Promise 4 – We will know peace.
The phrase “We will know peace” seems as simple as it can be. There are no complex words that might cause us to reach for a dictionary. Surely words have not changed in meaning very much since the Promise was written back in the 1930s. Or have they?
I looked up the definition of “peace” in Webster’s 1934 dictionary, I fully expected a definition along the same lines as the words “tranquility” or “serenity”. That’s the meaning I usually have in mind when I say something like “I had a peaceful afternoon yesterday”.
However, I discovered something unexpected in my old dictionary:
“Peace n. A pact or agreement to end hostilities or to come together in amity.”
Peace is an AGREEMENT? Yes, peace is an agreement to end hostilities. By this definition—peace cannot exist unless there were hostilities and they have ENDED. I was reluctant to believe that “peace” is ALWAYS a byproduct of something negative like hostilities. Don’t people have peaceful days or peaceful moods? I reread the definition but it definitely tied “peace” to an END of hostilities.
I soon recalled that the Big Book of AA says, “We had ceased fighting anything or anyone.” (on p. 84—right after Step Ten). That sounded like a deliberate decision to END of hostilities instead of seeking a victory. But why would anyone do that? Isn’t a conflict supposed to produce a winner? If we cease fighting our addiction, won’t we immediately become some sort of “loser”?
Trying to apply the definition in the dictionary to my recovery was confusing stuff.
So, I prayed and meditated. Ideas swam in my mind of surrendering to God as I understand Him. That didn’t make immediate sense, because I wasn’t actually at war with God. Maybe I was supposed to negotiate a surrender with my addiction? That’s what I was already doing…negotiating by totally giving in to the demands of my addiction. These ideas made little sense. Then I realized a very important thing about my conflicts. Most of the brutal hostilities that I needed to cease were entirely inside my head. My anger battled my guilt, which battled my fear, which battled my self-hatred. The more fiercely I fought with myself, the more victories my addiction won.
If I wanted to know peace, I needed to cease hostilities within myself. There would be no “winner” and certainly no “loser”. My un-winnable war would simply end. ENDING HOSTILITIES. That was the key to peace.
My thoughts turned to creating a drawing for this type of “peace”. In making drawings, I try to choose images that are exactly what they appear to be. None of them are intended to be a riddle for viewers to solve. What, then, would be a sensible way to show a pact to end hostilities? I knew that history offers one very dramatic example. Surrendering generals often formally handed their ceremonial swords over to their conquerors, thereby completely disarming themselves.
In my drawing, I needed to go even further and depict a total withdrawal from ALL forms of conflict—not just one side surrendering to another. Then the idea struck me. Utter and complete surrender would include grasping your unsheathed sword by the razor-sharp edge and then presenting the sword’s handle for your opponent to grip. That, I thought, would be the ultimate and unconditional sign of surrender. Were your conqueror either sadistic or evil, they could yank the handle and viciously wound you even as were offering your total surrender. A truly mutual surrender would include BOTH sides making that same abject gesture. Thus, I invented the rather unorthodox subject matter of my drawing.
Why would anyone in real life exchange swords in such a way? Would anyone ever really agree to a MUTUAL surrender? Yes, but only if both warring sides simultaneously recognized that the cost of fighting had become too high. Perhaps a hoped-for “fair fight” had degenerated into an inhuman exchange of brutalities. Perhaps the combat which was supposed to keep children/families/country safe had ended up destroying those very things. Perhaps the march to victory had become a march to mutual self-destruction.
My own fight to “win” my sanity back reached exactly such a hopeless condition. I was losing everything by continuing to fight. And I mean everything. Home. Family. Job. Community. Self-respect. Hope. Belief. Every one of the things I treasured was being damaged or demolished. My fighting was causing me to LOSE the war.
And so I finally gave UP. I mean to say that I surrendered everything in an UP direction. I stopped fighting myself and everyone around me.
I finally found a phone number and called a local Twelve Step meeting. I went to the Meeting and admitted my total defeat. I placed my troubles onto shoulders much broader than mine. I would no longer do battle with myself. Too many innocent people had suffered already. That explains the flaming and war-torn community seen in my drawing.
If you don’t know it already, Twelve Step recovery occurs one day at a time—not weekly, monthly, or yearly. My inner conflicts are fully capable of flaring up again within each new day. (I believe this is why many people in Twelve Step programs make a point of saying “I am recoverING rather than recoverED.”) If I react to any flare-up by fighting it, I will guarantee my own defeat. But if I can surrender flare-ups of anger, fear, and regrets to a greater Power than myself, I can once again come to know peace.
TRIVIA: The sword on the left is fictional—based loosely on an Italian fencing saber I once owned. The implement on the right is a Japanese bayonet. There is no significance to their nationalities. Nor is there a symbolic meaning behind the missing ring finger on the hand seen at left. Its healed condition does, however, suggest how long this conflict has lasted.