“Lack of power, that was our dilemma. We had to find a power by which we could live, and it had to be a power greater than ourselves. Obviously.”
The wonderful yet exasperating thing about the 12-step program is that its principles are constant long after the alcohol or drugs are cut from our lives.
I knew for a long time I was powerless over alcohol. Everybody else knew it, too. I could not control my drinking once I started, and I just could not seem to lose the restlessness, irritability, and dissatisfaction that made that first drink an absolute need. That’s alcoholism.
After seeking help at Solutions of North Texas and desperately working the Steps with my sponsor, the sick compulsion to drink was removed from me. It was gone. I joined the survivors, few though we are.
But unlike books and movies, life goes on after the battle is over. We can pat ourselves on the backs and rejoice, but then we wake up a few days or weeks later after the credits have rolled, or the book has began to gather dust on the shelf. What then?
I got a job, finally. I was so grateful. It was minimum wage, part-time, and everything was uncertain. But I had asked for God’s guidance and help, and I felt this is where He had led me. I earnestly did my part as best I could, even though it was humbling and frustrating at times, and the walk in 105-degree North Texas heat was unpleasant.
I got a promotion. I became a supervisor, got a small raise to $8 an hour, and I breathed a sigh of relief. As Step 3 promised, God was going to provide what I needed. I felt hope and gratitude.
But it was harder than I anticipated. I got in trouble, “talked to,” a few times about the behavior or lack of diligence of some of the employees under my charge. And then because I was harsh and not easy to get along with. I was frustrated the others didn’t see how hard I was working, how much I deserved this, how “well” I was, and what a remarkable individual I had become. I was afraid of heading down the road to losing my position and raise, or my job altogether. Why didn’t they behave? Why were they coming down on me from both sides? That wasn’t right, was it?
Are you ready to play the Blame Game? Spin the wheel and see how miserable you get to become!
A little helping of damaged self-esteem and some financial insecurity were returning. Fear of people and confrontation, expectations placed on others, and determining their roles in life…
I called my sponsor, coincidentally named Bill, to whine, but he proceeded to talk about the recurrence of these defects of character. We talked about the resentment I had against the employees who were putting me in a tough spot, and my fear of managers who came down on me instead of them, then criticized when I did what I thought they wanted.
The conversation sucked.
Bill talked about how others are sometimes spiritually sick, and that I should be showing grace and forgiveness, and needed to try and be helpful to them. That also sucked.
I put up an argument, saying that was great and all, but I needed an actual fix to a very real problem. I didn’t see that had been accomplished.
I wanted an air strike. I wanted Shock and Awe. I wanted lightning and fire from Heaven rained down on those complicating my life and poking at my blanket of security. I wanted relief for my fear and justice for my anger. I wanted a solution, here and now, to the current problem, and one so sudden and convincing that I’d never have to deal with this again. I demanded satisfaction, finality, and absolute closure.
I had, in my heart, just assigned God His job for the week. I handed Him my list of orders and directives on a time frame… Now.
Bill sighed and left a dramatic pause. I could see his big smile in my mind. I had heard that pause before, and it always came before the difficult-to-swallow truth about life was about to be delivered. It was, and still is, my sign to listen really closely. Either way, I was about to see some travel pics of Nirvana.
“You remember that part in the Book where they talk about “Lack of Power?” See, they’re not just talking about alcohol. Lack of Power is still your dilemma.”
I was stunned. The fact that I was still powerless was a painful revelation.
“You don’t have any power over other people. You can’t just change them, and you can’t make them do what you want. You just can’t. And if you keep trying, you’re just going to beat your head against the wall and get thirsty.”
He actually chuckled. So did I.
That is my recollection of a conversation I still replay in my mind, because my character defects of anger, pride, selfishness, and fear come back often and complicate my life. I still have the sheet of yellow paper ripped from a legal pad with my inventory of these folks in four columns, and the notes I wrote throughout our talk scrawled all over it. I come across it now and again. And sometimes I go looking for it.
Because I have to learn the lesson over again every once in awhile.
The three lessons I learned about the constant truth:
- I am still powerless other people. They are going to do what they do, regardless of how I feel about it. I cannot force them to be different. How “right” I think I am is irrelevant.
- God is in charge, not me. He puts things and people in place, and He brings people in and out of our lives. He sets the requirements. He’s the manager. I have to stay within the boundaries of the contract of employment I made in Step 3. I work for Him. Full Stop.
- Alcohol was the symptom, and even though it is gone, I still have the underlying problems to deal with. The truth contained in the 12 Steps is constant and is even more applicable in sobriety.
These things don’t change. That’s why we continue to work a 12-step program after active alcoholism or addiction has passed.
We must continue to uproot anger, fear, and selfishness. To stay free from the compulsion to get high or drink, we continue to apply these steady truths for the rest of our lives.
The process of maintaining a relationship with a Higher Power is where the hope for a different life lies. It’s in this work where we find growth and freedom. It is our hope and our solution.
I had permanently lost control over my alcoholism, and over everything and everyone else except myself. That belief I ever had any was an illusion, and I continue to learn that I never will achieve any either.
Let me repeat that, for my own sake, as I am sitting here with a bit of resentment swirling in the back of my head: I was not, nor am I now, in charge of others’ behavior or opinions.
I hate that fact sometimes, but I cannot live trying to will others to behave as I wish. I will fail, become resentful or fearful, and eventually drink. That is still true and always will be.
Lack of power is STILL our dilemma. “We had to find a Power by which we could live…” That Power, not the illusion of control so many of us entertain, saved us from alcoholism and addiction, and it continues to rescue us from wrecking our own lives through selfishness and fear in sobriety.
A connection to that Power was our solution. We’d damn well better listen when He whispers to us in sobriety. The follow up is on us, and the consequences for not are real.
Life, with its accompanying challenges, keeps happening after the final battle scene ends, but the Truth, the Power we have found remains constant.
If you’re fed up with losing at your own game, life is beating you down, and drugs and alcohol are eating you alive… Call us. Reach out and let’s just talk.
Each one of us had to find the way out. Someone shared it with us. We’d like to share it with you, too.
“David S. is an alumnus of the SONTX Residential Program and served as a house manager. He is celebrating sobriety and freedom by living in the mountains and running the Colorado trails.”