I had just lost my first job in sobriety and my ass was falling off. At my sponsor’s suggestion I shared about it at my Wednesday noon meeting. After the meeting an old timer came up to me and said, “Some day you will be grateful for this pain.” I nodded like I understood, but I really didn’t. It has taken many years, but today I know what he meant. Besides all the good things in my life today, I am grateful for the painful experiences both before and after I quit drinking. I needed every single one to get to where I am today.
It wasn’t only the drunk driving arrests, the divorce, and the bankruptcy that brought me to AA. It was the chronic suffering of an unfulfilled life that I had no power to change. It was the pain of pretending my life was great knowing the whole time it was all a lie. It was the paralyzing fear of financial ruin and my inability to get up off the couch and look for work. It was the feeling of loneliness in the center of my gut because everyone close to me had run for the hills. It was the guilt and shame over the harmful things I said and did and the sick secrets I carried. The cumulative effect of all this deep pain brought me to my bottom and, finally, something inside called for help.
My painful experiences became my greatest assets in Alcoholics Anonymous. I connect with other alcoholics when I share my pain. Even though our drunk-a-logs may be different, the feelings of self-hate, frustration and fear are all the same. If you identify with my feelings, you may connect with my solution. Then we all win.
I heard there are only two ways to grow — either we see the light or feel the heat. For most of my life and recovery it’s been pain that’s motivated me to open my tool box and get back into action. The steps are slowly but surely turning my character defects into solid principles I try to practice in my life. I’m growing from fear to faith; from isolation to connection; from ego centered to God centered. I’ve learned mostly all I can from pain. Now it’s time to see what joy can teach me.