Learning To Listen – Grapevine Article March 1979 by R.O.

His cry for help was his moment of truth

WHEN I DRANK, I talked a great deal. I talked at home, at parties, in bars, and on the phone. I repeated myself, revealed intimate details of my life to strangers, fabricated events and adventures, and frequently insulted or offended acquaintances. Some conversations lasted into the small hours of the morning, becoming more abstruse and more profound until I was certain that I had solved all problems, had reached new and startling insights. In the light of day, unfortunately, I could never remember the intricate and delicate conclusions of the night before. And with all that talk, I never talked to people, only at them. Alcohol created a veil between me and my companions, preventing any true communication. It even cut me off from myself, preventing any true self-knowledge.

During those drinking years, I attempted to pray at times, or at least said words and attended rituals. But nothing happened, largely because I neither was ready for nor wanted help. God was like my drinking companions: I talked at Him but never to Him.

And then, I hit bottom and all talk ceased. I was alone, isolated in my misery and self-disgust, utterly without hope–helpless. From the depths of that despair, I uttered a groan rather than a prayer: “Please help me.” It wasn’t much, but it was probably the best, or the first, real prayer I had ever said. I had talked to God, not at Him. Despair had stripped away all pretense and, for a moment, even the veil of alcohol. For that moment, I was truly humble and empty. There was nothing left in me, and I knew it. And I knew only God could help me, and He did. I picked up the phone and called AA. From Him, I received enough honesty to admit my total helplessness and enough humility to ask for help. That was three years ago.

Since then, I have often thought that on that day I had my first spiritual awakening; on that day I was in touch with divinity. It has completely changed my life. My entire value system has changed. My attitude toward my family, my fellow workers, and my neighbors has changed from one of fear, resentment, and contempt to affection and tolerance. Not only have my feelings and attitudes changed, but so, too, has the very way I think about and perceive the world around me. It is as though scales fallen from my eyes, or the veil that once clouded everything had been removed.

I see people clearly now, and clearly hear what they say. No longer are they things to be talked at, to be placed in the pigeonholes of my prejudice. They are clear and distinct and beautiful. I listen to them a great deal now. And somehow God also has become clearer and much more beautiful. I listen to Him, and He speaks often. He speaks in AA meetings; He speaks through the group conscience. What He says is not always pleasant. Often, He shames me, urges me to be more generous with my time, more concerned about my fellow alcoholics. But when I listen, He helps me.

I do not mean to imply that all this happened at once. The change has been a day-by-day change, one step at a time; but it all began with Step One and Step Two. That moment of truth and that cry of anguish were my first spiritual awakening. It was not the last; but for me, it was the first step toward recovery.

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