“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.” (p. 25)
“To be doomed to an alcoholic death or to live on a spiritual basis are not always easy alternatives to face.” (p. 44)
Why do we need to live on a spiritual basis? First, because we’re inherently spiritual beings. More specifically, because the alternative is to live by self-propulsion, which may work fine for normies but for alcoholics invariably leads to a “choice” to drink, because a disease has commandeered our decision-making process.
What’s so great about the steps? When we first come in, we’re in a state of spiritual starvation because we’ve shrouded ourselves in a world of lies. We don’t think so, of course. But the fact is, we’ve made up stories – about who did what, why, and how – that simply do not square with reality. The steps have two main purposes: to remove the layers of delusional resentment blocking us from god and to encourage us to grow in connection with that god (who, by the way, removes the drink problem).
Totally unrelated to AA is Seattle IANDS, which features speakers who, like me, have temporarily died and/or left their bodies and brought back memories from the other side. One speaker I heard a few years ago encountered god as Jesus – as do most Christians (we see what we think of as god). At that time she was a teen speeding through East LA in bad company. In the split second before an impending car accident, time stopped. After she refused a demon at her feet who urged her to come with him and get even with everyone who’d ever wronged her, she left her body. A guardian angel all but pulled her skyward, where she encountered a swarthy, bearded figure in a robe “of rough cloth somebody had sewn by hand” – whom she knew to be Jesus.
Here’s the best part: Jesus went to embrace her, but just before the embrace made a face of subdued revulsion and turned away. It was at that point she realized she was coated from head to toe in some utterly disgusting filth, something “like diarrhea.” Jesus telepathically told her these were her accumulated resentments. The next parts of her NDE involved ways of shedding them, of learning love as her purpose on earth.
In all the NDE stories I’ve heard, complex spiritual truths are condensed into vivid, resounding images that capture complexities at a glance. This girl, angry and on the brink of joining gang life, was coated in shit. Her resentments repelled god’s love. Yes, her NDE permanently altered the trajectory of her life (today she’s a nurse), but we alcoholics can learn the same lesson without dying – it’s right there in our Big Book:
“…[T]his business of resentment is infinitely grave. We found that it is fatal. For when harboring such feelings we shut ourselves off from the sunlight of the Spirit. The insanity of alcohol returns and we drink again. And with us, to drink is to die” (p.66).
In my own NDE, which I experienced as an atheist, I plunged into the sun as the source of all life – i.e. the closest thing I knew to god’s embrace – and was surrounded by the Light, a love and bliss more potent than words can convey. Lately, in going through difficult times, I’ve often found myself praying to feel just a little bit of that Light again. Please. Just a little.
What I was not doing was working my steps. I didn’t feel like it. For about six months I’d been not writing a 4th step started on my ex-boyfriend, and more recently on former tenants. If I was carrying any resentments at all, there was certainly no ire behind them, so why dwell on them with a full inventory? Why waste the time? I tend not to see what the steps have to do with the Light, heaven, etc.
Recently, however, my sponsor gently informed me the time had come for me finish that thing and read her my 5th step. She set a date one week out. BAM! So, reluctantly, I dug into the work, listing everyone’s “offenses” and why they hurt me, but then tracing out how I, myself, helped to bring about each one. I met my sponsor’s deadline for the same reason I still go to meetings: what I don’t want to do, I know deep down, is what I really need to grow in sobriety.
I read her my fifth step. A wise woman, she pointed out my current character defects:
- not seeing the truth because I fear loss and prefer my concocted stories
- not speaking my truth out of fear of conflict or loss
- not honoring Louisa – failure to act on my own boundaries
These were lesser forms of my same old defects of dishonesty, selfish manipulation, and victimhood from 5th steps past. Lesser – but they’re still diarrhea! Since then I’ve prayed, not to feel the Light, but for help releasing my defects and completely forgiving those I’d felt wronged me. For two weeks, I’ve been repeating out loud, “I completely forgive you, [name], for anything I thought you did.”
Guess what’s happened?
Thinking of my mom the other day (who was not on the inventory), I suddenly appreciated her in a whole new light: I loved her more ever. Same with my friends, my dog and chickens, and even my messy home. It’s everywhere, this stuff to love! Trees! Chihuahuas! Passersby! Loving stuff, I sometimes feel swept into the frothy fringe of something… amazing. It’s a glow, a tantalizing giddiness at getting to be here: a tiny taste of the Light.
I’ve shed one more layer of shit. It works only if we do it, this 202 word pathway to a beautiful life!
“We have found much of heaven and we have been rocketed into a fourth dimension of existence of which we had not even dreamed.” (p.25)