Featured Post: The Step of the Month
“We admitted we were powerless over alcohol— that our lives had become unmanageable.”
When I started thinking about what I might write about step one, I was a little intimidated because the step, being, well… the first one, is awfully important and also discussed and written about constantly. What could I add that others with more long term sobriety have not already said? This feeling of being unqualified is one of my lingering personal shortcomings, a relic of the past version of me prior to recovery, and one that will actually tie all the way back to this step.
I have met other alcoholics that did not have a problem with step one. They had hit rock bottom, they knew they were an alcoholic and didn’t have an issue being identified as one, they wanted to stop and they had tried and failed to do it themselves. I was not like this. Deep down, yes, I knew that I had become addicted, it is hard to argue that when you are experiencing physical withdrawal symptoms, as I was. It is human nature to resist admitting that you are powerless over anything, it goes against our nature, you will hear this mentioned at almost any AA meeting during discussion about the first step.
My personal reluctance went beyond a typical need to be in control. I had deep, long term personal failures and insecurities, and a general feeling that I always seem to give up or fail. I could not add this to the list. The thought of being an alcoholic on top of everything else was too much to bear, and it worked against me seeking help in two different ways.
I could not take the hit to my ego or handle the idea of other people knowing about my problem. For a long time, it was simply out of the question, I would not do it.
I believed that, if I could beat this problem on my own, knowing that most cannot, that such a triumph would cancel out everything else that I failed at, I would have at least achieved something.
So what did I do? Well, first I just continued to drink, all the while telling myself, as many of us tend to do, that tomorrow will be the day I start to stop. Eventually, I was forced into treatment, still never truly admitting I was powerless, never conceding. I went to meetings, I stayed sober, never conceding. In fact, my short term sobriety filled me with confidence. I had won! I felt great, and I relapsed horribly after just over 60 days, leading to an ugly blow up at home that ended with me getting kicked out of my house. I began to work the steps, and I told everyone, including myself, that I had worked step one. Deep down though, I didn’t, I would not concede, because after 9 very good months, it happened again, an ugly (only one day, blessedly) relapse that resulted from a final attempt to control it, to try to win, or, more accurately, to try not to lose.
Now? I have another 6 months of sobriety and I can admit that I am powerless over alcohol and my life had become unmanageable. It took me awhile to get there, and I wish I had done it faster, but I got there, and now that I’m there, I see that all of my fears about it were misplaced, or perhaps they were partly a manifestation of the disease itself, so that I would continue drinking. Whatever it was, it was my own personal journey with step one, and I don’t feel like a loser, I was wrong about that, it’s just the opposite, I feel better than I ever have before.
-Patrick B, Sunday Speaker Meeting
RBA Board of Trustees Minutes
Monday, December 14th, 2020
Meeting Opened at 7:07pm
Opened with the Serenity Prayer and AA Traditions One and Two. Our mission is to manage the property, finances and 501C3 for the RBA.
1. Members Present:
Isaac S., Lori W., Norton L., Joe R., Roger B., Bill M., Rik L., Jeff S.
Guests: Will S., Jerry Z,. Doug R., Steve P.
2. Building & Maintenance Report (Jerry Z.):
Jerry trimmed branches overhanging the roof during the past month. He plans to fix the coffee machine water valve, clean carpets, and fix the divider in the back of the building in coming weeks. The divider is operable when pulled with both hands.
3. Financial Report:
The November financial statements were updated with new information provided from prior periods. Interest payments towards the LOC for the parking lot project were reclassified as interest expense on the P&L instead of deductions from the loan principal on the balance sheet. Interest revenues from 2016 through current year were recorded after marking up the carrying values of our CDs based on bank reports. Approximately $50 of immaterial adjustments were posted to resolve prior period software errors causing a difference between our books and the bank’s records.
Pledges were down from the prior month as expected being as October is the first month of the pledge year. Coffee and cleaning revenue along with pledges for November were approximately $1,000 less than collections from November of 2019. Expenses were stable other than the $800 approved to spend on the Christmas event. Funds collected for this event and others will be segregated from general funds for bookkeeping purposes going forward. Collections to pay down the LOC (parking lot) balance will be paid to Premier Bank monthly going forward. We discussed the $500 balance earmarked for the Squad Council, which will remain as such and used for future events. A motion to approve the financials was seconded and approved.
4. Old Business:
The LED lighting project, back door repairs/replacement, and the barrier for the front parking lot remain on our agenda for the spring. The board has decided to delay or forgo engaging the asphalt company to fix the drainage problem by the back of the building. This problem is beyond the scope of the asphalt work that was performed in the past, so the company is asking for a considerable amount to divert the water flow away from the building. Jerry intends to utilize an asphalt strip along with sandbags to prevent water seepage. The minutes from the November meeting were circulated via email and hard copy before being approved by the board.
5. New Business:
The board will continue to ask members and guests to observe new club rules related to COVID 19 prevention. These rules have been implemented based on guidelines provided by the Minnesota Department of Health and will be enforced for the purposes of keeping members safe and complying with state mandates. No food or beverages are allowed in the club until further notice. Masks are to be worn properly when in the building, and meeting sizes are to be managed to ensure social distancing. Food left on tables for any reason will be thrown away immediately. Jerry and other club members have been purchasing disinfecting supplies to wipe down surfaces, and these have been used during meetings as requested. Notebooks provided by the club have been, and will continue to be, utilized for the purposes of contact tracing. Three members have reported testing positive for COVID 19 over the past month.
RBA discussed recent updates related to the COVID 19 vaccines and will resume fellowship events when it is deemed safe to do so. As discussed during the November board meeting, holiday marathons will not be held at the club this year, but regularly scheduled meetings will be available on those dates. The board discussed the annual banquet and will consider postponing until the second half of 2021 if needed. The annual Children’s Christmas Party was a huge success; our members had a lot of fun donating towards and carrying out this event. Unused funds will be returned to the club and set aside for future Christmas Parties.
Doug R. and Steve P. joined the board to propose a new meeting on Wednesday nights at 8:00pm beginning in January 2021. The proposed format relates to NA and cross-addiction. The requirement for six pledging members has been deferred for this squad, but several members have expressed interest in attending. Doug will serve as Treasurer and Steve as Squad Leader. This meeting has been designated Squad NA1 and will be added to the meeting schedule upon request from Doug or Steve as January approaches. Squad NA1 will be held in one of the meeting rooms in front of the club. A motion to approve was seconded and carried unanimously.
The board has transitioned responsibilities to the newly elected officers over the past month. Joe is now the primary member listed on our Sam’s Club membership with Jeff as an additional card holder. Jeff and Norton are now signers on the Premier Bank Account. Bank accesses, with differing levels of entitlements, have been granted to officers and the bookkeeper. Vendors have been given updated contact information to ensure invoices are send to the appropriate individuals.
Fundraising was discussed. The board decided to discontinue t-shirt sales due to lack of interest in organizing and administering this initiative. Existing orders have been placed and will be filled. The display will be removed from the glass case and no additional orders will be taken. Furthermore, funds received from the sale held in October are expected to be remitted to the board before the financials for the month of December are finalized. The board was reminded that going forward a recap sheet must be provided for club records following each fundraising event.
Lastly, the board discussed adding a feature to the rbaaa.org website to accept electronic donations from members. A platform has been identified which will allow us to collect data from donors to ensure funds are applied to the intended squads for the intended purposes. This platform will charge a small percentage, which varies based on payment method, and these transaction fees will be absorbed by the club. Donations will be deposited directly into the RBA checking account and reports will be provided to the bookkeeper to ensure pledge recap sheets are updated monthly for each squad. A motion to approve was seconded and unanimously voted to approve.
A motion to adjourn was seconded and approved at 8:45pm and we closed with the Lord’s Prayer.
-Joe R, Secretary - Board of Trustees
First Step Prayer
Tradition of the Month
The Importance of The First Tradition
As our spiritual progression in an AA program continues to grow, we find ourselves more involved within the AA community. We find ourselves looking to The Twelve Traditions for the framework of how AA’s twelve steps should operate. The first of the traditions sets forth a simple but crucial concept that is integral to the success of Alcoholics Anonymous. Tradition One states, “Our common welfare should come first; personal progress depends upon AA unity.” In other words, this tradition is stating that if a group becomes distracted or dominated by a smaller group of individuals or controversy, the unity of the group will be jeopardized. It is therefore critical that AA’s welfare come first so that all AA members can participate and progress. With this tradition comes a list of foundational benefits: space to participate for new comers, a cohesive dialogue from all individuals, and opportunity for all beliefs to partake without judgement. With the foundation that this tradition provides, AA groups can support anyone seeking help from their addictions.
Often in meetings we hear that the newcomers are the most important individuals in the meeting. They remind people who have had years of sobriety of the hardships and chaos that addiction so easily produces. They also allow AA members the opportunity to serve the newcomer and better the sobriety of all. If unity between all individuals is disregarded, then the newcomer is put at risk. If select individuals dominate in a group, then they could be sidelining the new person. This might be enough for a newcomer to not accept AA, and expose themselves back to the world of their addiction. If we honor The First Tradition, then we provide the space for the newcomer to participate and feel involved in a community that shares a common problem. It allows the newcomer to believe that all you need to participate in AA is a desire to quit drinking.
AA meetings involve more people than just the new comer. At meetings you find individuals of many different backgrounds with many different opinions. The First Tradition allows for all voices to be heard. This open platform allows for everyone to speak including those who might have a minority view. The result is a cohesive dialogue that allows for people to get what they need out of a meeting. This also allows every meeting to be unique. Uniqueness is important as it creates a value for individuals to keep coming back. The first Tradition mentions “our” welfare not any one specific individual’s welfare. Therefore, it is crucial for all members to accept a majority opinion so that teh group can work together. With the first tradition we have the basic framework to accept all individuals willing to quit drinking and work towards a common goal.
-Joe R (The other one), Squad 5C
Reflection on Hope
The whole process of a lasting recovery begins with hope. It is hope which is the key that unlocks the door to our prison of addiction. What is hope? One definition that I thought was quite descriptive was to have a "Leap in Expectation." The first step in the road to recovery is to become hopeful!
Hope is infectious - an invasion of change, it can spread easily Like laughter or yawning. There is evidence of this throughout our AA writings.
Recovery is spread from person to person by hope:
"In spite of the great increase in the size and the span of this Fellowship, at its core it remains simple and personal. Each day, somewhere in the world, recovery begins when one alcoholic talks with another alcoholic, sharing experience, strength, and hope." -- Forward to 3rd addition of the Big Book
Here is an example on a more personal level.
"... AA's were not professionals, not experts, but just former drunkards who helped each other stay sober, she pointed out.
That meant I could fit in, as they did, if I wanted to! And suddenly a long – frozen longing to belong thawed inside me – a sharp, lovely, barely remembered yearning from childhood. I could acknowledge it now because, for once, I dared hope for relief." -- Best of the Grapevine, p261
I remember my first glimmer of hope came when I was sitting in the coffee shop at the Downtown Club AA in St. Paul, seeing dozens of people that had experienced release, I wondered to myself do I really belong here? Later, sitting in my first AA meeting's hearing people tell my story and realizing I was not alone -- I answered my own question; YES! I do belong here! My first days in AA had a profound effect on me that changed the direction of my life permanently.
Without hope we are lost, and many of us were totally lost before we found our way into AA. Hope is the motivation that can help move us forward, without it there is little chance of recovery. One way AA spreads the hope is by sharing our stories. "If he can do it why can't I..." and so it begins. This spark creates a change in us, a spiritual change, we begin to hope for relief from alcohol. We experience a leap in expectation. What drives and animates us has begun to change.
If we are to continue recovering, this hope must grow. Some ways in which this happens is by reading about the success of others in the Big Book, attending AA meetings and watching the success of others and ultimately by taking risks by trying out bits and pieces of this program. When we see results in ourselves hope grows further. The spark becomes a flame! Hope becomes a part of who we are if it is nurtured and encouraged.
When I think about these things I have to ask myself; In talking with those still afflicted do I help start the spark of hope? Do I "pass the torch"? Do I use the opportunities I have with new comers to help start the infection, the invasion in that individual? Do I share my experience strength and hope with others when I can?
-Tom S, Big Book's Greatest Hits, Zoom Meeting
1rst Step Insights
9th Step Insights
Step 9 - Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others
The dictionary defines amend to “put right” and to “change for the better”.
Seems simple enough. Keep it that way. Step 9 works to makes you a better person and works to eliminate emotional barriers to sustained sobriety. This step can be managed by keeping three concepts or tools in mind.
Before the three - A critical foundation for step 9 work – you need a sound Step 4 inventory and Step 8 list. Be “painstaking” as Bill W states in Alcoholics Anonymous. Do that before you embark on step 9. Having done that, you are ready.
1. Serenity- use our tried and true Serenity prayer fervently in this step. You must accept no control or have courage to change.
· You can accept by doing amend even if you feel someone doesn’t deserve an amend or you feel frustration/anger towards them. You can’t change their past behavior, personality or control their reaction. Nor should you expect or be owed a reaction.
· You can have courage to change by doing an amend that doesn’t suit your personality or style. Example: “I am uncomfortable with a face to face or writing an email/letter…on touchy topics. “ Summon Serenity to give you strength to change that.
· Have the serenity to be patient in doing them. They may take time and the right environment. It cannot be hurried or done just to “check the box”. Work with your sponsor and others who have step 9 experience.
2. Simple – keep it simple and straightforward as best you can. Just state the facts without commentary. Example: “I did this and it hurt you. I am acknowledging the wrong to you.” Avoid extra clutter or needless justification/explanation. Doing step 9 can be challenging, don’t make it more so. Lean on sponsor/others for various methods to do them.
3. Sorry – Resist reliance on its use. The word is excessively and needlessly used in most communication. How many times have we in the depths of our disease used this term only to revert to our behavior again and again? Consider using the “AA” letters – Acknowledge and Admit your wrongs. (Note that step 10 requires regular “admission” of wrongs)
Doing Step 9 work is an ongoing journey and one that bears spiritual fruit time and time again.
-Jim R, Sunday Speaker Meeting
Reflection on Listening
My New Year’s Resolution….Listen!
2020 has been a turbulent year. When I watch the evening news, I sometimes wonder what could heal the rift so obvious in the world today. Every issue seems to have two opposing sides so far apart that they refuse to share a common opinion on even the most trivial issues. I believe (and pray) that between the two extremes, which are considered most news-worthy, lay well intentioned, good natured and intelligent people willing to work together for the greater good. If they would only listen!
Although listening isn’t directly addressed in the AA steps, I believe it is woven through each of them and is a critical piece to my recovery. I remember meetings I attended shortly after getting sober where we’d go around the room allowing everyone the opportunity to share. As I calculated how long each person could speak (28 minutes to noon, 7 people left…no more than 4 minutes each!) and started getting agitated when someone went beyond “their time” I frantically worked to organize my thoughts to perfect my share. After my