Loosening My Grip

I don’t believe I’ve ever let go of anything I deemed valuable without a life or death struggle. Not my drinking habit, not my expert opinions, not my beliefs about how life is suppose to work. I hold on despite overwhelming evidence these ideas are causing trouble in my life. I hold on until life finally rips them out of my hands.

Self-centered fear makes it impossible for me to let go. When I was drinking I had life by the throat and was choking it to death. I could not let go because I was afraid I would lose your love and respect. I struggled for thirty years trying to make my dysfunctional life work. I faced every set-back, drink in hand, with renewed determination to win the game of life. I worked harder, played harder, drank harder, but instead of winning I started to lose. I lost the big pay job, the wife, and the fat 401K plan. Yet I continued to hold on to the idea that material success is the key to long lasting happiness. The pain ratcheted up until frustration, confusion and disappointment became so great that ego ran out of self-will and plummeted down to earth.

In AA I learned that the key to a useful, contented sobriety is to let go of all of my old ideas -- even my ideas about God. These ancient false beliefs are at the root of every one of my character defects and cause all the trouble in my life today. But I can’t let go because, as the good doctor points out in his opinion, these beliefs are buried deep within my psyche. That’s where the 12-Steps come in. Like Chuck C. said in A New Pair of Glasses, the steps help me uncover my old limiting beliefs, discover the pain they cause in my life and discard them in favor of new life-affirming ideas.

I don't believe I have the power to let go of anything. The best I can do is loosen my grip by working the Twelve Steps to the best of my ability. God does the rest.

Spiritual Awakening

The newcomer asked an old timer, “How long do I have to go these stupid meetings?” The old timer responded, “Only until you learn to really enjoy them.” I enjoyed my very first meeting and have enjoyed every one since. Some meetings are better than others to my ego, but my HP is present in every one. Some days I can actually feel the presence in the room.

I didn’t have a desire to quit drinking when I stumbled through the door to my first meeting. I was there because it was a requirement of the treatment center. I had been getting drunk twice a day, but I didn’t see that I had a problem with alcohol. After all, my last 502 was in 1975 and here it was 19 years later. My problem was that I had no energy or enthusiasm to look for a job, to clean my apartment, to maintain a friendship or for any other meaningful expression of life. A week earlier I had a session with a therapist to find out why.

I whined about my life for thirty minutes. When I was finished she shocked me by saying she couldn’t help me. “Why?” I asked. She said I needed clarity about my life and I could never hope to get any with my daily drinking habit. (Hell, I hadn’t even told her how much I was drinking.) She said I was welcome to come back every week, pay her $80 and lay on her soft leather chaise and discuss my life, but she doubted it would do any good. “I don’t think I can help you Jeff, but there’s a treatment center up the street. Maybe they can.” Don’t ask me to explain how it happened because I can’t, but three days later I spent my last $3,700 of Visa credit to enroll in the treatment program. Now here I was at my first meeting to get my little card signed. 

If anyone had asked me what that meeting was like, I’d have responded, “I have no idea, but I’m going back tomorrow.” Even though my cells were still saturated with alcoholism, I sensed there was something special going on. There was laughter, honesty, and love that I had never experienced before. The message I got was to keep coming back, we love you just the way you are. I know today I connected with the spiritual healing of Alcoholics Anonymous in that very first meeting.

Once I had a taste of it, I wanted more. I wanted more, so I did more. No one had to tell me I must do this thing or that. I did everything suggested because it felt good. I realize I’m one of the lucky ones. Most that walk through the doors aren’t really sure they want what we have. I’ll be forever grateful that spirit woke up in my very first meeting.