For me, the narrow spiritual path has been one of many and seemingly endless frustrations: three steps forward, two backward, or sometimes four backward. At first, words from the Big Book, from “Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age,” and from other A.A. literature constantly harassed me. Finally, the pamphlet “Alcoholism the Illness”1 forced me to read “The Varieties of Religious Experience,” by William James. Bill W. spoke of the immense importance of this book to him. Who was I not to give it at least a look-see? “Just try it for size,” an A.A. friend suggested.
As I read the book (skipping over anything I did not understand, which was a great deal on the first reading), it seemed that I was actually beginning to discern my own personal conception of my own personal God. Now at last I saw a real possibility that I might come to know the difference between the spiritual life and the religious life. It was, indeed, this breakthrough that encouraged me to pursue the spiritual beliefs of A.A.
I began talking with people in the program who said they were agnostic. To me, it was interesting and most helpful to become aware of their thinking through private conversation. (Apparently, A.A. agnostics—at any rate, those I talked with—feel that when they speak out, even at closed meetings, their true ideas and sincerity are often misunderstood.) My attendance at spiritual retreats held for alcoholics only also has been of immense value.
Strangely, when I first started this direction of thought, it was inconceivable to me that there was or could be a God personal to me. Now, over five and a half years later, I believe that this God or Higher Power of mine actually and very definitely loves me. To Him, I am a complete and total world; He loves me as though I were the only person on earth or anywhere else.
It no longer is important to my big-shot-ism to go around saying, “I love God”—because I now know myself well enough to realize that I change; I am not constant. It is important for me only to have faith that God loves me. Teaneck, New Jersey