Tuesday, August 25, 2009

I'm 24 Today, Thanks To To Whom It May Concern!

Today marks my 24th AA Birthday, 24 years without any drink of alcohol. After the first 23 years it was easy!Actually, it was the first three or four years but let's not quibble over details.

When I first got sober I had very confused religious beliefs. I liked to say that I was an atheist on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, an agnostic on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays and I took Sundays off and didn't think about it.

So I sobered up, with a lot of help. One of the first things they told me was that, to stay sober, I had to pray. That was great news to a man who did not believe. This prayer business is one of the main things that prevents alcoholics and addicts get sober or "clean" as the addicts say, through the 12 Step Programs.

It is not just the help we get through prayer that is important, perhaps more important is admitting that we do need the help of that higher power, that we are not, as individuals, strong enough to defeat alcoholism.

So, back when I was still fighting that struggle as a newcomer, not being able to keep that knee from shaking, I couldn't pray. So I asked about it. Someone, I can't remember his name but I later went to his funeral when the disease defeated him*, told me two things that saved my life. The first was that I did not have to understand God. God understood me, that's what really counted. and the second was that I could have a temporary higher power until I got my religious beliefs more or less in order.

So I started praying. At first it was short and simple. "To whom it may concern, please help me stay sober today" in the morning. At night it was: To whom it may concern, thank you for helping me stay sober today".

That simple prayer helped and and my religious beliefs strengthened, I've never forgotten the power of prayer. This does not mean that prayer is the end all and be all of the whole thing. There is a very common prayer that includes the phrase "give us this day our daily bread". This does not mean that I can kneel down and say those words, then lean my head back and open my mouth and wait for a sandwich to fall from the sky. He does not work that way, although He could.

I can only assume that "give us this day our daily strength so we can go out and scuffle up our own damned bread" was too long for the sermon. At any rate I no longer consider To Whom It May Concern as my higher power. It's very comforting to know, though, that He answered to that when I really needed Him. I am convinced to this day that it doesn't matter much what you call Him if you are sincere when calling Him. I do not know the time limit on using To Whom It May Concern as His name. I just know it worked for me until I got those beliefs in order.

I am pretty sure that To Whom It May Concern will answer to others, not just alcoholics. So, if you, or anyone you know is having troubles too heavy for one person to carry but is unsure about religion, try the temporary higher power.

*It's a sure sign you're getting old when you can remember the funerals but not the names.

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