At some point, the “I have to” has to change to “I want to”. I have come to realize that, when you do something because you have to, resentments usually develop; however, when you do something because you want to, the result are more positive. For me, the change in mindset happened in stages.
I look back and see how arrogant and ego-centric I was when I first came into program. I had one goal and one goal only: to stop drinking. I believed that was the only thing I needed to change in my life. As I have mentioned in prior blogs, a group of men took me under their wings when I first entered the program. They told me exactly what to do and I did exactly what they told me to do. I knew I had to if I was going to stop drinking. About four months into my recovery, I found myself walking up and down Main Street with my support group. I had been doing exactly what I was told to do and I found myself listening to them telling me that, if I didn’t change, I was going to self-destruct and wind up going out again. I initially responded with anger. I believed I was sober. I was doing what I had to do and didn’t see the need for more. I was angry that I was being told that I would drink again if I didn’t make changes. Then, I began to reflect on what they were saying. These men told me that they didn’t like me. They didn’t like who I was and how I behaved. Yet, they showed up every night to encourage me to stay sober. I realized that they honestly cared about my future and that they were truly concerned. That night, the first “willingness” switch turned on. From that moment forward, I ceased going to meetings because I had to and instead I went because I wanted to go. I began to change.
For four years after that “ah-ha” moment, I went to meetings, chaired meetings, became a master coffee maker, picked up people who needed a ride to meetings, and did whatever I was asked. I grew from those experiences. I saw changes, but my relationship with my family did not really improve. In many ways, my life was still out of control. Then one night, I went to talk with my son and make my amends. He told me to get out of his room and he called me a drunk. His reaction and comment stopped me in my tracks. The second “willingness” switch turned on as I realized that I needed to make greater changes; I needed to change my thinking. I surrendered; I now wanted to change. It was that spark that ignited a whole new Austin.
Over the next six years, I became a new person. I embraced change. I faithfully worked the steps. I worked on building stronger and closer relationships with my wife and children. Then, I went into a slide.
One night at a meeting I was sitting next to a young woman who was going through some serious issues. Her conversation made me very uncomfortable and I started to move away from her. A few days later she committed suicide and I took it very hard. I blamed AA, her sponsor, the women of the group and I started to drift away. My prayer during that time was “God, why am I sober?” When this tragedy occurred, my discomfort intensified.
I now realize that I was struggling with the Eleventh Step at time. While I was praying to understand what God’s will was for me, I was also afraid to hear the answer. I was afraid that I might not like what He wanted me to do. As I worked through my feelings, I came to realize that I wasn’t really angry at AA or the women in the group for not helping the young lady who committed suicide. I was angry with myself. I was upset with me because I hadn’t tried to help her. I had hidden behind the AA taboo that men and women do not work with each other, but the truth was I did not have enough faith to face this woman’s hurt. Then, as I approached my sixteenth anniversary, I experienced my Twelfth Step Spiritual Awakening. As I surrendered my heart to God, I realized that my purpose is to help anyone with recovery regardless of sex. God’s gift of faith and confidence gives us the ability to take on anything.
For me, change came in three steps. First, I changed my behavior. I became willing to work toward change and recovery. Then, I changed my mind. I then wanted to change/recover. Finally, I changed my heart and now I live for God and, through Him, I have purpose. The Big Book states at the beginning of the Tenth Step that we have to live the first nine steps everyday of our lives. When we do this, the fear of everything, even a drink, will leave us and we will live our lives naturally and automatically.