Three years ago I walked into my first 12 Step meeting to deal with my drinking. I was terrified, and ashamed, but I believed they may have something to offer me that I couldn’t find for myself. In spite of all the joy I had experienced in my relationship with God, and all of the success I had helping people get well as a therapist, for some reason no plan I made regarding alcohol could stop me from drinking. I would quit temporarily, but it was hard, and on the tough days I’d go back to my old ways of coping. I hadn’t gotten bad by the world’s standards, maybe two glasses of wine after work (which was half a bottle, they were big glasses!) and a party night on the weekend, but in my own heart I knew that I was addicted. And I knew things were getting worse. One glass had turned to two. Weekends had turned to weekdays. The craving for a drink was increasing to the point that it was all I looked forward to at the end of the day. I woke up on January 2nd, 2011 with a hangover, knowing I’d blown the very first day of the year. I knew my husband experienced a spiritual experience that removed his craving to drink many years ago, but I had a hard time believing it could happen to me. I had prayed many times on my own and nothing had changed.
Thank goodness for these humble, honest men and women who shared their own stories, their experiences and their hope. They told me about a spiritual answer to my problem, which was different than the kind of spirituality I was living. It was a spirituality that depended on God to do the work, one day at a time, and the fellowship of people gathered who had overcome this problem themselves. It was a spirituality that meant I had to truly admit powerlessness, actually believe a power Greater than myself could restore me, and many other steps of practical humility including admitting my mistakes openly to God and someone else and making direct amends where I could. The hope that I received was meaningful that evening, but it didn’t last. Fear and concern gripped me by the next day as I thought the desire to drink would likely return. I went to a meeting that next morning, and again, I was met with genuine care and a lot of honest stories of how God had done for these people what they could not do for themselves.
My therapist brain was reeling. What do you mean I can’t do this myself? Do you know what I do all day?? I’ve helped people all over the world. Pride was my enemy. Rarely do we like to ask for help; never do we like to admit total defeat. But for me that kind of humility was the path to freedom. I had to believe I didn’t have all of the answers on getting well, and clearly a letter from Carl Jung in the Big Book and millions of well addicts later should have ended that debate in my mind. Eventually it did. I surrendered, accepted that I was suffering from a spiritual malady, and that my own thinking wouldn’t get me out of it. I needed help from people who had walked the path before me and had seen many of The Promises fulfilled along the way.
I spent 18 months sober, and a good portion of that time spiritually healthier as well, but the power of the Lie is cunning, baffling and powerful, and after a year and a half I didn’t think I needed my new friends anymore. In spite of all they had done for me, and all of the joy I had experienced learning this new way of experiencing God in our world with them, I began to believe untrue things about my friends in order to get me back to what I wanted. I remember saying to a friend “I’m not sure about that program, they seem kind of cultish. They hang out together, go to dances together, camping together. Really?” and he, a fellow alcoholic who wanted to start drinking again, agreed. I thought I was fine now, and that I had learned tools so that when I drank again if I got into trouble, I’d know what to do. I spent 9 months back on the slow slow path toward spiritual numbness and cutting off from God and my truest self. I needed to lie to myself about my life in order to live the way I wanted and it took tremendous effort to keep it up. I would make sure I didn’t drink every day, make sure I didn’t drink more than a certain amount, make sure I didn’t drink certain things etc. But it was all a lie and deep down I knew.
Thank goodness God brought me back to my friends. That disconnected feeling, and where my drinking took me back to, showed me that I needed them. They were kind and accepted me, welcoming me back with open arms. Some had left and come back in the past too, so they knew how I felt. Even their own failures were used by God as understanding and compassion. They were sincerely glad that by Gods power I had come back. Some people never do.
The reason I share my story with you is because maybe you, or someone you know, is struggling with something and they cant deal with it on their own. We ALL have struggles, and mine was just more obvious than others. There are money problems and we may struggle with spending, believing the next thing we want is what will really satisfy. We may struggle in relationships, unable to keep a relationship going long term, or co-dependently clinging to a new partner as if this next relationship is the answer to the happiness we’ve always wanted. We may have addictions to drugs, pornography, gambling, sex or alcohol. My friend tried everything to deal with his addiction to pornography and it was only by the power of our fellowship, and his commitment to attend a 12 Step group on an ongoing basis (he had graduated from a few before) did he become truly sober. Because we are the forgotten well no one really sees the struggle. No one would have ever known what I was trying to fight on my own, and maybe no one really notices your struggle, or your friends struggle, either. So as we approach this year of 2014 let us pray for the eyes to see. May we see our own spiritual sickness, and true need of the fellowship of those in recovery in order to experience freedom, and may we carry this message to others by our own honest experiences, even if it means putting ourselves (and our ego) on the line. The more I understand the path of the 12 Steps, the more I realize all were signing up for is Authentic Christianity 101.