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Fraser Trevor Fraser Trevor Author
Title: Missing Piece: The Spiritual Malady
Author: Fraser Trevor
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Cover via Amazon  Now I'd like to talk about a part of our "disease" which is seldom discussed in meetings nowadays: th...
Cover of "Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story...
Cover via Amazon

 Now I'd like to talk about a part of our "disease" which is seldom discussed in meetings nowadays: the "spiritual malady."

We often hear people say something like, "I have a three-fold disease: body, mind, and spirit."
When you ask them to describe what they mean by that statement, they seem to have a firm grasp on the fact that we alcoholics suffer from "an allergy of the body and an obsession of the mind" - that once I put any alcohol in my system whatsoever it sets off a craving for more alcohol. And when I'm stone-cold sober, at my very best, the thought will occur to me to take a drink - or sometimes I think very little about it or not at all, and I come-to out of a blackout after having experienced what page 42 refers to as a "strange mental blank spot." And of course this vicious cycle of my mind continuously taking me back to a drink and my body dooming me to not drink like "normal" people puts me in a senseless series of sprees and it makes it virtually impossible to stop.

It is agreed that the "mental obsession" is the part of our "disease" which leads to the first drink; and it's the first drink that triggers the "phenomenon of craving." But, what about the part of my "disease" that triggers the mental obsession in the first place? Why is it that people who have remained abstinent from drinking in Alcoholics Anonymous for 1 year... 2 years... 5 years... 10 years... and in some cases even 20 years or more, go back to drinking?

We know the physical craving does not cause these people to drink because it's been medically proven that after a few days of not drinking the alcohol is processed out of the body. And, if you've been in the AA Fellowship for a while, for most people, the mental obsession dissipates. So why is it that after a long period of sobriety many people in our fellowship return to drinking - EVEN WHEN THEY DON'T WANT TO? What is the third fold of our illness that triggers the mental obsession - WHEN NOT DRINKING - HAVING BEEN SEPARATED FROM ALCOHOL FOR A LONG PERIOD OF TIME?

Through closely examining our Big Book, along with much experience and practice with our Twelve Steps, as well as vigorous work with other alcoholics, the "missing piece" of Step 1 appears to be what is referred to on page 64 as the "spiritual malady."

Now, let me attempt to discuss the second half of Step 1: " - that our lives had become unmanageable."
For a long time I thought my life was unmanageable because of all the crazy insane things I did while drinking - like the car accidents, hurting people when I didn't mean to, failed relationships, loss of jobs, family dysfunction, jails, asylums, etc.

Finally, someone explained to me that those things are not the insanity that the Big Book talks about; nor are those things why the alcoholic's life becomes unmanageable.
Of course those things can be classified as "unmanageability" - but they are external unmanageability. The unmanageability that the 1st Step is pointing to is the INWARD unmanageability of our lives - the restlessness, irritability, and discontentment that most alcoholics have even BEFORE they ever picked up their first drink. There are many names for this "inward unmanageability". Some refer to it as "untreated alcoholism." Others use the term "bedevilments", which comes from page 52 of the Big Book (which I'll be discussing in a moment). Page 64 simply refers to this "inward unmanageability" as "the spiritual malady."
Our book promises us that "When the spiritual malady is overcome, we straighten out mentally and physically." The mental and physical factors of alcoholism are put into remission AFTER the "spiritual malady" is overcome - which means I'm still in danger of drinking until I have a spiritual awakening - whether I think so or not.

Two key points I'd like to focus on from this point forward:
  1. What really is this "spiritual malady" and how, if left untreated, can it drive an alcoholic back to drinking?
  2. What is the remedy for it? (By the way, our Big Book answers both of those questions in masterly detail in Chapters 4 - 11.) What is this "spiritual malady" we alcoholics suffer from and how can "untreated alcoholism" cause an alcoholic to return to drinking - EVEN WHEN HE/SHE DOESN'T WANT TO?
Imagine three layers. The first layer is our bodily reaction to alcohol when we ingest it - the physical craving. Under that is the second layer: the insanity of the mind just before the first drink - the mental obsession. Under that is the third layer: the inward condition that triggers the second layer, which in turn triggers the first - the "spiritual malady." Symptoms of this "third layer" as described in the Big Book include:
  1. being restless, irritable, and discontented (page xxvi),
  2. having trouble with personal relationships,
  3. not being able to control our emotional natures,
  4. being a prey to (or suffering from) misery and depression,
  5. not being able to make a living (or a happy and successful life),
  6. having feelings of uselessness,
  7. being full of fear,
  8. unhappiness,
  9. inability to be of real help to other people (page 52),
  10. being like "the actor who wants to run the whole show" (pages 60-61),
  11. being "driven by a hundred forms of fear, self-delusion, self-seeking, and self-pity" (page 62),
  12. self-will run riot (page 62),
  13. leading a double life (page 73),
  14. living like a tornado running through the lives of others (page 82), and
  15. exhibiting selfish and inconsiderate habits.
These name just a few of the symptoms of the "spiritual malady" that's described throughout our text. But still in all, these are just symptoms of the "spiritual malady."
What is it really? What is the driving force of the symptoms described above?
On page 62 the text explains that "Selfishness-self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles." This "SELFISHNESS-self-centeredness" (or the "ego", as some people refer to it) drives us to respond to life situations with the above "symptoms" as well as disorders and addictions other than alcoholism.

If this selfishness-self-centeredness continues to manifest in an alcoholic's life - EVEN IN SOMEONE WHO IS NOT DRINKING AND CONTINUES TO ATTEND MEETINGS - and the ego is not smashed and re-smashed by continuous application of all twelve steps, the sober (or "just not drinking") alcoholic is sure to drink again eventually... or even worse, continue to live miserably being "undrunk" (better known as a "dry drunk"). This is why we see people with 10 years in AA wind up in mental institutions - AND THEY HAVEN'T HAD A DROP TO DRINK!

You see, if I continue to act out with selfish - self-centered - ego-driven behaviors I will continue to experience the symptoms of the "spiritual malady." If I continue to experience this inward unmanageability, eventually my mind will seek out the "sense of ease and comfort" it thinks it can receive from taking a drink. Or, my ego can deceive me into thinking I'm doing perfectly fine. (i.e.: Fred's story in Chapter 3... Fred drank when there wasn't "a cloud on the horizon".)
Typically, we'll tell ourselves and others, "Well, at least I'm not drinking." All of a sudden, I can experience a "strange mental blank-spot" - otherwise known as a "sober blackout" - and before it even hits me I'm pounding on the bar asking myself "How'd this happened?"
So, ask yourself if you're suffering from the "spiritual malady" - particularly if you haven't had a drink for a while. What condition is your "inner life" in, currently? Are you experiencing any of the symptoms listed previously?
  • Has it been a while since you've taken another alcoholic through the Steps?
  • Has it been a while since you have gone through the steps?
  • Have you ever taken all of AA's Twelve Steps?
  • Have you done more than one 4th Step inventory?
  • Have you completed all your 9th Step amends wherever possible?
  • Is there something wrong in your life that you will not face and make right?
  • Is there a habit or indulgence you will not give up?
  • Is there a person you will not forgive?
  • Is there a wrong relationship in your life you will not give up?
  • Is there a restitution you will not make?
  • Is there something God has already told you to do that you will not obey?
  • Are you working with the disciplines and practices of steps Ten and Eleven (self-examination, meditation and prayer)... consistently... EVERY DAY?
Page 62 says, "Above everything, we alcoholics must be rid of this selfishness ("the ego"). We must, or it kills us! God makes that possible. And there often seems no way of entirely getting rid of self (ego) without [God's] aid."
Page 25 tells us, "There is a solution. Almost none of us liked the self-searching, the leveling of our pride, the confession of shortcomings, which the process requires for its successful consummation. But we saw that it really worked in others, and we had come to believe in the hopelessness and futility of life as we had been living it. When, therefore, we were approached by those in whom the problem had been solved, there was nothing left for us but to pick up the simple kit of spiritual tools laid at out feet. We have found much of heaven and we have been rocketed into a fourth dimension of existence of which we had not even dreamed."
This "fourth dimension", which we find out in the 10th Step is the "world of the Spirit", takes us beyond the physically, mental, and emotional dimensions of life - and eliminates the selfishness (ego) of the "spiritual malady." The term "spiritual malady" does not mean that our "spirit" is sick. It simply means we are spiritually blocked off from the Power of God, which enables us to remain sober, happy, joyous, and free.
To conclude, it's not my body - my allergic reaction to alcohol - that's going to take me back to drinking. It's really not my mind - the mental obsession - that is the underlying root of what will take me back to drinking. It's the "spiritual malady", as manifested by my EGO (selfishness-self-centeredness), that can eventually lead me back to drinking or sometimes even suicide.
On pages 14 and 15 Bill W. writes, "For if an alcoholic failed to perfect and enlarge his spiritual life through work and self-sacrifice for others, he could not survive the certain trials and low spots ahead. If he did not work, he would surely drink again, and if he drank, he would surely die. Then faith would be dead indeed. With us it is just like that."
Thankfully, the "spiritual malady" is no longer a "missing piece" of Step One for me. It is a reality of my powerlessness and unmanageability and enables me to see why I so desperately need to seek a Power Greater than myself. And unless this malady is recognized, and a course of action (the Twelve Steps) is taken to enable God to remove it, the root of our alcoholic illness can lie dormant and burn us when we least expect it.

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The Sermon on the Mount

The message you're going to hear about today is all about blessings.  We use the word bless a lot but maybe don't know what it means.
If someone sneezes we usually hear someone say, "bless you!"  It's not completely clear why we say that but the word bless is a positive word.
Jesus had been walking with his disciples always teaching and talking with them.  More and more people would see Jesus and follow him because they could sense there was something special about him.  The way he spoke and what he spoke about captured everyone's attention.
This was one of those days and people had been following and Jesus decided to stop on a hillside with his disciples and teach to all who wanted to listen.
Jesus will make ten points in the first part of his sermon known as the beatitudes.  All accept one of these points start with the word blessed.  So we should probably figure out what the word means before we continue.
To be blessed is to be more than happy.  Life doesn't always go our way, sometimes we get sick or someone gets hurt and of course this doesn't make us happy but being blessed is being full of joy on the inside even if things aren't perfect.
It's a deeper joy because we know, as believers, that the spirit of God lives in us and we will live with him in heaven someday.
Jesus starts off with blessed are those who are poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Being poor in spirit means that we aren't attached to all the stuff that we have.  That you understand that God has given you all the great things or blessings and we should be very thankful and even willing to give them up or share them with others.  All our things on earth doesn't matter because we can't take it with us to heaven which will be more amazing then we can imagine.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.  Mourning is when we're really sad.  Maybe you've cried because you got hurt or someone you knew died but this is different then that.  This is being very upset about those people that haven't heard about God or even about the sin in your life.  You might not think about these things very much yet but as you get closer to God this will bother you and that's okay.  God promises to comfort us when we need it.
Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.  Being meek is being patient, not easily angered and not thinking of yourself to highly.  A bad example of this in the Bible were the Pharisees.  They would make sure people knew that they were fasting and praying and seemed proud about what they were doing for God.  Except God is looking for us to do these things without putting on a show for others but doing it just for God, not for approval from others.  Doing a nice, kind thing for someone is super, but we can always keep on doing that, plus more.
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.  Being righteous is impossible on our own.  Can we always do right by God?  No, and God knows that.  We can try our best to do the right thing and if we don't, we can ask for forgiveness and the forgiveness erases all the bad.  The verse not only asks us to try to be righteous but to hunger and thirst for it.  Have you ever been really hungry and thirsty?  To be truly hungry and thirsty you might have to go without food or water for more than a day or two. God wants us to need and feel like we're starving for righteousness and He will fill us up with it.
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.  To have mercy is to be loving and kind to others.  This doesn't mind just being loving and kind to your family and friends but also to those who you might not know and even those you don't like.
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.  Being pure is like having a clean heart.  Like the heart inside of us, it pumps blood and keeps us alive and if something is wrong with our heart we won't work right.  Jesus is talking about the place where we think and make decisions, why we do things, and our thoughts.  If we keep our mind, thoughts and decisions full of good, God says we'll understand Him more.
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.  The simplest way to explain this is someone who makes peace.  Helping others to get along would be a big part of it.  The second part of this beatitude says: then you will be called the children of God.  Being God's child would mean that you truly are a part of God's family and that you're starting to be more like Him; just like we are with our parents.
Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  God knows that being who He wants is not the way the world acts.  By doing the opposite of the world we will be made fun of or worse because people don't understand why we don't do things only for ourselves.  By living a life doing things for others confuses the way the world thinks.  A lot of people in the world want beauty, money, and don't care about others as long as they get what they want.  This is opposite to the life God wants us to lead.  Doing the right thing isn't easy but God wants us to know that the kingdom of heaven is waiting for us if we can get through the tough times in this life.
The beatitudes end saying that we should rejoice and be glad because by following these we will receive great treasures in heaven.
God promises that we will be blessed if we follow these teachings but it's won't be easy.  We all are still figuring out how to do these things.  Don't be discouraged.  God calls us to be different than the rest of the world.
Keep in mind that the beatitudes are impossible to do without God's help.  He wants to help and be a big part of decisions you make and all that you do. 
Jesus didn't give us these beatitudes and then want us to fail.  He wanted to give us something to aim for, to work on our whole life to try to achieve.  He wants us to try our best and give us a life full of blessings and reward us even bigger in heaven someday. 
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