The book Alcoholics Anonymous claims that an alcoholic is like a man who has lost his legs; legs which cannot and will not ever grow back. This was painful news to me. Like many addicts, I genuinely believed that a return to the lifestyle I remembered was possible, but without any of the negative aspects. Being told that my future would never truly resemble my past was hard to hear.
Now, with the benefit of lengthy sobriety, I recognize my old life has not returned. Nor could it. I have changed the basis of my life to include the daily influence of a Higher Power. If you removed everything else about me, that fact would remain at my very core.
As I reflected on the first tradition of A.A., it had idealistic ring to it: “Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends on A.A. unity.” In it, I thought I heard resonance of the Three Musketeers cheer that went, “All for one and one for all!” But I think those fictional swordsmen were fighting against outside enemies. Speaking for myself, my only enemy in addiction was myself.
I looked up the definition in Webster’s 1934 Dictionary: Welfare n. State of faring, or doing, well (in such a manner as is desirable or pleasing). That seemed pretty vague. Welfare basically means faring well? Seriously?
To compose a meaningful drawing, I made a special effort to clear my mind. I attempted to picture how a group could support any individual’s recovery. I thought about the sturdy stone columns that once supported ancient buildings. Most have since fallen, but many of them are still standing even after thousands of years.
The trouble is, a column is just one single thing, cut from a huge block of stone. Recovery seems more like an interweaving of many experiences, stories, beliefs, and actions. Were all of those woven parts mere decorations? I don’t think so. They seemed very essential to the recovery program’s strength.
It is an almost painful thing to admit. But my moral core was dissolved by addiction. It was once there, but it vanished in the day-to-day descent into my sickness.
My recovery group showed me a way I could be held in place as my body, emotions, and spirit began to heal. It’s strange. I could not get back my original solid core, any more than a man can regrow his lost legs. But my sobriety could be held upright by the process of coming to meetings, working the steps, and using sponsorship. Those things felt weak at first, but they became stronger every day that I relied on them.
Just like in my drawing, what I had once relied upon for strength has been replaced by something completely new and very different. I have become one of many parts of the Twelve Step recovery experience. Each one of us provides experience, strength, and hope for others. This unity becomes a firm support for our personal recovery.