The Ninth Step Promises in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous proclaim that if I am steadfast in the work of recovery, I will harvest emotional fruits such as a “feeling of usefulness” and the ability to “handle situations which used to baffle me”. In fact, it claims, “my whole attitude and outlook on life will change”. These may sound like extravagant promises, but in my experience, they do come to fruition. There is no area in which the Promises have been more evident in my life than my experience as a student in recovery.
School, in fact, did used to baffle me. In my addiction, I walked into the classroom every day with a lack of humility, a closed mind, and little interest in learning. Over time, practicing a program of recovery has unscrambled the puzzle that was my education. I can say with certainty that the Promises have come alive in my ability to handle whatever situation is thrown my way. Whether It be a midterm exam, a tricky financial aid application, or a three-hour biology lecture after a long day’s work. However, I now have a tool to aid me in all of those situations: mental clarity through the application of a program of recovery. By leaning on a higher power, these situations no longer need to be overwhelming and insurmountable. A spiritual awakening removed from me a crippling mental obsession to slowly kill myself with drugs and alcohol, so why would that same spirit not be able to help me in school? I show up with integrity and leave the results to the universe. With that attitude no educational obstacle can stand in my way.
My whole attitude and outlook on what a college degree and college experience is has truly changed. For many years, I saw a college degree as a ticket or some kind of specific requirement to earn a position of power in the world that would feed me money and materialistic items. As my approach to life changed through engaging in spiritual exercises, so did my approach to school. I stopped going to school to earn a grade and started going to school to grow as a human being. I became genuinely interested in the subject matter, looked forward to engaging with professors and peers, and began to understand that the grade didn’t matter that much. My new purpose was to build meaningful relationships with those alongside me on the college journey. What I have come to realize is that the fancy piece of paper is a not a ticket to success, but rather an invitation to use the knowledge I received in acts of service throughout the rest of my life.
I have found my true usefulness to others and society around me while completing my education. I feel extremely lucky to have found AA, which granted the Promises and presented me the opportunity to go to college. To keep what I have, it is imperative that I use the gifts I have been given to help others around me. To be of service to my family, employer, and others suffering from addiction, and use my story of recovery and education to inspire others is the ultimate goal. I am eternally grateful for the awareness recovery has given me and am motivated to use the Promises of recovery in a way that is beneficial for the world.
By: Andrew Warren