Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Power of Doing The Next Right Thing...

One of the most subtly powerful passages in the Big Book of AA is from Chapter 11, A Vision For You

It begins on page 154 - 
One dismal afternoon he paced a hotel lobby wondering how his bill was to be paid. At the end of the room stood a glass covered directory of local churches. Down the lobby a door opened into an attractive bar. He could see the gay crowd inside. In there he would find companionship and release. Unless he took some drinks, he might not have the courage to scrape an acquaintance and would have a lonely week-end.
Many of us have found ourselves in a similar situation. 

On one side we have instant gratification and familiarity. We will find immediate relief from our problems and cares. The weight of our situation will be lifted for a short time. But there is a price - a heavy, painful price that we will pay at the end. 

On the other side, we have what in the rooms of AA is often called "doing the next right thing."  

Will it be pleasant? Probably not. 

Will it be fun or enjoyable? Highly unlikely. 

Will it involve thinking and acting in ways that are unfamiliar and uncomfortable? You can count on it. 

Our story continues - 
Of course he couldn't drink, but why not sit hopefully at a table, a bottle of ginger ale before him? After all, had he not been sober six months now? Perhaps he could handle, say, three drinks — no more! Fear gripped him. He was on thin ice. Again it was the old, insidious insanity — that first drink. With a shiver, he turned away and walked down the lobby to the church directory. Music and gay chatter still floated to him from the bar. 
I have been at a similar moment, standing at what the Big Book of AA calls "the turning point" (note it does not say "a" turning point, but rather "THE" turning point) where I am aware of the nature of the decision that stares me in the face, a hair's breadth from me, waiting to see which route I shall choose. It hearkens of the scene from "The Matrix" in which Morpheus tells Neo  "You take the blue pill - the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill - you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes."

We return to the Big Book for the final sequence - 
But what about his responsibilities — his family and the men who would die because they would not know how to get well, ah — yes, those other alcoholics? There must be many such in this town. He would phone a clergyman. His sanity returned and he thanked God. Selecting a church at random from the directory, he stepped into a booth and lifted the receiver.
The legacy of this choice remains with us decades afterword, for we people in recovery ARE its' legacy.

There are millions of people across the Earth of every race, every nationality, every religion, every orientation at all socioeconomic levels who owe our very lives to that singular choice.

Please stop and consider that immense and powerful idea - a single human being made a single decision at a single moment and because of it, millions of lives were saved.

Now here is the where the magic for us, as people in recovery - the wounded, broken and spiritually bankrupt people we were and in some cases, may still be, here is where the magic begins.

Every moment we are alive holds the same power, promise and possibility as that one moment so many years ago. Every breathe taken, every thought that passes from our minds, every time we turn this way or that way, carries with it the intrinsic ability to change everything.

And that is the power of doing the next right thing.

Be well, do good work and keep in touch.


  1. some people require turning themselves inside out and upside down in order to understand their lives. or even feel them. recovery (and sobriety) have revealed themselves to be little more than a continuation of the path to understanding. making a decision to turn our lives over is a new direction, but for me has been an extension of my whole life. i needed to take chances, i needed to be dangerous, i needed to fail, and fail big. this helped to make me empathetic and more humble. (more always welcome). but this path after the turn can be dodgy, can be confusing, can be blinding. stay grounded and use your gifts.
    and thank you very much for including my site on yours.

  2. Thank you so much for this post. I've always been a big believer in doing the next right thing. When life becomes overwhelmng, I always tell my pigeons to slow down, break it into manageable bits and to just take the one thing right in front of you. Just take a deep breath and keep moving forward...