By Mikey J.
I had come to a very dark place at about nine years into my recovery. I was on a terrible dry-drunk that didn’t seem like it would ever go away and I decided that my only way out was to kill myself. Drinking was not an option for me because I knew from going to meetings most of my adult life that relapse always made my situation worse, never better. Death would at least end the suffering. I purchased the items necessary to complete the job but in a moment of complete desperation and insanity, I decided to go to a meeting. That was the lowest point in my recovery so far.
In that meeting I decided that I should give the program one last chance. I had been working the program according to Mikey and had stayed sober, but I never really could say that I had been rocketed to the fourth dimension that the book describes. I realized for the second time in my recovery (the first time was right before I picked up my last white chip) that if I continued to do what I always had done then I would continue to get the same exact results I always got. This time I would work the Steps as if my life depended on it, which of course it did. My next stop was suicide so I decided to be completely self-honest this time.
I really looked at myself without filters. It was in that moment of truth that I admitted out loud something I had never shared with anyone in the fellowship before: “I simply do not believe in God.” That was what had held me back for so long. It was the part of the program that I always ignored. When I admitted to myself the actual truth, that no matter how much I tried or pretended to believe in God, I just didn’t, it opened a whole new world for me.
I started looking at what was actually happening when AAs talked about God as their “Higher” power. I never understood when people would say “Thy will be done, not mine”. How do you know what God’s will is? I knew that nobody actually got an email from the Almighty telling them that they should be nicer to their neighbor or that they should treat the jerk on the subway with more compassion. What they probably did was imagine what a supreme and all loving being would do, then they tried to do that. In AA you’ll hear us talking about “doing the next right thing”, and I believe this is what AAs that believe in God are really doing when they “do God’s will.” They simply figure out what the right thing is and they try to do it.
This new insight drew me back to the Big Book. It seemed that I had been reading it as a Shakespearian play rather than a textbook. I needed to focus on what was really going on and translate it so I could understand it. Without really knowing what I had done, the Steps finally started to make sense! The Second Step is all about finding a power that I could draw strength from. Using a doorknob as that power, (why it’s always a doorknob I’ll never know), wasn’t practical. A doorknob can’t help me with resentments and fear, but what could? AAs sometimes say that God “and the people in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous” keep them sober and more importantly, sober and sane. The collective experience of the recovering drunks that seemed to have it all together became a part of my “greater power”.
I started to think about things that were greater (or more powerful) than me that could help me be free of the emotional suffering that caused me to believe that ending it all was a brilliant plan. I turned to Google to find that answer and then it hit me. Google was a power greater than myself. If I needed to fix my leaking sink or find a cure for foot fungus, getting on my knees and talking to my bedspread was not going to help, but a good Google search could lead me to something that could! The floodgates opened wide.
What else? The law. If I follow the law I probably won’t spend any more time in jail or get fined for running people off the road that cut me off. My doctor. If I follow her advice and actually eat right and get plenty of exercise I’d probably feel a whole lot better. This was getting pretty awesome! This was going to actually work! Step Three is just deciding to work my new program and reminding myself on a daily basis that I’ve made that decision. Just thinking about that milestone in my recovery still gives me goose bumps. It was only the beginning though. The more I searched for my greater power and the more I relied on that power, the more I started to actually change. I finally understood pertinent idea C in “How It Works” – that God could and would if he were sought.
The more I searched for and plugged into this power the more my problems disappeared. I turned back to the Steps. Step Six is all about becoming ready to remove the things in myself that cause unmanageability in my life. I paid close attention to what was actually happening in me when I would feel restless, irritable, or discontented. I’ll give you a great example. Have you ever been sitting in a meeting and someone goes on and on and on about something you don’t think is appropriate or helpful? You get fidgety and uncomfortable in your chair? You start looking at other people and saying to yourself “Will someone please shut this guy up” or you start looking at the chairperson as if to say “DO SOMETHING!” That right there is judgment, ego, and a serious lack of compassion.
So what do we do about it? For me, Step Seven is all about doing something about it. Whenever I start to judge people, I talk to my sponsor about it. He ever so gently reminds me that I have no right to judge anyone and that maybe there’s a good reason that person I’m judging is the way he is. So I work on compassion. I try to incorporate compassion into my daily life and all of a sudden I realize I’m comfortable being in a meeting when someone pulls out a poem to read or talks about the boil on their butt. The judgment is gone. I suddenly realize that my program of action is doing for me what I could not seem to do for myself. Simply trying not to get angry in a situation like that provided me with some relief. Why settle for relief when what I really want is freedom? Working the Seventh Step – being as compassionate as I can be – gives me that freedom.
I could write an entire book on the Eleventh Step and how silent meditation has been the most life-changing tool I’ve ever known but for the sake of brevity I’ll move on to my spiritual awakening. I always had a problem with the word “spiritual” because of the word “spirit”, which to me means the nonphysical part of a person manifested as an apparition after their death, or a supernatural being. It was a newcomer in the meeting I would eventually start that cleared that up for me. He said to me, “Have you ever heard of ‘team spirit?’ When the team wins there’s camaraderie and support but when the team loses there is encouragement, compassion, and hope. My definition of ‘spirit’ is the part of me that is the seat of emotion and character, my true self.” He could have slapped me with a tuna fish at that moment and I would have been less shocked than I was when he said those words. That completely made sense!
I started to focus on what my true self was (Step Six) and what I needed to do to become the man I wanted to be (Step Seven). That is what I mean when I said I’ve had a spiritual awakening. I look at the events in my life with less of a filter now. I am no longer the same person I was at nine years sober wanting to die. I’m going on fifteen years now and I’ve been given a completely new life. The promises not only have come true for me, they continue to come true in completely different and exiting ways. I’ve found a new freedom and a new happiness and that was only possible by working the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous – without God. The fourth dimension is pretty cool.
About the Author, Mikey J
Mikey J is currently living in the fourth dimension of existence which surprisingly is in Orlando, Florida. He’s been sober since 2-22-2002 and is grateful AA gave him a second personality, one he uses to clear away the wreckage of the first. He is the founder of Our Mostly Agnostic Group Of Drunks, is frequently wrong, but rarely in doubt.
The audio story was narrated and recorded by Len R. from Jasper, Georgia. Len is interested in starting a secular AA meeting in his area. If you would like to join him, please send an email to email@example.com.