We talk about it in various ways, both in meetings and AA literature: Alcoholism is a disease of perception, the problem for the alcoholic centers in the mind, etc., etc.
The 12 Steps are a process which literally allows us -- via the creation of a "psychic change" or, more commonly, a spiritual experience -- to alter that null-sum equation and re-wire how we think, thus transforming our entire life. Yes, we become free from alcohol -- but eventually sobriety becomes so much more. Lived with willingness and depth, a life of sobriety via AA is like a release from prison, or walking away from a wheelchair, or finally breathing free.
But to get there, I had to admit (Step alert!) and address the problem.
As is so often the case with me, what I believe the problem to be is not the problem at all. Ironically, ultimately, the problem was not my drinking.
The problem was my thinking.
And to believe I could solve that problem on my own is believing that I could solve the problem with the problem.
"...what matters is that we are doing our best. We are sober. And that's pretty damn good. Actually, that IS our best."
A sponsee sent me that in a text today, and it showed up on my phone at a very opportune moment, which is the fancy way of saying: Damn, I needed to read that exactly at the moment I did.
Later on, I was thinking about that old AA term "pigeons" which was used (and still may be, in different parts of the country) as a moniker for a person someone sponsors -- as I use the word sponsee (and some people use the word "baby" -- though I've never felt overly comfortable with that one).
When I first heard the word "pigeon" in the context of a sponsee I thought it was demeaning or cynical. And in fact one person I knew, many years ago now, used the term and attributed it to the idea that it is because a pigeon will shit on you and fly away. (Nice, right?)
Fortunately I got the true story of how the term came to be used in this context, i.e., referring to a sponsee.
Apparently it started with Dr. Bob, one of AA's two co-founders. He would refer to the people he did 12th Step work with as pigeons. When asked why, he explained that in wartime (remember this was a very different era) carrier pigeons -- also sometimes referred to as homing pigeons -- were used to send vital information back and forth across great distances -- sometimes across enemy lines -- and that information could literally save lives.
So the 12th Step work he was doing with people was like the vital information transmitted by those carrier pigeons of old. You sent them out, and they returned to you with a message which could potentially save your life.
I'm not one hundred percent sure of the accuracy of this origin story. After all, AA's are no less vulnerable to sweetening up our own history than any other group of humans. But whether it's fanciful or factual I can tell you this: It's apt.
Because that's exactly what happened to me today -- vital, life-saving information returned home to me from someone I had been sharing it with for years now -- and I got it just when I needed it.