Endigar 232 ~ Thirteen Reasons I Stayed

There are thirteen reasons I stayed with the twelve step recovery program in spite of my fears and the pains harvested from a past devoted to and betrayed by churchianity. I list them here if you happen to be of like mind and are struggling with the prospect of being “beaten into a state of reasonableness.”

1. In true recovery, as I have seen it, there are no lectures or sermons to endure from some saintly elite or religious oligarchy.

FORWARD TO THE SECOND EDITION page xvi: “From the doctor (Silkworth), the broker (Bill W.) had learned the grave nature of alcoholism. Though he could not accept all the tenets of the Oxford Groups, he was convinced of the need for moral inventory, confession of personality defects, restitution to those harmed, helpfulness to others, and the necessity of belief in and dependence upon God. Prior to his journey to Akron, the broker had worked hard with many alcoholics on the theory that only an alcoholic could help an alcoholic, but he had succeeded only in keeping sober himself.”

THERE IS A SOLUTION pages 18-19: “…that he has no attitude of Holier Than Thou, nothing whatever except the sincere desire to be helpful; that there are no fees to pay, no axes to grind, no people to please, no lectures to be endured – these are the conditions we have found most effective. After such an approach many take up their beds and walk again.”

In these two references I see that Bill Wilson filtered and rejected some of the Oxford Tenets. It is my understanding that he spent those first six months of his sobriety preaching to alcoholics under the guidance of the Oxford Movement. As he went along he began to filter out the most exclusive elements of that movement and quit preaching. He just started sharing his experience, his understanding of the disease, and dropped the unnecessary baggage of religion.

And I can tell that the recovery rooms are more genuine and powerful when the preaching and lecturing is abandoned and all feel free to share the solution as they have lived it.

2. As I began studying the Big Book, I was impressed by the persistence of GOMU against the religious hi-jack. GOMU is an acronym for the “God of my understanding.” As I read the Big Book, I understand that this is a concept that was originally introduced to Bill Wilson by the man he regarded as his sponsor, Ebby Thatcher:

BILL’S STORY page 12 “Despite the living example of my friend there remained in me the vestiges of my old prejudice. The word God still aroused a certain antipathy. When the thought was expressed that there might be a God personal to me this feeling was intensified. I didn’t like the idea. I could go for such conceptions as Creative Intelligence, Universal Mind or Spirit of Nature but I resisted the thought of a Czar of the Heavens, however loving His sway might be. I have since talked with scores of men who felt the same way. My friend suggested what then seemed a novel idea. He said, Why don’t you choose your own conception of God? That statement hit me hard. It melted the icy intellectual mountain in whose shadow I had lived and shivered many years. I stood in the sunlight at last. It was only a matter of being willing to believe in a Power greater than myself. Nothing more was required of me to make my beginning.”

There is another quote from the founder of AA in Philadelphia that I believe is appropriate here:

THE VICIOUS CYCLE page 229 “Around the time our AA Big Book was being written, and it all became much simpler; we had a definite formula that some sixty of us agreed was the middle course for all alcoholics who wanted sobriety, and that formula has not been changed one iota down through the years. I don’t think the boys were completely convinced of my personality change, for they fought shy of including my story in the book, so my only contribution to their literary efforts was my firm conviction – since I was still a theological rebel – that the word God should be qualified with the phrase ‘as we understand Him’ – for that was the only way I could accept spirituality.”

It appears that the early history of AA is filled with the threat of a religious hijack. I am glad that these attempts have failed. The GOMU concept saved my life from a tragic alcoholic termination. And it gave the basis for my personal spiritual journey stripped of religious baggage.

3. The disease concept of alcoholism, once I embraced it, set me free from a lot of self judgment, and from the burden of judging others. The Big Book promotes the concept that alcoholism is a disease and this appears to be generally accepted by the medical community. This disease is the basis for the alcoholic and addicts powerlessness.

For me, the disease concept has replaced the old testament concept of sin. And according to the Big Book, the disease concept can be universally applied:

HOW IT WORKS page 66-67 “…We realized that the people who wronged us were perhaps spiritually sick. Though we did not like their symptoms and the way these disturbed us, they, like ourselves, were sick too. We asked God to help us show them the same tolerance, pity, and patience that we would cheerfully grant a sick friend. When a person offended we said to ourselves, ‘This is a sick man. How can I be helpful to him? God save me from being angry. Thy will be done.'”

4. The fact that the chapter in the Big Book entitled “To Wives” was written by Bill pretending to be the wife of an alcoholic rather than letting his own wife write it, the fact that Bill had to gain great geographic separation from his wife and home to truly launch AA, and the apparent fact that Bill never adopted his wife’s church as his own all say to me that the Higher Power used Bill Wilson’s underlying disdain for what he may have viewed as his wife’s moralistic co-dependant approach to protect the recovery process from agents of social control, from those moral vanguards that build a subtle tyranny because they know what is best for you. It says to me that this disease is contagious. It is transmitted to non-alcoholic / addicts and these people we infected will re-infect us, unless they also are treated. It is one of the most subtle form of sexually-transmitted disease. It travels through any tentacle of intimacy we have established in life. Alcoholics and addicts are usually in denial of their disease. And so are the people who are infected through co-dependency. 

As a qualification, understand that this section is my speculation.  I am still learning and do not want to create a new foundation for us/them thinking.  But there had to be a reason why Bill Wilson wrote deceptively, and it had to be more than just the bullshit answer he gave to Lois of  protecting the consistancy of the writing style.  Even Lois didn’t buy that one.

Bill was the author of the “To Wives” chapter. It is commonly thought that Lois wrote it. But, as PASS IT ON describes (page 200), Lois said, “Bill wrote it, and I was mad.” She added, “I wasn’t so much mad as hurt. I still don’t know why Bill wrote it. I’ve never really gotten into it – why he insisted upon writing it. I said to him, ‘Well, do you want me to write it?’ And he said no, he thought it should be in the same style as the rest of the book.”

[http://www.oakarbor.org/why_oakarbor/wilsons.html] “True to his mission in developing AA as a non-sectarian path to help alcoholics fight their disease, Bill Wilson never mentioned Swedenborg’s Writings as a source for his Twelve Steps. However, just as clear is the complete harmony between Swedenborg’s teachings on spiritual growth and development and the fundamental principles of the Twelve Steps. AA’s Twelve Steps make a wonderful outline of Swedenborg’s teachings on the process of repentance, reformation and regeneration.
“(Angels) picture wisdom as a magnificent and finely decorated palace. One climbs up to enter this palace by twelve steps. One can only arrive at the first step by means of the Lord’s power through joining with Him . . . As a person climbs these steps, he perceives that no one is wise from himself but from the Lord…The twelve steps into the palace of wisdom signify love in union with faith and faith in union with love.” Emanuel Swedenborg, Divine Providence, Paragraph 36.
The Burnham family were active members of the New Church, which is a Christian denomination based on the theological writings of Emanuel Swedenborg .
Her marriage to Bill W. began to degrade due to a combination of miscarriages and his drinking problem. Lois began to work on efforts for families of alcoholics after Bill had gone through rehabilitation and founded AA. These efforts led to the founding of Al-Anon.”

This hidden knowledge in the Big Book is another reason why I need the fellowship, why I need the re-enforced protective ritual of this process. Because the disease will pull me back toward those who will re-infect me.

5. The lamentations of some in the religious community that the earlier expression of AA had better results prior to the official adoption of the twelve steps demonstrates to me that there is a continuing desire to transform the unfettered spirituality found in recovery to a more “appropriate” Bible based ministry. The thieves test the doors and windows of a home they know possesses treasure.

The progressive growth of AA now includes hi-bottom alcoholics and addicts, a mixture of people far more pluralistic than the middle-aged white professional men of the 30’s and 40’s, and it includes numbers the early members never dreamed of. The early AA members where hand picked from the most desperate of cases. The early members had a 0% success rate with hi-bottoms.

I have stayed to bask in and preserve the spiritual freedom of this program.

6. I have seen people who are non-religious or who are of different religious groups experience the spiritual awakening, regain their lives, and transform. If the Higher Power was so very concerned about doctrinal integrity, why is It so democratic in Its sharing of the power to overcome the dominance of the disease? All that is required is a willingness to believe that there is something out there more powerful than ourselves, that gives a damn about us, and we pray for the knowledge of Its will for us.

I stayed because the simplicity of that spiritual pursuit is more easily maintained in the recovery rooms.

7. I have seen the power and freedom of vampiristic altruism. When I was a churchian, I helped others because I wanted to demonstrate that I was a better person. I wanted to demonstrate that I had a better way of living. And in a not so subtle way, my outstretched hand became a patronizing pity for those I sought to help.

But when I freely admit that I help others to save my own ass, to stay alive, I am embracing and utilizing the good selfishness in me. I have nothing to give anyone if I do not believe that I am worth saving. If I then understand that the success of your personal mythology strengthens the power of mine, then we are both exalted in the process.

I need your help. I need to help you. You need my help. You need to help others. This becomes the driving hunger, the feasting upon one another’s needs that empowers us through our connections.

This form of altruism is very liberating. And I haven’t seen it promoted outside these rooms. So I stayed in the rooms, with the rest of my vampire non-saints.

It is a selfish program, and I like that.

8. There is still some mystery to be farmed here, but I will say what I believe and you make your own decisions. Apparently, according to the Big Book, the concept of desperately needing a spiritual experience came from Dr. Jung. Dr. Jung knew that organized religion would not accomplish the task needed to save the hopeless alcoholic. But he had seen isolated cases of the psychic change, a situation produced by the spiritual experience. What really happened to Rolland Hazard? What really happened to Ebby Thatcher, Bill Wilson’s non-AA sponsor? I, like Bill W., am forever grateful to Ebby for giving Gomu to the recovery process . But he wasn’t listed as one of the co-founders of AA, probably because of his problems with chronic relapse.

I am staying because there is so much more to learn than the protective platitudes that decorate the recovery rooms.

9. It is my understanding that when a martial artist is preparing to put his fist through a board, he focuses at a point on the other side of it, not the board itself. If he looks just to strike the board, he will only get hurt. But if his energy is focused at the other side, the board becomes incidental, and splinters as his fist passes through to the desired point.

The real goal of recovery is individual and group empowerment. Sobriety is only a tool toward that end. I stay for the empowerment. And this causes me to enjoy my sobriety.

10. I have learned through the recovery process that Powerlessness is a human condition that my past Christian teaching would term “The Mystery of Sin.” It is a human condition that is not the violation of a set of rules, but the inability to express the Word of my own Creation, and thus the inability to unfold the best version of ourselves.

I have stayed because the paradox of powerlessness is preserved in recovery. I am only able to find that empowerment to become the best version of me when I acknowledge my powerlessness. And I will recognize that the fortresses I have built in my isolated life have become my greatest prisons. These impenetrable walls fade when I recognize my own powerlessness.

I need help in seeing past the illusion of isolated empowerment. In isolation I can build potential. But that potential will remain unfulfilled if I am alone.

“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains by itself alone, but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”

I answer my powerlessness by recognizing that I am not alone, and must not stay alone.

11. I have stayed because recovery abandons the typical us/them mentality of religion. No one is better than the other. The program is very inclusive in the height of its effectiveness. In my past religious experience, I felt that I needed to be very us and them in my own personal life to maintain doctrinal integrity. Maybe this is probably just a matter of personal perspective.

WE AGNOSTICS, page 46: “Much to our relief, we discovered we did not need to consider another‘s conception of God. Our own conception, however inadequate, was sufficient to make the approach and to effect a contact with Him. As soon as we admitted the possible existence of a Creative Intelligence, a Spirit of the Universe underlying the totality of things, we began to be possessed of a new sense of power and direction, provided we took other simple steps. We found that God does not make too hard terms with those who seek Him. To us, the Realm of Spirit is broad, roomy, all inclusive; never exclusive or forbidding to those who earnestly seek. It is open, we believe, to all men.”

I used to listen to those who pound the pulpit tell any who would listen that the path of salvation is very narrow, that its sojourners were constantly at risk of contamination, and holiness meant separation, not connection. It was a life to be endured, not lived.

I stayed to see the magic that unfolds when the pulpit vanishes.

12. I stayed because we do not apologize for this way of living. We have ceased fighting anything or anyone. We rely on attraction rather than promotion. No apologetics, no theological turf wars, no evangelistic drives for financial empowerment. I stayed because I can relax and say “let the Higher Power’s connective will, not our isolating will, be done.” That is truly a light yoke to take on.

13. I stayed because the program avoids the trap of human arrogance found in doctrines of infallibility. There are no commands, only suggestions and proposals. The program is not offered as the only way. The group conscience values your experiences with the problem and the solution, and filters out those lost in lectures with tolerate disregard. We take on only what is useful, so that we may become useful.

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