Oldtimer Comes Clean
I have been sober 28 years and this is the simple truth about recovery. It is a lifelong journey. I still practice it today but not in the same way I did in the first few years of my recovery. I have gone through a lot of phases. But in 2010 I realized that I felt less and less contentment in the AA program. Over the last several years I had fallen into a combination of tension, discontent, resentment, depression, compulsive eating, and an overall sense of meaninglessness. I had stopped practicing all the principles in all my affairs. The result was a complete reversal of momentum and a relapse into serious personal misery. I was failing to reap the benefits I had gained from the AA program.
I knew from past experience the answer was to return to the original, strong AA. Through prayer and doing my yearly inventory, I realized I needed to start over as if I was a newcomer. I needed to do what I did in the beginning of my program. I felt I needed to write out each step and ask myself the same questions and work as hard as I did then.
You see, I did not come to AA to stop drinking. I wanted to stay stopped but most of all become a different person. I wanted to learn how to become happy about not drinking. I wanted to get rid of loneliness, anger, depression and fear. I wanted to be able to hold my head up and go anywhere without feeling inadequate (not good enough).
When I heard “How It Works” read at my first meeting, I had hope. I heard that I couldn't fail if I was “willing to go to any length,” and to be honest and through. I was determined to do everything the program asked.
As it turns out, the men who wrote the Big Book were right after all. There is no easier, softer way. The extra work and commitment required by the full program approach pays enormous dividends. They make sobriety fun because they do not make sobriety an end in itself. Mere non-drinking is a very negative kind of life goal. What it all boils down to - especially for us old-timers - is a willingness to continue practicing all the principles in all our affairs today. After years of sobriety I was doing what the Big Book says, “resting on your laurels”, or to put it simpler, just going through the motions of the program. I knew it was successful in long term continuous sobriety, but I had stopped working on myself. I stopped growing as a person and in my spiritual life. I stopped doing what I did way back when, in my first months and years of sobriety. Many times when drinking I prayed that God would just kill me so the misery of living would end. I wanted to be anybody but me. This much is certain: the Twelve Steps are as inspired, as effective, and as practical now as they were when they first put it in writing.