Ego Deflation

I bounced along the bottom for many years while spirit dozed on the couch in front of the TV.  Spirit woke up when I finally reached out for help after the pain became unbearable. I must have let go of a ton of ego, because I floated into my first meeting on a pink cloud.  My outside circumstances hadn’t changed, but something was going on inside me that I didn’t understand. I had no urge to take a drink. I felt downright blissful. Like any good alcoholic I wanted more. I wanted to keep this great feeling alive. You pointed to the steps on the wall.

The pink cloud wore off in a couple of months, but by this time I had a sponsor and was well into my spiritual journey through the steps. Ego began to fall away with each successive step. Huge chunks broke off when I saw my part in resentments, shared my secrets, and made heartfelt amends during my ninth step. Slowly I began to get glimpses of God working in my life. These God-shots were like white pebbles leading out of the dark forest of self-will. God was no longer an idea in my head. God became a living experience and remains so today.

Ego is like an invisible wall that separates me from God and you and everything wonderful in life. The steps dissolve ego much like a bucket of water melts the Wicked Witch in the Wizard of Oz. But unlike the Wicked Witch, Ego has a tricky way of reconstituting itself. If I am not continuing to grow and change through the steps, the wall rebuilds itself. Sooner or later I’m alone again. All alone.


Three days before I walked into my first AA meeting I was getting ready for bed when I realized I hadn’t thought about a drink the whole day. I found this very strange because I’d been staggering off to bed every night for the past ten or twenty years. And for the past eight months I had been unemployed and getting drunk twice a day. And yet, there I was, 24 hours sober without the slightest desire to have a drink. What had happened to me?

The only thing I can figure is that I asked God for help without consciously knowing it. That day I had spent my last $3,700 of credit on my Visa card to enroll in a treatment program recommended by a therapist. I didn’t visit the therapist because I thought I had a problem with alcohol. The only problem I thought I had was a rapidly shrinking checking account and no job. I went to see her because I wanted her to verify that I was having a mid-life crisis like I read about in a book I had just bought. I wanted her to assure me that it was perfectly normal for men my age to feel lost, confused and without a sense of purpose.

Instead of co-opting my BS she told me some painful truths. She started off by saying “I don’t think I can help you Jeff. You are welcome to come here every week and pay me $80 an hour and we can talk about your life, but I don’t think it will do much good.” I was shocked, but it got worse. Her exact words are emblazoned in my memory. “From what I know about you Jeff, you don’t have an ounce of humility in your whole body, you have the emotional maturity of a thirteen year old, and your brain is so foggy from your daily drinking, you cannot hope to get any clarity on your life.” She said she couldn’t help me, but she had a friend running a treatment center up the street that could.

Then she looked deeply into my eyes like she was looking directly at my soul. “You’re in trouble, aren’t you Jeff?” Inside my head ego screamed not to admit anything to this woman. There was a pregnant pause until finally I whispered, “Maybe.” I didn’t know it at the time, but what I had done was admit I needed help for the first time in my life.

Now here I was, three days after the visit with the therapist, $3,700 lighter and ready to start treatment the next day. I floated on a pink cloud. It took me a few months in AA to discover what happened. That “maybe” and the subsequent commitment to treatment deflated ego enough for God to begin to work actively in my life. Before my first meeting, before getting a sponsor, before working the steps, before even saying, “My name is Jeff, and I’m an alcoholic.” The obsession to drink was lifted clean out of me.

Help is what I needed then. Help is what I need today. But waiting for pain to force me to ask for help seems like an such an inefficient way to go through life. I’ve found the softer, easier way is to continue to take the actions you suggested in my first week: meetings, steps, service. Over and over and over again.

Grumpy, Angry Guy

We were back in the ER a couple of days ago for another overnight. We’ve been to the ER so often, we know a few of the nurses by name. Lola was comfortably sedated when nurse Tosh walked into her room. I remembered him from before.

“You’re Tosh, right? Like the guy on TV?” He remembered me too. “Yes,” he said, “and you are the grumpy, angry guy, right?”All I could do was laugh. “Guilty,” I said.

These days serenity is often hard to come by. My peace of mind is directly proportionate to Lola’s physical and emotional well being. When she suffers, so do I. I guess you could say I am co-dependent.

If her pain meds are working and she’s relaxed, so am I. If she is connected to her HP and accepting whatever God has in store for her, so can I. But when she is in any kind of pain, my stress level peaks, my serenity disappears and my character defects rise to the surface. I become impatient, demanding and intolerant of everyone, especially her care givers.

In the hospital, the clock starts ticking as soon as Lola rings her nurse call button. If no one comes with her pain med in five minutes I push it again. If no one comes in another five minutes, I’m out at the nurse’s station pushing them for some attention. It is not the softer, easier way to go through life. But it's the best I can do right now. Besides, it’s effective. The squeaky wheel gets the oil.

I simply can’t imagine going through the last ten months without God in my life. I often feel I don’t have the strength to make it through another moment. Yet, somehow, peace of mind magically returns. I know this is God’s peace, not mine. I am just the channel, like St. Francis talks about in his prayer. My channel stays open and flowing as long as I continue to show up and be of service, both in and out of the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous. These days I don’t have to ask God what I can do for the person who is still sick. I seem to intuitively know what to do. It's pretty amazing.