"Time after time newcomers have tried to keep to themselves certain facts about their lives. Trying to avoid this humbling experience, they have turned to easier methods. Almost invariably they got drunk." (72:2, 'Alcoholics Anonymous')
"Have we kept something to ourselves which should be discussed with another person at once?" (86:1)
So, I wake up with thoughts. Bad thoughts. Egoic thoughts. They run like this, "it isn't good enough. You need another X, a bigger Y, a better Z. This is old, old stuff, Tim. You know perfectly well these desires and their related disappointments are never going to go away. You are going to have to suffer them forever, because there is no real solution. If God was going to provide a solution, He would have done so already. Throw your little prayers at me; throw your little Psalms at me; Golden-Key this one all you like, you lightweight, I'll still be here, waiting. And you know that this time it's true. You cannot escape from me."
I'm reminded of a John Berryman poem:
"He stared at ruin. Ruin stared straight back.
He thought they was old friends. ...
... When the papers were lost
rich with pals' secrets, he thought he had the knack
of ruin. Their paths crossed
and once they crossed in jail; they crossed in bed;
and over an unsigned letter their eyes met,
and in an Asian city
directionless & lurchy at two & three,
or trembling to a telephone's fresh threat, ...
But he noted now that: they were not old friends.
He did not know this one.
This one was a stranger, come to make amends
for all the imposters, and to make it stick."
Every time my ego is on the attack (pretending, as usual, to be protecting my best interests, so I will listen), it attempts to convince me that this time is my High Noon, this time is my Waterloo, this time is the time of my final and irrevocable undoing.
Anyway, it's about 6.55 a.m. at this point. 'Lurchy' (like John Berryman, who, incidentally, was an alcoholic—you don't say!), I stumble to the kettle, and get a text. "You OK?" it says. Naturally, my ego uses this against me, saying, "obviously your egoic crap is now visible to everyone: that's how out of control this has got." The person, we'll call him 'Jack', wants to call.
I've been taught in AA always to take calls, always to answer the phone, always to let into my life the people God brings to me, and, if I allow the Spirit to guide me, no harm can ever come to me or the other person.
So I take the call.
And it's an amend for something that never happened. OK, the situation happened—every word he related of the events in question was true, but the perception of those events was totally distorted, and the interpretation of that perception, quite flawed. I reassured him that there was absolutely nothing to make amends to me for, and that, although I had noticed the situation in question, it was like throwing dried peas against a wall (as the Russians say), and I was not remotely affected. We were both laughing hysterically by this point at the distortion in his perception. We could both hear the distinctive sound of the ego deflating.
Then it occurred to me.
This is the reason why AA works.
This is someone with a very strong programme. Very few amends left. Lots of service. Lots of sponsees. A very strong prayer and meditation life. A shining example of the programme. And yet totally capable of waking up in the morning crippled with delusion.
If that is true for this man, whom I deeply respect, is that not going to be true for me too?
I could not possibly maintain the double-standard that, whilst his egoic fears are substanceless, mine are real.
The truth started to peep through: whatever is negative is founded in untruth and delusion. Whatever is fearful is founded in untruth and delusion. Whatever is Godless is founded in untruth and delusion.
And what is true for others is true for me; what is true for me is true for others.
In the moment of seeing his delusion for what it was, I saw mine, and, in the moment of seeing mine, I saw his. What I see in others is what I see in me. And what I see in me is what I see in others.
You will learn the full meaning of "Love thy neighbour as thyself." (153:0)
In loving him, in having compassion for him, I am healed.
In AA, physician and patient, therapist and patient are one. There is no distinction in the roles. It is impossible to heal without being healed of precisely that which is being healed in the other.
The AA programme is, indeed, incredibly simple. Admission of defeat, inventory, confession, restitution, reliance on God, helping others.
"You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves. Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine." (Mary Oliver)
More miracles happen in my life through the simple revelation of the truth than anything. And the truth, often, is the presence of delusion in my mind, which blocks my heart.
"Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting—
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things" (Mary Oliver)
Once the truth of the lies has been revealed, the smoke lifts, and the True World reveals itself. That is the moment my place in the Family of Things is announced. That is the moment I come Home.
We are blessed.