Today’s AA meeting was much better than the one last week. I wrote about the drama last week when an old-timer told a newcomer to shut the fuck up during his emotional share. (Update: I haven’t seen that newcomer all week. I hope that only means that he has chosen to go to different meetings after what happened, and not the alternative.) Thank God there was no drama today. It was an enlightening meeting with a lot of insightful shares and it was filled with hope. The topic was faith. The person that brought up the topic (the same old-timer that was so rude last week!) expressed that, as the Bible says in Matthew 13:31, all we need to change for the better, to live a life filled with joy, to stay sober, to have a relationship with God, is faith as small as a mustard seed. That resonated with me because when it came to both my faith in God and the gospel, and my faith in AA, that’s all I had.
My faith in God came first. I grew up in a family that didn’t go to church, didn’t talk about God or the Bible, and didn’t behave in a Christian way. Yet, if you had asked any of them if they were Christians, they would have enthusiastically said yes. But, whenever I questioned them about faith in God, no one could explain it to me in a way that I understood or believed. A typical response was “it’s just something you have.” I didn’t get it, so at an early age, I declared myself agnostic. I couldn’t see God, couldn’t touch God, couldn’t feel His presence, so how could I have faith in Him? I didn’t even know if He was real. I saw though, in people outside of my family, that the ones that had faith had something I wanted. They had a serenity and peace about them. They were able to face things that seemed impossible to me, and make it to the other side of trials and tribulations. I always knew that I was missing out on something big, I just couldn’t figure out how to get it.
I think that is one of the reasons that I became an alcoholic (of course that is a long list!). I was missing something that the human soul needs. And I drank to try to fill it up. When I finally made it to rehab, I ended up at a Christian treatment center in Phoenix because they accepted my insurance. That was really my only reason for choosing that facility, other than the fact that they returned my desperate call first. When I got there, I chose the traditional track (Big Book studies, meditation and lots of lectures and 12-step meetings), as opposed to the Christian track (devotionals, Bible studies, the same lectures and 12-step meetings). That only lasted about a week, because I started to pay attention to the staff working with all of us addicts: the therapists, the behavioral health techs, the nurses, even the doctors. I learned that all but one of them were in recovery themselves. I struck up conversations with them and I learned that spirituality and faith in a Higher Power were helping them stay sober. Amazing. I went to Bible study and morning devotional the second week. When I listened to the believers share, what I heard was what I had been missing. They spoke of their horrible experiences and of how God brought them through them. They spoke of knowing that they were powerless and that they had to rely on God to save them. They threw up their hands and turned their will over to God. They relinquished control. And, here’s the kicker, they believed without proof that God would take care of them. That was faith! That was what I had been looking for my whole life! The people at rehab, a bunch of addicts and alcoholics, finally showed me what faith was. I was overjoyed.
Having faith in the program of Alcoholics Anonymous took a while longer. I loved AA almost from the beginning, and again, I found people who had what I wanted – sobriety. I wanted to be able to live without getting loaded, and these people were doing it. But, when it came to really believing that the program could work for me, I wavered. It all sounds good on paper, but how could one alcoholic helping another really work? How could these AA members that had lost their families, their homes, their freedom, their jobs, really be happy, joyous, and free? I was probably a year into the program before I really started to have faith that it works. I started to see that the promises that the old timers talked about and that we read at the end of every meeting, really could (and would) come true. I saw it in their lives and it gave me hope – and faith – that it would happen in mine. And you know what? It is happening in mine. I have made it nearly nine months free from alcohol, I have not had an inclination to drink, and I have had many times when I have been happy, joyous and free. These things don’t happen all the time, but they happen often enough for me and for others that I see in the program, that I am able to have faith that it works. And I’m gonna keep the faith!