It’s a well-known fact that alcoholics, generally, are resistant to change. If your experience is anything like mine, when a new idea is presented to you, and IF it’s a drastic departure from what you’ve become comfortable with or are used to… as it says in our literature, “rebellion dogs our every step.”
Why is it that we alcoholics seem to be so unwilling to accept something new in our lives, even if we know it will help or benefit us? I’ll let psychologists and therapists battle that one out on the academic/therapeutic plane, but I CAN tell you that in my recovery today the thing that can bring a tear to my eye faster than anything is to watch someone (newcomer or long-timer) “get it” and wake up to the possibility of a better life through their willingness to take action.
I’ve long been a proponent of this idea that a spiritual experience (or spiritual awakening) is really nothing more than a change in my attitude to life itself. In the Apendice – “Spiritual Experience” (on page 567 of our book, 4th Edition), it very clearly states, “The terms “spiritual experience” and “spiritual awakening” are used many times in this book which, upon careful reading, shows that the personality change sufficient to bring about recovery from alcoholism has manifested itself among us in many different forms.”
For me, that was all the proof I needed to embrace the idea that I must “experience an entire psychic change” (as it says in “The Doctor’s Opinion”) for me to have any hope of recovery. The beautiful part of that passage is that it speaks to the truth that alcohol is not now, nor was it ever my problem. Changing what I drank, how often I drank, the amount I drank, etc., none of that is the change being referred to. I wish I could say that change came easily for me. Sure, in some ways, it was easy because in the beginning, I didn’t really want what “you” had – but I didn’t want what I had even more. Over time, I was willing to listen to what you shared through your experience and see that some kind of personality change was needed. That change for me came slowly and in many different areas of my life.
First, it was just in how I lived my daily life. It was the little things. I started making my bed on a regular basis. I started wanting to pay my bills on time. I started thinking of other people instead of only thinking of me (“Self-seeking will slip away. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change.” – Into Action). I started showing up to family functions more often. I made it to work on time (and not hung over). I began to see that change was creating more positives in my life than negatives.
But the moment you suggest to me I need to stop doing this, quit doing that, remove this from my life, add that… we gotta problem dude! I don’t like anyone telling me what to do (ok, ok, suggesting…), especially if it flies straight in the face of some character defect I’m not willing to let go of in my life. I’ve heard folks in the Fellowship say before that, “A.A. is nothing more than a behavioral modification program.” I haven’t heard it in meetings, but I have heard it at the coffee pot or at Fellowship after a meeting. While I agree with that statement in theory (scroll back up and re-read the definition of a Spiritual Experience in the Apendice), I believe I need to be careful on making sweeping statements like that which cannot be specifically supported in our literature. In general though, I can say that I am not the same man I was before walking into the rooms of A.A. primarily because of the relationship I have developed with a God of my understanding (“They flatly declare that since they have come to believe in a Power greater than themselves, to take a certain attitude toward that Power, and to do certain simple things, there has been a revolutionary change in their way of living and thinking.” – We Agnostics).
That, in and of itself, is the foundation to how the change has occurred. It didn’t occur because of some altruistic need I felt to become a better man; it came as a result of me watching you and seeing your life change and I wanted that life too. One dictionary definition of the word change is to transform or convert. I needed a transformation and didn’t even know it and I’m grateful that the transformation occurred on some level without me even knowing it. It just happened.
Why do I rebel against change? I believe it’s because I’m a selfish and self-centered man who only wants to believe that my way is the only way. Thank God our Steps help us to recognize that selfishness and give us the tools to be able to have tears come to our eyes when we see that change happening in OUR OWN lives.
“The great fact is just this, and nothing less: That we have had deep and effective spiritual experiences [personality changes] which have revolutionized our whole attitude toward life, toward our fellows and toward God’s universe.” – There Is A Solution.