Passing It On

I was a couple of week sober as I sat in group therapy in the treatment center whining about not having a job and running out of money. The woman who ran the center gave me a look of disgust. “You’re so full of crap, Jeff. Why don’t you make recovery your job?” This woman had a mean streak and I knew better than to challenge her, but the idea of making recovery my job stuck with me.

A couple of days ago I was sharing with a new guy who was struggling. He said he was so worried about not having a job and running out of money that he was paralyzed. He said he hadn’t been to a meeting and wasn’t taking any other recovery actions.  All he could do was sit on his couch. I said, “Why don’t you make recovery your job?” It’s funny that what sounded completely silly to me twenty years ago makes perfect sense today.

I asked him —if he had a job— what would happen if he called his boss and told him he didn’t feel like coming into work today. “I’d probably get fired, he said.” Right. Only in our case if we don’t work at enlarging and perfecting our spiritual condition we won’t get fired. We will get drunk.

My first time through the book, I related to the idea that God was my boss. “We had a new Employer. Being all powerful, He provided what we needed, if we kept close to Him and performed His work well.” My job objective is to trust God, clean house and help others. I accomplish these objectives by taking the recovery actions suggested in my first week: meetings, steps, service.

Looking back I can see that being unemployed when I was new was an absolute gift. I had the time to build a great foundation in Alcoholics Anonymous. I went to more than 400 meetings in my first year. I worked my way through all twelve steps with my sponsor and did everything else suggested, sometimes grudgingly. I began a relationship with a God of my own understanding that has served me well throughout the years. Oh, I was still concerned about finding work, but I was not paralyzed in fear. I suggested to the new guy that he be grateful he was not working so he could devote unlimited time to his recovery. I’m not sure he was convinced, but you never know.

Big I and little me

Recently I was reminded of an old timer who attended my home group meetings when I was new. He shared frequently about being in the middle between the “big I” and the “little me.” I didn’t understand it at the time, but today I think I know what he meant. I cannot live to good effect without the power of God in my life. Nor can I live without ego pushing me to succeed in the material world. I am right-sized when I’m right in the middle between the God of my own misunderstanding and my illusionary ego.

Certainly, God has all real power, but ego has the power of self-will. I lived a pretty darn good life on ego power. Self-will carried me for 47 years before it finally failed me. Just like the prodigal son, I woke up in the pigpen and turned to God as a last resort. Self-will played a big role in my early days of recovery before sobriety became a habit.

I feel drawn into the spiritual mystery, but I am no saint. I’ve not shaved my head nor have I dropped out of life and moved to an ashram in India. I call on God to get me out of every mess created by my ego. Yet, without ego, I’m not sure I would ever leave my couch. Ego seems to be part of my human makeup. It is a valuable force within me as long as it doesn’t overstep its bounds. When ego gets too puffed up, it blocks God out of my life. I suffer as a result.

Our literature says somewhere that the ego must be smashed. I’m coming to see ego is not a vicious monster, but a little wounded child within me that I rejected as I grew. This frightened little child feels he has to do everything perfectly or else he won’t get the love he so desperately needs. Instead of smashing my ego, I am better served by embracing the frightened little child within. I began this process of self-forgiveness when I completed my first fourth step and started to forgive the people on my resentment list. This forgiveness process continues today.

It is quite challenging for me to find the middle ground between the big I and the little me. I know I’m close when I go for long periods with peace of mind, when my life feels useful and contented, when I am able to laugh at all the silly crap I think and do.