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The Toothache

There was a little boy in the Fourth Grade who was a really good baseball player.

The big baseball game is tomorrow and the coach says, “Now Johnny, it’s absolutely essential that you get eight hours of sleep tonight so that you’re well rested for tomorrow.”

So the boy goes home, gets to bed early, and wakes up after only four hours sleep because he has the beginnings of a little toothache. The little toothache gives him an occasional twinge of slight pain. The little boy thinks, “I should call my mom, she’ll come in and give me some aspirin, and I’ll be back to sleep in no time.”

He knows that is what he should do, but he doesn’t do it. Instead of doing that, he waits to see if the pain is going to go away by itself. He waits a little while and the twinges begin to get a little more painful and a little more frequent. He thinks once again that he should call his mom, but he plays this “let’s wait and see” game for two and a half hours, until he realizes that it won’t go away. Finally, he calls his mom, gets the aspirin, and goes back to sleep. When he gets up in the morning he’s only had five hours sleep and doesn’t do very well at the game.

So the question is, why didn’t he call his mom right away? Why would he delay two and a half hours and then call his mom? The answer is actually quite simple. He knows that his mom will take care of him by bringing some aspirin, but he also knows that she won’t stop there.

The next day when he’s at the ball game she’ll make a dental appointment. He’ll go to the dentist’s office and the dentist will ask, “What is the matter?”

The little boy will explain that there is some pain in a certain tooth.

“Oh, we can fix that,” says the dentist, “and while you’re here, we’re going to look at every tooth in your mouth.”

The dentist then calls in the dental assistant, takes some x-rays, and when he comes back he let’s the boy know that there are other teeth with problems. The little boy doesn’t get out of there until he has perfect teeth. The little boy didn’t want perfect teeth, he just wanted two aspirins for the tooth that was hurting. That’s all he wanted. That’s why he didn’t call his mom right away.

And so it is was with most of us when we first came to the rooms of AA. We didn’t come to take a bunch of Steps that would change our life We didn’t come to turn our will and our life over to the care of some God. We had no desire to do a massive inventory of our life and then become entirely ready to set right our wrongs. We just wanted to stop the pain so we could get on with our life —  the same as that little boy just wanting a couple of aspirins for his toothache.

The only real help that can work is Perfect Help. So when in A.A. we ask for help, we’re going to get Perfect Help from The Great Physician, the only One who can truly remove our pain. But we’re not sure if it is Perfect Help we really want, and our ego has a tendency to keep us from getting the help we need. Our ego fights us every step of the way as we begin to see that we have failed to take an honest look at ourselves, and what is most important in life.

When we come into A.A. and take the Steps, we are forced to face the clash between our human side (that is, the ego or our lower side) and our spiritual side (our Higher Power). All we came here for was to stop the pain. But the only way to stop the pain is to engage, to the best of our ability, in the struggle against our ego, and try to become a better person by being guided by our spiritual side, our Higher Power — the One we come to know and call God.

“When we became alcoholics, crushed by a self-imposed crisis we could not postpone or evade, we had to fearlessly face the proposition that either God is everything or else He is nothing. God either is, or He isn’t. What was our choice to be?” Alcoholics Anonymous, pg 53


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