After forty two years of sobriety in A.A. the infirmities and restrictions of age have settled in. Seeking and maintaining sobriety has been my life from the day my early sponsor told me bluntly, Put A.A. first in your life or get out. I have tried as faithfully as I could. No distance, weather or hour, no resentment or cost came before my A.A. activities. I have tried, imperfectly of course, to give a hundred and ten percent. And in return, sobriety and its inestimable benefits! But now, at seventy five the old fire and energy burn low. I would like to slide comfortably into my old age with my A.A. activities first as always, but these days I cannot always do so, for the twinges in the hinges command first attention. Thus I face this challenge: Can I stay sober with my physical activities curtailed?
To complicate matters I have unwittingly isolated myself from activities by relocating in a remote, rural area. A.A. is too distant to allow me, in my present physical condition, to get as involved as formerly. I have neglected to join a home group, nor do I get into Twelve Stepping, sponsorship, and service work any longer. I miss this and know that it contributed much to my sobriety and growth.
However, I am not entirely without defenses, for A.A. has taught me that I cannot take something out of my life (the bottle) unless I substitute something for it (A.A.). So if my physical activity is curtailed, what will replace it?
The obvious answer is spiritual activity. I was told A.A. is a spiritual Program when I entered. That didn’t mean much to me then but the endless wonders of recovery, coincidences that are miraculous, and the magic of love and compassion I have known convince me that the spiritual essence of our Program is even more powerful than I ever thought. It’s powerful enough to keep me sober under any conditions, provided I learn and use these spiritual tools.
I have made an effort to substitute spiritual effort for the physical effort I can no longer expend, specifically practicing Step Eleven. In addition I have begun examining our Big Book for evidence to support my quest for spiritual enlightenment. Without fail, as usual, I found hope and comfort in Bill’s words: We are not cured of alcoholism. What we really have is a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition. This fit my situation, for despite these years of sobriety I knew that I was as alcoholic as ever. I could not trust past sobriety to keep me sober in the future. Then I began to examine more closely than ever before what Bill meant by spiritual condition and realized that he defined it in the same passage: Every day is a day when we must carry the vision of God’s will into all 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.
Bill’s suggestions seem to confirm the viability of my intentions, for now more than ever I am dependent on God to keep me straight. I find here direction in my duty to God and to my fellow man, alcoholic or not. There are neighbors aplenty nearby who are shut-ins, or feeble, or isolated in some way, and while they may not be reaching for sobriety particularly, they welcome any help in their fight against loneliness and depression. It seems to me that to practice these principles in all our affairs is meant for situations like this.
And as I search the Program for more spiritual enlightenment I find it telling me precisely what I am looking for: Remind the prospect [me] that his recovery is not dependent upon people. It is dependent upon his relationship with God.
The Big Book reinforces this theme and at the same time reinforces my faith when it says, For we are now on a different basis, the basis of trusting and relying on God. We trust infinite God rather than our finite selves. We are in the world to play the role He assigns. Just to the extent that we do as we think He would have us, and humbly rely on Him, does He enable us to match calamity with serenity.
So with complete confidence in the spiritual power of our A.A. Program I go on, bolstered by what Carl Jung once said of spirituality: It is what supports us when we can no longer support ourselves–this is what gives an indestructible foundation for living.
Physically inactive though I may be, I have no doubts that the A.A. Program, so replete with the miracles and mysteries of recovery, will allow me continued sobriety as long as I keep my spiritual house in order.