Tuesday, July 13, 2010

"Happy, Joyous, And Free (???)"

I've been reading the Big Book of AA again. Just started at the beginning and haven't gotten too far. Not up to the passage that contains the phrase I've used for my title there. The phrase came to my mind and so I skipped ahead and read it. Context? This is from chapter 9, 'The Family Afterward'. A paragraph earlier is the well-known 'we are not a glum lot' and the full quote for my subject is, "We are sure God wants us to be happy, joyous, and free." Not we 'think' he does, but we are 'sure'.

There's a great story I heard once. A man is standing with his minister. Together, they see a bumper sticker proclaiming the car owner's certainty of faith. The man turns to his religious guide and confesses that he wishes he had that kind of faith. The minister chuckles and replies, "that isn't faith; God can't do anything with certainty."

Not everyone agrees on this point. For some, they see faith as certainty. They are certain God exists, certain they will get into Heaven if they live by certain rules which they are certain were ordained by God from up on high. To people of this stripe, faith isn't really faith if you aren't certain about it. Some atheists have a similar faith. They are certain God doesn't exist, and when they discover that people of deep faith have doubts, they hold it up as proof that their beliefs are true. Certainty is exclusionary. Certainy means you are right and others are wrong. My faith is not of this brand.

The broader context of the Big Book passage asks the question, how can you people (meaning those of us in Recovery) be so relaxed? How can you be so casual, so frivilous, about such a dire subject matter? It is true that those of us who find our way into the rooms of 12-step meetings have been through hell. The joy of Recovery is in learning that we don't have to go there anymore, becomming free of those bonds. The chains of our old lives, our old pain, falls away. I have heard it said and repeated it many times: Recovery does not have to be a funeral.

We have to work it, of course. If we don't work the program, we don't receive the benefits of it. Our lives may change some, but if our commitment falls off, so do the promises, and we find ourselves back in the midst of our old patterns. The chaos returns. The pain returns. Luckily for us, we can change that at any time, right ourselves, and begin walking the spiritual path anew.

Some people don't want to. Some don't want to do the deep soul searching required. Some have issues they don't want to share, things horrible yet so familiar that they're unwilling to let go of them. Fear is probably the most poweful aspect of the disease. I know my fears still hold me back in certain areas of my life. I have experienced those moments of being happy, joyous, and free, but they have been just that: moments.

I can't say for certain that God wants me to be happy, joyous, and free. I try not to claim to know what God wants. But I believe it to be true. Earlier in my life, I felt that God wanted me to suffer, so why can't the opposite be true? Or maybe it's a freedom thing. Maybe we can suffer if we choose, be happy if we choose. What do I believe? I'm honestly not sure. Being happy, joyous, and free sounds a hell of a lot better than the way it was. Maybe it's a signpost on the journey. "Happy, Joyous, and Free--10 miles ahead."

We addicts sure do have a sick sense of humor :)


  1. Good blog Zach. The head of spiritual care at Hazelden has a lecture series entitled "Happy, Joyous and Free." John McDougle is his name. Great speaker.

    If you have a chance, check out my blog at: http://www.soberlawyer.com

    Take good care,


  2. I'll be sure to check McDougle out. Ah Hazelden, such great stuff. I have a long-standing dream of one day receiving a call from them about this blog to the effect of, "why not compile your 'greatest hits' and publish them?" lol. Ya never know, right?

    Thanks for reading..