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Hope And Purpose From Defeat And Despair

In exchange for a bottle and a hangover—a life truly worth living

I am so very grateful for the life I live today. My first sponsor Leonard T. told me “Mark, we only have one product in Alcoholics Anonymous. We only sell one thing and that is: ‘In exchange for a bottle and a hangover, we give you a life worth living.’” I told him I didn’t know if that was a good deal and he said: “I didn’t say it was an easy sell.”

I came to AA relatively intact. No criminal record, married, employed, but ignorant of a spiritual realm.

I suffered from low self-worth and while my life on the outside looked exciting, on the inside I didn’t care if I lived or died. My only escape was the oblivion of alcohol and I abused it on a daily basis. After coming to AA I soon discovered I wasn’t alone in this feeling and that there was a way out. It didn’t come easy or overnight. I came in with a lot of preconceived notions and prejudices, religion being one of them. I was put off by the Lord’s Prayer I asked Leonard why we use a Christian prayer if we aren’t a religion. Leonard said: “Are you willing to go to any length to stay sober?” I responded that I was. He said: “Say the prayer.” Why? I asked him. He said: “If you surrender it means you do it our way, not yours.” Did he mean

unconditional surrender? He said: “Oh no, you can put conditions on anything—that is, if you want to drink again.”

I am so grateful for the simple leadership Leonard showed me. I later learned that Bill and Bob grew to love this prayer for the parallels to our program as revealed through the teachings of Emmet Fox. For me personally, I need to hear “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” on regular basis to remind me I am incapable of self-forgiveness. The knowledge comes divinely by forgiving others.

As the fog of abuse slowly wore off, I began to see where a life without substance abuse was not only possible, but could actually be fun. Which was important since I only ran on three emotions (sad, mad, or glad) and when two out of three were negative, it was imperative that I could relate to the only positive emotion I had. I also came in functionally illiterate, after years of not reading anything but repair manuals and writing little if at all. The Steps came more from the (often inaccurate) sharing of my peers than from our literature.

I eventually learned to track what I was reading by participating in book studies in my home group. When I started using our literature a whole new world was revealed to me.

After a few years of attending fun conferences and serving on their committees I became interested in General Service. I worked my way from GSR to delegate and continue to serve as a past delegate wherever I go. Ten years later, I was nominated by my area to serve as a nominee for Trustee at Large for the U.S. I made myself

available because I was. By making myself available when asked, my life has unfolded in ways that are beyond my comprehension or imagination.

I am self-employed and have been for a number of years. I live comfortably and control my own time. I have the ability to travel, enjoy my boats and other interests.

By living one day at a time and scanning the horizon for opportunities to be of service, I have been granted a life worth living in exchange for a bottle and a hangover.

Thank you for my sobriety.

For more stories from AA members reflecting on their journeys to recovery, be sure to read Beginner's Book: Getting and Staying Sober available online at the AA Grapevine Store.

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