My sponsor, Bill, has deeply impacted my life over the years.
His timely and creatively-delivered take on the application of spiritual principles to our lives as recovered alcoholics has guided my journey.
Most importantly, it helped me develop a relationship with my Higher Power, which I refer to as God.
This is the first in a series of posts based on conversations we had—truths he told me and questions he posed to me—that continue to play a guiding role in my life today.
Just About the Booze—A Mistaken Assumption
“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.”
I knew for a long time I was powerless over alcohol.
Everybody else knew it, too, even before I did.
I couldn’t control my drinking once I started, and I could do nothing about the restlessness, irritability, and dissatisfaction that made that first drink an absolute need. I drank, and the wheels fell off—the cycle of alcoholism.
While desperately working the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous with my sponsor, the sick compulsion to drink was removed from me. It disappeared.
I had been pulled into the lifeboat, and I had reached the shore—almost like a Hollywood movie. I got a job, and I was grateful. 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.
As Step 3 promised, God was providing what I needed.
Life Became More Complicated
Then, things took a difficult turn.
I got talked to a few times at work regarding the behavior or laziness of some of the employees under my charge.
I was frustrated that I was being held accountable… That the others didn’t see how hard I was working, how I deserved more respect, and what a remarkable individual I had become.
Didn’t they know I was special?
Fear of losing my job altogether set in, and I started asking myself questions like these:
- Why didn’t those stupid people behave better?
- Why were they doing this to me?
- Why are people coming down on me from both sides?
- Why are people trying to wreck things for me?
I was starting to think like a victim again.
Two scoops of financial insecurity with damaged self-esteem poured on like caramel sauce… Fear of people and of confrontation were the nuts and cherry on top of my sundae of crippling self-pity.
Expectations placed on others, and determining how they should behave in life… My spoon!
I called my sponsor, Bill, to whine, but he shut that down almost immediately.
Instead, he proceeded to talk about a recurrence of the defects of character we’d discussed during my 5th Step—the dangerous resentment I had against the employees who were putting me in a tough spot, and my exhausting fear of the managers who came down on me instead of the misbehaving employees.
That conversation sucked, and it left me wondering how this had become about me, when I was the one being mistreated…
Next, Bill talked about how others are sometimes spiritually sick, that I should be showing those people grace and forgiveness, and that I needed to try and be helpful to them.
That also sucked.
I put up an argument, saying that those measures failed to provide an actual fix to a very real problem, and that I didn’t see that much had been accomplished.
What I Need, Not What I Want
I wanted an airstrike… Some shock and awe… Fire from Heaven rained down on those complicating my life, and a plague of frogs upon those poking at my blanket of security.
I wanted relief for my fear and justice for my anger.
I wanted a solution, and I wanted one here and now… One so sudden and convincing that I’d never have to deal with this problem or with these people ever 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.
Lack of Power Is About More Than Booze
Bill sighed and left a dramatic pause, the signals that always came through the phone before the difficult-to-swallow truth about life was delivered.
“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. Realizing that I was still powerless was painful.
“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.”
I prepared to say something that started with, “But.”
As usual, Bill beat me to the punch, saying:
“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.
The 3 Lessons I Learned
That is my recollection of a conversation I replay in my mind to this day. My character defects of anger, pride, selfishness, and fear come back often and wreck my serenity.
I have to learn these lessons again every once in awhile, because they are 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, no matter how right I am.
- 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 service I made in Step 3—I work for Him, full stop.
- Alcohol was the symptom.
Even though I no longer drink and live in the solution today, I still need to work a 12 Step program. My character can develop faults and deficiencies again, and drinking will return if I’m not diligent.
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.
The Wrap Up
I had permanently lost control over my alcoholism.
I also lost control over everything and everyone else. Any belief I ever had any was an illusion, and I continue to learn that I will never 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 cannot live trying to force others to behave as I wish. I WILL fail, become resentful or fearful, and eventually drink. That was true before, is still true today, and it always will be.
Lack of power is STILL my dilemma.
We had to find a Power by which we could live…
When God whispers, we’d damn well better listen. The responsibility is ours and ours alone, and the consequences are real.
Life, with its accompanying challenges, keeps happening, but the Truth, the Power we have found, remains constant.
Contact Solutions of North Texas if you’d like to learn more about how you can live life successfully, free of alcohol or drugs.
David S. is an alumnus of the SONTX Residential Program and served as a house manager. He is celebrating sobriety as a up-and-coming writer in Dallas.