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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

SPIRITUALITY PART I


SPIRITUALITY PART I

AA is has always been defined as a spiritual program, but

unfortunately the term “spirituality” is often confused

with religion. I see this in reading criticisms of the

program by those who don’t understand AA, often

calling it a religion or cult. Various District Court

decisions have indeed ruled that mandatory attendance

at AA meetings for DUI offenders is a violation of t

he constitution, which prohibits the endorsement of any

religion. This in essence reflects an “official” view

that AA is a religion. But mandatory attendance at

meetings is a whole other issue that I won’t go into here.


I think the view of AA as a religious organization is

probably drawn from our constant reference to God.

We use the word God throughout the Big Book and

particularly in 12 Steps, the Traditions, and the

Promises. There are 3rd, 7th, and 11th step prayers

as well as the Serenity Prayer used to open most

meetings and the Lord’s Prayer to close them. But only

in the steps do we see the caveat “as we understand him”.

If one takes the time to read the Big Book carefully,

and becomes familiar with the history of AA, they’ll

see that AA very carefully steers away from any

connotation of being a religious organization.

Religion is thought to be too inclusive, too restrictive.

Indeed the very thought of religion strikes fear in

the hearts of many alcoholics. We thus emphasize

the concept of a “power greater than ourselves” to

carefully avoid any connotation of religion. But this

recognition of a higher power nonetheless plays an

essential role in the AA program.


But why do we say “God” all the time? It’s

probably because we’re a Judeo-Christian

culture and the term is familiar to all of use.

It’s also a lot easier to say “God” than “God

as I understand Him”, or “a power greater

than myself” in any discussion. And indeed,

many of us believe in God as our higher power,

so that’s just what we say.


This idea of needing a higher power is initially

seen in the first 3 steps. I’m powerless. I no

longer think I can do this alone, only something

more powerful than I can do it. And this

power will help me if I ask. The key to the whole

program is that I can’t do it alone. It’s the first

acknowledgement of the powerlessness of self.

My first glimpse of humility. I, as an individual,

am not all powerful, not God. That, for me at least,

was one hell of a big step (or fall). My ego began

to deflate. I, who had never asked for help in

my life, recognized my utter helplessness in dealing

with my alcoholism. As with most of us, it was in

a pit of utter despair that I finally came to terms

with this higher power thing.


And I think there’s a certain paradox here in that

I was raised a Catholic and had 12 years of

Catholic education. I learned about religion,

theology, dogma. Prayer was always said in

the approved, rote format recited at the appropriate

times during the appropriate ceremonies. I read

Aquinas and Augustine. I knew all about God. He

was all knowing, all-powerful, eternal. These

things I knew. But this knowledge lead to

self-righteousness, the self-righteousness to

self-centeredness, and an eventual focus in life

solely on self. God, indeed the whole concept of

higher power, began to fade to the distant past.

I fell away from the Church, from God. I caught

a spiritual disease, a “soul sickness” as Fr. Martin

liked to call it. Self and ego took over my life.

“I” and “me” were the operative terms of my existence.


(Stay tuned to Part II of the continuing saga. In the next

segment I’ll begin to deal with the concept of spirituality.)

12 comments:

  1. Some of A.A.s critics are just misguided assholes who like to stir the pot.

    They know full well the difference between religion and spirituality.

    If you're too religious, they'll claim you're an intolerant tyrant and if you're just spiritual, then you're a new age smelly hippie.

    They are radical atheists who have their panties in a wad because God told them to stop collecting disability and get a job.

    So, I can freely say that I'm non-denominational Christian with a little Hell-fire and Brimstone with a little spiritual bad-assedness on the side.

    ReplyDelete
  2. This is spirituality:

    This past weekend my friend Pete left this plane of existence and passed beyond our sight to the big meeting. He passed away peacefully in his sleep. I had seen him not long ago and he sure didn't look or act like a man who was on his way out. Don P. said one time that "You can't beat the game of life, you are either living it or you are dying it, but you can't beat it." Pete lived it right up to the end. Pete was twenty-four years sober when he left us.

    Pete had a zeal and zest and an enthusiasm that is rare. It caused him to want to share this gift with everyone he encountered. The MOTR's took this as preaching and it rubbed many of them the wrong way. But Pete helped far more than he turned off and in that he will live on.

    Rest in Peace my friend and say hi to Don P., Joe H., Mark, H., Big Frank, Ed M., Earl H., Dan C., Joe McQ., Tom B. Jr., and the other heroes and giants that we have lost over the last few years

    ReplyDelete
  3. RIP to Pete, Jim. That's a nice list of folks too. I'd personally met four of them at one time or another. Frank, Don P, and Mark H I knew best.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Now... to use a for instance in my initial point, a poster from SR poste this beauty;

    SJTChiSox says,

    "Is a deity required to work the 12 Steps?

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    I was just at an AA meeting where many of the members were discussing how therapy did not do them any good whatsoever and that the only way that they felt any relief was through the 4th step and were only sober through the grace of a diety[sic... deity]. I have been to over a hundred meetings and this was by far the hardest one to sit through.

    I could see someone new in recovery hearing that and being put off from receiving therapy which so far at least in my experience has been more beneficial then[sic... than, not then] AA. Seems dangerous to me.

    Furthermore, I am having trouble seeing how something like "the group" or a "doorknob" could possibly take away my supposed character defects. I always here[sic... hear, like with your fucking ear... hear... get it now?] how its a spiritual program, but most people with over a year seem to have a HP that is very similar to an omnipresent God. Time and time again I hear that the steps are intended to bring someone to "God" or "their creator".

    For me, my "spiritual experience" has been the realization that my life is on a destructive path, that I will not be happy if I continue to use and drink. That no good can come of my use and that I am addicted.

    I am just confused right now. This is further compounded by the statements regarding AA being the only way to really get sober. It seems that sense[sic... since] I have started to work the steps I have found less benefit in AA. I like here[sic... to hear... with that fucking ear of yours... remember?] people's experiences and stories. I like the suggestions, but now I feel alot [sic... a lot] of stress trying to play mental gymnastics to make this stuff work.
    __________________
    Sober Date: 10/16/2010"

    ...

    So... despite my annoyance of folks going on to the 12 Step forum and bitching about A.A., they give the perfect example of this... anti/XAer playbook.

    They sit back and bitch about folks with faith and commitment to some Deity run off the newcomer with this shit, then go on about how other folks use a doorknob as their higher power.

    Well no. The only way a doorknob is going to keep anybody sober is if one gets shoved down your throat. Enough with the doorknobs already.

    Then they go to "But you people say that A.A. is the only way."

    Guess what? A spiritual basis is what's needed for a "Real Alcoholic" to recover. If you can get sober without it, then you're not a real alky and you're not in our fucking club. Go join the fucking Glee Club, punk.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Jim, Pete achieved the ultimate goal - he died sober. And in doing so, he died a happy man. What more could we ask for?

    ReplyDelete
  6. SJTChiSox is a bit confused here. WTF has she been doing during the 100 meetings she's gone to? Maybe taking the magic chair/magic cup of coffee approach? Her spiritual experience was the realization that her life's fucked up? I hope that didn't come in a flash of light. Been there a year and is starting to work the steps. Hmmmm.
    One of two things is happening here. She's going to a group that has some very strange ideas about door knobs, or else she hasn't been listening. I think it's the latter if she's trying to play mental gymnastics to make it work. This isn't the NY Times Sunday Crossword Puzzle here, mental gymnastics aren't necessary. Honesty, open mindednes, and willingness are all you need. What's so hard about that?

    ReplyDelete
  7. I suppose she could put door knobs onto her ass and worship the wild ride she's about to go on if she falls into MOTR/anti/XAer crap that's going around.

    If I was skeptical to a "Deity" ... that which is Immortal and Creator of all... I guess I could go back to drinking booze until I get it worked out. Oh, but it would break my fucking heart to see her lose her precious 4 months of sobriety. Now that's a Feat of the Universe to behold! Wow! Let's celebrate our sobriety by dogging That which Created us all.

    If you're not open minded enough to consider the possibility of a Deity and also have the spunk to dog those who do... no need to make a decision to make God your Prinicple and you His agent, God the Father and you His child... His employer.

    So yes, God need be a Deity and if you have a problem with that, go... leave A.A. and go find a more merciful way. But don't let the door split ya and go away from the A.A. 12 Step subforum and go find another secular venue.

    That's what I think. But those fine folks over at SR are not allowed to cut to the chase.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I want to die sober too... but not today.

    I'd like to live sober for a while. I've got some shit left to do.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Yeah Patrick, it's all about living. And that's what spirituality is to me-life & living. Tolstoy said something like to live is to be in God because God is life. Chuck Chamberlain said if you lose yourself in life you'll find yourself in God. And the only way to really know life is to live it and experience it all-the ups & the downs, the joy, the sorrow, the disappointments and elation.

    In the beginning, that Third Step idea did give me a kind of conception of God to go forward with doesn't. But today that define the Infinite to me, but it does define my relationship to it. As I have said before, I am more interested in consciousness than conception.

    I also think of spirituality in a sense of being whole and complete and connected. I know I'm on the beam when I'm out there in life, being a part of it and puttting into it rather than taking from it. Religious belief can be a bar to this experience, because it isn't about belief,, it's about action. Too many alkies come into A.A., hear it's a spiritual program, start going to church and studying the Bible and get drunk. Why? because belief doesn't spell the necessary vital spiritual experience. What you believe about God and keep you from God.

    Religious beliefs & practices are fine though, if I am incorporating them into my 10th & 11th Step. Prayer, meditation, religious services, retreats, etc., these are how I participate in what I call the vertical relationship. But it doesn't mean anything if I'm not out there living in what I call the horizontal relationship, connecting with my brothers & sisters. In fact, The Carpenter taught that. He said that if you are your way to the temple to worship God and while you are on your way there, you remember that you have something against your brother, maybe you ought to put down your offering and go get right with your brother before you worship God. Too many alkies get it backwards and use going to church as a way around the hard stuff like direct amends and Fifth Steps, and stuff like that. And they wonder why their personal relationships are still fucked up and why they still feel like they are separate and eventually get drunk.

    Belief vs. Action:

    A priest & a rabbi were at a prize fight. Just before the fight began, one of the fighters kneels down in the corner and crosses himself.

    The rabbi says to the priest "That's one of your guys isn't it?" The priest says "Yes it is."

    The rabbi asks the priest "What's this mean?" (crossing himself)
    The priest says "It don't mean a damn thing if he can't fight."

    ReplyDelete
  10. "What you believe about God can keep you from God." I like that.

    "It don't mean a damn thing if he can't fight." I fucking love that.

    I hear ya Jim. But by the same token, we don't have to bend over and take it in the ass either. Don't be a pissing post for every stray dog that comes along.

    If your brother is a fucking prick, be polite, but stay away from him as best you can. Don't accept the unacceptable.

    Now here's a question; can you get free of booze without spiritual aid? If so, good for you. I cannot.

    I have a book that says that "Many of us felt that we had plenty of character." I do not suffer from low self esteem. I agree with those who say the ego is a problem for the alcoholic. I go deep down within myself to seek the solution. It's also deep down within me that I find the problem. They are in the same place. This is a paradox of life that those of science will either refuse or be unable to explain away.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Patrick, here's your boy. We ought to get Kieth and Mark over here someday. I had to seriously edit here.



    SJTChiSox's Avatar


    Is a deity required to work the 12 Steps?
    I was just at an AA meeting where many of the members were discussing how therapy did not do them any good whatsoever and that the only way that they felt any relief was through the 4th step and were only sober through the grace of a diety. I have been to over a hundred meetings and this was by far the hardest one to sit through.

    I could see someone new in recovery hearing that and being put off from receiving therapy which so far at least in my experience has been more beneficial then AA. Seems dangerous to me.

    Furthermore, I am having trouble seeing how something like "the group" or a "doorknob" could possibly take away my supposed character defects. I always here how its a spiritual program, but most people with over a year seem to have a HP that is very similar to an omnipresent God. Time and time again I hear that the steps are intended to bring someone to "God" or "their creator".

    For me, my "spiritual experience" has been the realization that my life is on a destructive path, that I will not be happy if I continue to use and drink.

    I am just confused right now. This is further compounded by the statements regarding AA being the only way to really get sober. It seems that sense I have started to work the steps I have found less benefit in AA. I like here people's experiences and stories. I like the suggestions, but now I feel alot of stress trying to play mental gymnastics to make this stuff work.




    Antiderivative



    No, a deity is not needed. However, some groups and meetings can be God-heavy. Everything you hear in a meeting is not healthy. Occasionally, people will share dangerous and irresponsible advice.

    Quote:
    For me, my "spiritual experience" has been the realization that my life is on a destructive path, that I will not be happy if I continue to use and drink.
    That is very much my spiritual experience. The God of my understanding is perhaps synonymous to the human spirit or the human condition.

    Quote:
    This is further compounded by the statements regarding AA being the only way to really get sober.
    It is not and anyone who tells you this is simply lying.

    Quote:
    I like the suggestions, but now I feel alot of stress trying to play mental gymnastics to make this stuff work.
    If you are playing mental gymnastics, then you are probably over-complicating it.





    Mark75


    The textbook of alcoholics anonymous didn't give a description of a higher power. it is your higher power, not theirs.

    I second antiderivative's comment that if we play mental gymnastics, we are probably overcomplicating it. God knows I did. I tried to figure out the fourth step, instead of actually just doing it.





    keithj
    Member


    'Do I now believe, or am I even willing to believe, that there is a power greater than myself?"

    Other people can tell me all about their understanding of that power. They can even give it a name and a face and tell me how it works in their lives. But none of that does me a bit of good.

    What I really need, is that power working in my life. How do I get that? I take the Steps as they are outlined in the BB. When I do that, all of these questions about whether this power is a deity become irrelevant. What I get from taking the Steps is an experience with this power. Then I know what this power is.

    Sitting there thinking about the power, listening to others talk about the power, doesn't do a thing to actually get that power working in my life.

    Taking the Steps does. The BB contains precise, specific directions on how to do that. It doesn't tell me to sit around and think about the power or try to figure out how this works.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Yeah, I'd like to see Keith stop by here and Mark technically already is here. But... if you're still a part of SR, I think you have to stay under the radar... so to speak.

    When some of us got separated from SR, it wasn't on good terms. CarolD told me since my beginning at SR that I would maybe like to remove myself from there and find some other venue. So... thus the formation of the blog. We also owe its formation to our compadres from ST... for what it's worth.

    ReplyDelete