Monday, July 19, 2004

Step One: Powerlessness and Pride Continued

To see my other stepwork online visit Index of Stepwork.

The breaking point for me came on a nightly basis quite a while. It was constantly losing the argument within my head.  That process took years.  Literally through the last four years of my drinking, almost every single night was that same fight:  I don’t want to drink tonight.  I will not drink tonight.  Unless I was physically unable (and even then if I could convince my wife to get some alcohol) those nights always ended the same way: drunk.
It actually seemed that the harder I resisted the urge, the more likely I was to fail and drink.  The more I fought alcohol, the more I needed the alcohol.  Resistance made me angry, agitated, frightened and lost.  My habitual way of solving feelings of anger, agitation, fear and loss was drinking.  Catch-22.
One mistake I made was to blame god for what was happening to me.  I have heard it said that god breaks us to make us receptive to him.  I do not think that is the case.  We break ourselves.  The Goddess has given each of us an individual personality and free will.  She will let us hurl ourselves off any cliff we choose as often as we want, even to the point of our death or the deaths of others.  That is part of free will, the responsibility and the cost.  I can’t blame Her for what happened to me.
Never, in all of my drinking, did the Goddess pour me a drink.  Never once.  I made the choice to pour the drink for many years.  At some point during those years, I lost the power of choice.  From that time forward, my disease poured the drink for me.  No Divine power stepped in to do that.  My sick mind, obsessed with the idea that alcohol would give me the sense of ease and comfort I needed to survive, made me drink. 
Now my mind will protest that this is still the fault of the Goddess.  She made me and if I am genetically predisposed to alcoholism, if alcoholism is truly a disease, then the Creator is still cruel to locked me into this prison.  This is a falsehood.  I was indeed locked into an alcoholic prison.  But I could have gotten out anytime I wanted, by simply asking for help. 
Willingness is the key.  By admitting I cannot on my own control my drinking I have lifted the burden from my shoulders.  This alone is not enough to stop drinking however.  Many alcoholics reach this point and do feel the relief of not being in control, yet continue to drink until they die.  When I lose enough pride, when I am humbled enough, I ask for help and by doing so, I am set free.  Now I am ready to accept power from outside of myself to help me overcome alcohol. 
This is the bare beginning of Step One.  The challenge now is to continue that lifelong process of surrender.  I must carry over the concept of powerlessness into all areas of my life. 
I am absolutely powerless over other people, places and things.  I cannot make my coworkers have a good attitude.  I cannot force the Canadian government to allow the importation of our products.  I cannot make my wife happy.  As a matter of fact, I am not even responsible for trying to do those things.
This does not mean I am allowed to simply give up, stop trying.  The Goddess does not expect me to be a passive sponge absorbing the garbage of the world around me without taking action to protect myself. 
So what actions can I take if I am powerless?  How can I surrender, and still fight?  How do I turn weakness into strength?
If I am powerless over alcohol, I can work the program  of Alcoholics Anonymous to the best of my ability.  That will put me in touch with a power greater than myself, a power that can keep me sober.  Actually, that is only reason the program of Alcoholics Anonymous even exists.
I cannot make my coworkers have a good attitude, but I can have a good attitude.  Sometimes, simply interacting with my positive attitude seems to improve their attitude.  Often I simply avoid interacting with the truly negative people, or minimize my interactions with them.
I can ask the Canadian government to help me get our products in and surprisingly, when I do, they are willing to help.
I can be there for my wife, to comfort and encourage.  Our relationship improves as I do so. 
It is hard to explain.  Surrender means giving up fights I cannot win and moving to battles I can win.  As time has passed, I have learned that often the struggle I cannot win and the challenge I can overcome are the exact same situation.  It is just a matter of being willing to view it from a new perspective, to approach it with a different set of tools.
One great place to practice powerlessness is in rush hour traffic.  I am slowly learning to surrender the idea that I will get anywhere faster by speeding, cutting in and out of traffic, etc.  Since I have stopped trying to do those things I have been able to observe others doing those things.  Sometimes they get to a light and it is green and they actually get ahead of me.   Most times, however, despite all of their frantic maneuvering, they wind up getting nowhere.  So, today it is to my advantage to be powerless over traffic.  I am relaxed and I enjoy my drive, it is a time to think, to enjoy music and to be in communion with the Goddess.

A last note on powerlessness, alcoholism is a disease. It has been shown that alchoholics metabolize alcohol differently than non alcoholics, causing a physical craving for more alcohol after initial ingestion. There is also evidence that at least two or three separate genes play a role in alcoholism. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) is a good place to start research if you are interested.