I had to look at the damage I had done, and become willing to make amends. Only then could my journey of the spirit resume.

our theme

The theme for Nanaimo’s 45th annual AA rally is “Journey of the Spirit.” It was selected from the Daily Reflections reading for August 12th, “A Look Backward.”

First, we take a look backward and try to discover where we have been at fault; next we make a vigorous attempt to repair the damage we have doneTwelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, p. 77

As a traveler on a fresh and exciting A.A. journey of recovery, I experienced a newfound peace of mind and the horizon appeared clear and bright, rather than obscure and dim. Reviewing my life to discover where I had been at fault seemed to be such an arduous and dangerous task. It was painful to pause and look backward. I was afraid I might stumble! Couldn’t I put the past out of my mind and just live in my new golden present? I realized that those in the past whom I had harmed stood between me and my desire to continue my movement toward serenity. I had to ask for courage to face those persons from my life who still lived in my conscience, to recognize and deal with the guilt that their presence produced in me. I had to look at the damage I had done, and become willing to make amends.
Only then could my journey of the spirit resume.

Reprinted from Daily Reflections, p. 233, with permission of A.A. World Services, Inc.

more about amends

The registration desk was a busy place during the rally

“What I would not give…”

Now I was to plunge into the dark, joining that endless procession of sots who had gone on before. I thought of my poor wife. There had been much happiness after all. What would I not give to make amends. But that was over now.  (Big Book, p.8, “Bill’s Story”)

Steps 8 and 9

Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. (Big Book, p. 59, “How It Works”)

We do not bring about more harm

We must be willing to make amends where we have done harm, provided that we do not bring about still more harm in so doing. (Big Book, p. 69, “How It Works”)

If we haven’t the will to do this…

Now we go out to our fellows and repair the damage done in the past. We attempt to sweep away the debris which has accumulated out of our effort to live on self-will and run the show ourselves. If we haven’t the will to do this, we ask until it comes. (Big Book, p. 76, “Into Action”)

Love and tolerance of others

Continue to watch for selfishness, dishonesty, resentment, and fear. When these crop up, we ask God at once to remove them. We discuss them with someone immediately and make amends quickly if we have harmed anyone. Then we resolutely turn our thoughts to someone we can help. Love and tolerance of others is our code. (Big Book, p. 84, “Into Action”)

The quotes above are reprinted with permission of A.A. World Services, Inc.

an alateen presence

An inspiration to other teens… Molly H became the rally’s first speaker, on Friday evening, and perhaps the first Alateen speaker ever to appear at a Nanaimo A.A. rally (does anyone know for sure?). The poised, courageous 13-year-old began by acknowledging, “I come from a long line of alcoholics.” What began as a geographical cure for her alcoholic parents led to a role for Molly as the emerging force behind a vibrant Alateen group in her home town.

Nanaimo's central office provided A.A. books for sale

Molly shared her experiences, as a child, being parented by two alcoholics and the wisdom that eventually came during her own journey: “I didn’t cause it, I can’t control it, I can’t cure it.” She now helps other teens who are going through similar problems. “Alateen has helped me so much with everything in my life,” she said.

“Who, me, an alcoholic?”… Gerry M was the A.A. speaker on Friday night. He began his story by acknowledging, “My disease of alcoholism comes wrapped up in denial.” As many alcoholics will agree, their first experiences of drinking seemed to signify a kind of arrival: “I had gotten that buzz…no longer a skinny, dyslexic kid…if one drink makes me feel that way, another drink will make me feel even better!”

Eventually, Gerry “came to the realization of the insanity of alcoholism and the first drink.” He recounted how he had been profoundly inspired by Terry Fox, whom he witnessed struggling along  the highway in the last days before Terry’s final hospitalization. Gerry concluded his story by declaring that “what I have today…the only person that can take it from me, is me.”

AA history emerges in a new way

Archival material from A.A. in Campbell River

Rally 2013 marked the first time that all of the Vancouver Island Alcoholics Anonymous archives have been displayed (in whole or in part) together, in one place. Archival material from Victoria, Duncan, Parksville, Courtenay, Campbell River, and Nanaimo was on display in the lounge area.

On Saturday afternoon, Kurt M, the Nanaimo archives chair, spoke at a presentation about the history of A.A. on Vancouver Island. “No one town stands alone,” he said of A.A.’s Vancouver Island origins. “It was all over the Island.” In 1941, George in Victoria wrote to A.A.’s now-well-known address, Box 459, and received a Big Book from A.A. Eventually, George met another alcoholic, Group #1 was formed, and A.A. had been formally established on the Island.

George H displayed the A.A. posters he's designed

By 1946, Earl F and Bob O had become Nanaimo’s first A.A. members. In October 1946 the Friday Night Library Group began meeting in Nanaimo; the group still meets today. In 1952, “Captain John” came to Nanaimo with his wife. There were 8 members in Nanaimo by then. In the earliest days of A.A. in the city confidentiality was very tight–there were only 5,000 people living in the city.

“aren’t we all miracles”

Rally committee members and volunteers prepare for the big dinner Saturday night

Julie R, chair of the 2012 Nanaimo A.A. Rally, led the countdown after Saturday’s dinner. There was 1,950 years, 11 months, and 24 days of sobriety in the auditorium. Don from the Sunshine Coast (with 49 years) presented Neil (with 8 days) with a copy of the Big Book. Jim N, the chair of the 2013 Rally, introduced Sid G, who had the unique experience of attending the first A.A. rally ever held in Nanaimo–in 1969.

Gail P, the Saturday evening A.A. speaker, began her story by observing, “Aren’t we all miracles…at one time we were all drunk, and now we’re all sober people!” She said of her sobriety (June 23, 1985), “I had no idea…when I made that phone call…that this is what would come of it.” Gail acknowledged that “‘what it’s like now’ continues to change on almost a daily basis…because of this program.”

Gail wrapped her story up with an important insight: “‘I’m an alcoholic’ were the most important words I’ve ever heard. ‘My name is Gail and I’m an alcoholic’ were the most important words I’ve ever said.” She also shared a passionate and inspiring overview of her experiences in A.A. service.

“we are not a glum lot”

The "Four Horsemen"

Roxanne M, the spiritual speaker on Sunday morning, led off with the well-known A.A. maxim, “we are not a glum lot…we insist on enjoying life!” as she reflected on the rally weekend and its highlights. She then began her moving and inspiring story with the words, “I’m going to go back to where I lived in alcoholism…long before I picked up a drink.” Roxanne was referring to what are called “the four horsemen” in A.A.: terror, bewilderment, frustration, and despair (they’re found on page 151 of the Big Book). The environments that Roxanne lived in were very difficult. “I lived in terror,” she said, “I didn’t understand what I had done wrong…I began to pick up that there was something wrong with me.

From that early experience of self–of blaming self–Roxanne eventually entered the realm of alcoholism. She noted that the shame and pain she’d been experiencing up until the time she began drinking seemed to evaporate under the influence of alcohol. It was “the feeling that took away all the shame, all the pain. It became like breathing to me.”

Roxanne’s life became, predictably, unmanageable, and the alcohol that promised deliverance became the new jailer. Such is the alcoholic’s path. The beginning of the end of her drinking career came after a series of deeply personal crises and then…a near-death experience. Roxanne heard a voice during that experience: “You are an alcoholic; now you have to do something about it.”

After a challenging start in sobriety, Roxanne came to the realization that she’d taken the first three steps of A.A. (“I have those steps!!”) and she “realized that God had come into my life.” Roxanne said that, at that point, “when I became a part of A.A., I belonged. I got to become the person I always wanted to be.”