Monday, October 18, 2010

Alcoholics Anonymous: God vs. No God in My Recovery

It seems like a battle has been raging over the importance of God in Alcoholics Anonymous, in 12-Step fellowships, and in treatment models and programs. If the "Not-God" book is any evidence of the battle, then the battle has raged for some years prior to my getting clean and sober in Alcoholics Anonymous in 1986. In fact, the newly released "The Book That Started It All" with the many alterations and deletions in the working manuscript of A.A.'s Big Book--just prior to its submission to the printer in 1939--shows that Bill Wilson himself was battling with a select few untrepreneurs and doubters to retain the reliance on God that had so clearly been the theme of the original A.A. program founded by Bill and Dr. Bob in 1935.

Perhaps I was so thoroughly defeated by the time I walked in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous that I never even recognized the war, let alone the warriors. In fact, it wasn't until my immature sponsor (with 6 months of his sobriety under his belt) began insisting that I not read the Bible, that the Big Book should be my only reading matter, and that AAs who studied the Bible got drunk, that I began to awaken.

Still my sickness and confusion and fear were so great that I just ignored the sponsor--and even his surreptitious sponsor--and their antipathy to God and the Bible. Let me be explicit: I had been a sleeping pill addict since law school--from which I graduated in 1951. I had become an alcoholic by about 1968. And I truly did not recognize the addiction, the trouble I was causing, or the destruction of my body and mind that were under way. But those were just a few of the problems that my alcoholism and addiction and bizarre behavior were causing.

I was plagued by insomnia--which just fed the desire for more sleeping pills and booze. I was plagued with bodily aches and pains--which seemed the product of "stress." These fed the "need" for muscle relaxants and other remedies. I was sinking into persistent depression, scarcely realizing what a potent effect it had on my desire to "escape"--to Hawaii, to fishing vacations, to conventions, to parties, and finally to what we AAs like to call "lower companions."

Even these changes were not enough to suggest surrender. What really happened was the beginning of unethical behavior, immoral behavior, and unprofitable behavior.

By the time I was ready for Alcoholics Anonymous, I was ready for a psychiatrist and more pills. I found both very quickly. But neither allayed the creeping terror, secretive behavior, trouble-making, anger, and just plain inexplicable focus on things I ought to have known enough to avoid.

The bottom line is that I didn't "need" Alcoholics Anonymous. What I needed was to quit the booze, quit the sedatives, eliminate the depression, and get well. Alcoholics Anonymous was suggested to me, and it fit the bill extremely well. I stopped the drinking and pills almost at once. I had three grand mal seizures in early withdrawal. I was confused, forgetful, bewildered, frightened, anxious, depressed, and despairing. And the troubles I had caused suddenly confronted me with the "wreckage of the past." That meant possible loss of my law license, painful attacks in the newspaper, police and District Attorney investigations, possible fines and incarceration, possible lawsuits, and the utter loss of my livelihood--not to mention my reputation, most friends, my former wife, and all self-esteem.

Were all these problems to be solved in Alcoholics Anonymous? If they were, I'd never have made the grade. Instead, I dived into Alcoholics Anonymous with fervor. I sought every kind of help I could think of--lawyers, doctors, accountants, tax specialists, support from my sons, VA facilities, treatment facilities, and therapists.

But the terror was still there--with all the misery, insomnia, depression, and difficulties that engendered it. And, at 8 months of sobriety , in the VA Psych Ward in San Francisco, I sought God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. And, to paraphrase Dr. Bob's remark: "My Heavenly Father did not let me down." With this new found power, forgiveness, strength, guidance, and healing, I charged forward with a new zeal to succeed. And I did. More than 24 years ago.

Nobody can tell me that Almighty God, the power of the Holy Spirit, and the assurances of the Bible were not vital. They were! Hence, I've never told a newcomer that I can remember that he didn't need God. I've encouraged every one to seek, believe, and obey. And that is why the idea of "no god," or "not-god," or nonsense gods in recovery is not, and never has been on my platter.

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