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Getting Off Track in Recovery

"Meeting Makers Make It!"
(Overheard in a 12-Step Recovery Meeting)

Every time I hear someone in a 12-Step recovery meeting talk about why they relapsed, they claim it was because they stopped attending meetings. Never have I heard anyone get honest and say, "I stopped meeting with God on a regular basis" or "I let up on my prayer life" or "I stopped being of service to others."


Attending meetings are very helpful for those wanting to get sober. But meetings alone do not offer freedom from self-absorption.

What did the co-founders and pioneers say happened when they surrendered to God completely and unreservedly?
The great fact is just this, and nothing less: That we have had deep and effective spiritual experiences which have revolutionized our whole attitude toward life, toward our fellows and toward God's universe. The central fact of our lives today is the absolute certainty that our Creator has entered into our hearts and lives in a way which is indeed miraculous. He has commenced to accomplish those things for us which we could never do by ourselves.
If you are as seriously alcoholic as we were, we believe there is no middle-of-the-road solution. We were in a position where life was becoming impossible, and if we had passed into the region from which there is no return through human aid, we had but two alternatives: One was to go on to the bitter end, blotting out the consciousness of our intolerable situation as best we could; and the other, to accept spiritual help.
-- Alcoholics Anonymous, There Is A Solution, page 25

In the chapter, "More About Alcoholism" on page 35, we see what generally transpires when we put more faith in the program then we do in God.
Our first example is a friend we shall call Jim. This man has a charming wife and family. He inherited a lucrative automobile agency. He had a commendable World War record. He is a good salesman. Everybody likes him. He is an intelligent man, normal so far as we can see, except for a nervous disposition. He did no drinking until he was thirty-five. In a few years he became so violent when intoxicated that he had to be committed. On leaving the asylum he came into contact with us.
We told him what we knew of alcoholism and the answer we had found. He made a beginning. His family was re-assembled, and he began to work as a salesman for the business he had lost through drinking. All went well for a time, but he failed to enlarge his spiritual life.
In the book, Alcoholics Anonymous, there are several warnings about getting off-track spiritually.
"The spiritual life is not a theory. We have to live it." (page 83)
It is easy to let up on the spiritual program of action and rest on our laurels. We are headed for trouble if we do, for alcohol is a subtle foe. We are not cured of alcoholism. What we really have is a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition. Every day is a day when we must carry the vision of God's will into all of our activities. "How can I best serve Thee - Thy will (not mine) be done." These are thoughts which must go with us constantly. We can exercise our will power along this line all we wish. It is the proper use of the will. (page 85)
I stayed sober for two and a half years on sheer will power alone. I attended lots of meetings, put in many hours of service work, and went on many a 12-Step call. But the one thing I failed to do, was to completely surrender my life over to God. I only gave lip-service to both Him and "the program." As a result, nothing changed within me, and like Jim, I ended up succumbing once again to the desires of my flesh.
Remember that we deal with alcohol-cunning, baffling, powerful! Without help it is too much for us. But there is One who has all power-that One is God. May you find Him now!
Half measures availed us nothing. We stood at the turning point. We asked His protection and care with complete abandon.
-- Alcoholics Anonymous, How It Works, pages 58, 59


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