This Step is probably my favourite topic to share on now, but when I was new in Alcoholics Anonymous I was completely baffled by the meaning of it. Thankfully the meeting I arrived in kept it simple for me. They talked and I identified with the fact that the alcoholic, at certain times, has no effective mental defense against the first drink. And that, however much I knew myself to be an alcoholic, however desperate the nesscessity or the wish not to drink, my own willpower alone would always give way. The insane idea – to have a drink – always won out. This is the insanity this Step is descibing.
Here is an example out of my own experience, which I share at my homegroup.
With my position at work precarious and home in jeopardy I was determined to stop drinking, this time once and for good. I was more serious and determined than ever before. I had emptied the house of alcohol. It was a Sunday morning and I had arranged to have Sunday dinner with my sister, her husband and their children, just as i had done many times before – except today I was not going to drink. I had no intention to drink at all. I left my home feeling edgy, anxious and uncomfortable. I had not had a drink before leaving for a while. When I parked up I can remember feeling relieved and strangely proud that I had arrived without stopping off on the way, and I was looking forward to a nice roast dinner. Then entering their home I was greeted and my uneasiness immediatley grew stronger. I felt somehow different and not 'a part of.'
We sat in small conversation drinking tea and I was consciously portraying that I was fine, but inside I was as uncomfortable as I had ever been before. I was so uncomfortable that I started to shake, and so put down the tea and went to the bathroom. I remember thinking: "just how are they doing this? Drinking tea and making conversation?" And I remember the thought of leaving. Suddenly another thought came to me, that there was alcohol in the kitchen and I could ask for a drink. This would settle me down. It was either that or leave, and leaving would be rude wouldn't it? I'd just have enough to settle me and that's it. That wouldn't be so wrong, would it? I emerged from the bathroom and asked for a drink. And another, and another, and truth be told: I never felt 'settled'. I couldn't wait to leave and I did so as soon as I felt it was okay to. I stopped for more alcohol on the way home. This, I was to find out later, is another alcoholic trait: that once I take a drink I cannot control or moderate my drinking. And that each time I took just one drink it always led to a drunk. And drunk again I was.
I was baffled,confused and afraid. I had not set out to get drunk, in fact quite the opposite, I had no intention of getting drunk or of even taking a single drink. Yet I was drunk. The insane idea had won out again.
Hearing similar shares and identifing with these new friends I had just met, I could accept that where alcohol was concerned I was strangly insane. I had never heard it put that way before. These guys impressed me, they knew their stuff alright. So understanding the sanity part "what about this Power greater than myself stuff?" I was so fearful that this is where I would fall short. This was my Achilles Heel.Could I recover? Could I experience life in a new way like these new friends? Again thankfully they kept it simple for me. They – like me – had found that their own strength of determination and willpower always failed them. They had found that a Power greater than themselves was therefore required. A "Higher Power", which some choose to call God.
As Bill W. writes: "They flatly declare that since they have come to believe in a Power greater than themselves, to take a certain attitude toward that Power, and to do certain simple things, there has been a revolutionary change in their way of living and thinking." I thought: "But what higher power? What God?" Thankfully I was told that just a willingness to believe that there is a Power greater than myself would be enough to make a beginning. That my own conception, however inadequate would be sufficient to make the approach to Him. Could I admit that I was not the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end of all? Rightly I could see that I was not the beginning and the end so was willing to lay aside my previous prejudices, ideas and thinking and began to search for a conception that felt comfortable to me, with the assurance that I was on my way.
I was directed towards the basic text of Alcoholics Anonymous by my sponsor and particulary to the chapter We Agnostics. I began to pray to a God that I didn't fully comprehend, asking for a sober day and to be of maximum use to Him and my fellow man. I also began to write a gratitude list and work with others. All these and further actions were designed to take away my self-centredness and to change my perception of myself and the world around me. They had an immediate effect and I could quickly see that there was a place for me in this world and that I could live a comfortablly sober life just like my new found friends.
Having continued through the 12 steps the result has been that I have had a spiritual awakening, my faith growing with each Step as it was taken. My personal journey of discovery and growth from darkness into light has stengthened my faith over a period of time. I have come to believe in a Power greater than myself and that that Power has restored me to sanity. I identify with Bill W. when we writes "what seemed at first a flimsy reed has proved to be the loving hand of God." These days I can, and do, openly talk of God. But I can also understand that some newcomers will be just as baffled by this issue as I once was, so I try to give them the same opportunity that was afforded me. Someone once told me "do not let any prejudice you may have against spiritual terms deter you from honestly asking yourself what they mean to you." Which I later found out was straight from the Big Book. Thank God I listened.
Road To Recovery Group – Plymouth – Dec 2008