everyday life. On first reading, a tall order, until I am reminded that the Step is suggesting only that I try. I want to remember my powerlessness over alcohol and the unmanageability of my life when I try to go it alone. I want to remember that my restoration to sanity and my daily decision to stay sober are directly dependent on my continued willingness to trust in a Power greater than myself.

Personal inventory and daily spot-checking can sometimes be difficult, but the payoff is tremendous.

I ask daily for help that I may be ready to have my defects removed and daily ask for the removal of specific defects, as well as for guidance and power to act on that guidance. (When a prayer will be answered is only a matter of time. I may hold that belief with trust and equanimity since the most desperate prayer I ever uttered led me to the doors of AA.)

I want to make amends when necessary and to do it with not only my own well-being in mind but that of others. Thanks to the Twelfth Step, the simple and comforting golden rule learned in my childhood and unlearned in life's byways has been restored: "Do unto others. . ."

In my sometimes busy involvement I can easily lose sight of exactly what it is I am doing, and why. I want to keep it immaculately clear that Twelfth Step work is not a measure of how good a person I am. I do it because it is what our founding fathers did to stay sober. I do it because I believe in my responsibility to the next alcoholic. I do it because it is one of the best ways I have to give back to AA. My first things first approach must be to offer the help--to reach out. The prospect and his or her Higher Power must take it from there.

Daily, I pray that I may follow in the footsteps of our founders by trying to carry the message of hope; that I may reach out once again, with trusting simplicity, to the never blinding but ever enlightening Twelve Steps.

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