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Living Sober Early Sunday
December 17th

When a newcomer is present, Link to Step-1 Reading: click here


Taken from the book "Living Sober" copyrighted by AA World Services, Inc. and reprinted with permission. 

Note: This booklet does not offer a plan for recovery from alcoholism. The Alcoholics Anonymous Steps that summarize its program of recovery are set forth in detail in the books Alcoholics Anonymous and Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions.

Those Steps are not interpreted here, nor are the processes they cover discussed in this booklet. Here, we tell only some methods we have used for living without drinking. You are welcome to all of them, whether you are interested in Alcoholics Anonymous or not.

Reading Link:  

  http://www.e-aa.org/chat/eaa_chat_reading.php?ID=54


17th December 


                  Getting active

Thousands of us wondered what we would do, once we stopped drinking, with all that time on our hands. Sure enough, when we did stop, all those hours we had once spent planning, getting our drinks, drinking, and recovering from its immediate effects, suddenly turned into big, empty holes of time that had to be filled somehow.

Recovered alcoholics often say, "Just stopping drinking is not enough." Just not drinking is a negative, sterile thing. That is clearly demonstrated by our experience. To stay stopped, we've found we need to put in place of the drinking a positive program of action. We've had to learn how to live sober.

Fear may have originally pushed some of us toward looking into the possibility that we might have a drinking problem. And over a short period, fear alone may help some of us stay away from a drink. But  we try to develop a healthy respect for the power of alcohol, instead of a fear of it based on first hand experience.

We can't rely on fear to get us through those empty hours without a drink, so what can we do?

A. Activity in and around A.A.

When experienced AA members say that they found "getting active" helpful in their recovery from alcoholism, they usually mean getting active in and around AA

In fact, before you make any decision about a drinking problem, it might be a good idea to spend some time around AA .Join in. You may be surprised at the effect on yourself of such seemingly little chores. You can help wash out the cups and coffeepot, put away the literature, and sweep the floor.

Tthe results we have felt from doing these tasks are concrete, beneficial, and usually surprising. We were even more at ease, and much further away from drinking or the thought of it, when we accepted some small, but specific, regular responsibility. 

AA is not an organization in the usual sense of that word. Instead, it is a fellowship of equals. Everybody calls everybody else by first name. AA's take turns doing the services needed for group meetings and other functions.No particular professional skill or education is needed.

Now for the second type of activity that helps keep us away from drinking.

B. Activity not related to AA

It's curious, but true, that some of us, when we first stop drinking, seem to experience a sort of temporary failure of the imagination.

When the need to give ourselves reasons for our drinking is no longer there, it often seems that our minds go on a sit-down strike. After our first month's sobriety, many of us notice a distinct difference. After three months, our minds seem still clearer.

During our second year of recovery, the change is striking. More mental energy seems available to us than ever before.

The following list is just a starter for use at that time. We know they work. We did such things as:

1. Taking walks 2. Reading 3. Going to museums and art galleries.

4. Exercising  5. Starting on long-neglected chores

Start out, not to straighten up the kitchen or clean out those files, but simply to clean out one drawer or one folder.  Do another one another day.

6. Trying a new hobby 7. Revisiting an old pastime 8. Taking a course

 You have the right to change your mind and quit anything that is more of a hassle than it's worth.

9. Volunteering to do some useful service. Check with any nearby hospital, church, governmental agency, or civic club to find out what volunteer services are needed in your community.

10. Doing something about your personal appearance. Most of us let ourselves go pretty much.

11. Taking a fling at something frivolous! Many of us find it important to balance serious periods with things we do for pure fun ! You deserve it

12.Fill this one in for yourself. Let's hope the list above sparked an idea for you which is different from all of those listed.... It did? Good! Go to it.

and  "Easy Does It."


End of Reading

Taken from the book "Living Sober" copyrighted by AA World Services, Inc. and reprinted with permission. 

JJ 

for 17th December






Step One

"Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions" copyrighted by AA World Services, Inc. and  reprinted with permission.

 Step One


“We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become un­manageable.”

Who cares to admit complete defeat? Practically no one, of course. Every natural instinct cries out against the idea of personal powerlessness. It is truly awful to admit that, glass in hand, we have warped our minds into such an obses­sion for destructive drinking that only an act of Providence can remove it from us.

No other kind of bankruptcy is like this one. Alcohol, now become the rapacious creditor, bleeds us of all self-sufficiency and all will to resist its demands. Once this stark fact is accepted, our bankruptcy as going human concerns is complete.
But upon entering A.A. we soon take quite another view of this absolute humiliation. We perceive that only through utter defeat are we able to take our first steps toward liberation and strength. Our admissions of personal powerlessness finally turn out to be firm bedrock upon which happy and purposeful lives may be built.

We know that little good can come to any alcoholic who joins A.A. unless he has first accepted his devastating weak­ness and all its consequences. Until he so humbles himself, his sobriety—if any—will be precarious. Of real happiness he will find none at all. Proved beyond doubt by an im­mense experience, this is one of the facts of A.A. life. The principle that we shall find no enduring strength until we first admit complete defeat is the main taproot from which our whole Society has sprung and flowered.
When first challenged to admit defeat, most of us re­volted. We had approached A.A. expecting to be taught self-confidence. Then we had been told that so far as alcohol is concerned, self-confidence was no good whatever; in fact, it was a total liability. Our sponsors declared that we were the victims of a mental obsession so subtly powerful that no amount of human willpower could break it. There was, they said, no such thing as the personal conquest of this compulsion by the unaided will. Relentlessly deepening our dilemma, our sponsors pointed out our increasing sensi­tivity to alcohol—an allergy, they called it. The tyrant alcohol wielded a double-edged sword over us: first we were smitten by an insane urge that condemned us to go on drinking, and then by an allergy of the body that insured we would ultimately destroy ourselves in the process. Few indeed were those who, so assailed, had ever won through in singlehanded combat. It was a statistical fact that alco­holics almost never recovered on their own resources. And this had been true, apparently, ever since man had first crushed grapes.

In A.A.’s pioneering time, none but the most desperate cases could swallow and digest this unpalatable truth. Even these “last-gaspers” often had difficulty in realizing how hopeless they actually were. But a few did, and when these laid hold of A.A. principles with all the fervor with which the drowning seize life preservers, they almost invariably got well. That is why the first edition of the book “Alco­holics Anonymous,” published when our membership was small, dealt with low-bottom cases only. Many less desper­ate alcoholics tried A.A., but did not succeed because they could not make the admission of hopelessness.

It is a tremendous satisfaction to record that in the fol­lowing years this changed. Alcoholics who still had their health, their families, their jobs, and even two cars in the garage, began to recognize their alcoholism. As this trend grew, they were joined by young people who were scarcely more than potential alcoholics. They were spared that last ten or fifteen years of literal hell the rest of us had gone through. Since Step One requires an admission that our lives have become unmanageable, how could people such as these take this Step?

It was obviously necessary to raise the bottom the rest of us had hit to the point where it would hit them. By going back in our own drinking histories, we could show that years before we realized it we were out of control, that our drinking even then was no mere habit, that it was indeed the beginning of a fatal progression. To the doubters we could say, “Perhaps you’re not an alcoholic after all. Why don’t you try some more controlled drinking, bearing in mind meanwhile what we have told you about alcoholism?” This attitude brought immediate and practical results. It was then discovered that when one alcoholic had planted in the mind of another the true nature of his malady, that person could never be the same again. Following every spree, he would say to himself, “Maybe those A.A.’s were right. . . .“ After a few such experiences, often years be­fore the onset of extreme difficulties, he would return to us convinced. He had hit bottom as truly as any of us. John   Barleycorn himself had become our best advocate.

Why all this insistence that every A.A. must hit bottom first? The answer is that few people will sincerely try to practice the A.A. program unless they have hit bottom. For practicing A.A.’s remaining eleven Steps means the adoption of attitudes and actions that almost no alcoholic who is still drinking can dream of taking. Who wishes to be rigorously honest and tolerant? Who wants to confess his faults to another and make restitution for harm done? Who cares anything about a Higher Power, let alone meditation and prayer? Who wants to sacrifice time and energy in trying to carry A.A.’s message to the next sufferer? No, the average alcoholic, self-centered in the extreme, doesn’t care for this prospect—unless he has to do these things in order to stay alive himself.

Under the lash of alcoholism, we are driven to A.A., and there we discover the fatal nature of our situation. Then, and only then, do we become as open-minded to con­viction and as willing to listen as the dying can be. We stand ready to do anything which will lift the merciless obsession from us.


"Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions" copyrighted by AA World Services, Inc. and  reprinted with permission.

End





Fending off Loneliness

Alcoholism has been described as "the lonely disease,".  Literally hundreds of thousands* of us remember feeling isolated even when we were among a lot of happy, celebrating people. We often felt a deep sense of not belonging, even when we cheerfully acted sociable.

Many of us have said we drank originally to be "a part of the crowd." Many of us felt we had to drink to "get in," and to feel that we fitted in with the rest of the human race.


When that effect of alcohol wore off, we were left feeling more set apart, more left out, more "different" than ever, and sadder.At times, we secretly feared or even believed that we deserved ostracism, because of the things we did. "Maybe," many of us thought, "I really am an outsider."


The lonely road ahead looked bleak, dark, and unending. It was too painful to talk about; and to avoid thinking about it, we soon drank again.

People were all around us, but most of our important dialogues were entirely interior, held with ourselves. We were sure nobody else would understand. Besides, considering our opinion of ourselves, we were not sure that we wanted anybody to understand.

When we first listen to recovered alcoholics in AA talking freely and honestly about themselves, we are stunned.

We are not totally unlike everybody, after all.


Those of us sober in AA a few years can assure any newcomer at an AA meeting that it is real, very real indeed. And it does last.


We have become thoroughly conditioned to feeling and acting misunderstood and unloved—whether we really were or not. Even though we begin to believe we are not alone any more, we sometimes act and feel in the old ways.


Now and then, some of us are even tempted just to give up, and go back to the old misery. At least, it is familiar, and we wouldn't have to work hard to recapture all the expertise we achieved at the drinking life.


We do not have to give up in secret shame any more; we do not have to renew our old, hopeless attempts to find social confidence in the bottle, where we found loneliness instead.


But we know now that we do not have to proceed all on our own. And none of us need feel any shame at all at using help, since we all help each other.

Our own experience at staying sober overwhelmingly reflects the wisdom of using whatever good help is available in recovery from a drinking problem. Despite our great need and desire, none of us recovered from alcoholism solely on our own.

  Using the 24 hour plan


In our drinking days, we often had such bad times that we swore, "Never again." We took pledges for as long as a year, or promised someone we would not touch the stuff for three weeks, or three months. And of course, we tried going on the wagon for various periods of time.

We were absolutely sincere when we voiced these declarations through gritted teeth. With all our hearts, we wanted never to be drunk again. We were determined. We swore off drinking altogether, intending to stay off alcohol well into some indefinite future.

Yet, in spite of our intentions, the outcome was almost inevitably the same. Eventually, the memory of the vows, and of the suffering that led to them, faded.

We drank again, and we wound up in more trouble. Our dry "forever" had not lasted very long.

Some of us who took such pledges had a private reservation: We told ourselves that the promise not to drink applied only to "hard stuff," not to beer or wine. In that way we learned, if we did not already know it, that beer and wine could get us drunk, too we just had to drink more of them to get the same effects we got on distilled spirits. We wound up as stoned on beer or wine as we had been before on the hard stuff.

Yes, others of us did give up alcohol completely and did keep our pledges exactly as promised, until the time was up.... Then we ended the drought by drinking again, and were soon right back in trouble, with an additional load of new guilt and remorse.
With such struggles behind us now, in AA we try to avoid the expressions "on the wagon" and "taking the pledge." They remind us of our failures.

Although we realize that alcoholism is a permanent, irreversible condition, our experience has taught us to make no long term promises about staying sober. We have found it more realistic—and more successful to say, "I am not taking a drink just for today."

Even if we drank yesterday, we can plan not to drink today. We may drink tomorrow— who knows whether we'll even be alive then? but for this 24 hours, we decide not to drink. No matter what the temptation or provocation, we determine to go to any extremes necessary to avoid a drink today.

Our friends and families are understandably weary of hearing us vow, This time I really mean it," only to see us lurch home loaded. So we do not promise them, or even each other, not to drink. Each of us promises only herself or himself. It is, after all, our own health and life at stake. We, not our family or friends, have to take the necessary steps to stay well.

If the desire to drink is really strong, many of us chop the 24 hours down into smaller parts. We decide not to drink for, say, at least one hour. We can endure the temporary discomfort of not drinking for just one more hour; then one more, and so on. Many of us began our recovery in just this way.

In fact, every recovery from alcoholism began with one sober hour.

One version of this is simply postponing the (next) drink.
(How about it? Still sipping soda? Have you really postponed that drink we mentioned back on page 1? If so, this can be the beginning of your recovery.)
The next drink will be available later, but right now, we postpone taking it at least for the present day, or moment (Say, for the rest of this page?)

The 24 hour plan is very flexible. We can start it afresh at any time, wherever we are. At home, at work, in a bar or in a hospital room, at 4:00 p.m. or at 3:00 a.m., we can decide right then not to take a drink during the forthcoming 24 hours, or five minutes.

Continually renewed, this plan avoids the weakness of such methods as going on the wagon or taking a pledge. A period on the wagon and a pledge both eventually came, as planned, to an end so we felt free to drink again. But today is always here, life is daily; today is all we have; and anybody can go one day without drinking.

First, we try living in the now just in order to stay sober and it works. Once the idea has become a part of our thinking, we find that living life in 24-hour segments is an effective and satisfying way to handle many other matters as well.

End of Reading
Taken from the book  "Living Sober" copyrighted by AA World Services, Inc. and reprinted with permission.

JJ  





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