Ever play a board game with a really little kid?
They change the rules as you play, ignoring some and making up others, to suit their level of understanding and usually to make sure they win. In this way, small children and alcoholics have a great deal in common. Their approach to games and our approach to life are pretty much the same.
When people sincerely called something a "miracle" I used to smile indulgently and think to myself that they were a lot like little kids trying to change reality to suit themselves. (Never mind that there is a world of arrogance hiding behind that. It has been a slow, gradual journey for me -- even with all the spiritual experiences I've had myself -- not to view a faith in God as either somewhat childlike or a little feeble. In this way is the human mind a very strange thing -- our ability to hold onto a prejudice that has been directly contradicted by our actual experiences. I personally have felt a powerful spiritual connection at various times in my life -- yet I can hear someone speak about God and think, "Hmmm, might be a bit soft." Now, to be fair, there are a lot of crazy people out there talking about God -- a lot of angry, violent, judgmental and fearful people out there talking about God -- and to paraphrase the old saying, if God hates all the same people you do, maybe you should look at that -- so it's not completely judgmental to be on my guard when people start with the godtalk. But after my own experiences, to still have that same bias which equates faith with a lack of intellect or an inability to deal with reality, is absurd. Yet there it is. It's not anywhere near as big as it used to be, but it's there, and I cannot wish it away, no matter how hard I've tried. Not to mention, any alcoholic or drug addict -- pretty much the same thing, I know -- who gets on their high horse about someone else's ability to deal with reality has got a lotta nerve, you know what I mean?)
Looks like my parenthetical statements are getting away from me again.
People in AA love the word miracle. It's in the literature, people throw it around at meetings a lot -- a common phrase heard in AA is "Don't quit before the miracle." (When I was new that used to make me crazy -- what if I had a miracle but I didn't recognize it, so I quit anyway? Or what if I got a sucky miracle? Do I have to stay if I don't like the miracle I get? What's the return/exchange policy on miracles, is it linked to the chips, like a receipt or something? After 30 Days I get a chip but I can only get store credit if I try to return my miracle?)
Over the course of more than 20 years clean and sober (and I'm not big on throwing time around, I'm just trying to offer perspective on what I've seen) and having been to thousands of AA meetings, I have come to this conclusion about Alcoholics Anonymous:
We are in the miracle business.
In almost anything, the best predictor of the future is the past. If an employee isn't very good at their job for the past year they very likely won't be very good at their job for the next year. If a man beat wife number one and wife number two, it is very likely that he will beat wife number three. If a dog whines every time you put him in his cage last month, he's probably going to whine every time you put him in his cage this month... the most reliable predictor of future behavior is past behavior. Whole industries (Credit, Insurance, etc.) are founded on this dictum. To see what inevitably will happen again just look at what always happened before.
Except in AA. We are in the miracle business -- and the proof of it can be found in meeting after meeting, room after room, year after year, the people who over and over and over again drank, relapsed, couldn't be trusted, fucked everything up ... suddenly ... don't.
We're in the miracle business because we make 'em ourselves. We create our own miracles -- we have a recipe for it, in fact.
It's the miracle of being free of the past -- my past is not my future, and if it is true for me it can be true for you, no matter who you are reading this right now -- we are free of the compulsive pattern of self destruction, free of the crushing weight of a history of relapse, free of the desperate drive to obliterate our consciousness and to flee in terror from reality, responsibility and intimacy.
And this freedom -- this miraculous transformation -- is available to anyone who wants it who comes to AA.
Just as by following the laws of physics it is possible to plug into physical energy -- electricity, fusion, etc. -- AA has a guide to following spiritual laws that allow us to plug into a spiritual energy -- and that energy powers profound and, yes, miraculous, changes in ourselves.
So the "How To" part of How To Recognize a Miracle is merely to go to an AA meeting, look around and take stock of the real, substantive and profound transformations you see around you -- these are people who's desperate and painful past is no longer the grim promise of a desperate and painful future.
And if you choose to stay, and with all your available will follow what AA suggests (all of it -- there is a reason the Big Book says "...we beg of you to be searching and thorough from the very start." -- BB pg. 58) then eventually to recognize a miracle all you'll have to do is look in the mirror.