Why Are You Here?
It all seemed pointless. I followed the way of the world. I believed in it. I practiced it. And I ended up feeling like the dog that caught the car. The dog quickly realizes the chase was pointless. What do I do now? Just keep barking? Find another car to chase?
All these thoughts were swimming around in my head. They were swimming in all the beer and wine I drank every night. I realized step one was to stop drinking. Dry out. Get clear-headed.
I contacted a neighbor who went through recovery. I met him for lunch. That evening he brought me to my first AA meeting.
It was at the end of that first meeting that I was given the new belief system. It was given to me by a recovering alcoholic. But I didn't realize it when he said it. Here's what happened.
As that first meeting was concluding, a man in his early forties, dressed in a speckled white painter's outfit, jumped to the front of the room. He told everyone to sit down. Then he pointed to me at the back of the room and said, "I don't know why you are here tonight. But if you want to stop drinking one day at a time, you'll come up here and take a while chip. This white chip represents the international sign of surrender. When you take it, you are agreeing to try to stop drinking one day at a time."
He continued, "Every morning when you wake up, the first thing you'll do is hit your knees and ask God to keep you sober. Then every night before you go to bed, you'll hit your knees again and thank God for keeping you sober."
I did what he told me to do. I also went to one hundred and eighty meetings in one hundred and eighty days. There was nothing more I wanted in life than to get sober. I believed if I could quit drinking, I wouldn't lose what I valued most—my wife and my kids. I would have a second chance.
My mind began to clear with each new day of sobriety. After picking up my thirty-day chip, I started to practice the 12 Steps of AA. I realized two years later that the 12 Steps are the Gospel of Jesus Christ. These 12 Steps are the process of becoming reconciled to God. And once I experienced the refreshment that comes from the presence of God, life made sense and had meaning.
Here's how it worked for me.
I later came to realize it takes a spiritual awakening to embrace another belief system. A belief system not of this world but a belief system that explains the world. The belief system was created by God. A belief system is captured in the first two steps of AA.
1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.
2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
The first step led me to an important admission. I could not control my own life. And the more I tried, the more I screwed up, i.e., sinned. I was a sinner. I couldn't deny it. I felt like I was always falling a little short in all areas of my life.
The second step showed me where to take the mess I created and the gap I couldn't quite close. I needed to go to my creator. I needed to trust in God and not me.
And this brought me to the third step.
3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
This was critical to abandoning my life-long belief system. It said to me, "I must stop trusting me and start trusting God." I came to realize every belief system is grounded in whom I trust. This was the turning point from my old belief system to my new belief system.
It was in my sixth month of sobriety I asked myself this question, "Who is this God that took the desire for alcohol away from me?"
I asked this question because I believed in God. I knew in my heart, he was the answer to life.
Within a week, men and women came to me with the answer to my question. Yes. They just came to me. They mentored me by using the Bible. Over time, I came to believe this God that did a miracle in my life is named Jesus Christ. He loved me so much that he died for me. He forgives me. He makes up my shortfalls. He gave me a life to the full. He never gave up on me. He protected me and my family throughout my life even when I didn't know him. And he led me through recovery and into a life of purpose and meaning.
Attend an AA meeting and they'll ask you, "Why are you here?"
The answer is usually, "I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired."
This answer captured exactly how I was feeling at the time. And I realized if I kept practicing with the same habits, I would lose everything. It wouldn't be fast. It would be a slow unraveling of life and relationships.
The problem was bigger than my drinking. The drinking was my medication to insulate me from the problem. If it wasn't drinking, it could be anything. Drugs, pornography, adultery, work, or any other escape. It was my beliefs that let me down. My beliefs no longer answered the question, "Why am I here?"
The drinking was simply my way to cope with the meaninglessness of it all. I expected life to be fuller and more fun. After all, I married the woman of my dreams and had three wonderful children with another on the way. I even had a great job in leadership with plenty of authority, prestige, and money. I had the big house in the suburbs, the Mercedes, the kids in private schools, the country club, the bank account, and yet it wasn't enough.
The new beliefs I found were rooted in the Bible. The way, the truth, and the life designed by God. The belief is so simple, I almost missed it. Trust God, not yourself.
I start this new year by reminding myself to trust God. Why would I even want to go back to trusting me? I know from experience, if I start the year trusting God then I'll be open to receiving all his promises. But then that's another story.
Happy New Year!