I just returned from a Christmas cruise with a family group of nine people on Holland America’s new ship, the Niew Statendam. Our group of nine included my wife and myself, our two daughters, two sons-in-law, and three grandchildren. We all get along well.
I never asked this question when I was getting sober, but I have heard other people ask it. I thought they were raising unreasonable objections to getting sober or expressing resistance to recovery. Over the years, patients at Hazelden and guests at The Retreat have spoken of their reluctance to recover by saying that they are afraid to recover, because they are afraid of who they might be if they stop drinking or drugging. What will happen, they ask, if they get sober and don’t like themselves, or don’t like who they have become?
There is a question that comes up repeatedly around the rooms of the program - what about these people the courts are sending here? What should we do with them?
Alcoholism is a disease of self-deception. We can be taking all twelve steps, and still avoid the spiritual growth of the program. “Remember” the Big Book says, “that we deal with alcohol---cunning, baffling, and powerful! Without help it is too much for us. But there is One who has all power—that One is God. May you find Him now!” (p.58-59)
There’s an old phrase in computer programming that goes… “Garbage In – Garbage Out”. In other words, if I program a faulty code, I’m going to get a faulty outcome.
The A.A. Big Book, on page 60, states “The point is, that we are willing to grow along spiritual lines. The principles we have set down are guides to progress. We claim spiritual progress rather than spiritual perfection.”
Recently during the U.S. Open a professional golfer swatted at his golf ball while it was moving. He knowingly did this in violation of the rules that govern golf. In a subsequent tournament another professional golfer took a drop with a golf shot that was controversial at best and which some of his fellow players characterized as cheating. Both of the situations were unfortunate and sullied the reputation of both players. It is said that golf doesn’t build character – it reveals it.
At many AA meetings, somewhere in the program, a person asks “Could we have a moment of silence for the alcoholic who still suffers?” We are briefly quiet, perhaps thinking of someone we know whose suffering is all too clear to us. I also think of those whose suffering is over because they lost their lives in a struggle with alcohol or drugs.
She sat next to the bed. I hadn’t touched her in months. She didn’t seem to notice - she didn’t say a word. I felt guilty. I felt ashamed. I felt like I had been unfaithful.
There had been so many excuses. “I’m too busy. I’m too tired. I’ve got more important things to do”. Excuses all...
Finally, I reached over and gently brushed off the dust from her jacket. I started my daily readings – again.
I worked 20 years in Rehab, and for a long time, I saw it do a lot of people a lot of good. As rehab has evolved over the years, it has moved from an introduction into the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous into a medical, medication, and mental illness model of treatment. The old model was “one drunk helping another over a cup of coffee.” I remember when there was a sign at the admissions entrance of my old rehab that said “AA Members Always Welcome”. I remember when my first morning staff meeting would tip the phones off the hook so they wouldn’t ring. We would shut the door and spend 20 minutes in prayer and meditation for the spiritual well-being of the unit. We would read from “Twenty-Four Hours a Day” and “As Bill Sees It.” The unit supervisor used to say “The patients will always reflect the spiritual well-being of the staff” and “They won’t get better than we are.” We thought of our unit as one recovering community.