In Alcoholics Anonymous, the 12th step encourages us to “carry the message” to other suffering alcoholics, both for the benefit for our own sobriety (you must give it away to keep it) and to reach those who are still suffering from the disease of addiction.
The founders of AA, the granddaddy of 12-step programs, knew the power of personal connection and shared experience to transform hopelessness into hope, brokenness into healing. Bill Wilson was only sober a short time when he found himself in Akron, Ohio, on a business trip in 1935, fearing he’d pick up a drink in the hotel bar.
Instead, he picked up the phone and cold-called several local pastors until one connected him with Dr. Bob Smith, a congregant with a terrible, intractable drinking problem. A good man whose life was slipping away. Bill’s meeting with Dr. Bob, and Dr. Bob’s subsequent recovery, was the beginning of the 12-step recovery movement. One addict carrying the message to another. It started with those two men, by the grace of God.
Our booklet of 60 devotionals for recovery, Daily Guideposts for Recovery, is how we help carry the message to you, whether you’re in recovery, struggling to recover or are a family member. Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, our founder, was a great friend and supporter of AA. He and Bill Wilson shared a spiritual affinity for connecting people with a message of hope and inspiration.
Some 40 years ago their combined influence reached a man in early recovery named Jim Nelson as he walked along the Mississippi River wrestling with the demons of addiction. He’d been “white-knuckling” his sobriety, unable to feel fully connected to his Higher Power, just hanging on day by day.
His discovery of Dr. Peale’s book, The Power of Positive Thinking, combined with his renewed determination to work the 12 steps, helped him turn the corner spiritually and catalyzed his recovery from alcohol addiction and his mission to reach others with a message of hope.
Our booklet could not have been possible without Jim Nelson who generously supported this work. This is Jim’s expression of gratitude for his own many years of sobriety, the privilege of carrying the message, and the call to help others who are struggling. And struggling people there are, millions of them. In this time of the pandemic another epidemic worsened—addiction. Hospitalizations and deaths have risen dramatically since COVID struck. It is the hidden tragedy of this plague.
Jim speaks of walking with his Labs in the foothills of the Big Horn Mountains near his home in Wyoming, feeling a peace no drink could ever give him. In the program we call that serenity. I know that feeling when I walk my own dog through the Berkshire Hills or even in Central Park on a flawless summer day. A peace I would never have known if I hadn’t found the gifts of sobriety through the grace of God and the experience, strength, hope and wisdom of those who carried the message to me, and to people like Jim Nelson.