How I Discovered the Key to Radical Life Change

I didn’t want to go, but I knew I needed to. This would be my second Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meeting. I was very concerned this might be the meeting where I had to say, “Hi, I’m Charlie, and I’m an alcoholic.” It is one thing to think it but quite another to say it out loud.

My Second Meeting

I found the church and then the meeting room. I got a cup of coffee and sat down in the second row right behind a lady in a tennis outfit. Within a few minutes, the meeting began.

The leader of the meeting was a man named Speedy. He was a gruff line worker from Lockheed who, at the time, was sober for 24 years. He was a legend in the East Cobb circle of AA. I sat there and wondered, “Can I ever be sober for 20 years? I’m not sure I can make it 20 days.”

After the readings of the Twelve Steps, The Traditions, and The Promises, Speedy set the topic.

Sobriety’s One Thing

He said, “The one thing which kept me sober for these 25 years is prayer. I get up in the morning, and the first thing I do is pray. I talk to God and ask him to keep me sober. Even during the day when that feeling of anxiousness hits me, I find myself talking to God and asking him to help me get through it.”

Speedy went on with a few more stories. Then he opened up the floor for discussion. Some of the other folks with years of sobriety also shared their experiences with prayer. To a person, they were all positive.

Stop Stinkin’ Thinkin’

Then the lady in front of me raised her hand. Speedy recognized her. She said, “I hear you and your advice. But I am not that kind of person. I don’t believe in all this God talk. Praying doesn’t make sense to me, so I’m never going to do it.”

Speedy looked at her. I think he looked through her. His eyes never left her eyes.

He asked, “How long have you been sober?”

“It’s been ten days,” she said proudly.

Speedy then said something I’ll never forget as a man who was, at the time, one day sober. He knocked me down when he said, “You know why you are here? It is because you are a drunk. It was your stinkin’ thinkin’ which made you a drunk. And here you are telling me what you think. Don’t think. I want you to do what I tell you to do.”

I could see from her body language that wasn’t going over real well.

Swallowing Harsh Advice

He continued, “I don’t care if you believe in God or prayer or anything else. If you want to stay sober, you do what we tell you to do. Don’t think. Don’t question. Just do what we tell you to do. This is how you will keep sober and change your life.”

I was stunned by his response. This young lady was at a crossroads, and so was I. Was I going to trust this guy and take his harsh advice? Was he right?

She listened to Speedy and then disagreed with him. I listened to Speedy and did everything he and the other experienced AA guys told me to do. I never saw that lady again in any of the East Cobb meetings. I came back and submitted to the AA 12 Step Program. I am now in my 24th year of sobriety thanks to Speedy and men like him.

How I Learn

It occurred to me as I was retelling this story to a friend, this is how I learn. This is how I always learn. When I ask for help, I can submit to the person who is teaching me or disagree with them. If I want what they have to offer, if I want to change my life, I need to submit and listen. Then do what they say to do.

Just submit and do it!

• • •

From Chapter 5 of Alcoholic Anonymous:

Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path. Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program, usually men and women who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves. There are such unfortunates. They are not at fault; they seem to have been born that way. They are naturally incapable of grasping and developing a manner of living which demands rigorous honesty. Their chances are less than average. There are those, too, who suffer from grave emotional and mental disorders, but many of them do recover if they have the capacity, to be honest.

Anonymous Press (2009-05-05). Alcoholics AnonymousAnnotated Study Edition (Kindle Locations 913-918). The Anonymous Press. Kindle Edition.