In 1909, a boy by the name of Bill Wilson became a student at Burr & Burton Academy, where he met and fell madly in love with a young girl named Bertha. She was, “the prettiest, brightest and surely the most charming girl in the school.” And lucky for Bill, Bertha loved him back. Off they went down lover’s lane and for maybe the first time in his alcoholic life (because we can live alcoholically before we take our first drink!) Bill Wilson felt connected to something outside of himself. Every alcoholic knows how addictive and powerful that feeling can be.
But early one November morning, after the usual chapel routine at B&B, the headmaster announced that a young female student at the school had died in an emergency surgery…Bertha. And so Bill, still decades from the admission of his own powerlessness over alcohol (he hadn’t even had his first drink), abruptly ended his formative years on a ‘note of helplessness.’ He knew in the way that we know something after we live it, that sometimes all of our wanting, our hunger, our desire, mean nothing. Life just happens. That’s why in sobriety we learn to meet circumstances as they are, not as we wish they were, aka: reality–a concept not that comfortable for most addicts and alcoholics.
There’s this great book called, Not God, and it’s a very good academic and social history of Alcoholics Anonymous, written by a guy named Ernest Kurtz and titled, Not God, from p.62 of the Big Book where it says, “First of all we had to quit playing God.” If I’m not God, that means I need you, the fellowship, a power greater than myself. It means that I have to accept that I don’t always know what’s going to make me happy or fill that God-sized hole inside me. It’s from this admission of powerlessness that I can begin to seek intuitively the people, places, and experiences that bring me joy and move my life in a direction that feels better. For me, in my program, this is how I gently try to align my life with God’s will for me.
Who can know what Bill’s life might have been like if Bertha had lived. Would they have married? Had a family? Undoubtedly Bill’s alcoholism would have still appeared, but without that sense of helplessness, powerlessness, hopelessness he experienced wtih Bertha’s death, would A.A. ever have been born? I claim nothing in regards to certainty of gods, goddesses, religions, rain dances or any other spiritual experience. The most certain I will ever be is that I am distinctly uncertain, but I find that it doesn’t really matter. If I stay out of the way, seek the path that feels right for me, trudge (walk with purpose!) along, and help others, I seem to stay in pretty good shape and life keeps getting more interesting.
Today is a good day to remember that we don’t always know why things happen; we don’t know if things are good or bad. We can only know that in this moment we have our sobriety and each other, and power over ourselves.
Have an amazing day, and do something good!