Steps 10 & 11 of Alcoholics Anonymous

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Matthew M is one of my all-time favorite speakers on The Pod. He has an incredible ability to tell stories that deeply touch my soul. This episode, like his previous one, was no exception. I was blown away.

Matthew’s discussion of Step 10. Oops sorry! Matthew’s discussion of “The 10th Surrender” and his story about telling lies to inflate our ego made a lot of sense. As someone who had built a life around using manipulation (and lies) to get what I want, using manipulation (and lies) to control people and situations, using manipulation (and lies) to stroke my ego. I get it. I got it. I totally understood the impulse to create the world I wished for through constructing intricate stories bearing little resemblance to my reality. From the time I was in grade school, that was my life. Today, I’m trying to do better.

I also interpreted part of Matthew’s message as, when we realize that we are not the center of the universe, when we realize that we are not the most important person in the room, and begin to act in a way that puts others first, begin to take action to live a life based on service to others rather than on convenience to self, transformation happens. We begin the process of surrendering our egos for something real and powerful. A life based on service and community and living for something larger than self. This realization that we don’t control life and we can’t control others is critical to building the foundation of living by God’s will. And here was where the real impact of Matthew’s message started for me. It was the transition from Surrender 10 to Surrender 11.

Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

Prayer and meditation weren’t high on my “To-do list” early on in sobriety. In fact, they didn’t make the list at all. Prayer was never something I was interested in or believed in before sobriety. Prayer was for weak-minded people who wanted to shift blame for their lives to some invisible being in the sky. Sadly, those were my beliefs. I often share in meetings how the last thing I (thought I) needed or wanted when I walked into the rooms of AA was a God. I remember early on listening to guys with 10, 15, 30 years of sobriety talk about “getting on their knees every morning” or “praying every day.” And I would roll my eyes and think, “good for you. I’m proud of you. But that’s not going to happen.”

Over time, the anger and bitterness I held towards a God began to fade away. Believe me; it was a slow process. But it came. I began to realize that there was something greater than me (who would have thunk it?) which controlled the universe. I had to look no further than my own experience of being led into the rooms of AA. It wasn’t some bright idea of mine to walk into a room full of alcoholics and proclaim that I had lost control of my drinking and was one of them. But there I was. And I soon found out that I belonged there. I may have walked into the room. But I had been led there by some power which was certainly not me.

Matthew’s story, as it continued, and had been shared in previous episodes, is a powerful, sad, and beautiful example of how God can work in someone’s life.

Without getting into too much detail, Matthew’s wife suffered a stroke and found herself needing his help more than ever. During the episode, Matthew discusses her situation and his role as a caregiver. But more importantly, he talks about dealing with everyday life through prayer and meditation. Essentially, he says that he doesn’t pray to heal his wife. He has surrendered to the fact that her physical and mental conditions are what they are. So, rather than pray for some miracle to heal her, he prays that they can thrive in her current state. That they can make the best of the world, that is. Because that, apparently, is God’s will. The quote that stuck out to me that caused me to stop and hit the replay button was, “I don’t pray, and things change. I pray, and my perception shifts, and I’m able to do what I didn’t think I could do a minute ago.”

Even typing that now brings tears to my eyes. It is profound. It is beautiful. It makes so much sense. But requires so much growth and faith and surrender. The world is what it is. We don’t control it. Prayer isn’t intended to cause changes to the structure of the universe. Prayer isn’t intended to allow us to shape the world into how it best fits our wishes. But prayer can shift how we perceive and interact within the universal structure and allow us to make the best of our personal now as it exists today.

Gregg P

Gregg’s homegroup is The Grounded Group of Alcoholics Anonymous in Los Angeles, CA. (Thanks be to Zoom.) But after recently relocating to NYC, he is looking for a new homegroup to attend in person once again.