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Dear readers, here I am again approaching Christmas and New Year (sometimes known as amateur season). For me, blessed with recovery, there is, at this time of year, a sense of poignancy about those who still suffer or who are lost or gone because of alcoholism. Memories can become wishes, regrets, resentments. At this time of year I need to be vigilant and aware of my responses when the stress levels are higher than usual. I need to be connected to others in recovery who will support and challenge my thinking and actions.
Many of us who like to be a part of the 'live show' get some of our best lessons and guidance from the people we meet and know at meetings. Sharing with each other is a need, not an option. When we feel overwhelmed with the complexity of our emotions, sharing with someone we trust is the best way to begin sorting through them and making sense of things. As I write this letter, I'm aware of the reality of my life as a free, whole, happy man. I know my losses, my gains, and I know also the great reality that has always been available. I am convinced that my willingness to grow along spiritual lines is the most instructive challenge in my daily life - especially when life gets hard. At times like this, when the festive fever is on, it's really important that I stay as centred as I can. I remember the dark days of my drinking and using. I remember having no human contact for weeks on end over Christmas and New Year. I remember floating around, shoplifting, using, drinking, dying.
I was told early doors to "change or die". The bottom line is - if we don't change, we don't get well, we continue to drink. Really acknowledging and surrendering to the fact of alcoholism demands that we get deeply involved and committed to full-on recovery... to ALL of what is suggested. For real alcoholics, the 12 Step Programme will do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. Most of the folk I drank with are long gone. My last friend who died because of this killer illness is not long gone. I still sort of expect a call from him sometimes. That one is still sinking in. There is my own awareness of the poignancy - the price we pay to come fully back to life. My new life cost me my old one and my good friend's life is now over, his family devastated.
The lengths I'm willing to go to to have recovery include fully accepting life on life's terms. The highs, the lows and the in-betweens. I say to folk I work with that recovery's blessings will stagger them with their beauty and, at times, simultaneously shake them to their core. To me, the ability to handle those extremes will build an incredible strength of character and, for a guy like me who had no real identity other than that which drink and drugs deluded me into believing, a character born of recovery is a major thing.
Being involved with AA service for over 10 years is another great fact of my life. To have been properly 12 Stepped by older members who shared their experience of our AA Traditions and Concepts has been very valuable. In Glasgow recently, we reconvened our regional assembly. We agreed to work in strict pursuance of our service manuals and we have all benefitted from these actions. Some of us from Glasgow Region have been involved in setting up better working arrangements between the other Scottish regions. We also participated with the creation of the recent Kelvingrove Gallery AA exhibition. There have been many other service developments but I find it sad that some members of this Fellowship have strayed from the simple essence and pleasure of 'doing for others' because of their own need for attention and/or validation. Humility, like love, is best shown in action and action is imperative if we need to change. If anything harms my chances of recovery it is within me, not the other man. The inventory is always mine. I need to be free and well, or else I risk having my mental defence against alcohol removed, as happens with relapse as we know.
I hope that my letter is of use. I've read Roundabout over the years and every so often I read a letter that gives my gratitude a real boost. Every so often I read a letter that makes me want to stand up and cheer because I get identification, I get connection, I get experience, strength and hope. I need these in my life and I value my position as one in recovery who can create that for others. This gift, this new life, this daily design for living which works. I've never had it so good!
We need each other. Please let's treat each other well and remember that this is a killer illness. It will rag-doll you and steal everything while it laughs in your ear. That was my experience. I've not been locked up, sectioned or otherwise detained for a long number of years. Like the man said "Find the cost of freedom".
St Aiden's Tuesday, Glasgow