by John W

We learn from history so as to avoid repeating it. This concept may help in many facets of life, but it certainly did not help with my history of drinking. The embarrassing moments in high school, which had been cute or funny, became embarrassing moments in college. These ranged from dubious badges of honor to moments friends just looked the other way. After graduation this proclivity to imbibe translated into a wrecked car and arrests, more than I care to acknowledge even after over a decade sober. Like so many others, I did not arrive at the doors of AA on the Wings of Victory. My stop was the last house on the block, literally the end of the line.

Before I could believe there was a solution, I needed to cross the threshold of unmanageability and accept I was powerless over alcohol. Lack of power was my dilemma. I was not a moral weakling. I was just suffering from a disease that was out to kill me and, while performing its treachery, was bent on telling me I was fine.

This message was like a wave breaking on the sea wall at Ocean Beach. It rolled in every morning when I showed up at my 7:00 a.m. meeting hung over. The idea receded as the day progressed and I took the oath to make this Day One of never, ever drinking again with it. As the next swell built, I consumed my daily swill and history repeated itself.

This message was like a wave breaking

Praying alone did not work for me. The luster of swearing off had paled for those close to me. Yet the conversations I began to hear at my morning meetings were different. I was certain I was not an alcoholic and was just as sure I was more successful in business than everyone in the room (my fantasy world was in high gear). Yet they were each doing what I couldn’t. They stopped drinking and stayed stopped. This was a new frontier for me. 

like a wave breaking at Ocean Beach

As my days at meetings began to pile up, I had somehow been given the gift of faith. I began to believe that if these men and women could do it, then maybe, just maybe, I could too. As the days became weeks and then months I heard how they did it one day at a time. I heard the horror stories of those who slipped and managed to make it back. Sadly, I also heard the reports of those who did not. Once I experienced the miracle of a sober day, when the obsession actually vanished, I knew I was either in it for the long haul or the end would soon be upon me. 

A member of our program was asked to read one day and turned to Bill’s story: “But just underneath there is a deadly earnestness. Faith has to work twenty-four hours a day in and through us, or we perish” (Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 16). Faith was not only in the admission my life was unmanageable because I was powerless over alcohol, but also in the belief that I could be restored to sanity. If I was painstaking, I would comprehend the word serenity and I would know peace. 

They asked me to focus on progress, not perfection

Each sober day this new frontier revealed an unexpected landscape. While I had heard these wonders described, to actually have them become a part of my life was entirely a product of my faith growing as I followed the suggestions set forth in the Big Book. My sponsor told me many times, “Faith without works is dead.” (Alcoholics Anonymous, pg. 88) His actions and those of the other members of my group personified what it meant to lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows.

I tried to follow their lead. Thankfully they asked me to focus on progress, not perfection. My faith grew. I cannot say how it happened, nor when it happened, only that it happened. I heard the words “We know that when we turn to Him, all will be well with us, here and hereafter” (Twelve and Twelve, pg. 105). I do not know what these words mean to others who might hear them; I can only say what they have come to mean for me. Simply, I have faith that all will be well when I turn to a higher power. Finally unwrapped, this gift of faith our program has given is something I can freely partake.

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