Recently I have sat in our Alcoholics Anonymous meeting and asked myself, why am I here?
The chairs are hard, it’s very cold and I am physically uncomfortable. Later, I have a thirty mile drive home in an old unheated car and being an old man, I’ll have difficulty getting out and in to that fire I know will be there. Why then, do I suffer it?
The answer begins in a day in May 1963 in a hospital in Perth, W.A. where I was very sick with the disease of alcoholism. A man is standing at the foot of my bed “Believe you have a problem,” he says, and I admitted the truth a big problem, beyond me to solve.
Next day he came back, sat on the side of my bed and simply told me the story of his own failure and ultimate triumph with the help of AA.
The writer of the AA pamphlet “A Members Eye View” says this “I am personally convinced that the basic search of every human being, from the cradle to the grave, is to find at least one other human being before whom he can stand completely naked, stripped of all pretence or defence, and trust that other person not to hurt him, because that other person has stripped himself naked, too. This lifelong search can begin to end with the first AA encounter.
This was so with me. Instead of the pounding of morally superiority this is what you should do type, I heard a gentle ‘This is what I did.” I never drank again and please God, I never will. In AA I found for me a totally new concept of life. My emotional life began to be channelled outward into service to others.
Slowly, with effort and growing knowledge, I became aware of the wounds in my person the smarting of which caused me to react in anger and frustration and also, that forgiveness was easy, in the knowledge that others had wounds that smarted and bled I found I was invited to share in the collective life of AA. Past failures and the lessons learnt, as well as the collective triumph and single failure. I began to experience the joy and strength of open communication on a person to person level and the art of love without demand for reward, unconditional love.
I learnt to love and respect myself, without which no human being is complete; to develop a worthy self-image. I learnt, in the words of the Lebanese poet, Kahil Gibran that “Your daily life is your temple and religion. Whenever you enter into it, take with you your all.”
I know that, hard seats, cold feet and weariness notwithstanding, “We are here, because there is no refuge, finally, from ourselves. Until a person confronts himself in the eyes and hearts of others he is running. Until he suffers them to share his secret, he has no safety from it afraid to be known, he can neither know himself nor any other, he will be alone.
Where else, but in our common ground, can we find such a mirror? There, together a person can at last appear clearly to himself not as the giant of his dreams, nor the dwarf of his fears, but as a man part of the whole, with his share in its purpose. In this ground we can each take root and grow, not alone any more, as in death, but alive to ourselves and others.