Honesty and Hope
Dear GROW Sisters,
I am so excited to be able to share on my 28th AA birthday and thank you to all of you who have written to congratulate me this morning.
It’s a miracle I got sober in the first place and another miracle – actually LOTS of miracles adding up to these many years! – that I am still sober. These two facts alone prove to me there is a Power Greater Than Myself in this Universe who has my highest good and wellbeing in mind. I have been shown grace and mercy over and over again. As dark and terrible and calamitous as my life became during my sobriety (and it got extremely dark from 2005 to 2015 with loss and illness), that Unseen Hand, my AA sponsors and friends and the spiritual program of action bequeathed to us by Bill and Dr. Bob (and Lois and the women in their lives) saw me through.
There were many times I didn’t think I would make it. Early on in the program and also as written in the Big Book, I was told that alcoholism will drive us into insanity, suicide or death, and actions that hurt others, even take their life or drive them into insanity. The first two (insanity, suicide) haunted me for many years in the program. I was always and still am grateful to read this in the opening of Chapter 5:
Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path. Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program, usually men and women who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves. […..] There are those, too, who suffer from grave emotional and mental disorders, but many of them do recover if they have the capacity to be honest.
The bolded sentence which I heard or read out loud at every meeting I ever attended gave me deep hope that I would someday, somehow, by mastering the magic key of “honesty,” I would find and experience the peace and serenity and feeling of belonging that I so desperately sought since being a very young child. I was from the onset one of those bewildered human beings, confused by the words and behaviors of the human beings around me, not understanding what my place was or where I belonged. (I blamed my alcoholic family for this for decades but truthfully my feelings were in depth about a longing for unity with Creation; more later).
Honesty, it turned out, was a tough one. With my limited scope of how to be a human being, I interpreted it to mean telling the truth no matter what or whose feelings I hurt or toes I stepped on. I was like the child who wants top marks for being that perfect student. Then I took notice of the saying on the back of AA anniversary coins of old, “To Thine Own Self Be True.” The phrase was first coined by a philosopher I admire deeply, Frederic Nietzsche, and in full, it reads:
“To Thine Own Self and Way be True.”
But who was I and what was my Way? With my limited scope of how to be a human being and my limited understanding of the human condition, I thought at first it meant living up to the expectations I had for and of myself, finally, unshackled from the compulsion to drink and the torment of active alcoholism. With zeal, I launched myself in my new life. I obtained degrees, tried out professional careers, finally achieved a position of stature. I had Power, Prestige and Money!
And I was still miserable inside, alienated from myself, full of internal conflict and emotional pain. I had moments of peace and serenity and I held onto those as proof I was working a good program (along with my attendance at AA meetings and service I did). Growing up in an alcoholic family, I knew how to put out a very good image. I also knew I had to work the program with greater sincerity – honesty! – but try as I may, I couldn’t complete a third round of going to the steps – I would stall at Step Four every time! Self-will was a formidable and dishonest foe.
I then hit in 2014 an emotional, physical, and spiritual rock bottom. All the Power, Prestige and Money gone in a pile up of illnesses and misfortunes in the space of 6 years. My worse fear came true: I ended up in a psychiatric ward for a week with some psychiatric and medical 14 diagnoses. I had become totally neurotoxic, literally and figuratively.
I look back 3 years later now as I find myself on the threshold of doing that third and so elusive 4th Step after almost 15 years of trying. I can say sincerely that everything that happened was in perfect Divine Order. This walk through life has been my Way. The breakdown was a breakthrough. Grace and Mercy were with me in the darkest hour such that I did not kill myself or end up locked up permanently. I came out to Arizona to detoxify body, mind, and soul. Finally, rising from the Phoenix’s ashes (near Phoenix in Sedona ha ha), I can for the first time in my life humble myself to a depth never before possible such that I can be me exactly as I AM in full honesty.
And it feels so truly good!
I am so grateful I hung in there and I am so grateful to AA for its powerful wisdom and for those that have tenaciously walked this Road Less Travelled before me.
Many blessings and thank you to all of you,