On or around December 28th, 1989 I had my separation experience from alcohol. My alcoholism had progressed to such a point at this time that I went into the DT’s (delirium tremens). I would have really violent reactions to not drinking when I was on one of these benders, so I was not really positive about the day. I know it was between Christmas and New Years of 1989 that I had that separation experience.
I think we all have experiences where we separate from alcohol. Some of us get the grace of God that allows us to stay separated and some of us don’t. Sometimes, it’s our fault if we’ve heard the message and we choose to reject it, or we understand the process of recovery and we choose to not engage in it. But unfortunately, more often than not, it’s for another couple of reasons.
If you’re new, if you’re just coming back, or if you have not gone through the steps yet, there are two things about you that are very, very true, that you are not going to believe. One of them is: You’re in way more trouble than you think you are. Way more trouble! Alcoholism does not allow you the dignity of being able to accurately assess just how much trouble you’re in. It doesn’t!
The second thing that’s true is that Alcoholics Anonymous has a more substantial answer to the problem that you have or you think it does. I know this because I work with a lot of newcomers. I also know it from personal experience. Alcohol was killing me and I said to myself back in 1989, “I think I need to go to AA now to stop drinking.” I thought that there was a chance. I wasn’t sure, but I thought there’s a chance that if I go to Alcoholics Anonymous I’ll be able to stop drinking. My life was basically a living hell at this point in time and all I was really hoping for was to separate from alcohol. I thought, “If I can just do that I’d be okay.” I had no idea how all-encompassing alcoholism really is, and I certainly didn’t understand the gifts, the potential gifts, and potential promises of our recovery program in Alcoholics Anonymous. I didn’t know, didn’t understand it.
Now, there are a lot of things that all of us have in common as alcoholics. We’re just different than other people. We metabolize alcohol differently and there are a lot of personality traits that we have that are similar.
I share this story that I’m about to share quite often, and a lot of people come up to me after the meeting and say, “That happened to me. It happened just like this.” I was doing a fear inventory and the person who was instructing me to go through the inventory this time said, “I want you to do something a little extra. I want you to identify the very first time that you experienced the fear that you’re inventorying.” As I’m doing my inventory list, I come across “Fear of People”, and I remember back, and the earliest recollection of fear of people was when I got dropped off for kindergarten.
I remember my mother throwing me in the car, driving me to kindergarten, pulling up and saying, “There it is.” I get out of the car, and I’m standing up there on the hill, looking down at the school and there’s kids playing tag and kickball. They were already friends, it looked like for their whole lives, and here I am standing up on the hill feeling like a jerk. I’m feeling really uncomfortable. What if I go down there and they don’t accept me? Or they don’t like me, or they make fun of me, or I embarrass myself? I had all this self-centered fear, all these emotions about what people would think about me and everything. These kids I was looking at weren’t thinking that, they were just having a blast! So, I’m telling you, you know what would have helped me? Give me pint of vodka and I would have been able to handle kindergarten like you wouldn’t believe! I tell you, I would have been the Kindergarten Kid! You know what I mean? That was my problem; I was born a pint short! Does anybody understand what I’m saying?
Did you ever have to get some booze, just to be able to “step out”? Because you just didn’t feel comfortable stepping out. So you get yourself like half a pint in you for ballast. You get drunk before you go to the party to get drunk. You know what I mean? There’s something fundamentally wrong with us. Emotionally and spiritually we are not like our fellows. My problem is all this self-centered fear, my problem is all this emotional discomfort that I have. I’m uncomfortable with myself, I’m uncomfortable with my environment and, from age 5 on, I had to act as if everything was okay. I had to act as if I wasn’t afraid of you. I had to act as if what you said to me didn’t bother me. I had to hide all these feelings, I had to act cool, I had to act “as if”… and it was a burden, it was hard, it was a lot of work and I never felt right.
I’m cutting school with a couple of my buddies one day, I’m about 12 or 13, we decide to go back to my house and take down a bottle of booze and get drunk. It was the first time I ever did this, also the first time they ever did this. So here we are, I don’t know anything about drinking, except the old John Wayne movies, you know? He busts through the saloon doors and shouts, “Bartender, whiskey!” and the bartender would pour a dirty water glass, fill it with whiskey, then he’ll shoot the whole thing down, grab the bottle, go back to the table and wait around till he has to shoot somebody! So I don’t know anything about drinking, I don’t come from a household of hard drinkers. There were a couple of people that would drink beer, but that was about it. I pour out these big glasses of whiskey, and the two guys I drank with never became problem drinkers, never became alcoholics. They just didn’t. Here’s how they drank: they had two thirds of their glass, and they’d had enough and they were able to say “no more for me, I’ve had enough.” You ever drink with people like that? Is that the worst? They go “I’ve got to go home to the little wife.” “What? Let’s go to the city! It’s only one ‘o clock! We’ll be back for you to go to work at five!” I mean, never understood the word “enough”, you know what I mean?
Anybody in here that used cocaine to “propel” their drinking? What you’ll do is you’ll go to work and the next thing you know you’re gritting your teeth, wanting to kill anybody that’s looking at you. That’s what you’ll do, because we’re different. We have an obsession in the mind which gets us to that substance and we have an allergy in the body that keeps us continuing to use it. It’s not a good prognosis.
What happened to me, when I was drinking, was a lot different than those two buddies who had two thirds of a glass. I started drinking and about two thirds of the glass down, I started to feel okay. That fear that I had started to disappear. I know everybody in here will understand. Sometimes this even happens before you put the alcohol to your lips. You remember that feeling? Well that’s how I felt two thirds of the way through this glass and all of a sudden I could “step out.” I didn’t care what you thought about me. I felt like I was the funniest, coolest person on the planet. Nothing bothered me, I was reborn. I knew a new freedom and a new happiness! I now wished to shut the door on the past. I found that I could be a benefit to others! If you were a brain surgeon, I could give you advice at the bar, you know? “What kind of scalpel you use?” I’m serious! I found that “inner peace”…. and then I got unbelievably sick, projectile vomiting and blackouts.
Anybody in here a blackout drinker? That’s disconcerting isn’t it? You don’t even know if you have any “I never…!” if you’re a blackout drinker. You know what I mean? I was a blackout drinker. I would come to in some amazing places. It was scary sometimes. I travel in a blackout! Then you have to pretend you want be there, because you don’t want anyone to think you’re stupid. You won’t go, “What am I doing here?” No! You have to act like you meant to be there walking around with one shoe or something! But that alcohol, from the moment I felt that sense of ease and comfort, I started to become preoccupied with alcohol. Where was I going to drink it? Who was I going to drink it with? I was 12 and the drinking age was 21. So you know, there were some logistics that would have to be worked out, but I would persevere! I mean, we did what we needed to do. Some of the crap we ended up drinking was pretty bad too. But anyway, I started to become preoccupied with alcohol.
Now, I’m going skip the whole war story to tell you about my “last drink”, okay? My last drink, I’d been through rehab, I’d signed myself into rehab and I found that not drinking and going to meetings, for me, was not a treatment for alcoholism. What it did was it created a finite space of time where I didn’t put alcohol in my body, but all the craziness, all the self-centered fear and the depression and the anxiety, the guilt and remorse and everything, was still all over me! I just wasn’t drinking. That’s a grim outlook, but I had signed myself in.
Alcohol was really getting my attention. I’d lost my family, I’d had three DWI’s, I’d totaled nine cars in drunken blackouts because I come from a place where you let friends drive drunk. I went through the front windshield, once. I went through the passenger windshield. I even woke up in the trunk of my car one time, with glass in my hair. It’s a Toyota, it’s still running, there’s not a window left in it, three flat tires, it’s bent like a boomerang, the drive-shaft is slapping the frame, I got glass in my hair, I climb back into this thing and I start driving. Okay? Cause I’m going home! The cops pull me over, I’m doing like a mile and a half an hour while the car makes a noise like, “Whackety-bookety-bam! Whackety-bookety-bam!” The cops yell, “Where did you have that accident?” I’m like, “What accident, Officer?” He goes, “Where are you going?” I tell him home and where it is. He goes “That’s like 28 miles! Are you nuts?” I replied, “Cops are always bugging me, you know? They’re always after me. Just leave me alone! I’m going home!” It was horrible, the things that were happening to me.
I’m 33 years old and I’m living at home with mom because my family fell apart. I wasn’t really that employable and I figure one day, “You know, mom does need some help around the house.” So I moved back there and I accidentally burned her house down, twice by drinking! She needed me around the house like she needed a hole in the head. I’ve got a 1976 Ford Granada with white walls and no clutch, no muffler, no emergency brakes, no heater in winter. When you drink, you drink. Not a lot of time for working on the car! So I had a terrible car and I’m living at home with mom and I’ve got no money. It’s just absolutely a nightmare.
Finally, it’s Christmas. My brother and sister come home, nieces and nephews, cats. The Christmas tree was up and the stockings were hung by the chimney with care, the carols were on the stereo. I start drinking. I had a special drink for Christmas. And I start drinking this stuff and I go into a violent blackout rage where I threaten my entire family with a .38 caliber handgun. Now, this wasn’t the festive mood they were looking for. Somebody’s going to kill them. They won’t come home for family and all these things that you don’t understand when you’re an alcoholic. So they all picked up and they moved their whole Christmas up to upstate New York!
When I come out of this blackout, I’m like staggering around and I mean this was the worst one I’d ever had. I go into the kitchen and I find a pile of vodka bottles stacked high. I don’t even remember buying them and I used to buy one bottle at a time! Any smokers in here that buy one pack at a time because you “might quit”? That’s the way I was, I don’t want to be stuck with a lot of overhead. So I must have staggered uptown to buy the vodka. Oh, that must have been a sight, you know, walking serpentine through town, trying to get my vodka. But anyway, I start to go into this detox, the DT’s. I start to hallucinate and go into convulsions. I’m calling on the phone and I’m trying to figure out what happened, where is everybody? My presents are gone. Trying to figure out what’s going on and I figured it out and I remember asking my family to come home because I didn’t want to die alone. I’m going through some serious detoxing. My aorta is pumping like a garden hose. I really think my ticket is getting punched. You know what they said? “No. We don’t want to have to see you die.” That was the right thing to do.
The only thing worse for an alcoholic than bad luck is good luck. What I mean by that is, if we win the lottery, it’ll kill us. If we know all the cops in town and they always let us off, it’ll kill us. If we’ve got an understanding family that gives us a steak and a bed after we’ve gone through one more run, it’ll kill us. Them saying, “No, you’ve got to do this yourself.” was a defining moment for me. I didn’t sleep or eat and just could barely get down a little bit of water for 3 or 4 days during this detox. It finally got to a point where I needed to go to a meeting.
I knew that I had to get back to Alcoholics Anonymous. I didn’t really fully understand why, because I tell you, my first stint in Alcoholics Anonymous I didn’t really get the picture. I remember explaining to one of my electrician buddies what AA was like cause I’d gone to some meetings. He was like, “What’s it all like there in AA?” and I said, “Well, you know you walk in and, you know, you get a cup of coffee and you sit down. They say the Serenity Prayer and then the meeting will start. Somebody will raise their hand and say they’ve got a resentment, and some other people will raise their hand and say they’ve had a resentment, too, and yours was like my resentment. Then at the end, everybody will get up and hold hands and say the Lord’s Prayer.” He was as confused as I was about just what does that do. I go “It’s only a dollar.”
I didn’t understand why it was working. It was hard to convince me that doing that was the answer to my problems. I had real problems! I don’t know about your problems, but my problems are real! I’ve got big problems, I’m different than you. I’m not a run-of-the-mill alcoholic, I’m special. Anybody ever think like that? “I may be a scumbag, but I’m not a run-of-the-mill scumbag, I’m a special scumbag.” So I don’t know why it works. After I relapse, get this, I’m going to two AA meetings a week, I’m doing two outpatients a week, where I pay to hear somebody share about their stuff.
Alright, I’m going to AA. I’m not drinking. I’m telling everybody I’m not drinking. What more do you want? Now I’m on my way to an AA meeting and the thought crosses my mind, this is what the thought said to me. Now I have to tell you, after this happened to me I understood the obsession of the mind absolutely and experientially, because here’s what my mind told me, “Chris, this sobriety stuff is really, really great, but you know what you should do? You should buy a gallon of vodka and drink it! Before you overreact, here’s why: You’re not really getting into the AA thing. You’re not one of the guys in AA. If you got drunk, it would make you feel so bad that you’d rush back to AA and you’d just integrate! You’d really do a good job! Besides, you can’t even remember what’s it’s like to be drunk, you’re sober almost 90 days! Remember, somebody said if you can’t remember your last drunk, you probably haven’t had it.” So, I buy the gallon of vodka, and I go back home and I start drinking it.
Now it says in the book “Alcoholics Anonymous”, the guy that was pounding the bar asking, “How could this have happened again?” That’s exactly what happened to me! Drink number three woke me up and I recognized the enormity of my mistake. An enormous mistake and I’ve opened the cage to the beast. He’s going to drag me around as long as he wants to because I’ve got no power and no control, once I start drinking, over where it’s going to take me or how long I’m going to be on the ride. I just don’t, and I realize I’ve made a huge mistake. It’s one of the reasons why you get a sponsor, you know what I mean?
Anybody in here sponsoring and a newcomer comes up to you and they’ve got a plan? Aren’t some of them beauts? And if you’re new and you’ve got a plan, grab one of us and tell us the plan before you do it! We can save you a lot of trouble! Anyway, so that’s how I relapsed. Now, I come back into Alcoholics Anonymous and I’ve got a willingness born of desperation. I almost died in this relapse and I’m kind of fond of being alive. I almost killed my entire family with a handgun and, you know, there’s times I’m even fond of some of my family. It scared the crap out of me! I’m a guy who doesn’t really want to end up in prison.
So anyway, I come back into AA and I make a fellowship commitment. What they told me to do back then, was go to meetings. My Sponsor grabbed me and said “Chris, I want you at meetings every night, until I tell you to stop.” I started listening to fellowship suggestions. As a matter of fact there were periods in time where I went to anywhere between 8 to 14 meetings a week. I was a treasurer over here, I was a coffee maker over here, I was a secretary over here, and I had another role at this meeting. I’d go out to the diner with people afterwards. I’d buy people who didn’t have any money lunch. I was hanging out with the AA’s. I was going to the sober dances. Oh, don’t do that until you have a couple of years, please! Wow, it was brutal. It brought back a very traumatic experience for me. Remember, I told you I was a real repressed, self-centered fear kind of kid? Well, back when I was about 9 or 10 years old, they had this thing called Barn Dancing in school, where they would line all the girls up on one side of the gym and all the boys on the other side of the gym. They’d blow the whistle and you’d have to run across the gym and grab a girl to dance with. You know, I still wake up having cold sweats over that one!
So anyway, here I am. I’m at Alcoholics Anonymous and I’m struggling. That scared kindergartener I was telling you about? He’s still all over me, but now he’s a sober, scared kindergartener. I mean, I’ve got nothing now to dull the pain of me and it’s really a grim time.
I had this buddy of mine, Radio Shack Mike. Everybody had nicknames back then, because I was nicknaming them, really. I was always good for that, and he had tapes. He would listen to tapes and he talked me into one. It was an affirmation tape. He shouldn’t have given it to me, but he did. One part of the tape tells you to get in front of a mirror and to repeat these affirmations, and I remember standing in front of the mirror going, “Chris, you’re a wonderful guy. Chris, you’re a wonderful guy. Chris, you’re…oh sure! I’m a scumbag, I know!” So I throw the tape out the window. I’m an alcoholic! Trying to treat alcoholism with affirmations is like trying to stop a semi with a cobweb, alright? You’re going to a gun fight with a butter knife. It’s not going work. So I threw the tape away.
The next time he gives me these tapes, I’m thinking, “Not more tapes!” So I go, “Who is this?” He says, “Oh, it’s a couple of guys from Arkansas.” I say, “Arkansas? Arkansas? Are you crazy? We do more thinking before nine o’ clock than somebody in Arkansas does all day. What are they going teach me?” I had contempt prior to investigation. Anyway, I’ve got a long ride to work, so I throw the thing in and I start listening, and it was, God bless him, it was Joe and Charlie. Many of you here are experienced with Joe and Charlie, an unbelievable introduction to the recovery program of Alcoholics Anonymous. Very, very good for someone who’s not experienced with it.
Anyway, I start listening to it and I’m prone to resentments at that time. Can you imagine? Can anybody in here relate when you get a resentment? I mean I had resentments against like 90% of the people in my home group! I mean, when I was new, I didn’t like anybody. Bunch of hypocrites I thought they were. “Listen to that guy share! If he shares one more time about being a grateful alcoholic, I’m slashing his tires! I’ll see how grateful he is with four flats!” That was me.
Anyway, I’m driving down the road and I’m listening to this Joe and Charlie tape, and here’s what they tell me, I hear this loud and clear: “Chris, you do not have a program, an AA program. What you have is a bunch of fellowship activity. Nice, that’s very nice, but you need the program of recovery to be able to recover. The program is found in the book Alcoholics Anonymous. If you’re not going through the book Alcoholics Anonymous and following the suggestions and spiritual exercises, you do not have an AA program, because that’s what an AA program is. So don’t tell people that you’re working a program, because you’re not. When you come back or when you go back out, don’t tell anybody that AA didn’t work, because you didn’t work AA.”
Now, I’m going to 14 meetings a week. I’m even sponsoring people at this time, you know and some of them are even still alive! Sometimes the tugboat with the most steam gets the tow jobs and I gave good share. I learned right off about how to give good share at meetings, you know? I learned how to not make anybody mad and make just the right amount of people like what I say, and all that stuff that you do as an alcoholic seeking approval. I couldn’t care less today about approval, believe it or not.
So, I’m mad about these tapes, because there’s a part in the book Alcoholics Anonymous about working with others. It says if you’ve disturbed them about their alcoholism, which is step 1, you have an obsession of the mind that will, not can, will bring you back to alcohol, no matter what! There’s nothing you personally can do about it, you’re going to drink again.
Once you start drinking, you have a phenomenon of craving that’s going to continue to ensure your body kills itself through the craving of alcohol. Your life has become unmanageable, meaning that you’re suffering from depression, anxiety, self-centered fear, guilt, remorse, or resentment…all those things that just make life worth living. That’s what understanding alcoholism is. So, they taught me this, I’m angry about it because it’s inconvenient truth. It means now I’m going to have to take responsibility for something. It’s no longer an outside issue, it’s an inside job. I recognize that, and it’s not good news for me. So I throw these tapes there in the backseat, but what happened was it was wonderful to be awakened to this knowledge because what it did was bring me to my own experience.
Some things went on in my life over the following months, where I was denying the necessity of working a program that lead me back to my knees. I had what’s known as a sober bottom. I think a lot of us have been there. If you don’t work the steps and you stay sober any period of time, you’re going to go there yourself. You’re either going to drink or you’re going to have a sober bottom and recommit yourself to this process. I was able to do that, because these tapes told me how. If I didn’t have that message, when I hit that sober bottom I would have drank. It would have been the only way to stop the emotional pain. I know what alcohol does. I know it destroys me, but I also know that between drink 6 and drink 8 I feel some euphoria, and sometimes you just grasp for that.
So I opened up the AA book. Now, this is 1992, middle of New Jersey, no one is working a big book program at all in any of the meetings that I’m at. It’s unheard of! Nobody had heard of these tapes, everybody was going to discussion meetings. Everybody here knows what they’re like, right? “I hope that person shuts up so I can raise my hand, because I want to discuss! I’ve got some discussing to do too! I wanna talk!” And there were discussion meetings and there were speaker meetings and there were step meetings, where people talked about the steps, philosophized about the steps, read about the steps, thought about the steps, but never did them. You’d hear a ninth step and somebody would go “Well, I haven’t got to this step formally, but I’d like to take this meeting hostage for 8 minutes and share my opinion about what this step might be like if I actually ever took it.” You know? “Ooh, can you be my sponsor? I don’t want to do the work either!”
That’s what there was, so here’s what I did. I went to the big book. Alcoholics Anonymous on this side, Joe and Charlie tapes here, pencil here, and me, just as confused as you can imagine but I’m trying. I’m doing the four column inventories, I even went back to make amends. I did amends cards, I went back and I made amends to ex-bosses, to ex-wives, to old friends, houses that I’d trashed, I started to do this because Joe and Charlie told me to, and I went back and I started to make amends. Something very peculiar happened. You know that scared, repressed kindergartener that was always inside of me? All of a sudden, I started to be able to step out easy. All of a sudden the fear started to leave me and I started to feel some comfort and some serenity in my life.
Now, before you engage in a spiritual process, you’re only going have an opinion on it. There are two types of knowledge; one type of knowledge is intellectual knowledge. One type of knowledge is experiential knowledge. I always use this as an example: There are two twin boys, about 5 years old. They get really interested in mountain climbing. As they grow older, one of them goes to every library he can getting every book he can get on mountaineering. The other one actually learns how to climb. By the time he’s 18, he is the youngest to ever summit Mt. Everest, where the other guy is ready to start teaching mountaineering in a College. Now, who do you want to talk to about what it’s like to stand on top of Everest? You want to talk to the person who’s done it, not to the person who has the intellectual knowledge, but to the person who had his ears freezing off, standing there looking out into the Himalayas. Now it’s the same thing with recovery. We’ve all got opinions about what the steps are going to be like for us. We know! But you know what? We’re wrong, every one of us. It’s always a little bit different, if not a lot different than what we expected when we actually get through it.
Here’s one for you. The difference between having an unfinished amend or unfinished amends, and having completed every single amend you’re conscious of, to the best of your ability is like the difference between night and day, spiritually. It is. If there’s anybody in here tonight that’s hanging on to some amends, I beg you to make those amends, so that you can find the level of freedom that’s being offered in Alcoholics Anonymous.
We’re not about relief. The early meetings that I went to in New Jersey was about relief from alcoholism. Don’t drink, go to meetings, get relief from active alcoholism, but what Alcoholics Anonymous promises is freedom. Freedom is a lot better than relief! Okay? So pay very close attention to who you get as a sponsor and who you work through the steps with. Find somebody that’s experienced. Find somebody that says “Yes, I have done my amends. Yes, I do pray and meditate every day. Yes, I work with others and I take people through the steps.” Find somebody like that. Because one of the wonderful things in Alcoholics Anonymous, is the recovery process has over 200 promises that are absolutely wonderful promises.
Think about some of the promises in the big book. Do you know of any other progressively fatal illness that the treatment of will bring about promises like that? I doubt it! You know, cancer treatment does not promise a new freedom and a new happiness, it just doesn’t. It promises you a renewed life. What Alcoholics Anonymous promises you is a “reborn” life. It’s even better than before you started to drink, if you’re anything like me.
Now, in Alcoholics Anonymous at this time, like I said, I had just gone through the steps, I found out that I had started to taste a little bit of recovery rather than sobriety. You may call it semantics, but I believe sobriety is not putting alcohol in your body; you can still be the biggest jerk on the face of the earth and be sober. Punch a cop and you can get sober real quick! But recovery is the whole person recovers from an abnormal state of mind and body.
We’re so sick when we first come in here, we don’t even think we’re sick. That’s what I said earlier, “You’re in way more trouble than you think you are.” For you to know how much trouble you’re in, you have to get out of trouble, so you can look back and say, “My God! I was in trouble!” Because when you’re in it, you’re just like, “Well this is just the way it is. I feel like putting a bullet in my head every minute, you know? What’s new?” I mean, I swear going through life was toil. It was drudgery to me. Today it’s like I wish there was a thousand hours in a day. I don’t have enough time to do the things that I want to do!
So anyway, I’ve recovered to a point. I’ve had a spiritual awakening. Now the people I was sponsoring were drinking on me. Have you have had people drinking on you when you work with them? Somebody will come over and go, “Chris, is Harry yours? Do you know he’s drinking and he’s stealing money out of the basket? He’s hitting on all the women!” “Yeah, Harry’s mine.” Well, they were drinking on, so I started bringing them over to my house and we’d start reading through the book. I would read them every word in the book and when it came to an instruction or a directive, “Stop! Let’s do this and then let’s get back to the text.”
If it said to list the people we were angry with, whom we had a resentment, we would put it down in black and white like you would with any textbook. If you had a calculus textbook, you wouldn’t read it through like a novel and get to the end and say, “Yeah, that calculus!” I don’t think so! I think you have to do the problems. In the big book, you have to take the exercises to get the results. Otherwise you’re going to be one of those people in the meeting sharing “Well you know, I haven’t done the twelve steps officially, but I’m sponsoring all these people that I’m going to kill, putting a notch on my big book for everybody that dies.” So get yourself some experience with this stuff!
So, I start bringing these guys over and they start going through the book with me, and I want to tell you something incredibly significant. There were people who got to the fourth and the fifth step and “Wow man, it’s a little bit of an overreaction to a problem that I kind of overestimated. I don’t think I was really that bad, this is kind of advanced stuff for me.” It’s a list of people you’re mad at! Good grief. I bet if I go to your house, I’d find self-help books that are more complicated than this, but I bet I won’t find one help-others book.
Now there were a few people who didn’t make it through, but the people that did, that made it to the first step and then started to make amends, learned how to pray and meditate and then started to work with other people. Every single one of them is still around, every single one! They’re card-carrying AA members in good standing, working with other people, every single one. Some of them had some, you know, relapses along the way, because they rested on their laurels. Your laurels are yesterday’s accomplishments. We do live a day at a time. We don’t stop drinking a day at a time, you better want to stop drinking the rest of your life or you don’t have a shot at doing this, even if you want to. It’s hard to motivate up for that, but if you’re just in here for a rest stop, you’re in some deep crap.
We do have a spiritual condition that we need to maintain on a daily basis. We absolutely have to do that. Sometimes we fall short, sometimes we just forget. Sometimes, have you ever seen people who kind of drifted away from AA and you haven’t seen them in three years and all of a sudden they’re back? Don’t act surprised. It’s not okay to leave AA. Keep coming. Stay here, alright? Stay here! It’s not okay to leave. It’s not okay to leave. There are a lot of people that you affect when you relapse, you know what I mean?
So, I start taking people through the steps, now all of a sudden there are bunch of people running around, taking other people through the steps and there’s some people that are mad at me about it. “Who’s this Chris guy? What’s he doing? Who does he think he is?” But the book says to do it. Would you like me better if I fail? It became politically correct somewhere along the line to not pay attention. “Yeah, I heard about the steps. I don’t choose to do them.” Hey! We’re a 12-step program. You’re not going do the steps?
You know if you were suffering from pancreatic cancer and they had like a 12-step procedure and you said “Yeah, I know about that 12-step procedure, but I’m just not going do it” they’d call the loony bin! What happens in AA? “Well, I don’t know if I’m really ready for this step. They call it the ‘work’. I don’t know.” You’re dying! I’ll tell you right now, you’re dying and you don’t even know it. Alcoholism is so bad it even kills people that don’t have it! We crash cars into families, we burn houses down. We do stupid things like pull guns on our family. It kills people that don’t even have it, it’s so bad and we check out with absolutely no dignity at all!
90% of the people with alcoholism die an alcoholic’s death and the people closest to them either pity them or can’t stand them. You go out and there’s nobody there. I have buried a lot of people in AA. The people that go out drinking, there are three guys there. It makes for a tough time carrying a casket with only three guys, you know what I mean? The people that go out who were strong AA members, I’ve seen five- six-hundred people at their funeral. How do you want to check out? How do you want your life to read?
Do you want the scales balanced? Because if you’re an alcoholic, you’ve harmed people, you’ve harmed your family. Don’t you want to balance the scales? If you’re an alcoholic, and I’ve never met an evil alcoholic, we do evil things but we’re not evil people. We don’t want to hurt people; we want to be a positive influence in people’s lives. Alcoholism just doesn’t allow us to do that, because it just destroys so much of our being. We become these self-centered, arrogant, obnoxious people that retreat into their own little dark Twilight Zone type of existence. It’s just a terrible way to live! So the recovery process just brings us back into the light. The sun light of the spirit. You know, we need this. We’re lucky to have had this. Without Bill and Bob putting the pieces of the puzzle together, we’d all still be dying.
So, there are a couple of people running around. There’s this one guy who had somebody who he was working with who was relapsing. He said “Chris, I don’t know what to do with this guy. Whatever you’re doing, won’t you do it with this guy?” So, this guy was a chronic relapser. You know, in 8 years he would never get a month together. I take him through the steps, he has 93 amends. He isn’t making over 90 of his 93 amends. The lights are now on in the attic! You see that with some people, right? They “wake up.” That spiritual awakening hits and all of a sudden there’s somebody home, you know? His sponsor goes “What happened to this guy?” So he comes to me and he goes “Chris, you know this is a guy who had like 15 years, and I had 4 or 5 years with this guy. Whatever you did with this guy, would you do it to me?” I said, “Yeah, sure!” and I take him through the steps.
This was an individual who never had a real job. He never got his license back from multiple DWI’s, didn’t want to pay the surcharge. He was in terrible relationships with women. Just completely irresponsible, you know? He would wear Grateful Dead t-shirts to job interviews. He wasn’t going anywhere, and within a year this guy had gotten a job, gotten his license back, gotten engaged to a woman, started his own business and bought a house. Within a year! The priest at his church noticed a little bit of a change and said “What happened to you?” and he goes “Oh, I went through the steps with a guy named Chris.” The priest of his church wanted to meet me. So he goes, “Well, I hear he is speaking on Tuesday.”
So this priest comes and listens to me speak from the back of the room. He approaches me after the meeting and goes, “Whatever you’re doing over at your house I want you to do it in my church. You can have any night of the week, I don’t want any money. It needs to be part of my mission. I’ll help you however I can.” Now, this is 1997. There were step meetings, there were speaker meetings and there were discussion meetings. There were not “Chris-teaches-you-how-to-recover-meetings.” I knew I was going to get heat from everybody. I was going to start a meeting where I read out of the big book and tell you what it means. This is heresy back in 1997. But, I’ve had a spiritual awakening and a priest is asking me to do it. Pieces of the puzzle are falling into place. How can I say no?
So I start the spiritual awakenings group, and I think 16 people came to the first meeting. We’ve had our ups and downs, but we can have anywhere from 40 to 100 people there on Tuesday night now, and that meeting has affected much of recovery in the North Jersey area. A lot of meetings were started by people who came a long way, stayed for a little while, and then took that message back to home. There are big book meetings that are really big book meetings now, all over north Jersey.
The only credit I take for this is being a channel of God’s message. I believe God got tired of seeing us all die, and then I believe He got tired of seeing us all suffer in AA meetings. “I’m just not drinking. I beat my wife. I killed my dog. But, I didn’t take a drink!” I think God got pretty tired of that, you know? So, now there are some big book meetings around, there’s recovery.
If you’re new, if you’re just coming back, or if you have not gone through the steps yet you’re in more trouble than you think and there’s a bigger answer in this room for all of your problems. Even your “special” problems have answers. There is more of an answer in here for those than you think.