Personal Responsibility and the Recovering Alcoholic – Part 2

“All A.A. progress can be reckoned in terms of just two words: humility and responsibility. Our whole spiritual development can be accurately measured by our degree of adherence to these magnificent standards.

Ever deepening humility, accompanied by an ever-greater willingness to accept and act upon clear-cut obligations—these are truly our touchstones for all growth in the life of the spirit. They hold up to us the very essence of right being and right doing. It is by them that we are able to find and do God’s will.” (Bill W., Grapevine, January 1966)

Though the program demands we accept personal responsibility, remember that you are not doing this alone. It would be a cruel thing to tell a suffering alcoholic that he simply needs to get it together and get well. This is not what we mean when we speak of personal responsibility. The beauty of recovery is that it is not a solo venture. It is true: only you can make the decision to quit drinking. Only you can recognize and admit your own powerlessness. No one can do this for you. But once these initial admissions are made, you never again have to rely solely upon your own efforts or abilities. You are embraced into a fellowship that is only too eager to help you to rise above your former life.

Your first and most powerful help is God. The admission that you cannot control your drinking is quickly followed by the belief that He can. When you believe that God can help you and when you trust that He will, there is no longer any excuse for not recovering. With God, the Almighty, all things are possible, even your sobriety.

You also have a fellowship of successfully recovering addicts who are ready, willing, and waiting to throw you the life preserver. No alcoholic should ever justify a relapse or inability to recover based on ‘not wanting to impose on anyone.’ This is not humility; it is the pride that convinces you that you don’t need help, that your problem is too big, or that you aren’t worthy of recovering. Helping other addicts find hope and recovery is the greatest responsibility and the greatest joy of the Twelve Step life. It is your responsibility to learn to accept this help.

We take the program and this process one step at a time and we pray for God’s help and guidance at every turn. We are learning to live in an entirely new way and for a while it will seem quite foreign. We may miss many of the benefits and blessings of this work if we fail to seek God’s direction.

We must take responsibility in our personal relationships. As you begin to analyze some of your more testing relationships and how you have been wronged, you will likely begin to see that you indeed did have some part in the negative direction the relationship took. Be open to this insight. While it is more comfortable to carry a grudge than admit responsibility, it is far more healing to accept, with humility, that you too are not perfect.

We must stop making excuses. Your sponsor can help you with this. Ask him or her to point out instances in which you tend to blame others or seek to shift responsibility away from yourself and your actions. We all have trials and we are empathetic people. But we also understand that many of our troubles are of our own making and it is now time to exercise action and good judgment, rather than to sink into fatalism or self-justification. Don’t deprive yourself of the joy that comes from meeting life’s challenges with faith and fortitude. Rather than be a victim, you have the opportunity to become an active participant in the story of your own life.

As you recover, you also have a responsibility to the addict who still suffers. The essence and objective of the Twelve Step Program is not simply to get you well. That is a part of this program and an important one, but ultimately recovery is about reaching the masses of alcoholics imprisoned in their addiction with no source of hope or help. You must get well so that they might get well too.

Though we used to run from responsibility, we find that with God’s help and the support of our fellows we embrace it. We are no longer victims of our past, our alcoholism, or our unfavorable circumstances. We are free to be the people God made us to be.