A Work in Progress

I spent most of my life — even well into recovery — rejecting those parts of me that I judged unlovable. As a kid, I burned with guilt over behaviors that violated commandments and the anti-social thoughts I kept locked up in my head. As the light of innocence fell away, I beat myself unmercifully for every mistake.  Early on you told me to check my whip of self-hate at the door, that I can't hate myself into recovery. It took many years and many trips through the steps to realize I am a work in progress. You guys accepted me way long before I could accept myself.

I still have most, if not all, of the character defects I walked through the door with. My defects have not disappeared, they have simply rearranged themselves over time. It helps me to realize my character defects, like my alcoholism, are not my fault. I didn’t choose to become a liar, a cheat and a thief. My character defects developed automatically as I tried to find inner security in a fearful world. Continuing to beat myself up for not being better than I am is just pride in reverse. Today I know I could not have changed to become the person I am today without my character defects. I no longer worry too much when I act unloving or intolerant. I get into action and use my amends tools to clean up the mess I’ve made.

I like the idea that humans are like mountains.  Mountains have a sunny side and a shaded side and so do we. I must embrace both sides of myself if I am to be restored to the wholeness promised in Step Two. I can’t imagine how boring life would be if we all went around like perfect angels.

I’m coming to believe that I’ve been exactly where I was supposed to be in every moment of my life. If I was supposed to be further along in my spiritual journey, I would be.

Near Death Experience

I had no idea I was dying an alcoholic death. Only in hindsight can I see how far down the scale I had traveled. I was an empty shell of a man without energy or enthusiasm for anything other than drinking. I had no job, no hobbies, no interests. I had no friends and no one to love. There was no light inside of me. By then booze was medicine I needed every day just to feel even. Drinking was not my problem it was my solution to boredom, loneliness and the dull ache of fear I awoke with every morning. Alcoholism had eroded my spiritual center. It was killing me from the inside-out, but I was paralyzed to change.

I wasn’t looking for a spiritual solution when I sought help from a therapist. My best thinking was life would be peachy again as soon as I found a new, high-paying job. Thank God for denial. Who knows what I might have done to myself if I could see how pathetic my life really was? I think denial saves a lot of us alcoholics from the ultimate mistake. Unfortunately, it did not save my father.

When I was new I heard an old timer say if an alcoholic kills himself before he works through the steps and has a spiritual awakening, he has killed the wrong person. If I had killed myself before I began my journey in Alcoholics Anonymous, I would not have killed the real, eternal me, only the false, fictional me, ego. There is nothing real about ego. It is only a collection of old ideas, images, and memories held in place by self-centered fear. Ego is the voice of self-hate. Ego demands I try and control the people and events in my life so it can feel safe. Ego keeps me in everlasting conflict, because ego can’t survive without conflict. Ego blocks out God just like the morning clouds on the Southern California coast blocks out the sun. The sun is shining, but since I don’t see it, I think it is not there.

The dynamic action of the twelve steps has deflated ego and allowed God to work in my life. The work is far from complete, but I'm not at all like the person I was when I started on this journey in Alcoholics Anonymous. It’s gloomy outside today, but the sun is shining in my life and I am grateful.

Eleventh Step

Will C. was the most humble man I’ve ever known. He loved Alcoholics Anonymous and he loved alcoholics, especially newcomers. His eyes lit up when he heard it was my very first meeting. Will rarely shared but his gentle demeanor spoke volumes. When Will shared he always ended with “I came for my drinking, but I stayed for my thinking.”

I believe God wants me to be happy, joyous and free, just like it says in our book. I’ve found this beautiful life  impossible for me as long as fearful, angry thoughts spin around in my head. I practice the Eleventh Step, not so much to figure out God’s will for me, but to quiet the disturbance in my mind.

Prayer and meditation dissolve negative thought energy and open up my channel to God. With peace of mind restored, I can do the next indicated thing and let go of results. Life is sweet when I don’t feel the need to try and control the outcome of my actions. When I can finally let go.

The centerpiece of my Eleventh Step practice is hiking alone on my sacred mountain near my home. It’s really more of a hill than a mountain, but I feel more connected, more serene, there than anywhere else. My senses come alive: I hear my heart pounding  the air feels fresher, the sky bluer and the sunshine brighter. I take my fear, anger and worry up to the top of the hill and leave it there.