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Sharing Stories Can Turn Despair Into Hope

In 1935, a Wall Street golden boy by the name of Bill W., who had been dealing with his addiction to alcohol, met Dr. Bob at a mutual friend’s house in Akron, Ohio. Bill W. shared his story of alcoholism, and soon Dr. Bob opened up to him about his same struggles. Both men enjoyed the company of another person dealing with the same issue, and quickly realized how much spiritual support and hope can come from one alcoholic talking to another. This chance encounter was the beginning of a worldwide support group, now known as Alcoholics Anonymous.

Eventually, with influence from the Oxford Group principles, the duo began seeking others suffering with alcoholism. They found that by helping others, they helped themselves. The group developed a set of principles known as The Twelve Steps, a suggested program of recovery.

In April 1948, Ann C. of Niles, Ohio, expanded upon these Twelve Steps and created the The Twelve Rewards. They were written “to show the contrast that can take place in any of our lives when we try to follow the AA principles.”

The more time I spend in the recovery community, the more I realize that these principles and guidelines are useful in any aspect of life. Throughout this year we will examine these Twelve Rewards, and how the concepts can give us a different perspective on the challenges we face every day.

The first of The Twelve Rewards is “Hope instead of desperation.” In life, we all struggle with anger, anxiety, arrogance, closed-mindedness, fear, impatience and resentment. We also worry and obsess over parenting issues, diet struggles, grief and loss, work, divorce and other emotional problems. These struggles can leave us feeling desperate and alone, with lasting consequences.

Perhaps because we’re hurt or embarrassed, we tend to keep things to ourselves and try to deal with them on our own. But there is hope that can come from opening up to others who may be dealing with these same issues. When we know someone else has been there, it seems to make our struggles less daunting.

Take parenting, for example. We all have concerns and anxieties about how we’re doing as parents. We wonder if we’re making the best decisions for our children and if we’re raising them the right way. A few years ago, a friend opened up to me regarding his worry over his parenting skills; he wasn’t sure he could live up to his own expectations. As I listened, I began to think of my own worries about parenting. I told him I felt the same way sometimes, and we discussed how we dealt with those feelings. As the conversation continued, we both started to feel more comfortable sharing with each other.

This brief conversation allowed us to open up the dialogue about these kinds of issues. We now frequently have these conversations. The anxiety may not have gone away completely, but I was able to feel slightly less worried because someone else shared similar concerns.

So whether you’re the one struggling and seeking hope, or you’re providing that hope to another individual — share your story. Your experiences can have a huge impact in someone’s life. The simple act of sharing stories that began one of the largest support groups in our society today, Alcoholics Anonymous, can be of benefit to anyone in any situation.