I went to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting last Friday; my very first and quite an eye-opener. My friend and I arrived at the midtown location at about 7:15pm. On the lawn of Ray’s home, about 50 people milled around talking, hugging, or lounging in lawn chairs, benches, and other surfaces. Several cars lined both sides of the street and about a dozen motorbikes were parked curbside. At the other end of the lawn, refreshment tables were laden with liter bottles of root beer, pints of vanilla ice cream, and coffee. As we made our way to the refreshment tables, my friend, a regular attendee, stopped to greet his friends - people of all races, ages, and positions. I met a county judge, a business owner, and regular folks. Everyone was friendly, exchanging pleasantries, hugs, and conversation.
At about 8:30 pm, our host roused our attention. Standing at a makeshift podium in the center of the gathering, Ray began, “let’s all rise to say the serenity prayer:”
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.”
As we prayed, I felt something momentous happening and schooled my mind to absorb the experience. Interestingly, I’d memorized the Serenity Prayer a while back because it helped me deal with my Type A perfectionism not even realizing its connection with AA.
A young lady read out Alcoholics Anonymous’ Twelve Steps. I was particularly by #4 which states, “[We] made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.” This dovetailed into the topic for the evening – Accountability.
“My name is Bob and I’m an alcoholic,” our speaker began. He recounted his journey as a recurrent alcoholic who only broke free 11 years ago when he became accountable. For years, he’d believed he wasn’t answerable to anyone. Finally, he met a Sponsor who was able to reach him and to help him embrace accountability to himself, family, club, and community.
After the main speech, it was open mic. One by one, individuals walked up, picked up the mic, and introduced themselves - “Hi, I’m James and I’m an alcoholic and a drug addict. I’ve been sober 14 years.” Following intros, each relayed their journey of accountability. One guy was only 3 months into his journey of sobriety and was depending on the community to hold his accountable. At the end of each speech, the audience clapped and cheered.
I left the meeting thinking how much better we’d all be should we practice some good old-fashioned AA accountability. It would help us:
- Achieve more: for those of us mired in procrastination, being accountable to a mentor or group would help us get out of the rut to accomplish our goals.
- Prevent hypocrisy: when we can open up to one another about our weaknesses, we become stronger. It’s not whether you can successfully sneak a drink but that you are strong enough to ask for help to resist the lure of alcohold. Or drugs, or stealing, or lying, or adultery, or damaging those near and dear to you.
- Build community: when we no longer have to wear masks in our interactions, we thrive. Each person is able to reveal their real selves, receive kudos for their strengths and help for their weaknesses
- Strengthen both the weak and the strong: accountability demands participation from both the weak and the strong. It’s a give and take proposition; no sitting on the sidelines.
- Increase inner strength: regardless of how many accountability partners one has, one must still do the internal work it takes to triumph. Nobody will devote every sleeping and waking hour to your success like you. Ultimately, you must be accountable to yourself in order to ensure your victory.
But barring joining AA, how can you find accountability?
- Find an accountability partner or group: who will you be accountable to? Choose a person you respect and is where you are heading. That is, if you want to become a successful CPA, select a person who could help you achieve your goal whether because they’ve done it themselves or have motivated others to achieve their goals. Similarly, choose a group that’s headed where you want to go.
- Decide on the goals for which to be accountable: because you cannot tackle everything at once, select the goal/s for which you want to be held accountable.
- Set regular times to report in: do you need to give an account every day? Or can you stay on track for a week or month? Set a regular time to give an account of your goals.
- Stay motivated: keep your spirits up both personally and alongside your accountability team.
And if we emulate AA by embracing accountability, imagine how much more we can learn from a community that exists to support its weakest members until they’re stronger, healthier, and whole.