What combination of sobriety, scripture and liturgy am I going to write about for this blogpost?
A new guy showed up at a meeting last week. The newcomer, a mechanic who had just gotten off work and who had half-moons of embedded grease under his fingernails and a patina of dust and sweat on his skin, had no idea what to expect. He knew he drank a pint of liquor and a dozen beers every night. He knew he had gotten into trouble with his family and with his boss, but he wasn’t in trouble with the law: he hadn’t lost his license or been arrested or ever been court-ordered to go to Alcoholics Anonymous. This was his first experience stepping into the halls.
Up to the podium came the next speaker—a big guy, a larger-than-life biker—a scraggly-bearded forty-something man, all leather and tattoos and Harley logos. This speaker talked about what it had been like, what happened, and what it was like now. He talked about promises coming true. He wept when he spoke of his gratitude to Alcoholics Anonymous for giving him a “life second to none.”
The newcomer turned to the stranger next to him and said, “I never knew there were other people who feel exactly the way I do.”
And so the conversation began.
At a retreat years ago, the priest said to those of us gathered there, “Conversion is gathering up the fragments of your life.”
That is what sobriety is: it is conversion to a totally new way of life. Leaving nothing behind, being ashamed of no part of our story but accepting each misstep and each bad choice as essential, we speak—we tell the story that will someday save the life of another alcoholic as we speak from whatever podium we are standing at.
And we are saved.
We learn we are not alone. We learn to value ourselves and bring honor back into our lives. By acknowledging—not judging—our stories and ourselves, we learn to accept responsibility for our actions and for their consequences.
As James writes in his epistle, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” Although in our apostolic, Episcopal tradition only a priest can confer absolution, James clearly states that the confession and the praying bring about the healing.
Our Twelve Step fellowships are oases of healing in our sin-parched world.
By speaking out loud and listening intently, we hear exactly what that newcomer heard: there are other people who feel exactly the way we do. More than anything, at meetings and through the wisdom of the program, each of us learns the truth that we are not alone. Not ever. Being sober means having our eyes opened more and more. Each day, each experience reveals to us another moment where we can see God within ourselves and in everyone else we meet along the way.
Thanks be to God.