A Faith That Works

I don’t know about you, but I didn’t grow up in a family where we discussed our fears. I never went up to one of the kids in the neighborhood and said, “I’m feeling a little fearful today.” I learned to keep my fears a secret from everyone, even lovers and best friends. I tried to outrun my fears by doing more, making more, having more. The fear of failing created more fear, but instead of feeling my fear, I drank against it. The more fearful I felt, the more I drank. Toward the end I was getting drunk twice a day to keep the fear at bay.

Then the worst possible thing happened. The anti-fear medicine stopped working. Oh I still got drunk alright, but the booze no longer took the fear away. I felt the fist of fear in my gut even sitting in the bar with my lower companions during “happy” hour. For a few months I woke up in fear and turned out the light in fear until something inside of me let go. I experienced a moment of clarity and a few days later I stumbled into my first meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous. I was taken by the honesty of the people who shared. I identified. I felt safe. I didn’t know it at the time, but my journey from fear to faith officially began that day.

My sponsor was the first person in my life I fully trusted. My faith took a giant leap forward when I took my fifth step with him. Until then, my desire to recover was largely theoretical. Certainly my ego fought against honestly admitting my faults, my resentments, my fears and my icky secrets, but I really wanted to be a member of the AA club and taking the fifth seemed to be a requirement for permanent membership.

At three years sober I was asked to resign from a job I thought I couldn’t live without. The voices of the demons that lived in my head screamed about what a loser I was and how I’d never work again and how all these AA meetings I’d been attending were a waste of time. I called my sponsor who suggested I go to the noon meeting and share about it. Boy, I really, really, didn’t want to do that. But because I trusted this man, I went to the meeting and shared honestly about what was going on. I didn’t get much relief from the fear but I didn’t drink.

The fears continued unabated until another alcoholic suggested I work the steps around my job loss beginning by admitting I was powerless over the fear in my head. The fear began to lift when I discovered my part in the resentments I held against the folks at my workplace. The fear receded even more when I identified the major character defects that led to my job loss. The fear was lifted completely out of me after I wrote letters of apology to my boss and a few of my subordinates. I was lifted up onto a pink club, filled with the sense that somehow everything was going to be OK, even though I had no idea how.

The most important instruction in the Big Book to me is “ask him in your morning meditation what you can do for the man who is still sick.” I’m often relieved of fear just by picking up the phone, calling another alcoholic and talking about them. Today I have a small group of AA friends who I love and support. I make it a point to stay in touch. My peace of mind depends on it.

If a perfect faith casts out all fear, my faith is not yet perfect. Fear still creeps in when I contemplate the end of my life. Yet for twenty plus years I’ve watched other alcoholics walk through terminal illnesses, deaths of love ones, financial ruin and all manner of other catastrophic life events -- all without picking up a drink. By watching my AA brothers and sisters live life on life’s terms I gained the faith that I can too. This faith carried me through many dark, fearful days during my wife’s year-long illness and recent death. Today, by taking the actions suggested, I have a faith that works under all conditions. I owe it all to Alcoholics Anonymous.