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?
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.
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.
I have had a misunderstanding about Bill Wilson’s “White Light” experience in Towns Hospital in 1934. I got my impression of that evening from watching a movie with an actor portraying Bill W’s experience. In the movie there is a supernatural experience, complete with a blinding white light and a rushing wind, a combination of a science fiction movie and a horror movie in its special effects.
One of the great opportunities of living the program of Alcoholics Anonymous is our ability to become “God-Conscious.” Because our alcoholism is a brain disease, our brains reset themselves every night in our sleep to “alcoholic”. I find that I need to set my brain back every morning to “sober”.
The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous makes promises on pages 83 and 84. At the New Year, let’s see how these promises are coming true. We can all take inventory of these promises.
On December 11, 1934, while under treatment at Towns Hospital for alcoholism, Bill Wilson, co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, experienced a profound and lasting spiritual experience. This intense and life-changing spiritual awakening left Bill with an overwhelming sense of well-being and freed him from his obsession and craving for alcohol. Bill said this about his “hot flash,” “I knew I was a free man”.