Sandy B. from Tampa, FL @ 52nd Anniversary Greenwich Group – Greenwich, CT 5/17/1991

Audio Transcription:

Thanks, Blair. All right. Thank you very much, Blair and good evening everybody. My name’s Sandy beach and I’m an alcoholic. How you all doing? Well, we’re delighted to be here tonight and to, uh, share, and I’ve never been at a 52nd anniversary of anything. And so, um, God, that’s just amazing. Uh, to be here tonight and just think about when John was just talking about what is transpired between 1939 and now is, uh, absolutely miraculous, but the miraculous becomes so commonplace in alcoholics anonymous that we miss it.

We just go, oh, of course, there’s 93,000 groups. What do you expect? Ha haha. You know, it’s like. Somebody new comes into alcoholics anonymous and their whole life gets straightened out and we just go, right. That’s what’s supposed to happen here. And it’s, um, it just happens. And sometimes I think it’s, uh, possible to miss the magnificence of a new person walking into these rooms and.

Through that incredible defense that all of us alcoholics have that has never been penetrated before. All of a sudden there’s a crack that opens up and the love that’s in these rooms is able to go in there and tell that frightened person that it’s safe to come out now. And we’re right here for you.

And we were in that same jail that you have constructed for yourself. And it’s okay to stick your hand out. And it’s one of the first places that any of us ever dared to venture into this, uh, thing called sobriety, which is really the great adventure of life, which is to get to know what everything’s all about.

And to, for the first time, for most of us to actually experience, uh, the spirituality of mankind. And all of this happens because I drank too much. And when you think about the irony of that, you know, well, how did you deserve this wonderful spiritual program? Well, I puked a lot. That’s how I got to deserve this.

I mean, as you talk about, um, not earning it in a sense, I mean, we just, everything is such a gift for, um, for the, for this life that we lived before we came here and, uh, Dramatically different that life, that drinking life is all of us were so ashamed of it. I know I was, I just looked backed over those drinking years.

During the years I was drinking and I felt nothing but remorse and shame. I had hurt my family and my parents broken their heart. Disappointed my children, they were afraid of me. I mean, just everywhere you went employers. And so I just saw that as, um, the most negative, awful, terrible, useless collection of years wasted time.

And then I come into alcoholics anonymous and I find out that each one of us, me included has a very special gift that enables us. To reach out and touch the life and save and bring new life into a suffering alcoholic. And the very thing that enables me to do that and you to do it that other people can’t do is our horrible past, uh, the fact that we live that way and we’re able to change is the, is the commonality.

And so the great healing that takes place here is a direct. And of the, of those years that I drank and instead of being totally useless and wasted, they’re the wonderful connection that is made with the next suffering alcoholic. And it’s the most useful part of my life is the fact that I can draw on that experience to enable a new person to relate and stay here.

So instead of being a horrible past, that’s totally wasted, et cetera, it’s an incredibly useful, it all makes sense. And this program has a way of just putting things in perspective like that. Well, uh, just about every meeting around the world as speakers get up and they share a little bit about how they got here and what happened and what it’s like now, and I’m no exception.

I, um, am what they call a primary alcoholic, which is a person who drinks. 10 or 11 minutes and then goes into alcoholic drinking. You know what I mean? You, I drank socially, maybe 10 minutes and, uh, that’s it, there was no more social drinking in my whole history. Other than that first drink, I was sort of sitting there.

Hey, I’m social drinker. But as soon as that drink took hold, I became a former social drinker and, uh, was on my way to qualifying to be an alcoholics anonymous. Uh, I grew up. New Haven, Connecticut. So I’m not far from where I grew up and, um, had very nice parents, a sister. My sister’s now got 12 years in orange, Connecticut in alcoholics anonymous.

I didn’t know, even know she was drinking. Um, but she was at home very quietly, the housewife with her children and, uh, the world caving in. And so she did all her drinking in the kitchen. So you don’t hear much about that. her brother was not drinking in the kitchen. He was out with the police and getting, you know, the, getting all the headlines.

Like she says, I always hog the headlines from her. Um, Yeah. And I suppose, you know, when we come into AA, we think we have so many unique problems. God, do we think we have terminal uniqueness? Everybody who arrives here has the most incredible set of problems. And anybody who will sit down long enough will talk to ’em about ’em.

You know what I mean? Just on and on and on about the problems as if there’s something that can be accomplished by constantly rehashing the problems. Fortunately, when we get an AA, we learn how to. Stay in the solution and talk about it. And then we go back and take a look at the problems. And while we were away, somebody solved them and, uh, they just look entirely different.

You know, we learned that going to meetings, you go to meetings, all screwed up, you come outta the meetings, something got straightened out. You know what happened here? Well, it’s just amazing. But as I came in, I thought I had this unique story of being uniquely frustrated and not understood and terrified about the world.

people intimidated me. I didn’t feel equal to anybody. I got to this big university that everybody’s talking about, and they’re all these half our classes here tonight and it shows, uh,

and the other half ought to be here. So there’s no,

and. and I had that, that sense of why am I less than everybody else? Why does everybody else know all the social skills? And they know how to dance and they know how to talk to people and they know how to interact with everyone. And I walk around trying to think of something to say other than nice day, isn’t it, you know?

And that was the extent of my social conversation. And then some people would say, what do you mean? And I didn’t have an answer to that, you know?

Okay. So as a result, I had the feeling that people were, um, just not friendly and they didn’t want me around. Um, and that’s where, when I remember taking my first drink, It was in that sense of being in a room with 30 or 40 people and trying to talk with them and not fitting in with any group and walking around, see if I fit in with this group or that group and getting rejected visually.

You know how people just look? No, not over here. Okay. Don’t worry. Go over here. You can just tell you don’t even have to ask them. You can just sort of glance their way and they go, no. Okay. What. I’ll go over here and I don’t wanna intrude over there. I obviously don’t belong there. Well, it was under those conditions and, and, and, you know, the world only exists in our minds.

I mean, that’s where all of the reality of everything is. And in my mind it was this not, it was a very intimidating world because of the people that were in it. They were just sort of hostile and aggressive and competitive. and under those conditions at age 19, which is fairly old to be starting drinking, I had my first drink and I poured it down.

I’m waiting for all this stuff that my roommates are telling me that, Hey, you haven’t started drinking yet. This is the most wonderful stuff in the world. And I’m no, no I’m gonna be an athlete or whatever I was doing. . Um, but that night I needed help and they were telling me this stuff, does these wonderful things.

So I drank it down, nothing happened. I had another one. I remember nothing happened. So I went back over and said, give another one of those. And, uh, while I was drinking it, I happened to glance back at the room and I felt no change. I don’t recall alcohol doing anything to me, but to this day, I can tell you what happened to the people in that.

I was busy trying to get these three drinks down. And someone came in and took that 50 people out that I don’t know where they went, but they were replaced by 50 of the nicest people you have ever seen in your lives. They all were looking my way and going, please join our group, please come over and Hey.

You have to wait your turn, I’ll start here. And then I’ll go all the way around. And, and I had that feeling that was to stay with me whenever I had alcohol in my system. When I had a couple drinks in my system, I’d be walking up to my favorite bar and I’d stand outside and I’d say, God, these people are in for a treat I’m here.

You know what I mean? It was that, hi, you know, and then it was just the. It was just the opposite. Uh, and so alcohol didn’t really change me. It changed the world I lived in and when I went into that world, the alcohol world, I loved it. This is the world everybody was talking about. You know, when people would say to me, you have conversation.

Isn’t the world great. Used to say to me, isn’t the world. Great. And I’d go, not the world I live in where you wouldn’t. You mean great. It’s tent out there. But when I had a few drinks in me, the world was wonderful. God, I love that. People just, um, had smiles on their face, they comradery, and we’ve all had this happen.

The world, sometimes the world gets so great. You’re sitting in a bar. And you just get overcome by the beauty of the people that are in the bar. and the bartender sees you sobbing on the bar stool. what’s the matter. I’ve never been in the company of such beautiful people in my whole life and buy ’em all a drink.

I just, oh my God, this is, we just be overcome by the magnificence of the world that we found ourselves in. Now, the problem. Uh, with my drinking. Anyway, I don’t know about yours. It needed some fine tuning to, uh, there was definitely, it wasn’t always the wonderful world overcome by the beauty. There was these strange, bizarre events.

Um, sometimes the police would show up. I wouldn’t understand why they wanted to interfere with this incredibly beautiful world, but that you’d be off in jail somewhere. Or. some guy would take exception to some philosophical point that I had made and teeth would be falling out and I’m on the floor and going home and waking up in the morning and blood all over and teeth missing wallet gone, just, you know, really hurting.

And I’d say it, but I’ll tell you one thing. It never, ever. Did the thought come in, you know, you oughta stop drinking that thought never got in there. What would come in is God, I wonder what happened. And I would always explain it in terms that had nothing to do with drinking, hanging out in the wrong neighborhood.

I remember one time in new Haven, I was drinking down in the pizza part of town where kind of some tough guys down there. And some guy came up behind me while I was drinking beer and having a pizza mine in my own business. He walked up behind me, grabbed me by the hair. Yanked me off the bar stool and beat the hell outta me.

That’s the way I remember it. I might have said something, but I just, uh

but I remember that. And then I remember having discussions, you’ve all had discussions with yourself after you’ve been arrested or your wife yells at your husband, yells at you get fired or something your. Your conscience gets the best. You have to explain things to your own conscience. Well, what are you gonna get?

You get down there and get the hell beat outta you. Again, you gotta stop going down there. And I mean, no, that’s where it’s great part of town that isn’t it at all. And I remember thinking, well, you’ve gotta do something. I mean, you just can’t leave everything and not learn the lesson out of that evening.

So I went out and got a crew cut. That was my answer to never having anybody grab me by the hair and pulling me off of the bar stool. . And us alcoholics come up with, um, answers to problems that are about as humorous as that they have, cuz we have to bypass the obvious answer, which has to do with our drinking.

And as far as I was concerned, very shortly after drinking, there was never gonna be anything to get between me and my drinking. I didn’t realize I had made such a commitment to alcohol, but it became without me knowing. My way of life, my literally my higher power, it gave me answers. It gave me energy. It gave me the ability to make decisions.

I never remember having a problem where I said to myself, here’s a problem. I won’t have a drink on never, never. I don’t care what the problem was. Step one, have a. That was step one, try to figure something out. Geez. I can’t seem to figure this out. Da, get a glass, get some ice. The answer will be coming soon and just is, is the little glass of wisdom is going in there and it would come.

You know what I mean? Because what would happen is the fear would be chemically removed and I would be free to think up something. It might not be the smartest thing in the world, but at least it was an. and at least something always happened. Alcohol. Um, when I thought of sobriety, I used to think a lot about boredom.

Someone said you oughta go to AA and not drink. I just said, boy, here comes 50 years of boredom. There’ll be nothing happening because I connected alcohol with action. It’s sitting around nothing happening. You just got a bottle. I like to think of going into a package store was like going into a library where you’re gonna check out adventure book, you know, and you look at the cover of the book and it says shooting the rapids in Canada, you know?

And you go, Ooh, this looks like a good one, but you really didn’t know that the story went from Canada down to Mexico, where they got into a gold mine and almost died. You couldn’t tell from the cover, what was gonna happen and the same thing with a bottle of whiskey, you could look at that thing and hold it up to the light and shake it and smell it.

And you would have no idea what was in store for you inside of there. You might be going to Wiggins Mississippi. You know what I mean? You had no idea. You weren’t planning on leaving. You might be going to jail. You might be big blonde might be showing up that night. . But there was no way knowing from the label on the bottle, there was just, you had to go home and drink it, but you knew one thing, you knew something was gonna happen.

I never went back to the guy and said, you know, I like to take this bottle back. I drank it all last night and nothing happened.

That I know, never happened. I I’d take it back and go. I don’t want anymore this fighting whiskey. I mean, I’m just tired of getting a hell beat outta me. have you got the kind where you behave yourself and you just get high and you don’t do anything wrong. I’d like a case of that. And my wife would like me to have a case of that because, uh, that’s what she would like every so often, statistically by pure accident, I’d have a night where I behave myself all night.

You know what I’m talking about? You just drank a lot. You and you didn’t get in trouble. You just sorta hung in there. You were nice and you didn’t throw up. And just everything. And my wife would say to me, why can’t you do that every night? Not so she’s right. What did I do last night? You’re trying to have to recreate last night.

Let’s see. I started out with a little wine. I think I had a glass and a half of wine. I’d be recreating it the next night as if it was a chem lab experiment. You know, like if I could just get the right formula, I could ensure consistent. Drinking behavior. That was good. Well, this is all just part of being an alcoholic.

So, um, in my own case, I think that our stories, um, about being an alcoholic are the main event. I mean that when you really study our lives, that is the central focus. Of our thinking and we’re maneuvering everything else around it. We start choosing our friends. I mean, somebody says, Hey, Joe’s having a party wanna come and then you go, wait a minute, Joe doesn’t drink.

There’s no alcohol there. No, I won’t be going to Joe’s party. I mean, we just, it, it clearly mandated a lot of things and, and I had to maneuver around it. And so alcohol was clear the centerpiece, but then there was the background, the incident. Things that were going on like a career and mine was in the Marine Corps.

I ended up getting outta school and joining the Marine Corps and becoming a fighter pilot. And so all my drinking takes place in school or in the Marine Corps. And by the time I got outta there, I had finished drinking or drinking had finished me one or the other. But, um, so my story is about traveling around and flying airplanes and being with a bunch of guys and a lot of exciting stuff.

Uh, I’ve got a lot of good flying stories and going overseas and going to board carriers and, um, lot of fun. I mean, there’s a lot of good stories, but it has nothing to do with being an alcoholic. It, it really is just sort of background. It’s just like somebody got up here. Well, I was a lawyer and I was down on wall street and I was doing this and that’s their background to the main event which was going on inside.

And the lawyer and the housewife and the fighter pilot and the real estate salesman and the stock broker and the lobbyist are all coming apart inside. We’re watching, uh, human beings self-destructing and pretending that it isn’t happening pop probably the hardest part of being an alcoholic is pretending you’re not an alcoholic.

I mean, how many times we got up and went to work. When, if I ever feel this bad today, I call in sick for a month. you know what I mean? That’s a typical day in our drinking days, you get up and you puking blood and you’re shaking and you’re hurting and you’re this, and you’re going to work. You’re gonna show up down there.

And not only are you gonna show up down there, you’re gonna act like you’re. There’s no pain in my body. Hey, great. Hey ho ha. Who ha you remember all that? Just talk a good game, man. They won’t see that you’re dying inside. And so no one was allowed in because what would happen if they got in there? They might go, Hey, so all messed up in here.

We gotta stop this guy from drinking and that would be a major threat to staying. It would be a major threat to surviving. I mean, my very essence was saying don’t ever let anybody in here and allow them to cut off the booze supply because that could be fatal. That could cut off all of the wherewithal that I have.

And so without realizing it, I had literally turned my life over to the care of vodka and, uh, was completely. Dependent on it as a source of power in my life. And I can remember being calmed down without even drinking it. If I could just see my car in the parking lot outside of the building where I might be working.

And I knew I had a cord of vodka in the glove compartment, just seeing it right over. Would give me a sense of calmness and I could just, well, I’m this close. I could be out there and get some in just a second. And it would give me a feeling of peace and I could last another half an hour when it might be time to go out and get a drink.

So my story is simply, uh, one of a primary chronic alcoholic who hung in as good as he. but was only able to last about 14 years. So my whole drinking career, uh, was short lived there’s people around here that were able to, uh, hold out against this battle for many more years, but I don’t think I was going to last many more years.

It got very bad near the end. Uh, when I ended up not being able, I flew for 13 years and then I got so bad in airplanes that, um, and I never. Now I hang around with a lot of pilots who told me what a mistake I made. I could have flown for three more years if I’d just taken booze in the plane with me. But I didn’t know about that.

Uh, and I was going through withdrawal every day. I was getting up and not drinking from, uh, maybe midnight the night before. And I show up to fly an airplane at eight or 10 in the morning, and that was in the worst possible shape you can be in, in alcoholic withdrawals as that stuff is wearing off and I’m flying around and, uh, losing my peripheral vision and sweating and heart palpitations and just all kinds of terrible problems.

And, um, I finally went to the doctors. I only went there as an absolute last resort and to make a long story short, they examined me for a couple of, uh, weeks down in Pensacola, Florida diagnose, what does this guy have? And this was back before alcoholism was, uh, diagnosis in the Navy. That just was not in the books.

It is now. And we have alcohol programs, but in the early sixties, they didn’t have anything, uh, along those lines. And so they looked at me and I had, um, high blood pressure, bloodshot eyes. I sweat all the time. My hand shook like this. I smelled of alcohol and I was tested for two weeks by all of the experts.

And they could find nothing physically wrong. And so it was left up to the psychiatrist and my diagnosis was childhood fear of flying

and that was, and that was, uh, and so they wrote up something, we made a big mistake. This guy never should have been a pilot in the first place. So take him off a flight status. And so now I was. It was just a terrible ego blow. That was my whole identity. And all of a sudden, you’re not a pilot anymore.

You’re nobody. And, um, I sat around and waited for about four months for the headquarters Marine Corps to come up with a new, um, specialty. They had to retrain me now, what are you gonna do with a pilot who can’t fly airplanes, such bad shape? We won’t let ’em near an airplane. And lo and behold, I got a set of orders to become an air traffic controller

And so

I went back through air traffic control school with shaking hands and filling those little strips out. It was a real show to and air traffic controllers here. um, well, if you’re in this program, you probably learn the same thing I did when you’re trying to bring planes in, in bad weather and you see two center lines, you just cover up one eye and you go, Hey, you’re on the glide path.

You’re on the glide path. Um, and that’s what I did during the last year of my drinking was I was an air traffic controller, but fortunately I was overseas and I was the officer in charge of this unit. And all the people that worked for me saw that the last thing they wanted the captain to do was to get near one of those radar scopes.

So I was, uh, in charge of making coffee, trying to find where the unit was, which, uh, was a real challenge because I had now without, uh, flying, I could drink around the clock and I had become a daily drinker and vodka, and it was just a nightmare. It was just, um, it is very terrifying to think back. That last year I lost about 40 pounds.

Uh, malnutrition just never talked to anybody. I was just surviving. Just trying to keep drinking alcohol, never look anybody in the eyes and everybody would just say, well, let’s carry him through this last year. And then he’ll get transferred back to the states. The military did that with drunks a lot.

They’d go well, he’s only got six more months. Over here. Let’s carry ’em and then it’s the next guy’s problem transfer. ’em over to the next duty station. And so I somehow got through that year in 1963. And came back to, um, Quantico, Virginia to become, um, career school. And it was in that school that I had a grand mile seizure where you just are in class and all of a sudden you’re up and you bite your tongue in half and you’re on the floor.

And I ended up in the military nut ward and there was no alcohol units and I was locked up for six. just in a nut ward, just in there with all the other folks. And, uh Hmm.

And that is, uh, amazing. I could go talk all night about just the nut ward, but I won’t do that. I will share one story. And that was that every so often they would get everybody around on a chair and the psychiatrist would, instead of talking about manic depressive or suicides or schizophrenia, whatever other people had.

It saved today. Let’s talk about the drunks and it’d start around the room asking all these crazy people. There was three drunks in there with all the crazy people it’d asked them. What do they think about the drunks and these crazy people to a man would say. You guys oughta stop drinking. That’s what they would say.

and I remember looking at, ’em just going, no wonder they’re in here and coming up with an I day like that. If my, if the answer to my problem was that simple. I would’ve thought that up. Geez, can’t be that simple. And it was under, in this environment after being there about five months that a. Managed to talk the head psychiatrist into allowing an AA meeting in the nut ward.

And that’s how I got the AA. I was, uh, up there sitting around playing bridge, played a lot of bridge in nut wards and, uh, corpsman came in and said all drunks fall in. And it

was just one of these forward marked left. And there you are. And I was at an AA meeting, so that’s how I got to AA.

And I listened to these guys. I was impressed. I thought it was wonderful. I went up afterwards. I told this little redheaded guy from Bethesda, you know, you got a wonderful story. Well, I just, I couldn’t believe what you guys got here. If I ever run into a guy with a drinking problem, I’m gonna send him around to see you.

I just, I really thought you had something wonderful here. I was sold on it, but not for me. It was clear that it was a winner and so on. And that was when I got my first taste of AA honesty that hard love, and he just took his finger and he just went pal, let me ask you something, which one of us is gonna go put his over coat on GU out, get in his car and drive on home to his family.

And which one of us is gonna put his little blue bathrobe on and go over to that elevator and go upstairs and get locked up like an. And I remember just going, God damn, I just met this guy. He starts talking this way to me. but I was soon to find that that’s the way AA worked. We just talked boom, right straight out.

You never beat around the Bush. old, a guy from Washington buck Doyle he’s, uh, dead now, but boy, he had just never minced words. And if, uh, he smelled booze on somebody, he’d always walk up and go, one of us has been drinking. That was his,

just take a big, Hey, one of us had been drinking and he’d just never, you know, beat around or anything. Some of us might go, well, I’m not sure I smell anything and I don’t wanna hurt his feelings or anything like that. but bam, it came out. that got me started. Um, and I didn’t like it. I, but they’d have us down there every week.

And eventually I was let out of there and I did drink for about a week, uh, as soon as I was putting an outpatient status and it got so bad that I knew I’d have to do something or they were gonna catch me. So I called, uh, AA for myself and a great big guy. Another Marine showed up and he is a huge guy.

Name is bill. He’s still my sponsor. And that was back in 1960. and, uh, he came to my house and just said, uh, hi, my name is bill. This is 12 step call. I talk, you listen, , ran, ran, ran, ran, ran, and then ran. And we go to meeting every journey that, uh, is still continuing. And, uh, what can I tell you about this journey?

Well, it’s really, , it’s really amazing how different it is than how I thought it was gonna be. And I suppose that’s what sobriety. I like I say, I just wanted him to leave me some literature. That was my preconceived notion of how this thing ought be handled. And he had other ideas and his other ideas were very extreme.

I’ve noticed that everything about AA is very extreme. Have you ever noticed that there’s just. All our shortcomings, you know what I’m talking about? All the people we had harmed all, all, you know, and you ask your sponsor, how much can I drink this year? None. You know, it’s like none at all. None, zero. I mean, it’s just,

I was used to compromises, you know, I guess they call ’em an AA half measures. that was my specialty. I was almost doing things and sliding and maneuvering, and God you get in here and it’s just very clear, you know, you ask your sponsored question. He goes, no. That’s the end of that, you know, there’s no, well you wanna talk it overnight?

I wanna talk it over. No, sit down. That’s the end of that. It says, bam. And it’s just go to a meeting every night, don’t drink, we’re gonna do this. There was just a whole set of things and it wasn’t tailored at all. You know what I’m talking about? This program, they just do the same thing. Great. Big tall guy go to meeting every night or short guy go to meeting every night.

Black guy go to meeting every night, a woman go to meeting area. I mean, Listen to the problems and come up with unique programs for each of us. , it’s just boom. As if they had the ultimate answer to everything. And, uh, they do and that’s why they don’t cut any slack. And they don’t compromise those of you that are new.

There just isn’t any compromises there. You know, they talk about a suggested program. Well, that, that word is a real tricky word. That’s just to keep you around. As

they knew, if they told you it wasn’t optional, you wouldn’t stay, but the longer you stick around, you find. that, um, it isn’t what you thought it was. At least that’s what has happened to me. As I’ve looked back over the years, nothing works the way I thought it would. AA is completely different than I imagined it after I was here a while.

You know, when you’re smart. And you get here, you figure it all out ahead of everybody. You know what I mean? And you’re ready to tell your sponsor some pricks that you’ve thought up and you’ve read the book and you have some changes and gonna rearrange the steps and shorten ’em down a little bit. And, um, I got a better procedure for running the meeting.

I think we ought to read the preamble at the end and you know, how you’re just trying to help the group along in the beginning. And so I had sure a lot of those thoughts that’s coming up with my own ideas about. And I have learned a lot here, or it has been pounded into me over the years. That nothing is the way that I thought it was.

And there’s a lot of lessons to be learned from that. I, I, I think of the chapter five where it says old ideas, availed us nothing. If there’s anything that is a very important message that I’d like to talk about tonight. It is about old ideas. Availed us, nothing. I had collected and everyone who arrives here has a whole bunch of ideas.

They’re in your brain and you have collected them over the years as a human being. And what those ideas tell you is your reality. If they tell you that there’s no God that they tell you that you’re no good. If they tell you that people shouldn’t be trusted. If they tell you there’s no love in the world, that’s the world you live.

we, we are our ideas and they just keep rerunning. They’re just up there just going on and on. And that’s what an obsession with alcohol is. Is this incredible punishment that, uh, makes it so difficult to stay sober is to be sitting there with this obsession to re to go, if I just had a drink, I could get some relief from some of this pressure.

And I came in here with a whole bunch of those old ideas. That was me. My problem was I didn’t wanna change any of them. Um, an alcoholic changing his mind when we first arrived in AA is like the queen married doing a 180 out here in the river and it takes about 50 tugboats. And they’re going, they’re pushing, what are you doing?

I’m trying to get this guy to change his mind, you know, and it finally comes around and we come all the way around and we wanna hold a press conference. I like to announce I’m gonna change my mind and you know, I’ve never done it before. And I think it’s significant and I probably never do it again, but I am gonna do it this one time.

Just wanna let everybody know I’m gonna be changing my mind shortly and oh. And it comes out and then we go, boy, thank God. I’ll never have to go through that again, as that was exhausting to change my mind about something, because in order to change my mind, I have to do the ultimate disgraceful, awful thing.

I have to admit that I’m wrong. We got two steps on this. And my first time I said to my sponsor, when he finally convinced me of something, we had argued about it, discussed it for two months and I finally turned to him and I said, well, bill you’re right. And he said, no, you’re wrong. I said, Hey, same thing.

Well, Okay. I get stuck in my mouth. I mean, I’m wrong. I can’t hear you. I’m wrong. I’m wrong. You know, to say I was wrong, seemed to destroy me as a human being. It was if I could just feel a foundation sinking out from under me and yet sobriety has consisted of a constant series of finding things that I’m wrong about and getting rid of it.

When I look back on the change in priorities that have taken place. And I guess this is what the program is designed to do. We talk about putting first things first. And I think what that means is that somehow I’m gonna have to rearrange the priority in my head. What’s the most important thing up here?

Well, before I came to AA, it was alcohol. After I came to AA, it was me. That was the centerpiece of the whole program was me and I, you know, I just had. I I’m the type guy who, I remember hearing this at a meeting one night, they were talking about the 11th step and there’s God that this, I remember for a higher prayer representing God and this.

And finally somebody said enough about God, what about me? you know, like let’s get on to something important. And I really relate to that, you know, enough of that stuff. We got, I got problems here and, uh, And it was as if you didn’t, if you didn’t stay focused on those problems and just they level to get grow while you’re gone.

And this obsession to stay focused on myself is the prison that my old ideas had me in. That’s they did, they were on autopilot. They just went up my head and they just, what they did. They just sat there at meetings and they went, it’s too hot. I needed something cold to drink. I, why can’t I smoke in here?

I, and there it is. It’s just going on the whole time. And until that will stop, I’m not gonna have peace of mind. And so I think what the first things first in this getting rid of old ideas has meant to me.

Was to move a higher power to the top of the list. And somehow through the effort of this program to make that the centerpiece of my life to somehow get my brain so that it starts automatically. When I wake up in the morning, start thinking about a higher power, uh, I think meeting. We’re a wonderful beginning at this.

It was just a constant way. We say the serenity prayer. We’re saying the preamble, we’re saying, uh, all the things that we learn here in alcoholics anonymous. It has been a interesting process to see how these old ideas have slowly. And it’s a very painful thing to get rid of them. Um, my first one had to do, and probably the most important one that any of us has to.

Is the idea of a higher power and the, and those of you that are new. If you’re a typical drunk, that’s arrived here. You’re not too comfortable. When people say the word God or higher power, you go, Ooh, I’ll deal with that later. You know, and I’m just not drinking and going to meetings and that’s enough and you don’t need, I don’t wanna mess it up.

I Don to get messing around with. , but eventually we’re gonna have to deal with this higher power thing. Um, and I had just a million reasons for avoiding that, but until I was able to do that, it left me in charge. It left me as my own higher power. And I don’t know about you, but that was one of the most painful, um, depressing things to do is to be our own higher.

and the best help that I’ve had about this higher power thing is in, um, the understanding of what AA is trying to do here. I don’t think AA tries to convince anybody of the existence of God, but I think we’re experts at convincing you of the need for God. And we do that by simply focusing in on the powerlessness of your life and forcing each one of us to look at.

and to acknowledge that on our own things are gonna continually get worse. And by focusing on that, I was able to understand what powerless meant. It meant that unless there was a higher power, I was gonna continue drinking, always returned to drinking and have my life continue just the way it was going.

And it was on that basis. And that basis alone, that I was willing to change my mind about a higher. we like to kid around and talk about your riding in a canoe going down. You don’t know you’re near the Niagara falls and all of a sudden you’re hearing this noise. Hey, wonder what that big noise is. Hey, you’re just paddling around having a sandwich and all of a sudden you go, I think we’re in trouble, Joe.

And then the thing goes over and just before it hits a big hand comes down and grabs you before you hit those rocks. And a voice says we’re conducting a survey. Do you believe in God and, uh,

and the point of that whole story is under those conditions, we’d be foolish to not reconsider our old position. And we might say no, but I’m willing to reconsider under these conditions. And all we do in AA with anybody who is new, is to explain that’s exactly where you are. You’ve already gone over the falls in this disease of alcoholism.

And it’s just a question of time when you’re gonna hit. And that’s what powerlessness is. And under those conditions, what is your feeling about a higher power? And so all we’re saying is unless there’s a higher power you’re gonna hit. So what do you got to. Okay, by what changing our mind. Um, for me, I suppose, going through some of the things that, um, I’ve had to let go of my feeling about people, my feeling that there wasn’t love in this world, that there wasn’t such a thing as brotherly love that there wasn’t a true spirit of the universe running through everybody.

All of these things that I denied existed. I did because I was blocking them out and wouldn’t let ’em in. We often kid about it. If you’re new and you were sent here by the traffic system or something like that, and you don’t wanna be here and you don’t think AA will work, you do have the power to prevent it from working.

You can put your arms up in front of you and you can say, AA is not gonna get in here. And that’s your choice. And you have the power to do that. But if you do that, you don’t prove that AA doesn’t. You just prove you’re a little stupid at this point in time. And, uh, then that you wanna hang in that misery a little bit longer, but I thought when I constructed this jail and didn’t let anything in that, I proved that there was no God, there was no love.

And there was no friends and the world was a terrible place, cuz it never got inside of me. And I guess what happens here is that somehow. individuals, the power of the program gets through that wall. Just opens up the smallest little crack and allows a little bit of AA to get inside there and grab a hold of you and dare you to come out.

And what gradually gets exposed is the real you, um, we find that that world that we had in our head, we just put. It has no connection to the real world that’s here available to us at all. And the beautiful change for those of you that are new is the, is the present that you’ll get in alcoholics anonymous.

And that present is you, you, you’re not in touch with that. You have never fully seen the magnificence of. You’ve seen what alcohol has covered it over. It’s like it’s piled all this garbage on top of this beautiful person and what sobriety’s gonna do, and these steps and your sponsors and your meetings, they’re gonna start scraping that away.

And that’s a painful process, but what a product you’re gonna find, uh, you are going to find, as you start pulling this stuff back, that you are just as beautiful a person as there is in the rest of the. There’s no one more beautiful than you. No one, everyone is just as beautiful, but there’s no one more beautiful than you.

The, um, person that’s here tonight, who has those feelings that all of us have had, if there’s any hope that we can give you is an assurance that what sobriety will consist of is an endless series of discovering the magnificence of your true nature. We came here to stop drinking and we end up receiving the ultimate gift for any human being, which is a true perspective on, uh, ourselves, our spirituality, our place in the world and the magnificence of this fellowship known as alcoholics anonymous.

I just wanna say it’s been a privilege to be here tonight at, uh, something like the 52nd anniversary. I’ll never forget it. And I hope those of you that are brand new will, um, just come. Don’t try to think your way through this. Just allow the people in this room to take your hand and take you down a road to places that you don’t even know exist, cuz things are gonna happen to you that you don’t know to ask for.

I mean it, there are things in store for you with your name on ’em that are more magnificent than the stuff you’ve been dreaming about. If you will just let go and stick your hand. You’ll be reporting to the next newcomer. What a miraculous thing will happen to you. If you will just abandon those old ideas, stick your hand out and follow the people in front of you.

Thank you all very much. It’s a privilege to be here.

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