SOMEONE CRITICIZED my drinking. I didn’t like being criticized, because it hurt my tender little feelings; my ego rebelled. The criticism implied that there was something wrong in the way I drank. Why, I was proud when people commented on how much I could drink at one sitting and how well I held my liquor. What right did this guy have to say that my coffee cup wouldn’t rattle on the saucer if I stayed away from the bar at night?
I didn’t stop drinking booze; I just stopped using a cup and saucer and switched to a mug. Then, I kept a watchful eye on the guy who had criticized me; he had it in for me; he wasn’t to be trusted. But he had planted a seed, the seed of recovery.
My drinking continued for several years after that first criticism–first public criticism, that is–but I remembered. I had to go through many more such episodes, not liking the people and denying the whole thing had anything to do with booze. Each time anyone commented on my drinking, I hid a little deeper in the bottle, got another resentment, and came a little closer to recovery.
Then came the time that I ran away from my wife. I was forty-seven years old and running away from home, trying to hide from anyone who knew me. The only places I went to were the bar, the liquor store, and my apartment. I remember telling the other drunks at the bar how much fun I was having, and telling myself that the only way out was suicide, that I had accomplished everything I wanted in life and had enough money to drink all I could hold as long as I drank the cheaper stuff. Now, there was no one around to criticize me. Everything would be good again just as soon as I solved a few of my problems. However, that little voice inside of me was saying, “Liar, liar, liar.”
God got into the act. I’m not sure how. Maybe, at some time in a drunken stupor, I had muttered, “God help me,” in a plea to a God I was afraid of, a God who, I was sure, would have nothing to do with the likes of me. He took over, and in spite of my desires, guided me to Alcoholics Anonymous. Recovery became a want as well as a need. I stopped drinking and started physical recovery.
For the first few weeks, I told people I didn’t drink coffee, because my ego wouldn’t permit me to shake in public. I ate only sandwiches, to get away from forks and spoons. I didn’t sleep well and went to my sponsor with my tale of woe. He said, “While you are lying there awake, read the book.” By the time I could sleep again, I had a good knowledge of the words in the Big Book, not the meaning, but the words.
Mental recovery began. I got braver and started going to meetings without my sponsor. I heard strange sayings: If you don’t drink, you won’t get drunk; one day at a time; “Easy Does It”; “But for the Grace of God.” I went to my sponsor again, and he said, “Start working the Steps.”
I wasn’t sure if my life was unmanageable or not until my sponsor explained. But what about Step Two? I wasn’t insane. Again, he explained. We went on. Steps Four and Five were poor examples of a searching and fearless inventory and the exact nature of my wrongs. They were the best I could do then, at that time in my life. In Steps Six and Seven, a few of the most glaring defects were turned over to God. I had found a huge pile of guilt and remorse that needed to be taken care of in Eight and Nine, so I rushed on to make amends to many people. Then, more slowly, I worked through Steps Ten and Eleven and into the biggie, Step Twelve.
It seemed to me that there was so much to do, and no one knows how much time we have, and I didn’t understand the spiritual awakening. There was much searching to try to determine, for myself, what and where this spirit is. It dawned on me that if this spirit was going to live within me, it would want a clean place to live. I made a start toward cleaning up my speech, cleaning up my actions, cleaning up my life. Often, it was the old story of praying, “God, help me stop lusting after women,” then adding, as a lovely female walked by, “but not right now.” I stopped smoking, because cigarettes were damaging my health and I didn’t have the right to do that. I still do many things to excess, but if I am “willing to go to any length,” I believe God will take these away, too.
Now, nineteen years after coming to AA, I am preparing another inventory. I don’t know how many inventories this will make. This will be the best ever. Many of the excesses that I have cherished will have to go and fend for themselves. I’m tired of having them feed on me. I know what a moral inventory is, and the exact nature of my wrongs will come out when I discuss them with my sponsor. Hidden back in some comer of my mind, I hope to find all of my ulterior motives and kick them out, for they are troublemakers. It does no good to merely recount my wrongs if I can’t find their essential character and nature and get rid of them.
This time, I can concentrate on Steps Six and Seven, because the guilt and remorse are not so bad that I have to rush on to Eight and Nine. Then, I can go on slowly to Steps Ten, Eleven, and Twelve. I can practice these principles now, because I know what they are and I keep them in mind each day. They start with honesty, then hope, faith, courage, integrity, willingness, humility, love, discipline, awareness, service, and then responsibility for the whole thing. With all these, there will be no time for tender little feelings and ego, just for recovery.
This is the best me I have ever had to work with. I am more willing to look deeper into my innermost self and dig out things that still bother me. I want to have an even better me the next time I take an inventory.
Our Serenity Prayer starts with God, and this indicates to me that we must first find a God of our understanding before we can have the serenity, courage, and wisdom.