I was talking with my partner, who is also in recovery, about what we love about Alcoholics Anonymous. We agree that the three things are the Program, the Fellowship and Service. That is our Three-Legged Stool of Recovery.
The Program gives structure to our lives. One of my favorite AA slogans is “No matter how far into the woods you find yourself, it is only Twelve Steps out!” At one of the first meetings I ever went to, a brilliant guy named Joe said, “My dishwasher came with an instruction manual, but I didn’t…and then I found the Big Book and the 12 & 12.”
When I call my sponsor in distress about anything (from an unexpected illness…to worrying about a child…to running out of money...to relationship troubles) she will say to me, “Which Step do you have to work on now?”
At first telling me to look to the steps drove me nuts and I wanted to scream, “I’m not like everyone else. There is no simple cookie-cutter solution to MY problem! Nowhere in the steps does it say anything about…(fill in the blank.)” But then I started to do what she said and review the steps. They seem to work in any and every situation.
What am I powerless over that I am trying to control? Who has more knowledge or expertise than I in this situation? Should I ask for help? What have I done to make the situation what it is? What habit or behavior of mine is playing into this? Can I let it go? Do I owe someone an apology or do I have to amend a counterproductive habit of my own? Am I taking time to stop, breathe, and ask HP for help? Am I practicing an attitude of gratitude and service?
Then I go to a meeting and discover in The Fellowship that I am not alone. Others have faced and handled situations just like the one I find myself in. I listen to their stories in speaker meetings and comments in discussion or literature meetings. I learn from those who know what works and what doesn’t. I do not have to solve problems that others have already solved if I am open and willing enough to listen. I can choose to be happy rather than right. I can relax and enjoy myself, not taking myself so seriously but instead enjoying this walk along the path of happy destiny.
And then we come to the best part: Service. By staying sober through the Program and staying centered through the Fellowship, I can be present for others. I can be a gift instead of a problem in the lives of others. John and I were practically shedding tears of gratitude when we were talking about this a couple of nights ago: Is there anything more wonderful than being there for someone else? For having relationships that are filled with trust and respect instead of rancor and tumult? Isn’t it an honor to be approached by a newcomer who, nervously and in fear of rejection, asks you to be their sponsor? Isn’t it fun to share your hobby with someone else, realizing that you do have expertise?
Not drinking or using is the foundation. And upon that, thanks to Alcoholics Anonymous, we build lives of meaning, fellowship and service.