Not long ago, I heard a birthday share, fairly typical as such things go, that contained the following claim: “I have 20 years today, and that is through no effort of my own. It was all God. Not me.” Without missing a beat, the AA continued, “I just had to suit up and show up. I just had to get honest. I just had to do the work with a sponsor.” Now, despite the minimizing effect of the repeated use of the adverb “just,” and because of the multiple “I… had to(s),” the first and last parts of that share are, on the face of it, at odds with one another.
We are told, ever and above all,to seek the will of our Higher Power in all aspects of our lives. Some of the language in the two primary canonical program texts, the Big Book and the Twelve and Twelve, seems to stress not only the primacy of this search in a recovered life, but also its complete sufficiency in sustaining such a life in the face of the trying miscellany and minutia of daily human affairs. Bill is quite explicit in stating this: “Those of us who have come to make regular use of prayer would no more do without it than we would refuse air, food, or sunshine… When we refuse air, light, or food, the body suffers. And when we turn away from meditation and prayer, we likewise deprive our minds, our emotions, and our intuitions of vitally needed support.” (12 & 12, p. 97)
However. It has been my experience that there are times when facing a decision, difficult task, or quandry in which, despite my having followed all the prescribed suggestions, having used all the tools in the kit, having discussed the issue with others, and so on, no guidance comes. Despite patiently waiting for divine inspiration, in its due time, I am left in a void, being blessed with neither reliable advice from others nor any sort of identifiable intuition suggesting a direction. Thus I despair.
But in that lonely place, i often hear a voice offering, not an answer, but something else perhaps more valuable. An ethereal, non-corporeal one that transmits a message with such ineffable wisdom that I can only believe it is divine. It says, “Child, I acknowledge your desire to include me in this decision. And never doubt that I will be with you. But, this thing is on you. You turn it over to me, I politely slide back it across the table to you. I have preserved your limbs and organs, your freedom from prison, and your relatively sane mind from amounts of poison that would have killed most people. For a reason. I know that it would be easier for you if I were to temporarily possess your body and guide it to and through the ‘right’ motions. But you are neither marionette nor automaton. Ultimately it will be the neurons in your brain, which are under your volition, that will send the electrical signals to your muscles instructing them to decide this or that, to go to or fro. You may choose poorly. If so, you will be in conflict with my will for you. And you will suffer, And learn. And grow. You will gain wisdom, and the flood gates of inspired intuition will begin and continue to open.”
Perhaps, though, when I hear these words, I am being deluded by my disease. Perhaps “these thoughts that seem to come from God are not answers at all. They [might] prove to be well-intentioned unconscious rationalizations.” Perhaps “my own wishful thinking and the human tendency to rationalize [that has] distorted [my] so-called guidance,” to the point that I “tend to force [my] own will into all sorts of situations and problems with the comfortable assurance assurance that [I am] acting under God’s specific directions.” (12 & 12, p. 103-104) Perhaps. But, I believe that only time and experience can give me the discernment to differentiate and extricate my will and my Creator’s.
The bottom line is this: in a great many situations, I must think and act for myself. To those of us not irrevocably opposed to some kind of 12 step ideology, recovery must be a cooperative effort between self and Higher Power. Each element is necessary, but not sufficient in itself, for true well-being. Suprahuman involvement is an essential element without which the journey is not possible. This, however, does not absolve the alcoholic from a crucial, intentional role. It has been my experience that only with both parts of this dyad can a whole life be had.