A SLOB’S GUIDE TO
Step 11: Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our
conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for
knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
IT’S A SQUIRMY word–”spiritual.” It makes me
uncomfortable. It reminds me of the time I spent as a
child sitting in a church and trying to look holy. “Spiritual”
is confused in my mind with a kind of hymn and has
connotations of mediums, levitation, and ghosts.
Worse, “spiritual” implies pretensions of sainthood,
a hypocritical posturing, and pretended preoccupation
with wonderful thoughts–when I and everybody else
know that ninety percent of my day is spent trying to
keep the wolf from the door and the horse before the
My spiritual inventory doesn’t help much, either.
This very day, as I lay in bed staring piously at the
ceiling, I took the Third and Eleventh Steps firmly, fondly,
and resolutely. I thought warmly of all the great tasks I
would accomplish today with the aid of my trusty Third
and Eleventh. Then I got out of bed.
In midwinter, with the window open and the heat
turned down, getting out of a warm bed apparently is, for
me, an act of will of the highest spiritual order. This
monumental achievement seems to exhaust my store of
spiritual strength for the day.
By ten o’clock, I have a number of creative
suggestions to offer my Higher Power on how my life
and will might be gainfully employed. I have a serene
acceptance of God’s will for me as long as it happens to
conform to mine.
By 2:00 PM, I have decided to mix a little of my will
for me with His, since knowledge of His will is a little
slow in coming and there are problems in need of
immediate attention–like meeting the payroll, hardly a
matter of celestial concern.
This line of self-examination leads to certain
humbling realizations that are unwanted but
nevertheless gnawing little realities — potholes in the
path of smooth spiritual development. For example:
1. I won’t believe tomorrow what I am saying today.
Many of my hard-won convictions are just
expedient reactions to the situation at hand.
2. I have never seen any profound wisdom in
“Everything works out eventually.” Of course it
does. If my car is stolen tomorrow, I can meditate on how smart I was to put off cleaning
out the ashtray.
3. There are far more things I try to find the
courage to change than there are things I seek
the serenity to accept. Going through the day in
placid acceptance of everything that happens
just ain’t my style.
4. I sometimes get tired of all this self-improvement
and would like to just sit back and relax and
5. I really enjoy solitude occasionally, as opposed
to constant contact with my fellowman. There
are times when I prefer curling up with a good
book with lots of sex and violence to putting the
Big Book under my arm and sallying forth to
carry the message.
Those are not proud admissions, just the truth. I
lead an odd and noisy life; little happens slowly or
quietly. When I read my Big Book and “Twelve and
Twelve,” and I assess my spiritual growth, I am filled with
enormous feelings of inadequacy. Honesty, compassion,
acceptance, understanding, faith, love, caring–I don’t
even think about those most of the time. My progress
toward spiritual strength is a zigzag trail filled with hipshooting
Sometimes, I have thought of creating a Slob’s
Guide to Spiritual Growth, for those of us who can’t walk
around with our hands folded and a slight, mysterious
smile on our faces. It might go something like this:
1. It is better to watch the game in your undershirt
with a can of cola in your hand than a can of beer.
2. When you holler at somebody, you always feel
lousy afterward–like a hangover.
3. Life is a steady drizzle of small things–carry an
4. Tomorrow is another day.
5. Never give up.
6. Concentrate on what you’re doing–it beats
7. If you let the other fellow alone and don’t get so
upset about how he’s living his life, you can watch more
8. It is more fun to be happy than angry.
9. Don’t take anything too seriously, including all of
10. This, too, shall pass.
That’s a start. All that wisdom leads me to suspect
that the path of spiritual progress is perhaps not so steep
and dark as I had imagined. At least, I can try to
understand it without getting all smug and lofty.
For starters, I know that I am a walking miracle.
Literally overnight, I went from years of twenty-four-hour
crash drinking to total sobriety, after everything had
failed except total surrender to the AA program. That is a
fact I can stand on.
From that foundation, I am able to see certain
glimmers of progress. For example, I can realize that I
have not done anything dishonorable in at least a week.
Maybe more. Also, I have learned that using utter candor
in approaching whatever progress I have made lets me
feel a lot more comfortable with that progress, however slim and unspectacular it may be–it’s all mine and I’m
proud of getting even that far.
I have known all along, after all, that my underlying
problem was not drinking but living, and only through a
change of attitudes, through unquestioning acceptance
of the AA program–a program of spiritual growth–could I
hope to live life as forcefully, aggressively, and
enthusiastically as I have. Something must have
And as I peel away the layers of day-to-day
expediency, I realize that my zigzag, erratic, and
inconsistent course was in the general direction of
progress all the time. That’s good.
What right do I have to expect perfection and
efficiency in my spiritual growth when the rest of my life
is so full of ups and downs, ins and outs, and backs and
forths? Throughout this whole adventure, the only
consistency I have maintained is an absolute and total
faith in AA, come what may.
Happiness happens when results exceed
expectations. Maybe this is working after all. Deep down,
there is also a warm, small ball of faith, always there,
never dimmed, unexplainable, asking nothing, but giving
much. To define it or try to bounce it would distort or
destroy it. It just is, that’s all.
As St. Augustine said, “God is closer to me than I
am to Him.” I don’t know exactly what that means, but it
sure is true.
C. H. Fairfield, Connecticut Grapevine,1982
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