I wish I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard someone in Alcoholics Anonymous say, “I don’t know how to pray,” or “I don’t know how to meditate,” the two basic tenets of the 11th step.
Part of me, a less-evolved and more-absorbed self, wants to say, “You know how to breathe, don’t you? Close your eyes and breathe. Now you’re meditating. Say the same word over and over in your head. Now you’ve got a mantra. Easy, right? Find a mountaintop and have at it. ” And to those who’ve forgotten how to pray, it’s tempting to say what was said to me: “You’ve been talking to the Committee in your head for years. Change frequencies and have a conversation with ‘god, as you understand him.’”
Sometimes I’d like to quip, but generally I don’t. I don’t say any of this because I remember all too clearly how difficult it was in early sobriety to put a thought together. In fact, I could barely hang onto or complete any thought that wasn’t spoken aloud or written down. Even as an RC (Recovering Catholic) who’d said the Lord’s Prayer a million times as a kid, I couldn’t get passed the first two sentences of that prayer unless we were saying it as a group to close a meeting and I had a circle of friends guiding me down the path to the “Amen.”
And breathing? Hell, if I wasn’t jonesing for a drink or spooked by your shadow, I was too panicked to do much more than pant, let alone meditate. If I closed my eyes and didn’t fall asleep, I was afraid I’d start seeing cows jump over the moon for real. Bad times, those first nights trying to sleep.
Back then, when it came to prayer and meditation, I took the simple advice of my first sponsor, which I’ll share: If you can’t pray or meditate yet, just say, “Please keep me sober,” when you wake up, and “Thank you for keeping me sober,” when you go to sleep. Please and Thank You. Plain and Simple. Works like a charm.
Over the years, my Please and Thank You Prayer has evolved into something I think of as a first-step chant. I never leave home without having uttered it, either to myself or aloud. I’ve always found prayer to be a hugely intriguing phenomenon, especially when discussed by far more insightful thinkers than me. I do know one thing I can say about this prayer with absolute confidence and irrefutable evidence: I, personally, have never taken a drink within 24 hours of saying it.
Please and Thank You Prayer (1st-Step Chant)
Thank you for my being alive, healthy, and sober.
Please continue to take away my desire to drink
And admonish any and all thoughts, words, or deeds
That might prompt that desire,
For I am truly and deeply powerless over alcohol
Without your help
Now and forever, Amen.