Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs
WORDS HAVE A WAY of taking on an entirely new significance when we enter into the new world opened up to us by AA sobriety. We all know how the first apparent clichés of our simple formulas change and become a vital part of our daily life. We discover after a time, for example, that we never really had an inkling of how practically useful “think” is until we accept how very long it has been since we really understood it. “Humility” came, with a bit more sobriety, to take its place as a lovely, living word, a quality of acceptance of our limitations, most devoutly to be searched for; the most desirable member of our family of words–humility.
“Gratitude,” that much abused sister, also altered her face and was transformed into a joyful appreciation of our miraculous recovery. We grew to know that without daily gratitude our personal miracle would lose its lustre, and in time it could cover our shiny new world with a-dull-for-granted-taking that would lead us inevitably away from the fellowship and equally inevitably to our most welcoming enemy. We might drink if we became careless with our “gratitude.”
“Pride” by a peculiar shift in syntax became the most active and omnipotent devil of a word, perhaps the most dangerous of all, and yet, while unresolved pride can lead us quickly to the bottle, we are tremendously proud that we are a part of AA.
“Honesty–” I heard an AA friend say at a meeting that he had heard a dictionary definition of honesty given by a rural postman at a country meeting in the middle-west. This old boy was sick of hearing this sensible word kicked around so he had gone to the County Court House and looked it up in “that big old dictionary there.” It was good enough for him, it’s good in any man’s life. “Honesty–is the absence of the intent to deceive.” Only what does “intent” mean?
Now I find that with all my new found confidence in the validity and importance of semantics, I have been retarded and stifled by periodic waves of doubt and despair because of my blindness concerning the meaning of the key word to our entire program.
It occurs with perfect rightness in the Twelfth Step. . .”awakening.”
Some hidden closet in my mind had failed to open. To me spiritual awakening meant an absolute conviction of and close relationship to a God everyone seemed to understand but me. I felt, in this untidy recess of my brain, that, without this revelation of spiritual grace, I couldn’t begin to “carry the message” adequately and, of even greater importance, I was continually unsuccessful in handling “all my affairs.”
I finally looked up the definition of awakening. It means to quicken, to stir, to wake up. It doesn’t say anything about a great white light or an aura of divinity, in my dictionary.
Well, now I know without any more fuss or feathers, that I, like every other member of AA have had a very tangible spiritual awakening. My belief in a Higher Power is as strong as it was when I went to my first AA meeting and accepted the first and second steps as simply and trustfully as a child accepts its mother’s milk. And certainly AA with its never ending procession of miracles, has deepened and made tangible the evidence of the workings of that Higher Power. So what on earth was I looking for? I just don’t know. I guess I wanted a little Tinker Bell all my own to show me the right and only way out of every situation.
In my peculiarly alcoholic way of creating difficulties, I discovered this semantic truth in the most involved way. Recently I was confronted with a work project that should have presented no particular difficulties, and yet it did. I blocked and blocked and couldn’t rationally get around why I was procrastinating, fearful, unable to come to grips with it. I was thinking resentfully that in this year and a half in AA the only departments of my life that had become remotely manageable were my AA activities. I had no feelings of guilty inadequacy after I had been secretary of my group. I met my Grapevine deadlines. I spoke frequently at open and closed meetings. I had done everything requested or required of me without any anxiety as to the perfection of my performances. Why was I having so much difficulty in the other areas of my life?
Quite suddenly and without any warning bells, the simple solution came to me. I had surrendered to only one thing: my alcoholism. I accepted divine and temporal help in everything that had to do with my disease with complete humility but I never had extended this wonderful freedom from pride, resentments, envy and need for perfection and competition, into “all my affairs.”
So it finally came to me in this time of really deep need: I had had no understanding of the meaning of spiritual awakening. And because I accepted all things in AA as natural and just and healthy and good, I was only permitting an unconscious use of my spiritual awakening in AA areas. And I had never brought it out and looked at it before.
Now I hope and pray I can indeed carry to all my affairs the conscious use of surrender and humility and gratitude, employing them with the knowledge that, if I do, my affairs, under God’s direction have a better chance of reaching a daily truth.