This comes from chapter five in the book Alcoholics Anonymous (the Big Book, or BB):
“If you have decided you want what we have and are willing to go to any length to get it—then you are ready to take certain steps.” (The ‘certain steps’ are, of course, the Twelve Steps of AA.)
“If you have decided you want what we have…”
What exactly did the founding members and those who followed have? Bill Wilson did a reasonably good job explaining it in the BB. They each had a personal experience with a Higher Power (HP) of their understanding, and I would note this was an experience and understanding as individuals, not a ‘group consensus.’ They had a way of living, and a set of principles to follow, that allowed them to live happy, joyous and free without alcohol. Even more importantly, they were living without fear; they were neither fighting to remain sober, nor avoiding temptation. For them, the problem had been removed! And as I looked at and listened to folks in the AA meetings I could see and feel that there were some here and there, though not many, who were also living happy, joyous and free. That all sounded pretty good to me.
None of the above was mentioned in the various groups I had attended over the years; I had to pick it up by reading the BB. Without question, my experience was that most of the members attending those groups had found a way of living abstinent of alcohol, but with fear of (often a morbid fear of) relapse. They seemed to be living reasonably happy lives unless and until life threw them a change-up, whereupon they would more likely than not go back to drinking. They did not seem to be able to “intuitively know how to handle situations that used to baffle” them.
I didn’t want that. I wanted what the founders claimed they had. And I got it! —that’s what this blog is all about.
How Long is a “Length?”
“…are willing to go to any length to get it.” Aye, there’s a big rub! How much was I willing to do, go through, put up with, do without, add to my load….and change? To be honest, I didn’t know; didn’t have a clue. Just what length was my limit? Nobody could tell me any specifics, because they had no idea. So I thought to myself, “I want it really bad, and I can always bail if the cost gets too high.” The cost actually did get too high for me, several times. The fashionable term for this is ‘relapse.’
Eventually, I became willing to do whatever it took to get what they had. Where had I heard that before? Any length, whatever it was going to take, that’s what I became willing to do. Because by that time, the pain of continuing to drink was surpassing the pain of stopping.
I had identified with Step 1 long before I became willing to go to any length to make it to the promised life of happiness, joy, and freedom. Step 1 wasn’t much good without the rest of them, though, and for those I did have to go to extraordinary lengths. At least at the time I considered them to be extraordinary. I’ll be writing about those Steps as we go along.
Thus, Step 0—Made the decision that I wanted what they had, and became willing to go to any length to get it.