Confession of a teetotaler
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:3).
Many years ago in support of someone dear to me, I attended AA meetings. A lifelong teetotaler, I never expected to learn from alcoholics. But there I found remarkable teachers of the virtue Jesus blessed first: poverty of spirit.
They often refer to themselves as “grateful recovering alcoholics.” They turn to AA when they see their lives flash before their eyes, when the divorces, bankruptcies, auto accidents, and job terminations drive them to their knees. They come with nothing and no one else to turn to except each other and the God who seems quietly but powerfully present at their meetings.
Despite attending church all my life, I never before met people with such a palpable sense that God really saved their lives. They stood at the threshold of death and submitted not only soul but body to God.
The first three of their Twelve Steps to recovery define poverty of spirit for the alcoholic: They admit powerlessness over alcohol. They declare utter dependence on a higher power to make them sane again. Then they submit their lives to God of their personal understanding. [i]
They are thankful not so much for a ticket to heaven in their back pockets as for literally living right now, drinking coffee and laughing. Many self-professed control freaks claim to have been transformed by praying the Serenity Prayer daily: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Yesterday’s drunk serves as today’s spiritual guide to the newly recovering.
They choose God every day, every hour if necessary to stay sober. I, the teetotaler, follow their lead because although I never felt the draw of alcohol, I’m not exactly sober either. I struggle with addiction to many things – ambition, status, and security to name a few – for which I seem to always want more. Without them I get restless and depressed. The thought of losing them terrify me. That is powerlessness.
Also like the recovering alcoholic, I remain addicted for life. Daily I find myself back in the draw of my addictions. Some days I discover desires and habits that I never before recognized as addictions. I can either succumb or keep praying and submitting to God. Many recovering alcoholics thank God for their addiction because without it they never would have found the serenity that grows in daily surrender.
Whoever you are, whatever your addictions, may God grant you the serenity to name and face them without shame. May God grant you the courage to freely turn your will and your life over to the God beyond your understanding.
[i]A.A. World Services, Inc.
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