It’s is pretty common in AA to hear that newcomers should make a list of all the things they want out of their first year. The bearers of this advice often follow it by adding that whatever is on said list will surely be gotten and surpassed. Whenever I hear that advice, though, I wonder if it is wise. I’m not sure. I’m not passing judgment. I really do not know. There seems to be something so contrary to asking an alcoholic to dream, to make lists, to plan for the future. It feels like setting one up for resentment. On the other hand, the books tell me that my imagination will be fired at last, and truthfully, lately it does feel like my imagination is on fire. I want to do more, dream more, aspire more.
So, here is my question: Are only people in their first year allowed to make lists or can anyone do it?
I was so tempted by the idea of the list, I figured it was worth the inevitable resentment when none of it came true. But an interesting thing happened as I started to write it… The list changed. What should have been Number One on the list success and financial security, but it wasn’t. It was my sobriety.
- Sobriety. So, I know sobriety has to be Number One on the list. It might be a formality. It feels like a formality. I roll my eyes as I write it. “Of course she would put sobriety Number One. What a goody two-shoes. We all know that if this were a real list, a million dollars and a book contact would be at Number One.” Okay, you make a point. But this is a real list, not a fantastical monkey paw list. Furthermore, I fear the moment I take my sobriety for granted. The moment I begin to believe my own mind and the crazy it produces, I am in severe trouble.
So, then I thought, well, success would be Number Two, except it wasn’t again. Number Two was to be a better person.
- Be a better person. This, of course, holds hands with Number One. I have to grow spiritually to remain sober. The Big Book tells me that. It goes beyond that though. I legitimately want to be a better person. I like to think of myself as a cynic. I question most everything. I’m judgmental and competitive and a little mean. I don’t like Pollyannas. I want to be brazen and bold, not sweet or kind. But in my heart, when I am lying in bed late at night, I think about what it must feel like to have patience and love and tolerance in one’s heart instead of dripping black goo. So, Number Two is to figure out how to simultaneously be a badass and nice.
- I want my family to be well.
And then I had this weird memory from my very early sobriety. I haven’t shared it in a long time. I was sitting outside chain-smoking with my friend Baughbee who also had maybe thirty or sixty days. He was a little bit older, gray around the temples, but somehow we had formed a fast and true friendship. One day, we got started on the conversation of how Galileo realized the sun did not go around the moon. I have no memory of how it started, just that it happened.
What I do remember doing was turning to Bobby and in one enormous breath exclaiming,
“What if I am Earth? What if I am not the center of my own universe? What if all this time, I thought I was the center, but I am not. What if I am really just Earth orbiting three revolutions away? And what if the Sun is actually God or AA or a higher power. And that is the true center of my life? In my own life. In my own life, what if I am not the most important thing in my life? What then? What then…? And I think it was Copernicus.”
There was a long silence. Baughbee looked over at me. I think he thought I was crazy. But now, seven years later, it turns out I was right. I am not the most important thing in my own life. AA is, sobriety is the sun. It is from this warmth that all the other things spring forth. And then there is spirituality. And the health of my family. I am Earth afterall. And so, what then? What, nothing. It’s just fine. I am sitting here in the calm of the early morning on Labor Day weekend. Bob is asleep. The puppies are asleep. And life is good. I don’t need everything to revolve around me. I just need it to revolve, to keep going. And if the top three things on my list continue to be taken care of when I turn eight, well, that would be nice too.
Happy Labor Day.
And yes, it was Copernicus.