At the end of each 12 step recovery meeting, we read a section called “The Promises,” taken directly from Alcoholics Anonymous. In my first few weeks of recovery, I yearned and prayed for these to be real. I held on to these promises as a life preserver in my depth of shame and uncertainty of the future. Mostly though, I was afraid they wouldn’t be true for me. That I wouldn’t be able to be changed.
I wrestled most of my life with the question of why God wouldn’t take these flaws and sins out of my life since I had sought Him out as my savior. I didn’t get why He didn’t just change me. This was the source of one of my excuses for turning from God and turning more to myself. Maybe it was just an excuse for my behavior. Maybe it was justification for me to explain my real powerlessness. Still, I held on tight to the promises in each meeting and every day as I held on tight in recovery, trying not to drown.
I have been in recovery now for a few months if I am rigorously honest. One of the leaders at a recent meeting told the group that if he wasn’t actively working recovery, he wasn’t in recovery. I agree. That’s how I define recovery for me. So I am in recovery and actively working my recovery plan of meetings, step work, meeting with my sponsor and accountability partners, check ins with my wife. Trying to continue to add in parts to my life to replace the time and thought and effort I used to spend in my addiction.
I was at a meeting recently, a smaller one which I like, and I noticed something very obvious to me in retrospect. Two of the guys who entered recovery not too long after me were….different. I didn’t see it immediately. I don’t know exactly when it happened. But I knew that with absolute certainty. They were not the same. Either of them. It was as if the entire time I had known them in recovery that they had just adopted a posture of defeat and despair and then suddenly, they looked completely different. I don’t believe in “auras” or any of that new age garbage but their attitudes and countenances were different.
After the meeting, the three of us ended up alone in the small room together. So I asked them, what happened? Because you both have changed. They both responded with very similar answers, answers that mapped out exactly what was written in “The Promises.” Each related their experience of a new freedom and happiness, the new found willingness to own and tell their story to those who had earned the right to hear it, an ebbing of self pity and uselessness.
As I reflected on this conversation later, I started reviewing these promises to see if they had impacted my life. Specifically, what had others noticed that was different. I started just meditating on this to ask God to reveal to me where this had happened.
Later that same night, my wife and I were having a intimate conversation (I really love saying that and it being true) about what was going on in each of our hearts and minds. One part of these nightly conversations is that we each name one thing we love about our spouse. That night, she said the following:
“I love that you have compassion and care for your friends and that it is real. That’s something that is new.”
I guess the answer to am I changing is yes. All I could think of after she said that was the end of “The Promises” which asks: “Are these extravagant promises? We think not…”