“What has God done for me, that I could never do for myself? On Independence Day, 2019, I get to celebrate 30 years of continuous sobriety in the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous."
Two hundred and forty-three years ago this week, the representatives of thirteen British colonies met in Philadelphia and signed a Declaration of Independence from Great Britain. In it, they wrote “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
This introduced the idea that we are creations of our Creator, and that our freedom comes directly from our Creator, with no intervening king or government. The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous also tells us about a Creator (with a big C).
On page 25 of our “Big Book” we read: “The central fact of our lives today is the absolute certainty that our Creator has entered into our hearts and lives in a way which is indeed miraculous. He has commenced to accomplish those things for us which we could never do by ourselves.”
What has God done for me, that I could never do for myself? On Independence Day, 2019, I get to celebrate 30 years of continuous sobriety in the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous. That is something that I could never do for myself. 30 minutes of sobriety was often a challenge that I could not achieve. The first drink that I remember was a highball glass full of Old Grandad on the rocks in the family pantry at age 8. My father patted me on the head and said “Well, aren’t you the little man.” I thought “Well, yes, I am.” He told me not to drink Old Grandad, because that was for him, but I could have Jack Daniels, because that was for guests. So, at age 8, I switched to Jack Daniels because I was flexible. I wasn’t a daily drinker until age 10. From age 10 to age 40 I drank or took drugs every waking hour. I was never sober for thirty years in a row.
After thirty years of daily drinking and drug use, God gave me the knowledge of AA, a good home group and a good sponsor. I carefully tapered down my intake, and on July 4, 1989, I had my first sober day. My sponsor, Phil Kavanaugh, told me to read the first 164 pages of the Big Book over and over again for my whole lifetime because everything I would ever need was in those pages. He said if I read those pages and did what they said by taking all twelve steps, I would never drink or drug again. I read them, and I did what they said to do. I took all Twelve Steps. I never drank or took an addictive drug again. It has been 30 years this July 4. I am celebrating my freedom this Independence Day.
It is freedom from having to drink, and the consequences of drinking. I ruined my first marriage while drinking, and she left me. In sobriety I have enjoyed a marriage that has gotten better throughout these past thirty years.
Once I was drinking all day on vacation in Antigua in a hammock and got so sunburned in my drunken state that I got sun poisoning. My legs swelled up so much that they split open like sausages and I couldn’t fit my feet into shoes. I had to walk across the hot tarmac to the airplane in my socks in feet that were split open. I then threw up for four and a half hours in the back of the plane to New York City. Everybody hated me by the time we landed. Now I enjoy traveling the world in sobriety, well hydrated with ginger ale, with no distress at all.
When I was drinking, I didn’t have friends. I had “rentals” who were around me when I was buying drinks. Now, I’ll have a 30th sobriety anniversary cookout, and our home and yard will be filled with our sober friends from AA, Al-Anon, and The Retreat. All of this is what our Creator has done in our lives. As the Big Book says, “We are sure God wants us to be happy, joyous, and free.”
John MacDougall is the Spiritual Care Coordinator at The Retreat