“Give It Away to Keep It”: My Journey to Sobriety

Steve found successful recovery through the AA fellowship and continues to give back by sponsoring other men

By Steve

June 20, 2020

My name is Steve.  I am a 58-year-old alcoholic. I have been in successful recovery for 13 years. I say successful because like for so many of us, the miracle does not typically happen on your first attempt. We are most likely attempting to find sobriety because a family member, employer or the legal system is insisting on it. The path to a happy and content recovery program can only be found if you—the individual—have finally had enough and want it enough for you and no one else.

A successful recovery program must have a beginning rooted in selfishness: You are doing this for you.

I have been an on-the-road salesman for most of my adult life. I’ve spent a good part of my professional life in airports and hotel rooms. With lots of trade shows and entertaining customers over the years…well, drinking had just become a daily thing. It was not until some things in my personal life took a turn that I realized alcohol, which I always had considered my friend, was really the enemy. It was controlling many facets of my life. I came to realize with the help of my friends and family that this way of life was not going work anymore.

I had to make the choice: What kind of person and father did I want to be?

I tried a few of the easy way: counseling, only drinking after 5 p.m., only drinking beer or wine. Of course, the last two are just ways to continue the madness but convince yourself you are at least trying.

I genuinely believe that one of the best ways to stay sober is by helping others find the miracle I found.”

I finally decided to try an AA meeting near my office. I went to the noon meeting at lunch, getting there late and leaving early to return to the office. After a few meetings, some of the old-timers (people with years of sobriety) started to ask me if I had a sponsor and whether I working “the steps” yet. I told them, “Yes,” basically so they would leave me alone. I just wanted to come to a meeting every now and then and tell people around me I was taking action to stop drinking and get a pat on the back.

I had one more bottom to hit before I finally realized I could not do this alone and needed to listen to those old-timers. Once I finally committed to the program, got a sponsor, starting working the 12 steps with him, began going to meetings on a daily basis and actually listened to what others had to say, I realized I was not unique. Their stories are my stories, and I can find happiness without alcohol.

I genuinely believe that one of the best ways to stay sober is by helping others find the miracle I found.  After 13 years, I still attend AA meetings. Now that I have become an old-timer in sobriety years, I feel it is important for the newcomers to see that the program can work if you work it. There is nothing more gratifying then to see an old acquaintance whom you helped in the beginning of their journey. Maybe by just small talk or a welcome handshake at their first meeting, or a ride to a meeting when they were without a car, or giving them their first Big Book to keep for their own.

I have sponsored many men over the years. Some have stuck with the program; others have chosen to go back out and drink again. My sponsor has always told me to not take it personally when a sponsee goes back out. That is their choice, but be ready for that call some night when they have had enough.

As we say in AA, “You have to give it away to keep it.”