This week’s HTYH is from another new book titled, “On the Military Firing Line In The Alcoholism Treatment Program,” by Sgt Bill S. with Glen Chesnut, Ph.D. The first step is, “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol, and that our lives had become unmanageable.” Step one requires total surrender and it’s a paradox that we must surrender to win. Here is Sgt Bill S’s story of how he worked step one:
In my case, I can tell you exactly when it happened; it was July 5, 1948. I was standing in front of a mirror, and I looked at myself, and actually said aloud these words, “I am unacceptable to myself.” It was an incredibly simple, but utterly gut-level realization. I was suddenly totally appalled by who and what I had become. The whole framework of my life, attitudes and thoughts collapsed within me when I suddenly saw clearly what all my old beliefs had led me to. I became willing for the first time to actually work the twelve steps with a sponsor and throw myself wholeheartedly into the AA program. And I have never felt it necessary to take a drink of alcohol since that day fifty-five years ago.
If you the reader are an alcoholic who is still drinking, neither I nor anyone else can tell you-with your own unique set of problems and life experiences, and your particular mix of psychosocial, genetic, psychologically contributing causes, and your individual pattern of self-destructive drinking-exactly how you can reach this point. But I can tell you that you are going to have to let some sort of light, realization, insight, or overwhelming spiritual reality, break in on you from without. You will not be able to produce it from within yourself by clever thinking, or logical reading of weighty books on psychology or theology, being more careful about your drinking, or practicing greater control over your consumption.
A.A. seemed a mystery to me until the day I stood before the mirror, and actually looked at myself. If you the reader are an alcoholic who is still drinking, this may be the only thing I can say that might be useful to you. You will need to quit looking at the other people and how they behave. It does not matter whether they are good or evil people, intelligent, or impossibly wrong-headed and misguided. It does not matter whether they accept, reject or abandon you. It will do you no good to be filled with envy for things they have, or do things to get even with them for the wrongs you think they have done you, or “show them” what you think of them. Instead, you are going to have to do the equivalent of standing in front of the mirror. Look at yourself and yourself alone, bracketing out and ignoring everything else in the world.
When I looked into the mirror that fateful day the truth of my existence hit me with the bitter realization: “I am unacceptable to myself.” My old foundation had to be destroyed and a new one built. That was the day I was born to a new way of life (new daily actions), even though I did not realize it then. On that day, it seemed only a totally negative thing, leaving me psychologically naked and with nothing left in my possession. Stunned and rather numb, the only thing I could do was keep going to A.A. meetings.
The difference this time was that I listened to what they said and heard their simple suggestions and began acting on them in my everyday life one-day-at-a-time. The story of my first thirty years was the tragic story of a young man set on a course of complete self-destruction. The story of the years that followed has a different main character with a very different ending and the way he perceives the world around him. To be continued…
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