Loving the Experiences that Shaped Me


I never would have imagined I would reach the point in AA where I could truly say that I believe I am one of the lucky ones who gets to admit that I am an alcoholic! I am grateful for the rooms of AA where I find an authenticity and connection with others that has been unmatched by any other group (religious or otherwise) that I have attended!

For the first many years of my decade long dive into the recovery process I had to take a step back from some specific personalities and experiences in AA. But I am so grateful I have recently discovered the amazing connection I found in its rooms.

For years I was baffled by the 12-steps and did not understand where in the steps I should find relief from drinking. There is no step that explicitly says “stop drinking”. When I asked one of my many sponsors about this issue I was often told that at some point I simply had to, “put the plug in the jug.” I found that confusing since the fact I was completely powerless to do so was the reason why I needed the program.

For years I was confused by the order of the steps as for me steps two and three were ordered as steps one and two. Without the acknowledgment and acceptance of my connection with God I could not even tolerate the suicidal depression I experienced. The only reason I could possibly face the idea of existing in this world was by believing that life somehow mattered. If some want to call that weak, I accept that. I experience it as the relationship that saved my life and I am more concerned about the results my perspective has produced in my life and less concerned with the opinions of others.

Over and over I was told that the reason I was failing at AA was because I did not understand my powerlessness. But inside me the only thing I knew myself to be was powerless!! That was why I was religiously attending AA, or church. That was the reason I asked for sponsors and worked steps. Nearly every experience in my life has proven to me that in my own strength I was powerless over pretty much everything.

In my personal life, it was my relationship with God that was my power. A friend of mine in the program recently worded it far more eloquently than I ever could when he said, “I always believed I was supposed to keep God in my back pocket for when I needed him. What I realized was God was the one that was keeping me in his back pocket for use when, where, and for what God needed me to do.”

I had come to understand God as my source of power years before I ever encountered addiction. However, that belief does not protect me (or anyone) from the storms of life. I hit many bad storms before I found my anchor (who is my higher power I choose to call God) and the mangled vessel that I had become eventually found itself into the rooms of AA. While I knew I was attached to a solid anchor, others could not see my anchor as they live under the surface of the water where they can be tricky to identify.

The condition of my vessel gave no visual assurance of the way my anchor functioned and others with much prettier vessels were skeptical of anything my battered vessel had to say. But the things about vessel’s and storms is that none of chose the vessel we started with and none of us had control of the storms through which we passed. The only part I had control over was how I navigated each storm and where I placed my anchor.

In my own neediness and insecurity, for years, I let others convince me that it was me and my anchor placement that were the problem. But what I was recently able to understand was that it was actually my inability to see an implied step in what for me has now become a 13-step program. The second and third steps of AA say:

  1. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  2. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

For me those two steps came before the actual first step of AA, which states:

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.

I was solid on all three of those facts before I ever entered the rooms of AA. But no sponsor would ever let me move past the third step because I could never stay sober.

What was missing was Laura’s step 4, that others are likely smart enough not to need. It reads:(nowhere in AA and only in my own understanding)

  1. Having turned my will and my life over to the care of God as I understood Him, I am now empowered to stop drinking.

That would then lead into the remaining steps of the program. But my experience with both organizations such as AA or religious institutions is that they often to not take kindly to adjustment to their trusted dogmas. Until I was able to leave both AA and church for long enough to find an understanding that worked for me, I could not stay sober.

Today I can enter the rooms of both AA and church and live in peace with the 80/20 rule my friend Lucas taught me years ago. I get 80% of the benefit of the program if I don’t worry about the 20% I don’t agree with.

So I take my 13-steps into a 12 step program, and I take my Buddhist flavored Christianity into my church and I feel happy, joyous and free as I live my authentic self. I try not to push what worked for me onto others. Others seem smart enough to only need 12 steps. I simply take what I can from the rooms, try to speak up when I see something outright toxic, but otherwise let each person navigate for themselves and try to live by the principal that it is all about winning by attraction rather than promotion.