“And they left for their country by another route.” This is a quotation from a gospel in which we are told the story of three wise men who came to seek the Messiah and afterwards they returned to their country by a different path.
What has this got to do with AA and Recovery? A lot. At least from my viewpoint. I came into this program with all kind of opinions and “facts.” In my ignorance I believed I knew what I was letting myself into. After all, any idiot can stop drinking. It’s no big deal.
What I learned was information I already knew but I did not understand it. And because I was too busy being a ‘big shot” I was missing everything I should have been learning. I had to begin a journey on a different route. What I needed was a “metanoia” a “change of heart.” It took almost five years of a dry drunk to get to this new road home.
Coming into the tent of Alcoholics Anonymous led me to one group of 12 Steps and then I realized that I needed to visit another program – Alanon. If this was not enough, by the middle of my fourth year I was presented with the book Adult Children of Alcoholics and all of it applied to me.
Over the years I have been active in A.A. I have, where appropriate, encouraged individuals to work an Alanon program. However, what I have come to realize is that the majority of us in A.A. grew up in homes where there was active addiction of one kind or another. We are literally adult children of alcoholics.
Like the Wise Men, I was looking for something outstanding, something that was different. What I found was something simple; Go to meetings, Read the Big Book and Talk to your Sponsor (and don’t drink). It’s that simple- like a little child.
As the child grew, his parents and others discovered his knowledge was such that it turned a religion on its head with simplicity; he made it make a difference, not in the world of politics or international relations, but rather within oneself.
Bill Wilson discovered that by talking to other drunks he did not drink. Then he met one who believed him and then another. Over the next few years, others joined them from around the country. Sharing their experience, strength and hope they discovered that this included “house-cleaning,” making amends, learning humility, finding a Higher Power, helping others. And as the numbers grew and the program grew like an Irish family, there was needed Traditions and modes of operation.
“Keep it simple” became the mode of operation. The road I had been looking for was one in which “I” would be center stage; one in which “I” would not only be important but also indispensable.
The road by which I returned was one of humility. I needed to learn to ask for directions. I learned to ask for help. This was a much different road than the selfish and self-centered road I had walked most of my life, even long before I picked up that first drink.
The road by which I returned to find myself was filled with wounded-healers who knew how I felt, knew how I thought, accepted me long before I accepted myself, forgave myself or loved myself.
The road by which I returned was not religious but spiritual, filled with life and love, compassion and understanding.
I came looking for a Bonfire and found a match that lit a fire within me; it slowly burned till it ignited and let me see the light that was already there. Such was the joy I discovered and wanted to sing “Go tell it on the mountain” but all that was needed was to say “I’ve been there. I know how you feel. Tell me how I can help you.”
Séamus D. is an Episcopal priest in the Greater New Orleans area.