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Here are the steps we took

­Yesterday was my 58th birthday, and this is a great time f­or me to put on the 20-20 glasses and gain some hindsight on the journey of recovery so far. I was 32 when I joined the fellowship.

What stood out in this review is a) abstinence precedes but isn’t the same as recovery, b) recovery, distinguished as the repeated application of the 12 steps upon all aspects of the practitioner’s life, exhibits ever broader contexts as the practitioner progresses in life, and c) the support [aka sponsorship] needs of the individual likewise grow in maturity.

When I started this path back in 1992, I was virtually a loner, being the only member in recovery in the small seaside town of Pondicherry in South India, which was almost half a day’s travel from Chennai, the nearest city with regular meetings. This meant hanging on for sheer survival through literature and 12-step work, and that’s just what I did for six months before I was able to locate another couple of members (one of whom later became my first sponsor) in Auroville, a neighbouring international settlement. With their support, we were able to start and keep a meeting going for the next 4 years. I worked my first pass at the 12 steps with my then sponsor. The relief of writing down and speaking out about my inner devils was tremendous, and I experienced an elation and sense of freedom. And I made such amends as I could see that that time. As weeks months and years rolled by, this relief evaporated. For all my prayer and surrender, I continued to be under the sway of the same triggers, the big difference being I didn’t pick up a drink. It’s what we call: Dry drunk.

Then came a move to a big city in 1997 for a bigger job, pay etc. Bangalore gave me meetings, fellowship, service structure, service office and a new sponsor. I worked the steps once more with this sponsor, and the relief was markedly lesser this time, both in extent and longevity. The things that had always worked in my life continued to work, and the things that’d never worked continued to not work. There was the delusion of growth, mainly from time away from booze, political influence from the fellowship network, and some degree of career advancement. From the perspective of actual recovery, in terms of altered attitudes, behaviour and inner experience of life, the results were virtually nil. Still gnawed by fear, prone to irritation and anger, incapable of accountability. Dry drunk continued.

Matters came to head when the last of the above list of defects resulted in my being put on the hit list at my company in 2001, for failing to prevent corruption in my team, and under suspicion of collusion. Nine years after my last drink, I was going to be fired, in a recessionary market. None of the skills I had – popular, helpful, nice guy – prepared me to deal with this. I was blank, like a deer caught in the headlights. If at that time, someone had asked me how life would be 15 or 20 years in the future, I would have been terrified to contemplate that, I could see NO future other than ruin, financial, family, moral.

Then came a call from the man, at that time a friend in the fellowship, who then sponsored me through that crisis, and onto a path of regeneration and reconstruction that left me with the resources to deal with every single challenge that arose since that time. And this association, which has flowered into one of deep and abiding love and respect, also gave birth to a profound new way of working the steps in one’s life – the step workshop, or SWS.

Working with my sponsor started with taking a different action than whatever I had taken till then. And as I faced the reality of my situation and owned up my accountability with my employer, two of my ex-managers intervened to vouch for my character and won me a reprieve. For the next year, I operated much like a newcomer does – do what the sponsor tells you, fake it to make it, keep coming back – except this was about functioning in an MNC IT company, not about staying away from alcohol. It worked, I developed the basic managerial and professional discipline that helped me meet and exceed the company’s expectation. So much so, that when I left the company in 2004 to pursue my dream of building my own company, I was let go as a regretted attrition [industry parlance for a good resource leaving, preferred for hire-back].

In retrospect, I can say I had begun in earnest at that time the process of character building, which is the essence of step work and began to change the way I dealt with life situations at work and home.

 

Repeated Stepwork
Repeated Step Work

The experience of creating and running a startup was tough indeed. It brought me face to face with the next level of unworkability in my behaviour, which was made none the easier with the advent of the Lehmann Brothers meltdown. Having liquidated all my assets into the business, I once more faced the reality of a business I failed at, a mounting pile of personal and business debt, and no income. I met every one of my creditors personally, sharing the state of my business, and promising to make good the outstanding as soon as I could generate the money. Taking on some part-time work, I attempted survival till the tide turned. It didn’t. Month after month passed living on top-up loans. I owe unending thanks to my dear wife who demonstrated phenomenal forbearance in letting me go through this at my own pace while working herself to meet a big part of the monthly bill.

However, at the depths of these doldrums, a shining ray of hope was born. One day towards the end of 2008, my sponsor suggested that we work the steps together in a group, and eight of us gathered to start this novel exercise. It was in this workshop that I began to comprehend the word “unmanageability” and distinguished it as the source of my automatic behaviour in ANY situation. In this workshop, we also charted a workable process for consistently altering our behaviour, to lay the foundation for a new way of life.

What started with 8 people grew within the space of a year to 15, then 25, and then 50 people working the steps together.

In the meanwhile, thanks to my sponsor and other well-wishers showing me the mirror of tough love, I asked for and was given the chance rejoin work with my old employer in 2010. This was the beginning of a turnaround where I summoned the discipline to postpone all personal indulgence until every cent of personal and business debt was paid up. At the same time, I did not allow my job to disrupt my commitment to continue with step workshops. In fact, by this time, thanks to my recovery at work, I could share with my management about my own recovery from alcoholism, the nature of this commitment, its importance for alcoholics in recovery, and its direct impact on my ability to improve my work performance. They (as is so often the case) wholeheartedly supported my commitment for these workshops. This continues to this day.

We started the year 2015 with the Promises workshop, which deals with the principles and practice of realizing the promises in our lives. Call it “coincidence”, if you will, but that single year saw us conducting the weddings of both our children, some of the greatest achievements of my professional career coming my way. We also faced the trauma of our son suffering a terrible sky-diving accident and witnessed the miracle of his full recovery with life and limb intact. In the midst of all this, we also conducted more step workshops in 2015 than ever before, or since. In 2016, the very company that was at one time planning to throw me out on my ear acknowledged the value of my contributions by selecting me as one of its global top performers.

Notwithstanding all the improvement, the fact remained that I was due for retirement by the end of 2018, and that was insufficient time to build a safety net for the later years. Facing and accepting the sober truth of our financial precariousness, I worked with my management to gain re-employment at our Singapore office, thus affording an opportunity to clear the capital loans on a property we’d acquired, and also save for our golden years.  

Over this period, the relationship that my sponsor and I enjoy has been enriched beyond measure. Having dealt with and moved beyond the debilitating compulsions of body and mind, our conversations focus on creating new pathways to carry the message of recovery through the 12 steps. The project of taking the step workshop online is but one of these. There will be many more as we trudge the road of happy destiny.

In completion, I record here my self-assessment on the realization of the 12 promises in my life:

 

 

Promise

Realized in Full

Realized in Part

Not Realized

  1.  

We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness.

smiley

 

 

2

We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.

smiley

 

 

3

We will comprehend the word serenity, and we will know peace.

 

smiley

 

4

No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others.

smiley

 

 

5

That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear.

smiley

 

 

6

We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows

 

smiley

 

7

Self-seeking will slip away

 

smiley

 

8

Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change

smiley

 

 

9

Fear of people..

 

smiley

 

10

.. and of economic insecurity will leave us

 

smiley

 

11

We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us

smiley

 

 

12

We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves

smiley

 

 

 

On my 58th birthday, I was alone in our flat, as my wife is away on family support duty. Alone, but not lonely by any stretch of the imagination – flooded with hundreds of “happy birthday” messages from folks in every walk of life – family, schoolmates, college mates, current and former colleagues, 12-step fellowship members, business associates.. and that bunch of crazy humans, specially distilled from across all these, called friends. It was as if God was telling me “You think you are alone? Lemme show you!!”, demonstrating promise #12 once more J

Here are the steps we took [not just I], which are suggested as a program of recovery…..

Thank you for reading.

Gopal K, Singapore. 02/12/2018

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Comments

Donor's picture

Thank you for sharing, Gopal!

The 12 Step Workshop

The 12-Step Workshop - or SWS for short is the entry-level programme for people to work the 12-steps of AA. Coached by AAs, for AAs and of AAs, the SWS is a 3-day programme.

The PWS

The Promises Workshop, or PWS for short, is for people who've maintained long-term sobriety and have completed doing at least two SWSs. They need to have also actually worked all the 12 Steps in their entirety.

Train the Trainer

WSLB believes in the AA tradition of "give it away to keep it". Hence a Train the Trainer (T3WS) Course.