Saturday, April 6, 2013
I've been sober now for over 25 years; 9227 days, in fact, if the counter on my desktop is accurate.
I didn't quit because I wanted to join a neat club, although I have joked that the reason I wanted to join AA was so I could hang around with people with tattoos and and have to worry about getting beat up. I quit because I was desperate.
I quit a LOT of times because I was desperate.
And then, after a couple of days, I wouldn't be desperate anymore, so I'd drink again; or after a week (don't know how long I might have pulled off THAT much dry time) I'd be desperate, but this time desperate for a drink, so I'd drink again. And I'd drink until the next time I was desperate.
But what made me quit, and STAY quit, was not desperation; it was the slight tingle of hope. I went to a meeting, and I heard Ron talk about what it had been like, and what had happened,and what it was like now, and I got this idea, that maybe this thing might work for me.
And it did.
On several levels.
The first level it worked on was this: I took my last drink on January 1, 1988, went to my first meeting on January 4, 1988, and I haven't had a drink for 9227 days. But not-drinking is just a necessary but not sufficient condition for sobriety, defining sobriety as a way of life that leads to peace with God and fellow man,and gives one the option of being happy, joyous, and free.
But it worked on other levels, too.
I THINK the next level it worked on was showing me the defenses I had erected to hide and protect myself, or more specifically,showing me that they didn't work.
And the way that happened was this: In the program where I got sober (Alcoholics Victorious, an explicitly Christian version of the program of Alcoholics Anonymous), at the beginning of every meeting, we went around the room and introduced ourselves. The classic meeting intro/greeting is "My name is Bill, and I'm an alcoholic." "Hi, Bill!"
And during the introductions, I would cry. I didn't understand, at first. But then I realized that I had spent so much energy and resources on hiding and denying the fact that I was an alcoholic; and yet, here, I was recognized, and acknowledged, and accepted as an alcoholic. When they said "Hi, Pat!" They were saying, yes, you are an alcoholic, and you recognize that, and we are alcoholics, too, and we recognize that, and we are NOT going to reject you or mistreat you, we are accepting you at and because of your point of weakness. Hi, Pat. We know what you have been through, we've been through it ourselves, and you don't have to explain it, but you can tell us about it if you want to, and you'll still be a part of us, and we'll still be here.
Wham! All the stuff I had used to make myself special dropped into insignificance. The fact that I had the coolest jeans in the room. The fact that I had a master's degree in counselling. It didn't matter.
Because my greatest failures didn't matter, either. And all of my cool stuff had just been defenses to hide my failures, and all my failures just went away. Now I could have jeans that were just jeans, comfortable clothes that fit me nicely, not a symbol of coolness.
That was maybe the first major deliverance I had from the pattern of lies that had kept me in pain and drinking to stop the pain, and then in pain from the drinking. It wasn't the last deliverance, though; I don't know what the last deliverance is, because I haven't had it yet. But, one of the MAJOR additional deliverances was this: My best thinking brought me here. Whether it was doing the right things for the wrong reasons, doing the wrong things for the right reasons, doing the same things over and over and expecting different results, WHATEVER: it all lead to the same conclusion: it was my best thinking, and acting on that thinking, that brought me to the point of utter hopelessness. And then, because God is, a miracle happened.
So now, how do I know when my best thinking is leading me into a pit or to a mountain top? Well, the first thing I learned was to look at the guys who had made it, and do what they did. Then I learned to shut up and listen. Then I learned that wise people had something to offer me. Then I learned that stupid people had something to offer me. Then I learned a lot more stuff, and eventually I learned that my thinking was better.
But it can still go wrong, so: again, I ask the question, how do I know if my best thinking is taking me to the pit or to the mountain top? And I suppose the answer is this: look for signposts. Take headings. Ask others. Prove all things; hold fast to that which is true. And don't forget to sk for help; and don't forget to trust in Him.