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January 1988

Deflation at Depth

"My depression deepened unbearably, and finally it seemed as though I were at the very bottom of the pit. I still gagged badly on the notion of a Power greater than myself, but finally, just for the moment, the last vestige of my proud obstinacy was crushed. All at once I found myself crying out, 'If there is a God, let Him show Himself! I am ready to do anything, anything!'

"Suddenly the room lit up with a great white light. 1 was caught up into an ecstasy which there are no words to describe. It seemed to me, in the mind's eye, that I was on a mountain and that a wind not of air but of spirit was blowing. And then it burst upon me that I was a free man. Slowly the ecstasy subsided. I lay on the bed, but now for a time I was in another world, a new world of consciousness. All about me and through me there was a wonderful feeling of Presence, and I thought to myself, 'So this is the God of the preachers!' A great peace stole over me and I thought, 'No matter how wrong things seem to be, they are still all right. Things are all right with God and His world'" (AA Comes of Age, page 63).

When I first read Bill W.'s account of his experience in Towns Hospital, I could readily identify with it--not so much with his extraordinary spiritual experience as with the sense of peace that went with it and the feeling that "no matter how wrong things seem to be, they are still all right."

I drank for twenty-five years with progressively more destructive results. When I finally hit bottom, came to AA, and stopped drinking, I was grateful to find that right from the beginning of sobriety I could feel a quiet sense of peace (something I hadn't felt for years) and that, despite the mess my life was in at the time, things were ultimately okay--and would get better. These feelings proved to be true. For me, they were the result of the grace of God (my Higher Power) working in my life--and also, no doubt, my experiencing the contrast between the depressing, negative, destructive emotions I had felt for so long while drinking, and my newfound hope of recovery and healing.

It's been fourteen years since I took my last drink, and human nature tends to forget the unpleasant and the bad. But I can never afford to really forget what it was like while drinking--the constant tension, the fear and depression, the anxiety and the loneliness that only an alcoholic can know. Bill W. sums it up well: "But nearly all [spiritual experiences] had the great common denominators of pain, suffering, calamity. Complete hopelessness and deflation at depth were almost always required to make the recipient ready. The significance of all this burst upon me. Deflation at depth--yes, that was it. Exactly that had happened to me" (AA Comes of Age, page 64).

Today I try to go to a good number of AA meetings and make Twelfth Step calls on alcoholics who may still be drinking and suffering. 1 want to be reminded not just intellectually but at a gut level of what alcohol did to me--and will do again, if l ever pick up a drink. However, AA is not just staying away from the first drink. By working the AA program I can find a depth of life and a measure of serenity I would never have found elsewhere, and I can live with the conviction that, in the final reckoning, things are still all right no matter what life may be dealing me at any particular time.

This is a priceless gift, a gift that involves a mystery: Why am I sober today while millions of others throughout the world will die the tragic death of active alcoholism? What did I do to deserve this new life?

Sobriety is a gift which I can only accept in gratitude, work at in AA, and pass on to the still-suffering alcoholic. If 1 can do this and remain grateful to the God of my understanding who is doing for me what 1 cannot do for myself, I'll stay sober one day at a time. As Bill W. is quoted in As Bill Sees It(page 51): "When I was driven to my knees by alcohol, I was made ready to ask for the gift of faith. And all was changed. Never again, my pains and problems notwithstanding, would I experience my former desolation. I saw the universe to be lighted by God's love; I was alone no more."

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