Our local group had a great meeting the other day about open-mindedness. It got me thinking about the last few years of my drinking. My life experience had led me to the closed-minded conclusion that God existed all right, but that God was a sick and twisted universal mind. In reality, drinking had sickened and twisted my perception of God.
Of course, my first reckoning with open-mindedness came when I opened my mind to the idea that I could be sick and that alcohol was the problem. That idea had to come first. But to continue with recovery, I had to become open to the idea that God was something other than what I had imagined God to be. Maybe God wasn’t sick and twisted after all. Perhaps God was loving, all-knowing, and caring, and interested in guiding me toward a happy, joyous, and free life.
The idea was a stretch. But rooms full of sober people in AA helped open my mind to this possibility. And I’m happy to say that the thin sliver of light that they brought into the darkness of my world has grown to wonderful proportions.
Of course, more open-mindedness is still needed for complete recovery from a “hopeless state of mind and body.” And I think that completion of the Third Step marks a point where unfortunately many of us in AA close the door on open-mindedness. Many of us think that open-mindedness about the existence and nature of our Higher Power is sufficient, and that no more open-mindedness is needed. Yet acceptance of the idea of God is only the bare beginning. I had to become open-minded about all the remaining Steps, beginning with the Fourth.
Maybe, I thought, a moral and fearless inventory as described in the Big Book could boost the quality of my life. Maybe a frank and open revelation of my inventory to God and another person really could result in a remarkably deeper spiritual understanding: one that would make my life immeasurably more meaningful to live.
Maybe practicing willingness and humility in asking God to remove my defects could lead me onto a new path of freedom that would really make a profound difference in my life; maybe the willingness and making of thoughtful amends could result in my actually experiencing all the promises of AA rather than just a few; maybe time spent in prayer and meditation could be more than a vain exercise in convincing myself that I was near to God. Maybe it could actually bring me nearer.
And maybe service to others really could be the secret to a happy, joy-filled life: Through working with others, I might begin to discover who I really am; by giving to others, maybe I could find myself on the receiving end of some great and wonderful cornucopia of life.
So with all these “maybe’s,” I figure that my job today is to remain open-minded, and to actually try new ideas (AA-related or not) that seem to make sense. Then I can truly and confidently decide for myself whether a particular idea works (in which case I can embrace it), or whether each idea is just so much bunk (in which case I can abandon it).
I have learned that if I isolate too much, my mind closes very quickly. But when I swim deeply in the stream of life, in the companionship of others, it becomes very much easier to be honest, open, and willing. And that is exactly the point where my life begins to get better.