Too Much to Lose

I’m enjoying the best life I’ve ever had, but it is dangerous to think I’ll never drink again. What I know is that I probably won’t drink today because I’m taking some actions that show the universe my desire to stay sober. I’m sharing my ESH with you guys and heading to a face to face meeting later today. I’ll also get out in nature for a hike – my eleventh step practice. These recovery actions maintain a nice fat balance in my sobriety bank account.

These actions fly in the face of ego. Ego wants me to think I have this drinking thing handled. Ego tries to convince me I’m fine. I don’t have to go to the meeting today because I went to one yesterday. My life feels useful and purposeful, but the ego lie is I can feel better. I don’t think about a drink anymore, but ego occasionally reminds me how much I used to enjoy smoking marijuana.  Ego points out that since it is now legal, what would be the harm? Gratefully I’ve seen what happens to those alcoholics who try the marijuana maintenance program.

Yesterday during lunch with another active, long-term member, I asked what we would be doing with our lives without AA. Neither of us had an answer. My life revolves around my AA activities. AA is my church. It’s where I get spiritual sustenance. It’s where I meet my friends.  My higher self wants me to continue to grow and change. I simply can’t imagine what life would be like without AA. I’ve got way too much to lose.

Denial is not a River in Egypt

I visited a therapist five days before I walked into my first AA meeting. I had been to this lady a few months earlier for help to quit smoking. I thought smoking was my problem. I hated myself for smoking. I was able to quit with her help and an addiction to Nicorette gum. But my life didn’t improve. I continued to wake up every morning with an ache of fear in my gut. I had no interest, energy or enthusiasm for looking for work or much of anything else.

I had just finished a book about men my age undergoing mid-life crises. I figured this was my problem. This must be the reason I wasn’t looking for work; this must be the reason I had no interest, energy or enthusiasm for much of anything; this must be the reason my life felt so heavy. I fully expected the therapist to confirm my diagnosis, comfort me and give me a new coping strategy.

She let me whine about my life for a good thirty minutes, then she said something that shocked me. She said, “I don’t think I can help you, Jeff.” She said, “from what I know about you, I don’t think you have an ounce of humility in your whole body; your brain is so cloudy from your daily drinking you can’t get any clarity on your life; and you seem to have the emotional maturity of a thirteen-year-old. I don’t think I can help you but maybe the treatment center up the street can.”

The voice inside my head was screaming, “you can’t let this bitch talk to you like this, Jeff.” But somehow, I was able to keep my mouth shut. Then she looked directly into my eyes, like she was looking at my soul and said, “you’re in trouble, aren’t you, Jeff?” The voice told me not to admit anything to this woman. I looked down at my shoes for a long moment. Finally, I whispered, “maybe.” It was the first time in my forty-seven-year-old life I admitted there was something I couldn’t handle. Apparently, my half-assed admission of powerlessness cracked the thick wall of denial just enough to let the light shine in.


A year or so ago my girlfriend gave me a bracelet that says, “it is what it is.” I rarely take it off. It’s a great reminder to accept whatever is showing up in my life. I don’t have to like what’s going on. I just must accept it for what it is, God’s will. I suffer whenever I am unable or unwilling to accept God’s will because, in essence, I am arguing with reality.

Acceptance for me is not resignation. It is not giving up or giving in. It is simply acknowledging that God placed the person, event or situation in my life to help me grow. The experience may not feel good. It may be tragic. It may scare the hell out of me, but somehow every experience is necessary for my spiritual growth. I can’t hope to benefit from any experience until I first accept it.

I am much better at accepting God’s will today than I was when I began my spiritual journey in Alcoholics Anonymous. Back then I had no choice but to resist any experience that didn’t jive with my insane belief system about how life should work and how other people should behave. I had no choice but to react in fear and resist any kind of change. The longer I resisted God's plan for me, the more painful my life became. Today I look at these painful experiences as gifts. I'm grateful for the pain because there is no way I could have traveled from where I was to where I am today without them.

Through the years, AA and the Twelve Steps melted away much of the self-centered fear that kept me a prisoner to ego-mind. Most of the fear that walked through the doors with me is gone. It has been replaced by a faith that works in all conditions. Today I have the faith that I’ll be shown the way through every painful experience and I’ll come out the other side a more peaceful, happier and contented person. Acceptance is the first step.