Don’t Quit Before the Miracle

miracle is “an effect or extraordinary event in the physical world that surpasses all known human or natural powers and is ascribed to a supernatural cause.”  Something like a recovery from an illness that has been diagnosed as fatal.  Like alcoholism.

“Don’t quit before the miracle” is something a person who is struggling in AA may hear.  Behind it is the hope and belief that continuing on in AA will bring about the miracle of recovery.  My recovery is a miracle.  I was on the brink of death from drinking too much, and I’ve now abstained for 32 years.  A miracle.

I have experienced another kind of miracle in the program.  For years I was driven to AA with the desperate hope that I could find sobriety there.  I needed to stop drinking and I needed the program to get me there, because I couldn’t stop without it, on my own.  But at some point, and I don’t know when, I came to want the program and the people and the meetings and the books.  Now, if another kind of miracle offered me sobriety without the program of AA, I wouldn’t take it.  I want the program now.  And that’s my second miracle, the one that keeps my coming back.  I also wouldn’t “cure” my alcoholism.  I’d keep it.  All of my happiness has come from there.

Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.  Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.  But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” ~2 Corinthians 12:7-10

May 7, 2016 (this day)

IMG_0165In honor of Mother’s Day, the tombstone of Bill Wilson’s grandmother, the woman who mostly raised him.  I meant to put his mother’s stone up but chose this one by mistake and I thought, why not?  If it’s always the mother’s fault (which I think it always is), maybe I owe my life to these two women.

I marked 32 years sober last week.  As one impertinent young person in the program put it, “All of my life, and then some.”  Yes I’ve been sober longer than some people in the rooms have been alive.

I’ve been sober longer than my kids have been alive, and that is one of the supreme miracles of my life.  For Mother’s Day I have what I want, and that is children.  They’ve never been endangered by my drinking and for that I am grateful.

And as I like to tell some of my relapsing friends, it’s never too late to give your children a sober mother.

Step Three calls for affirmative action (Step Three continued)

Like all the remaining Steps, Step Three calls for affirmative action, for it is only by action that we can cut away the self-will which has always blocked the entry of God— or, if you like, a Higher Power—into our lives. Faith, to be sure, is necessary, but faith alone can avail nothing. We can have faith, yet keep God out of our lives. Therefore our problem now becomes just how and by what specific means shall we be able to let Him in? Step Three represents our first attempt to do this. In fact, the effectiveness of the whole A.A. program will rest upon how well and earnestly we have tried to come to “a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.”

This may be why for me, the whole AA program was not effective and I drank again and again and again in AA.  Because I did have faith.  I believed that the program worked for those people who said it worked for them.  But when it came to actually turning my will and my life over, I didn’t do it well enough or completely enough to stay sober.

I think it’s a fairly simple proposition.  What it means to “turn it over” in this context is to work the rest of the steps.  I had to also follow suggestions well enough to get some sober time.  I had to go to meetings, I had to call people before I drank, things like that.  But my own mind would change sufficiently until I put a concerted effort into all of the steps.  That’s what “turning it over” means to me.

April 21, 2016 (this day)

Photo on 4-21-16 at 6.30 PM

Carole marked 20 years sober yesterday, and I gave her my 20 year coin, which she had given me on my 20th anniversary.  I will have my 32nd anniversary May 1, God willing.  And the creek don’t rise.

It’s been an extreme blessing to be married to someone in the program.  I’ve written about it way back when, but we met at an online AA meeting in 1996 when she was just getting sober and I had a measly 12 years.  I wouldn’t meet her in person until she had a year, but by then we had fallen in love.  Online.  I still felt badly about it, even when Carole had a year, and a friend asked me, “How long does someone have to have in order to date you?”  I didn’t know how long, but more than a year I thought.

Anyway I trust that the ensuing 19-year-and-counting relationship has shown I wasn’t out to take advantage of her newcomer status.

Recently at a meeting I heard someone say something like, “….my truest sponsor, my wife …” which would not be a sponsor in the legal, literal or suggested sense.  But I understand.  Carole and I have talked a lot of AA through the years.  We’ve been to a lot of AA through the years.  I remember being afraid to meet her and get involved, afraid that she would drink or fade away from AA the way, sadly, most people do.  I told her that being an active and sober AA member was a prerequisite for being with me.  It was still a terrible chance I took.  Looking back, I’m amazed I did that.  But my then measly 12 years must have been driven sense into me because it’s worked out so very well for today.  I wouldn’t want to do sobriety (or any part of life) without her.

Don’t Drink and Go to Meetings

Basic advice sometimes given to flustered newcomers who don’t know what to do.  To not drink is the first, necessary part of recovery.  My mind, under the influence, could not absorb anything or advance in any way.  “The disease that tells you you don’t have a disease” comes to mind.  It’s like a part of me wanted desperately to keep drinking, and it would not stop for any kind of reason.  With alcohol in me, it didn’t matter what I believed or didn’t believe.  I was bound to go for more.

Going to meetings begins to put in place all the other changes and learning that are needed for recovery.  At meetings we hear instructions.  We hear what people have tried and experienced.  We hear from other alcoholics.  That has always been an essential part of the program. Sometimes people who cannot recover given treatments and medicines and therapy can recover when given the experience of someone just like them.  Meetings are where the people are.  The people who can help me and the people who need my help.

April 2, 2016 (this day)

My daughter of the trip-to-Greece-all-alone saga is engaged.  She’s 30 years old, and has never been endangered by my alcoholism.  This month Carole will have 20 years sober.  Next month I will have 32.  All these happy situations are brought to me by AA.  It works!

Made a Decision (Step Three)

Step Three

“Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.”

PRACTICING Step Three is like the opening of a door which to all appearances is still closed and locked. All we need is a key, and the decision to swing the door open. There is only one key, and it is called willingness. Once unlocked by willingness, the door opens almost of itself, and looking through it, we shall see a pathway beside which is an inscription. It reads: “This is the way to a faith that works.” In the first two Steps we were engaged in reflection. We saw that we were powerless over alcohol, but we also perceived that faith of some kind, if only in A.A. itself, is possible to anyone. These conclusions did not require action; they required only acceptance.

“This is the way.”  What is the way?  The Steps are the way.

How much willingness?  I think it takes a lot of willingness.  Maybe just a tiny bit to begin, but for me not having a huge amount of willingness results in failure.  It did when I was “trying” to stop drinking.  A little willingness kept me going back to AA, it kept most of my attempts to resist the urge to drink successful, but not all.  Eventually I would give in and drink.  I don’t think I became truly willing until I perceived that I had to sober up or die.

Now.  I believe that these principles have the power to transform my life still, if I would follow them.  I love being associated with this program.  I love working with these words and thoughts over the long haul of my fortunately-long life.  I am going to ask myself, when I set out to knowing do the wrong thing, if I’m willing to turn my will and my life over.  Either to a supreme, super natural being or to the good direction that I know brings results, or both.