“Happy, Joyous, and Free.” As a newcomer to A. A., when I first heard we were to be “Happy, Joyous, and Free” I thought, “Sheesh! What an order! I can’t go through with it.” “Restless, Irritable, and Discontent” were far more familiar.
My sponsor often told me, “If you don’t know what to pray for, pray for Joy and Victory, because you haven’t had much of those.” She was right. Years had passed since I knew Joy. Victory was not even in my vocabulary.
The theme of Joy is in all our Steps as we read, “Right action is the key to good living. The joy of good living is the theme of the Twelfth Step and all the Steps.” Working the Steps brings forth the joy of good living. Joy is the result, not the goal.
While drinking, I took synthetic joy from the bottle. I sought Spirit in spirits. Rather than push myself for it, I chose the easier, softer way. By working the Steps, I discovered the Program IS the “easier, softer way.” Who knew?
The first fruits of what joy really means came when I “turned outward to my fellow alcoholics in distress.” With 7 days sober, my sponsor encouraged me to help the one with even less time. Feeling raw and restless, I was closer to the firing line; closer to the drink; closer to connecting with the latest newcomer with a phone call, a handshake, a meeting after the meeting. We called it a posse. A gang of renegades, fallen women, and knife-carrying bikers, we had each other’s backs.
Teleservice, taking home-group commitments, showing up and sharing, or just plain, old showing up - this quiet giving is my joy of living. Highlights of my day include phone calls with sponsees. My colossal, alcoholic blunders prove useful as well as fodder for laughter, bringing true belly-laughs out in the parking lot. So loud is our merriment, the neighbors stick their heads out the windows. Laughter is the unmistakable presence of Joy.
Recovery includes paradoxes of what initially sound like contradictions in terms and later make perfect sense. My experience with Victory was such a situation. “Surrender to win.” How could I find Victory in Surrender?
With time came understanding. Surrender brought me to the winning side. Join the winning side, and I had the prayed-for Victory. I was part of a whole; something bigger than myself alone. As part of a fellowship fighting the same fight and suffering the same wounds, I also came to en-joy a “new life of endless possibilities.”
Surrender does not mean I like or even approve of the situation at hand. Surrender is the opportunity to put down my dukes; sense the relief of not fighting; and be open to what wants to come into my life.
With a daily surrender to the awareness of our alcoholism, comes a daily solution to keep it from destroying our lives. Starting with Step One - when we surrender to win.
For alcoholics, of course, surrender is difficult. Someone once remarked, “You can tell when an alcoholic lets go of something. It has claw marks all over it!”
We can practice surrender throughout our day; giving voice to surrender in our 12-Step meetings as well as with our loved ones. By surrender to the situations beyond our control, including our alcoholism, paradoxically we empower ourselves – facilitating a lasting sobriety and a Victorious, Joy-filled life.