Spiritual Malady

“Selfishness-self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles.” Pg 82

It took many years in AA to realize that drinking isn’t my real problem. Like our book says: “Bottles were only a symbol.” My real problem is self-centeredness. The alcohol sickened my body and mind, but it is self-centeredness that blocks spirit from flowing into my being. I know today that regardless of the name I give it -- God, awareness, consciousness, recovery-- spirit is the vital life force. It’s what moves me and breathes me. It’s my connection to the power of the universe. When this life force is blocked, I become bodily, mentally and spiritually sick. I am powerless to act in my own best interest and my life is unmanageable.

It’s not my fault I’m self-centered. Like all of us, I was born this way. My first baby word was “me”; my second word was “mine”; my third word was “more”. As I grew my selfishness grew. Self-centered fears -- the fear that I won’t get what I need to live comfortably or the fear I will lose something I can’t live without -- began to dominate my life. I compensated for this insecurity by grasping for more. Always there was never enough of anything. I needed more. More respect, more love and more stuff...much more stuff. The more I grasped the more painful life became.

“Above everything, we alcoholics must be rid of this selfishness. We must, or it kills us!”

Looking back I can see I was much closer to death than I realized. I had been unemployed for eight months by now. I was running out of borrowed money and waking up every morning with an ache of fear in my gut. I gobbled Prozac but couldn’t seem to find the energy to send out a resume, clean my apartment, or take any other positive action. It felt like I was walking through life with cement shoes on. The only time I felt a twinge of excitement and sense of well-being was when I was drinking. Little did I know that forty-seven years of selfishness had reduced the flow of spiritual energy to a trickle. My life became very small. My whole world fit inside my messy apartment. It was in this sad state that I was graced with a moment of clarity that led me to Alcoholics Anonymous.

Today I look at my alcoholism as a blessing. Thank God I was graced with a disease that was going to kill me if I didn’t treat it. Thank God I have been given a set of tools to reduce self-centeredness and allow spirit to flow into my being. I am really, really grateful to be a recovering alcoholic today and grateful for all of you who walk this path with me.

Spiritual Partnership

"The primary fact that we fail to recognize is our total inability to form a true partnership with another human being."  12X12 Page 53

A spiritual partnership is not a two way street. Before AA all my relationships could be categorized as an “exchange of benefits.” You do stuff for me and I’ll do stuff for you. This arrangement is flimsy because it requires almost perfect balance. Once I do more for you than you do for me, I begin to feel uncomfortable. I can’t stay in this “one down” relationship long before I become dissatisfied and want to get out.

A spiritual relationship is all about giving, expecting nothing in return. I had no experience with a spiritual relationship until I joined AA. The message I received is “we don’t care where you’ve been or what you have done. We are going to love you back to life and we don’t care if you love us back.” This is the message I try to carry. I fail often.

This doesn’t mean I don’t receive anything in return. I do. Only it’s not your love and affection, or even your friendship. My payoff is in good feelings. There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing another alcoholic “get it.” Watching as tears of gratitude stream down their faces. I’ve been lucky enough to witness these miracles many times throughout the years. This payoff is more than enough.

St. Francis prayed to become a channel of God's peace. I imagine an infinite reservoir of love with billions of little channels. When my channel is open, cool, clear spiritual water flows through me out into the world. My channel was blocked off for most of my life with fear, anger and guilt. Just like the gunk that clogs my bathroom sink. The Twelve Steps are like Drain-O for my spiritual channel. Slowly, slowly by taking the steps to the best of my ability, my channel is becoming unblocked allowing spiritual love to flow through me. Only then can I experience a true partnership with another.

Last year I served as my wife’s primary caretaker through extensive illness until she died. It was the most painful year to date, but there was also much joy. It’s clear the joy was because my channel was open. I was of maximum service to her without expecting anything in return. I just did the next indicated thing and let the spiritual love flow through me. I certainly would not have volunteered for this experience, but in some weird way, it’s the best thing that has ever happened to me next to getting sober. I know some of you will understand.


Like the actor in our book who tries to run the whole show, my preferred life-management style is control. If you looked up “control freak” in the dictionary you might find a little picture of me. I’m better today, but I’m a long way from “live and let live”. I continue to try and control the people and events in my life because I still believe that if I do, I’ll get the life I want.

I’m learning that control in any form is spiritually deadening. Whenever I impose my will on people or events, I cut myself off from the sunlight of the spirit. An expectation is a form of control. Anytime I have an expectation I am imposing my will on reality. It matters not if my motives are good or bad. I establish an outcome I want, disregarding the outcome God wants. Not only that, but controlling other people never seems to work. “My way or the highway” turns people against me and I’m the one who ends up suffering.

Recently I’ve been working through a resentment of my parents-in-law over some financial issues with my wife’s estate. They are not acting like I expected them to. The resulting anger was like fuel. It gave me the energy to plot and plan how I would get even. This went on for a good two weeks before grace happened. Another member suggested I do a four column fourth step on my parents-in-law. Once I became willing to find my part, the resentment began to evaporate. Oh my mind still digs up the bone occasionally, but the anger is no longer clouding my judgment and my life is much more peaceful.

I often wonder how beautiful life will be when I finally let go of my old ideas, absolutely. When I can completely turn my will and life -- all expectations and all outcomes -- over to the care of my HP, there will be no need to try to control anyone or anything. I simply allow whatever happens to happen without argument or resistance. I accept in advance whatever life wants for me. Is this an extravagant promise? As long as I continue to take the actions suggested in my first week, I think not.

No Regrets

Recently I shared with a man who was beating himself up for making some mistakes at work. I suggested he take it easy on himself. He said, “if I take it easy I’ll probably do it again. If I’m tough on myself I may remember.” Boy can I identify! I beat myself with the whip of self-hate over the smallest mistake most of my life, even well into sobriety.

I’m not proud of the things that I did, both drunk and sober, that hurt others, but I don’t regret them either. I don’t believe I had a choice. Not really. I needed to drink every drink and tell every lie. I needed to hurt the people I hurt. I could not have become ready to receive the miracle with one less of anything. Blaming myself for my character defects, for my fears, is just more self-centeredness. Today, guilty feelings have only one purpose -- to tell me I ought to be making an amends to someone I’ve hurt and then let it go.

I believe I was born self-centered, just as I believe I was born alcoholic. I became addicted to me early on. The fear that life would not give me what I wanted caused me to lie, cheat and steal -- to hurt others. My dishonesty created ever-increasing painful life experiences and a million and one reasons to drink. My life spiraled down for many years before I was graced with a moment of clarity that led me to Alcoholics Anonymous.

In AA my past turned into my most priceless asset. I cannot connect with another alcoholic without the “what it was like” part of my story. If I can’t connect, I can’t recover. It’s not your drunk-a-log that gets my attention, but your feelings of “incomprehensible demoralization” as you struggled to find your bottom and surrender. I am doomed if I forget about where I’ve come from.

Father Bill W. said we humans are wanting people. We want what we want when we want it and we can’t stop wanting by wanting to. It’s taken many years but today I know the only solution to self-centeredness is to want what God wants. It is becoming clear that what God wants is not complicated. God simply wants me to learn to love more.