Response Ability – Grapevine Article June 2011 by Joe V.

The burdens of obligation transform to gifts of sobriety

Before and during my drinking days, people were always talking to me about responsibility. I “had a responsibility” to be an excellent student, obedient son and religious child. I was also somehow responsible that children on the other side of the world didn’t go to bed hungry. Later, I was responsible to satisfy my employers’ demands, including late hours, much travel, and frequent separation from my family. For most of my life, I thought I was responsible to satisfy other’s expectations.

Responsibility equaled an obligation I could never satisfy. The burden was crushing. Well, drinking fixed that. Pleasantly drunk, I could forget my burdens for a while. You’d drink too if you were as responsible as I was.

Thankfully, my Higher Power let the heavy load of my drinking become heavier than anything else in my life. I could finally hear his invitation to the rooms of AA. Gratefully, I was able to respond.

Unfortunately, I brought my idea of responsibility as undying obligation into the rooms. I was frightened by the words on the poster that I am responsible to ensure that the hand of AA is available to anyone who reaches out. I thought of myself responsible to make coffee whenever possible, to chair as many meetings as possible and to sponsor as many people as possible. These actions are positive, and it was good to do them, but I blanketed them all with a misunderstanding that responsibility was a heavy and unwelcome obligation.

Drinking had been a survival skill to bury the burden of responsibility. But now, without drink, burdensome responsibilities remained.

Thank God, my friends in AA saw me as a good person with a very sick outlook on life. They continually peppered me with slogans such as “Easy Does It,” “Don’t just do something, stand there,” “God is in charge, you’re not,” and “Let Go and Let God.”

I became willing to act “as if,” and tried to follow my sponsor’s suggestion to take off my Superman cape. Then, one day, my Higher Power gave me an insight into responsibility that continues to change my life, a day at a time.

My Higher Power let me see that responsibility could mean “response ability.” With his help, I am able to respond to any circumstance in life. I received that gift when I was able to respond to HP’s invitation to join AA. In this truer sense, responsibility is a gift, not an obligation. Accepting this gift, a day at a time, has kept the burdens off my shoulder and given me untold opportunities to experience the joy (sometimes painful joy) of responding to life on life’s terms.

Among many other things, I am able to respond more appropriately to work-related demands. I can respond gratefully to my employer’s ongoing (and happy) payment of my salary by putting in an honest day’s work. I can also respond to demands or requests from my bosses that, upon sober thought and with the help of my sponsor, I believe are beyond my current abilities or reasonable boundaries. In other words, I can put into practice the concept that “No” is a complete sentence. Being response-able in the workplace is a gift that has lifted many burdens I once mistakenly assumed.

Perhaps most important to this champion isolator, the gift of being response-able means that there are, and always will be, people in my life to whom I can respond. I once viewed people in my life as imposing, burdensome responsibilities, and I did many harmful things to get away from those responsibilities. Because my Higher Power has made me response-able, this gift gives me the opportunity to have a genuine relationship with other human beings. Like so many other gifts in AA, this is beyond my wildest dreams. To turn the original phrase on its head, you too would be grateful if you were as response-able as I am learning to become.

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