I BELIEVE hope is the one, all-inclusive reward of sobriety. I further hold that hope and my restoration to sanity are closely and necessarily related.
When I first came to AA, I had only a store of negative and painful experience; I had little strength, just enough to make that desperate try at AA. But I had no hope. On blind faith, I believed that maybe what I had heard from my first AA contact would work, namely, if I stayed away from the first drink one day at a time and kept coming around to AA, I would get better.
After four months of following those simple suggestions one day at a time, I was better physically, and my life had become relatively manageable, even happy. I was thrilled with my newfound state of sobriety. I had it; I wanted with all my heart to keep it. And yet there hung over me a dread, an ever-present fear that I was going to lose this great gift, that I was going to fail at sobriety as I had failed at so many things in my life.
Then one night, around my fourth month in the program, I went to a meeting as usual. A woman chaired the meeting. She said something that I had heard at my first AA meeting and at many others afterward; but it had taken me four months to become capable of understanding this statement: “I need never drink again if I work this simple program to the best of my ability one day at a time.”
Suddenly, with those words, I was aware of hope; the fear of losing sobriety fled. I knew then, as I know now from my own personal experience, that this program worked yesterday, works today, and will work tomorrow if I work it to the best of my ability. I knew then, as I know now from my own personal experience, that I had the strength, have the strength, and will have the strength to stay sober if I continue to seek it from my Higher Power and the AA Fellowship one day at a time.
What a tremendous reward I received that night–that night when I finally began to share in the hope of this program! I received the foundation for all the other rewards of sobriety–serenity, spiritual growth, a chance for a whole and useful life. For without the hope of staying sober, none of these would be possible.
I say that hope and my restoration to sanity are closely and necessarily related. One of the necessary conditions for sane living and sound mental health is a sense of continuity, i.e., the realization that what was true yesterday is true today and will be true tomorrow.
As a result of my drinking, I lost my sense of continuity. I ended up in a state of total chaos, insanity, and hopelessness. By the grace of God–my Higher Power–and the AA program, I got sober. I stayed sober long enough, one day at a time, to realize from my own personal experience that with my Higher Power, with AA, and with my own individual efforts, I can stay sober. I have an immutable and reliable concept today–the AA program worked, works, and will work. I have a sense of continuity today. I am restored to sanity today. I have hope.