This is how life went for a while. Bill would assign me readings and I would seek my answers within the pages. He had me read More About Alcoholism to drive home the concept of life’s unmanageability. He asked me to read Bill’s Story to illustrate the gravity of my condition. All the while I was highlighting, underlining and defining like a mad man.
When Bill was finally satisfied we found ourselves squarely at Step 2…
Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
Being the good Catholic boy that I was (not really,) I recognized that the capitalization of the “P” in “Power” meant they were referring to God and I got my gloves on. I’d be ready for this fight. But I didn’t fight. Instead something strange happened. He asked me to read We Agnostics in preparation for Step 2. Huh? I didn’t need a dictionary for that word. I had declared myself an agnostic upon entry to the halls a year prior. In fact this is the very chapter I would point to when trying to convince those around me that I and they would need no god to survive. Why on Earth would the fool ask me to read such a thing for my coming to believe? Okay, will do, the fight can wait a week. I’m on it Chief.
I hate being wrong and I hate it even more when being wrong makes me feel foolish. I read the chapter, the one I offered as proof that God was no more a part of the program than I was. How had I missed this:
Well, that’s exactly what this book is about. It’s main object is to enable you to find a Power greater than yourself which will solve your problem.
Holy crap–literally! How had I missed that? This was my favorite chapter for the exact opposite of what it actually says. In fact, it goes on and on on the subject. “Every one of them has gained access to, and believes in, a Power greater than himself.” It seemed never-ending. In some places it appeared as if Bill Wilson was begging the reader, Please, isn’t there a chance you’ve been wrong and there is a God? Man, o’ man.
The next week I returned to Bill humbled but cocky. (If that makes sense to you then you’re in the right place.) We reviewed the chapter together with Bill’s further insights. I was noticeably quiet, shocked. As we wrapped up I was chewing on the idea that maybe A.A. wasn’t for me when Bill said, “No reading this week. Instead I want you to think about God. Next week when we meet I want you to tell me the broad strokes of what your Higher Power is and what your Higher Power is not. Okay?”
“Sure thing, Bill,” I answered. After all, I could always quit next week if I still wanted to.
No reading, I took it like a much earned and needed vacation. In short, I did nothing. I don’t think I thought of God once over the course of the week. I had this. I mean, I was an alter boy wasn’t I? Who can describe God better than me?
Next week I entered the room and when prompted I went into my spiel. Beard, flowing robes, a walking stick (most likely to beat me with,) the whole nine. When I’d finished Bill looked at me and said, “Really? Is that your conception of God?” Notice he didn’t say I was wrong, he just asked. I looked at him for a moment. I opened my mouth and nothing came out at first.
“Uh…well, uh, no. No, I didn’t really do the assignment. I didn’t think of God at all.”
Damn it! What had happened to me? I can’t lie now? I still to this day don’t know why I didn’t but for some reason I just couldn’t. I sat with my head hanging but he didn’t seem upset. He just asked me to do him the favor of doing it this week. He stressed the importance that, whatever God I chose, be personal to me. I wouldn’t turn to a God I did not trust so it was life or death. That sounded hokey to me but I’m a people pleaser, there was no way I was getting caught with my pants down again.
I had no way of knowing it at the time but nothing I would do would have as profound an impact on my life as that exercise. My ideas on a Spirit of the Universe have grown and continue to grow. Each day I feel I get a little closer and I’m more and more certain that that is the whole point of life. There was a day not long after when I was driving down Interstate 95. I was all alone in my car and the sun was setting. I guess I never really noticed sunsets before but I noticed this one. It was pink, and purple and shades of pastel that would have made Monet weep. I was staring at it and I said, “Thank You, that’s beautiful.” This was the first time I ever prayed against my will. I had been drinking against my will for years but never prayed. I don’t think I knew it at the time but I know now that this is the psychic change they talk about in the big book.
I have never been the same since.