With a couple of years of sobriety under my belt I continue to make progress. Here’s what my AA program looks like today:
Don’t Drink Under Any Circumstances
This one probably seems blatantly obvious. Especially for someone with a few years of sobriety. It is obvious: don’t drink. Ever. But I think it is of utmost importance for me to remember this as the absolute fundamental of my program, regardless of all else. I am truly powerless over alcohol and am unable to drink successfully under any circumstances. All other things support this element of the program.
I’ve been around long enough to have heard a fair amount of relapse stories. One common theme often emerges: “I thought I could drink like a normal person after being sober for so long. I was wrong.”
I don’t want to forget that for me to drink is to die. Plain and simple.
Get to meetings
I get to as many meetings as I can. After 500+ meetings, I still love being with other alcoholics and sharing our experience, strength, and hope. Meeting makers make it. I heard it early in sobriety, and so far it has worked for me. I get to 3-5 meetings a week, depending on my schedule. Often I get to a meeting every day when I am on vacation or have time off around the holidays.
In my ideal world, I would go to a meeting every day. But I have a large family, own my own business, and have a rigorous workout schedule (I’m an athlete in avocation) so I’m content with 3-5 meetings a week. In particular, when I find myself irritable, restless, and discontent I get myself to a meeting.
Develop Friendships in AA
When I first started in AA I went to meetings, listened, spoke up occasionally, and left. I kept to myself for a while.
I saw other people who had warm friendships with others in the rooms. I wanted that. But I was still watching from the outside. And I was still very afraid to be vulnerable.
It took a few months before I really started opening up and getting to know people. Fortunately, I stayed sober and kept coming back long enough to develop friendships.
Today, many of the relationships that I value most in life are with fellow alcoholics in recovery. I need a community of folks around me to walk with. And they need me. We need each other.
Extend The Hand of AA Whenever Possible
The longer I am sover, the more comfortable I am talking about sobriety. When I was first sober it was at times terrifying for me to talk about sobriety. There are still some people that I don’t want to talk to about sobriety. But for the most part, I share that I am in recovery with people when appropriate.
As a result, I have had increased number of times when someone knows someone that needs help. It is amazing how prevalent alcoholism is. Those who know that I am in recovery often refer me to friends that are trying to get sober (or are trying to get sober themselves).
It’s an honor to walk with people that are struggling with alcoholism. I’m not an expert and don’t pretend to be. I do know that I can share my story, what I have learned, and what has helped me. All I’m really doing is passing along that which someone else has shared with me. And I find that to be very helpful for people that are desperate.
Like me they need hope. They need to know that others have been where they are. They need to know that they can be free from alcohol. They need to know that life can get better.
Work the 12 Steps of AA
Like many things in sobriety, working the steps has been a slow process. I haven’t worked the 12 steps of AA in as timely or as orderly a process as many would suggest. And I honestly believe I would be making more progress on many of my defects of character sooner if I did. It just hasn’t been my path.
I’ve meandered through the steps.
However, I do consistently work the steps on an ongoing basis. I am working with a sponsor. We discuss the steps regularly. We share our experiences with the steps. We often are asking each other about particular things in life that we would like to see change.
Most importantly, as God enlightens me to areas of life that need to change I apply the steps to those areas. For me it is an ongoing process, not a one time experience. The steps are about change.
In this respect I have been thorough working the steps. The program is a program of change and I believe the steps are a crucial part of changing. Without them, we are wandering through sobriety together instead of growing.
I have a sponsor. I talk to my sponsor a number of times per week via text, email, facebook, in meetings, or face to face. It’s important to me that my sponsor is involved in my life. My sponsor knows the big stuff that is going on. It is especially important to me if I have thoughts about drinking. My sponsor, along with my spouse, will be the first to know if I am having thoughts about drinking.
I’ve heard it said many times that the sponsors primary job is to help their sponsee work the steps. I think that is true, but for me it is much more than that. It’s also about developing an authentic, real relationship with someone that I can tell anything to. It’s about trust.
I don’t think there is a perfect AA program. But I think people that work at it will develop an AA program that works for them and enables them to thrive as recovering alcoholics. Do the work and you will find a program that works for you.