A Candle of Hope – Grapevine Article April 1991 by Anonymous

Healing comes in many forms. This is written as a part of my healing, in the hope that it may help someone else.

My search (in drinking and sobriety) has been for a belief in something beyond the tangible–a spirit of oneness with others–a Higher Power, I suppose. This search has taken many diverse routes–college, seminary, graduate school, Christianity, existentialism, atheism, agnosticism, and finally alcoholism. I came to AA about eight-and-a-half years ago, a scared, bitter, angry, hurt woman, carrying the scars of alcoholism. I could not talk, so I listened. I felt pretty hopeless. Thoughts of suicide had often been my companions during the drinking days, and just not drinking did not change that very much. But I came to meetings, I sat, and I listened. I heard of a God in which I did not believe. I heard from some that I needed their God or I would get drunk. I did not get drunk and I did not believe in their God. I still knew the sense of despair of an alcoholic hitting bottom but I still did not believe.

My lack of belief had been sealed the night I heard a fine lady say that my grandfather’s years of suffering were caused by God. My grandfather had been my childhood idol and I certainly wanted no part of such a God. Years later, I still had no intention of turning my will and my life over to the care of such a being. I might be an alcoholic, but I wasn’t stupid!

I read AA literature, talked with my sponsor, and found that my interpretation of a Higher Power was all that was needed.

About a year after I came to AA I went to a treatment center and was helped to continue on the road to spiritual and emotional recovery. This road too has taken diverse routes–lots of meetings, reading, talks with AA members, discussion groups, psychotherapy, and the beginning of sharing. The keys seemed to be listening and sharing–the spirit at work. I also went through the Statue-of-Liberty stage of recovery–“Bring me your tired and your lonely and I’ll make them sober–whether or not they want to be.” As a result, I began to accept my own limitations and the free-will choices of others. I also went through the “boredom” stage of recovery and learned to reach out anew, to have more patience, and to put value on old friends.

There came a time when I began to wish I believed as most of my AA friends did. I was so much a people pleaser I rarely shared how I felt about the Higher Power issue. I was still fearful of rejection. Then I heard a woman who shared thoughts similar to mine and we became AA friends. I talked with a man who had relapsed after twelve years’ sobriety who felt his relapse was partly related to pretending to believe in the Higher Power of other AAs. This time he vowed to be honest and make his own search. We have had many marvelous talks. I began to believe in a Higher Power who is the spirit of the universe–a tremendous and dependable source of strength. This spirit does not cause tragedy or find me parking places. This spirit is always with me unless, as the Big Book suggests, I allow resentment to separate me from the sunlight of the spirit. My Higher Power has been born for me through sharing and hope. Every day, hopeless, helpless alcoholics walk into AA meetings, grab onto hope, and begin a renewal of their spirit.

I needed to write this tonight. It is Christmas Eve–the season of hope in the Christian tradition and my ninth season of hope after many years of often feeling little hope. Last December my sister-in-law, with whom I was very close, committed suicide. Three months later my brother, her husband, followed suit. They lost hope, even the possibility of hope. They could no longer share, and they felt no love. They once again felt the despair that we alcoholics know so well. Apparently, they needed this program more than they wanted it. I loved them, I shared with them, I tried to be helpful. I learned about my limitations and the limited free will of others.

I am glad I struggled to begin a concept of Higher Power that works for me. I am grateful for a program of recovery that is large enough to include all alcoholics with all sorts of beliefs or lack of belief. I am grateful for those who shared with me and believed when I could not–because I have had a Higher Power through all this. I have also experienced sharing and hope. Tears did not come during my brother’s funeral but they came when I walked into an AA meeting the night I got home. I was free to share at that meeting.

I have learned a lot. I have learned that accusing myself of having a “pity party” is no excuse for not sharing the many intense feelings that accompany personal tragedies. I have learned to be more “a part of” than “apart from.” I am infinitely more grateful for the gifts of sharing and hope.

Tonight I went to an AA meeting. Someone told me the name of an AA who was going through an experience similar to mine. I got this person’s number because I’ve been there. Perhaps I can share my experience, strength, and hope. Perhaps I can help light another candle of hope in someone else. After all, that is what Alcoholics Anonymous is all about, isn’t it?

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