Thursday, February 17, 2011


I’ll skip the drunkalog here except to say that I was

a pretty desperate drunk

when I came into the rooms.

I needed help. I wanted to stop drinking. This thing called

Spirituality, however, was the farthest thing from my mind

I didn’t need Spirituality; I needed sobriety. At the time, I didn’t realize the correlation between the two.

Yet in completing the 12 steps I

had what we call that “spiritual

awakening”, that change in my

character that the program brings about. And with that change came the emotional and mental sobriety that the Big Book told me I’d receive if I thoroughly followed the

steps. I never had the “flash of light” experience, but rather the educational variety of spiritual awakening that William James refers to. It happened over time, and is happening to this day.

I’ve got a problem here though in that I can’t honestly define what spirituality is. I often hear in the rooms that it’s a

personal relationship with my higher power. I suppose that’s part of it. I think the essence of spirituality involves the concept of a higher power, but the

overall spiritual experience is more than just that. I had a hell of a personal relationship with God after a quart of vodka, or at least I thought so at the time.

Bill Wilson writes “Most of us

think this awareness of a Power

greater than ourselves is the essence of spiritual experience.” Indeed. But that doesn’t solve my problem. What is spirituality, or at least how do I explain my spirituality? I’ve thought long and hard about this over

the past few years and have

concluded that I can’t define it,

nor can I explain it. I tried to cheat and Googled the

definition of spirituality.

There are about 4,6000,000

hits – so take your pick. An explanation of spirituality? About the same. No help there.

So I guess it’s got to be a personal thing, best described as the destination reached through a journey through the 12 steps. For each of us it’s going to be different. I’ve been able to

reconstruct the process of my spiritual awakening to some degree. I can also explain the character changes that occurred. That’s probably the closest I’ll ever come to being able to explaining what my spirituality is all about.

As I said in Part I, my biggest issue was self. I was my problem. And I say that in retrospect as I certainly didn’t know it before I came to AA.

I think started my journey in the

first two steps. I admitted I was

powerless. A crack in the armor

had appeared. For once, I had a

problem that I couldn’t fix. I needed help. I believed that a power greater than me existed. Ah! I was starting to remember the stuff from all that religious education. And not only

did that power exist, but it was

capable of restoring me to sanity.

Damn! The chink in the armor

started to widen. The self began

to crumble. The journey had begun. And not only could this power do for me what I could not do for myself, it would!

All I had to do was ask.

My first lesson in humility. I was an imperfect human being after all.

Then I had to get up close and personal with my imperfections. I had to do a personal moral inventory. A fearless and thorough moral inventory. Facing that scared the shit out of me. For the first time in my life, I had to take an honest look at myself and I was afraid.

I did not want to face the character defects that defined me, for in doing so my self image, my great ego, would be shattered. But I knew that if I was ever going to get and keep

this sobriety I so badly wanted, this inventory was essential. I was my problem. I had to be fixed. And in working through this agonizing (at the time) process, my spiritual awakening continued. Baby steps sometimes, but always moving forward.

After I worked (and reworked and reworked) my way through this inventory, I finally had an honest picture of myself.And it weren’t pretty. My second lesson in humility was not a pleasant

one. Damn ugly, in fact. Bad enough I had to discover all these defects, wrongs, shortcomings,

whatever. I then had to

admit the damn things! To myself, no problem. And God already knew them, so again no problem. But another human being? My humility was getting a graduate degree.

As painful as this process

seemed (and at the time it was pretty damn painful), it had to be done. I couldn’t change my character and experience a spiritual awakening unless I knew what needed to be changed. And here again I’m faced with my powerlessness. I needed to turn to my higher power for some help.

I needed to rid myself of all my

character defects. I couldn’t even

hold on to a few that I sort of enjoyed.(character assassination comes to mind).

Not only did I have to ask Him again for help, but I had to humbly ask Him. My humility was doing post-doctoral work.

(Stick around. More will be revealed in Part III)


  1. This topic of spirituality is a good one and was the topic for discussion for a meeting I chaired week before last.

    I had much the same experiences and realizations as Joe, except that I did have the Blue-Light Special plug-your-finger-into-a-light-socket type Power experiences.

    I also came to the realization that I'm not God... nor am I His Annointed Christ, nor am I Mr. A.A., nor am I the Original Sinner. I'm just an ex-drunk on a sober path.

    I've also had the educational variety of spiritual awakenings. Guess what? I've had spiritual experiences apart and aside from my work in A.A.! Wow! How about that? These experinces kept me sober from booze for a time.

    But just like in A.A., they don't last. That's right. You can have a spiritual experience and be separated from booze. But I wouldn't go patting yourself down on the back for the rest of you life either. I cannot live today on yesterday's food. What was once a great experience yesterday becomes truth and knowledge today. I know. That's how the hog ate the cabbage. My ego will eventually turn my virtue into my vice and before you know it, it's mine and I know the answer.

    This is why we (my group) do steps yearly. For one thing, it works. It ain't a big deal, we just do it. You'll never hear me saying, "Back when I got sober..." Back when you got sober what? You used to fart? You used to steal? You used to lie?

    How can you tell when an alcoholic is lying, btw? That's right. His lips are moving.

    If you're on a spiritual experience/awakening, milk that fucker for all it's worth. Don't piss it away and don't brag on and on about it. But at the same time, "Don't hide your light under a bushel."

  2. Exactly, Patrick! There's a spiritual awakening, I like to call it a character change, and a spiritual life. It's living the spiritual experience that keeps me sober. It's practicing the principles in all my affairs; doing the steps on a regular basis (I do them with my sponsor). This shit doesn't end with a 12th step graduation ceremony. No diploma here. But I get ahead of myself. Stay tuned for Part III.

  3. Something I'd like to note about the awakening; My peers in A.A. noticed a difference in me long before I did. They said I was doin' good and should keep it up.

    So I did.

    But I'm of the belief that the ego grows along with me.

  4. "But I'm of the belief that the ego grows with me."

    I was telling a guy that last night, talking about how the ego reinvents and rebuilds itself and I'm not even aware of it happening. I think maybe that is what being an extreme example of self-will run riot even though he doesn't think so means. He usually doesn't even know it.

    I like yours & Joe's stories. I'll post mine when I get time. No time for that right now. Going to go 5th Step this inventory I've written and then return home and be quiet for an hour. Tomorrow I am hearing a 5th Step.

  5. There's ego and there's ego. I like to think that my ego has been overhauled by working the steps, and gained through this journey some much needed humility. Practicing the principles helps my ego maintain a positive, spiritual character, much different from the destructive self of the past. As Patrick so succinctly put it, I milk this motherfucker....It's a work in progress.

  6. I gave all of me to God, the good & the bad. And that includes the ego. The ego only gets me in trouble when it becomes the master and not the servant. And that only happens when I slack on the practice of 10 & 11 and don't go through the first 9 on a regular basis.

    Yesterday I saw, once more, how I can be asleep dreaming I'm awake. How I (ego) still wants to be #1 and needs recognition & praise to be OK. I'm reading this three column inventory to this guy who has never heard one like that before. All the third column stuff like "I am the best worker they have, no one there is more qualified than I am." And "They should see that in me and praise me for that and the other co-workers should wish to be like I am." "I want recognition. I want praise. I want, I want, I want...." " I need praise for emotional security to be OK." All lies based in the ego. This guy says that he is suprised to hear this stuff from me. I ask "What did you expect? This is a Fourth Step." And I laughed a lot at myself, because it is funny to see what the ego is up to when it thinks I'm not looking.

    Like you Joe, I've made friends with it. Might as well, you can't defeat your own ego and you certainly can't get rid of it completely. I believe that God uses it along with the rest of me.

  7. I found that a solution to the "I want" problem is to look at what I have. I talked about this a little in Part III where I mentioned "stuff". I could have expanded it to explain that "stuff" is more than material things, but I don't want to turn this thread into a damn book about Joe.

    It also ties into the "I don't have to be right"
    lesson I've learned. I don't have to be "best" falls in there somewhere, too.

    I take an honest look at what I am, warts and all. If I want to do better or be better, I can certainly pursue those goals. But I'll pursue them because I'm the one I have to please. It's what I honestly think of myself that's important. It's me that I have to live with, it's my conscience that governs me. And it's my God that governs my conscience.

    If I crave praise from others, recognition for my accomplishments, and all that, then I'm going to start living my life to please others. That's another thing I mentioned in Part III.

    Then throw in the Humility angle. That factors into the equation, too. I've certainly been given some serious lessons in that subject.

    All this shit factors in to the subject of spirituality, I think. I tried to summarize it in Part III as best I could.

    The business of accepting life, not having to be right, being happy because I have what I need, all that stuff leads to being content. And being content includes being comfortable living in my own skin.

    This all sounds brilliant on paper, but I'm nowhere close to accomplishing any of this. Having learned things and being able to apply them are two different matters. It's always gonna be a work in progress.

  8. I write the same inventory Jim. You are someone I could 5th Step with. There are only a few guys in Pueblo I can 5th Step with.

    I recently had to separate from the role of "engineer" and it liked to kill me. But it didn't and I finally got past it. The ego would rather kill us than be wrong.

    In my spiritual journey, I've come to question this "I" position. Just who am I and who am I not? Are "we" not all connected? Of the same stuff? I need ego for something or another... for identity, for the drive and will to survive, etc.

    I'm no metaphysical expert by any means, but I'm fascinated by the subject. I've often heard by folks on my/our path... if you see what your ego's up to, tip your hat to it and move on.