The reward for living a good, clean, and sober life is…a good, clean, and sober life.
I read that in a recent article in the Grapevine, AA’s monthly magazine, and it really resonated with me. Simple yet wise. I don’t give myself enough credit—and I suspect many of my fellow recovering alkies and addicts don’t either—for choosing each day to make healthy choices as we walk the path toward a better life.
What fuels me in walking that path are The Promises. Those Promises, as AA’s Resource Center states, are “lights at the end of the tunnel, giving you things to look forward to.”
Even my mother, many years ago, when talking about life in general, would often advise me of that wisdom: “Have something to look forward to.” I keep that in mind whether I’m making grand plans—gotta chart my next winter road trip south—or smaller ones, like my occasional Dunkin Donuts coffee runs with my good friend Larry. Have something to look forward to.
It is a power or force greater than ourselves, a grace that helps usYou’ll find The Promises in chapter six, “Into Action,” on pages 83-84 of the Big Book: “We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others. That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. Fear of people and economic insecurity will leave us. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.”
Like many of us, I was pretty far down that scale. I lived those dark days of despair, not knowing anything close to peace or serenity, fearing people, lying to them and then struggling to keep my stories straight, carrying around the shaming burden of money troubles, especially during those dreadful times when I would sit down to try to pay bills that just seemed to multiply. And yet by some miracle and the grace of my Higher Power, I found AA, the 12 steps, a solid sponsor, and the support and friendship of fellow alkies and addicts. The struggles and struggling eventually stopped. I am grateful today that I now have 35 years of sobriety and these promises are being fulfilled daily—the rewards for living a sober life.
Is everything perfect? Ha! Of course not. But things are way better than before. And I also take solace in these words from How it Works (Big Book, chapter five), “We claim spiritual progress, not spiritual perfection.” I have to remind myself of this from time to time: It’s progress not perfection. How it Works also says we are not saints. Amen to that.
And, speaking of things divine, that last promise also strikes a chord for me, realizing that “God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.” No matter how one perceives God or a Higher Power—it is a power or force greater than ourselves, a grace that helps us.
In other words, as the author Annie Lamott wrote in an essay on the miracles of recovery—and given that it’s baseball season— “Grace bats last.”
Angelo Gentile is a Minneapolis freelance journalist.
Last Updated on July 21, 2023