by Anne P. (Munro 2005)
It may sound crazy, but the beginning of my work with AA and my first steps on my road to recovery were inspired by the presence of a dog – a dog that wasn’t even mine.
She was a beautiful and gentle yellow Lab, timid and wary of strangers but so happy around those she knew. She exuded the eagerness to love and be loved that only a dog can convey. Her name was Hawkeye, her owner being a M*A*S*H fan. Hawkeye had been abused as a pup and my friend, her new owner, was teaching her to trust and to let go of her fear. Hawkeye was on her own road of recovery.
If I regard Step One (my powerlessness) as inserting a key into a locked door, and Step Two (coming to believe in a higher power) as unlocking and opening that door, then I consider Step Three (turning my will and my life over to the care of my higher power) as walking through that door. In order to do this, I have to have gathered enough faith, integrity and love to take me through that doorway – a daunting goal.
While I was in residence at Renascent, we were fortunate to be visited once a week by a minister who guided us through a series of three visual meditations. Each week he focused on one of the first three Steps.
Some of the images he talked us through as we sat with our eyes closed included a serene forest, a gentle rain and other elements of nature, along with images of our past and present selves. The first session was meant to bring us face to face with our alcoholism. The second session, a week later, focused on some awareness of our higher power.
I enjoyed these meditations and tried to engage my imagination as much as possible. I found them restful and interesting but not especially profound until, in the last visualization session, he directed us to sit on a bench in preparation to meet our higher power.
I immediately began to panic. I could not conceive of a higher power. Did I have one? I wasn’t prepared to just invent ‘god’ on the spot. Would I find myself turning my life over to some strange guy on a bench? How could I surrender my identity, my independence, my liberty, just like that?
In hindsight my fears seem ludicrous, but I had only been sober for three weeks, the longest ever in my adult life. I was terrified that nothing could provide the reassurance and fulfillment of alcohol, even though my addiction had provided nothing but humiliation and despair for many months.
For some reason, because I was committed to either this particular exercise or my own recovery, I slowly turned my head to see who or what was beside me. This was my first act, not just of letting go and letting God, but of actually stepping through the door to my own future happiness and well-being.
There, seated on her haunches on the bench next to me, was Hawkeye. She turned to me and her eyes were filled with tranquility and ease, with acceptance and non-judgement, and with the kind of love that is given freely without expectation or fear of disappointment.
My higher power was speaking to me through this beautiful dog who was filled with simple wisdom, was learning to trust, and was content to merely ‘be’. I felt a relief like I had never known. I understood then that although my higher power was immense and boundless, here it was embodied, for now, in the form of an ordinary, genuine dog.
The freedom of surrendering my will and my life to unconditional love, to the present moment, to the guidance of something so mysterious and yet so familiar was the very opposite of what I ever imagined. The concept was overwhelming, but it didn’t matter. All I needed at that moment was to allow Hawkeye to lead me through the door of Step Three and on to my journey of recovery.
Now, after nine years of sober life, I experience more and more of that relief and freedom. It comes and goes depending upon my willingness, my level of self-care and the strength of my faith, but it comes more than goes with every sober day I am fortunate enough to pass.