In the “Big Book” of Alcoholics Anonymous, on page 58, the authors are reflecting upon the Twelve Steps. They write “We thought we could find an easier, softer way. But we could not. With all the earnestness at our command, we beg of you to be fearless and thorough from the very start.”
I remember why they wrote that way. At the beginning of my sobriety I needed to be fearless and thorough, because my first six months of sobriety were extremely difficult. My body was in rebellion against sobriety every day. I had bad physical cravings daily. My A.A. friends said that I should take it a day at a time. I said I didn’t have a whole day of sobriety in me. They said to take a half a day at a time. I went to about 180 meetings in my first ninety days. My initial recovery was fueled mainly by rage, not by faith. I raged against the disease more than I had faith in God. I said to myself “I have to make this work, because this is too hard for me to do it twice.” I did what my sponsor and my friends suggested. I prayed. I trusted God. I took the steps. I made my meetings. I used the phone. I showed up twice a day. This was no easier, softer way.
At the end of six months, the storm broke. One day I thought “Hey. Wait a minute! I don’t have to drink! If I don’t drink, nothing bad will happen. The thought police will not take me away and lock me up for not drinking. There is no actual, cosmic mandate that I drink. What was I thinking?” Then it got better, and I stopped struggling. Eventually, I stopped working the program at all, and started living it.
Once I had read the Big Book often enough to be comfortable with it, and had attended enough A.A. meetings to be comfortable there, and had taken all twelve steps enough times that they were naturally mine, I stopped working the program and began living it.
When we are living the program, our reactions to life change. We stop trying to control life and control the outcomes of events. The Big Book talks about how we react to life sanely and normally, how we are neither cocky nor afraid, how we are neither fighting alcohol nor avoiding temptation, how we are delivered to a position of neutrality. It says that this is how we react so long as we keep in fit spiritual condition. (p.85).
Controlling our drinking is hard. Sobriety is easy. I used to ride the bus to work. I would get up in the morning. I would drink about 6 ounces of Jack Daniel’s whiskey. I would carefully carry a Dixie cup of water to the bus stop. As I reached the gas station by the bus stop, I would step behind it, throw up behind the trash cans, rinse my mouth with water, spit, and discard the cup. Then, with my stomach somewhat settled, I could board the bus and probably not throw up on the bus. This made me believe that I was a controlled drinker. That was a hard way of life.
My life is easy today. My home group is Summit Hill A.A. in Saint Paul, MN. Every three months we give out A.A. medallions. Because of the size of the group, we are asked to keep our remarks short when we get ours. On the occasion of my 25 year medallion, I was tempted to be a bit long winded. Instead, I got up and said “Hi. I’m John and I’m an alcoholic. Thanks for 25 years. I tried to find an easier, softer way, and I did. This is it. Thank you!” ….and I sat down.