The key is this: A human being stops depending on his own will and turns his life over to some other kind of will
RECENTLY I had to sit and endure a mournful song and dance, delivered over a glass of vodka and grapefruit juice, by a woman who had called AA for help, to the effect that: “You’re so strong. But I’m not strong, like you. I’m weak.”
This really bugs me; and the very fact that it does shows how weak I am. There I sat, still plagued with self-centeredness, childish attitudes, intolerance, inability to accept the ways in which life does not go my way; and this little character tells me I can stop drinking because I am strong; but she can’t stop because she is weak–thereby excusing the spiked drink in her hand.
The truth is that if she can still stomach the booze she is stronger than I was or am. Although my health has’ always been remarkably good, I have never been blessed with abundant energy. I can quote my doctor that, physiologically, I am “not robust.” I need more rest and sleep than most people do. And psychologically, my defects are legion. Alcohol was using up what physical strength I did have to an alarming degree; and when I was but a Greater Power still drinking I had no emotional reserves. It was from weakness, not from strength, that I turned to Alcoholics Anonymous for support in establishing the habit of not drinking.
And, although my defects of character are shrinking slightly as I try to practice the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous, I am beginning to understand that if they are ever removed completely, it will be because I allow the forces, or powers, or whatever this function is in a human being (which most people call God), to take over and eliminate them for me. It will not be my will power or my “strength” that will do it.
So, in spite of what my friends and still-practicing alcoholics think, my problem is to try to reach a point where I will stop trying to rely on the vestiges of strength I do have, and be willing to turn myself over to the guidance and direction of whatever process it was that enabled me to stop drinking–something my own will power had never been able to accomplish for me.
To me, it makes no difference whether a person believes it is “a God” who does this, or simply some way of functioning inherent in himself that man does not yet understand. The evidence in changes of behavior provided by the people–early AAs– who said, “These are the steps we took,” shows that beneficial results ensue when a human being stops depending on his own “will” and turns his life over to some other kind of “will,” which I believe exists within him but with which most of the time he seems to be unable to communicate. Most of the time this other will does not and cannot influence his reasoning powers.
I bring up this point because I have also–and it is a frustrating experience–run into people who rejected the AA program because they “didn’t believe in God.” I believe this is beside the point. It makes no difference what the founders of AA thought was going on, nor even what most of the membership may think. The facts of what “turning your will and your life over” to some other power does for you are incontrovertible. The problem is to become willing to do it, even if you have no clear idea about what you’re turning yourself over to. An analogy that has often occurred to me in respect to this is–the sun. Without the sun, human life on earth would cease to exist. Yet the ancient Greeks thought it was Apollo’s golden chariot; the Egyptians called it God; and for centuries men thought the sun traveled around the earth–when, as a matter of fact, the reverse was true: the earth was going around the sun. Who knows, in time to come, we may discover even more startling fallacies in our ideas about our sun. But the fact remains that at the present moment, as far as we know, without its light and heat we would soon all be dead.
There is ample evidence demonstrated in AA that men and women can be changed by allowing a “greater power” to operate in their lives. So, to go along trying to live by insisting “I can do it myself with my reason and my conscious feelings” is like shutting oneself up in a cave and refusing to have anything to do with the sun because you don’t agree with the silly explanations other people have offered for what it is.
“Defects of character” mean to me the personality traits which have made life more difficult for me than it needs to be. I was, like most people, conditioned to believe that reason and will power could cope with these handicaps of temperament. Although my thought and will must still participate in the process, I now see, through what I have learned about the way my drinking problem was eliminated, that it came about through dynamics other than my conscious processes. Reason and will can contribute mightily, but only as assistants to these other, more effective forces. My problem now is simply to allow this unknown source of strength to have its way with me, to allow it to deal with the defects which cripple me psychologically.