“We tried to carry this message to other alcoholics.” It still amazes me how this line from Step 12 carries so much power! We learn on pg. 89 of the Big Book, “that nothing will so much insure immunity from drinking as intensive work with other alcoholics.” With long term sobriety being the goal for myself, I follow these instructions only to find that the real freedom is when I get to carry the message of hope to another alcoholic or drug addict.
The key to my freedom today is being able to carry the message of recovery into hospitals and institutions. The first 12 Step meeting I attended, with the intent of doing something different, was when I was incarcerated in a Texas prison. The only way we were able to have a meeting is if and when a volunteer was willing to bring a meeting to us. There was always a part of me that knew I needed to take a meeting into a jail or prison simply because that is where I found the solution. However, I had no idea the joy and happiness I could receive from carrying out this simple task.
August 2nd, 2009 I walked into a 12 Step meeting while at the Holliday Unit in Huntsville, TX with the intent of trying anything and everything that had ever worked for anyone to get sober. I had a deeply rooted fear that now being a felon, I would not have the opportunity to be as successful as I once could have been. To my surprise, four men showed up to carry the message of recovery and were living proof that there was life after alcoholism and prison. I was given hope! These men each had multiple felonies as well as trips to the penitentiary. However, they all followed a simple set of directions at this point in time and were all happy and successful in life.
Since that day, I have not looked back. My favorite line in the Big Book on pg. 124 states, “In God’s hands, the dark past is the greatest possession you have – the key to life and happiness for others.” The understanding of this statement allows me to know why those men were so happy that day. It allows me to understand what my purpose in life is today. I don’t have to be ashamed of the fact that I am a felon or spent years in prison. I know that God gave me this experience so I can help men and women when they can connect with what I have been through.
Today I gladly accept any opportunity to be able to take a meeting into any facility that will allow me. I have not been given the opportunity to take a meeting into a jail, simply because I am still on parole, but I know how important it is for my recovery that I continue to share my experience with others. The freedom that I received from working the 12 Steps while incarcerated is proof that there is a solution to the state of hopelessness that we once experienced. As much as I would like to admit that I take these meetings out of pure selflessness, I definitely have an ulterior motive. I am able to remain sane and sober for another day. However, it also grounds me and helps me realize my purpose in life.
In early recovery, it is made clear that H&I commitments are essential to staying connected to the solution and being able to share what has been so freely given. I love the responses of others in recovery after fulfilling these commitments. Carrying the message into hospitals and institutions always allows a person in recovery to be reminded where they came from. For myself, it grants me humility in knowing that I am only doing what another did for me, let me know there is a solution! And for that I am forever grateful.