In my early youth, I was confronted with a choice: what seemed to be a dull, moral life or what appeared to be an exciting, adventurous life— after a few drinks of alcohol. I had been brought up in the tradition of a stern and vengeful God, who was watching every move I made. I could not work up too much love for that type of deity, and I felt guilty about it. But after a drink or two, I would forget my guilt. This, I decided, was I he life for me!
It started off pleasantly enough, promoting dreams of glittering fame and fortune. But this life gradually regressed to a constant nightmare of fear and remorse over my condition and resentment and anger at a normal way of life which went on all around me, but which apparently I could not enter. The truth was that I drank myself out of society, coming by degrees to live in a mental state that sealed off any social or moral contact with anybody. But at that time I could not see my excessive drinking as the cause. I had become convinced that God and society had frozen me out, denying me the breaks in life. I could see no sense in living. I lacked the courage to kill myself, but I believe that desperation would have broken this barrier of cowardice had it not been for an experience that changed my mental outlook entirely.
This experience came about through the death of my father in Scotland. He had lived a good life in his community and was honored in his passing by all who had known him. I had received newspapers giving accounts of his funeral. That evening, I was seated at a small table in a crowded tavern, drunk and brooding over what I had read. I felt no sorrow at my father’s passing. Hate and envy saturated my mind, and I was muttering to myself, “Why should he and other people get all the breaks in life, while good men like me don’t get a chance? What a rotten deal I’m getting! People would love and honor me, too, if I had the chances in life he had.” In the tavern, the noise of conversation was deafening. But suddenly I heard a voice in my mind ring out loud and clear: “What accounting are you going to give to God of your life?” I looked around, astounded, for it was my grandmother’s voice. She had passed from this life and out of my thoughts over twenty years earlier. This was her favorite quotation. I had heard her say it often in my youth, and now I heard it again in the tavern.
As soon as I heard this voice, my mind cleared up, and I knew beyond all doubt that no other person nor any situation was responsible for my state. I alone was responsible.
The effect was shattering. First, I had heard that voice, and then my whole excuse for my failure in life—that I had never got any breaks —was wiped out of my mind forever. The thought hit me that if I killed myself, as I wanted to, there was a chance that I might meet up with God, and have to give Him an account of the life I lived, with no one else to blame for it. I wanted no part of that, and the idea of killing myself was dropped then and there. But the thought that I might die at any time remained to haunt me.
All this was crazy, I thought. But, no matter how much I argued with myself that I was having a hallucination, I could not dismiss the implication of the experience. I could visualize myself being brought before a stern-looking deity, who would coldly look down His nose at me with utter contempt and say grimly, “Speak up!” That was as far as my imagination would carry me, and from then on I would get blind drunk trying to blot out the whole experience. But when I came to in the morning, the experience would still be with me, strong as ever.
I thought I had better quit drinking for a while and start to reshape my life. This resolution led to a terrible shock. Up to this time, I had never tied in my troubles with alcohol. I knew that I drank too much, but I had always felt that I had good reason to drink. Now I found, to my amazement and horror, that I could not quit. Drinking had become such a part of my life that I could not function without it.
I did not know where to turn for help. Believing that people thought about me the way I thought about them, I was sure I could not turn to them. This left only God, and if He felt about me as I felt about Him, this was a slim hope indeed. In this manner, I passed through the three blackest months of my life. During that time, it seemed, I drank more than I ever had before, and I prayed to “nothing” for help to get away from alcohol.
One morning, I came to on the floor in my room, horribly sick, convinced that God was not going to listen to me. More on reflex than anything else, I got to work that morning and attempted to make up a payroll, though it was hard to hold my shaking hands still enough to put the figures in the right place. After a great deal of trouble, I finally completed the job. With a sigh of relief, I looked out the window and noticed a man approaching the hut I was working in. As I recognized him, hate surged into my mind. Seven months before, he had had the temerity to ask me in front of other men if I was having trouble with my drinking, and I had been deeply insulted by his question. I had not seen him for months, but my hatred of him was alive and vital as he passed by the hut.
Then something happened that has never ceased to amaze me. As he moved out of sight, everything went blank. The next thing I knew, I was standing before him outside the hut, hearing myself ask him whether he would help me to stop drinking. If I had consciously decided to ask any individual for help, he would have been the last man I would have approached! He smiled and said that he would try to help me, and he brought me to the A.A. recovery program.
In thinking all this over, it finally became obvious to me that the God I thought had judged and damned me had done nothing of 3 3 the sort. He had been listening, and in His own good time His answer came. His answer was threefold: the opportunity for a life of sobriety; Twelve Steps to practice, in order to attain and maintain that life of sobriety; fellowship within the program, ever ready to sustain and help me each twenty-four-hour day.
I hold no illusion that / brought the A.A. program of recovery into my life. I must always consider it as a gift of opportunity. In the use of this opportunity, the onus is on me. St. John’s, Newfoundland