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Setting out a new course

compass-musicians

Imagine riding in a speedboat on a lake with an automatic pilot set to go east.  If you decide to reverse and head west, you have two possible ways to change the boat’s direction.  One way is to grab the steering wheel and physically force it to head in the opposite direction from where the autopilot is programmed to go.  By sheer willpower you could overcome the autopilot, but you would feel constant resistance.  Your arms would eventually tire of the stress, you’d let go of the steering wheel, and the boat would instantly head back east, the way it was internally programmed. [..]

There is a better and easier way:  Change your autopilot – the way you think.

Taken from The Purpose-Driven Life (copyright Rick Warren)

I’m sure many an alcoholic can tell great stories with regards to their arduous and fierce, yet futile, battles against an overwhelming obsession with drink.  We have tried all resources we knew to change the course, alcohol had us set on, to no avail often looking at our lives heading towards destruction feeling helpless and cursed.

The working steps of the program of Alcoholics Anonymous as described in our ‘Big Book’ helped me to switch off the automatic pilot and steer my vessel toward safer waters.  But that was not enough.  The immediate danger was cleared and step 10 gives me the tools to make sure all remains well.  However, I was not moving in any direction particularly.  It is in step 11 where I found the freedom to set out a new heading and found my bearings to the road of happy destiny.

Step 11:  Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

Whatever our understanding is of our Higher Power, it is imperative to seek a better understanding of it and to figure out how our life fits in to His world.  Through prayer we ask for a better understanding of this new world, through meditation we gain the knowledge and through action we slowly and carefully set out to place a few steps on this road.  Soon we realize that we start looking at life through a new pair of glasses.  As we practice this step daily and routinely our vision becomes clearer, our understanding deeper and more meaningful.  We learn how to make strides with greater confidence as well as gain a better understanding of our own weaknesses and how to deal with these.

Mind you, this is not a walk in the park!  Life will continue to challenge us and we will be confronted often by tests and temptations.  As we seek a new direction and a better understanding we will learn how to handle these better only to find greater problems hurled in our directions.  This is called growth, spiritual growth.  It is in this step that we see also how different parts of this book fit together:

Page 60:
We are not saints.  The point is, that we are willing to grow along spiritual lines.  The principles we have set down are guides to progress.  We claim spiritual progress rather than spiritual perfection.

Page 87:
What used to be the hunch or the occasional inspiration gradually becomes a working part of the mind.  Being still inexperienced and having just made conscious contact with God, it is not probable that we are going to be inspired at all times.  We might pay for this presumption in all sorts of absurd actions and ideas.  Nevertheless, we find that our thinking will, as time passes, be more and more on the plane of inspiration.  We come to rely upon it.

Page 85:
It is easy to let up on the spiritual program of action and rest on our laurels.  We are headed for trouble if we do,  for alcohol is a subtle foe.  We are not cured of alcoholism.  What we really have is a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition.  Every day is a day when we must carry the vision of God’s will into all of our activities.  “How can I best serve Thee – Thy will (not mine) be done.”  These are thoughts which must go with us constantly.  We can exercise our will power along this line all we wish.  It is the proper use of the will.

In my personal journey I had to thread carefully.  What I can now see as the unwise or improper actions in the past also found their source out of inspiration and on a hunch.  How was I to know now that my gut feelings were any better than they were during my journey through darkness?  I have learned through trial and error and by consistent evaluation through step 10.  I learned to ask for direction, for a better understanding of my Higher Power.  I have learned also to listen, to open up my mind through daily meditation and to allow myself to be guided.  These were the gifts of step 11 that opened up a whole new world for this alcoholic and helped me find a contented future.

“Those who are not looking for happiness are the most likely to find it, because those who are searching forget that the surest way to be happy is to seek happiness for others.” 
― Martin Luther King Jr.

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