There’s a passage in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous that we in the program like to call “The Promises.” At the 6:30am meeting that I call my home group, we end every meeting with someone reading this passage. It goes like this:
“If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are halfway through. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret our past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know a new peace. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others. That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.
Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us – sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them.”
I was seven years old the first time I can remember an adult lying to me. The date was Saturday, December 18, 1982.
My dad and a couple of my uncles had gone to an NFL football game, the Los Angeles Raiders versus the Los Angeles Rams. It’s because I can easily find the results of that game that I know the date. Before they left that morning I asked my dad to bring me home a Raiders cap from the concession stand. He promised he would.
When he came home drunk and high and without a hat, he told me that they didn’t have any hats for sale at the stadium. But his long, drunken face betrayed his falsity. It was obvious to me, even at six years old, that he was lying.
I don’t ever want to be that dad. I believe I can be better. I believe that my family deserves better. I believe that I have a responsibility to God, to my wife, to my children and to the People of Earth to be better than that.
And, luckily, at this point in my life I believe I know a few things about myself – not everything, but a few things – and one of the things I know is that above all else the one tenet of being a man that I sincerely believe is this:
You have to live what you believe, otherwise you don’t really believe it, do you?
I fear hypocrisy and I fear the divorce of my beliefs and actions. At one point, drinking seemed to be a good excuse to separate the two. While drunk I had a window of opportunity to make mistakes, to stumble and undress my ego, to let a barbaric yawp loose in polite society. Not so anymore.
There are promises to me now – those promises from the Big Book, above – that will be kept, that are materializing before me as I work for them. I believe that, and, as I have responsibility to my beliefs – to live them! – I know they will come true.
Just as I know there will be a day when my experience, strength and hope will benefit others.
I’m doing my best today to live my life as a man of my principles, to be an example to my children and to everyone I meet of what it means to live what one believes. I fail much of the time, but I’m trying.