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“Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practise these principles in all our affairs”
It’s a few years since I’ve written an article for SHARE and a lot has happened. I got married in sobriety and my wife and I now have a beautiful baby son. I moved from London to West Africa, where the sun shines and the people smile but it’s hard to make a living! I have been sober since I was 23 years old and I am 35 now. Time has ticked by and I have grown up in AA. The spiritual awakening mentioned in Step 12 has happened.
I am able to be positive and productive, to work and to be a part of family life. I can enjoy friendships, sports and interests. All of these things are gifts of sobriety for which I am grateful. My spiritual habits have become ingrained. I pray in the morning, handing my will over to my Higher Power (Step Three) and asking for my defects of character to be removed (Steps Six & Seven). I pray to be free from self, that I may be loving and helpful to others.
I meditate, although I am not always focused enough to do that well, as I am often itching to start the day and crack on with the tasks I need to do! I do a written Step Ten inventory at night. I still speak to my sponsor regularly and attend meetings. So I do “practise these principles in all my affairs” to the best of my ability and 11 years after I got sober, I am still following the AA way.
However, I am not perfect. I still have plenty of problems and defects. My financial management in sobriety has not always been smart. I have made some good investments in property, which I still hold, so it’s not all bad. I am very lucky. However, I had a time a couple of years ago when I got addicted to spending money and bought anything and everything in sight: cars, boats, watches, clothes, art, consumer items … it went on and on.
I guess I enjoyed the feeling of buying things and got addicted to it. When the cash ran out, it became painful. Thank God, I have now stopped and changed my behaviour but I am still working through the results of it now, to get my finances on a secure footing again.
Like many of us in the Fellowship, I also have to watch out for coffee and sweet foods like chocolate, cake, biscuits and ice cream. I do play sport and exercise regularly and am in reasonable shape. I am not obese but I do have to be careful because I often crave sugar, particularly when my mood is low and I am struggling with things.
Also, it is embarrassing to admit and wouldn’t be appropriate to share about in detail here, but when I was single in my sobriety I sometimes watched online pornography. It satisfied lust in the short term but made me feel dirty, sordid and ashamed. I am now happily married so the issue has been resolved, but I still have to be mindful about this problem. Whatever the particular behaviour that is manifesting, the root cause is often the same (self-centred fears and character defects) and the solution is the same (turn towards God and others and work towards good health and emotional sobriety). I have talked about “spiritual awakening” and “practising these principles in all our affairs”. I will finish this article by saying a little about trying “to carry this message to alcoholics”, which is a crucial part of Step 12.
I often feel like I could be doing more service than I am. There are plenty of AA stalwarts who do more than me. However, I have done some different types of service throughout my recovery and I think it’s a big reason why I am still sober into my second decade of sobriety and why, for the most part, I enjoy contentment and peace of mind.
I have done the group jobs: greeting, making tea, literature person, secretary and treasurer. Taking on the GSR role for different groups took me to Bristol intergroup and then to Chelsea intergroup when I moved to London. I really recommend getting involved with intergroup as it opens you up to another level of service and engagement with the Fellowship. I know there are sometimes issues with politics and personalities, but in general a lot of the people at intergroup have good quality, long-term sobriety, so it brings you into contact with good people. Doing service at intergroup level has really deepened and enriched my sobriety.
As well as being a GSR, I have also been SHARE liaison officer for Chelsea. For three years, I was the 12th Step Responder coordinator for Redcliffe (Chelsea and K&C), as part of the London telephone office team.
I always share when asked and have occasionally done shares in prisons and treatment centres. More recently I have helped start an AA and an NA meeting in Gambia, West Africa, where I have been living for the last couple of years. There were no meetings when I arrived, but with the help of some other members (particularly Marianne, Anne and Lamin) we have started some. I am now moving back to the UK with my wife and son, but I hope the meetings continue after I leave.
It has been a pleasure to write this piece and I hope that my experience is of some use when considering Step 12. I have got a lot out of reading SHARE magazine over the years. Thank you to all the editors and contributors who have made the publication happen.