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July 1964

How Well Can You Listen to Yourself?

Anyone who practices listening can hear "The Still Small Voice.

THEY say Hitler heard voices--without benefit of alcohol. For better or for worse, many voice-invested visionaries have influenced history. I have heard voices with benefit of alcohol. My voices had no influence on anybody except me. During my twenty-five years of excessive drinking this lack of power was most frustrating. My ego-engendered will would have placed me in the vanguard of the history makers. My failure to be in it was a blow to my overdeveloped ambition; the shame of it could be washed away only in a solution of alcohol.

Being a periodic drunk meant that I had countless experiences of shaking it out. As the years passed, these re-entries into the world of physical sobriety brought ever increasing auditory hallucinations. I heard music, the screams of those in agony, and voices. Most of the latter were the whispered warnings of well-wishers that had sunk into my sub-conscious, only to undergo recurrent resurrections into consciousness every time I swore "never to touch another drop."

Now, after several years of AA sobriety, I still hear voices, but they are the actual voices of my friends and loved ones. In addition, there is that "still small voice" of inner awareness, once drowned out by a flood of alcohol with its attendant deluge of discordant sound and fury.

Elijah found his God in a still small voice rather than in a rushing, mighty wind. I have found the only God that I understand in my own still small voice of inner awareness, rather than in the rushing, mighty wind generated by the hot air of my once inflated self-esteem. Now I know that the self is important, but not because it thinks itself so. Its value lies in the fact that the self provides a tunnel of truth through which one passes to the acceptance of the awareness within.

This gives the Third Step meaning for me. I have made a decision to turn my ego-created will and my selfishly ordered life over to the care of the God who speaks to me through the still small voice of inner awareness. This is another way of saying that self-realization is the same thing as God-realization. How could it be otherwise? A wise and gentle teacher once said, "The Kingdom of God is within you." The inner voice is there for all to hear, provided we listen with open-minded attention. We may submerge it in oceans of alcohol, but we cannot kill it. Invariably, it swims to the surface of consciousness when we remove the anesthesia of alcohol.

The still small voice means to me the same thing as conscience. What we in AA call the group conscience, the collective conscience made up of many individual consciences, springs into being when the still small voice within each of us unites with the voices of all of us in AA. A power greater than ourselves thus directs our group thinking, feeling and acting.

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