This review is about my own gratitude and experiences and in no way is it aimed at getting anyone to join Alcoholics Anonymous or any other recovery group. If a seed is planted . . . so be it. November is Gratitude Month at Alcoholics Anonymous. Itís a time when we reflect on our recovery, how far weíve come and how far we have to go.
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I went to my first AA meeting on August 1 of 1984. Thatís a little over 17 years ago and I havenít regretted a minute. Oh, I hear I fussed and fumed a lot about going to all those meetings the first year. I remember doing 90 meetings in 90 days, but thatís all a distant memory and it seems little enough to have paid to regain my sanity.
My first meeting on that Wednesday was also a gay meeting and it was mostly men at that group if I remember correctly. My roommate had just come out of treatment and announced that if I wanted to stay living with him, I had to do something about my drinking.
I stopped my daily intake of a six-pack or two or three and got myself primed up to go and listen to a bunch of drunks talk about their drinking careers. What if I knew some of them. It turned out that I didnít, but after that first night I found that I didnít need to drink to make friends and that I had made a commitment to quit forever.
The upshot of all this is that I havenít had a drink since a week before I joined AA. My former roommate, however, never had the will, relapsed many times and is still drinking as of today. I canít celebrate my sobriety without thanking him and I can only hope he someday finds a way to stop. What a wasted life.
That meeting was a Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions meeting and it was there at a First Step Meeting that these people who would become my dearest friends, suggested to me what I should do and how I should do it. The first suggestion was to Shut up and listen. I did that and Iím glad I did. The second suggestion was to get a sponsor, which I never managed to do in all my years of sobriety. I used the group and still use the group to help me when I go off kilter. When I need help I know where to go or who to call and help is always there.
I just looked at my copy of Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, which was published by Alcoholics Anonymous World Services. Inside the front cover is a notation of when and where I got it: Group 94, 7 p.m., Wednesday, August 1, 1984. Thatís what the gay groups were called here in Milwaukee. The first gay AA group was named after I-94, our freeway . . . that is . . .The Free Way to recovery.
When I joined gay AA, there were about five gay and lesbian groups in the City. Since then many more groups have formed and a few have folded. The original group 94 is still up and running in a church basement on Sunday evenings. The rest are now all located at our alcohol and drug-free recovery club, The Galano Club. Itís just moved onto a large space on the second floor of our new LGBT Community Center located near our deserted downtown, as Lobstergirl called it.
Another important thing I learned at those 12 & 12 meetings as we called them, was that there were Twelve Promises included with this recovery program. I was told they would give me some idea of what lay ahead. I didnít believe them at first, I didnít see them happening at all, but they did . . . slowly and surely. The 12 Steps and the 12 Traditions are basically suggested ideas and AA regulations that help to keep our recovery programs (and ourselves) on the straight and narrow. They are better discussed at meetings after one becomes a member
Itís the 12 Promises that not many people are aware of, and here they are:
1. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness.
2. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.
3. We will comprehend the word serenity.
4. We will know peace.
5. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others.
6. That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear.
7. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain insight into our fellows
8. Self-seeking will slip away.
9. Our whole attitude and outlook on life will change.
10. Fear of people and economic insecurity will leave us.
11. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us.
12. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.
I must say that all of these promises have come true for me in one way or another, some more than others. The very fact that I can write openly about my ongoing recovery, my homosexuality and many other facts about my life has been a boon to me in being open and forthright on this site.
If you or a loved one needs help with an addiction, there is help out there. Whether you go to Alcoholics Anonymous, Al-Anon or any of the many spin-off twelve step programs that have appeared on the scene since AA became more widely known, you will find a circle of loving people who will do their best to help you help yourself.
Be good to yourself and get some help if you think you need it. I did and I will never regret it. For all this I can only say, Thank you AA, Iím truly grateful for my continuing recovery. Some of you may feel that this form of help or recovery is not right for you and thatís your choice. It was for me and I Pass it on!
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Note: I think itís appropriate to say here that although reviews of alcoholic drinks do not bother me or make me want to drink, I do not and will not read them, no matter how great, amusing or respected the writer is. The same goes for cigars and other forms of tobacco. I was fortunate enough to recover from throat cancer 20 some years ago and I donít feel I need to read about that kind of addiction, either.
Thanks for understanding.
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