When we hear the words, “willing to go to any length for victory over alcohol,” let’s say, “Yes!”  Willing to go to any length is another aspect of the first step in sobriety.  As we grow and flourish, we expand our willingness to go to any length for a lot of things. For wide-ranging commitments – some not so comfortable but oh, so rewarding!


In early days, I could not figure how “going to any length” to show up for a 7 a.m. meeting as the Butt-Can woman would keep me sober. How could picking up your butts keep me sober? I was there to save my own butt!   Alcohol is mentioned only once in the 12 Steps.  Where was the secret handshake or magic elixir to keep me from drinking?


Another incomprehensible commitment was Set-Up.  Like a lot of long-time AA meetings, we had the beat-up, tarnished percolators from the early 60s to keep us going. Phenomenally, painfully slow percolation. Therefore,  to set-up a 7 a.m. meeting means starting the coffee by 6.  Which means a person has to be up by 5:30 a.m.  How was this going to keep me sober?  Resentment at having to rise before dawn was percolating faster than the coffee. 


I tried to wriggle out of Set-Up by telling my sponsor, “I don’t have a car.  I can’t make it.”  Thank God for a wise sponsor who queried, “Do you have a flashlight?”  “Yes.”  “Do you have tennis shoes?”  “Yes.”  “Then you can keep your commitment.” Busted!


The other side of the meeting, the Clean-Up Commitment, also held dubious value to staying sober – until I gave up my “contempt prior to investigation,” by raising my hand to say, “Yes!” when a request for help arose.  For all of the above, here’s what I discovered.

Butt Can, Greeter, Set-Up, Clean-Up held unimaginable rewards.  They got me to the meeting early and allowed me to leave late.  As a newcomer, I had it the other way around: Come late, leave early.  Now by arriving early, I came to know the meeting before the meeting. The “secret handshake” came as Greeter to a host of new-found friends. The camaraderie outside the front door was “the magic elixir” I’d been seeking.  Like a floating fog bank, the magic had a way of following us into the room and stayed on through, even after the meeting.


With Clean-Up, I found I could not leave early and disappear.  With suds up to my elbows, and a sink full of coffee cups, I came to listen to the talk around me. Came to chime in a word or two.  Came to believe I was understood and welcomed.

We hear how people go out from not attending meetings. People also go out from not having commitments to bring them to the meetings in the first place.  Having a commitment takes us out of the “me” and into the “we.”  The commitment pulls us in when we would prefer to stay away.



A Vietnam veteran once said if he were to write a book, he would entitle it, “No Regrets.” Soldiers coming home from wars many times have loads of regrets, shame, and stress disorders having slain men and women in combat.  Knowing this, I was impressed at the intensity with which the man said,  “No Regrets.”  Today, I know what he meant.  With our Program, working the Steps, and showing up – even when all the inner voices dictate otherwise, and our backgrounds feel so shameful we don’t want to join – we can pen our lives with a coda, “No Regrets – Because I went to any length.” 

Published August 31, 2021:  https://aasfmarin.org/any-lengths