[Extracted from the monthly ECO NEWS - April 2020]
The Chameleon Effect
As an active alcoholic, my biggest concern was to conceal my copious intake of alcohol at any one sitting or function. I quickly learned not to stand out. So begins the journey of the full blown alcoholic. My life consisted of living to drink every day and for that day only. These are my early practices of ‘One day at a time”.
When my friends noticed I drank too much, it was time for a change. A change in friends that is. As a result I learned quickly to fit in with the new crowd. To take on their habits and ways, their lingo and shenanigans – in order to hide my drinking I became the “master chameleon”. I had learned to be “adaptable”, which implies a modification according to changing circumstances. I was able to adapt quickly and I was good at it.
Upon awakening, many an alcoholic realizes they had no true identity after all. They were made up of a compilation of others who had wandered into their life for periods of time. There was no real me anymore, staring back from the glass. I came into AA and started to adapt slowly, what I had to hide could no longer be hidden.
The Chameleon was gone. I grew to like the change and the new adaptability was welcomed. Clarity came with an abundance of support and love--a love I was incapable of providing for myself. Change and acceptance were rays of light I could walk with, in the face of fear and insecurity. I learned to take time for myself and to learn a little more about whom I had been travelling with, Me.
I have learned I am responsible for my own sobriety – not others. I cannot live in a world of self-deprecation, for I have a right to be sober today no matter of my past. As a member of AA I have a responsibility, a responsibility to work with other Alcoholics. As stated in the forward to the second edition of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, “One alcoholic could affect another as no non-alcoholic could. It also indicated that strenuous work, one alcoholic with another, was vital to permanent recovery.”
And now today has a whole new perspective, a new ‘One day at a time’, but the role stays the same. What are you doing today in the spirit of service? We talk about problems because we are problem people who have found a way up and out, and who wish to share our knowledge of that way with all who can use it. For it is only by accepting and solving our problems that we can begin to get right with ourselves and with the world about us and with Him who presides over us all. Understanding is the key to right principles and attitudes, and right action is the key to good living.
Therefore, “The joy of living is the theme of A.A.’s Twelfth Step, and action is its key word.” (Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, pg106) By sharing with alcoholics who are still in distress, we begin practising the 12 Steps in the hopes that they may find emotional sobriety as we have.
Putting this step into action; a ‘priceless’ experience. I have discovered I am no longer a thief, I am giving without ulterior motives. This growth was a spiritual awakening. Being able to give without taking is a cornerstone upon which a firm foundation of service can be built. For we have ability to instill a desire in people, to want to change from within.
The rewards of working with fellow alcoholics, through applying the 12th Step, creates lifelong characteristics which increases the likelihood of permanent sobriety. Bill stated the alcoholic, “finds himself in possession of a degree of honesty, tolerance, unselfishness, peace of mind, and love of which he had thought himself quite incapable.” Every alcoholic has something to give. By sharing one's own experience it quantifies strength and hope within. By sharing our common strivings to overcome our defects we experience a “love freely given” that will “surely bring a full return”. As Step 12 states, “True ambition is not what we thought it was. True ambition is the deep desire to live usefully and walk humbly under the grace of God.” (STEP TWELVE page 124-125)
This is the power of the 12th Step and examples we practice in our daily lives. Faith allows me to stop wondering what might happen and guide me on what to do. It's not someone else, it's me and my actions that I need to keep in mind. “We recovered alcoholics are not so much brothers in virtue as we are brothers in our defects, and in our common strivings to overcome them.” (As Bill sees It page 167)
Note: Then came COVID-19 and I felt alone again. In these changing times please remember to reach out to a fellow alcoholic; someone you have not seen in a while or a newcomer. Have coffee over the telephone. Utilize digital platforms such as Zoom, Google Hangouts, or conducting conference calls. Make someone’s day and in turn it will make your day too.
Your trusted servant,
Delegate Area 78, Panel 70