I’m sure you’re familiar with the idea of “cause and effect.” “Cause and effect” is the relationship between events or things, where one is the result of the other or others. This is a combination of action and reaction. In even more simple terms… if you do this – you get that. It reminds me of that old saying, “If you always do what you always did – you’ll always get what you always got.”
When I first began to learn about the idea of A.A. being the place where embracing a “personality change” (Spiritual Experience, BB Page 567 4th Edition) is something incredibly vital to my recovery, I began to see that if I were going to “get” this new way of life, I was going to have to become a different man – I was going to have to do something different. I needed to be willing to let go of old belief systems (my selfishness & self-centeredness) and ideas about how to do this thing we call life. I needed to be open to the idea that I cannot keep doing things the way I had always done them if I wanted to get different results.
After many years of studying our literature, taking the Steps, and teaching others how to take the Steps; I began to see a theme popping up that I had never really been aware of. There are many, many promises given to us in our literature (some in your face, and some hidden in plain sight). In many meetings of A.A., one our most famous set of promises is read as found on page 83 (4th Edition – Big Book) in the chapter, “Into Action” where Bill is writing about our 9th Step…
“If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others. That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves. Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us—sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them.”
Just after that on page 84, Bill gave us what I refer to as our 10th Step Promises:
“And we have ceased fighting anything or anyone—even alcohol. For by this time sanity will have returned. We will seldom be interested in liquor. If tempted, we recoil from it as from a hot flame. We react sanely and normally, and we will find that this has happened automatically. We will see that our new attitude toward liquor has been given us without any thought or effort on our part. It just comes! That is the miracle of it. We are not fighting it, neither are we avoiding temptation. We feel as though we had been placed in a position of neutrality—safe and protected. We have not even sworn off. Instead, the problem has been removed. It does not exist for us. We are neither cocky nor are we afraid. That is our experience. That is how we react so long as we keep in fit spiritual condition.”
In “We Agnotics” Page 50 we find our 2nd Step Promises: “In the face of collapse and despair, in the face of the total failure of their human resources, they found that a new power, peace, happiness, and sense of direction flowed into them. This happened soon after they whole-heartedly met a few simple requirements.”
In “How It Works” on page 70, we find our 4th Step Promises:
“If we have been thorough about our personal inventory, we have written down a lot. We have listed and analyzed our resentments. We have begun to comprehend their futility and their fatality. We have commenced to see their terrible destructiveness. We have begun to learn tolerance, patience and good will toward all men, even our enemies, for we look on them as sick people.”
And lastly, in the chapter “Into Action” on page 75, we find our 5th Step Promises: “Once we have taken this step, withholding nothing, we are delighted. We can look the world in the eye. We can be alone at perfect peace and ease. Our fears fall from us. We begin to feel the nearness of our Creator. We may have had certain spiritual beliefs, but now we begin to have a spiritual experience. The feeling that the drink problem has disappeared will often come strongly. We feel we are on the Broad Highway, walking hand in hand with the Spirit of the Universe.”
There are some lesser known promises all throughout our literature and if we look hard enough, or are alert, awake, and aware enough to see them….
- Foreword (2nd Ed.) Promise: “Today the remarkable unity of A.A. is one of the greatest assets that our Society has. It is our great hope that all those who have as yet found no answer may begin to find one in the pages of this book and will presently join us on the high road to a new freedom.” (That’s a promise)
- The Doctor’s Opinion, page xxix: “…once a psychic change has occurred, the very same person who seemed doomed…, suddenly finds himself easily able to control his desire for alcoholic.” (That’s a promise)
- Bill’s Story – page 15: “I soon found that when all other measures failed, work with another alcoholic would save the day.” (That’s a promise)
- There Is a Solution – page 25: “The central fact of our lives today is the absolute certainty that our Creator has entered into our hearts and lives in a way which is indeed miraculous. He has commenced to accomplish those things for us which we could never do by ourselves.” (That’s a promise)
- Working With Others – Page 100: “Follow the dictates of a Higher Power and you will presently live in a new and wonderful world, no matter what your present circumstances!” (That’s a promise)
This is certainly not an exhaustive list of all of the promises found in our literature, but they’re certainly ones that have played a big part in my recovery. Each of them offer me the idea of “cause and effect.” In each of them, I’m called to a certain action that will produce a certain outcome or result.
In the 9th Step Promise, the outcome is what starts us off… “If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through.” Bill then outlines what we will get (before we are halfway through) IF we are painstaking. In the 10th Step Promise, the promise itself comes first and then he ends with the action required, “That is how we react so long as we keep in fit spiritual condition.”
In each of the promises found in our literature, some of the cause and effect is clear. In some cases, we have to dig deeper, pull back the layers of the onion to see it. Regardless of whether it is easy to spot or not, it’s been my experience in our action based program that NONE of the promises given to me will ever come true if I’m not doing the work.
While there are very few things I can guarantee an alcoholic after taking our 12 Steps, in my experience the one thing I know to be true is that if I always do what I always did, I WILL always get what I always got. So maybe I need to consider doing things differently. Instead of just acquiring sobriety (putting down the bottle) – maybe I can take different actions that will develop a recovery that is rich, purposeful, and filled with that life beyond my wildest dreams I always wanted. THAT… will always be the outcome so long as I remain in fit spiritual condition.