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When God Glanced My Way

Audio Version

February is the month in which my AA birthday falls and as some years have passed since I came into the Fellowship I can now freely admit it has far more significance for me than my belly button birthday - it's probably because I was aware of the process of being re-born that second time around! I write that last sentence, I must add, not from a religious, evangelical stance but instead, based on the spiritual awakening that we, in this Fellowship, experience when we finally surrender and engage with the Programme of Recovery.

Doing the Steps allowed me to begin the process of discarding the many behaviours and masks it was necessary to have when in the full grip of this disease. It was necessary, even imperative, to be deceitful, to be dishonest, to be utterly reckless when living as an active alcoholic. Interestingly though, what was revealed to me as I wrote my 4th Step was that all those defects of character were present long before I even took my first drink.

It was a painful but oddly freeing revelation to me, as I filled in those columns, to see the way that specific ways of thinking, feeling and acting could be traced right back to when I was a child. I could see as a young teenager how deceitful and dishonest I could be. I was, at the age of 14, a master of telling half-truths - yes, I was out on a Friday evening ringing the bells at the village church but no, you weren't going to be told that I'd convinced the boy I had been expressly forbidden to meet up with, to join this village activity as well. I could also see how reckless I had been even as a young girl of eight. Yes, I was an extremely able pupil in the classroom but, just as importantly, I was known as a risk taker. Being the only girl willing to take a shot of playing a suffocation game in the school playground ensured that I wasn't known as a goody, goody swot! Even then I could be all things to all people depending on who was around.

And not a drop of alcohol was needed for me to act that way - it was just how I operated when I wanted something. People were there to be played or manipulated and even though I didn't have those words in my vocabulary back then, the behaviours were most definitely well established in my psyche. Once the alcohol got added it was these character traits I intuitively drew upon to maintain my addiction to whatever I was taking.

As a young teenager I took great pleasure at being able to get away with stuff and this continued through my years of drinking and using. In my head I relished my ability to hoodwink whoever and whatever I had to deal with. I inwardly scoffed at people and institutions who fell for my polite, articulate manner but, as the years went on, in the occasional moments of clarity which would sometimes break through my web of lies, I would get a knowing, a sense that this great skill I had was actually building a wall of deceit between me and my true self as well as between everyone else in my life.

In those moments of clarity I would be chilled to the bone as I, in the space of one heartbeat, would sense the utter sham that my life was. Looking back at those times, which I would invariably smother with another drink or drug, I now believe them to be brief periods of Grace, when the God of my understanding cast a momentary glance my way and lit up for me everything that was wrong in my life. Thank goodness, my true self was still in there somewhere, buried deep below, to feel the utter worthlessness at those times as I saw what I had done with the life and the gifts I had been given.

My God glanced my way on many occasions in the last few years of my active alcoholism and I thank him for his determined perseverance to get through to me. There came, eventually, a time when no amount of drink or drugs could block one of those moments. It happened in a flat on the south side of Glasgow. A flat in which I might have died on any number of occasions. It was a flat where drink and drugs were taken non-stop and I was a constant fixture. And in that flat, on that particular day, I got what I can only describe as some sort of vision.

I was, within my very being, transported back to the feelings I had as a very young girl; long before I had begun nurturing those defects of character which had served me so well but really so badly up until that point. Feelings of pure happiness, calmness and joy, of cleanness and love enveloped me and their very presence, when physically I was in a place of such darkness, violence and death finally stopped me in my tracks. I had forgotten I had ever felt like that. That was the day God glanced my way and the real me inside leapt with joy. That was the day I got a sneak peek of what I could get if I was willing to stop living the life I was living. At that moment I didn't know how I was going to get those feelings again - I just knew they wouldn't be found in that flat.

And so began my journey into the light and into a Fellowship which loves and supports me. Into a Fellowship which actively encourages me to do a series of Steps which allows me to continue to slough away at the layers of my defects whilst my sponsor holds a torch to light my work and it is through this work that I get to experience those feelings of contentment that I was gifted with in Govanhill 11 years ago.

I'll end this letter by saying this way of living isn't easy at times. It's hard to be confronted with your defects when you first come in. It's even harder to have versions of them pointed out to you further on down the line. I am thankful, though I may not appear to be, that I have loved ones in the Fellowship who will stop me in my tracks and tell me I still have work to do. Loved ones who will gift me, in this my birthday month, with moments of clarity I may squirm at. I am thankful I have them in my life.


Partick, Friday Lunchtime