Something in my meeting this morning reminded me of this exchange with a sponsee from several years ago. I shared about it this morning -- so it seemed only natural to dig it up and share it with you here as well...
SPONSEE: ... and then they said that thing I hate.
Mr. SponsorPants: That thing you...? Ooooh. You mean...
SPONSEE: Yeah. 'Don't drink No Matter What.' It sounded so smarmy and bullshit to me. I swear, I could hear them capitalize it. Sometimes the AA sayings make me want to...
Mr. SP: It's funny.
SPONSEE: What, that I hate that?
Mr. SP: Well not funny Ha-ha. It's just that, when I was new, that really helped me.
SPONSEE: Really? It did?
Mr. SP: Yeah. I used to say it out loud to myself. Looking in the mirror. Or driving. I think I said it out loud a lot in the car, for some reason: 'I don't drink no matter what.' And then I would list all the 'no matter what's' I could think of.
SPONSEE: Wait, a car?
Mr. SP: Yeah.
SPONSEE: I thought you got sober when people were riding around on dinosaurs or something.
Mr. SP: I did. At my first meeting, they didn't give out Welcome Chips, they gave me a Welcome Flint Arrow Head.
SPONSEE: D'oh! That was pretty good. I thought you were going to say 'fire.'
Mr. SP: I used that one already.
SPONSEE: Like what were all the 'no matter what's' you would say?
Mr. SP: I used to say to myself (a lot) 'I don't drink no matter what. No matter how angry or frightened or lonely or bored or horny or frightened or how expensive the wine or how free the beer or how important the occasion...'
SPONSEE: You said 'frightened' twice.
Mr. SP: I was often very scared.
SPONSEE: But it makes me so... so angry. I mean... I have... it's... with all my relapses, I feel like I DO drink no matter what. I don't get how that's supposed to make me... I don't know, what does it... like when you were new, it made you feel stronger? More able to say 'no' or something? Made you less afraid?
Mr. SP: Oh God, no! No wonder it makes you... saying 'I don't drink no matter what' isn't about trying to make me stronger... it's not about helping my will. It's about helping my memory. It's a reminder. Like a little pilot light I could keep burning when that infamous 'curious mental blank spot' would begin to form and the brainfog would start to roll in.
SPONSEE: Oh. Well. I guess I never thought of it like that. I always just felt like everyone got it and I didn't.
Mr. SP: I promise, no one gets anything in any way that you don't -- we all just... it's hard for each of us, but sometimes hard in different ways. But all you have to do is...
SPONSEE: ... worry about not picking up a drink today. Yes, yes. Do you ever get tired of telling me that?
"I thought Will was to Grace like Laverne was to Shirley..."
Nope. Wrong will. Wrong grace.
I've heard any number of people in meetings share their confusion in sorting out will... usually it's about something like "their will" vs. "God's will."
Over the years I've certainly gone a few rounds on this question myself.
But the Big Book -- my north star, my road map for living sober -- makes it simple and clear for me:
"...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..." (Big Book, Chapter Six, 'Into Action,' pg. 85)
Grace is the unearned gift of relief from my alcoholism -- and ultimately my self obsession -- via a power greater than myself. The proper use of my will, when applied to God's grace, is to harness it -- all of it: my intuition, my thoughts, my experience, my emotion -- and use the gift of my sobriety and this way of life to be of service to others.
Not just in meetings. In every area of my life.
To bring to the world not the sick, spoiled child I can still sometimes be (oh God), nor the drunk (thank God), nor the dry drunk (please God)... but to bring to the world the sober man -- sobriety for me today being about so much more than physical sobriety.
(Certainly, it all starts there. All else is pointless without physical sobriety. But I aspire to live these principles beyond just putting down the drink -- the irony of course being that living these principles is what helps me not pick up the drink. It may look like a lofty aspiration -- and in one regard, maybe it is -- but it is also how a drunk maintains equilibrium and creates ballast against the pull of self-obsessive thinking -- which is so often at the root of how we justify drinking again.)
Elsewhere it says, in reference to the 12 Steps, "...what an order! I can't go through with it!"
Trying to live these principles fully in my life I remember what the Big Book says right after that: "...Do not be discouraged. No one among us has been able to maintain anything like perfect adherence to these principles. 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." (Big Book, Chapter Five, 'How It Works,' pg. 60)
Which translates for me into: 'Willing to grow along spiritual lines' means I will try to do things differently. I will try to do things the way AA suggests, instead of the old, fear-based ways in which I used to behave. Not "I will try to think differently." No. As has been said in many meetings -- and which blew my mind when I first heard it: I can't think my way into different (right) actions, I have to act my way into different (right) thinking.
When I do, I'm a lot less tortured.
In many ways the transformation I experience via divine grace (whatever that phrase means to you) gives me a new will. One through which I experience the real joy of being useful to others.
And as I have said before -- perhaps many times now -- and will likely say again:
This transformation is available for free, to anyone who wants it -- anyone willing -- via the 12 Steps.
Perhaps it's not the only way, but it is certainly the way that worked for me.