12 Step Planet - Rigorous Honesty
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Stories about addiction and recovery, Clean and Sober life styles
written by "Mark G."


Several weeks ago, I was asked to chair a meeting at a twelve step group that I attend regularly. I was honored to be asked, namely since it usually draws a hundred people, most with twenty years or more of recovery behind them. There was a problem, though.   It was suggested that I read the format for the chair to follow, and the third line down clearly stated that only those with ninety days or more of time away from their substance of choice were eligible to lead the meeting. That wasn’t me. You see, after having two years and two months of recovery behind me, I went out. No less, I had no excuse. There was no one to blame for my relapse but me. I made the choice to pick up. I could have called someone. I could have used some of the tools that I’ve learned about over the years. I could have prayed. I could have just got in bed, and tried to go to sleep. But, I didn’t. It took five and a half months for me to get back, and even today, I tend to beat myself up for the choice that I made. This seemed like a great opportunity to feel good about Mark. At the time, I only had 87 days.   I chaired the meeting and it was a good one. But now, my conscience stepped in. I’d lied by an act of omission. Dishonesty has always been one of my character defects, and it had reared its ugly head again, spurred on by pride and ego. I could find every rationalization and justification for my action in my own mind. But, the truth was, I’d misled the group and was slowly beginning the same pattern that had taken me out nine months ago.   It took a week for me to talk with my sponsor about it. The funny thing was, he already knew. I’ve sat and talked with him for hours, thinking that he never really was listening, and would never remember such a trivial detail, but he did. He mentioned that there was a solution, and that was to come clean with the group. He went on to mention that it was only his suggestion, that I didn’t have to do anything at all. A battle raged in my mind and in my heart! I was mortified. I could be honest with someone one-on-one, but how could I tell the whole group what I’d done?   The next meeting, I stood up during announcements and told the group that I had misled them, that I’d been less than honest, and asked for any feedback they had after the meeting. I went onto close with the fact that being a few days short of qualifying to chair the meeting may not have seemed like much to them, but to me, three days was a lifetime. To get to ninety days, I had to claw myself out of a deep, dark hole filled with degradation, shame, and remorse. In fact, I prayed for death, because I never thought that I could end the slide that I was on. With that said, it was over, I was relieved, and I could move on.   I closed my eyes, and took a deep breath. I felt like crying. I was so embarrassed. Around that time, the applause started. I didn’t know what to think. I’d humbled myself, bared my soul, and revealed my dishonesty. Yet, the whole group seemed to understand and let me know in their loving way that it was all okay. What a relief!   A number of people came up to me after the meeting and shook my hand or gave me a hug. There were no hard feelings, but only acceptance and understanding. I can’t say how grateful that I am to the group, to each person that came to me afterward, and the loving glances and nod of approval that I still get today from those that were there. Vernon Law once opined that “Experience is the worst teacher. It provides the test before it provides the lesson.” While I am proof positive of this thought, I can say that this has been one of the best things that have happened to me in my recovery. This experience was one test that I surely passed with flying colors. Mark G.