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Belief vs Trust

There is a wonderful old-timer who attends one of my regular meetings. He always ends his share by saying, “There is only one sin. Limiting God. Don’t!” I’ve seen way too many miracles both in myself and others not to believe anything is possible. But I learned there is a difference between belief and trust. While I believe God can do anything and everything, I don’t yet completely trust God to handle all of my life. I continue to limit God.

Our book says in How It Works, “There is One who has all power, that One is God.” This says to me that God has 100% of the power. Not 99% of the power, but all the power. I fully trust God to handle the stars, the sun, and the change of seasons. Yet I continue to give power to fear, to money, to illness and sometimes to other people. I’m better today, but I often wonder what life would be like if I could turn every single aspect of it over completely to the care of God, as I misunderstand God.

St. Francis prays to become a channel of God’s peace. What I think of as my peace of mind, my strength, my joy is not mine at all. It is 100% God’s. My job on earth is to become an ever more fuller expression of God by channeling God’s attributes out into the world. I keep my channel open and flowing by continuing to do all that was suggested in my first couple of weeks in Alcoholics Anonymous: meetings, steps, service, and putting my hand out to newcomers. I connect with my Source through daily quiet time. Sometimes I pray, sometimes I meditate, sometimes I write, sometimes I just sit. I also try to get into nature alone. I aspire to a connection with my Higher Power that is so intimate that I finally realize we are, in fact, One.

During his awakening experience, Bill talks about being catapulted into the fourth dimension of life. A while back I heard a lady pastor talk about the “cloud of un-belief” that settled over the world beginning in the time of Aristotle. She said that she believed there were 13 unseen dimensions of life. I felt my mind close up when I first heard this, but after meditating on it for a while I have come to believe that absolutely anything is possible in God’s world.


Faith Builders

Before AA about the only faith I had is that if I took a few drinks I’d feel better. Alcohol worked for me for thirty years. Then it stopped working. Oh, I still got drunk all right, but it stopped taking the fear away. During my journey in Alcoholics Anonymous, I’ve walked through a number of painful life events sober. Each time I’ve come out the other side with a greater ability to love and trust.

I was ninety days sober when I completed my fourth and fifth steps with my sponsor. I let go of a life-long resentment against my father. It felt like magic. At three and a half years sober I lost a job that I thought was much too good for me. The demons in my head raged non-stop. I needed relief or I would drink. Thanks to a solid foundation in AA I reached out for help. I picked up the phone instead of picking up a drink. I worked through the steps focusing on my job loss with another alcoholic. I saw my part, wrote letters of apology to those I had harmed. Thirty days later I was on my way to China for a fabulous new job and an adventure of a life time. I never would have signed up for the job of care taking my wife during the last eleven months of her life, but it turned out to be the most beautiful experience of my life. Despite many painful moments, my heart opened and joy flooded in.

Blind faith never worked for me. My experiences have given me the faith that everything that happens to me is meant for my highest and best good. Life doesn’t send me tragic events to punish me, but to help me grow. Inside every painful situation is a little doorway to freedom. I know today that as long as I am willing to pick up some tools, I’ll be given the strength I need to walk through any situation, no matter how painful.

The Whole Package

I wasn’t looking for a brand new life when I reached out to a therapist for help. I certainly wasn’t looking to quit drinking because alcohol was not my problem, it was my solution. Besides, I hadn’t been arrested for drunk driving in nineteen years. No, all I was looking for was a job. I lived in the delusion that a job would fix everything. With some money coming in, I would stop waking up paralyzed with fear, the creditors would stop calling and I could finally afford a new glamorous girlfriend. Looking back I am so grateful for the pain that drove me to the therapist for help. Otherwise, I might have missed what Father Bill called the whole package—sobriety, sanity, and serenity.

I whined to the therapist for thirty minutes about not having the energy to look for work. Fortunately, she saw right through me. She told me some unpleasant truths about myself. She said that I didn’t have an ounce of humility in my whole body; that I had the emotional maturity of a thirteen year old; and that my brain was so cloudy from my daily drinking that I couldn’t hope to get any clarity on my life. She said she couldn’t help me, but maybe the treatment center up the street could. Even though I didn’t consider myself alcoholic, three days later I enrolled in an outpatient treatment program and three days after that I walked into my first AA meeting.

I floated into my first meeting on a pink cloud. Nothing in my outward life had changed. I was still unemployed and running out of money, but something inside of me had shifted. I sensed I was exactly where I was supposed to be and it felt great. I laughed, really laughed, for the first time in years. I reconnected with life at that first meeting and my connection has deepened throughout the years as I continue to take the actions you suggested in my first couple of weeks.

Today, thanks to the program of Alcoholics Anonymous that connects me to the God of my misunderstanding, I am an almost entirely new person. I no longer have the slightest desire to change the way I feel with alcohol and drugs. I live an orderly, peaceful life. Most of the time I am in harmony with what is. I feel useful and contented. My life today is 180 degrees different than what it was before I walked into my first meeting. It’s nothing I did and everything God did.

My First Meeting

I made my way up the back stairs to the meeting room in the La Jolla Presbyterian Church for my first AA meeting. It was May 3, 1994. A few days earlier I had spent my last $3700 of Visa credit to enroll in an outpatient treatment program recommended by a therapist. I had just attended my first group session. The woman who ran the program, an ex-heroin addict from New York, told us that to graduate from the program we were required to attend a minimum of three AA meetings a week. Then she looked at me and said, “Except for you Jeff. Since you are unemployed you are required to attend a meeting every day.” I didn’t like being singled out, but something told me arguing with this woman was useless. As it turned out going to a meeting every day in that first year was the best thing that could have happened.

I was early for the noon meeting. Secretary Will C. (still the most humble man I’ve ever known), greeted me warmly. His face lit up when I told him I was new. He started loading me up with pamphlets  all the while telling me how glad he was I was there. He introduced me to each member of the group as they arrived. Each welcomed me warmly in turn. During the meeting they passed around the San Diego meeting booklet. Everyone put their name and phone number in the space provided in the back of the booklet. I used those phone numbers a lot a month or so later when my sponsor "suggested" that I call three other alcoholics every day.

There were probably a dozen or so of us when the meeting began. Big Al was the first one to speak. He said he was so mad he could kill. He had just learned that his daughter’s therapist was trying to convince her that Al had molested her as a child. I was 47 years old and never heard anyone speak like this—the language of the heart.

When it was my turn to share, an unseen hand pushed me to stand up in front of the group and, for the first time, say, “My name is Jeff and I’m an alcoholic.” Driving home from the meeting, I remember feeling like I had just found my way home after a long painful journey.

Love and Service

I am absolutely convinced from the center of my being that without spiritual help, I do not have the power to stay sober and live life to good effect. Despite what my ego would have me believe, I don’t have the power to love, understand or forgive. I don’t have the power to form true partnerships with others. I don’t have the power to create beauty. I don’t have the power to free myself from the bondage of my stinking thinking. I don’t have any real power at all. Like our book says, God has all the power. Not 99.9% of the power, but all of it.

The program of Alcoholics Anonymous has the solution for powerless people like me: Work the steps to the best of my ability, practice them in my daily life, and pass on to others what has been so freely given to me. If I am willing to do these three simple things over and over again, I connect to the power of the universe. With spiritual power flowing through me, I am better able to practice love and service both in and out of the rooms.

I connect with the power whenever I share with another alcoholic whether in a meeting, on the phone or face to face. The power seems to be supercharged when we go through the steps together. When I am focused on helping another alcoholic, my petty little worries and concerns seem to disappear. My spiritual understanding deepens. Sometimes, I hear myself saying things I didn’t even know I knew. I know today that God is not in me or in you, God exists in the place where we meet.

I’m coming to believe that every opportunity to practice love and service is a gift from God. I’ve had the great good fortune of enjoying many positive life experiences, but seeing the light come on in a newcomer’s eyes is without a doubt the source of my greatest happiness. If I had to guess what God really wants from me, it would be to learn to love more. Carrying this message to other alcoholics opens my heart. I heard once that there is enough love in one human heart to power the whole universe. Wow.