The Unmanageable Life
What brought You to A.A. or a 12 Step Fellowship?
By Dick B. Copyright 2012 Anonymous. All rights reserved.
A Little Chunk of History For Openers
Some of us get all wrapped up in difficult words when we enter A.A. or another 12 Step Fellowship. We wonder what in the heck it means to be “powerless over alcohol.” We wonder if our life has truly become “unmanageable.” But a little bit of history might show us how much more simple the early AAs kept these issues.
Bill Wilson didn’t say in his story that he was powerless over alcohol and that his life had become unmanageable. No sir. He said, “I was licked.” And I could sure relate to that. Then, a bit later when Bill was writing about what he said were the six word-of-mouth ideas that were involved in the A.A. program, he said: “We got honest with ourselves.” Now that’s a tougher concept to apply or see or accept. But think about it: How often did I really take an honest look at my drinking to excess. How often did I look at the shambles my life had become. How often did I even try to link up the drink with the disaster. The real story involved drink-drunk-disaster. But I didn’t see it that way. I thought drinking was the answer to all my problems.
But drinking wasn’t the answer. It was the problem. Uncontrolled and uncontrollable drinking, that is,
I came to A.A. because of problems – not a drinking problem. I was licked, and I knew it. I soon took an honest look at my life, and I began to see it as an imponderable mess. AAs though just kept pushing the idea that everything would get better if I just didn’t take the first drink. And that was a tall one! But some of us began to realize at least that the seemingly unmanageable mess would never get any better if we continued to souse ourselves with an alcohol remedy. Finally, a very few of us learned some history of early A.A.
Early AAs often used a simple prayer that was used in its predecessor the Oxford Group. They would say: “God manage me because I can’t manage myself.” In other words, they didn’t quibble over the problems. They just came to believe that they could be solved if resort were had to the Almighty. Well that’s enough for history.
Now let’s look at denial, dishonesty, and disarray.
What Unmanageable Events Did We See?
I don’t claim that things were the same for all us newcomers. In fact we were peppered with stories that didn’t seem to mesh with ours. “I’m not like that guy,” was a common response. “I never got that bad,” was another. “Maybe I’m just a loser, and my real problem isn’t drinking at all,” could be a supposed way out of any discipline or treatment.
Yet I think most AAs and members of other fellowships would concede that many or most of the following tangles had become part of our lives.
Things weren’t going well with the family. Sure they were all to blame, but how is it that problems with wives, kids, siblings, aunts and uncles – girlfriends or boyfriends – were getting larger and large; their warnings and concerns were getting louder and louder; and their actual assistance in getting us out of messes was really getting smaller and smaller.
Things weren’t going well with the job. Sure we hadn’t necessarily been fired or lost our customers or clients. But somehow the patience of any or all had been strained and evidently less and less with each missed appointment, with each fouled up activity, with each angry outburst, with each fearful approach to the person or the job itself.
Then there was the dishonesty. Instead of bragging about how much we drank, it seemed better to cover it up. To buy at different stores. To drink at different bars. To eat at different restaurants. To hang out with different people – the ones who drank too much. Maybe there was even the hiding of the evidence – hiding the extra bottles, placing the excessive evidence at the bottom of the garbage can, denying the amount we had to drink, hiding the facts about the people, places, and things that were becoming a new part of life.
What about the legal problems? The bills that were not being paid, with the dun-notices that were piling up. The traffic tickets that really didn’t need to be dealt with. The diminishing number of business and customers leading to debt and thoughts of bankruptcy. The very real considerations of divorce, loss of child custody, and restraining orders. The pile-up of tax returns, and the delays in payment of taxes, followed by IRS activity. Then the real criminal stuff. Drunk driving. Driving without insurance. Driving without a license. Driving without proper registration. Driving with open containers. Driving under the influence. Possession. Surely they weren’t just the result of drinking too much, but the events piled up.
What about ethical problems? The doctor who commits malpractice. The lawyer who misses court or misrepresents his clients. The fiduciary who embezzles or falsifies reports. The person who takes bribes. The person who regularly lies to family, friends, employers, authorities, courts, doctors, therapists, and businesses.
What about the criminal problems? Were we embezzling funds, dipping into trust accounts, breaching fiduciary obligations, cheating people, lying to clients and customers, padding expense accounts, cheating on tax returns, filing false insurance applications and reports? Oh, those couldn’t be due to alcohol. But isn’t it interesting how many of us found ourselves in just such circumstances. Then the biggies for some: Robbing. Breaking and entering. Larceny. Assault. Battery. Domestic violence. Manslaughter and homicide. Messing with under-age children. And just about anything else that is covered in the penal codes-local, state, and federal
What about health problems? The liver disorders. The heart troubles. The falls and fractures. The injuries in fights or accidents or job-related problems. The vague aches and pains. The “hangovers.” The blackouts – can’t find the keys or the car or the house; and can’t remember what was said or done. The confusion and forgetfulness – not thinking too clearly from time to time. And the ones the doctor warns about – tremors and physical aberrations.
What about the loneliness, the guilt, the shame, the anger, the fear, the despair? Long before the judge or the doctor or the clergyman or the family begins to get the point across, we feel distant, abandoned, ashamed, sometimes angry, often guilty, filled with fear, and without friends. If the problems get bad enough, enter despair—thoughts of suicide.
What about the mental conditions? Depression, melancholy moods, sleep disorders, manic episodes, brain damage, and more. How many are seen by the psychiatrist, the psychologist, the counselor, and the family doctor before finally being sent to or seeking a mental ward or hospital.
What about the religious consequences? Most of the scum bag things alcoholics finally do are squarely violative of Biblical principles, Christian teaching, and even the Ten Commandments. In short, they are sin! Excessive drinking is a sin. Adultery is a sin. Lying is a sin. And on and on from there. Sin may be commonplace, but it’s still sin – large, small, hidden, open, productive of harm, or temptingly pleasant and permissible.
What about the trips to the Emergency Room? To Juvvie? To court? To jail? To prison? To the Probation or Parole Officer? To the therapist? Do these have anything to do with drinking?
Are These Unmanageable Events Tied To Drinking Too Much?
I won’t try to claim that every unmanageable event I’ve mentioned is the special private property of an alcoholic or addict. I’m not an expert. And there are plenty of surveys and scholarly papers that deal with each and every one of the items.
I do know that most of us can sit in an A.A. meeting, hear the drunkalogs, laugh at the episodes, cry at the disasters, and wonder if we ever were or could be or are like that. But sooner or later, you begin to feel at home – if for no other reason than your conclusion that you either did most of those things, came close to doing them, would be terrified if you did them, or actually harbor some secret memories of wanting to be in exactly those spots – without the adverse consequences.
I’ve sponsored more than 100 men in their recovery. I’ve done a Fifth Step with my first sponsor, listened to his shortcomings, and shared mine. And I saw far more similarities than differences in conduct – even though we were poles apart in education, vocation, age, family background, religious beliefs, and so on. Then when I did the Fifth Steps with the men I sponsored—many of whom were 40 years younger than I – I concluded that their traits, their adventures, their troubles, their disasters, and their stories were really quite similar to mine in the most important area—they were drinking or drugging related. I saw that in Fifth Steps. I heard that in drunkalogs. I read that in the Big Book and its stories. I discussed it with hundreds of AAs. I studied it in the classic books by alcoholics. I saw it in the movies about alcoholism. I heard it in the treatment center. I heard it in the VA Psych Ward in San Francisco. I heard it in the State Prison at Vacaville. And I hear about it by phone, by letter, and by email almost every day today.
You Can’t Change The Alcoholic. But The Alcoholic Can. And God Can
I’ve found nothing in the Bible that suggests that living outside the law, outside the Bible, outside the teachings of Christ, and in the devil’s workshop of sin produces anything consistent with God’s will or with the prosperous and healthy life He clearly wants us to have. I’ve found lots to suggest that those who don’t become born again of God’s spirit can expect a hot time on the return of Jesus Christ. I’ve found lots to prove that those who obeyed God received His forgiveness, His healings, His deliverance, His comfort and love, His kindness, His consolation, and His everlasting promise of spending eternity with Him and His son, as well as utilizing His power and guidance to live an abundant life right here and now.
There’s nothing in my A.A. experience to suggest that hammering an alcoholic with evidence of his drinking or preaching to him about the extent of his sins or calling his attention to the self-destructive hole he has dug for himself will cause him to do an about face and change. There’s substantial evidence, however, that you can bring him to examine his drinking, his sins, and his disasters and mismanagement when you share your own and show you understand the relevance of drinking and overcame seemingly insurmountable problems, including excessive drinking, by turning to our Creator for help.
Alcoholics used to listen to their brothers during their early hospitalization and received daily visits by the pioneers. Alcoholics used to listen to Dr. Bob when he spent hours at the hospital talking to them. Alcoholics knew they were among people who had shared their misery, mismanagement, and despair and come out ahead of the game. Just don’t drink, they were told. Stay away from temptation, they were warned. Surrender your life to God’s care and direction and trust Him, they were advised. And get out there in the trenches and bring to others the message of how much God loves us and will take care of us when we seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. I’ve seen it work, and it’s worked for me.
The Unmanageable Life Pointed Me To A.A. And God
The Bible recounts over and over that when “the poor man cried, the Lord (YAHWEH) heard him and delivered him from all his troubles.” That’s what I wanted. I wasn’t thinking about drinking. And I didn’t drink. But I sure was thinking of getting out of the mess I had made of my life, and I never harbored the idea that quitting drinking and going to A.A. meetings would do the job. Before long, I knew I needed God’s help for all of it. I sought it, and I received it! So can you.