Throughout my drinking years alcohol tricked me into believing that I was a responsible adult, but the truth was that I was irresponsible in the extreme, because I was not accountable to anyone or anything. I prided myself that I was the master of my own destiny, I ran my life on self-will and I avoided responsibility by saying ‘I’ve got responsibilities’ – a prescription for comfort and complacency. Alcohol was my master. It brought me to a hopeless and desperate state, and I sought help. I struck gold as I found a group of people who were living examples of A.A in action. ‘When anyone, anywhere, reaches out for help, I want the hand of AA always to be there. And for that, I am responsible.’
At the moment I conceded to my innermost self that I was an alcoholic and I was willing to go to any lengths to recover from alcoholism by taking the Twelve Steps, I took some responsibility by following daily suggestions and doing service at my home group. I allowed myself to be accountable to a sponsor, and I stood ‘ready to do anything which will lift the merciless obsession from us.’
I came to believe in a Higher Power, and became morally accountable for my actions, which was in stark contrast to my life before A.A. As my alcoholism had progressed my behaviour had deteriorated. I sought sordid places; put myself and others into dangerous situations. I would create unrealistic alibis to justify my wrongdoing, apathy and defeatism, use extravagant promises and casual apologies. I avoided meeting obligations and constantly blamed others. ‘It is possible for us to use the alleged dishonesty of other people as a plausible excuse for not meeting our own obligations.’
When I turned my will and my life over to the care of God as we understand Him, I knew that I could no longer use the ‘self-righteousness, the very thing we had contemptuously condemned in others, was our own besetting evil. This phony form of respectability was our undoing.’
For many years I had not been capable of rational conduct. Bursts of temper,
childish sulking, lashing out for no apparent reason – I was unpredictable and caused a lot of distress. I was hurting and so must you. I clung to resentments and plotted revenge. ‘When we harboured grudges and planned revenge we were really beating ourselves with the club of anger we had intended to use on others. We learned that if we were seriously disturbed, our first need was to quiet that disturbance, regardless of who or what we thought had caused it.’ I took responsibility to be fearless and thorough in my Step 4, honest in sharing it in Step 5. I faced my character defects and looked at the part I’d played in past events. By clearing away the wreckage of my past I began to lay the foundations for emotional health and spiritual progress.
My faith in God grew, but I was shown that I must not be selfish with my new-found belief. I became willing to share, because ‘Faith is more than our greatest gift; it’s sharing with others is our greatest responsibility.’ Sharing anything apart from my self-imposed misery was not a feature of my life before A.A. My understanding of responsibility was to be of good credit, position or repute, thinking only of myself. I had a healthy bank balance, a successful career, and a reputation for working hard. As my alcoholism progressed, the first to go was my reputation, then my career, and I was in debt. Yet still I drank to oblivion.
I was ready to take the full consequences of my past acts and to ‘take responsibility for the well being of others at the same time’ so I made amends.
Now I am again employed and fully self-supporting, of good repute, but I have to remain responsible for my spiritual growth. How? ‘The essence of all growth is a willingness to change for the better and then an unremitting willingness to shoulder whatever responsibility this entails.’ I have been privileged to do service at my home group and this has helped me regain respect and become trustworthy.
I had lost all self-respect and certainly showed no real respect for others. I couldn’t trust myself or even alcohol any more. Fear of failure made me scared to try. The Twelve Steps have made me a member of society, but I cannot afford to be complacent. I use Step 10 a lot, especially for those small things which I can be tempted just to ‘think about’ and then they’ll go away. Too much self-centred thinking is a dangerous thing for me – I have to put in the action. I must be responsible to do my inventory daily, no matter what. I may not be responsible for my first thought, but I am for my second, and I am accountable for my actions, not my intentions. ‘Nothing pays off like restraint of tongue and pen.’ I have to be willing to try, have the courage to face failure ‘Even when we have tried hard and failed, we may chalk that up as one of the greatest credits of all.’ Today I am responsible. I know that ‘the primary responsibility for the solutions of all problems of living and growing rest squarely upon the individual himself.’
Today I am sober and useful. But is sobriety my sole responsibility? No. ‘…if any alcoholic clings to this comfortable alibi he will make so little progress with his real life problems and responsibilities that he stand in a fair way to get drunk again. This is why A.A’s Twelfth Step urges that we practice these principles in all our affairs. We are not living just to be sober; we are living to learn, to serve, and to love.’
Road to Recovery Group, Plymouth, June 2010