Edging God Out

My life has to be better in recovery than it was while I was drinking, or I will eventually drink again. The fear of what will happen if I pick up that first drink will not keep me sober for long.  Oh, I might be able to white knuckle it for a few weeks, months or even years, but my life will become increasingly painful until I finally seek relief in the bottle. If I really want to stay sober for the long term, I must continue to do the work to grow and change.

We alcoholics seem to belong to a curious class of people who find something that works and then we stop doing it. We start to feel good and then we take our foot off the gas. Our meeting attendance drops off. Calling other alcoholics and helping newcomers loses its priority. We try to coast. Then, sooner or later, we begin to feel restless, irritable and discontented and we wonder, “How the heck did this happen?” No wonder our long-term recovery rate is so low.

Ego wants no part of God, spirituality or Alcoholics Anonymous. Even after many years of meetings, steps and service, ego continues to try and convince me that I no longer have to do the work. Regularly I hear the voice of ego say, “you don’t have to go to the meeting today, Jeff. You went to the meeting yesterday. You’re fine. Besides, you’ve got a lot to do today.” Ego hates the idea of unity. Ego resists because ego wants to remain separate where it feels safe. It’s ego that causes me to resist the healing power of our program. The voice of ego is fainter today, but it’s still there. Ego tries to convince me to go back to the "good old days." Ego wants me to believe in AA I am resigned to a life that is boring and glum. Ego keeps asking, "Where's the juice?"

The taste of spiritual mystery, the magic of recovery, seeing the light come on in the eyes of the newcomers. The laughter at our whacky solutions to our problems. The feeling of being apart of something bigger than me. The peace that comes from knowing I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be at every moment. The growing ability to love more. These are the experiences I cherish in Alcoholics Anonymous. These are the experiences that make my life so much better in recovery than it ever was while drinking. These are the experiences that keep me coming back for more.


I was a liar, a cheat and a thief for most of my life, even well into sobriety. I knew the difference between right and wrong, but just couldn’t seem to do the right thing. I suffered overwhelming feelings of guilt and shame over my dishonesty. I stuffed these feelings down with alcohol, drugs, but the anxiety was always there just below the surface, coloring every aspect of my life, making real happiness impossible. I drank against this anxiety for thirty years.

I know today I didn’t have a choice. I had to do all these dishonest things because I was loaded with self-centered fear. Self-centered fear caused me to do whatever I had to do when my security was threatened. I was afraid I wasn’t going to get my share, I grabbed all I could get. I was afraid I wasn’t good enough, so I made up stories to make myself look good. I lusted after money, power and prestige. I did whatever I had to do.  When I’m reacting in fear, I don’t have a choice. I must protect myself at all costs.

A few years ago, I realized as long as fear was driving, I had to sit in the backseat. I had to go where fear took me. Fear took away my ability to choose. I had to drink, I had to lie, I had to cheat, I had hurt the people I hurt. Once I realized I had no choice but to do what I did, I began to let myself off the hook. I dropped the whip of self-hate.

Confronting these fears has been a major part of my journey in Alcoholics Anonymous. The Twelve Steps dissolve self-centered fear by bringing my old ideas into the light of forgiveness. As the fear dissolves, my ability to make healthier choices returns.


The desire to drink was completely removed from me on the day I signed up for treatment. Before my first meeting, before getting a sponsor and before working any steps, I was freed from the obsession. I was getting ready for bed that night when I realized I hadn’t thought about a drink all day. I found this very curious as I had been drinking daily for thirty years. I didn’t really think about it then, but today I know something magical happened. I received Grace – a gift from God.

The gifts kept coming. A few days later I walked into my first meeting on a pink cloud. I liked everything about AA from day one. Even though I was still toxic, I sensed there was something special going on in the room. I laughed, really laughed, for the first time in years. I was hooked. I often share that it felt like I had finally found my way home after a long painful journey. I wanted what you had and became willing to do what you did.

My ego is doing cartwheels as I write this. Ego points out that “I” am the one who attends the meetings, “I” am the one who puts my hand out to newcomers, and “I” make the coffee, put away the chairs and help where ever I can. Ego wants all the credit. Yes, I do the things that keep me sober, but where does the willingness come from to take these actions? It can’t be from ego because these actions put me in the center of AA and ego only cares about staying separate where it feels safe. My willingness to take the actions that keep me spiritually fit come directly from God.

I’m sober today entirely by Grace. AA didn’t get me sober. AA doesn’t keep me sober. AA is the spiritual path chosen for me by the God of my own misunderstanding.  Looking back, I see that every single experience is intended for my highest and best good. Even the yucky experiences. Perhaps especially the yucky experiences. In God’s world nothing is wasted.