Here in Houston, as I assume in most cities, “How it Works” is read at the beginning of meetings. Over time, a particular line from this passage has wormed its way into my inner thoughts. “If you have decided you want what we have and are willing to go to any length to get it…”(Big Book 58). While I have vague recollections of being asked the corollary question, “Are you willing to go to any length?” early in my sobriety, I have not had the question posed to me in a very long time. A little more than a year ago, I started asking it of myself.
Am I willing to go to any length? I think back to Bill’s now famous trip to Akron, Ohio. His business meeting had not gone as planned. At one end of the hotel hallway was a bar, the other a payphone. He picks up the phone and starts flipping through the phonebook, calling strangers, clergymen, at random to find a drunk to talk to. Can you imagine what this sounded like? “Hello. My name is Bill. I am an alcoholic visiting from New York. Do you know of any other alcoholics that I might be able to speak to?” What do you think the people on the other line thought? I surmise they probably thought he was drunk right there on the phone. It sounds like a drunk idea, talking to another alcoholic. I wonder how many numbers he had to dial before he got ahold of Henrietta Seiberling. I have thought more than once that the phone calls in and of themselves were probably enough to keep him sober. How many times does a man have to proclaim his own fallibility to a stranger before he realizes a drink is probably not a good idea? He could have stopped right there. Then where would we all be?
I think of the men going into Townes Hospital. I think of the famous picture “Man on the Bed” by Robert M. I test myself some days. Am I now or was I ever willing to go to Ben Taub, walk up to the ER nurse, and politely inquire as to whether there were any alcoholics with whom I could have a conversation. Whenever I contemplate such actions, and whether or not I would be willing to follow in those same steps, I get a little uncomfortable and squirmy.
Cause the truth is, I ignore phone calls. And Last Sunday, when the leader of a meeting asked for potential sponsors to raise their hand to the new man, I kept my hands folded in my lap. On Tuesday, on my way to my usual 10 PM lead, I complained to myself the entire drive there. I went to some length, sure. According to Google Maps, I went precisely 9.9 miles. But is that any length?
I am so lucky that I live in a place and time where AA is so readily available. I don’t have to call up ministers at random and ask for alcoholics. I don’t have to walk into Ben Taub to find an alcoholic because the Parc and the Right Step and any number of rehabs have nightly meetings. But I should probably pick up a phone if one calls me, right? So what does any length look like today? 90 in 90? Written daily tenth step? I don’t know.
So, I throw down the gauntlet. I ask you. What’s the most extraordinary action you have taken in the past month to support your own sobriety? What does any length look like today? Leave your comment anonymously here or post it on Facebook. Maybe you will inspire the rest of us.