If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace….
(Alcoholics Anonymous, pages 83-84)
The opening lines of the paragraph affectionately known as the 9th Step Promises in the Big Book, have always been a great expression of hope for me; a simple formula for complicated me, “if I go through the pain, then I’ll get these results”. In my experience with the steps, this has proven to be true. When I honestly work my steps and practice these principals in all my affairs, I do experience a new freedom and a new happiness, I have fewer regrets of my past, and I know serenity and peace. It’s a wonderful life!
This year for the first time I attended the RMEC Gathering which was held in Buffalo, NY. Being a New York resident, I thought it would be a great opportunity for me to get out of New York City and take a road trip to Upstate New York. So I shuffled off to Buffalo, with the company of a dear friend in recovery, talking and sharing stories all the way, making the 7 hour trip fly by.
Along the way, at about the half-way point, we drove by Binghamton, NY. Now Binghamton is where I went to college back in the 80s, and where I mastered the art of alcoholic drinking. My school drinking stories are just garden variety, no different than many of the stories I have heard in the rooms. I shared them with my friend for the remainder of the trip, which led me to start thinking of my last roommate. My roommate and I shared an apartment for 3 years, attended classes and studied together, and she supported me through some very low points in my life. But with the progression of my disease, drinking and self-centeredness, we unfortunately had a falling out and lost touch. I knew she lived in Buffalo but I had never reached out to contact her and I wasn’t intending on doing so on this trip either, in my mind it was a long time ago and it wouldn’t matter.
Attending the Gathering was a great experience. I enjoyed everything about it – Trinity Church and their wonderful hospitality, the people, speakers, the recovery service, our trip to Niagara Falls and our visit to the Hope Center. I left Buffalo feeling very spiritually refreshed and recharged. Having planned a stop to visit another friend on my way home, I drove back to NYC alone. By the time I reached Binghamton again, I was feeling pretty lousy and all the wonderful feelings from the weekend were gone. Stuck in the confines of my mind, I couldn’t stop thinking of my past, my roommate or my college years; and soon the feeling of deep regret had set in. Taking a moment to pray to ask God to help me with these feelings, I realized that I needed to clean my side of the street and thus get rid of these regrets once and for all.
The spiritual life is not a theory. We have to live it.
(Alcoholics Anonymous, pages 83)
When I stopped for lunch, I wrote a letter to my roommate and sent it out to her as soon as I got home. It was my amends to her for all the drama that I had exposed her to and involved her in. I included my contact information and turned it over to God. To my pleasant surprise, I received a text from her right away and we talked on the phone for hours. It ended up not being about my apology for the things that I mentioned in my letter, but of a reconciliation of long lost friends. All the regrets that I had been carrying, both real and imagined, were for naught.
I now realize that the negative feelings I had about myself on my drive back from Buffalo were just the manifestation of fear and regrets taking away my serenity and peace. When I opened the door to the past and faced the fear, I was soon rid of the regrets that blocked me from God, myself and my old friend. I am once again feeling blessed that I’ve been able to recover one more person that this disease had taken away from me, no matter how long ago it was (and yes, it does matter).
Trinity Church Wall Street
Diocese of New York City