“The humility generated in recovery is the ability to admit that when it comes to the core questions about who you are and why you are here on this planet the only honest answer is, “I don’t know.” “Humility…is living the question without settling on an answer.”(1)
“Can you tell me…?” That was sufficient for me to get into a history lesson. If the question was “Is it going to rain today?” The answer might be a lesson on condensation or climate change. The deeper I got into my addiction, the surer I was of who I was, what I wanted, what I knew. Sadly, that was only on the outside. On the inside I lived in fear of the answer being wrong; of people discovering I didn’t know what I was talking about; was stupid, a con-artist. I can still remember being told: “You don’t have to give a lecture in order to answer a question.” I had no idea I was doing that either. I was just so afraid, I had to talk.
I live in so much doubt about self, others, God, I had to have an answer; I had to let others see that I knew what was going on; why things were, etc. I had to have some kind of an answer in order to look good, to seem intelligent.
My fears caused me to read a lot (something I didn’t learn to do till I was a senior in High School. That’s another story.) I was driven by fear; fear of God, fear of being seen as a con-artist, as being stupid, fear of “not knowing” the correct answer.
In early recovery I highlighted and memorized lines in the Big Book in order to quote them at the next meeting so that I could be seen as being intelligent; “with it,” “committed to recovery.” I read as much as I could get about the history of A.A., its spirituality, etc. All head knowledge.
One day I was told, “You know you don’t have to know everything.” I responded, “that’s true.” But I told myself: “If you only knew me, you’d know I have to have the right answer.”
And then came the time, a few years into the program, I finally could relax and say, “I don’t know. I haven’t got a clue.” Freedom. Breathe deep and relax. The world didn’t come to an end and lightening didn’t strike. It’s okay not to know (and I think it’s okay to say, “I don’t know” in order to let another answer the question. I don’t have to be the one to answer the questions. There are times it feels good to say; “You ought to ask….”
“Humility…is living the question without settling on an answer.” I once read that “the only true answer is another question.” That made perfect sense. Each answer leads me to something bigger, something deeper, something greater.
“Why is God not mentioned in step two?” The answer to this led to me find an answer that made sense for me which, in turn, helped me turn my will and my life over to the care of God as I understood Her. “Why can’t I go to confession to a priest?” This led to a deeper understanding of step four and a real healing in step five.
And then there were the questions I have to live with: “I’m an alcoholic because?” “Why me, not my sister?” “Why is it that some people relapse, or relapse and die after years of sobriety?” “Why is there not a cure for this disease?” “Why do people…..”
So many questions for which, as yet, there are no answers or even partial answers. With sobriety I have learned to live with questions and be comfortable in not only not knowing answers but that I don’t have to have an answer. Sobriety brought me peace of mind.
(1) RECOVERY- the sacred art. Rami Shapiro. 43