From the Akron Intergroup News, May 2002
12 Bedevilments & Horsemen
Copyright © The A.A. Grapevine, Inc. – Date Unknown
One of the wonders of the Big Book is that it is valuable no matter where you are in your sobriety. Despite the number of times you have read it, it’s like picking up a new book every time. Ideas or paragraphs that you have read hundreds of times suddenly take on a new meaning, depending on where you are on the journey of spirituality.
Rather than focusing on the bad side of a situation, I prefer to concentrate on the good. One of the advantages of having a significant amount of free time has been the chance to read the Big Book in different ways. Normally, we read it like any other book, for overall content. It is also valuable to read the Big Book for specific topics or subjects. For example, one can read it for all the character defects mentioned, or the promises made, or the times it says recovered rather than recovering. The book that Bill W. never had a chance to write, reportedly, would have been called “After Sobriety–What?”. One of Bill’s favorite topics was emotional sobriety, the state we all strive for after we get past not drinking.
When Bill, on page 25 of the Big Book, refers to being “…rocketed into the fourth dimension of existence…,” I believe he is referring to emotional sobriety, not simply putting down the bottle. The reference comes right after he tells us “…to pick up the simple kit of spiritual tools laid at our feet.” After all, only one-half of one Step refers to alcohol at all. The Big Book contains a myriad of examples of the effects of alcoholism so the still suffering alcoholic can read through the book and exclaim; “yes, I feel like that,” or “how could they know that?”. I believe that after we put some distance between us and booze, these same examples take on a new meaning. Is it possible that these same examples also describe the non-drinking alcoholic who doesn’t fully “practice these principles in all our affairs”? Is it possible to only work the Steps on a surface level, to not enlarge our spiritual lives, to not live a life of rigorous honesty, and yet manage to not drink? Absolutely, it’s very dangerous, but it’s also possible. What are the effects of alcoholism according to the first 164 pages of the Big Book? “ Remorse, horror, and hopelessness…a terrible sense of impending calamity… terror and madness…declining moral and bodily health…loneliness and despair…that bitter morass of self-pity…annihilation of all things worthwhile in life…misunderstanding, fierce resentment, financial insecurity…a hopeless condition of mind and body… hopelessness and futility of life as we had been living it…pitiful and incomprehensible d e m o r a l i z a t i o n … p u z z l e d and humiliated…strangely insane…futility and unhappiness…selfish, dishonest, self-seeking and frightened…remorse, depression and inferiority…misery, bad repute, and hopelessness.” [All quotes from Alcoholics Anonymous.] This is quite a list. This is a very accurate description of the place I was in at the end of my drinking. But what about the AA member who hasn’t had a drink for one, five, 10, or more years? Can this same list apply? When one doesn’t work the Steps beyond what is required to not drink and doesn’t enlarge their spirituality, you better believe it can. If you are not drinking, but have problems in sobriety, haven’t had your sober life go as you think it should, or don’t understand why things have not really gotten better…reread the list.
The Big Book contains 12 negatives that I call the Bedevilments and Horsemen. We have all heard of the horsemen on page 151: “terror, bewilderment, frustration, despair.” There is a rather interesting list on page 52 that is referred to as “…these bedevilments.” If you count them there are eight: (1) “We were having trouble with personal relationships; (2) we couldn’t control our emotional natures; (3) we were prey to misery and depression; (4) we couldn’t make a living; (5) we had a feeling of uselessness; (6) we were full of fear; (7) we were unhappy; and (8) we couldn’t seem to be of real help to other people.” Add the four Horsemen and there are twelve. These Twelve Bedevilments and Horsemen describe the alcoholic at the end of their drinking. But they also, to one extent or another, describe the state of the AA member who is not living the spiritual principles, a life of rigorous honesty, and not “practicing these principles in all our affairs.” There is a solution. If we don’t clean up our past, or haven’t turned our lives and will over to a Higher Power, the Twelve Bedevilments and Horsemen will remain a part of our sober lives. I believe that if the Twelve Bedevilments and Horsemen are still part of our lives, the answer is contained somewhere between Steps Three and Nine. Have we turned our will and our lives over to God, understanding that there is a God and we are not Him? Have we taken stock, admitted our faults, realized we can’t get rid of our defects without God’s help? Have we made amends? So even though I have not had a drink for almost twenty years, I for one, am going back to Step Three. I am going to start over. I don’t like the Twelve Bedevilments and Horsemen being a part of my life. The past will never die as long as I haven’t been practicing the spiritual principles in all my affairs.
by Jay M, Northampton