The Twelve Promises of Alcoholics Anonymous:
"According to His divine Power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the Divine Nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust."
–2 Peter 1:3-4
We will not regret the past or wish to shut the door on it
This is a mighty big promise in the Big Book of AA, especially considering that it came right after I had taken my searching and fearless moral inventory of myself, and had seen that the past was created by my own choices. After my fourth step, I was no longer in denial about how mean and selfish my behavior had been and how greatly I had hurt the people around me. At this point, my most fervent wish was to be rid of the view I had been given of myself.
If we have done an honest job of our inventory, we are realizing fully the truth of the scriptures, "No one is good but One, that is, God" (Matt. 19:17). If we were deceived before with a thought of our own goodness, an honest and thorough fourth step inventory should correct this deception.
And yet the Big Book encourages thoroughness as the way to let go of the shame of the past. In 2 Peter 1, verses 8 and 9, we are told what will hap-pen if we are diligent: "For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ," and also what happens if we are not diligent: "But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sin."
"…If we are painstaking about this phase in our development, we will be amazed…," the Big Book says. Pulling our past and the behavior that we engaged in up before our eyes feels like it will kill us. We realize with David, "Against You, and You only, have I sinned, and done this evil thing in Your sight" (Psalm 51:4). We under-stand the next verse (5) that states, "That You may be found just when You speak, and blameless when You judge" Of course God will judge us rightly. So how can it be that we will no longer regret our past? That we will no longer wish to close the door on it?
Most of us lived in guilt and shame over the things we had done in our past. Of course we would. We thought we were just us; a we, one I that was supposed to have the power to live right and just couldn’t do it. We thought we were an independent self who had, of our own power, done all of the abuse and misuse that we are now facing. It kills us, and it is supposed to. It brought us to our need to be saved.
This second promise gives us a hope greater than we could dare to believe… that we will not only be free from repeating the past, but also from regretting the past; we will no longer need to forget it to gain relief. This is also God’s promise of Romans 8:1, "Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" To be delivered from our addictions is God’s great mercy, to be also delivered from the hell of living out the memories of it for the rest of our lives is the miracle of "Christ in us, the hope of Glory."
I saw my past, and I believed it was me doing all of those things. I hated it. I wanted to deny it. I wanted to run away from it and say it wasn’t me, that really wasn’t me. I couldn’t have done those things. But I knew I had. I had to face the awfulness of the damage that had been done through me. This is where things become treacherous.
If, at this point, I had stayed in an independent view of myself, Satan would have kept me in a whirlpool of denial. I would have stayed in a never-ending whirlwind, sucking up everything in my path that I thought I needed for me and roaring over and blowing out all my garbage on everyone around me. I could not have lived with this knowledge if I did not bottom line know who it had been doing all of the old stuff by me; "You are of your father, the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do" (John 8:44).
Christ told the parable of the man who cleared the demon from his house, but did not fill it up with anything else. When the demon returned and saw the cleaned house, he was thrilled to find it still empty, so he went and brought back seven evil spirits more wicked than himself, "and the final condition of that man was worse than the first" (Luke 11:26). If you don’t fill up your house with knowing you are Christ lived out now (Gal. 2:20), and bottom line that it was Satan doing his wickedness through you, then of course you desire to hide the past and close the door on it forever. If you think it was just a bad you, you cannot reconcile this behavior with yourself. And seven demons will come back to live in the empty space and your final condition will be worse than the first. As we said earlier, from 2 Peter 1:9, "he…hath for-gotten that he was purged from his old sins."
This is how we can be free from the past. When we fully see the truth of our former operator, Satan, and how he indwelt us and controlled our choices, we begin to see the magnitude of what the Cross really did for us. We can let go of the past as we see Satan’s misuse, not a bad human self. We can rejoice in our deliverance, "Wherefore, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall" (2 Peter 1:10). We have a new Operator who is totally selfless and uses our past to benefit others.
How could any of this be of benefit to others? After working the fourth step and no longer living with the fear of being found out, the promise of not fearing the past comes true. I always remember that through all my suffering and the suffering I inflicted on others, Christ suffered with me (1 Peter 3:18).
Satan never suffers as we now suffer. He is prideful and arrogant, always thinking he will get another sucker or will find a way to win me back. There is nothing I can do of myself to make him suffer. That’s God’s business and He promises to take care of that in Rev. 20:10.
But now I have the ability through Christ Jesus to suffer for others and to help those with the same problems I had. I can understand their suffering. This is intercession: the first step is identification. I can identify with other alcoholics-and sinners–because I am one. This is how my past is turned to good, and I do not wish to shut the door on it. Why would I close the door that is the passage way for so many others who are still hurting and need to know what I know? I thank God for that door now. My past has become my opportunity to rescue others from Satan’s lie.
This happens the most when I am trying to help others or "twelve step" as it is called. When I can use my past to relate to others and watch them open up and let their shield down; when I see them realize they are not alone, that there is hope, and not be afraid to try and sober up, then I can see the value in my past as it is used by God. This sharing begins to build trust between others and myself, which in turn helps me to stay straight.
God is able to do anything He desires. He can now do it through me. And one of His weapons He uses effectively is my past. I will never rejoice in the pain I have caused others. I do not think that is what this promise means. I thank God I can finally feel the pain and remorse that came with honesty. That pain is a gift. It helps me stay straight, because I never want to give Satan the opportunity to do that again by me. But I do not wish to close the door on my past, because it is the opening by which I have brought Christ by me into many other lives. I do not regret my past, in that I do not feel sorry for myself that I am an alcoholic. It is God’s gift to me, through which He has given me an opportunity to reach others. As the Big Book says, "Cling to the thought that, in God’s hands, the dark past is the greatest possession you have – the key to life and happiness for others" (p.124).
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 2
- God’s Obsession
- Isaiah 45:5-8
- Editor’s Note
- Moments with Meryl
- Excerpts from The Intercession of Rees Howells
- Thoughts on Abraham
- The Single Eye
- The Letter to the Romans
- My Story
- Questions & Answers
- The Key To Everything
- God’s Promises
- The Mailbox
- New Light on the Twelve Steps
- Tape Talk
- Words to Live By