by David S.
The words that follow are selections from Alcoholics Anonymous, the basic text followed by millions to recovery from alcoholism and drug addiction.
These words impacted me deeply along my personal journey back from the spiritual graveyard to a place of safety, peace, usefulness, and happiness.
I believe we all have such words which sincerely affect us.
Some of those passages send us to a place of reflection, while others catapult us over obstacles in our paths. Others cause us to question how we are conducting our lives.
They challenge us.
They inspire us.
I’d like to share the first handful of mine.
Coming to Grips with the Reality of My Illness
“We, of Alcoholics Anonymous, are more than one hundred men and women who have recovered from a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body. To show other alcoholics precisely how we have recovered is the main purpose of this book.” Alcoholics Anonymous, Forward to First Edition
This passage set me on the road to a state known as “recovered.”
No, not “recovery” or “recovering.”
There was an answer waiting to be shared with me which had been confirmed through the combined experiences of over 100 people from all walks of life.
They recovered from a hopeless condition that had once destroyed both their mind and body, and they had been imprisoned within themselves — drunk.
I knew I had that same hopelessness, but these 100 men and women were telling me they had the answer, and were willing to freely share it with me.
My sponsor pointed out the word precisely. That told me my only responsibilities were to follow the directions and trust the process.
This was fantastic news to me — a man who had repeatedly failed to find the answer himself.
It gave me my first glimpse of hope.
“I do not hold with those who believe that alcoholism is entirely a problem of mental control. I have had many men who had, for example, worked a period of months on some problem or business deal which was to be settled on a certain date, favorably to them. They took a drink a day or so prior to the date, and then the phenomenon of craving at once became paramount to all other interests so that the important appointment was not met. These men were not drinking to escape; they were drinking to overcome a craving beyond their mental control.” Alcoholics Anonymous, The Doctor’s Opinion, xxix-xxx
I was not alone.
Men who were more talented, more intelligent, and more motivated than I were brought to their knees by this same disease.
They were not crushed by weakness, for these were capable men. Instead, they were trapped by a physical condition triggered by a mysterious and powerful mental obsession.
No material success or gain was sufficient for them to resist certain disaster.
At least I was not the only one — I was no longer the freak or the outcast.
“The Story he told was most instructive, for here was a chap absolutely convinced he had to stop drinking, who had no excuse for drinking, who exhibited splendid judgement and determination in all his other concerns, yet was flat on his back nevertheless.
“Let him tell you about it: “I was much impressed with what you fellows said about alcoholism, and I frankly did not believe it would be possible for me to drink again. I rather appreciated your ideas about the subtle insanity which precedes the first drink, but I was confident it could not happen to me after what I learned. I reasoned I was not so far advanced as most of you fellows, that I had been usually successful in licking my other problems, and that I would therefore be successful where you men failed. I felt I had every right to be self-confident, that it would only a matter of exercising my will power and keeping on guard.” Alcoholics Anonymous p. 40
I had tried the same things with the same results — failure.
I had listened, I had reasoned, I had problem solved, I had applied all sorts of practical strategies, and I had wound up flat on my back, too.
Self-knowledge had not and would not do the trick.
Keeping on guard was a futile effort.
I may have been quite successful in tackling any number of real-world problems and achieved much, but I was locked in a desperate and losing struggle with a spiritual illness.
It was a great relief to find out I was not the only one for whom willpower and self-discipline had failed.
There Is a Solution
“Here are thousands of men and women, worldly indeed. They flatly declare that since they have come to believe in a Power greater than themselves, to take a certain attitude toward that Power, and to do certain simple things, there has been a revolutionary change in their way of living and thinking. In the face of collapse and despair, in the face of the total failure of their human resources, they found that a new power, peace, happiness, and sense of direction flowed into them. This happened soon after they wholeheartedly met a few simple requirements.” Alcoholics Anonymous p. 50
A sense of direction.
I had none of those, but I wanted them badly. All that was required was to trust in God and sincerely and desperately work these 12 Steps.
Just like the situation the man described above — I did what he did, applying self-knowledge and common sense, and I got what he got.
Instead, I realized, “Why don’t I do what these other folks did and get what they got?”
Miraculously simple, isn’t it?
“As soon as we admitted the possible existence of a Creative Intelligence, a Spirit of the Universe underlying the totality of things, we began to be possessed of a new sense of power and direction, provided we took other simple steps. We found that God does not make too hard terms with those who seek Him. To us, the Realm of Spirit is broad, roomy, all inclusive; never exclusive or forbidding to those who earnestly seek. It is open, we believe, to all men.” Alcoholics Anonymous p. 46
I had come to believe that God wanted nothing to do with me, but I was still willing to admit He was probably out there somewhere.
For the first time, I could open my mind to the idea that it was possible for such a flawed individual as me to form a relationship with or gain access to Him.
Finally, somebody was going to show me how!
God would set me free.
All I had to do was earnestly seek.
It’s amazingly powerful what desperation will do for a person.
“When many hundreds of people are able to say that the consciousness of the Presence of God is today the most important fact of their lives, they present a powerful reason why one should have faith.” Alcoholics Anonymous p. 51
I just want to stop hurting.
I just want to live.
Sign me up!
Where Do I Sign?
“We had a new employer. Being all powerful, He provided what we needed, if we kept close to Him and performed His work well.” Alcoholics Anonymous p. 63
Speaking of signing something, my sponsor explained to me that Step 3 was both a decision and a contract.
I was not professing an absolute, devoted faith from the depths of my soul in the Son of Man, which is a good thing because I was fresh out of that.
Instead, I was making a decision to rely on God, however much I could accept at the time, and trust that the results would follow.
I made a promise to earnestly seek Him.
It was a beginning.
God will provide what I need, not what I want. Sounds like a bargain!
After all, how successful had I been at determining what my needs were anyway?
And, had any of my wants actually made me happy recently?
So, I signed the contract through the Third Step Prayer to give this program my best effort and set out to let this way of living connect me to God.
The rest is history. My obsession to drink was taken away.
It was removed.
I stand as one of the “recovered souls,” so long as I maintain my part of that bargain on a daily basis.
The Miracle Begins
“We pocket our pride and go to it, illuminating every twist of character, every dark cranny of the past. Once we have taken this step, withholding nothing, we are delighted. We can look the world in the eye. We can be alone at perfect peace and ease. Our fears fall from us. We begin to feel the nearness of our Creator. We may have had certain spiritual beliefs, but now we begin to have a spiritual experience. The feeling that the drink problem has disappeared will often come strongly. We feel we are on the Broad Highway, walking hand in hand with the Spirit of the Universe.” Alcoholics Anonymous p. 75
I have read that over and over, and I still get chills. I just got them now as I typed it.
It promises all the things I did not have, but so desperately wanted.
I had not been delighted in years.
I could not look anyone in the eye, yet I could not stand to be alone with myself.
Peace and ease were not words I could use to describe any part of my life until that point.
I was in Hell.
So, if anyone could promise me these things, give me directions to that Broad Highway, and introduce me to the One who would never leave me alone again…
All I needed was the directions.
And I had them at last.
Thanks for allowing me to share these passages which have meant so much in my spiritual journey with you.
May God bless you and keep you.
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.