He had changed in sobriety–and it showed
THERE WAS a time when my main problem was trying to get enough courage to kill myself. I am a victim of leprosy of the soul, commonly called alcoholism. They tell me it is incurable. I believe them. I have seen many people die a miserable death from it.
Fortunately, that is not the whole story. I have seen thousands recover from the same disease. They are not cured, but they are living better than they ever did before.
I was introduced to that strange paradox by calling Alcoholics Anonymous. Not that I was all that bad, you understand, but what did I have to lose? I was hurting so, I didn’t want to go on living. My greatest fear–and I had plenty of them–was that someone would see me going into the meeting. I went anyhow.
There was a small group of people who smiled when I met them. They said they were glad to see me. (That was a switch!) They accepted me just as I was. Eventually, they helped me identify my worst enemy–me. They taught me how to destroy this enemy by making him my friend. I began to accept myself just as they had accepted me, warts and all. They said, “No one among us has been able to maintain anything like perfect adherence to these principles.” That was my category.
Gradually, a day at a time, I began to recover. There was a stage of white-knuckle sobriety when I was consciously fighting the urge to drink. One morning, I awoke to realize that it had somehow disappeared and I was experiencing a strange feeling called serenity. I loved it.
Several thousand meetings later, I am growing old. I have a touch of arthritis here and there. Some of my more intimate plumbing does not work like it should. I wear bifocals, and I am running out of teeth. But for some reason I cannot fathom, I am now I ever was as a child, even before I started to drink. I cannot think of anyone with whom I would like to trade places.
God has given me a combination of talents, virtues, and shortcomings. Trying to put them together so they work well has become one of the most fascinating games of my life. I will let you in on my system for this: I go to approximately three AA meetings a week; I have stopped asking God to do things for me and begun asking what I can do for Him.
Today, I have thousands of friends. I am free to choose a course of action. I like me. I met many of my friends in New Orleans at the 1980 AA International Convention, they still use that same old trick–they smile, even when I don’t understand their language. I can love and be loved; I can laugh; I can be angry, happy, or pensive. I am a whole person.
A while ago, I was sitting in a dentist’s office, and a little girl about three years old looked at me, wiggled down off her chair, climbed up beside me, and handed me a book to read. I was completely vanquished. She could have had anything she wanted. I would have tried to read Sanskrit if she had wanted that. Without either of us saying a word, she knew I wanted to be her friend. The things you folks in AA have been trying to teach me had begun to show. I walked out of there ten feet off the ground.
I was an eternity away from the miserable mess who wanted to die. By some miracle I do not understand, leprosy of the soul had become the peace that passes understanding.