The Unmanageable Life
What Brought You to A.A. or a 12 Step Fellowship?
© 2013 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! He said, “I was licked.” And I could sure relate to that. Then, a bit later when Bill was writing about what he claimed 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-More!. 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. I came to A.A. because of problems – but not a drinking problem. I doubt if I even realized the depth of the drinking problem. But 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 pick up 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: “O; 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 there was an answer to all their problems in the Bible—as cofounder Dr. Bob put it. The came to believe that their problems could be solved only if resort were had to God Almighty (See Genesis KJV–28:3, 35:11, 43:14; Exodus 6:2-3 EB. See also the claim by Bill Wilson that “It was God Almighty that invented A.A.” quoted from the notes of Rev. Samuel M. Shoemaker, Jr., on Bill W.’s address on November 9, 1954, at the twentieth anniversary dinner celebrating Bill’s sobriety birthday at the Grand Ballroom of the Commodore Hotel in New York, page 5. Notes located at the Episcopal Church Archives in Austin, Texas. Copy in Dick B.’s possession)
That’s probably enough for history.
Now, as to the unmanageable mess, 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,” “I’m probably just a total loser.” “Maybe I’ve had a lot of bad luck.” And perhaps we thought that kind of attitude would explain our problem—whatever it was, and then also be, as well, a supposed way out of any discipline or treatment.
Yet I believe most AAs and members of other 12-Step fellowships would concede that many or most of the actual “loser, total loser, never that bad, bad luck” tangles described in a moment had become clinging, dominating parts of our lives.
Things weren’t going well with the family. Of course, 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 growing less and less.
Things weren’t going well with the job. 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 produced less and less patience with each missed appointment, with each fouled up activity, with each angry outburst, with each overly aggressive act, 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 later 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 warrants for failure to appear.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 of 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—however we rationalized the cause or causes.
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 cancer. 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 melancholy, the anxiety, the anger, the rage, 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, the minister, 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, scholarly papers, opinions, and conclusions 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 harbored 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, their secrets, 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 Defeated, Despondent Alcoholic Can. And, as I See It Today, Not by Himself, Not by the Apron-Strings of Another. Nope! But by the Fact that God Can and Does When Sought in Accord with His Will. To Those Who Diligently Seek Him, He Rewards Them With Love, Power, Healing, Help, Forgiveness, Guidance, and Deliverance from the Power of Darkness. Forever! These Have to Do with What Jesus accomplished by His Crucifixion, Death, Burial, and Resurrection.
I’ve found nothing in the Bible that suggests that living outside the law, outside the Bible, outside the teachings of Christ, and inside the devil’s temptations and workshops of sin produces anything consistent with God’s will or with the prosperous and healthy life God Almighty clearly wants us to have when we seek the new birth and the standing as one of God’s kids walking in the spirit.
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, healing, 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 tell you overcame and he can overcome seemingly insurmountable problems, including excessive drinking, by turning to our Creator for help.
In the early days of A.A., before there were any Steps, Traditions, Big Books, war stories, or meetings as we know them today, alcoholics used to listen to their brothers during their early hospitalization. They received daily visits by the pioneers. Alcoholics used to listen to Dr. Bob when he spent hours at the hospital talking to them and actually reading the Bible with or 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 then 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 and Resultant Terror and Despair 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.” (See Psalm 34:4, 6; 40:1-4; 54:1-7; 55:16; 72:12; 86:1-8; and 107:6—‘Then they cried unto the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them out of their distresses.”)
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. “Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us. Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen..