Intensive Work With Other Alcoholics

[fa icon="calendar"] Feb 5, 2020 9:00:07 AM / by John MacDougall


One of the difficulties I have with staying sober is that I like to drink. I also like my drugs: Valium, Percodan, and other opiates, benzodiazepines, and barbiturates. For me, drinking and drugging is forever natural. Being clean and sober is forever unnatural. Even though my sobriety date is July 4, 1989, and I have been sober for 11,173 days, a day at a time, sobriety has never become natural for me. I rely on the “Big Book” of Alcoholics Anonymous and I do what it says to do.

On page 89 it reads: “Practical experience shows that nothing will so insure immunity from drinking as intensive work with other alcoholics. It works when other activities fail.” That’s what it says, so that’s what I do.

I’m 70 years old. That’s retirement age, and I have enough money in investments to never work again. However, I cannot imagine myself sitting in my basement, watching financial numbers scroll across CNBC on television, and staying sober. It just will not work for me. I’m working five days a week at The Retreat as the Spiritual Care Coordinator, and I’m grateful to have this position. I meet with the men’s residential program staff first thing in the morning, and then I meet with guests, both men and women, the rest of the day. I also do lectures and a couple of groups.

In the last few months, I’ve spoken to A.A. meetings and employee assistance groups in California. This month I’m giving a talk on alcoholism and recovery at the College of St. Benedict in Collegeville, MN. In April, I’m leading a weekend retreat for doctors in Kansas, who are in recovery from alcoholism and addiction, and are being supervised by the medical board there. I also sponsor two other alcoholics.
Every day, I am involved in intensive work with other alcoholics and addicts. It often helps them. Sometimes it fails to help them. It always helps me, and it is a wonderful bright spot in my life. The “Big Book” predicted this:

“Life will take on new meaning. To watch people recover, to see them help others, to watch loneliness vanish, to see a fellowship grow up about you, to have a host of friends—this is an experience you must not miss. We know you will not want to miss it. Frequent contact with newcomers and with each other is the bright spot of our lives.” (p,89)

On Sundays at 9:30 am my wife Priscilla and I attend the Recovery Church in Saint Paul ( There we are part of this fellowship because nearly everyone there is a member of A.A, N.A, or Al-Anon. The whole service is built around the Twelve Steps and recovery. In addition to a sermon, there is an individual’s recovery story of hope every week. There, too, we see a fellowship growing all around us.

We make financial contributions to The Retreat’s scholarship fund and also to the Union Gospel Mission’s Christ Recovery Center in Saint Paul. CRC is for men who are truly “down and out” with nothing left. Many men at CRC ride the “short bus” to the Recovery Church on Sundays.

Saturday mornings I meet with a group of old men from A.A. at a coffee shop, and Monday nights I go to dinner with another group of men from my A.A. home group. As our book said, frequent contact with newcomers and each other has become a bright spot in my life.

At The Retreat, we have around 300 A.A. volunteers a month. Many volunteers are very clear that they are gaining as much as they are giving. They celebrate the fact that service to other alcoholics is the key to staying sober.


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Topics: substance abuse, 12 steps of aa, AA Big Book, Older Adult Recovery Programs, Drugs Adiction

John MacDougall

Written by John MacDougall

John MacDougall is the Spiritual Care Coordinator at The Retreat.
His book, “Being Sober and Becoming Happy” is available from

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