The Twelve Promises of Alcoholics Anonymous
If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others. That feeling of uselessness and self–pity will disappear. We will lost interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self–seeking will slip away. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.
Pages 83 and 84
I have been asked, "What will working the twelve steps do for me?" Like any product, we want a table of contents that describes what this product does. The twelve promises are the ingredient list of the twelve steps. It tells what this contraption will do when assembled according to the directions.
Jesus put it in a different way. "I have come that they might have life and have it more abundantly," Jesus promises in the book of Matthew. Which leads one to question, "Of what does abundant living consist?" To which I would answer, "happiness, freedom, no regrets, serenity, peace, the ability to make a difference in the lives of others, usefulness to others, willingness to give of myself for the benefit of another, no fear of the world that surrounds me, a way of living that requires no self-effort, actually a life that is God lived out through us."
All this is a summation of the twelve promises. But to fully appreciate the miracle of the twelve promises, you must first understand what a promise is.
The American Heritage College Dictionary states that a promise is a vow; an indication of future excellence or success; something promised; an indication of something favorable to come, an expectation. There is no mention of what you do to make it happen. It happens when you claim it to be true.
As Norman Grubb taught about faith, I can wonder if a chair will hold me all day long. (After all, it is an unspoken promise that a chair set out for company will hold the one who sits upon it.) But I will remain tired and standing until I claim the promise of the chair and lower myself onto the seat.
The same is true of salvation. Every sin that ever was or ever will be committed by the human race was forgiven on the cross through Jesus Christ. But if I do not claim that forgiveness, I will never experience the promise of salvation and eternal life. The sin is forgiven. It’s a done deal. I do not have to do anything. I simply claim what is already done, and I then experience the benefits of the promise.
So a promise is something I can count on. After being in AA for awhile, I started hearing about the promises. I didn’t know when they were going to be seen in my life, but they sounded great. I was really looking for them to be a quick fix. I didn’t understand that the promises were something that was going to happen after the twelve steps were worked out in my life. Meaning, of course, that I had to be willing to let God do a lot of work in my life first.
When I first began my program, I was told that I would experience the twelve promises. I thought they were something that had to come as a result of working my program. I didn’t understand that the reason I didn’t have the promises already in my life was because of the sin choices in which I was constantly living. When these sin choices were removed, the natural process of things exposed the existence of the promises, now visible since the sin that blocked them was removed.
The first promise states that "we are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness." Galatians 5:1 says, "Stand fast therefore in the liberty where with Christ has made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage."
See, I was still caught up in thinking that in giving up drinking I was giving up freedom, not getting it. I honestly thought that I was already living a free life. I thought I was picking and choosing what I wanted to do and who I would do it with. I had no understanding of what Paul meant in Romans when he said "you are either a slave to sin or a slave to righteousness." I never called my own shots (Romans 7:17). I have no power to do that. I am simply a vessel that does what it’s told to do by whichever master is operating it. Satan was picking who I was going out with and what I would do when we got there (Romans 6:12).
I guess now I understand why the first promise says I will know a "new freedom" I had to redefine freedom. Neither drinking or sobriety is an independent freedom where I choose what I will do. Paul hits the nail right on the head in Romans 7 when he so desperately cries, "the good I want to do, I can’t, and the bad I swear I won’t do, I do. Wretched man that I am, who will deliver me?" Amen, Paul.
I began to realize that true freedom was not the freedom to drink. I wanted the freedom to not HAVE to drink.
That is the first promise. And it has happened as a direct result of admitting my powerlessness to do anything about my drinking. I had to admit I could do nothing, (even as Jesus said, "I of myself can do nothing"), before anything could begin to happen in my life. I had to get the false idea that Satan had imbedded in me since my birth that I had any power to influence the operation of the universe in any way at D. I could only be a container for THE Power that operates the universe to do the operating by me. Satan/self operation had to be exposed as the severe bondage that it was so that the bondage of Christ would be a welcome relief.
This is the "new freedom and happiness" that is promised in the first promise. It is a redefining of what "freedom" means. I now see the truth is that I have been set free from the bondage of the Use master, Satan, and restored to my true master, Jesus Christ. I am free from the old Satan concept of slavery. God the Father sets me free from the idea that I have to figure out my own destiny and make it work. I am free because He is doing the living (Gal. 2:20).
When I hire a man to feed the live-stock on Sundays, I say it is to "free me up." When someone else is doing the work, I am free.
It is a freedom from fear (1 John 4:18). It is the freedom from cares (1 Peter 5:7, Phil. 4:6). It is the freedom of the son in his own household (John 8:35, 36). It is the freedom of the truth of who we really are in Jesus Christ (John 8:32).
It frees my children. I do not see them as slaves here for me regardless of any needs or wants of their own. I have a new happiness (1 Peter 1:8). My children are no longer afraid to see me come home at night. They tell me they love me because they trust me, not because they are afraid to say anything different. It is the joy and happiness of knowing that I am pleasing my Father with the obedience of faith (John 15:10, 11). I thought I knew happiness. I thought it was in doing things that I thought was my own way. This has to be a "new happiness" because I find my greatest joy now in doing things the way I am told is right. Don’t misunderstand me. It doesn’t "feel" like joy and happiness much of the time. It hurts. When I look at the damage I’ve done to others, sometimes it hurts so bad I "feel" like running away and hiding. My happiness is knowing God is working to redeem the damage, and I have the opportunity to make a change today in those very lives that I nearly let Satan destroy by me.
Remember, the promises are revealed in God’s time. They are there to satisfy some need in me to "feel" good. They will come exactly as they are meant to come, in the order God intends. I write about them in the order they are listed in the big book of Alcoholics Anonymous, but God will reveal them in His order. They are His promises for me, not mine for Him.
Anonymity is a fundamental tradition in M. However, the writer welcomes any questions or comments, which may be sent to the magazine office.
More Articles from The Intercessor, Vol 11 No 1
- God’s Obsession
- Editor’s Note
- British Update
- Moments with Meryl
- Excerpts from The Intercession of Rees Howells
- Get-together in New York
- Our Weakness Is Our Glory
- The Divine Intercessor
- Straight and Narrow and Uphill
- The Letter to the Romans
- To Think About
- Struggle of Romans Seven
- Questions & Answers
- The Only Two Natures
- God’s Promises
- The Mailbox
- New Light on the Twelve Steps
- A Look at a Book
- From God Unlimited
- Words to Live By