Tuesday, April 23, 2013

God- How has your concept of God evolved to what It is now?

I chaired the meeting last night unexpectedly.  The chairperson who was supposed to do it managed to get "Stuck in a snowstorm in Denver"... again.

But I'd gotten a text from a friend from the Denver group that started ours and he said he'd be at our meeting, so I decided to chair for his sake if nothing else. 

So I wanted to bring a good topic if I could.  I got some ideas from the guy who was supposed to chair, and I also got some ideas from Paw here.  They both pointed to the same thing in a way... we would be talking about God.

Throughout life and my life in out and around A.A., how has my concept of God changed?  Has it broadened, has it become narrower? 

For one thing, I don't worship A.A.  I'm not here to make the argument for or against being able to walk away from A.A. and to be sober and happy.  This thought will certainly get brought up in our meeting last night.  I'm talking about where I stand with A.A. now, how I go about living life and how I incorporate A.A. into my life now, and where does God fit into all of this?

Back when I was a kid, before booze become manifest in my life, I was nothing but confused or oblivious to God and religion.  My folks spent more time nursing a hangover on Sunday morning rather than going to church.  We rarely went to church unless we were with family who did so.  But my parents declared us Catholic.  I guess I was baptized as a baby, but I don't remember it too well.  I'm recovered Catholic today.
I say that to say this... I once tried to contemplate a concept of God, Heaven, Infinity... and I felt like I was burning a hole in my brain.  It scared the living fuck right out of me and I went running to find a way out of my own mind. 

I'm not going to lie.  I took to booze like a fish to water.  It took me to a place of awe immediately.  One small bout with booze at 10 years old would set the pace for me in years to come.  But, there was something else to my being besides my relationship with alcohol.  I really didn't have much of a relationship with God, much of a concept, no damnation and hellfire, no guilt, etc.  I was into finding fun, mischief, and once in a great while, your approval.  I'd come home from school one day with a report card and it wasn't too impressive.  Some d's, c's... that was about it.  My brother Mark looked at it and said "This is shit.  What the hell is up with this?  You can do better than this?"  I was thinking to myself, "What the fuck?  You dropped out of high school, asshole.  Who are you to judge me?"  But it stuck with me.  I was shamed.  I was ashamed of myself over it.  I remember one summer riding a bike with my friend Gary around Chatsworth High School, and Gary said, "Let's get straight As next year in school."  I said, "Cool.  Let's do it."

So, that next year at the conclusion of our 5th grade year, on the last day of school, I went to the front of the class to get my report card, and in front of the whole class, our teacher Mrs. Pratt kissed me in front of the whole class.  She gave me my report card and I had 8 Bs and 8 As.  The only thing I can really remember of that school year was having the desire to get good grades, letting fellow students show me how to do homework in certain subjects and do a little extra credit, my mom helping me on three heavy self-picked biography reports, I was already talented at math and science... I just needed a boost of confidence and a sprinkle of intent.  Oh, and at some point in that school year, my friend Dario and I went and raided his mom and dad's liquor cabinet after school and got just shit-faced.

My good grades would carry on throughout middle school, high school, and into college.  My aunt Lela was my inspiration to do good in school once we moved to southern Colorado,  sports (wrestling and football), and band.  She took me to church now and again.  She told me not to take communion because she knew my parents were Catholic.  My dad claimed he didn't go to church because he didn't agree with most of those preachers and they weren't qualified to preach to him anyhow.  Besides that, when my mom and dad married, the Catholic church wouldn't marry them because my mom had been divorced and had three children, a 4 year old, a 10 year old and a 12 year old when my dad came into the scene.  I was born about a year after they had married and they're together still today.  Old as dirt they are, but married, actually remarried in the Catholic church now.  Evidently, if all of your ex-spouses die off, you can have ex-marriages annulled, pay a bunch of cash, and the Catholic Church will bless your marriage. 

Anyways, I didn't give much thought to God, religion, nor church.  My aunt Lila, Lela's twin sister, introduced me to my first taste of Self-Help.  She gave me a book called Psycho Cybernetics.  I thought it was fantastic.  I soon found myself in college, without a drivers license because I had wrecked my car and gotten a dui, but I had a red-license, and I was starting to think about how some people in the world have their shit together and how I do good for a while, then become a stupid fuck-up.  I wanted to turn back the hands of time and undo some shit.  I started to think about God.  I asked God for some shit and He blatantly ignored me or denied me, so I became pissed off at this God.  So fuck it.  I'd been sober from booze after my first bout with dui, detox, treatment, and A.A., but stuffed all the drugs into my face that I could find, mostly weed, acid, mushrooms, and some coke and speed.  They didn't do much for me.  They were somewhat interesting, but nothing too world-shattering.  I didn't feel myself.  So I drank again... mainly with the guise that I could handle it and life would be cool.  Life was cool.  I'd been through a couple of relationships sober, in fact, I met a gal in treatment that I dated for about 4 months.  She had weed, the Playboy Channel, and a Camaro.  She was 26.  I was 18.  After a while, I just wanted to go hang with my friends and get wasted.  So, after two weeks of drinking, I wrecked my next car and wanted to die. 

So, a high school buddy of mine who was living in McLean Virginia invited me to come live with he and his parents so I could go to work with them for a summer, building a mansion for a famous heart surgeon who lived in Falls Church.  I didn't need a license to get to work and it might be good for me.  The work was good, I got in shape, and we had a blast.  We drank a lot and worked and booze almost got me fired after my first week there.  We had a party at the job site one night and I went into a blackout and had a guy named Bruce by the neck.  He would later become my boss and carpenter mentor.  About mid-summer, I had a drunken blow-out and was soon to be fired.  I swore off booze one night, stayed up all night long and did some sort of soul-searching God-seeking ritual and went to work the next day knowing that I was going to stay sober and be a good boy.

It worked.  I would somehow manage to remain sober, gain the commendation of the work crew, go back to Colorado and back to my college in Denver and get straight As that semester.  The Dean sent me a letter of commendation and asked what I'd done to turn my scholastics around so drastically.  If I'd have answered him honestly, I'd have said, "Hit a bottom with booze, got my license taken away for a year, rode the bus to school and since no license and since I'm sober, got no time nor money but to go home, do homework and study."

Soon, I would meet a gal at a bar in between drunken benders, get drunk with her, marry her, and become a full-fledged Catholic.  Being Catholic is great because you can drink like a fish.

Aside:  I'm sorry for being so wordy here and it's not my intent to lay down my drunkalogue here.  I'm trying to establish some of the events that have lead to my experience of and attempts at a God-centered life.

As far as Catholics go, hey, if it works for you, great.  Just tell them preachers to stop raping boys.  I have more respect for Jimmy Swaggart than them.  At least he screws hookers.

Now, I fucked up again, wound up in A.A. in 1994, and did pretty well with it and she left me.  I got drunk again, got inspired to bitch God out again, and God answered.  I was "touched" by some Godly figure and fell into a state of peace that words do no justice.  I got back into A.A., got sober again, and started onto a path of seeking God and becoming ever confused about God, A.A., religion, etc.

What I know of God now is that I can go to God and He will meet me wherever I am at.  God is a gentleman.  God does not intervene unless it becomes absolutely necessary, then He'll rip whatever it is that I'm trying to kill myself with out of my bloody paws.  I could have and should have killed myself many times over, usually not by accident.  But tell me I'm in danger and I would have laughed at you.  It's my experience that God wants us to be happy and to glorify Him by doing what we were intended to do.  Be the best whatever-it-is that you were put on this earth to do.  This can be sometimes hard to discover.  I like to look at eastern religion for truth, Native American teachings, Christianity,Judaism, whatever form of truth that there is. 

Folks have mocked me for it relentlessly, but I tune into the likes of Charles Stanley, Rick Warren, CS Lewis, the first 103 pages of the book Alcoholics Anonymous, Carlos Castaneda, David R. Hawkins, and all of Jesus.

David R. Hawkins does the absolute best job of describing the whole of the Universe to me, states of consciousness, God, us, and our place together despite all of the controversy of it all, all of the conflicting religions and messages, and what's really important.  The way I see it is this; the real reason Jesus left the earth was merely because He ascended this realm of being and just had to go.  His humanly body would have just burned out and disintegrated had He have stayed.  The rest of the stuff... story... is secondary. 

I'm a follower of Christ, but where I part is the point where I hear Christians say that you must become a Christian and eat Christian-only-Pie to get to Heaven, and if you don't, you are doomed to eternal hellfire and damnation Hell.  So if you're a Buddhist, a Muslim, a Hindu, a Taoist, a Jew, etc., then you are wrong and you are going to Hell.

I just can't buy that shit.  Hawkins describes things in such a way as to make it all seem true, it's just that some things are hard to understand and even describe if not in the right context ... aka state of consciousness.

So the meeting went well.  I heard some good stuff.  We had some good questions in Crossfire too. 

One of the questions that got brought up was, Does your concept of God include everything in the universe?  Have you ever tried to live a God-centered life away from A.A.?  Have you ever thrown in the chips and just cussed God out and demanded answers?  That one was modified to the question, "Have you ever tested God and/or asked Him for an answer?"  What are you doing now to further seek and to obey this God of yours?  Some things that came up were, prayer and meditation, reading a passage out of the bible every day, getting back to daily meditation with the inclusion of an intent for my life, family, career, community, etc. 

The atheist even got brought up.  A guy in the meeting said he worked with a hard-nosed atheist who said all he did was took the word God and added an "O" to it.  He said that he couldn't find himself to worship God, but could worship Good all day long.

What else got brought up was the specific act of leaving A.A. in favor of joining the Church for sobriety and a continued successful and happy life.  We have seen some folks do that; some with success and some with failure.  Most of us in our group are of the belief that we stay plugged into A.A. no matter what and all else can be added.  Christians are great people and can live a wonderful and God-centered life.  But at the end of the day, when they stub their toe, they don't drink.  A.A. is God-talk for drunks, imo.

How refreshing.  An atheist who lives a happy and useful life rather than sitting around bitching at and arguing with those of Faith.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

How do we know if we're alcoholic or not?

I was inspired to do this post from a fellow poster at a forum I frequent.  Paw is our new member and welcome here!

So, how do we know which one we are?  Is there a continuum across the different types of alcoholics?  Does that continuum, if it exists, cross the line from hard drinker into alcoholic, or is there a wall between them... a line that cannot be crossed?

I have my current beliefs on the matter and they probably came from the book Alcoholics Anonymous, my experience with the matter in my life, and what I've heard and seen in A.A. meetings.

I'm aware of other definitions.  Many I disagree with.

The A.A. definition as I understand it is simple; an alcoholic is one who cannot control the amount of booze they drink once they start... AND they cannot stay stopped... aka stay away from the first one, for very long.

I like this new "program" I developed that's even simpler;


This is one way to determine whether you belong in A.A. or not;

Do you want to quit drinking?

If no, then don't go to A.A., keep drinking and jump to END, else jump to LOOP.

LOOP: want to quit? -Yes, then quit.

If your life gets better, stay quit and don't go to A.A.

then jump to END...

else go to A.A. and find someone who can show you how this "Program" works.


Thursday, April 4, 2013

Whatever happened to Tradition Three?

Whatever Happened to Tradition Three? Here are some thoughts on why Tradition Three is at the heart of the currently debated issue. AA used to work very well. It grew by leaps and bounds and had an astonishing recovery rate by any comparative standard. There has never in recorded history been anything as successful or as long lived as AA, and we weren't the first kid on the block.

In the first 16 years of it's history AA produced a recovery rate in excess of 75%. By 1975 it had declined to about 65%. Today all estimates put it at less than 10% (many as low as 2 or 3%) and overall membership has actually declined in the last couple of years.

By all accounts the "New and Improved AA" is "better" that the old more religious, more rigid, more dogmatic, more exclusive AA of the past. What happened? How can something that is said to be so much better work so much worse?

Could it be that the early members hit upon the keys to success and that subsequent "improvements" that were well intentioned were in reality the literal curse of death.

The founders were clear that they had a solution to the alcoholic dilemma and they were offering it freely to those who wanted it. If a prospective member didn't want what was being offered they went looking for someone else who did.

They didn't beg anybody to join and they didn't coddle the ones who balked at the rigor of their program. They figured the ones who didn't stick would drink some more and if they lived they would get them later. They expected the grave nature of alcoholism to force compliance with our spiritual principles.

They expected those who outright refused to follow the program to end up drinking their way to an open mind. Little did they know.

The long form of Tradition Three begins with the statement: "Our membership should include all who suffer from alcoholism." This statement implies that the potential member must be alcoholic. The more commonly stated short form:

"The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking." Is not a substitute for the long form. It was never meant as a "loophole" for a non-alcoholic to gain membership. There were very good reasons for excluding non-alcoholics at closed meetings, and excluded they were.

Here are some examples of how the early groups interpreted this principle before Bill wrote in down as such.

Definition of an Alcoholic Anonymous:
An Alcoholic Anonymous is an alcoholic who through application of and adherence to rules laid down by the organization, has completely forsworn the use of any and all alcoholic beverages. The moment he wittingly drinks so much as a drop of beer, wine, spirits, or any other alcoholic drink he automatically loses all status as a member of Alcoholics Anonymous.

A.A. is not interested in sobering up drunks who are not sincere in their desire to remain completely sober for all time. A.A. is not interested in alcoholic who want to sober up merely to go on another bender, sober up because of fear for their jobs, their wives, their social standing, or to clear up some trouble either real or imaginary.

In other words, if a person is genuinely sincere in his desire for continued sobriety for his own good, is convinced in his heart that alcohol holds him in its power, and is willing to admit that he is an alcoholic, members of Alcoholics Anonymous will do all in their power, spend days of their time to guide him to a new, a happy, and a contented way of life.

It is utterly essential for the newcomer to say to himself sincerely and without any reservation, "I am doing this for myself and myself alone."

Experience has proved in hundreds of cases that unless an alcoholic is sobering up for a purely personal and selfish motive, he will not remain sober for any great length of time. He may remain sober for a few weeks or a few months, but the moment the motivating element, usually fear of some sort, disappears, so disappears sobriety.

TO THE NEWCOMER: It is your life. It is your choice. If you are not completely convinced to your own satisfaction that you are an alcoholic, that your life has become unmanageable; if you are not ready to part with alcohol forever, it would be better for all concerned if you discontinue reading this and give up the idea of becoming a member of Alcoholics Anonymous.

For if you are not convinced, it is not only wasting your own time, but the time of scores of men and women who are genuinely interested in helping you. (A Manual For Alcoholics Anonymous published by the Akron Group in the early 40's)

The pass key to the door of understanding of alcoholism, as we members of ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS understand the problem, is the recognition and the admission on the part of the prospective member that he is an alcoholic.

If he is not alcoholic, our group has nothing to offer him.

If he is, an observance of our program will eliminate the alcoholic problem from his life. We have nothing to offer the controlled drinker. (page 2 Impressions Of AA published by Chicago Group in early 40's.)

MANY PEOPLE can "drink like gentleman," hold their liquor and feel no after-craving for a drink.

Alcoholics Anonymous has nothing to offer these drinkers. There exists no liquor problem for them, and we can only say, "More power to them; may they always be able to control their drinking."

This message is directed only to those too whom alcohol has become the BIGGEST problem in life…the true, heart-weary, egoinflated, defeated Alcoholic. (Who Me pamphlet published by Original Salt Lake Group in Early 40's)

You may ask what could be the problem with being a little more inclusive about our membership? Didn't Bill say that our way of life has it’s advantages for all? Why not let them all in. Bill addressed these questions in a Grapevine Article that was later reprinted into a pamphlet called Problems Other Than Alcohol. In it he states the following:

Now there are certain things that AA cannot do for anybody, regardless of what our several desires or sympathies may be.

Our first duty, as a Society, is to insure our own survival. Therefore we have to avoid distractions and multipurpose activity. An AA group, as such, cannot take on all the personal problems of its members, let alone the problems of the whole world. Sobriety - freedom from alcohol - through the teaching and practice of the Twelve Steps, is the sole purpose of an AA group.

Groups have repeatedly tried other activities and they have always failed. It has also been learned that there is no possible way to make nonalcoholic into AA members. We have to confine our membership to alcoholics and we have to confine our AA groups to a single purpose. If we don't stick to these principles, we shall almost surely collapse. And if we collapse, we cannot help anyone.

To illustrate, let's review some typical experiences. Years ago, we hoped to give AA membership to our families and to certain nonalcoholic friends who had been greatly helpful. They had their problems, too, and we wanted them in our fold. Regretfully, we found that this was impossible.

They couldn't make straight AA talks; nor, save a few exceptions, could they identify with new AA members. Hence, they couldn't do continuous Twelfth Step work. Close to us as these good folks were, we had to deny them membership. We could only welcome them at our open meetings. That’s the problem with open membership. There is no identification .

As our book states on page 18:
But the ex-problem drinker who has found this solution, who is properly armed with facts about himself, can generally win the entire confidence of another alcoholic in a few hours. Until such an understanding is reached, little or nothing can be accomplished.

The problem is that they can't reach into our alcoholic world and make us believe they understand us and we can't hold drunken misery and death over their heads to entice them into practical application of our spiritual principles. It is a very inefficient system of mutual aid when none of the important motivational factors are shared.

The real tragedy of the situation is that only the alcoholics die. Why are they dying? They are dying because they aren't doing anything.

The first three chapters of our book and the Doctor's Opinion are summarized on page 43 as follows:

Once more: The alcoholic at certain times has no effective mental defense against the first drink. Except in a few rare cases, neither he nor any other human being can provide such a defense. His defense must come from a Higher Power.

That’s what the promised spiritual awakening is for. It is the only thing ever in recorded history to reliably fix real alcoholics. It worked and kept working until it generally fell out of favor within the fellowship. How did this happen you ask? This slippery slope began in the mid-seventies with the proliferation of clinical treatment options for alcoholism and many of the less severe emotional dysfunctions.

An alcoholic algebra developed where if you drink at all and it causes you problems you are a problem drinker and that's as good as alcoholic in a fellowship where all you need is a desire to stop drinking. They sent them in droves. Rehabs, courts, mental heath facilities, probation departments, concerned wives and parents, employers and many others sent us drinkers of all kinds and descriptions who were under the impression that they were alcoholics.

Some members I know personally stated that they were told by various outside agencies that they didn_t have to be alcoholics to attend meetings or become members under the only requirement is a desire to stop drinking clause. So we had a situation where a outside agencies send us their clients who erroneously informed us as to our traditions, and we welcomed them.

We welcomed them because AA worked and these people deserved to experience the same benefits as the existing membership had. The problem occurred when these less-hopeless drinkers could not identify with the deadly drinking patterns described by the real alcoholics and opted out of working various parts of the program because they didn't seem necessary to them.

Turned out they were right. Non-alcoholic drinkers learned to their satisfaction just what Bill had written on page 39:

That may be true of certain nonalcoholic people who, though drinking foolishly and heavily at the present time, are able to stop or moderate, because their brains and bodies have not been damaged as ours were. But the actual or potential alcoholic, with hardly an exception, will be absolutely unable to stop drinking on the basis of self-knowledge.

This is a point we wish to emphasize and re-emphasize, to smash home upon our alcoholic readers as it has been revealed to us out of bitter experience.

Well, they learned the first part anyway. That second part where self-knowledge wouldn't fix the alcoholic problem, seemed to escape them. At least that is the impression that is conveyed by what they say at the meetings. I just don't drink and go to meetings is a program of will power and self knowledge. Nothing else. The idea that I have frequently heard that "you can stay sober on Step One for the rest of your life and the other steps are for straightening out your life" is also based solely on self-knowledge as the cure.

The next time you have a headache see if goes away by telling yourself you have a headache. Sounds kind of ridiculous doesn't it?

Why would it be any different with alcoholism? That's a program that will only work on drinkers who are not alcoholic by definition.

When we allow them membership and they share their legitimate experience of not drinking and not working the program, they cannot help the real alcoholic who is the only one we are supposed to be concerned about.