BY: ED L. | COOS BAY, OREGON
In a few days I will celebrate my first birthday in Alcoholics Anonymous. I look forward to it as the most special day of my forty-one years.
As I look back on my year of sobriety I feel a great deal of gratitude for the changes that have occurred in my life. I have experienced the usual joys of sobriety, namely, no hangovers, no bloodshot eyes, and actually holding on to money for days at a time. However, the gratitude I feel runs much deeper. It is the result of increased self-esteem stemming from a life based on honesty.
You see, when I was drinking I was the kind of person who felt elated when a clerk gave me too much change. I felt perfect when I’d walk out of my employer’s grocery store with a bag full of stolen booze and steaks. I thought of all the money I “saved” when I stole some postage stamps from the office where I worked.
Early in sobriety I talked to my sponsor about “rigorous honesty.” He said we alcoholics have been so dishonest that we have to strive to be honest even in the minutest details. He said we even have to “stop stealing postage stamps.” Little did he know at the time how that hit home.
He showed me by example how he mails letters to his AA friends from his office. His secretary keeps track of the amount of postage used for his personal letters and he pays for the postage in advance. He has written me often on paper from his office, paper that he has purchased. Rigorous honesty was not just an empty phrase that he read in the Big Book; it was a way of life that he lived by.
I had decided that I wanted what he had when I asked him to be my sponsor. So, I decided to try to be honest in everything I do.
I am now working on my Ninth Step in the AA recovery program. I wrote the chairman of the board of the grocery store chain that formerly had employed me. In my letter I told him of my thievery. I explained I was a member of Alcoholics Anonymous and that I wished to make amends. He wrote a kind letter back thanking me for my honesty and telling me where to send payments. I now send monthly checks. Just a week ago I sent a check to cover the cost of some personal phone calls I made on the company phone. I have paid my employer back for the stamps.
This morning, after counting my change at a restaurant, I noticed that I had received too much. I went to the young cashier and handed her the extra five dollar bill. She looked at me with appreciative eyes and said, “Thank you for being so honest.” I walked back to my wife and told her what a warm, wonderful feeling I had inside. I also thought of how few times, if any, anyone had said those words to me in my twenty-five years of drinking.
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