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 Audio Version  

I wish I could say that I wanted to be a better person. I mean, I do want to be a better person, but not with my whole heart. I get longings at times to be a better person. Sometimes I lie awake at night wishing I was a better person. But generally it feels like - to paraphrase that famous quote - "the good I would do I don't do, the bad I would not do I do"

And yet, I am a better person than I was 5 years ago, or 10 years ago. Sure, part of this is gradually maturing. If you stay sober for long enough without becoming mentally ill (a challenge for any alcoholic of my type) then natural maturation will kick in and you'll grow up a bit. But it's also because I have found myself attempting to practise principles I've learned in Alcoholics Anonymous, in all areas of my life.

When I first got sober, 24 years ago, I practised the principles with tremendous enthusiasm. I promised myself I would do so forever (a day at a time). Later, other things became important: relationships, career. Yet here I am practising the principles with growing effectiveness, and to great effect in my personal and professional life. Why would such a self-centred arrogant prideful alcoholic do this?

The answer is simple: consistent relationships with other AA members. I have had a consistent relationship with an AA group for 23 years and with an AA sponsor for 24 years. The sponsor is a constant reminder, just by his existence not by his constant prompting, of where I've come from. Of those initial days, weeks, months in AA, when I knew what I needed and wanted to do to stay sober, and to be happier sober. I rarely need him to tell me what to do with AA principles, just having him as my sponsor and being in regular contact seems to help me keep in a frame of mind to want to practice AA principles. He is also a good example for me of someone who works hard at his AA.

Additionally, the consistent relationship with the alcoholics in my home group helps me see how they've grown through practicing the AA principles, how their lives have blossomed. I also see the number of people that stop practicing the AA principles who become unhappy, or come undone entirely, or drink again. Without meaning to be, I become motivated and reminded by the activity of those around me.

I wish I could say that it is high moral desires that lead me to try to practise the AA principles in all my affairs. But it is not. It is the people I surround myself with, week after week, year after year. "Who you surround yourself with, you become."

ALEXIS K, Plymouth Road to Recovery Group.