Most people try to live by self-propulsion. Each person is like an actor who wants to run the whole show; is forever trying to arrange the lights, the ballet, the scenery and the rest of the players in his own way. If his arrangements would only stay put, if only people would do as he wished, the show would be great. Everybody, including himself, would be pleased. Life would be wonderful. – Alcoholics Anonymous, pp. 60-61
This was our course: We realized that the people who wronged us were perhaps spiritually sick. Though we did not like their symptoms and the way these disturbed us, they, like ourselves, were sick too. We asked God to help us show them the same tolerance, pity, and patience that we would cheerfully grant a sick friend. When a person offended we said to ourselves, “This is a sick man. How can I be helpful to him? God save me from being angry. Thy will be done.”
We avoid retaliation or argument. We wouldn’t treat sick people that way. If we do, we destroy our chance of being helpful. We cannot be helpful to all people, but at least God will show us how to take a kindly and tolerant view of each and every one. – Alcoholics Anonymous, pp.66-67
In the last few posts, we have been looking at the ways fear and anger have poisoned our well. We saw how old “stale anger” from the past reached into our present lives and made living such a chore. We also saw how fear could cast a cloud of worry and suspicion over the future. And, as I said earlier, there are direct measures we can take to “cure” this spiritual malady.
But there are also steps we can take to nip he problem in the bud. As any doctor can tell you, it’s far easier to prevent disease than to have to cure it. The term for this is “prophylaxis.” Here’s a definition:
Measures designed to preserve health (as of an individual or of society) and prevent the spread of disease.
I always read that first quote from pages 60-61 as applying specifically to alcoholics. I completely missed the “most people” part. Of course I would. We’re so convinced of our alcoholic uniqueness that we don’t realize that “most people” labor under the sames burden of self-centeredness and fear that we do. Let me make haste to point out that we are prone to saying the “sick man” prayer and forget that we are probably sicker. It’s really a prayer of humility, a spoken admission that we’re all pretty much in the same boat and that other people are probably doing the best they can
So the key to spiritual prophylaxis lies in our realization that the people who wrong us are themselves dealing with same spiritual malady. The difference is that they CAN in some measure “afford it.” It may make them miserable, but they have the option of being miserable the rest of their lives. We all know people like that. But we also come across individuals who can spot it and take corrective measure. We know people like this as well. They have recognized a need in their life and have followed a course of spiritual action to remedy it.
We alcoholics, on the other hand, can’t “afford it” because it kills us. We don’t have the option of suffering through it because our only response to pain has always been escape through alcohol or drugs. So, if we are to survive, we also have to find a course of spiritual action that can solve the problem. The AA program is not unique. It is not even original. It is simply a synthesis of the most effective and proven methods for overcoming this human condition. And it is extremely pragmatic. AA does not require years of rigorous discipline before results are seen. Quite the contrary. It cuts straight to the core of the problem and offers a “kit of spiritual tools” that have proven over the years to be extremely effective. That does not mean that we never grow beyond this point, only that AA offers first aid to the alcoholic so that he or she can survive long enough to become the healthy spiritual being that He intended.