While Philip Seymour Hoffman's tragic death is the most recent to make headlines, heroin claimed the lives of many beloved artists, including Cory Monteith, Janis Joplin, River Phoenix and Chris Farley.
Honest, courageous and insightful aren’t words typically used to describe drug addicts. But if given the chance, many addicts end up developing these qualities and contributing to society in a way they never imagined possible. These successes occur in spite of major obstacles, from the ever-present threat of relapse to the pervasive stereotypesaddicts encounter along the way. Even with three decades of myth-busting research behind us, some of the most damaging beliefs about addiction remain... Read more
In the program of Alcoholics Anonymous they talk about something called "The Promises". The Promises are listed on pages 83 and 84 of the Big Book, and I wanted to talk about them because I know that early recovery is painful, and it's hard to fathom a life without drugs and alcohol.
Why get sober? Why stay sober? These are questions I know I asked myself frequently. Getting sober hurts, it's as simple as that. It doesn't just hurt physically, it hurts emotionally. It was important for me to keep in mind that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and that light is The Promises of Alcoholics Anonymous.
The Promises are as follows:
1. If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through.
2. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness.
3. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.
4. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace.
5. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others.
6. That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear.
7. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows.
8. Self-seeking will slip away.
9. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change.
10. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us.
11. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us.
12. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.
Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us - sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them.
Now, the first time I heard these promises read aloud in a meeting, I dismissed them, as I dismissed most things I heard in the rooms. I thought to myself, "There is no way that these things are going to just happen for me". And that was a true thought, these things don't just happen. You have to work for them.
When I first came in, I could not understand the concept of working. I didn't want to work when I was in school, once I stopped being able to skate through on sheer intellect, I started to fail. I worked a couple jobs in high school, a fast food restaurant and then a wholesale club, both of which I just quit without notice. When I was a junior my father gave me a job at a pest control company, and I was able to keep that job for a long time. I didn't deserve it though, I spent most of my time on Myspace (Myspace was still a thing), or online shopping, or smoking weed in the office after everyone else left. Somehow, I was promoted and asked to work in a different office, and I was having to do actual work and I had to commute, so I put in my notice and my last day was on my 21st birthday. I started waiting tables and I got fired from every serving job I had for being strung out. I moved to a city a couple hours away from my hometown, and within a year I was back home. My father got me my job back at the pest control company, but my addiction had progressed, and I ended up losing my job for embezzlement. I was 23 and still years away from getting sober. I'm not going to go into my entire job history, because there are 4 more terrible years of trying to function as an alcoholic and an addict, I'm just trying to show how screwed up my work ethic was.
When I was about 60 days sober I got a get well job, and my boss and coworkers loved me. I was there on time and I didn't have a car or a license, so if my rehab couldn't take me to work, I walked. I worked hard, and when I put in my notice to leave, I was begged to stay. That is something that had NEVER happened before. I couldn't see it at the time, but I was growing at a rapid pace.
I am one of those lucky people for which the promises started happening quickly. When I came in I had no car, no license, no job, no money, I had 3 different pending court cases, I was facing years of prison time in Virginia.
I was in California living and then working at the recovery center I got sober in for 9 months. In those 9 months I got my license back, I had a job, I had money, I started a relationship with a supportive man that I am still in today, I gained my life back. Unfortunately, I took those gifts for granted, and 6 months after I left California I relapsed. But here I am, sober again, and in such a short time I have been given so many gifts. I have a car, a great job, a sponsor that has helped me tremendously, a significant other and family that has stood by me even after the hell I put them through, and I have great friends that have helped me, twice, get sober and given me a place to live.
I have been given another chance to have a normal life, and I have taken that chance and run with it. I am the happiest and healthiest I have ever been. That healthy and happy feeling didn't just come, though. I have worked extremely hard to work an honest program and to get my mental health in order. I went to an intensive outpatient program for 2 months, I saw a psychiatrist and now take medication for depression I had previously refused to admit I was suffering from, I went to some couples counseling sessions, I have gone to private counseling sessions, I go to meetings, I work with my sponsor, I have done things I just did not do last time I was in recovery. These promises are real, they will happen for you, and I am telling this portion of my story because I want to help others. I know how hard I have struggled just to be able to do what "normal" people do naturally. The work I have put in has been unbelievably rewarding. I would not trade the hell I went through for anything, because now I have the ability to use that hell to help people that are struggling now. This program has given me gift after gift, and it can and will do the same for you if you want it to.
In August 1979, I took my last drink. It was about four o'clock on a Saturday afternoon, the hot sun streaming through the windows of my little carriage house on Dickens. I put a glass of scotch and soda down on the living room table, went to bed, and pulled the blankets over my head. I couldn't take it any more.
On Monday I went to visit wise old Dr. Jakob Schlichter. I had been seeing him for a year, telling him I thought I might be drinking too much. He agreed, and advised me to go to "A.A.A," which is what he called it. Sounded like a place where they taught you to drink and drive. I said I didn't need to go to any meetings. I would stop drinking on my own. He told me to go ahead and try, and check back with him every month.
The problem with using will power, for me, was that it lasted only until my will persuaded me I could take another drink. At about this time I was reading The Art of Eating, by M. F. K. Fisher, who wrote: "One martini is just right. Two martinis are too many. Three martinis are never enough." The problem with making resolutions is that you're sober when you make the first one, have had a drink when you make the second one, and so on. I've also heard, You take the first drink. The second drink takes itself. That was my problem. I found it difficult, once I started, to stop after one or two. If I could, I would continue until I decided I was finished, which was usually some hours later. The next day I paid the price in hangovers.
I've known two heavy drinkers who claimed they never had hangovers. I didn't believe them. Without hangovers, it is possible that I would still be drinking. Unemployed, unmarried, but still drinking--or, more likely, dead. Most alcoholics continue to drink as long as they can. For many, that means death. Unlike drugs in most cases, alcohol allows you to continue your addiction for what's left of your life, barring an accident. The lucky ones find their bottom, and surrender.
Bill W., co-founder of A.A.
An A.A. meeting usually begins with a recovering alcoholic telling his "drunkalog," the story of his drinking days and how he eventually hit bottom. This blog entry will not be my drunkalog. What's said in the room, stays in the room. You may be wondering, in fact, why I'm violating the A.A. policy of anonymity and outing myself. A.A. is anonymous not because of shame but because of prudence; people who go public with their newly-found sobriety have an alarming tendency to relapse. Case studies: those pathetic celebrities who check into rehab and hold a press conference.
In my case, I haven't taken a drink for 30 years, and this is God's truth: Since the first A.A. meeting I attended, I have never wanted to. Since surgery in July of 2006 I have literally not been able to drink at all. Unless I go insane and start pouring booze into my g-tube, I believe I'm reasonably safe. So consider this blog entry what A.A. calls a "12th step," which means sharing the program with others. There's a chance somebody will read this and take the steps toward sobriety.
Yes, I believe A.A. works. It is free and everywhere and has no hierarchy, and no one in charge. It consists of the people gathered in that room at that time, many perhaps unknown to one another. The rooms are arranged by volunteers. I have attended meetings in church basements, school rooms, a court room, a hospital, a jail, banks, beaches, living rooms, the back rooms of restaurants, and on board the Queen Elizabeth II. There's usually coffee. Sometimes someone brings cookies. We sit around, we hear the speaker, and then those who want to comment do. Nobody has to speak. Rules are, you don't interrupt anyone, and you don't look for arguments. As we say, "don't take someone else's inventory."
I know from the comments on an earlier blog that there are some who have problems with Alcoholics Anonymous. They don't like the spiritual side, or they think it's a "cult," or they'll do fine on their own, thank you very much. The last thing I want to do is start an argument about A.A.. Don't go if you don't want to. It's there if you need it. In most cities, there's a meeting starting in an hour fairly close to you. It works for me. That's all I know. I don't want to argue with you about it.
What a good doctor, and a good man, Jakob Schlichter was. He was in one of those classic office buildings in the Loop, filled with dentists and jewelers. He was a gifted general practitioner. An appointment lasted an hour. The first half hour was devoted to conversation. He had a thick Physician's Drug Reference on his desk, and liked to pat it. "There are 12 drugs in there," he said, "that we know work for sure. The best one is aspirin."
One day, after a month of sobriety, I went to see him because I feared I had grown too elated, even giddy, with the realization that I need not drink again. "Maybe I'm manic-depressive," I told him. "Maybe I need lithium."
"Alcohol is a depressant," he told me. "When you hold the balloon under the water and suddenly release it, it is eager to pop up quickly." I nodded. "Yes," I said, "but I'm too excited. I wake up too early. I'm in constant motion. I'd give anything just to feel a little bored."
"Lois, will you be so kind as to come in here?" he called to his wife. She appeared, an elegant Jewish mother. "Lois, I want you to open a little can of grapefruit segments for Roger. I know you have a bowl and a spoon." His wife came back with the grapefruit. I ate the segments. He watched me closely. "You still have your appetite," he said. "When you feel restless, take a good walk in the park. Call me if it doesn't work." It worked. I knew walking was a treatment for depression, but I didn't know it also worked for the ups.
Anyway, after I pulled the covers over my head, I stayed in bed until the next day, for some reason sleeping 13 hours. On the Sunday I poured out the rest of the drink which, when I poured it, I had no idea would be my last. I sat around the house not making any vows to myself but somehow just waiting. On the Monday, I went to see Dr. Schlichter. He nodded as if he had been expecting this, and said "I want you to talk to a man at Grant Hospital. They have an excellent program." He picked up his phone and an hour later I was in the man's office.
He asked me some questions (the usual list), said the important thing was that I thought I had a problem, and asked me if I had packed and was ready to move into their rehab program. "Hold on a second," I said. "I didn't come here to check into anything. I just came to talk to you." He said they were strictly in-patient. "I have a job," I said. "I can't leave it." He doubted that, but asked me to meet with one of their counselors.
This woman, I will call her Susan, had an office on Lincoln Avenue in a medical building across the street from Somebody Else's Troubles, which was well known to me. She said few people stayed sober for long without A.A.. I said the meetings didn't fit with my schedule and I didn't know where any were. She looked in a booklet. "Here's one at 401 N. Wabash," she said. "Do you know where that is?" I confessed it was the Chicago Sun-Times building. "They have a meeting on the fourth floor auditorium," she said. It was ten steps from my desk. "There's one today, starting in an hour. Can you be there?"
She had me. I was very nervous. I stopped in the men's' room across the hall to splash water on my face, and walked in. Maybe thirty people were seated around a table. I knew one of them. We used to drink together. I sat and listened. The guy next to me got applause when he said he'd been sober for a month. Another guy said five years. I believed the guy next to me.
They gave me the same booklet of meetings Susan had consulted. Two day later I flew to Toronto for the film festival. At least here no one knew me. I looked up A.A. in the phone book and they told me there was an A.A. meeting in a church hall across Bloor Street from my hotel. I went to so many Toronto meetings in the next week that when I returned to Chicago, I considered myself a member.
That was the beginning of a thirty years' adventure. I came to love the program and the friends I was making through meetings, some of whom are close friends to this day. It was the best thing that ever happened to me. What I hadn't expected was that A.A. was virtually theater. As we went around the room with our comments, I was able to see into lives I had never glimpsed before. The Mustard Seed, the lower floor of a two-flat near Rush Street, had meetings from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., and all-nighters on Christmas and New Years' eves. There I met people from every walk of life, and we all talked easily with one another because we were all there for the same reason, and that cut through the bullshit. One was Humble Howard, who liked to perform a dramatic reading from his driver's license--name, address, age, color of hair and eyes. He explained: "That's because I didn't have an address for five years."
When I mention Humble Howard, you are possibly thinking you wouldn't be caught dead at a meeting where someone read from his driver's license. He had a lot more to say, too, and was as funny as a stand-up comedian. I began to realize that I had tended to avoid some people because of my instant conclusions about who they were and what they would have to say. I discovered that everyone, speaking honestly and openly, had important things to tell me. The program was bottom-line democracy.
Yes, I heard some amazing drunkalogs. A Native American who crawled out from under an abandoned car one morning after years on the street, and without premeditation walked up to a cop and asked where he could find an A.A. meeting. And the cop said, "You see those people going in over there?" A 1960s hippie whose VW van broke down on a remote road in Alaska. She started walking down a frozen river bed, thought she herd bells ringing, and sat down to freeze to death. The bells were on a sleigh. The couple on the sleigh (so help me God, this is what she said) took her home with them, and then to an A.A. meeting. A priest who eavesdropped on his first meeting by hiding in the janitor's closet of his own church hall. Lots of people who had come to A.A. after rehab. Lots who just walked in through the door. No one who had been "sent by the judge," because in Chicago, A.A. didn't play that game. "If you don't want to be here, don't come."
Sometimes funny things happened. In those days I was on a 10 p.m. newscast on one of the local stations. The anchor was an A.A. member. So was one of the reporters. After we got off work, we went to the 11 p.m. meeting at the Mustard Seed. There were maybe a dozen others. The chairperson asked if anyone was attending their first meeting. A guy said, "I am. But I should be in a psych ward. I was just watching the news, and right now I'm hallucinating that three of those people are in this room."
I've been to meetings in Cape Town, Venice, Paris, Cannes, Edinburgh, Honolulu and London, where an Oscar-winning actor told his story. In Ireland, where a woman remembered, "Often came the nights I would measure my length in the road." I heard many, many stories from "functioning alcoholics." I guess I was one myself. I worked every day while I was drinking, and my reviews weren't half bad. I've improved since then.
There are no dues. You throw in a buck or two if you can spare it, to pay for the rent and the coffee. On the wall there may be posters with the famous 12 Steps and the Promises, of which one has a particular ring for me: "In sobriety, we found we know how to instinctively handle situations that used to baffle us." There were mornings when I was baffled by how I was going to get out of bed and face the day.
I find on YouTube that there are many videos attacking A.A. for being a cult, a religion, or a delusion. There are very few videos promoting A.A., although the program has many. many times more members than critics. A.A. has a saying: "We grow through attraction, not promotion." If you want A.A., it is there. That's how I feel. If you have problems with it, don't come. Is it a "religion?" The first three Steps are,
* Step 1 - We admitted we were powerless over alcohol - that our lives had become unmanageable.
* Step 2 - Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
* Step 3 - Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understand Him.
The God word. The critics never quote the words "as we understood God." Nobody in A.A. cares how you understand him, and would never tell you how you should understand him. I went to a few meetings of "4A" ("Alcoholics and Agnostics in A.A."), but they spent too much time talking about God. The important thing is not how you define a Higher Power. The important thing is that you don't consider yourself to be your own Higher Power, because your own best thinking found your bottom for you. One sweet lady said her higher power was a radiator in the Mustard Seed, "because when I see it, I know I'm sober."
Sober. A.A. believes there is an enormous difference between bring dry and being sober. It is not enough to simply abstain. You need to heal and repair the damage to yourself and others. We talk about "white-knuckle sobriety," which might mean, "I'm sober as long as I hold onto the arms of this chair." People who are dry but not sober are on a "dry drunk."
A "cult?" How can that be, when it's free, nobody profits and nobody is in charge? A.A. is an oral tradition reaching back to that first meeting between Bill W. and Doctor Bob in the lobby of an Akron hotel. They'd tried psychiatry, the church, the Cure. Maybe, they thought, drunks can help each other, and pass it along. A.A. has spread to every continent and into countless languages, and remains essentially invisible. I was dumbfounded to discover there was a meeting all along right down the hall from my desk.
It prides itself on anonymity. There are "open meetings" to which you can bring friends or relatives, but most meetings are closed: "Who you see here, what you hear here, let it stay here." By closed, I mean closed. I told Eppie Lederer, who wrote as Ann Landers, that I was now in the program. She said, "I haven't been to one of those meetings in a long time. I want you to take me to one." Her limousine picked me up at home, and we were driven to the Old Town meeting, a closed meeting. I went in first, to ask permission to bring in Ann Landers. I was voted down. I went back to the limo and broke the news to her. "Well I've heard everything!" Eppie said. "Ann Landers can't get into an A.A. meeting!" I knew about an open meeting on LaSalle Street, and I took her there.
Eppie asked, "What do you think about my columns where I print the 20-part quiz to see if you have a drinking problem?" I said her quiz was excellent. I didn't tell her, but at a meeting I heard a two-parter: If you drink when you didn't intend to, and more than you intended to, you, my friend, have just failed this test.
"Everybody's story is the same," Humble Howard liked to say. "We drank too much, we came here, we stopped, and here we are to tell the tale." Before I went to my first meeting, I imagined the drunks would sit around telling drinking stories. Or perhaps they would all be depressing and solemn and holier-than-thou. I found out you rarely get to be an alcoholic by being depressing and solemn and holier-than-thou. These were the same people I drank with, although now they were making more sense.
For original article see: http://www.rogerebert.com/rogers-journal/my-name-is-roger-and-im-an-alcoholic
Consider what you believe about the causes of addiction. Now consider what you think about the importance of anonymity in recovery communities. Is there a relationship?
Yes, at least historically. In the very early days of AA, most people viewed addiction as a moral failing or a character defect. There was no disease model to ground the argument that addiction should be treated. In the 1930s, anonymity was a saving grace in the design of AA. People could enter recovery in the company of others who understood their experience. Progress could be made without the shame of exposure to the society at large.
Like a doctor performing microscopic surgery, I pour the contents of the rainbow bags into my cooker, reach for my bottle of water, insert the syringe, and draw up about 20cc. I squirt the water into the cooker, watch it move across the white powder and turn to liquid. I move my lighter back and forth under the cooker until the heroin bubbles. The smell is sweet. It makes my stomach turn. I bite off a small piece of a cigarette filter, and spit it into the burning liquid. It's time.
I insert the needle, there's a little sting, pull back on the plunger, and a dash of red-blue blood snakes up the middle of the clear liquid. A direct hit. Total euphoria!
Now, all I can think about is where will I get my next bag. But I wasn't always a homeless heroin addict. I was a good kid, an altar boy, even an all-conference athlete. What's not funny, I only took heroin once. Imagine that? Once! After that, heroin took me any place it wanted to. It changed me. I will do anything to get high and I will crush you if you try to stop me. I'm scum. Nothing I say is truthful except this... I am dying.
Early recovery is difficult for so many reasons, but one of my biggest difficulties was realizing, and then coping with, the wreckage from my past. One of the first things we tend to lose is one of the hardest things to regain, and that is the trust of our loved ones.
While we are active in our addictions, most of us eventually become extremely selfish and self-seeking. Lying, cheating and stealing becomes a normal part of our existence, and eventually, if not immediately, we lose the trust of the people around us. Countless times I have said I was going to the store or out to dinner with a friend when really I was going out to do extremely dangerous and unwise things in the name of my addiction. I have borrowed money from friends and just never talked to them again when I couldn't pay them back, pawned things that were not mine to pawn, opened a family member's wallet that sat on the counter while their back was turned and taken it's contents, I can go on and on. Not that it would've mattered at the time, but it never crossed my mind that by doing these things, and telling these lies, I was changing people's perception of me in a very negative way.
When the fog in our minds slowly lifts and we start our recovery journey, we begin to realize some of the damage we have caused. If we are lucky enough to start our new life in a treatment center, we are counseled and advised on how to cope with these emotions and how to amend our pasts. We are given new tools to live by, we are educated about our disease, we are given group and individual therapy, we are taken to 12-step meetings and given an opportunity to process the impact our addiction has had on our lives. We sometimes forget that our loved ones are not afforded the same luxury. They are still hurt, their defenses are up, and they are probably, justifiably, angry.
It is important for us to remember that it takes time for people to heal. For years, and sometimes decades, we hurt our families. How frightened were our parents and spouses and children? How many little league games or recitals did we show up to loaded or miss altogether? How many family functions did we stumble into late and eventually ruin because we were drunk or high? Disappointment after disappointment, lie after lie, we slowly chipped away at the confidence of the people closest to us.
Unfortunately, there is no time line for trust building and forgiveness. I was lucky enough to be able to mend my closest relationships relatively quickly, but others are not so fortunate. Do not be discouraged, time has a way of repairing damage. If we continue down the right path and keep our side of the street clean, we will eventually rebuild and strengthen our relationships.
With recovery comes many gifts, my biggest gift was the rebirth of my relationships. Do not give up before the promises present themselves, you will be amazed at the pure joy and love that comes with a life of sobriety!
Have you ever felt shame?
How has it affected your life?
Unfortunately, shame is a part of drug or alcohol abuse. You realize quickly that even though you may have support, you are up against the stigma of a disease that is often not talked about.
The user feels shame about his dependence on drugs or alcohol. The family feels shame about a problem that is now out of their control.
Party holidays like Halloween and New Year's can be difficult for those of us in early sobriety, they can even be difficult for some of us with years of sobriety. Just like there are tools for every day relapse prevention, there are tools to keep you accountable and sober on days like Halloween.
I have been through all the major holidays in sobriety, so I can definitely relate to anyone that has some fear about socializing during those times. My belly button birthday is on New Year's Eve, and if that is not the "King" of drunk holidays, I'm not sure what is.
I wanted to put out some suggestions and tools that helped me make it through many different social events without drinking or drugging:
- My first suggestion is probably my most emphasized one, and that is if you do not feel comfortable attending an event that you have committed to, simply don't go. Remember the loving AA saying KISS - Keep It Simple Sally! (Traditionally that last S stands for Stupid, but I'm not a fan of calling my fellows stupid!)
- If simply not going is not an option, form an exit plan. It is totally acceptable for you to attend a party or gathering and decide you're uncomfortable and leave. Some couples or groups of friends have code words to signal when it's time to go. You don't have to over explain or make excuses, you can simply say your goodbyes and be on your way. Or, you can utilize a good 'ole "Irish Goodbye", and just hightail it out of there. Your sobriety is more important than staying somewhere that is triggering you to drink or use.
- Talk to your sponsor about any plans you have to go to a party, gathering or concert, especially if there will be alcohol and/or drugs there. In the past, I have found myself not running certain things across my sponsor because I wasn't sure I would get the answer I wanted, and if you find yourself in this position, it is ESPECIALLY important that you speak with your sponsor. If you feel deep down that it might not be a good idea to attend a function, then it's probably not a good idea to attend the function.
- Have a sober companion. Being accountable is important. Sometimes we're not always great at expressing ourselves, or we feel too embarrassed to let the "normies" around us know that we just don't drink (or smoke pot, or recreationally use any other substance). It's normal to have that lingering thought in the back of your mind "If I just have one, no one will know.", and if that thought goes unexpressed, it can become very, very dangerous. Having a sober companion with you can make the fact that you're not imbibing a little less awkward for you, and I say 'less awkward for you' because chances are the people around us don't care one way or the other that we're not drinking, and that nervous feeling we have is unnecessary.
- Go to a dry event. People in sobriety like to have fun and celebrate just like everyone else. There are plenty of AA or NA sponsored functions during the holidays, and I can almost guarantee that someone you know in recovery is hosting a private gathering or party, and it's safe to assume there will be no drinking or using at an event hosted by a person in recovery.
- If you find yourself somewhere that is triggering you to use and you are stuck there, CALL SOMEONE. Do not feel uncomfortable calling another alcoholic or someone you trust to come get you from a place that is a danger to your sobriety. Sometimes we may think we're going to be ok being around certain people, places or things, and we are just suddenly not ok when we get there, and that IS ok. Don't sell yourself short, you are worthy of feeling safe.
I hope some of these suggestions were helpful, have a safe and happy Halloween!
Coming in to the rooms of Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous can be scary. You're not quite sure what to expect, you walk in and find an empty seat in the back of a room full of strangers, and hanging on the wall you see a list of 12 Steps and 12 Traditions. There's a recurring theme on those lists, and that theme is GOD. That God word can be a little off-putting for those of us who do not consider ourselves religious, or for those of us who consider ourselves downright atheist. Do not let this concept scare you away from a program that saved my life and can save yours as well.
It is so common for people to be turned off by the idea of a Higher Power that there is an entire chapter devoted to it in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. Chapter 4 is called "We Agnostics", and I encourage anyone struggling with addiction or alcoholism, that also happens to be struggling with spirituality, to read this chapter in the book before they dismiss this life-changing program.
I found this chapter in the book to be extremely helpful, and I want to share some highlighted areas that I feel gave me the ability to work a higher power into my life.
- About half our original fellowship were of exactly that type (atheist or agnostic). At first some of us tried to avoid the issue, hoping against hope we were not true alcoholics. But after a while we had to face the fact that we must find a spiritual basis of life - or else. Perhaps it is going to be that way with you. But cheer up, something like half of us thought we were atheists or agnostics. Our experience shows that you need not be disconcerted.
- Many times we talk to a new man and watch his hopes rise as we discuss his alcoholic problems and explain our fellowship. But his face falls when we speak of spiritual matters, especially when we mention God, for we have re-opened a subject which our man thought he had neatly evaded or entirely ignored. We know how he feels. We have shared his honest doubt and prejudice. Some of us have been violently anti-religious. To others, the word "God" brought up a particular idea of Him with which someone had tried to impress them during childhood. Perhaps we rejected this particular conception because it seemed inadequate. With that rejection we imagined we had abandoned the God idea entirely. We were bothered with the thought that faith and dependence upon a Power beyond ourselves was somewhat weak, even cowardly. We looked upon this world of warring individuals, warring theological systems, and inexplicable calamity, with deep skepticism. We looked askance at many individuals who claimed to be godly. How could a Supreme Being have anything to do with it all? And who could comprehend a Supreme Being anyhow? Yet, in other moments, we found ourselves thinking, when enchanted by a starlit night, "Who, then, made all this?" There was a feeling of awe and wonder, but it was fleeting and soon lost.
- Much to our relief, we discovered we did not need to consider another's conception of God. Our own conception, however inadequate, was sufficient to make the approach and to effect a contact with Him. 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.
- Besides a seeming inability to accept much on faith, we often found ourselves handicapped by obstinacy, sensitiveness, and unreasoning prejudice. Many of us have been so touchy that even casual reference to spiritual things made us bristle with antagonism. This sort of thinking had to be abandoned. Though some of us resisted, we found no great difficulty in casting aside such feelings. Faced with alcoholic destruction, we soon became as open minded on spiritual matters as we had tried to be on other questions.
- We have numerous theories, for example, about electricity. Everybody believes them without a murmur of doubt. Why this ready acceptance? Simply because it is impossible to explain what we see, feel, direct, and use, without a reasonable assumption as a starting point. Everybody nowadays, believes in scores of assumptions for which there is good evidence, but no perfect visual proof. And does not science demonstrate that visual proof is the weakest proof? It is being constantly revealed, as mankind studies the material world, that outward appearances are not inward reality at all.
- We used to amuse ourselves by cynically dissecting spiritual beliefs and practices when we might have observed that many spiritually-minded persons of all races, colors and creeds were demonstrating a degree of stability, happiness and usefulness which we should have sought ourselves. Instead, we looked at the human defects of these people, and sometimes used their shortcomings as a basis of wholesale condemnation. We talked of intolerance, while we were intolerant ourselves. We missed the reality and the beauty of the forest because we were diverted by the ugliness of some of its trees. We never gave the spiritual side of life a fair hearing.
- The book talks about how man's opinions have changed in the last century on things like flight, the best mathematical minds said we would never fly, that God reserved that gift for birds, and that when flight became possible we had to change our views. This excerpt is in reference to that: We had to ask ourselves why we shouldn't apply to our human problems this same readiness to change our point of view. We were having trouble with personal relationships, we couldn't control our emotional natures, we were a prey to misery and depression, we couldn't make a living, we had a feeling of uselessness, we were full of fear, we were unhappy, we couldn't seem to be of real help to other people - was not a basic solution of these bedevilments more important than whether we should see newsreels of lunar flight? Of course it was.
- Logic is great stuff. We liked it. We still like it. It is not by chance we were given the power to reason, to examine the evidence of our senses, and to draw conclusions. That is one of man's magnificent attributes. We agnostically inclined would not feel satisfied with a proposal which does not lend itself to reasonable approach and interpretation. Hence we are at pains to tell why we think our present faith is reasonable, why we think it more sane and logical to believe than not to believe, why we say our former thinking was soft and mushy when we threw up our hands in doubt and said "We don't know!".
- Without knowing it, had we not been brought to where we stood by a certain kind of faith? For did we not believe in our own reasoning? Did we not have confidence in our ability to think? What was that but a sort of faith? Yes, we had been faithful, abjectly faithful to the God of Reason. So, in one way or another, we discovered that faith had been involved all the time!
- We found too, that we had been worshippers. What a state of mental goose-flesh that used to bring on! Had we not variously worshipped people, sentiment, things, money, and OURSELVES? And then, with a better motive, had we not worshipfully beheld the sunset, the sea, or a flower? Who of us had not loved something or somebody? How much did these feelings, these loves, these worships, have to do with pure reason? Little or nothing, we saw at last. Were not these things the tissue out of which our lives were constructed? Did not these feelings, after all, determine the course of our existence? It was impossible to say we had no capacity for faith, or love, or worship. In one form or another we had been living by faith and little else.
This chapter is full of great information on changing your view on the spiritual aspects of life. There is nothing pushy or preachy, you are encouraged to form a relationship with a Higher Power of your own conception and understanding, not anyone else's.
During my time in recovery, especially early recovery, I have had many moments of doubt. I have been overwhelmed by the thought of turning my will and my life over to something that I could not see, hear or touch. I was not, and am not, an anomaly.
My biggest discovery has been that I am not alone. My feelings, thoughts and actions are not so unique after all. I have found a fellowship of people that may come from many different walks of life, but we all lean on each other and take care of each other, because no matter the differences, we all suffer from the same ailment, and we are able to come together and feel reprieve. If that is not a Higher Power at work, than I'm not sure what is.