by David S.
“Selfishness and self-centeredness!”
That, we think, is the root of our troubles. Driven by a hundred forms of fear, self-delusion, self-seeking, and self-pity…” (Alcoholics Anonymous p. 62)
Those were the all-powerful forces of my life during both active drinking and those brief and ugly dry spells that happened from time to time. Those feelings were what drove me, directed me, and dictated my actions. They were judges I was powerless to overrule and generals giving orders I was unable to disobey.
Those were the parameters of my decision-making process.
Needless to say, things were always a mess. Bill W. describes it perfectly:
“We were having trouble with personal relationships, we couldn’t control our emotional natures, we were a prey to misery and depression, we couldn’t make a living, we had a feeling of uselessness, we were full of fear, we were unhappy.” (Alcoholics Anonymous p. 52)
A snapshot of any moment during my past life would reveal one or a combination of those very things. A sick Van Gogh portrait of pain.
Why? Why? Why?
Why was this happening to me?
Every significant event of my life led me to fear or to the drive to get more of what I wanted or believed I had to have to survive.
“So our troubles, we think, are basically of our own making. They arise out of ourselves, and the alcoholic is an extreme example of self-will run riot, though he usually doesn’t think so.” (Alcoholics Anonymous p. 62)
I did so much damage to myself and the people I loved.
But life is almost never like that anymore.
How did I accomplish that?
I didn’t, other than to acknowledge the basic truth that there was something inside of me that was broken, and I was powerless to fix it on my own.
What I did was make a decision to fire myself from management of my circumstances, and become a faithful employee of a boss who had a much grander vision for my life.
“This is the how and the why of it. First of all, we had to quit playing God. It didn’t work. Next, we decided that hereafter in this drama of life, God was going to be our Director.” (Alcoholics Anonymous p. 62)
I put Him in complete control of my priorities and decisions.
“When we sincerely took such a position, all sorts of remarkable things followed. We had a new employer.” (Alcoholics Anonymous p. 63)
Remarkable things? I so badly needed remarkable things in my life, and the first was to receive the miracle of sobriety, which for 8 years had eluded me, despite my greatest efforts and the destruction of all the things I held dear — Family, career, reputation, and friendships near and far… All the things that defined who I thought I was.
If this new employer could accomplish that, I was on board.
I did what was required in the job description to gain employment under such a Supervisor.
There were 12 requirements, and I had just fulfilled the first three.
“Being all powerful, He provided what we needed, if we kept close to Him and performed His work well.” (Alcoholics Anonymous p. 63)
This is this contract that has formed the basis for my recovery from active alcoholism, and has informed every decision I’ve made since the day I cut that deal.
Life has indeed been remarkable.
But If I Had Known…
God, the employer, did not reveal his business plan for my life. In my experience, He does not operate like that.
To achieve the modest success I consider my life to be at this point, required a lot of effort, a lot of surrender to things I wasn’t thrilled to do, enduring a number of frustrating and unexpected disappointments, and many unsure moments, I do not think I would have had the courage to go through with it.
If God had revealed His plan and all it would require, all the different hills I would have to climb, how tired at times I would be…
I wouldn’t have been able to do it.
I believe He knew that.
And, I’m not the only person to reach that conclusion:
“We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.” — C.S. Lewis
If he had laid out his plan for my approval, I would have certainly found something wrong with it. It would have turned into a negotiation. I would have watered it down to what I thought I could accomplish. Me. I.
Not We. I would have forgotten I had access to His power in my life.
At that point, the contract I had made with God in Step 3, quoted above, would have been DOA. Dead on arrival.
The knowledge would have surely thrown me back into fearful and desperate wondering how I would ever accomplish that. It would have paralyzed me and then crushed me.
He provides what we need, and protects us from what will cause our failure.
He protected me from my mortal enemy, Me.
If We Allow Him To Do So.
I am lucky that my sponsor did not really allow me in the early stages to question God’s intentions much.
That bought time for the small successes to build. Tiny though they were, indeed they were gigantic for someone in my position at the time. Bits of sunlight coming through the cracks of my self-imposed wall of fear and guilt were steadily mounting evidence that this spiritual program was certainly about more than just quitting drinking, but rather a way of life.
So, each day, I asked myself if God was still the Employer, and if I was going to allow him to direct my thinking and my actions, or as is often said, my Will and my Life.
I revisited my Step 3 commitment and contract with God each morning, and based on His success rate, I signed up for another day. Day after day.
I chose to act on faith, even sometimes with doubt and fear in my gut, that He would again deliver exactly what I needed, when it was time.
“Our description of the alcoholic, the chapter to the agnostic, and our personal adventures before and after make clear three pertinent ideas:
- That we were alcoholic and could not manage our own lives.
- That probably no human power could have relieved our alcoholism.
- That God could and would if He were sought. (Alcoholics Anonymous p. 60)
I’d like to draw your attention to that opening sentence, where it says before and after.
This is a way of life, and if it was successful before, it will continue to be successful in the after. My relationship and orientation towards my Employer continue to accomplish things I could certainly not do on my own.
Nor could any human being accomplish them for me.
Proof is in the results.
What’s in the ‘After’
It’s truly mind-boggling.
I’ve shared in this blog a few times about the situation with my son. You can read in detail about it here and here. That situation is the Dark Night of My Soul. It is the one thing I wished resolved over all else.
In short, I hadn’t seen or heard anything from him in over 2.5 years. My ex-wife, the ink on our divorce not yet dry (and neither yet was I), brought my son to the Tokyo airport to spend a few last minutes, and to hug me goodbye. He was just 5.
Dead silence. A stonewall since that day. No answer to any of the roughly 6 letters and pictures I have sent.
People often ask me how I endure.
It all comes down to that commitment, and belief something better is in store.
God has proven, in the before version of those abc statements above, as well as through the things following, that He has a plan for all of it. That plan has surely produced better results than I could alone, as I’ve already said.
What made this situation any different?
Day after day, I confirmed that my entire life, like it or not, was in God’s hands, and chose to continue on in faith, despite my sadness, that what was best for us all would come to pass on His terms and on His schedule.
And then this happened…
On a random Tuesday morning, when I was so busy and worried, wrapped up in my own goings and doings, my phone buzzed.
It read I had a received request to add someone to Facebook Messenger.
It was my ex-wife.
The dialogue was very brief, but she sent the first photo I’d received in that 30 months. I had the tiniest opportunity to express gratitude and act with grace, providing just the smallest bit of proof that I was not the selfish, self-pitying, cowering shell of wreck of a wretch I had once been.
That’s All I Got
Just a glimpse. Just a few words. Just one snapshot.
Yet, it is so much. I cannot even describe how I felt. I have no words, so you’ll have to just put yourself in my position and imagine as best you can. That’s called empathy, by the way, a spiritual principle.
There is the hope and promise of resolution to this most important of problems.
Just like the ‘before,’ God is operating His plan for my life in the ‘after.’ Even 30 months sober, he still has remarkable things in store.
He knows what is best, and he will continue to do for me what I could not do for myself.
He will continue to organize and schedule my life in a way that I could not, nor could any other person on earth do for me.
He overcame my alcoholism. He removed the greatest and most immediate problem in my entire life, proving beyond doubt his enormous power, and continues to prove that He will provide a solution to the rest of my problems and provide what I need, provided I do what is required.
“Quite as important was the discovery that spiritual principles would solve all of my problems. I have since been brought into a way of living infinitely more satisfying and, I hope, more useful than the life I lived before.” (Alcoholics Anonymous p. 43)
Patience. Steadfastness. Hope. Faith. Courage. Grace.
Basically, get out of the way and let God do the job he promised He would. It’s what I agreed to do.
And look what happened.
But if I’d known what it was going to take, or how long… I just don’t believe I could have gone along for the ride.
I would have demanded it earlier. I would have demanded a complete solution, once and for all. Subject to my approval.
When I didn’t get that, my untreated character defects would have left me drunk, hopeless, alone, and dying, if not already dead.
My Contract with Him Stands.
His time frame.
Not subject to my approval.
As long as I choose to go forward on those conditions no matter what fear I have or selfish ideas may creep in, He will provide.
Proof is in the results.
“David S. is an alumnus of the SONTX Residential Program and served as a house manager. He is celebrating sobriety running the streets of Dallas and a program called “Back on my Feet.”