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April 2002

Frightened People

"In my opinion, alcoholics are frightened people," he said. I didn't like hearing that, but I knew he was telling the truth, at least about me. His name was Curt S., and he spoke those words at the Northport Group on Long Island, in the spring of 1961. I was just completing my ninety meetings in ninety days, and was attending a meeting on the Third Step for the first time. Curt had been sober ten years.

"Guys like me are scared of life. We are afraid of failure and we can't handle success. We must look good, at all costs. Our pride won't let us say 'I don't know,' or ask for help. We've always got to be in control." Those were not his exact words, but his meaning was clear. Playing "Center of the Universe" without a Higher Power had proved to be too much for me. I had to drink!

One of the other new guys said to Curt, "In that Third Step, you're asking me to turn my life and my will over to the care of God as I understand him. Don't you understand? I was brought up to maintain control. I can't stop just like that! You're asking the impossible!"

That was exactly how I saw it. I was trapped in a vicious circle. I couldn't depend on God so I was drowning in a sea of booze. Yet if I wanted to stop drowning, I had to turn things over to him. Then my sponsor, Joe C., with seven years of sobriety, chimed in. "That is not what the Step says. It says, 'made a decision.' That's the only action called for."

Curt agreed. "The guys who wrote this Step were in the same boat. That's why the first paragraph in the Twelve and Twelve says willingness is the key. All we have to do is try."

Success was no longer the issue. I couldn't fail. For the first time, I understood. If I simply tried there was nothing to fear; not even the rest of the Steps.

Curt and Joe are still sober and active in the program. And because of guys like them, so am I.

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