Step One: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol - that our lives had become unmanageable.
By most accounts I was managing my life as a father, husband and parish priest fairly well. I made all the appointments on my calendar. I made sure that the laundry was done, my son was off to school with lunch or money for lunch. I preached faithful and fairly orthodox sermons each Sunday. Somehow, in spite of my drinking, I seemed to be managing just fine, thank you very much.
Why, then, was I generally irritable and discontent? I managed to do all of the above fairly well, but there was a dimension lacking that I had found so palpable during seminary. I wasn’t enjoying my life very much. I had managed to get good grades, passed all seven areas of the General Ordination Exam with relative ease. It is easy now to recognize that my drinking was the problem. Until I managed to get my sorry self back into the program (Thanks Be To God!), I was existing. I was managing. I wasn’t really LIVING!
When I did find my way back to the basements of churches (without my collar for nearly the first year) I saw people that were doing more than managing their lives. They were living them. The reality of that, as God’s hope for me and for everyone, was to really live our lives. I remember a young woman from one of the halfway houses saying in a meeting that until she had found the program and really started working the steps, especially Step One, that she “felt like an understudy in her own life.”
The scales dropped from my eyes and I remembered Jesus saying in John’s Gospel, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (10:10) I was trying to manage life when God’s invitation was to live abundantly!
Once I gave myself over to the will of God for my life and focused on ‘doing the next right thing’ and being true to the self that “hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3), I was never going to live my life, much less really enjoy it.
Little by slow, I gave up the management of my life to God and his purpose for me in any given circumstance. Lo and behold, I really started to enjoy my life without having to go to the effort of controlling people, places, things and events and managing the expectations of anyone other than God for me. I started to find freedom and peace that I hadn’t known in a long time.
There are still plenty of rough patches and bumps, but hey, that’s life. A life that’s lived as opposed to one that I try and manage. I’ll take the former any day!