They are not a universal A.A. practice and A.A. groups make their own decision to follow the practice or not. They commemorate months of sobriety and then years of sobriety. They have a variety of colors, each for a different length of time.
Some colors appear more than once. Each token is special, but in this post, we will look at the 1-month red chip.
A Brief History of The Chips
The first tokens that were distributed were when a Sacred Heart medallion was given out by Sister Mary Ignatia who worked at St. Thomas Hospital to people discharged from the alcoholic treatment facilities there and other places where she worked. They were given on condition they would hand the medal back to Sister Ignatia before they took their next drink.
The origin of the use of A.A. sobriety chips is uncertain, but it is considered to have been started by Doherty S who started A.A. in Indianapolis. The use of colored AA poker chips originated by the Portland (Maine) group.
This may be the most momentous of all the chips. There was a time when we couldn’t imagine a single day without a drink and now, we have passed the first day and have gone a whole month. I know that I believed at one point that was impossible. I recall m drinking days and the odd dry day did happen, but I can’t recall two dry days in a row. That is the nature of a drinking problem.
While there is no timeline for going through the steps of the 12-step program, it is likely that we have done the first three steps. Most of us complete the first step simply by coming to our first meeting. By coming to our first meeting, we admit we have hit rock bottom and admitted that we were powerless over alcohol. We acknowledge we need a solution and attending an alcoholics anonymous meeting is the first step in trying to find a new way.
We have probably also completed the second and third steps as well. This means also that we have admitted that only God could help us and have asked our Higher Power for help.
Some of the changes you have probably seen in the 30 days.
Your energy will have increased
Our physical and mental performance will have improved
You will be sleeping better
Your mood will be better
You will instinctively have started to be more honest with yourself and others
Relationships will have started to improve
You will have saved money
Long term health risks will have been reduced
You know you can survive without drinking
If we drank 6 shots of whisky a day, then in 30 days we have consumed 20880 calories less in the last month. If we drank 6 beers, then we have taken in 27540 calories less. Let’s face facts - which of us drank that little?
What a difference that is from where we were just more than four short weeks ago, but that was another life and that is part of the coin represents. The coin is not just about the time spent sober, but how long we have spent living a newer, better way of life.
The Next 30 Days
With the red token, it is also time to consider what the next thirty days will bring when we get a gold coin for our two-month anniversary. If we have completed the third step, we will move on to start to take a deep look at ourselves. We will begin by embarking on the dreaded 4th step. That is
Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
Do not rush this step and work with your sponsor because you will feel a great deal of guilt as you make out this list of flaws. There is a warning here. Anger, guilt, and resentment are the most common reasons for relapse. We have over many years built up certain reflexive behaviors, like drowning our sorrows.
I first became sober in August 1999 and on February 10, 2000, I fought with My girlfriend. I drank that night for various reasons, anger and resentment being two of them. The third, honestly, was to be spiteful. I know that was a very immature response, but it is exactly the type of issue that we are starting to deal with when we do this 4th step.
It is a time of consolidation of the gains of the first month of sanity that we have had in perhaps many years. But it must also be a time of caution. Remember it is just for today. We may feel that after thirty days we will be able to “manage” another drink. Experience shows that is a lie that we tell ourselves.
For some these A.A. coins are boring recovery chips, but for others, the chip system is a tremendous way of acknowledging the amount of time we have spent sober. The silver chip celebrates the first day, but the red chip is one month!!! One impossible month.
There is one major caveat in all this. No matter how many weeks, months, or years of recovery we have behind us, the one constant cause for celebration is that we have been sober just for today. Every day we have been sober and every day we will be sober is a victory, but the best victory is not in sobriety coins, but in going without a drink just for today.
A Quick Note
In Narcotics Anonymous they use key tags rather than the A.A. tokens.
Note: Except where specified all quotes are from the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous