The last two paragraphs of Chapter 11, “A Vision For You” in the book, Alcoholics Anonymous, have always been my favorite passage in the book. For much of my sobriety, each time I read them (or heard them read), I could feel tears welling up in my eyes. I was never quite sure why, but I always felt something very deeply on each occasion.
On May 26, 2016, I was living in New York City and was preparing to fly home to Texas the next day to visit my mother, who was battling cancer. That morning I sat down, pulled out my Big Book, went to page 164, and read the last 161 words again. As I read, I noticed some very explicit promises, prayers, actions, and warnings hiding in plain sight. I began writing down what I saw in the hope that what I found, might one day be able to help others working our program of action in the way it had helped me.
Over the next few months, I’m going to share Chapters of an e-book I released back in May 2020 titled, “The Last 161 Words (of the First 164 Pages)“ with you. If you are interested in reading the whole e-book, I have offered it for free on this website for anyone who would like to read it. It’s a short, quick, and easy read. It’s readable in two formats; 1.) FlipBook on the website, or 2.) Free PDF download at https://takethe12.org/library/
The original title of this book was intended to be “Reflections on A Vision For You”, but when I sat down and finally started fleshing it out, I felt I wanted to call it something a little less grandiose. One day, as I was reading the content from which this book was drawn, it hit me… “The last 161 words of the first 164 pages of the Big Book contains all Twelve of our Steps!” And so, it was.
………. CHAPTER 9 ……….
“Clear away the wreckage of your past.”
The Step Connection: Steps 8 & 9 – “Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.” and “Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”
Promises, Prayers, Actions, and Warnings:Yet another action. I had to learn the hard way that these two steps are not about getting back into the good graces of those I’ve wronged. It’s not about what I receive by doing it. It’s about being willing to once again do the footwork and leave the results up to God. These steps don’t tell me to clear away the wreckage of my past and while doing so, point out where everyone else has been wrong. It’s about suiting up, showing up, and cleaning up my side of the street.
My willingness to get honest about the hurt and harm I caused others, along with a sincere desire to make it right, gave me an understanding of the true purpose of Steps 8 & 9… to be of maximum service to God and to His kids.
………. CHAPTER 10 ……….
“Give freely of what you find and join us.”
The Step Connection: 2nd 1/3 of Step 12 – “…we tried to carry this message to alcoholics…”
Promises, Prayers, Actions, and Warnings: Still more Action. Bill suggests I give freely. Freely without expectation of return. Have you ever felt the joy of giving something anonymously? I have and I must admit, it was kind of strange. At first, there was part of me (my ego) that wanted to be recognized for the action. But when I finally woke up to that piece of the prayer of St. Francis where it says, “it is in the giving that I receive….” I finally realized what giving freely was all about.
Giving freely, with no expectations of any kind, is an experience I’m glad I haven’t missed. It’s the antithesis to the root of my problem: selfishness and self-centeredness. Getting down to the causes and conditions of my constant failures before coming to the rooms (and sometimes IN the rooms) helped me begin to have that spiritual awakening I strive for each and every day.