"Faith without works was dead, he said. And how appallingly true for
the alcoholic! For if an alcoholic failed to perfect and enlarge his
spiritual life through work and self-sacrifice for others, he could
not survive the certain trials and low spots ahead. If he did not
work, he would surely drink again, and if he drank, he would surely
die. Then faith would be dead indeed. With us it is just like that."
~Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th Edition, Bill's Story, pg. 14
There are a couple of sayings in SLAA that support the message that Bill W. was conveying in this passage. One is "My best thinking got me here." Another is "My sick brain can't fix my sick brain." I have to DO certain things, new things, things that don't feel comfortable all the time in order to change my perception, and as a result change my thinking and ultimately my behavior.
I used to think I just had to stop acting out. But isn't that a Step 1 issue? I'm powerless over my addiction and if I COULD just stop acting out, then what's the point of all the rest of this? Why do I need faith if I can just stop my behavior? My addictive mind is a spiritually and emotionally barren land. My acting out behaviors erode my spirit and cause me to feel hopeless, depressed and worthless. Sure, I may be able to make myself feel good for a little while, but deep down, I can't live with myself. Living in a world that is so out of control, so consumed with thoughts of another person, another sex act, another rendezvous -- it simply causes me to feel and act insane. And how can I possibly hope to fix that insanity?
After trying to "think" my way through Steps 2 and 3, I finally started "doing" what the program asked me to do -- go to meetings, make phone calls, do service as a way of life and sobriety, read the literature, write, do an inventory, identify my primary defects of character and ask that they be removed, make amends, practice prayer and meditation, be rigorously honest with myself, refrain from acting out one day at a time. By doing those things, I came to believe in a power greater than myself, because I saw a power greater than me at work in my life. And the more I did these things, the more willing I was to turn my will and my life over to the care of God as I understood God.
I believe because of the order of the Steps, many of us (I did it too) spend a lot of time trying to argue with ourselves and others about the whole "God thing" ... when if we just "make a decision" to WORK the program, that's enough to get us started.
The more I help another addict, the more I reach out for help, the more I look at my own feelings, behaviors and actions and let go of what others think, say or do, the more I go to meetings and hear other addicts share their stories and share my own, the more I study the literature and search out my questions in it and with others who have studied it -- the more richly I am blessed, the more hopeful I become, the more sure I am that there is something bigger than me at work here. I am not comfortable with my old way of life anymore. It is far less intriguing to think of hurting someone else with my sickness. I am willing to say I am sorry, and let go of blaming the whole damn world for my problems.
If I get away from my program, if I let up on PRACTICING these principles in all areas of my life, if I think I can take a day's vacation or a week's vacation from DOING what the program tells me to do, I lose ground. I am not cured. I have accepted I never will be. I simply get a daily reprieve from the deep emotional and spiritual pain that living in my disease gave me.
1 year ago