Sunday, 28 March 2010

Step Two: Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity, or: Now What?

Right here I hit a brick wall. It was that word “could”. That implied probably wouldn’t. “May do it for everybody else, but probably not for you.” It would be just my luck, I thought, to be the only man in the Universe that God chose not to restore to sanity. I needn’t have worried. About God, about sanity, about anything. It says in the big book that the only essentials to recover from alcoholism are honesty, open-mindedness and willingness, but that these are indispensable.

Well, I was certainly willing. I was willing because I didn’t see that I had a choice. Nothing could keep me from picking up a drink; not willpower, not faith, and certainly not another human being. Neither could fear of the direst consequences keep me from drinking.

On the other hand, I really believed that this time I had had my last drink. If you like, there had been a very black line drawn under it; it was the past. I suppose that is how I look at step one now, on a daily basis. As a line under my drinking.

So if my drinking was over, it now became all about trying to live sober. And how the hell was I supposed to do that? Because I can’t live sober. It’s life without alcohol that drives me to drink.

Perhaps this is where open-mindedness comes in. Some people say that when they first arrive at their rock-bottom, where the steps are to be found, they can’t conceive of any power in the Universe greater or more powerful than them. I didn’t have that problem. I mean, I just had to look around me. The wind was more powerful than me, the rain; the government, the police, the army; electricity, nuclear power and so on and so forth. But more recently, and more humbling by far, and just to get things into some sort of honest perspective, alcohol itself was a power greater than me. It was my master. It ruled my life. It dictated where I went, what I did, who I saw, how I felt, my thoughts, my emotions, my fears; it demanded that I give it every second of my life; with no tea breaks. I was its slave.

And what was alcohol but a bunch of random chemicals? So if I was honest with myself I could admit that a bunch of random chemicals was a power greater than me; not only that, but a bunch of random chemicals that had robbed me of any personal power that I’d ever had.

I’ve since come to believe that I never did have any power, and accepting this has been the foundation not only of my recovery from alcoholism, but they key to happiness and peace of mind as I journey.


An expectation is a resentment waiting to happen, because we are powerless over people, places and things, and the outcome of everything. That being the case, we can deal with the outcome of anything in two ways: we can be attached to the results, and therefore when the results are not those we would have liked, we become angry or bitter or disappointed or feel cheated, and start the endless internal dialogue: “Things shouldn’t be like this. If only this or that had/hadn’t happened. It should have been different. Maybe if I’d done/said this/that/the other it would have worked out how I intended. If only he/she/it would be less like they always have been and more how I want them to be. Why does this always happen to me? Doesn’t God know who I think I am?”  Consequently we are fighting against what is, against reality, against the flow of the Universe, or if you like biblical terminology, the will of God. Every problem we have stems from this.
Alternatively we can just accept it. True spiritual growth starts from this small seed. Reality is what in front of you. It is as it is. No amount of stamping your feet, sulking, regurgitating the past or projecting about the future can change it. You can like it, or you can not like it. It makes no difference. It still is as it is. So you may as well just accept it and move on.

Regarding my alcoholism I had spent years in non-acceptance of reality, or of demanding some justification as to why I am an alcoholic. My internal argument was something like this: “It’s not fair. How come out of all the people in the world I have to be an alcoholic. How come none of my brothers and sisters are alcoholics? How monstrous is it that I’m the one who can’t touch alcohol, when I’m the only one who knows how to drink? What’s different about my body and mind? Why haven’t they invented a cure yet for God’s sake? I can’t believe that the one thing in life that means everything to me is going to be taken away. I need it!”

And so on.

It says in the big book that alcohol itself finally beats us into a state of reasonableness. I came to a place where I finally did accept that I was an alcoholic and therefore could not drink again, ever. I accepted it because there was no room for denial any longer. My life as a drunk had finally come to an end. Which begged the question: Now what?

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