by John W.

Before, it had always been so linear. When confronted with a problem or looking for a solution, I applied my best analytics to the circumstances and made a decision. If things turned out bad, I had a drink, and the mistake didn’t seem as glaring. If things turned out well, I had a drink. One was after all entitled to “take one’s comfort” (in my case it was of the “Southern” variety) after a successful venture. Of course before the decision was confronted or chosen, I had to have a drink to allow me to get focused on the problem, to clear away the distractions, as I once explained to my bartender. My problem was that while one had never been enough, one too many had never been more than enough.

Photos by Earth and Giovanni Calia 

Respect the drowning man would give the sailor who hauled him to safety

When finally driven to A.A., and not on a string of victories, a man had tried to help. He answered one of my calls when no one else was doing that. We talked about my predicament, wife, job, children and, of course, my drinking. He said I likely would not believe it, but if I were willing to follow a few simple suggestions, my life would change. He further predicted it would be in ways I could not now imagine or believe possible. I had responded: “Yeah, but, you see my circumstances are different,” and then I would explain things to him. His name was Mike.

This badinage continued for a bit. To each observation about the unmanageability of my life served by Mike, I would volley a “Yeah but,” retort. Like a Wimbledon champion on the court with a rank amateur, he ran me from side to side, base line to net. I was always a step too slow or a return too weak. Every point I thought I made was shredded by Mike’s simple observation of the truth I had obscured by my denial. My “Yeah buts” had met their match.

Work like your life depended upon it

So I asked him what I would have to do to be as successful as he had been in the program of Alcoholics Anonymous. He replied, just work the steps like your life depended upon it, because it does. And you’ll be OK.

With newfound conviction, I hooked up with a sponsor and we started the process. My “day at Wimbledon” had broken down most of my barriers. My sponsor took care of the last vestiges of grandeur and denial. But still my thinking was linear. Still I expected that “treat” to focus, to console or to congratulate. That pattern demanded change. So I asked my sponsor: What do you have to replace this process, that is me—that is all I have ever known? It was then we discussed The Decision. While turning over my life seemed to make sense, I had become convinced it was unmanageable, turning over my will was not the same thing.

Since by then I had learned the suggestions worked, I was willing to try. As it had worked with the drink, now I was to live this new life I had been given by the same spiritual principles that had saved it. What an order, can I go through with it?

I have come to believe that the journey I have walked so far, one step at a time, one day at a time, demands that I repay that power which brought me here. I have learned I must do so with the respect and honor a drowning man would give the sailor who had hauled him to safety from the foaming sea. I can offer nothing less for the life I was so freely given. Still the doubt is there, the “Yeah but” rears its hooded head, ready to strike with cobra’s speed and infuse the venom of doubt into my veins. I know not what works for others, nay only what has worked for me, where my only defense against this lethal apparition is to say something like: “God, I offer myself to thee…” However, I can also truly say it works. It really does. This is a change, neither imagined nor predicted, but with which I can live today.

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