Working With Others
Once every year or two I have a particular nightmare during sleep surrounding my past. Before joining AA this particular nightmare would send me into a pit of black depression for about two weeks. I would be seething with anger, intensely depressed and all I would do to cope with these feelings would be to completely isolate from other people, take time off work and even walk out of a job at times. I would get drunk as much as possible. I would turn off my phone, close the curtains and ignore the doorbell if any of my friends came to see me. I would be completely absorbed in resentment, self-pity and self-centredness. As a result I drank to unconsciousness daily until the memories of the past faded away of their own accord which was usually a few weeks.
I had this particular nightmare a few weeks ago. I had the same feelings that I have had in previous years. I knew that my sobriety was absolutely in no way in question as the obsession to drink has been completely removed from me by doing the Twelve Steps, and because I have worked my AA program very hard since joining AA to enlarge my spiritual life enough to provide me with an effective defence against picking up the first drink. But I thought that from an emotional level I was possibly going to be in for a very rough ride. Being a newcomer to AA I wasn't experienced enough to know how my emotional nature was going to react.
It was early in the morning and I thought about my AA Sponsor and what he would tell me to do. I knew that he would tell me to thoroughly and honestly do my Step Ten there and then, to phone as many AA newcomers as possible throughout the day, and to go to an AA meeting that night to put in some more Step Twelve action.
I did my Step Ten which brought some partial relief but the thoughts crossed my mind of taking the day off work as all I wanted to do was to isolate. It was too early in the morning to phone other newcomers to put them before myself. I made the decision there and then that I was going to go to work as I knew that isolating myself from the world would just fuel the intensely negative emotions I was feeling. As I have a job that can be very stressful at times I was feeling dread at what lay ahead for the day.
When it was a sociable enough time of the morning I phoned some newcomers to think of them and forget about myself. It worked and brought quite a change but then it was time to go into work and the intense feelings of anger and depression returned immediately. All I wanted to do was lie to my boss and pretend I was sick to get the day off so I could meet up with other AA newcomers in the city centre of my home town. I said the Serenity Prayer, told myself to grow up and walked into work thinking it was going to be a very tough day.
Then it hit me like a bolt of lightening. I recalled one of the most important sentences in the whole of the book Alcoholics Anonymous:
'Our real purpose is to fit ourselves to be of maximum service to God and the people about us.' Page 77 from the book Alcoholics Anonymous.
In my job I deal with people all day long that have problems and my job is to help these people with their problems. Often they are really stressed and can be very angry when things don't go their way as I have to follow company rules. I have had a lot of growing days in my job where I have let my defects of character get the better of me at times. But on this morning I decided that I was going to be helpful like I had never been helpful before; to be as kind and patient as humanly possible; to see their needs as if they were my own and wait until break time to phone some more AA newcomers. I was exceptionally helpful, kind and courteous. I devoted my entire attention to helping these customers.
I was utterly astounded by following to the letter that one sentence from page 77 of the book Alcoholics Anonymous in work that morning. I cannot stress this strongly enough. By lunchtime I was on top of the world. I was happy, joyous and free. I was shocked and stunned at this remarkable change within me. I still can't get the experience out of my mind. I learned a very, very powerful lesson that day. When we completely give of ourselves in service to others we have the power to overcome any trial. I now know that my old way of wanting to isolate and be completely self-absorbed in my problems will only cause me intense pain. I now know exactly what I need to do to to be restored to a sane, happy and peaceful position. I will probably be faced with a few very emotionally painful tragedies in my life and I know that I will have to force myself, no matter how excruciatingly hard that may be, to be of maximum service to God and to the people around me if I am going to survive this deadly disease of alcoholism.