When I speak about running or Alcoholics Anonymous, I find it very hard not to touch on the subject of spirituality. For me, running would be empty without my Creator’s presence and AA would not have kept me sober without it suggesting I find a God of my understanding.
Our Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous states the following about our reliance on our Higher Power:
“We never apologize to anyone for depending upon our Creator. We can laugh at those who think spirituality the way of weakness. Paradoxically, it is the way of strength. The verdict of the ages is that faith means courage. All men of faith have courage. They trust their God. Instead we let Him demonstrate, through us, what He can do. We ask Him to remove our fear and direct our attention to what He would have us be. At once, we commence to outgrow fear”
(Alcoholics, Anonymous, 68).
Having acknowledged the above, I would like to shift our focus to the practicality of running and Alcoholics Anonymous.
As we incorporate running into our daily lives, we bring more structure to our lives. We can look forward to the morning alarm clock at four or five a.m. and though it is sometimes kind of painful to take the first few steps to the bathroom and shake out the sleepiness, we come to rely on the impending fresh air in our lungs, the visual stimuli as we move, and the gradual loosening of our muscles along with the heightened sense of belonging in the Now. Ideally, we start to plan our nutrition to suit our bodies’ demands, we go to work and to play with more focus and more stamina and we give our bodies the needed rest to get up and do it all over again. The following is kind of difficult to put into words, but I know others must experience this as well – as a marathon or Ultra comes closer, it feels like all my senses become sharper – I tend to notice minute details in nature and in people with more intensity, more connectedness if you will. As you can see, out of practicality, we find ourselves drifting closer to the world of The Spirit, imperceptibly and with something akin to grace. It’s almost as if our Creator is pleased with our efforts and grants us a little deeper view past what our normal senses reveal.
Just as we put one step in front of the other in running, so too do we take one step at a time in Alcoholics Anonymous. Of course, we are referring to The Twelve Steps of AA here, but in even more practical terms, we are referring to our efforts each day, to wake up, to seek “God’s will for us and the power to carry that out” and then “to practice these principles in all our affairs” (Alcoholics Anonymous, 59-60). As we incorporate The Twelve Steps and Traditions into our lives, we begin to treat others and ourselves with more care and respect. Ideally, we start to become stewards of our lives and the lives of others. We go about our day and we think “of what we could do for others, of what we could pack into the stream of life” (Alcoholics Anonymous, 86).
And just as we are rewarded with a sharper focus as a result of consistent running, so too are we rewarded in AA with a sharper focus that is promised to us after we have completed the amends process of Step Nine:
“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 lose 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 intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves”
(Alcoholics Anonymous, 83-4).
I love in “The Twelve and Twelve” when it says, “let’s always remember that meditation is in reality intensely practical. One of its first fruits is emotional balance” (Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, 101-2). I love this because it points to the simplicity of Alcoholics Anonymous – it tells us to strive for “progress, not perfection,” which is so closely akin to running in so many ways. We are always learning to move our bodies in new ways to avoid injury and to improve our efficiency – we do this until the day we stop running. No matter if we are an elite runner or an old-timer in AA, we are never perfect, but by practicing each day, we enter into a deeper realm of The Spirit by doing the next practical thing: putting one foot in front of the other and taking the next step forward.
The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions
AA Grapevine “At Wit’s End” Joke of the Week
I’m a rebel without a cause,” I told my sponsor.
“No,” he replied, “you’re a rebel without a clue.”