I remember those early days, coming into “the rooms,” as they call them and suddenly there He was, after many years of not being there. When I was a child, I said the Shema before going to bed at night, along with a litany of other childish prayers, and that was the extent of my Judaism, but I knew G-d was there, I knew he was listening. But in my teenage years, those prayers became more sporadic, although I don’t think I ever left them completely. Many nights though I would fall asleep in a drunken stupor, too inebriated to think about G-d or maybe I thought about Him and even prayed to him in some slurred inner monologue.
And then after college the wheels started coming off. I kept drinking like it was freshman year, only it wasn’t freshman year, it wasn’t funny anymore, I had to work, I had to wake up everyday for the grind, I drunkenly cheated on my girlfriends, I was broken inside, and I would search for spirituality by day in Buddhism, in meditation, in Stoicism, and by night in the bottle, in the bar, in the lonely streets of whatever city I happened to be in.
And then finally the problems caught up to me, and I lost something real and dear, and I went to the “Rooms,” and I said Hi I’m ________ and I’m an alcoholic, and that first step said that I had to admit that I was powerless and the second one said that there was a Power greater than me that could restore me to sanity. And there HE was, that power, the one I used to say Shema to but then forgot about for all those years, seeking my fulfillment in alcohol, popularity and sex. And He still loved me and I didn’t have to do anything, just stay sober, one day at at a time, that was all and He would take care of the rest. There was no inkling of kosher, of tefillin, of Shabbos or Yom Tov, there was just me and G-d saying “Hey, I missed you and I’m glad that you’re talking to Me again and I’ll take care of You.” And for a while it was so good, that pink cloud as they call it, and a feeling of peace.
But the problem was I never really gave myself over to that first step, I never really thought I was powerless, I thought it was all just an act (maybe that was the Jewish stiff-necked and strong-willed part of me, the part that thinks we can master our yetzer if we only try hard enough), and eventually I got restless, but I knew that I still needed G-d in my life and suddenly there was Judaism, which I’d never really given any attention amidst the Buddhism and the meditation and the Stoicism, my own religion, which I’d only really known from Hebrew School three times a week, simple bible stories and after Bar Mitzvah a fast on Yom Kippur which made me sick and that was it. But now here it was again, suddenly more real and more deep, Derech Hashem and the beauty of Shabbos and the promise of a relationship with Him.
And I’m tired now and it’s time to go to sleep. There are a lot of blanks to fill in but I’ll say that today I’m religious and to the outside world I’m a nice Jewish mentsch, but sometimes the relationship with Him gets so lost in the nitty gritty, in the details of if my tefillin is sitting on the right place of my bicep or if too much time has elapsed for me to say a bracha achrona on my coffee that He gets lost even though He’s supposed to be ubiquitous. And I miss those simple days when I first went into the rooms and I just had to not drink one day at a time and He would take care of the rest and I was enveloped by Him and embraced by Him. And I guess I need to get that feeling back amidst the nitty gritty of frumkeit, and realize that He wants a more mature relationship with us, one of give and take and real sacrifice, but know that underlying that is the pure love I felt in those early days of AA.