Next week Canada will Mark the 100 year anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge in Northern France, (At Vimy Ridge) remembrance of all those soldiers from all over the world, over 4,000 Canadian Soldiers, who died in service of the war.
Tonight, we read another Vignette from Bill, taken from the Twelve and Twelve, which was written after the first Big Book was published in 1939.
I have an original 1939 Copy in my library.
When WWII broke out, out A.A. dependence on a Higher Power had its first major test. A.A.’s entered the services and were scattered all over the world.
Would they be able to take discipline, stand up under fire, and endure the monotony and misery of war? Would the kind of dependence they had learned in A.A. carry them through?
Well, it did.
They had even fewer alcoholic lapses or emotional binges than A.A.’s safe at home did. They were just as capable of endurance and valor as any other soldier. Whether in Alaska or on the Salerno Beachhead, their dependence upon a higher power worked.
Far from being a weakness, this dependence was their chief source of strength.
I’ve never read, in any literature that is in my library, an account of soldiers who were sober, prior to WWII, then going to fight that war, remaining sober throughout, and came home, and stayed sober.
I brought up this thought in the meeting tonight, because there are friends of mine who might have something to add to this question.
We know that thousands of letters crossed from the U.S. and other places to the war fronts all over Europe. I know that G.S.O. in New York City, has a gigantic archive of letters that passed from Alcoholics in the states and worldwide, who were writing to sober individuals (Military Personnel) in Europe and all over the world.
None of those stories were ever included in any of the Big Book Printings.
The visual of war, to many in the room, was pertinent. Because Alcoholism is a disease, and the battle to get sober, is not for the feint of heart. For some, the odds are stacked against them, few make it into serious sober time, on the first pass.
One of our old timers, who had met, veterans, in the rooms, when he first came in over twenty-five years ago, spoke about how serious they thought sobriety was. And that they listened to some, in those meetings, at that time, making light of the fight that is Alcoholism.
Yes, we laugh a lot in the rooms, at our miserable failures, and sordid stories about what it was like, what happened, and what it is like now. But getting sober, is a serious business, it is not a joke, or something to take lightly. Lives are on the line, and if someone who is really down and out, comes in, and hears people joking and laughing, they might run in fear, and never come back.
Many stories in my memory begin with someone down and out, walking down some stairs into a smoky church basement, and hearing jovial laughter and happiness, is somewhat jarring at first, until they get across the threshold.
Last night, we heard a friend talk about his journey, and after twenty years of not drinking (Read: Dry Drunk) he figures out that he needs to step up his game and commit to really, getting sober. Which brought him right up to Step Three.
Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
What he said resonated with the many who heard that story last night.
When I was a young seminarian, I had turned my will and my life over to God. This was just another pass at God, throughout my young life. But I was conscious of this decision, and I was willing to go to any length to prove my worthiness to God.
The common man was much harder to convince.
But life has a funny way of turning out.
The next pass at God was in the guise of Todd, when I got sick, and was going to die. I know, today, that Todd represented to me, the incarnation of God on earth. I had made that same commitment to God again. But alas, I could not carry it through, because of my own inability to trust myself alone.
At thirty-four, when I put down the drink for the last time, (let us pray) I spoke to God and in that moment, I had done Steps One, Two and Three, all at once.
To this day, every day, I turn my will and my life over, because I know, that God has done for me what I could not do for myself.
In the last week, I have listened to several Pod Casts, from my favorite channel, The Art Of Charm. We’ve heard of The Hero’s Journey, James Campbell, and Narrative Building.
If you grew up in the 1970’s and onward, you might have seen a few little Star Wars Films. We were introduced to the Jedi. To Obi Wan, and Yoda. We saw, for our own eyes, and most probably, learned the mythology of the Hero’s Journey, The Force, and The Rebels fighting the Empire.
Another friend, tonight, spoke of us as Padawan’s, and not necessarily Jedi. I’m not sure I’ve met a Jedi in the rooms, to date. In the rooms, there is “A Force.” We come in and we see it in others, and we watch and listen to them, and eventually, we either want what others have, or we don’t.
In an Earlier post, we spoke about the Spiritual versus the Religious.
Alcoholics Anonymous is a spiritual program. With as many people in the rooms, there is a vision of what we are, who we are, and what we do in meetings.
Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism.
Lorna Kelly, a long time sober member of the New York Community, who died last July, says that the Preamble is one of the most important pieces of literature ever written. Because it tells us who we are, what we suffer from, and how we achieve sobriety.
It is said, that in war, that there are no Atheist’s in foxholes.
Atheism was also mentioned tonight by one of my friends, who asked the question, “What about those members or people, who may not have had identified a Power Greater than Themselves, or really believed in God, in the time of War, he wanted to know, where they were, and if they were, how they stayed sober, during the war ?”
I was reminded by one of my best friends, what I really needed to do, to safeguard my spiritual well-being, when it comes to others in the rooms. Something I have mentioned ad nauseam over the past month or so.
He also gave me some advice in stepping up my health and well-being game. He said that if I was in for a penny, that I should be in for a pound. That is something I will be adding to my life toolkit.
I spoke briefly, about two men, who went to war. Jimmy Settle, P.J. in Alaska’s 212 Pararescue Unit. Jimmy went to Afghanistan, and was shot and almost killed by the Taliban. His story is grueling. And for me, it was a very emotional experience, just reading his Hero’s Journey.
The Other is Romeo Dallaire. Who Commanded Canadian and United Nations forces, during one of the worlds worst Genocides, in Rwanda, after that of Nazi Germany of course.
Jimmy trained, went to war, came home, and served his country valiantly. Alcohol was not much mentioned in his story, because if you are going to be an elite soldier, drinking is the least of your problems. (Read: Read The Book Yourself)
Never Quit: by Jimmy Settle and Don Rearden.
Romeo, was shattered, watching and collecting visual and written proof of genocide in Rwanda as it happened all around him. Shake Hands with the Devil is one serious book. And not a tome to take lightly, by any means.
When Romeo came back to Ottawa, he was living on the Gatineau side of the Ottawa River, a bridge walk to Ottawa proper. His bottom came, as one night, he bought a bottle of Scotch and walked the bridge to Centennial Park, on the Ottawa side, along side Parliament Hill. He suffered greatly, in silence, until that night, when he drank that bottle, and was found almost dead, on his stomach, drunk, with his face in the mud.
War is War, and War is hell. Death, Terrorism, Genocide, you name it, if you are fighting for your country, you pledge to serve your country to the best of your ability.
You will go into your experience, as one kind of soldier, be they Man or Woman. But we all know, from some serious experience, that the soldier you were, when you went in, you will not be the same soldier, when you come out.
We know, here in Canada, how many men and women, after serving our nation, and the world at large, came home injured, broken, and certainly changed people, on the other end.
And we know, sadly, how many of those men and women came home to ingratitude, a lack of services, no mental health services or for some, any services at all, and in the end, many, so many young men and women, took their own lives because of the trauma they experienced over seas.
Alcohol, is the least of their problems, when men and women go to war …
Bill write the above noted story, because, I believe, he either met some soldiers, heard stories, read letters, or spoke to someone as second-hand, the experience I wrote above.
Bill’s vignettes, in my opinion, were on his mental radar. He had some experience in what he was writing about, because this story comes in the Twelve and Twelve. This particular story was collected then added to that particular book, which came much later than the first publishing of the First Edition of the Big Book in 1939.
God, the three-letter word that keeps multitudes of people from freedom.
At one point in As Bill Sees It, Bill writes in one passage that your Higher Power can be whatever you want it to be. A seeming plausible system of belief, that comes as a relief to many, but on that same page, the final sentence reads:
But it Always comes back to God …
Tradition Three, in the Twelve and Twelve, expands on the idea of who can attend a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous. You are an A.A. member if you say so, nobody can keep you out, no matter how far down you have gone… you are a member if you say so …
Over the many decades, literature has become a little more fluid, and not so set in stone as it was read, by those in the early years of the program.
God as we understand Him, can be, if you just allow it, for a moment, can be as fluid as you wish it to be. As long as we realize that there is a Power Greater Than Ourselves, and that:
We are NOT that Higher Power …