A Clean Slate by Mark Masserant

clean slate

Mark Masserant step 12 magazineMy early sobriety was bedeviled by unnecessary struggles and overdue surrenders. Incredibly, even though I was D.O.A. at my first meeting—Defeated on Arrival—willingness and an open mind didn’t come automatically. I always wanted more than I needed; here, I needed a lot more than I wanted. A long, bumpy road lay ahead.

I attended meetings daily, asked for help in the morning and said ‘thanks’ at night; those actions worked—I didn’t pick up the next first drink. When asked how I was doing, the answer was always ‘Fine’; however, my face often told another story.

I was uniquely screwed-up. The dilemma others viewed as a drinking problem was counterbalanced by a sobriety problem that always drove me back to the booze. I couldn’t drink and I couldn’t not-drink. It was the riddle from Hell. My sponsor called it ‘the battle of the bottle’.

My sobriety problem took center stage after alcohol was removed. Questions I wouldn’t ask and problems I couldn’t solve dogged me. My intellect, deeply entangled with my ego, was challenged. Areas of my life I tried to handle without God were failing. It was difficult to accept I needed all the help I could get, yet knew if I kept doing what I was doing, I would keep getting what I was getting. That ticket was punched.

Distressed, I went to my Tuesday night meeting, committed to listening more intently. The answer to the question “Why do you want to be restored to sanity?” was suddenly clear. If I wasn’t restored to sanity, I would be restored to drinking. My case history was punctuated by umpteen attempts to regain control while my life fell apart around me. That was my Third Chapter, too.

When they stressed the main problem of the alcoholic is centered in his mind, I got it. The notion that my own thinking could uproot the faulty reasoning that accelerated my downfall was absurd. Acutely aware I couldn’t fix myself, I was in trouble. I needed a Higher Power, now, or else. Fortunately, I was in the company of God’s Repo-men.

Many of them were once atheist or agnostic, but something happened. Undeniable happiness and peace was evident in their lives. Sobriety was not a sacrifice; it was their greatest asset. Their spirituality was working, whereas I alternated from spiritual giant to spiritual guppy, seesawing with the ups and downs of my life.

Clearly, spirituality was the bedrock to long-term sobriety. Finding what was blocking me was my next concern. I knew it was possible; the look in their eyes gave me hope. Theirs were the eyes of another kind of Lazarus.

I needed the same foundation they had, but how? A headfull of old God ideas had been gathered; most were clouded by what a child thought he heard, or misconstrued following life’s big hurts. Since then, God and I had a lot of fights—He let me lose them all. That, I later realized, was grace.

As the meeting that night unfolded, from out of the blue an idea surfaced—perhaps a spiritual nudge? While members shared, I sat picturing a blackboard in my mind’s eye. On this imaginary chalkboard I began writing everything I didn’t like about God.

After jotting down numerous grievances, I realized it was impossible to uncover them all before the meeting ended. To hasten the process, I determined everything was included, remembered or not. Satisfied, I erased the lengthy list until the slate was clean. My case was closed.

“I’ll learn about God here,” I thought. “These people can show me.”

Hopefully no one noticed, but it’s likely somebody saw that screensaver look on my face during my spiritual housecleaning. Nevertheless, it was a pivotal day in my recovery, ground zero in my relationship with God. An essay by Bill Wilson likened AA to a spiritual kindergarten, and on an invisible blackboard on a Tuesday night, so it was for me. This was the power I would rely on to take the Twelve Steps.

Other miracles became beacons on my journey, too; I hold fast to them. They still remind me I’m never alone, even when I fall asleep to that Great Fact when life surrounds me. Years have passed, sitting in that room every Tuesday, remembering a chalkboard that was created by grace.

I ask myself in morning meditation, “Is today a good day to trust God?”

Hindsight tells me, “Yes”… With God, I know it’s okay, even when it’s not okay.

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