It’s not often you hear something that, despite its irony, makes perfect sense. When most people think of an alcoholic, they envision a person at the bottom of the social scale, brown-bagging their addiction on a street corner. However, the alcoholics that I have come to know and love are amazingly deep, talented, insightful and giving people. They’ve had the blessing of connecting with the truest, most exquisite version of themselves as a direct result of their alcoholism.
You see, recovering alcoholics have this unique life perspective, where they have sunk to the deepest depths tolerable, yet have emerged from rock bottom with a renewed sense of purpose and a fresh lease on life. Through the help of the 12-Step Program, and the simple support of others in the program, we alcoholics have transcended far beyond our greatest expectations.
Simply getting sober does not result in the aforementioned enlightenment. The key relies in the power of the 12-Steps. As many in the program will attest, the 12-Steps really outline a blueprint for successful living for anyone. Through a series of concepts and actions, these steps help to uncover ones most deeply seeded character defects and fears, then gives a working guideline to alleviate these defects of character, and to practice the foundational principles in our daily lives.
Even for me, this is a hard concept to swallow. Long before I realized I was an alcoholic, I felt grounded in my sense of self – an intelligent, determined person of substantial means. Many years later, it was alcohol that brought me to my physical, and spiritual bottom. I was certain alcohol took away every spark that used to be a part of a formerly billowing flame. I was later to find out it was a mere symptom of much deeper truths. Putting down the drink wasn’t going to cure my problems. It was only by working the 12-Steps that I was able to finally connect the dots between my addiction and my emotions, and to work through them to become a better version of myself that I had every envisioned. I am certain that without the steps, I would not still be here.
With or without the alcohol, I would have had a similar emotional decline. I would have exhibited the same character defects – reactions that undoubtedly pushed others away from me, further isolating my actions and behaviors. In sobriety, and through the 12-steps, I uncovered so many hidden truths. I have learned to live with balance and to create healthy boundaries when people, places or things are affecting me. These principles follow me not only in my life in recovery, but have dramatically improved my relationships with my family, how I perform at work, and how I deal with life on life’s terms. The level of compassion and patience I have gained in working with others is something I never had before working the steps. And, perhaps the most cherished concepts I have adopted, is to practice continued gratitude and to seek constant growth in my life.
I cannot explain how often the thought comes to mind that every person should want to practice, or at least attempt the 12-steps. It took being an alcoholic to realize that I had significant flaws that were limiting my potential to embrace this life more fully. I have gratitude every day that I’m able to have a program that keeps me grounded and constantly seeking to learn, grow and give back.
If I never listened to the suggestions people told me, never got a sponsor and never went through the 12-steps, I would have never gotten sober. I’ll always be an alcoholic. But if I don’t work the steps in my daily life, whether I pick up a drink or not, I will unquestionably become spiritually bankrupt again. I have the pleasure of now calling a number of alcoholics my very best friends because they too have chosen to live in the principles of the 12-steps. Ironic indeed that the most authentic, trustworthy and gracious people I know are a group of recovered drunks. That, to me, illustrates the power of the 12-Steps.
Someone recently asked me where the best place I’ve ever been was, and what the best thing I’ve ever done was. I fumbled to pinpoint the best place. But without hesitation, I explained that the best thing I’ve ever done is something that I do again and again every day. That is to choose sobriety and work the 12-steps. It is unquestionably the greatest gift I ever gave myself, and makes me grateful each and every day to be an alcoholic.