The Big Book Promises

There are three sets of promises offered to us in Debtors Anonymous:

  1. The Big Book Promises
  2. The “Hidden” Promises in the Big Book
  3. The DA Promises

The Big Book Promises

The Big Book, which is our instruction manual, gives us the steps to take to recover from our disease. It also tells us what we can expect to happen to us if we do the work they suggest as a program of recovery. We call them “The Promises.” In the Big Book, they are on pages 83-84.

The interesting point is that Bill W. didn’t reveal these amazing results until after Step Nine! It is almost as if he knew that a person needed to walk the path with faith that it was the right thing to do without any strings attached. Or maybe he knew that the initial incentive is to just get rid of the drug, and thinking about more would be confusing for folks. Or maybe he knew that for many, if these promises didn’t come true on day two, as addicts they would give up, saying this program stinks and doesn’t work.

I think it was smart to just focus on the work we need to do to stay sober (with money in our case) before revealing how this might impact other areas of our lives.

In addition, if you think about it, Steps Ten through Twelve are the daily work we do once we have gone through the first nine steps. I once had an AA sponsor (over 20 years sober) tell me that she only worked Steps One through Nine once because by working Ten through Twelve daily, there was never a need to do them again! Now, that is rather ambitious for most of us. I do a run of the first nine every few years because even with my best efforts, stuff just builds up.

But the point is, putting the promises after Step Nine is a good divider between the thorough house cleaning we do periodically and the daily maintenance of our home.

Let’s go through the Big Book promises:

If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through.

We are being told that we must be diligent in our step work to this point if we are to experience this amazement. Halfway through means that we have:

  1. Admitted powerlessness over our drug. (debt)
  2. Believe that there is help for us beyond our own limited control.
  3. Turned over our will to this Higher Power (HP).
  4. Reached deeply into our lives and souls to take responsibility for our past actions and resentments in order to clean up the “wreckage of the past.”
  5. Revealed all this garbage from our lives to ourselves, to our Higher Power, and to another person. Essentially, this is our first pass at amends on one level – to ourselves and our HP.
  6. By the time we are halfway through, we are at Step Six, where we look at our character defects, certainly revealed in our Fourth Step, and find willingness to let go of them with our Higher Power’s help.

There is still the matter of practicing the opposite of our defects as a partner with our HP (Step Seven), and going through the amends process with those we have directly harmed (other than ourselves – Steps Eight and Nine).

We have done quite a lot of hard work and now, we can look up, after making our amends, and look back to see all that we have accomplished. Now, we can take a moment to sit in awe of the results of our hard work. Not only are we sober/abstinent, but we have repaired relationships and moved into living a life of integrity.

We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness.

For me, happiness is a dangerous word. I have used the lack of it as an excuse to pick up my drugs in the past. I had to redefine happiness, which is what I believe they mean by a “new happiness.” Now, it’s not a euphoric state dependent on my getting all my wishes to come true. Happiness is my ability to be OK no matter what happens; not to allow external events to determine my mood. It’s not about getting my way, which, in retrospect, never made me all that happy. It’s more about satisfaction with what I have, gratitude, in fact.

Ironically, through the discipline of living by my spending plan, I feel free, thus, a new meaning for freedom. My freedom comes from limits. There is much less pain when I don’t have an unlimited amount of money (i.e., credit) to buy whatever I want on a whim. For me, satisfying cravings leads to more cravings. Because of this program, and my spending plan, I have the opportunity to practice delayed gratification, which really curbs craving for me.

Because of living by a spending plan, I accrue money in categories, which gives me freedom to select what spending is most important to me. Right now, I’m saving for my son’s graduation. I know that I will have enough money to take everyone out to dinner, hotel room, etc. I am free because I don’t live by the seat of my pants any longer. I am free because I plan. What an irony for an addict.

It took quiet awhile to get my spending plan into its current state. In fact, we just revised it at my last PRG. But I cherish it as a prized possession. No one can take this from me. Circumstances may require revision (i.e., less or more income), but I will always be able to live by a spending plan in some form or other.

We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.

Through the hard work of Step Four, and talking it through with someone in Step Five, we definitely have worked on self-forgiveness and maybe even dropped our resentment and found some compassion for those who caused us harm.

I now have spiritual tools to use for acceptance when I beat myself up for past mistakes (regret), but I also have gratitude for all I’ve been through because it led me to this recovery (nor wish to shut the door).

This isn’t once and done, but gradually, these tools of acceptance and gratitude are more and more integrated into who I am.

We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace.

Like happiness, I used to think serenity was a high. Now, I know that serenity and peace come from an acceptance of life as it is, no matter what, and learning to live without adrenaline coursing through my body all the time.

I’m still learning how dangerous excitement and adrenaline are for me – whether about something wonderful or terrible. Now, I far prefer feeling calm to that racing feeling of anticipation or dread. Not that I don’t still go for it sometimes, but my body and emotions pay the price when I do. As someone with chronic illness, I cannot afford to get overly riled up and excited, just as, being an addict, I cannot afford to give in to resentment and anger.

I have learned that my choices can lead me to an adrenaline rush or peace. Further, I can choose whether or not to rev up the engines when dealing with any situation.

There is a wonderful PDF booklet about this from Adrenaline Addicts Anonymous that I urge you to read if you can relate to the idea that excitability is not good for addicts.

No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others.

It is interesting that this is listed as a promise, well before we have reached Step Twelve. Yet, by now, we will be involved in meetings, daily outreach calls, and sponsoring. So, essentially, we began our 12th Step service work long before. In DA H.O.W., you can sponsor and share your story on meetings after you have finished the 30 questions and have 30 days of abstinence.

It is a service for me to reach out to a newcomer because it helps me remember where I came from. I think remembering (not shutting the door on the past) is a vital component to my continuing abstinence in DA. They say, “the further you are from your last binge, the closer you are to your next.” I believe that with all my heart. That is why I cannot forget where I came from. Going to meetings, sponsoring, giving PRGs, and outreach calls are all ways we can remember, while helping others.

The other day, I was completely inspired by a member of fellowship who shared something astonishing. She said, “I was terrified when I came in that I would end up in financial ruin. Now, my worst fears have come to pass, yet I continue to stay abstinent in DA.” She said that though the events had unfolded as she most feared, her reaction to it was so different, and now there was a way through it.

It is great when we hear about people whose dreams are coming true because of program. For me, it’s just as inspiring to hear people who walk through trials in life and stay sober.

That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear.

This one comes and goes for me. But I am far less likely to experience those emotions working program. It’s hard to feel useless when you are sponsoring and doing other service activities. And self-pity is not tolerated by many sponsors, who give us the antidote – gratitude. They say a grateful heart doesn’t pick up.

Many of us use the tool of gratitude daily to remind us of all we have, no matter what we lack. I think this should be an official tool as I’ve found it so valuable in enhancing the quality of my abstinence.

It is doubly important for newcomers to work with gratitude. They are at the lowest point … having their problems without benefit of all our program offers yet. By teaching them to use the tool of gratitude, they might find some early relief.

We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows.

I still want what I want, but I have found over the years that my focus is more on giving service, not just in program but in all my relationships, and less about acclaim and personal gain.

Gaining interest in our fellows is not really a choice in this program. Left to my own devices, I would hole up in my house and speak to no one. But this program has saved me from being a complete misanthrope.

Self-seeking will slip away.

It’s pretty well impossible to live a life of integrity and work this program if you are driven to look out only for yourself at the expense of everyone else. Working Steps Four and Five point out where we have behaved selfishly. Steps Six and Seven teach us how to shift our focus if self-seeking is harming ourselves or others.

I was incredibly self-seeking, to no avail, I might add. It has been a gradual shift to my preference for service, but now, there is no question that my joy comes from helping others, not from being in the limelight.

Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change.

This is a no-brainer. How on earth can any addict who has stopped using by virtue of these steps not look at life, and our place in it, differently? We used because we saw ourselves as victims or because we wanted to “feel good” all the time or because we wanted to evade something. All of this is about self-centeredness and control. No one sincerely working this program can possibly get to this point and still look at him or herself and the surrounding world in the same way.

Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us.

What is interesting to me about this one is that it doesn’t state that we will not experience economic insecurity … just that we won’t fear it. That is so true for me. Just as I wrote the story about the member whose life is in financial ruin walking through it patiently one day at a time in this program, that is how I feel as well. It’s not that I never get scared. It’s just that I can work my way out of it using the tools of our program.

Fear of people has left in some ways because I am not so much in conflict with others. I’m not hiding from creditors and I am doing my best to pay off my debt. For the most part (progress, not perfection), I’m not behaving in ways that make me feel less than or humiliated. When I make a mistake, I take ownership of it as soon as possible and make amends when necessary for my part. If I haven’t wronged someone or deceived them, I don’t have to be afraid of what they might do to me. And even if someone harms me, I have tools to help me get right-minded about it.

Because I do my best to live honestly and in integrity, I don’t have a need to fear people. I may not get them to do what I want, but I am not trying to manipulate them either. It’s a relief.

We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us.

Intuition is tricky. While I have experienced this promise in my life, even after all these years in recovery, sometimes I think I’m acting out of intuition, but it’s just willfulness or craving in disguise. Being in recovery doesn’t mean we don’t make mistakes. It’s learning from our mistakes that is key. And understanding that we don’t have to make decisions on our own.

In my new recovery life, there are four parts to intuition for me:

  1. Praying for guidance
  2. Meditating for answers
  3. Talking to trusted people in my network to get their feedback
  4. Waiting

Whenever possible, I pause for at least one day, maybe more, to see how I feel over time.

Here is a wonderful prayer for decision-making: HP, if it is your will for me to do this, increase my desire. If it is not your will, decrease my desire.

(By the way, desire is not the same as craving. Craving is a rush. Desire is a preference.)

I don’t act impulsively any longer. Yet, I am still in process of learning from past experiences. Sometimes, I still need to step into experiences to determine if they are a good idea for me or not. But the progress is that I don’t jump in. And I have learned to recognize clearly when it’s time for me to move on … or out. By the way, every time I have dipped my toe in when I wasn’t sure, it was certain that I needed to extricate myself.

We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.

This takes us back to Step Two, when we came to believe that there was a Power greater than ourselves who could restore us to sanity. They use the word God here, but you could substitute the word Group or whatever has worked for you until now as a Higher Power so you could get out of the way of recovery. And indeed, you can look with awe at the state of your life today because of this Higher Power.

If you can now answer YES to the following questions, you should be awed and astounded at what you have accomplished through DA that you could not have done on your own.

  1. Have you stopped incurring new unsecured debt?
  2. Have you given up compulsive spending?
  3. Are you sponsoring or giving some kind of service, even if just in outreach calls?
  4. Are you working the Steps whole-heartedly?

Ending Statement

The Promises end with this statement: “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.”

Many of us, when we start out on this path, just want relief from the bondage of our drug. We had no idea of the scope of the miracles that would unfold in our lives because of working these Twelve Steps.

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One thought on “The Big Book Promises

  1. Pingback: A Changed Outlook | Cbcburke9's Blog

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