This is a series about getting your life back on track and achieving your goals.
“Who is your higher power?” asked the leader of the AA meeting.
After picking up my white chip and getting a sponsor, I was told I should do 90 in 90. That’s 90 meetings in 90 days. I wanted to be sure I gave myself the best chance to not drink. I made a personal commitment to do 180 in 180. I didn’t tell anyone. I just did it.
Every day I went to a meeting.
I was in the midst of networking to find a job and then later working in a startup. But every day I attended a meeting. It was usually an 8 pm meeting in Cobb County. If that wasn’t possible because of an evening Technology Executive Roundtable dinner or Southeast Software Association meeting, I would attend a lunchtime meeting or a 10 pm meeting somewhere. I never missed. Never.
AA was started by a man named Bill.
He defined the 12 step recovery process. It is thought to be supernaturally inspired since it has saved so many lives. Because Bill founded AA, you sometimes hear recovering alcoholics ask, “Are you a friend of Bill’s?” This is code that you attend AA meetings. It is a way to maintain anonymity, which is a central tenet of AA. What is said in the room stays in the room. Attendees are never asked their last name. We only identify ourselves by our first names.
I still remember the very first time I shared on a topic. I remember because when the meeting leader called on me, I had to identify myself as everyone else did.
I said, “Hi. I’m Charlie, and I’m an alcoholic.”
That was the first time I said I was an alcoholic publicly. When speaking to myself, I would say things like, “I am just a heavy drinker. “ “I don’t drink as much as some of my friends.” Or, “How can I be an alcoholic? I still get up and go to work every day.”
But I was an alcoholic.
I knew it. For ten years prior to AA, I would wake up feeling bad from the prior night’s consumption. While getting ready for work, I would say to myself, “I will not drink today, not today.” When five o’clock came, I was like Pavlov’s dog. I was itching for a drink. I never missed a night of drinking.
Step 1: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol — that our lives had become unmanageable.
Now I had said it out loud.
I am an alcoholic. That was so hard for me to say. Because I knew once I said it, I had to deal. I was in the right place. I didn’t know it then but soon after came to realize this was my completion of step 1.
Step 2. We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
I was an entrepreneur. I helped build a company which had a mulit-million dollar exit. I was married to a beautiful woman who loved me. I had three wonderful children and one on the way. I had a nice house and cars. I was a corporate general manager and president of multiple divisions. I ran a $60mm business. I was a respected businessman, neighbor, and friend.
I had it all. (I thought.)
I accomplished it all. I made it all. I was in control.
But now, sitting in a folding chair in the basement of St. Peter and St. Paul Episcopal Church at 8:15 pm while drinking poorly prepared Maxwell House coffee, I was admitting I am powerless over alcohol. But this higher power was another big issue for me.
“Could I believe there is a power greater than me in my life?” I asked myself.
So when the leader asked the question, “Who is your higher power?” I was interested in how the people in the meeting would answer. I was curious.
I didn’t have an answer.
This leader was asking our opinion. This, in my mind, broke the golden rule given to rookies like me, “Don’t think. It was your stinkin’ thinkin’ that brought you to AA. Just do what we tell you to do.”
They told me to show up at meetings every day, and I did it. They told me to not drink one day at a time, and I did it. They told me to pray to a higher power, and I did it. But he was asking me to whom I was praying. You know what? I really didn’t know.
One man answered.
He said, “My higher power is the people in this room.” Another answered, “My higher power is my sponsor.” And another said, “My higher power is the AA book written by Bill.”
To me, none of these answers seemed right.
The higher power for me wasn’t the people, my sponsor, or some book. The higher power had to be something bigger, much bigger. Even bigger than what I see in the world. I had now been sober, without one sip of alcohol, for over seven months. Prior to AA, I had tried on my own to not drink. This went on every day for over ten years. Still, every day I drank. Now I was succeeding. I was not drinking.
This was a miracle.
So I asked myself, “Who is your higher power? Who did this miracle in your life?”
Be careful what you ask for…