Putting the Past to Good Use – Part 2

Putting the Past to Good Use - Part 2Continued from Putting the Past to Good Use – Part 1.

“Experience is the thing of supreme value in life. That is true only if one is willing to turn the past to good account. We grow by our willingness to face and rectify errors and convert then to assets.” (Alcoholics Anonymous, 124)

Wisdom and Discernment

A first step in humility is recognizing that we are human and that we make mistakes. But we can’t be content with that as a final proclamation on our lives. While this has a humble veneer, in reality, it also smacks of laziness. Yes, we are human and we make mistakes. But as humans, we have also been given the mental and emotional capability to recognize mistakes, learn from them, and seek God’s help in order to avoid repeating them. We are not sentenced to a life of stagnation. We are called to rise above, with God’s help.

When the mistakes of the past come to mind, or when you find that their consequences continue to impact your life now, take the time to dissect them. Don’t wallow or lament that you can’t turn back time, simply look at the situation as it is. What is the root of the problem? What was the mistake you made? Is there a way to avoid making a similar mistake in the future?

In our addiction we did not have the presence of mind to honestly look at our lives and our mistakes. One of the gifts of recovery is a sober eye. We examine the past, we look honestly at our mistakes, and we begin to deduce the better option. We discuss it with others, we pray, and we start actively making better choices.


While your past may, on the surface, resemble a long string of disasters and failures, you will see that nothing makes you so perfectly qualified to serve other suffering alcoholics as your tales of woe, failure, error, and desperation. A suffering alcoholic has no interest in taking advice from the one who always made the right decision, lived an upright life, and never experienced a fall. They need to hear from someone with whom they can identify—a fellow drunk, a fellow failure—someone like you.

What you have to offer is far greater than commiseration. You have hope. You begin by telling the fellow sufferer enough of your own tragic tale so that he or she may identify. They see you know what you are talking about. But you don’t stop there. After recounting how it was, you tell them what happened. You share your experience in AA and the grace that God has shown you in relieving you from your alcoholic obsession. You tell them how things are now—how you are recovering, mending your life, and how you are more content, serene, and fulfilled than you have ever been.

Your past is a gift to the suffering alcoholic—file these memories away so that they may help to bring a message of hope to one who desperately needs it.

Forward Action

We do whatever we can in order to live better and to live beyond our alcoholic past. Our first endeavor is to work the Steps from one to 12. In doing so, much of the wrinkles and crevices of the past are ironed out, filled in and healed. As we progress through the process, step by step, we do not always see the full picture or how we are to fix our entire life full of problems and mistakes. But we do gain enough light and insight to discern the next small step, task or positive action. And so we move forward, bit-by-bit. In time, we have become the people we want to be and we are living the life we want to live. Our past no longer defines us or negatively informs our future. It is the springboard into a better, greater life than we could have imagined.

“Suppose we fall short of our chosen ideals and stumble? Does this mean we are going to get drunk? Some people tell us so. But this is only a half-truth.

It depends on us and on our motives. If we are sorry for what we have done, and have the honest desire to let God take us to better things, we believe we will be forgiven and will have learned our lesson. If we are not sorry, and our conduct continues to harm others, we are quite sure to drink. These are facts out of our experience.” (Alcoholics Anonymous, 70)