When God is Powerless
Atlanta was my first International AA Conference ‐ 2015; we celebrated AA’s 80th birthday. At the same time, my family and I celebrated my 75th natal birthday and my 31st year of the gift of sobriety.
I have been on a spiritual quest all of my conscious life: studied to be a priest in a monastery for 7 years; pursued psychology for four and therapy for more; experimented with most of the self‐help panaceas of the 70s and 80s. I did not change. I could not see that I did not see. I was a seeker but not a finder.
Meetings are NOT the AA Program!
In 1984 I was willing to attend a treatment program to support my wife’s recovery from her alcohol problem. After several weeks they asked me to not drink during the treatment time. I was willing to stop to support her. The next day was my first day without alcohol ‐ February 21. That became my sobriety date! After several weeks they also asked me to write out my history of my experiences with drinking. I was willing to write and be honest. Within 60 minutes of writing I discovered a 30 year pattern that described my first drink at age 12: I drank all there was; got knee buckling drunk; blacked out; passed out; and woke up in the morning covered with my own vomit. The biggest surprise was not that I had a drinking problem. What really startled me was that I had never seen any of the VERY visible evidence. The treatment team suggested I go to an AA meeting. I was willing to do that. I attended my first meeting in April, introducing myself as “Herb, exploring being an alcoholic!” After several meetings I admitted I was an alcoholic and the elders suggested I get a sponsor. I was willing to get a sponsor. He suggested I call him every day, go to a meeting every day and be of service at those meetings. I was willing to do these things and did so for the next 4 years. I stayed sober but I did not change. I didn’t know that I didn’t know. I continued to be a seeker but not a finder.
The key to my initial recovery was a twofold gift:
1. Abstinence, for which I did nothing; people call this Grace;
2. My “willingness” to take the suggested actions; I call this Grace!
However, during these four years of being a “good” AA, my pre‐sobriety behavior continued and I was restless, irritable, and discontent! I was having trouble at work, at home and most everywhere. The “bedevilments” were rampant. I was a man without integrity and clueless about internal guiding principles.
In 1988 in an AA meeting, I heard a man share about having an experience of being changed through a precise application of the Twelve Steps from the book Alcoholics Anonymous. I asked for his help. Over the next year he guided me through that process. By the completion of the Ninth Step I was aware I had been radically changed. I had had an authentic spiritual awakening: a dramatic change in the way I felt, thought, and behaved; and it was done TO me not BY me! I lived with a sense of serenity, peace and contentment. I knew that experience for the very 1st time. I had become a finder! My career problems were resolved; my marriage became healed; and, I found a personal relationship with the “mystery” that I never knew was possible.