When no one’s watching
When we are satisfied that we’ve given Steps One through Five our best effort and have identified our most glaring defects and shortcomings, it’s time to affect the changes in our thoughts and behaviors by addressing them in Steps Six and Seven.
To be successful, we must first get honest with ourselves and begin to establish some credibility. In other words, doing what we say we’re going to do.
Then, if we’re sure that we are committed to the program, we will want to set in place principles to live by. These principles cut off our own escape when we want to revert back to our old way of thinking. Most of us do this with the help of a sponsor or a mentor, if you like, and go by the book as best we can.
I did what I thought was a pretty thorough job of it. Then one day about 20 years ago, I was trying to park my car in a crowded parking lot. I found the parking spot I wanted, but there was a shopping cart blocking my way. I got out of my car and moved the cart aside. I parked my car and pushed the shopping cart back up to the store entrance. Then I went about my shopping.
From that day on, when parking at any market I search for a stray shopping cart and take it back to the store just to make up for all the times I shoved one into a flower bed and drove away. After telling this story at AA meetings over the years, members often mention to me how very uncomfortable it is for them to leave a cart adrift in the parking lot and we all get a big laugh out of it.
As best I can tell, the word “neglect” is only mentioned a couple of times in the Big Book and the “Twelve and Twelve.” And seldom, if ever, has neglect been the topic of a meeting that I can recall. It’s like the proverbial elephant in the room.
When I started to catch myself shirking my responsibilities, it became obvious to me that if I wanted to regain some form of self-respect and dignity, I was going to have to put neglect on my list of shortcomings.
Do I do what’s right even when there’s no one watching? If credibility means I always do what I say I’m going to do, then integrity, to me, is a whole bunch of credibility. To cut off my own escape, I do routine things every day that cost me nothing and give me a clear conscience. If I am doing the little things that I should, I find it much easier to give the big things that same level of attention. I never throw trash out of the car window, for example. I pick up after myself, and I never walk away from my bed in the morning without making it.
I liken this way of living to an unspoken prayer. The prayer says that I will be responsible, I will be orderly, I will be neat, I will not be neglectful, I will be respectful and I will stay on the unselfish side of the ledger in all of my decisions. I sometimes revisit those pages in the Big Book and the “Twelve and Twelve,” and I try my best not to ignore the elephant in the room.