None of us makes a sole vocation of this work, nor do we think its effectiveness would be increased if we did. We feel that elimination of our drinking is but a beginning. A much more important demonstration of our principles lies before us in our respective homes, occupations and affairs. All of us spend much of our spare time in the sort of effort which we are going to describe. A few are fortunate enough to be so situated that they can give nearly all their time to the work.
– Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 19
In my experience, one of the chief symptoms of early sobriety is a desire to become an alcoholism counselor. As the scales fell from our eyes, it all seemed so obvious. Forgetting our own stubborn denial and resistance, we now thought we had to power to solve everyone else’s problems. Of course this is just a subtler form of “trying to run the whole show” without taking even a cursory look at ourselves. I certainly wasn’t immune to this and have the apprentice counselor credential dated 1982 to prove it.
As Bill put it in his Guest House talk:
And this is the penance, and I think you theologues give us some excuse for it too, of beginning to think that, because we have these tremendous illuminations, that WE are something special. So, you begin to develop a kind of a paranoia alongside of a perfectly valid experience. And this is just what happened to me. I damned near botched up the whole works by coming out of this working furiously with drunks and, before anybody had been sobered up, I got so far off base as to loudly declare on time to an audience by no means spellbound that I was going to sober up all the god damned drunks in the world! Now THAT is pure paranoia if you ever…
The true vocation of the recovered alcoholic is in living out the reality of our spiritual awakening through the tedious, difficult and humbling demonstration of these principles.
In my own experience, it was supremely difficult not to feel as though I had been singled out by God for some greater mission than simple recovery. To me, my “vocation” (literally a “calling”) was such a personal and inward experience that it would be hard to feel otherwise. Of course, having a huge ego that had yet to undergo deflation of any kind made this sensation inevitable. But eventually I was given a clearer vision: I had been granted a glorious glimpse from the mountaintop only to be deposited back on earth and told I had to walk back to the top. We call it “trudging the road of happy destiny.” Happiness is not merely our destination. Trudging is where we find the purpose in which our real happiness lies.
But we are all called, we all have a vocation. As my old friend Danny O. used to say, “There’s a wrench for every nut that walks through the doors of AA.” And it could be true that the purpose of our entire recovery was to be someone’s wrench. It’s not inconceivable that God would use our sobriety to help one person, and probably never know that we did. The one who plants a seed is not always the one who reaps the harvest. So this business of vocation is first and foremost one of humble acknowledgement that we are not the one doing the calling, nor are we the ones likely to see the fruits of our labor.