Sad that this paragraph from the Big Book has become a common preamble in AA meetings. Why? Because its rote recitation further diminishes its meaning and interpretation... and therefore its implementation.
We "disclose our stories in a general way..." Really? Because the laundry list of war stories and sob stories I hear spewed out so often doesn't sound too general - "I did this, and I did that, and can you believe I did this, and could you believe I did that! Man, I used to drink a 30-pack a night!" I never heard general anything when I used to go to meetings, unless by general we refer to a lack of sophistication and understanding of one's problem and what to do about it (i.e. a really dull, general story that is generally incoherent and has zero usefulness). I never heard a summary of the alcoholic mind and body... what it means to think, feel and drink/use the way we do.
I also never heard the "what happened" part because nothing did happen. There was no summation of recovery or the process underwent to achieve it. And "what we are like now" was for the most part frightening. "If you have decided you want what we have..." Question: Have you ever gone to an AA meeting and seen something that you wanted? I guess I should ask what we want? Mere physical sobriety? I'm all set. I want to be strong, centered, grounded, balanced, confident, calm, content and free. I want to be giving and useful and loving. I want to be sane again.
"... are willing to go to any length to get it - then you are ready to take certain steps." When we hear this in meetings, unless we have been taken through the Big Book by a recovered expert, then we undoubtedly won't have a clue what this really means. Ready to take certain steps does not mean that you make some meeting your home group, become the treasurer, make coffee, set up chairs and just keep comin'.
Taking certain steps means that we embark on a rigorous Twelve Step process - we get up, leave the meeting, and actually take the actions involved in the Steps to expel a lifetime of poison within. We change who and what we are. We restore ourselves to sanity via a spiritual experience in order to equip ourselves with the tools and the condition necessary to go help others. The point of the Twelve Steps is solely to get to that Twelfth step - to go out and help another alcoholic/addict recover by taking him through the same, mystical process we just went through.
So "willing to go to any length" means that there is nothing we won't do in order to become recovered. There is nothing we won't write about in our inventory. There is nothing we won't unearth or admit because of the shame or embarrassment we have. There is nobody we won't make an amends to. There is no part of us - our stubbornness, our pride, our ego - which will prevent us from having faith in GOD and from believing that we cannot do it without His help.
Willing to go to any length means that there is no feeling or thought, no matter how horrible or dark or powerful, which will prevent us from doing the right thing. Going to any length means that even if you have recently gotten sober and you are still a miserable prick, you don't let your self-pity and your selfishness stop you from growing and taking actions that need to be taken in order to achieve and maintain spiritual health.
It would be great if one of the chairmen/women of the local meetings around here would stop when he or she reads that line and look everyone in the room straight in the eye and ask if they are really willing to go to any length to get better. Because really, we have no excuse not to. We owe it to ourselves, our families, our spouses, and to the entire world. We owe it to God. The program is about humility, not stories and stature and "how much clean time you got, kid". Put your sobriety chip away until you've done some work on yourself. And even then, the only chip we really need is a 24-hour.
God, teach us to love and accept ourselves so that we may love and accept each other and do Your work well...