I don’t think about any changes that I’d make to the text of Alcoholics Anonymous (aka The Big Book) very often, the basic text of the fellowship. However last night I was thinking about some stuff. At the bottom of page 83 within the passage widely known as the promises it says “…We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.”
Guilt. Guilt is a strong and very negative emotion, but it is one I feel a lot with respect to my past. The way I treated my family, especially my kids. I stole time from them. Money indirectly by wasting so much on booze. I never gave them love in the way I should have, largely because I couldn’t do love as I had no concept of it and it meant giving a part of me. Giving anything of me to anyone was a major issue as I didn’t get the quid pro quo that goes with that. I could go on. No doubt many ex-drinkers like me look back with similar horror, remorse and guilt. I don’t know if we are any different generally from the rest of the world but I know that I’m very sensitive to how I’m perceived to have treated others, I have a conscience and it will constantly remind me when I’m out of step. Probably the biggest critic of my behaviour is me.
However I was sick, it is an illness that I simply couldn’t treat at the time and then the continual bombardment of my brain with alcohol was stopping it being able to grow and learn how to cope with emotions, responsibility and frankly learning how to cope with life.
So as I say very very rarely do I consider something for me would be better worded in The Big Book, it has stood the test of time for over 70 years now, hundreds of thousands, possibly millions of alcoholics have find sobriety through its pages so it is not to be criticised lightly.
For me however I think when I now hear that phrase read out – as it is at many many meetings – I’ll think to myself. “…We will not regret nor feel guilty about the past nor wish to shut the door on it.” For me that is an aspirational goal since as I say 5 years out of 25 years of drinking I do still harbour guilt about my actions in those times and I can only do something about it by continuing to work on myself and my place in the world, what I take and more importantly what I give back.