Don’t you just hate it when someone breaks a promise that they made to you? It causes disappointment; it challenges our ability to trust. There is little worse than a broken promise.
The program of Alcoholics Anonymous has made a promise to all practicing and recovering alcoholics. To my knowledge, this promise has never been broken. But to be fair, it is a conditional promise. This simply means that there are things that we must do to help bring the promise to fruition. Today, let us review and meditate on the promises.
“If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are halfway through.” This introductory sentence tells us that we must be willing to face our pain for anything good to happen for us. Most alcoholics and addicts used chemicals for pain relief, physical pain and emotional pain alike. Until we face our pain, no promises will be fulfilled. However, if we do, we will be amazed in a relatively short period of time.
“We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness.” I don’t know a single alcoholic who did not feel like a prisoner to something when they used. They loved to be the victim because it’s a great excuse to go drink. They generally are people that have no idea what freedom actually is. Further, happiness was usually a fleeting experience that happened less frequently the older we got. We are all ready for some new freedom and happiness and in working the steps, we find it.
“We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.” Most recovering alcoholics still battle a checkered past replete with regret and resentment. If we work the inventory steps properly, we square up with the past and know that everything that happened, happened for a reason and that as we have survived it to date, we should be as grateful for it. We needed it all.
“We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace.” This is huge. Trying to explain this to someone who has never experienced it is like trying to describe the color purple to a blind person. All I can say here is work the steps and find out for yourself what it means. It will blow you away.
“No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others.” Boy, they slipped in a cool thing here! It didn’t say that no matter what happened, we will benefit. Our experience benefits others or it benefits no one. Nowhere in this statement did we hear how we benefit. Always benefiting without concern for others was a big part of our problem, and benefiting others can be our solution.
“That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows.” There is little worse than thinking poorly of ourselves and pitying ourselves as a result. We regain purpose when we think of others rather than ourselves, and when we do, our self-pity and resentment begins to dissipate.
“Self-seeking will slip away. Our whole attitude and outlook on life will change.” It is an incredible comfort to know that if I work the steps, the things that were killing me will be replaced by things that will sustain me. This is a process; it takes time. It slips away; it doesn’t just fall off. It fades.
“Fear of people and economic insecurity will leave us.” All I’m going to say here is that people will not quit being problematic and all your money problems are not going to go away if you sober up. That’s not what it says. It just says were not going to fear it anymore. Freedom from fear is an incredibly awesome benefit of this program.
“We will intuitively know how to handle situations that used to baffle us.” The program gives us a series of tools that we can use when a problem arises. When we tote these tools and have them at the ready, we navigate through difficult situations more gracefully and painlessly. In short, we don’t have to get hung up on all that stupid crap anymore. We can trust ourselves to know that today, we are not alone and we can do the right thing if we so choose.
“We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.” All of the steps of our program are predicated on our powerlessness, a condition of our past that we will always have. Until we realize that without God’s Help we can do nothing, we can do nothing. There is nothing like the moment when that realization is made.
“Are these extravagant promises? We think not.” I used to think that these were extravagant promises. They were too wonderful for me to believe that they were true and more importantly, that I could ever be deserving of them. But that was because I wasn’t willing to do the things that bring them to fruition. Until I was willing to do my part, these would forever remain extravagant promises.
“They are being fulfilled among us-sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly.” This is some of the best news of all. This tells me that I should not worry if things are going slower than I would like them to. It reminds me that whatever is going on today, it is just what I need to do and get through today. I don’t need to panic that the promises are not happening for me just because they’re not happening right now. That’s the very thinking that defines a sick mind and keeps it sick.
“They will always materialize if we work for them.” This is the payoff pitch. The program has the audacity to say that if we work for these promises, we will in time get them. Period. Done deal.
The best part of the promises is that we are an active participant in them. To the extent we are doing our part, we actively experience all the fruits of the promises. I can think of no better promise.
Quotations from: “The Promises,” Alcoholics Anonymous, pgs. 83-84, Third Edition, 1976.
James A. Francetich is a freelance writer and author. The opinions expressed are solely of the author and do not represent any community based recovery programs, private or public entities or any governmental agencies.