To my mind, the greatest mystery in A.A. is “How the fuck does this thing work?” It shouldn’t be a mystery, right? I mean at the beginning of every meeting they read “How It Works” from the 5th chapter of the Big Book, but I’m here to tell you, that ain’t how it works. Every swingin’ dick that ever picked up a white chip heard that. But they ain’t here today.
It starts off with “Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path.” So maybe the problem is that most of those people weren’t thorough. That’s a good answer. Except that it doesn’t hold water. Stop and think about that person you looked up to early in your sobriety — that person who was Happy, Joyous and Free and had a great sponsor and walked the walk — and ended up getting drunk. We all have one or two of those people burned in our brain. It shocked us when they went back out, because they had it more together — had been more thorough — than we had.
Think about that person. Envision them. Remember their easy laugh, and how much they inspired you. Remember how you wished your sobriety was as good as theirs. Remember how when you looked at them you felt they were in touch with their God, and how everything was going to be alright for them.
And then look at your author: a spiritually bereft man without an ounce of humility — or a single reason to be proud — who has managed to achieve double digit sobriety. I assure you I was not more “thorough” than they were. Look at both of us and tell me again that you know “How It Works”. I am on the inside of that joke and I am quite sure that *I* do not know.
You might be one of those people the book talks about in the 10th step promises who “recoil from [alcohol] as from a hot flame“. God bless you! Maybe when they read from “More About Alcoholism” and say: “Physicians who are familiar with alcoholism agree there is no such thing as making a normal drinker out of an alcoholic. Science may one day accomplish this, but it hasn’t done so yet.” you think to yourself: “I wouldn’t drink, even if I could! Why, if they came up with a pill — or a potion — that could allow me to drink normally I still wouldn’t do it!”
May I be the first to say: “Go fuck yourself!” You are a rarity. An oddity. Or delusional.
I think about drinking all the time. Thank God (and I mean that literally) it’s not an obsession, but if I get a new girlfriend it seems like a good idea to have a few drinks with her. When she dumps me 2 weeks later — or a girl I’ve spent hundreds of hours chatting with comes all the way down from North Florida and doesn’t even see me — it sounds like a good idea again. When I get a job, or lose a job, or succeed at something, or fail at it…. Drinking always sounds like a good idea.
One thing I remember when that happens — and it’s not earth-shaking — is that even though it sounds like a good idea tonight, if I *do* drink there’s a 1% chance that tomorrow I will regret it. But never have I woken up in the morning, held my head in my hands and cried, because I didn’t have a drink the night before. I have never had to tell myself that my life took a huge shit for one reason: “I didn’t get drunk last night“. So when my mind tells me it’s a good idea, I tell my mind that it’s lying to me.
I suspect most people in A.A. are like me. They would drink again if they thought they could get away with it. (And I don’t mean “Nobody will know!” That’s some stupid talk! If you drank like I did, people are going to know.) What I mean is that if they thought they knew “How It Works” then they could go out and get loaded tonight. Or on their birthday. Or when someone (or sometwo) close to them dies. They could get drunk and feel that release. They could have a few hours of comfort — and maybe sweet oblivion — then tomorrow they could sober up again because they know “How It Works”.
But they don’t. They realize that this is a gift from God that not everyone is lucky enough to receive. And not everyone who receives it is able to keep it. I know that if I went out for one night of drinking, within 6 months you would be scraping my brains off the ceiling, because my life got so damn bad I could not take it one more day, and I could not stop drinking. I realize that my sobriety is a gift — beyond parallel — that I don’t deserve. I didn’t work harder, wasn’t more thorough or honest — sure as hell wasn’t smarter — than all the people who have come and gone. I am still here because of the Grace of God. Simple.
Some people ask God every day to keep them sober. I don’t do that. I find it insulting and childish. I asked God one time — begged Him — to take away that thing inside me that was killing me. He took it away. My job — every day — is to not put it back inside me. Simple.
August 7th, 1999 I bought two 6-packs of beer. At about 7:30 I was halfway through my 6th beer when I had a moment of clarity. I realized I was done drinking. I walked down to my neighbor’s dock and gave him and his friend the remaining 3 Heinekens and 3 St. Pauli Girls. He was real confused when I told him I quit drinking. He said to “just put ’em in the fridge, save ’em for tomorrow!”. The concept of sobriety was beyond him, and I had no desire to illuminate him.
They say you never forget your first Girl. I hope I never forget my last.
13 years ago this morning I woke up relatively clear headed. I have woken up sober every day since, and have not had a drink before I went to bed again. One day at a time. I assure you this is not something I could have done by myself. This is not something I “learned how to do“. I don’t know “How It Works”.