Friday, March 27, 2009

Working The Program

What does this mean? I like the explanation from the ODAT book, page 45:

"What does working the program mean? It means to attend meetings faithfully, to read some Al-Anon literature every day, and to apply what we learn to our everyday living. And very important, it means sharing with others what we are learning and using, and accepting with an open mind what they share with us."


"I will not look to others to do my work for me while I'm "too busy" or "too tired" to do my reading and attend meetings and keep in touch with my fellow members. Al-Anon can do much for me, but I must help, too."

I learned to force myself to attend my meetings, no matter how tired I was, and even if I felt I should be doing something else instead - I sometimes felt as though I had to get behind myself and shove myself out the door towards the car. I might be moaning quietly with exhaustion, and cursing the traffic, but I was heading towards my meeting, and no matter how debilitated I may have felt when I started the drive, by the time I was pulling into the parking lot of whatever church, I would already be feeling better, just knowing what was ahead.

Experience had taught me, even at that early stage - when I went to a meeting, it helped me. I felt better. I would be walking back out to my car after the meeting ended, feeling calmed: empowered to face another day. I slept more peacefully; I awoke the next morning with hope instead of despair.

I also learned to read my daily reading book each morning with my first coffee, so that my (slowly awakening) mind was flooded with 12-step philosophy to sweeten my day. When life was stressing me, and I began to feel that knot of tension roiling in my stomach, I learned to get my book and search the index for whatever topic seemed to fit my present anxiety, read one or two, or sometimes all, of those readings, and calm myself that way. There were instances when that didn't work for me, I had waited too long, and had wound myself up too far for reading to help.

I learned to pick up the phone and go down the call list, starting with those I'd talked to in the past, and if none of those people were available, to call the next person, even if I'd never spoken to them outside a meeting. If they were on the list, they were willing to take calls - when I was frenzied, I just wanted a person to talk to, who it was didn't matter, as long as they were in Al-Anon.

I learned that 12-step is like anything else in life - we must practise, in order to become skilled. That means we do it willingly, accepting that we will make a mess of it the first few times, then we will gain some confidence and it will be tidier and neater, and soon, almost before we realise, it will be our new habit. When that happens, we will gain the serenity we are promised.

For me, working my program was like parallel parking - I couldn't believe I'd ever learn how to get my large car into that very small space - I had to take it on faith that if I followed the instructions, paid attention to what I was doing, and practised, I could. I do it now, without really thinking about it, because I have practised it to the point where it's second nature. Program, too, can very quickly become blissful habit.

We get out of life, and out of 12-step, just as much as we are willing to put in.


  1. Great post. It is like other things practiced--the more I go to meetings, listen, read, then the better I feel. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this.

  2. I am going to be sharing this site with others at my meetings. Thank you -- the postings are VERY inspirational and motivational. I happen to have that 'knot in my stomach' and found this site today! I know my Higher Power helped guide me. Thank you!