Step Six

In his opinion, the good doctor states that unless I experience an entire psychic change (spiritual awakening), there's a good chance I will drink again. He goes on to say that "something more than human power is necessary to produce the essential psychic change." I've come to believe the dynamic action of the twelve steps deflate ego and make space in my being for HP to enter consciousness and change me at depth. This process does not happen without my cooperation. I must show the universe I really, really want to be changed by continuously practicing AA's simple program of action. I don't get to pick and choose which suggestions I want to take. I need to work every part of the program - meetings, steps and service-if I sincerely want to be changed.

Because Step Six asks me to aim for perfection, the practice of this step is a powerful indication of my willingness to be changed. When I practice Step Six I grow in awareness. I get a glimpse of the truth about myself. I wake up from the dream of me to the reality of We. Yet, the practice of Step Six is the easiest for me to leave in the dust when my life is good.

I let up on my Six Step practice when I begin to enjoy a few crumbs of happiness.  I stop paying attention to myself, witnessing my character defects and becoming ready for their removal. Taking my own inventory is a downer (I'd rather take yours). Besides, now that the heat is off, I've got more important things to do. Like building up the balance in my 401K. I've experienced this myself and I see this tendency in the returnees in almost every meeting I attend. It seems to be in our nature to slack off when things are good. When life becomes sweet I come to the dangerous conclusion that I've changed enough, that I'm OK. Then I try to hang out in a comfort zone, but this doesn't work for long. Ego reconstitutes itself. I push God out of the driver's seat and once again begin to steer my ship. Sooner or later most of us crash on the rocks.

Gold Nuggets

The anxiety grew as I approached the final page of my fifth step. I knew my most embarrassing secret was written there, waiting for me to read to my sponsor. This was the one I would take to the grave. I thought for a moment about skipping it, but an unseen power gave me the courage to turn the page and read. When I had finished reading, Larry said, “Oh, did you do that to?” Bingo! The embarrassment dissolved and I was twenty pounds lighter. Since that day I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to share my experiences with many men. The painful stuff, the embarrassing stuff, the stupid stuff I did drunk and sober. When I share them with another alcoholic my past experiences are transformed from lumps of coal into gold nuggets.

In our Eleventh Step prayer, St. Francis asks God to make him a channel of peace. I open the channel to my Higher Power when I share my experiences (not my advice) with another alcoholic. Our drunk-a-logs may be completely different, but our problems are all the same. I connect with you when I share about job losses, failed relationships, financial insecurities and the death of loved ones because you’ve been there and done that. When I tell you what happened, what I did and what it’s like now, it may make your path easier. One alcoholic sharing with another is a win-win.

Somewhere along the way, in my relentless pursuit of fame and fortune, I became separated from Life, God, and Good. Without Good Orderly Direction, my life became a living nightmare. A moment of clarity led me to Alcoholics Anonymous and I began my journey back to the Garden. Gratefully, those who came before me in Alcoholics Anonymous left a trail of tiny gold nuggets — their experience, strength and hope — to help me find my way home.

The Oasis of Sobriety

Recently I spent a week hiking in Joshua Tree Monument in the Mojave desert. One of the hikes I took is called 49 Palms Oasis.  I tramped through the desert for a couple of hours before the oasis came into view. The towering palms and lush vegetation looked out of place in the middle of miles and miles of mostly lifeless desert - like a bright green emerald had fallen out of God’s pocket into the sand. I rested and relaxed in the cooling shade. I left the oasis feeling renewed. Sobriety for me is like a peaceful oasis in the middle of the desert of alcoholic insanity. I doubt I could explain this magical place to anyone who hasn’t experienced it themselves.

I lived in the desert all my life until a moment of clarity led me to Alcoholics Anonymous.  Life in the desert is hard, but I didn’t know anything else. I was programmed by parents, teachers and society who had never left the desert. So, like them, I clawed and scratched under the rocks in the hot sun to find tiny bits of pleasure which I mistook for happiness. I was always on edge in the desert—afraid I won’t get the love I needed to survive. Along with booze, I tried everything to find some relief from the constant anxiety: drugs, money, sex, and work, Nothing worked for long. The fear and stress always returned, more painful then ever. Finally, after wandering lost in the desert for forty-seven years, something inside of me cried out for help. I was shown a path to the oasis. It turned out to be only Twelve Steps away!

As I approached the oasis, the God of my own misunderstanding rushed out to greet me and has walked with me ever since. The oasis is still and silent. I can finally rest and be free. I thrive by being, not doing.  Life is abundant. Since all my needs are met, I live with a sense of ease and comfort. Oh, there are still challenges, but in the oasis I have faith God will get me out of any mess I get myself into. So why worry? I still venture out of the oasis occasionally, but I don’t tolerate desert life very well so I rush back to the peaceful oasis.

I cannot find the oasis with my mind. It is a journey of the heart. I never would have attempted this journey without having a disease that was killing me. I am so grateful to be alcoholic. Otherwise, I would still be wandering around in the desert. A dried out, brittle, angry man.