by John W

At a speaker meeting early in my sobriety I was to hear a claim that puzzled me greatly at the time, because I was on no pink cloud and the wreckage of my present lay strewn about me. The speaker had observed, “You can take the alcohol out of the alcoholic, but you can’t take the alcoholism out of the alcoholic.”

I had wanted so desperately of course to not be an alcoholic. You know what I mean – one of those falling-downers, wearing a trench coat on a hot summer day, slumped over in dark places, trying to bum spare change. That was an alcoholic and that sure wasn’t me. I had some trouble with the law (that crashed car in my history was never an easy memory) but I lived in a nice house, had a wife and kids and a good job. I may have had trouble with booze every once and a while, but nothing I could not handle, nothing I could not fix.

The rude awakening of my bottom replaced my fantasy of life with reality. While the spiritual awakening, which I was to find as a result of working the steps, was on the horizon, it was still quite a distance off when I heard this speaker’s comments. These words had dashed my hope of a miracle cure I had been expecting. I wondered if I would ever be OK again. As the sober days began to mount, I was graced with a sponsor who has managed to stick with me through thick and thin. But at our first meeting, after my affirmation that I was willing to go to any lengths, he asked me what I thought things would look like in 365 days. Ruling out a PowerBall winning ticket or Bill Gates giving me his fortune, he asked for my realistic future outlook.

I had underestimated the benefits of the program

I was graced with a sponsor who has managed to stick with me through thick and thin

After some reflection I gave my reply. He responded that I had underestimated the benefits of the program on which I was beginning to embark. He then guaranteed me that things would be so much better than I had just declared I would consider fantastic if they materialized in the next year. In the days and with the work that followed, when my reticence to do the next right thing confronted me, he would remind me of the affirmative reply I had given to him before. These reminders became the antidote for my fear when it reared its ugly head, disguised as uncertainty or “wrong place, wrong time.” So although our journey was indeed painstaking, his guarantee to me proved no idle ploy. He made good on his promise. Though my play had not followed the script I had written, I had won a personal Tony nonetheless.

As we had then moved to Step Ten, my question to him was, “Now what?” His reply was as if set to a familiar lilt: Keep on Trudgin’. What I had started to integrate his help into my daily life, it would be with me for the rest of it he said, I needed but to Keep On Trudgin’.

However, because I am the kind of person I am, always in search of the easier, softer way, I sought a second opinion. I asked a fellow with time and who had what I wanted how he had kept on trudging over the years and hurdles of his sobriety. I wondered and asked him what the key to Step Ten was for him. “Discipline” was the one-word reply. After he let that sink in, he said I would never be cured of alcoholism (where had I heard that before?). My best hope was for a daily reprieve. But he said that for him, an atheist, his focus on the spiritual challenges of this task required he stick to it in a rigorous, disciplined way. As a result, he said he had found that regardless of one’s concept of a Higher Power, in his time he saw that those people who worked the steps and did not just “talk the steps” seemed to persevere. He said that I was likely to find that the traits I exhibited when I was drinking were still behind that face I saw each day in the mirror. My demons were there, ready to ensnare me if I failed to stay focused on the program that had brought me that gift of sobriety in the first place.

My question to him was, “Now what?”

My sponsor, my second opinion, and now so many others, too, have all echoed the words of that speaker from my past. Those comments were now no longer a puzzle to me: they had become an insight into my disease. The spiritual awakening of which they had been a harbinger could and would be achieved, today, as long as I was willing to Keep On Trudgin’.

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