The Easier, Softer Way

Many AA meetings begin with a reading from Chapter 5, “How It Works”, of the AA Big Book. In the introduction to this chapter, before the steps are outlined, one of the warnings provided is, “At some of these [steps] we balked. We thought we could find an easier, softer way. But we could not.”

i didn’t understand this for the longest time. For me, AA was the easier, softer way because my drinking life was exhausting. The amount of time, energy, physical and psychological effort that went into setting up, surfing and surviving my binges was stupefying. Recovery removed a lot of the hard work that went into being me.

Then, during a Newcomers’ Meeting, the light bulb went on.

Following my suicide attempt and subsequent release from the hospital, one of the first things i did was to go to AA. One meeting a week. Didn’t care about a sponsor. But i didn’t drink. i was sober and in recovery so that was me sorted.

Only it wasn’t. That was the “easier, softer way”.

My real recovery began when someone asked me if i’d found a sponsor yet, knowing i hadn’t. It wasn’t easy, but i overcame my timidity, self reliance and pride issues and asked someone to help me.

Then my sponsor told me to hit 4 meetings a week. It wasn’t easy, but i explained to my wife, boss and children what i was doing and sacrificed some of my personal time to do it.

Then a coffee service position opened up in one of the meetings. It wasn’t easy, but i overcame my laziness and volunteered and now i go in earlier and leave later than everyone else and have taken it upon myself to pay for the coffee, tea, cookies and fruit out of my own pocket without being reimbursed.

Then the secretary of the meeting asked if i would co-chair. It wasn’t easy, but…

i wanted the easier, softer recovery but i know me and i know i would have stumbled if i’d stayed on that path. Unfortunately, sobriety is work and, like any other job, the payback is in direct relation to the time and effort you put into it.

Don’t take it “easy”.


About Al K Hall

Like a battered drinker or a punch drunk boxer, i am here for another round. For those of you who don’t know me, i’m a semi-professional writer on the rocks and a non-practicing alcoholic (if after 30 years of practicing, you still can't do something well, it's best to just give it up). For those of you who do know me, thanks for stopping by anyway and where’s the ten bucks you owe me? Welcome to my Bar None. A hole in the wall where we can hang out and trade the kind of stories you swap only when you’ve had one too many and either can’t find your way home or are afraid to. Hell, it’s cheaper than therapy and plus the pictures are prettier. Here we’ll crack open bottles and jokes and ‘last call’ are the only dirty words you’ll never hear. Pull up a stool and make yourselves at home.

Posted on August 18, 2012, in Alcoholics Anonymous, Alcoholism, Lessons in Recovery, Recovery and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 16 Comments.

  1. What Ronnie said! 🙂

    Tough, but wise words. I keep thinking how what you have written is not just recovery, but life. Then I thought about how recovery *represents* life to those who are recovering. Then I go back to the idea that we are all recovering from something. From being human, lol. It’s all kind of one thing, isn’t it. life = recovery :: recovery = life

    Yeah, it works if you work it — same thing for life, eh?

  2. inthesameboatla

    Ok, Al. I broke down and created a blog. Dedicated to you, my friend:

  3. Reblogged this on The She Chronicles and commented:
    AL K Hall words need to be read by all searching within themselves. Seriously, go, read, absorb. Thanks AL for sharing so openly.

  4. THis was very well written and a good bit of advice for those in recovery. I never understood that the easy way, the soft er way wasn;t better, for the longest time until one day I decided to stop finding excuses and just quit hiding behind the half assed recovery. I didn;t go to AA.. it wasn;t for me. It was the easy way for me and I used to think a cop out for those that wanted to hang on to their addiction. It seemed easy to live it everyday and talk about it and dwell on it… and give it over to a higher power as if I wasn;t responsible… I obviously didn;t get the gist of it til later..after I quit drinking and started to face all that I was hiding from… I drank but that wasn;t my poison, just the easiest thing to get and what I grew up with… I had worse demons to face down and quitting drinking was easy when I still had addiction of anything else I could get to make me feel better to fall back on.. I am sober .. a while now.. since I last decided I didn;t want to be here and woke up anyways… It is harder to face life with no buffer but definitely more rewarding.

    • Lizzie!

      Thanks so much for stopping by and taking the time to leave a comment! i really appreciated your story and understand where you’re coming from. The best way to recovery is the one that works! i wish you the courage of a thousand lions as you face down the demons you’re facing.

      Keep coming back,

      Al K Hall

  5. Hi. Good post as always…I think about doing AA but have the issue with not doing it.right. I talked to a counselor and he told me the only requirement to attend is the desire not to drink at that moment. That seems so.contradictory to what I hear and sometimes read.
    Please don’t take offence.

    • None taken. 🙂 AA isn’t for everyone. It’s worked remarkably well for me, but i know a lot of people, and many of my readers here, don’t go in for it. i think what i ‘m saying is, sacrificing time and energy in ANY recovery program will pay off.

      As for your thoughts on AA particularly, i feel like i may be partly responsible and i feel badly for that. Even if one person, one time, politely agreed to disagree on something i ‘d said in passing after a meeting, she is one of my closest friends and biggest supporters in the program. i’ve only attended one meeting in the US and a dozen or so in Canada and gazillions in Yeaman but the people in all the meetings have been welcoming, understanding, thoughtful, concerned and friendly. i have never seen any other organization whose members have been half as giving, generous, or involved. And your therapist was right, the only thing required for membership is a desre to stop drinking.

      Bottom line: If you consider me as a kind man who tries to be helpful, the people in the rooms are even more so.

      • I do consider you one of the kindest people and I hold the people up to that standard. Please don’t feel badly. I am a perfectionist and anal to boot. At work my mantra is where there’s a will there’s a way. I’ve learned programming languages just so I could politely tell the tech people that I knew they weren’t being honest with me. Lol so off topic..I do welcome.criticism as it is a learning experience.

        Thanks as always. L.

  6. inthesameboatla

    They say the same thing in SMART recovery. Don’t read about it! Do it!

  7. Great post (as usual!). When I first went into AA I didn’t get the importance of or why everyone was always talking about their sponsor…it took me about 3 months into the program to realize why I needed a sponsor. I’ve recently been through a lot of low-points in my life and with my sponsor’s help I’ve pulled through each & every situation SOBER! Had I not had a sponsor to turn to through all this I don’t know that I would still be sober. I’m so blessed to have an amazing sponsor and an amazing group of people around the AA tables. I’ve never been so “loved”, supported and cherished before…I’m still getting used to it 🙂 Just writing that gives me goosebumps – never in a million years did I think a group of strangers could or would support and love me the way these people do.

    I absolutely loved your wife’s comment!

  8. Al,
    I hope I don’t let my total ignorance show too much, here, but just want to thank you for this very applicable content. Thanks so much.
    It matters not much what we have to overcome, whether addiction, fear, depression, etc., the same answer applies — there is no soft way.
    Of course it is easy to view some problems as worse than others, if they are potentially fatal, for instance, but really, if a person’s laziness will lead to a heart condition, or if his fear will cause him not to visit a cancer doctor, how less potentially fatal is it? Not much.
    And that unwanted answer remains: no soft way.
    As Bats said, this post is for anyone looking inside. Anyone.
    Thanks, again.

    • Hi Katharine!

      Thanks so much for stopping by and for your insightful comment. i loved how you pointed out how it could be applied to areas other than addiction…i didn’t even think of that myself! ‘Preciate your stopping by and taking the time…

      Keep coming back,

      Al K Hall

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