Tuesday April 7th, 2020 4:00AM

They are among us

By Bill Maine Executive Vice President & General Manager

There is an organization whose members know there is strength in numbers and power in anonymity. They have discovered that knowing each other, but not being known by the rest of the world gives them greater freedom to accomplish their goal.

They are on a quest of great importance. What they desire will unlock their ability to accomplish great things. It is sometimes so hard to obtain that it is almost sacred.

They are a vast army that is always recruiting. The person next to you at work, school, or church may be among their vast number and you would never know. They are not just other there…they are among us.

The secret they each bare they openly share with each other. Rarely do they share it with others who are not like them…others who might not understand or accept them because of their secret. When they do share it, they do so only with people they trust and respect. These outsiders should take it as high praise as members of this organization don’t trust others easily. They have been hurt too many times for trust to be a reflex.

While they may share their secret with you, they will never give up the identities of their fellow warriors. They are keenly aware that their anonymity binds them and gives them strength to reach their goal: sobriety.

Alcoholics Anonymous was started in Akron, Ohio, by Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith in 1935. It involves the famous 12-step program you may have heard about. It is outlined in what members call “The Big Book”.  You can look it up online, but that’s not where I learned about it.

I am not an alcoholic. I am grateful for this. As such, I realize I can’t completely understand what it is like to be so dependent on a substance. But I have had family and friends who were part of this anonymous army. I am grateful that such a group exists and that they had the courage to join.

It is said the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. In the words of Bugs Bunny, “watch that first step…it’s a doozie!” Indeed, it is, as it involves admitting you are powerless over alcohol and need help from a higher power. That is truly a big step. It means admitting that what you are doing is wrong…that you have hurt others in the process…and that you need to change. Let’s be honest, those are three things none of us ever wants to admit.  And, while they were powerless over alcohol, we—family and friends—were powerless to help them. That has to come from within. The times I thought I was helping, it turns out I was enabling. There’s a fine line between the two and I have yet to peg it.

Chips are given and cakes are shared to mark milestones of sobriety. I’ve had the honor of being invited to meetings where loved ones received their chips. It is moving to see how much sobriety can mean to someone. Seeing someone so grateful to be able to face the day with a clear mind—something I take for granted—is humbling.

Not all choose to remain anonymous. Some use their platform to hopefully inspire those who are losing their life to addiction to fight to regain it. One of my AA heroes is Joe Walsh. Yes, the incredible guitarist from the James Gang and the Eagles who also tours solo. Joe has said on several occasions that he lost some good friends to addiction and never thought he’d live as long as he has.

Nowadays, Joe attends AA meetings even while on tour. He even wrote a song about it called aptly enough “One Day at a Time” which is the only way recovery works. There is no cure but to live one day at a time.

The Big Book tells members to take responsibility for themselves. They are encouraged to take inventory of character flaws and work to correct them…to make amends to those they’ve harmed…to help others in the struggle for sobriety. They try to live the Serenity Prayer which calls for us to accept the things we cannot change, to change the things we can, and to have the wisdom to know the difference.

That’s good advice. What’s even better is you don’t have to be an alcoholic to put it into practice. When you think about it, we might all benefit from the 12-step program.

Twitter: @BillMaine

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