Never enough money, women, cars, things. And never enough as a person either. –Step Ten – Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
My sponsor told me the answer to this question. But first, a little background. When I was drinking, I believed I should always have enough around the house to drink, and I was successful in that lofty goal. But somehow I was never completely satisfied. There just wasn’t enough, no matter how much I had on hand. I used to buy liquor by the half-gallon, and half-gallons by the case. The day I walked into AA, there were five unopened half-gallons of whiskey just waiting for me to consume, which was less than a week’s worth of whiskey. I just didn’t understand half-pints at all or the concept of controlled drinking, for that matter. The two terms don’t seem to go together. For me, controlled drinking was a contradiction in terms–an oxymoron.
In every other area of my life there was never enough either. Some wealthy financier once responded, when asked how much money is enough, “Just a little more.” Needless to say, I identified. Not only did I not have enough money, women, cars, and things, I never have been enough as a person. I never have been tall enough, good-looking enough, in good enough shape; I never had a good enough job, lived in a good enough house, nor driven a good enough car. The list could go on ad infinitum. I can and did obsess about all of my perceived deficiencies and a hundred other forms of fear, self-delusion, self-seeking, and self-pity. In a word, I was never enough. Incidentally, neither were you!
It followed that if I was not enough, then I would do whatever was necessary to debase and belittle you, so that I might not feel so bad about me. A rather miserable existence, but at least I had alcohol to deaden the pain temporarily. I was a blackout drinker. Blackouts were beautiful. In a blackout, there was no pain, no voices in my head. However, the unfortunate fact of drinking for me was that between every two blackouts was consciousness, the memories of the damage caused by my drinking were a constant and painful part of my conscious days.
When the pain of conscious living became intolerable, I arrived at the doors of AA. Today, most of the fears I had when I arrived have been dealt with, and usually I’m no longer concerned with being or having enough.
Over time and with the help of sponsorship, most of my obsessions have waned as well. For instance, I no longer obsess over all the lovely ladies in AA. (My wife, a black belt Al-Anon, has helped me overcome this obsession.) The result of applying the Steps and active participation in the Fellowship of AA, is that I really like my life, my wife, my job, even my old truck. As a matter of fact, my life seems to be managed quite well, just not by me.
Nevertheless, one day, in my morning meditation, I noticed that I had been considering my financial situation. The plan was for my wife to retire next year and for me to retire soon after. However, our financial situation had changed considerably in the last couple of years, and I realized I might not be retiring for several more years. I don’t know how long I had been obsessing on our finances, but on this day I realized that I was. At some point, I had crossed over from general concern to obsession. My concern had matured into a full-blown obsession without my knowledge, approval, or permission. It was obviously time to call my sponsor with more Tenth Step stuff–again.
When I looked at the obsession, I couldn’t find any resentment. It wasn’t about sex or relationships. It had to be fear. My sponsor has a four-sentence fear inventory process:
- What is the fear? I am afraid of_____
- Why do I have this fear? I am afraid that_____
- Where is my self-reliance in this fear? I’m_____
- What is the real problem behind this fear? (The answer is always the same: I am not trusting and relying on God to care for and protect me.)
Looking back at my latest obsession, I recognized what was happening. When I called my sponsor that afternoon, this is what I told him: “I am afraid of not having enough money to retire. I am afraid that I will have to work for fifteen more years and still not be able to retire. I am selfishly trying to manage my financial affairs, and project outcomes. I am not trusting and relying on God to care for me and to protect me.”
We talked about it some more, and I prayed for the fear to be removed. Then I turned to someone I could help. In this instance, I called one of the guys I sponsor.
This all happened several months ago. The obsession has not returned and when genuine concerns arise about retirement matters, I remind myself that I am on a different footing with God and I will trust and rely upon him to care for me and protect me. With this attitude, I can see that all my worrying about finances is futile. The fact is that God has provided for me every single day since I came into the program over twenty years ago. I am silly to doubt the power and grace of God now. With the help of my sponsor, I am able to have a good laugh at myself. (Laughing at myself is a wonderful gift of the program. My laughter usually indicates that I’m on the way to recovery regarding whatever is going on.)
It is embarrassing to have to continue to re-learn this simple lesson over and over again. It is even more embarrassing to admit that I have so much more room to grow after twenty active years in the program. But I am grateful that I am part of a Fellowship that encourages the spiritual growth not only of the newcomers, but also of those of us who have a little time. And how blessed we are to have the opportunity to continue to grow in understanding and effectiveness.
Oh yeah, I almost forgot to tell you what my sponsor told me about enough. He asked me, “Do you know how much is enough?” I had no idea, so he answered his own question: “I can tell you precisely how much is enough–just enough so I don’t have to trust God.”