A Potential Sustained A.A. Recovery Experience for an Active, Disciplined, 12-Step Alcoholic/Addict Believer Today
© 2014 Anonymous. All rights reserved
The observations here are mine at 89 years of age, and 28 years of active sustained A.A. experience, research, and activity. They represent what I have tried to do and seen others try to do as men and women who have escaped the revolving doors of treatment, relapse, imprisonment, and endless meetings. Who have enhanced trustworthy belief that God can do for them what they could not do for themselves. Who have enjoyed And who do not claim perfection in performance, but do claim progress and a zealous interest in helping still suffering alcoholics and addicts do likewise.
My story is on my main website – in writing and in audio. But this is not about my story of “experience, strength, and hope.” This article is about the things I have researched and, in large part, seen in action, experienced myself, or at least tried to learn, pass on, and do since my A.A. sobriety date on April 21, 1986.
Like some, I entered A.A. a very sick person. I made no judgments about A.A. one way or another. I simply picked up the phone, found a meeting, and hustled over to it. I just dived in and followed the herd – much as I had done in my high school, college, Army, and law school years. Discipline was not a problem for me.
My A.A. activity produced sustained, successful recovery from the first day forward. And my problem was not with my fellow AAs—male or female. My trouble stemmed from my initial lack of knowledge of A.A., detox, treatment, alcoholism, addiction, seizures, relapse, A.A., A.A.’s beginnings, founders, predecessor organizations, Big Book, the Twelve Steps, the Bible God’s primary role in early A.A., the techniques and duties of sponsorship, the appropriate way to “take” the Twelve Steps myself and others as well—having had a sponsor who just plain didn’t know. Plus the problem of some very unusual and unenlightening language that hovered over and around the rooms for all of my 28 years of sobriety
In short, the A.A. I entered provided no instructors and no manuals that gave the newcomer a useful orientation from his beginning moments. And it was years later, at a splendid program in the largest church in San Diego that I saw a model orientation with a newcomer.
Instead, I encountered unusual language which included such undefined terms as “spirituality,” “higher power,” “utilize but don’t analyze,” “take what you like, and leave the rest,” “look for the similarities and discard the differences,” “acceptance is the answer to all your problems,” “look at angry people as sick people and pray for them,” and “A.A. is not religious; it is spiritual.” And there were plenty more.
When sick at the beginning, you are ready to swallow about any language uttered by someone with more sobriety than you and/or with an authoritative and dominating approach and manner.
I am sure my activity in A.A. produced substantial knowledge of the problems and customs of the fellowship, but not much in the way of solutions. At least not for quite some time. Yet I willingly and eagerly served in A.A.—greeter, helper, speaker, secretary, treasurer, General Service Representative, and sponsor.
Though hampered by weak instruction, I made a point of learning the Big Book and then reading all of the significant A.A. Conference-approved literature I could get my hands on. I went to beginners meetings, Big Book study meetings, and Step study meetings. I gave particular attention to the issue of how to “take” a newcomer through the Twelve Steps, and how to separate higher powers from the power and love of God in suggesting to him where to turn.
From the first, I had and still have a strong belief in, study of, and practice of, worshipping God and praying to Him, turning to Him through Jesus Christ, and looking to the Bible for an understanding of what were plainly religious questions. The problem there is that I repeatedly heard anyone who mentioned God, Jesus, the Bible, religion, and other such matters openly condemned when they shared in meetings. And I repeatedly listened to lame, nonsensical language about what was permissible and conventional in A.A. and what was forbidden (as the bleeding deacons often attempted to proclaim.)
The heart of the simple approach for me in seeking, attaining, and sustaining continuous sobriety was much the same as that of the founders and first members of A.A. And that simple approach long preceded A.A., the Twelve Steps, the Twelve Traditions, the Big Book, War Stories, and meetings like those I was attending.
What was the approach? What did one really have to do to get over the seizures, the shakes, the temptations, the fears, the troubles, and the lack of teaching?
Dr. Bob once wrote on his prescription pad in his own writing: “Trust God, Clean House, and Help Others.”
The first three AAs approached their earliest days as Christians, believers in God, determined abstainers, and strong Bible students, as well as church attenders—whatever you may have heard to the contrary. And I had followed that trail, along with the usual common phrases as: “Don’t drink. Go to meetings.”
Trudgers often suggested: (1) Get a Big Book. (2) Get a sponsor. (3) Don’t drink. (4) Go to meetings. (5) Learn the Big Book, (6) Take the 12 Steps. (7) Participate in your own recovery. (8) Bring a newcomer and help one. (9) Heed two strong suggestions: “Love and service” is what the Steps amount to when simmered to their essence. “Love and Tolerance” is the code to be followed.
AAs were told they were very sick people. They were told they had an illness of the mind, body, and spirit. They were never, ever told that the founding doctor (William D. Silkworth, M.D.) had told Bill Wilson and others that Jesus Christ, the Great Physician could cure them of their alcoholism. They were told they had to begin their recovery by “surrendering” self, selfishness, self-centeredness, liquor, (in the early years) sinful behavior and becoming obedient to the Creator. They were told about a “design for living”—a “practical program of action” embodied in the Steps and whose ingredients were drawn largely from precepts of the Oxford Group and the teachings of Oxford Group leader Rev. Samuel M. Shoemaker, Jr. Even the “solution” that Bill later propounded centered around the Creator’s entering their lives in a way that was truly miraculous.
That’s what they were told. But that was usually not what they learned, believed, or practiced. The end result of the Twelve Steps was a supposed “spiritual awakening.” But that self-made religious term was not the one used when the founders were putting their program together. They had needed far more than an “awakening.” The had needed Divine Aid—which could truly release them from their bondage. The concluding term in the stepts had previously been phrased as “a vital religious experience,” “a conversion experience,” “a spiritual experience, and only then as an undefined “spiritual awakening” which was itself finally categorized as a “personality change sufficient to overcome the disease of alcoholism.”
In this article, we will not say what “works” or “can work” or “should work” in Alcoholics Anonymous. That’s because there is no longer any common agreement found much beyond the pages of the Big Book of 1939 and DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers. A.A. soon began talking about “keeping it simple,” “higher powers,” “spirituality,” some strange “god” that could be of one’s own understanding, or of one’s own conception, or of “whatever god you thought there was.” Finally, that “god” could be a higher power such as a door knob, a tree, a chair, Ralph, Gertrude, the Big Dipper, a light bulb, a group of drunks, or nothing at all!
The elements that produced success both before, during, and now in A.A. seem well worth studying and emulating as I have learned and experienced them. Here are the elements:
(1) Decision: I need to make major changes in my whole life. I’m licked. I’m afraid. I’m shaking. I’m bewildered. I’m losing. Or. I have lost my old friends and livelihood. I never ever anticipated all the trouble and need to relate it to the self-destructive behavior that alcoholism and addiction tempt me to do, encourage me to do, and immediately remove from my memory and motivation in favor or a drunk or a drug. I never really tried to associate the troubles with my drinking or addictive behavior. I should heed the early A.A. prayer: “O, God, manage me, because I can’t manage myself.” I will seek medical help, detox, or hospitalization before endeavoring to quit on my own or in some recovery program or home. Then I will never ever touch any liquor of any kind or any sleeping pill of any kind.
(2) Determination: I’m going to do whatever it takes to find a way out. I will not drink, no matter what. I’ll give A.A. a try and see what it’s like. I’ve found the others in it to be helpful, friendly, encouraging, and willing to help me in almost any way possible. I’ll throw in with these folks and try to follow their trail—“Come with us. Do what we do. Go where we go. And you’ll get what we’ve got.” But I will seek experienced suggestions and observations from doctors, psychiatrists, nutritionists, clergyman, the Bible, and those with long-term successful sobriety as to what pieces of advice or opinion are simply the unreliable wisdom of the rooms or those that are the unique prize of affiliation with Alcoholics Anonymous.
(3) Discipline: I’ll take seriously the fact that I have never spent any significant time trying to get in fellowship with God and His son. I have placed the matter of relying on God, thanking God, asking God for help, and obeying God’s commandments on the shelf. On the shelf in favor of pursuing behavior that has inevitably led to trouble. I have never looked at and need to understand the Bible as filled with promises, warnings, guides, healing accounts, and the path to an abundant and everlasting life. I’m going to start getting information on: (a) the Big Book. (b) the Twelve Steps. (c) the Bible.
(4) I’m going to stand on the promises of God. I’m going to obey His commandments, and I’m going to fellowship with those believers in A.A. and elsewhere who do likewise.
(5) I’m going to give large chunks of time each day to prayer, Bible study, and Christian literature that portray God and His Son as what they are to those who become children of God: (a) Heavenly Father. (b) Son of the living God. (c) Reliable sources of love, power, healing, forgiveness, guidance, deliverance, and to the behavior that both told us plainly was what they expected of me and would empower me to do. Especially if I sought these in the name of Jesus Christ. I will recognize that giving in to temptation is a sure way to find the devil’s way and suffer from following that.
(6) I’m going to read, re-read, study, and follow the precepts of Hebrews 11:6—concerning belief that God is and is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him; and the precepts of Romans 10:9—concerning the way to come to the Father through His son by confessing with my mouth that Jesus is Lord and believing in my heart that God raised him from the dead.
(7) I am going to follow the command of Matthew 6:33—Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you. The A.A. slogan “First things First” gives me the proper appropriate instruction. Seek God, his righteousness, and his will first and place my trust in these—knowing that God is a provider for those who are his kids.
(8) I will pursue growth rather than static accomplishment—growth in understanding my Creator, growth in understanding what Jesus accomplished for me, growth in studying the Bible daily, growth in asking God daily in accordance with His will for the things He wants me to do, the places He wants me to go, the people He want me to help, and the salvation He wants me to have and to explain to others.
(9) I will read and learn the personal stories of the original A.A. pioneers which tell how each, in his own language and from his own point of view, not only established his relationship with God, but applied the principles of A.A.’s very first program—taking them from the Bible itself.
(10) I will look at the Big Book and the Twelve Steps as a new version of the A.A. program as of 1939; learn that these materials were modified before printing to suggest that any god or no god would do. And, I will ignore the license that such compromises give to others in the fellowship these days. I will confirm to myself and to others what God, the Bible, history, recovery, the Christian upbringing of our founders, the successes of the first three AAs, and the simple Akron Christian Fellowship program showed us could work if we thoroughly followed the path and continued to serve God and those about us to the maximum extent possible.
(11) I will get along with those in or out of the fellowship who lovingly and kindly embrace different views, different religious ideas, or even engage in outright opposition to those who believe as I do. And I will counter their attitudes first by asking God how to deal with them, learning what A.A. was founded to do, and confirming what it steadfastly declares that I can do without being governed or fettered.
(12) I will recognize that the message conveyed to the world by God, His Son, and the Bible was that man has been given an option—to believe or not to believe, to serve or not to serve, to follow the guidelines in 1 Corinthians 13 or not, and to follow thoroughly the path laid out by the founders of A.A. or to fashion some belief, or prayer, or religion, or creed of their own so long as they do not interfere with my conviction that God’s way is the way the founders chose and the way that assures receipt of the promises God made to those who loved Him with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength
In his last major talk to AAs, Dr. Bob said:
But we were convinced that the answer to our problems was in the Good Book . . . . We already had the basic ideas [that influenced the writing of the Twelve Steps] though not in terse and tangible form. We got them, as I said, as a result of our study of the Good Book, The Co-Founders of Alcoholics Anonymous: Biographical Sketches Their Last Major Talks, pp. 13-14
And here were some of the important basic ideas in the Good Book on which the early AAs could plant their feet and rely:
Luke 1:37: “For with God, nothing shall be impossible.” 1 Timothy 2:3-4: “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved; and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” James 4:10: “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.” 1 John 5:3: “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments and His commandments are not grievous. 1 John 5:14-15: “And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask anything according to his will, he heareth us. And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.”
I believe that the personal stories of the first three AAs, and the personal stories of the A.A. pioneers—mostly Christians from the Akron area—as set forth in the First Edition of Alcoholics Anonymous depict the faith in God’s Word that enabled them to trust Him and that Word.