What a difference a day made
Twenty-four little hours
Brought the sun and the flowers
Where there used to be rain
By Maria Grever and Stanley Adams
Not to get too carried away with things, but one day made all the difference, six years ago today. It’s hard to believe that so much has happened, from death to birth to endings and renewal and a whole new lease on life, and that I’ve seen it all sober.
Learning to take things one day at a time and learning to live without alcohol – those were the easy part. The hard part was learning to attain that sense of ease and comfort that alcohol used to bring me by instead using a few spiritual tools to give me serenity, and calmness, and grace, and the desire to stay stopped.
I have heard a few people at AA meetings recently who have been sober so long that they don’t seem to know what to say to newcomers these days. And some who, sadly enough, don’t even make the effort to reach out to the newcomer. I really, really try not to judge others, but it’s hard when I still see so much suffering in and out of the rooms.
For me, it was essential to get out of myself, to reach out wherever and whenever I could. I don’t always say the right thing. Newcomers often don’t relate to my story either. But unless I keep trying to carry the message, then it’s only a matter of when, and not if, I will drink again.
The St. Francis Prayer says it all for me – it has to be one of the most beautifully written passages of all time:
“Lord, make me a channel of thy peace – that where there is hatred, I may bring love – that where there is wrong, I may bring the spirit of forgiveness – that where there is discord, I may bring harmony – that where there is error, I may bring truth – that where there is doubt, I may bring faith – that where there is despair, I may bring hope – that where there are shadows, I may bring light – that where there is sadness, I may bring joy. Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort than to be comforted – to understand, than to be understood – to love, than to be loved. For it is by self-forgetting that one finds. It is by forgiving that one is forgiven. It is by dying that one awakens to Eternal Life. Amen.” Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, Page 99
In reading the paragraphs in the “Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions” which follow this prayer, which I first awakened to only last spring, I found serenity, and calmness, and grace. In practicing the 11th Step, I found that to bring love and forgiveness and harmony and honesty and hope to others, that I had to have them first myself.
“As though lying upon a sunlit beach, let us relax and breathe deeply of the spiritual atmosphere with which the grace of this prayer surrounds us. Let us become willing to partake and be strengthened and lifted up by the sheer spiritual power, beauty, and love of which these magnificent words are the carriers. Let us look now upon the sea and ponder what its mystery is; and let us lift our eyes to the far horizon, beyond which we shall seek all those wonders still unseen.” Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, Page 100
Because you see, I really don’t want to drink again. The Problem is that this disease really is cunning, baffling, and powerful, and that it will do everything possible to convince me that someday I will be able to drink normally again. And if I am to “practice the rest of A.A.’s program as enthusiastically as I could” (as suggested in Step 2), then I really don’t have a choice, except to follow the Solution as set out in the Big Book:
“There is a solution. Almost none of us liked the self-searching, the leveling of our pride, the confession of shortcomings which the process requires for its successful consummation. But we saw that it really worked in others, and we had come to believe in the hopelessness and futility of life as we had been living it. When, therefore, we were approached by those in whom the problem had been solved, there was nothing left for us but to pick up the simple kit of spiritual tools laid at our feet. We have found much of heaven and we have been rocketed into a fourth dimension of existence of which we had not even dreamed.” Big Book, Page 25
I never expected to stay sober, but I did. I never expected to find spirituality, but I did. I never expected to have such awesome friends, but I do. I never expected to experience true love, but I do now. And I don’t know what is waiting for me beyond that “far horizon”, beyond the sunset, but I’m Honest, Open, and Willing, and I don’t need great expectations to know that this is a far, far better life than the one I had while I was drinking.
And all because of that one day six years ago, when I stumbled into an AA meeting and asked for help. And help was freely given.
My name is Harry. I’m an alcoholic. And I’m grateful to be sober one more day.