This post attempts to detail how the nature of the 12 step programme is missed by many addicts who simply march on in their own self will disguised as some strange misunderstanding of God.
Only the other day I bumped into an old AA colleague from London who was sharing at a local Southend On Sea meeting nearby to where I live. I told him how relieved I was since my baptism 6 years ago and how Jesus has enforced changed in my life through scripture and mature Christians. While we were stood having coffee in a church hall just before the meeting started, he responded with;
“I’ve never set foot in a church in my life, no need to mate, I’ve got enough here in AA”.
“You’re in a church now” I replied and told him that we AA’s can harp on about higher powers without really knowing the force behind the twelve step fellowship. When AA members bang on about “the rooms” they mean church halls, but fail to recognize that fact. I told my friend further that I went to a meeting that was held at a Town Hall, and how security guards refused us entry and cancelled the meeting due to a bomb scare in another Town Hall 40 miles away. This had happened a few times. This particular meeting had cameras in the corner of the room and was watched over by an omnipotent order of the day called gum chewing security guards who had power over whether we could attend the meeting, or not. Without churches there would be no AA, because people and systems would control the order of the day, which cannot work. All church leaders and elders allow meetings to go ahead and hand out keys to all sorts of ex-drunks without hankering on about security, why? Because God’s house is always open, that’s why!
Looking at the 12 Step programme, Step 3 tells the addict to turn their will and lives over to the care of “God as we understood Him”, which is clearly past tense. Nowadays however the tense has been changed to a present so called god of our own “understanding”, which means addicts must make one up. The scriptures are nothing more than a dusty old relic within this new and dishevelled AA. Having noted this, I still attend a home group in Alcoholics Anonymous and try to deliver the 12 step programme to newcomers as it was intended by the original AA founders.
Chapter 6 from “The God Idea by the Rambling Bricklayer”
How can addicts who have very little spiritual understanding realize what God can actually do for them? Jesus told the world “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (Mathew 5: 3) and how He had arrived to heal the sick, which includes the dishevelled alcoholic. When I offer myself as tangible evidence however, many still refuse to believe.
The primary reason for this lack of belief in God lays directly at the table of modern psychology and the professional therapist who has conjured up ideas and systematic concepts that promote diluted higher powers that are then married up to the professional therapist’s opinion on how the addicts mind really works! Professionals tell us that they can answer the question, why!
For evidence you could, I suppose, spend five minutes outside the Priory hospital in Chelmsford at around 7. 30pm and count the taxis that await ‘patients’ to take them to local AA meetings.
Unfortunately there are many sober men and woman in AA who haven’t a clue on what surrender and redemption can do for the soul. Quite often these non-drinking untreated alcoholics are worse than those still drinking. Their professional antidotes only make matters worse. I was certainly worse without a drink in my sporadic first two years in AA, which was saturated with psycho babbling professionalism, anger and belligerent denial surrounding the God idea. I huffed the idea that needing God to deal with my sobriety, and my anger too, was necessary. Finding such concepts very difficult to grasp was paramount to my fixed attitude. It is clear that many new comers feel the same. Perhaps some have had an enforced Christian childhood, which has suppressed incorrect ideas of what God is all about. Others may have shared their parent’s non-belief and have never felt the need to attend church, other than when attending romantic weddings or sad funerals. It can moreover appear a little strange to ask an addict who has spent most of his or her life in cuckoo land, to submit their life over to God to get well, from an illness that many of course deny having in the first place. Many are often told by atheist type professionals that God is not necessary and most are dead within a decade or so, which is long after the psycho babbling therapists have forgotten their names. Quite often the professional counsellor will parade an apparent success story in front of cheap YouTube cameras, write about their patience in psycho babbling books or discuss their positive outcomes in adverts to confirm their success, which of course cannot be monitored by the consumer. Data is another tool used by professionals who hanker on about AA percentages that are impossible to add up. In my experience most addicts who take this course are back on their drug of choice within a few years after such therapeutic parades have ended, only to be renewed by the new creed of younger addicts who, like the previous bunch, believe the higher power therapist knows best! The psycho babbling carnival returns year after year with new acts, clowns with colourful and bright marketing pamphlets, but the tent remains pretty much the same that only flaps in the wind and leaks when the storm hits the addicts head.
Further to addicts taking on board professional suggestions, alongside these professionals it seems to me nowadays that weakened methods of sponsorship has also secured a place on God’s AA mantel. One AA member with her newness in some form of qualified head doctorship, suggested to me that I could use a sponsor, which is an AA member with longer sobriety who offers guidance, as my higher power until I found something more suitable. Perhaps she felt I had time to float around the arena like a child in a market amongst colourful stalls, or carnival maybe, searching out really nice gods that bantered for my attention. Could I choose the right one in hope to get well? I don’t think so somehow!
In my experience the higher power idea never really worked at all. The message had no weight and seemed loose and could be shook off quite easily.
Bill W, the AA cofounder, broke away from the Oxford Groups, or was asked to leave, because their fundamental rules were too difficult for an alcoholic to follow. The Oxford Groups attempts to sober up drunks appeared quite harsh and far too pure, which is viable. It could be argued that offering a softer option by using higher power terms is the answer for some alcoholics to prevent any God fearing from disrupting potential recovery. The source of energy, which is God through Jesus Christ, can come later. Having said this, the options alcoholics have nowadays are too broad and roomy with a choice of gods that appear to be more like a child in a sweet shop taking such a long time to choose.
Proverb 3 tell us;
My son, do not forget my teaching,
but keep my commands in your heart
for they will prolong your life many years
and bring you peace and prosperity.
Let love and faithfulness never leave you;
bind them around your neck
write them on the tablet of your heart
and lean not on your own understanding
in all your ways submit to him
and He will make your path straight.
The proverb explains our rewards and yields of fruit that is better than gold. The fruit in AA is obtained by helping the dishevelled new comer who eventually finds the path and has been given the keys to the kingdom, someone who has been released from their malady and unmanageable defects. The Proverb continues with;
Blessed are those who find wisdom,
those who gain understanding,
for she is more profitable than silver
and yields better returns than Gold,
She is more precious than rubies;
nothing you desire can compare with her.
Long life is in her right hand;
in her left hand are riches and honour.
Her ways are pleasant ways,
and all her paths are peace.
She is the tree of life to those who take hold of her;
Those who hold her fast will be blessed.
The proverb explains in line six “lean not on your own understanding”, and tells us later not to be wise in our own eyes, and details why we must avoid elaborating our own conception of God that will eventually lead us into some type of self-indulged behaviour. If an addict is not careful they can often bang on about having some kind of faith in perhaps a deceased grandfather or a tree but underneath they are following patchy advice from a professional who is simply leading them up a very broad garden path to more darkness. Throughout the Bible we are told not to worship carvings of timber, people, earthy things, the sun, idol worship, false prophets and false gods, which includes professionals who disguise themselves with the answer.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8)
‘Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world’. (1 John 4:1)
After two years in Alcoholics Anonymous I became very close to the gates of insanity discussed in the Big Book. During this period I learnt that I was sick with or without the drink. Having no alcohol to sooth me, my thinking raced to such highs and lows life became just awful. Anger found new depths; my emotions boiled over and burnt those close to me. Standing still and waiting my turn in any situation became intolerable. I had no idea on how to process resentment, to tap into an inner resource to redeem my spirit. I had no peace at all, and with my inherent ways of seeing things I had scant chance of finding any. With or without alcohol my coping mechanisms were distraught. On my return to AA stinking of stale beer the meeting gave me a place to sit still and think for a while, which was much further than what I had before. Fortunately, the man who approached me and offered guidance through the Big Book was a Christian, although I never knew this at the time. We studied the Big Book in a small group, which was a great benefit to me, a place where we could indulge and share our recoveries. Through this process the original 12 step message was hammered home. Every Monday evening for 11 weeks we returned to my sponsor’s house to highlight all we had learned. There was a lounge room full of addicts and each of us had read through four pages each day highlighting messages, promises and musts that we needed to do to move away from the dark illness and toward God’s light. The weeks went by with more and more self being shed into the light by redemption, each of us in turn discussing our sins (defects) with one another. I managed to complete almost 4 Big Book studies over my first year in sobriety. Before studying the Big Book I was clouded in total darkness and could not enter into the light for fear of having to expose my past deeds. Within the first few weeks of my first AA book study my self-willed breastplate began to show signs of cracking. An emotional dam was about to break through, and it did too with an outpouring of wrongs and a willingness to ask God for genuine help. This time I meant it with all my heart and soul. The following months pursued where chunks of my scabby selfish thinking fell away and the sensitive skin underneath had to be nurtured in God’s softening light without being burnt or so easily offended. Nothing outside me could stop me moving forward on this wonderful journey. During the AA book study I was told that there was no wrong or right, simply highlighting the areas where I could identify with those early alcoholic pioneers will suffice. After releasing my inventory to my Christian sponsor, for the first time in my life, I was set free.
But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God (Mathew 3: 21)
My mind was clear, I began to know peace. With this new found freedom certain friends in AA came alive and introduced me to prayers that focused on a daily spiritual way of living. These were friends that I had noticed before, but for all the wrong reasons. Previously, confrontation was on my mind with regard to anyone that suggested Jesus as saviour. My primary focus was to appear smarter than them by interrogation. With my new found allegiance however, I visited various churches to gain access to faith, was baptized and have since been a member of the Vineyard Church where I have attended almost every Sunday. Further to this we study scripture and focus our attention on moving away from fleshy pleasures that this world offers and towards the Holy Spirit freely given us by God. As a result I have had further spiritual experiences and met men and women that have a wholesome truth about themselves that can only come from integrating Jesus Christ into their lives. My friends at church may not understand alcoholism, but they certainly understand scripture and have a sincere desire to guide others in finding the truth regardless of an individual’s situation. They have found the inner flame that brightens their eyes and makes their path clearer, and they listen to their own quiet inner voice of peace that has been delivered by Jesus Christ. They listen intently for the silent whisper that speaks through those words long written down.
“Because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.” (1 Thessalonians 1: 5-6)
I began to enjoy church far more once I stopped enforcing my understanding of addiction upon others. It was only then that I became approachable and was questioned further about alcoholism and addiction, which is one of the many paradoxes of Christianity. After a while, perhaps a year or so, I was invited by other churches to open work-shops that attempted to deliver addicts to the one and only true path.
While still in AA I have found a home group and have held various service positions. Although I love AA, I can clearly identify with the insanity that takes place in the minds of those who are left to find their own cuddly toy type god. It was 2 years before I found the truth and throughout that time all I could do was talk selfish nonsense, because I had nowhere else to talk from. All the words and terms used were taken from the carnival of self, and delivered in AA by a person who only thought he knew his destination by dreaming up an intellectual future.
In the coffee houses, while not drinking although still drenched in sickness, I much preferred to discuss keeping things intellectual, earthy and tangible rather than spiritual; particularly with a Spirit that can’t be seen, like the Holy Spirit that can only be heard by those who have their ear close to Jesus. There are many others too who are just like I was, who simply will not listen to what the Holy Spirit in Jesus name has to offer and to where the 12 step routes sprung from.
“But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit. But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.(Jude 1:17-21)
Many from within the 12 step fellowships have developed postmodern theories allowing alcoholics and addicts to shop around for whoever or whatever promotes the best so called understanding of god or higher power. Many, while still very confused, skate on the surface like an indecisive shopper trawling around a shopping center looking for the best deal, only to return home with nothing. Having choices is fundamental to the problem and not the solution. An alcoholic having choices can cause delay and an early death, which has happened so often to addicts due to wrong choices being made. This allows the addict to side with the easier option to avoid pain and therefore keep those harmful inner secrets to themselves. Before making any decision at all many suffer depressions and begin to rely on anti-depressive drugs thus the pain necessary to uphold some kind of spiritual essence becomes clouded and softened. Many hold on tight to AA meetings without attempting the 12 steps. The results are profound? Those that find redemption through the 12 steps and then find Christ have something in Jesus that is special, which in turn gives them so much more power to offer the newcomer. There is a fundamental difference when conversing about God with a person that has just broken through and found a friend in Jesus, to another who for years has survived on either self-sobriety or a vague understanding of God. This vague ignorance is often white washed over with what appears to be a type of shrewdness that promotes their own character thus actually separates them from God. It seems that many have gained friends and have developed a spiritual huddle of people that defend one another’s limited belief. Saint Paul tells us that we don’t know as we ought to know, which seems to ring true here. Being sober for years can still result in not knowing, and not all knowing. Time and again small huddles disappear off the scene after gossip causes pain in one or two, and the necessary faith is insufficient to sustain the relationships, therefore impossible to maintain healthy sobriety.
When a person regardless of their history is with God, then division cannot come from within them. When God is divided up into bite size pieces where each individual has their own personal conception then all kinds of self-confident jargon develops. There is no learning achieved, only explaining what each individual believes in, therefore, the depth and weight suggested by Bill W is lost. Bill himself said that his God was “the God of the scriptures” and before the Big Book AA members studied various Christian literature with The Book of James from the New Testament at the top of the list.
Over the last few years I have heard stories that appall and agitate me. My new found Spirit has been challenged many times and while listening to perhaps various idolatries I pray for the person speaking and focus my attention, as much as possible, on Jesus Christ. On one occasion a gentleman discussed his faith and pointed out that he had no shoes on, and lifted his grubby feet as evidence. This, he explained, brought him closer to the earth, which I may add was in the middle of an English winter. Closer to the earth? What! Beneath his feet was approximately 200mm of pavement, concrete slabs, sharp sand, ballast and floor boards and who knows what else in this man made world. After another sip of coffee, and after listening for a few more minutes, I decided to question him concerning his faith. Questions that I would answer with ease had someone asked me the same concerning my faith in Jesus. To be sure, when I am questioned about my faith I answer with a genuine joy and hope that the person asking has opened inquisitive spiritual channels. During camp fire nights at certain conventions I can often ask and answer questions that brighten up a lively discussion regarding God and his son Jesus. On asking this particular gentleman about his faith in the earth however, his response was a little anger mixed with ready prepared intellectual ideals that lacked substance. He spent a few minutes putting me in my place and then got up from his seat and left the coffee bar after having the last word. It was clear therefore, that the spirit within the man had limited depth and weight in its message. Due to his lack of faith he had no choice other than to walk away. There were no other options exposed to him.
On another occasion I listened to an alcoholic discuss his lengthy sobriety while a few of us were sat around a camp fire quite late one star lit night. Using my hands as blinkers while gazing up at the stars and only half listening, this particular gentleman suggested quite generally that his mongrel dog was his so called higher power. Had I heard him correctly? My gaze zoomed right back down to earth after travelling trillions of miles across the Milky Way, and the man had gained my full attention. Of all the bedevilments this particular conversation showed the confused state of mind some of my colleagues find themselves in. After a few more minutes of encountering this man’s illness I too felt spiritual sick and had to make my excuses and leave, only to return 5 minutes later to tackle him concerning his so called faith, and question how a mongrel dog is anything but more powerful than anyone at all. I suggested that he must have a very low opinion of himself to think that he could pray to his dog. (The dog was actually there beneath his chair). The man, with a pensive grin on his face, picked up his dog for a cuddle to further his cause. He held the dog face to face and spoke like a playful parent would to a very young child. “You’re the god in my life aren’t you ay”, he said while grinning and rubbing his dogs nose on his. Looking away from his pet for a moment, he turned his stare toward me and mocked a throaty laugh. Perhaps the joke was on me. While in a stalemate, for a moment, I thought of Moses and how he met with God face to face and how God said that Moses was the most humble man on earth. How different was this present situation to my Bible reading. After putting the dog back down by his feet he fixed an enforced grin once again in my general direction and waited for approval. Out of my own embarrassment, and momentary lack of faith, I smiled back while cringing inside, and nodded in agreement just to keep the peace. Fortunately, a minute or two later, I turned to my Christian friend who was sat next to me and said, “this is just wrong”. Looking through the flicker of the rather large camp fire back over at the man with the dog I could see that his youthful thinking had a strong grip on him. While he continued the tale about his wonderful pet dog, it became evident that his manner of speaking was indeed very child-like. When listening to a child talk in a similar fashion we understand that the youngster maybe confused a little and we can attempt to put the youngster right. Now place that child’s voice into a 55 year old overweight balding man and you can detect the type of sickness I am discussing here.
“When I was a child I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man I put the ways of childhood behind me”.(1 Corinthians 13: 11)
It is very disturbing being amongst a small group of approximately 15 adults and listening to one dominate the proceedings with a story about how his dog controls his will and life. A child’s thinking in an adult mind. To hand your will and life over to the care of a dog made for a very disturbing talk. It was clear that the man was enjoying holding every ones attention, being quite proud about this dog of his being his so called higher power.
My line of sight wandered into the middle of the fire beyond the flames; I needed to escape. The red and yellow flames flickered and danced on top of brightly burning logs. After grabbing a stick I prodded and stirred allowing sparks to fly off and disappear into the night sky. My face glowed red and my stare by now had found its way into the centre of the abyss, which reminded me of shadrach, meshach and abednego who survived the burning furnace after standing firm in their belief of a true and loving God. The flames flickered out of focus and my mind wandered deeper.
16 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” (Daniel 3: 16-18)
I was the youngest of 7, and when I was child I often told stories to my older siblings desperately trying to hold their attention while looking for approval and adoration. For me to succeed all I needed was recognition from them to lift my self-esteem.
While around the camp fire it was my child hood memories I relied upon so I could relate to this particular man, and after coming out of my fiery prayer and meditation I spoke to him accordingly. I tried in my utmost to listen and identify with him. To be sure, it was clear that the gentleman was in an emotionally static place of which he hadn’t the necessary emotional tools to find a way out, and he had no doubt been stuck there for many years. He clearly had no idea about redemption or how to take inventory, to be able to rid himself of these inner fears that clearly had a grip on him for perhaps decades, shaping and distorting his personality. He was burdened and needed to be with people that could take away those burdens. Christians that could feed him milk so he could, at the very least, begin his journey to recovery. On returning to my tent that evening I read;
“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perserverance; perserverance, character and character hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given us.
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly”. (Romans 5: 1-6)
The man with the higher powered dog has recently found faith in Jesus Christ, Hallelujah, Amen.
I had challenged the concept of a higher power a few times, although quite discreetly, and recognized that many alcoholics have no idea of the 12 step programme in the first place, let alone where they originate from. Most are left to untangle crazy ideas and make up individual god type potions that often guide them to a deeper inner level of self. Jesus told some who witnessed His healing power not to mention His name at all.
Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone. But the more he did so, the more they kept talking about it. (Mark 7: 36)
Having the alcoholic obsession removed by the Lord it is difficult not to tell anyone. In the case here however, addicts are avoiding Jesus after being told that His power and guidance is unnecessary to maintain sobriety. Addicts are choosing made up gods to ultimately proclaim self-righteousness above others, or perhaps to feel a little bit more, rather than the usual low self-worth. On many occasions in the coffee bars discussions developed concerning the power of love, trees, nature, pets, various animals, the sun, light bulbs, a table leg, Karl Marx, Dr Jung, witch craft, idolatry, sponsors, pregnancy and on one occasion the ghost of Benny Hill was mentioned as a potential higher power, and many other ideas were looked into. One of the most damaging of these discussions regarding my own recovery was with a chap who far exceeded my intellect.
I was 8 months sober and ready to study the Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book and attempt the 12 step programme after a gentleman from Chelmsford Essex offered me a solution during a Thursday night meeting. Having swapped numbers we both made a firm decision that I would attend his book study where I could complete the 12 steps and finally be rid of my haunting past. The following week however, my new intellectual alcoholic friend from the coffee shop mentioned all kinds of natural phenomenon to induce a belief system in me. The truth be known now, I can see that he was merely exalting himself above me with the use of his limited knowledge to show me that he was brighter than me, and probably most people he comes into contact with. Once again I had fallen into the personalities before principles, which opposed the AA suggestions. Having this mixed with my ever decreasing self of course I took on board anything that appeared to help me with my sobriety. I was very sick indeed. My new clever friend made it quite clear why I should never study the AA Big Book, stating that those who offer this particular study guide do so to gain some kind of self-empowerment, which put paid to my ideas of travelling to Chelmsford to study and attempt the 12 step programme. How ironic, the solution was offered to me on a plate by this gent from Chelmsford and here I am once again following someone else’s intellect. How could I be so damn foolish? I can only suppose that the power of my sel-willed illness prevailed.
For evidence my intellectual friend detailed name after name of so called old timers who apparently had said it takes years to get to step 12. Having listened to him for a short while my yes became no therefore relegating my firm decision that I had made regarding studying the Big Book, which I had made only the week before. In agreeing with him I gave him the power and control that should have been given to God, which is essential to prompt a successful recovery. Once again the power was placed in human hands. After this episode it took a further year of insanity before I studied the Big Book and found good solid sobriety. Another encounter with intellect yet again kept me away from the light.
On one particular occasion a group of disturbed addicts were boasting that a step a year was the only way, and they were all barking mad and at the time so was I, which made that option plausible. Having to do a step a year meant I wouldn’t have to complete my step 4 inventory for another four years. For a man so full of fear, what a fantastic get out clause! Having said this, I could see a glimmer of hope and by the Grace of a God I knew something was amiss with this step a year scenario.
After ordering our second coffee my intellectual friend, who had by now persuaded me not to study the Big Book, mentioned the power of constellations, exploding stars and furthered his cause by offering mathematical equations that were linked to the atom, and to finish he calmly told me to avoid Christianity and to make matters worse he detailed sporadic reasons why Christ said “why do you forsake me” after being nailed to the cross. Think about that for a short while and see how far away from the truth we both were. To discuss Christ in such a way can only be managed by two sober drunks who needed to feel better about themselves, who have never attempted the 12 step programme as outlined in the Big Book and who’s inner search is governed by intellect and fear. On leaving my friend after he hit me with a myriad of spiritual but not religious (whatever that means) ideas for me to ponder over, I was left bemused.
When I listen to these types now-a-days I seriously thank God for His son Jesus Amen. I often thank Him who is responsible for making the new me, and guiding me in real and definite ways on how to disregard the old self and put on the new. How simple it all can be, only to be made complicated by wordy intellect. Once home I could not think straight for one single moment, let alone perform any suggested prayer and meditation to my intellectual friend’s big banging universal ideals. Of course, currently, I can see that everything my friend had said was external, like exploding stars, trees and science that is outside of me and not internal, which is where I needed God to heal. By the time I’d switched the kettle on, I had already forgotten the name of the constellations he had mentioned, could not remember any of the equations he had shown me and could not think of the name of that exploding star that, by his account, gave off atoms that made me. I never really saw that his message came from him alone and was bound up with a few famous scientific terms and phrases. I failed to recognize that there was no direct route to any literature that showed interest to the human condition, such as scripture. What he suggested was exactly the opposite in fact. This was all about him and what was going on inside his head, and how he desperately needed control over all those he speaks to. Some of us demand control over others and seek power for whatever reason only known to them. On seeing my friend again a few days later it was clear that the conversation was over and could not be continued because the energy and knowledge needed to fuel it had run dry. Having used up whatever information he had had on astronomy and science, there was nothing more to be said on the matter. Quite clearly he wasn’t a science teacher who could perhaps hold an audience for a few lectures. It was clear that this god of his understanding had limited depth. The purpose of our initial discussion was complete, which was for him to exalt his self-esteem and for me to deflate and find humility, which unfortunately took time.
Dick B, a prominent member in AA, tells us in his website dickb.com
“Today I believe there is “A New Way Out” of the wilderness. “A New Way Out” for children of the living Creator who are awash and adrift in the sea of gossip, speculation and unbelief that exists in most of today’s recovery scene. What wilderness? It is a wilderness that A.A. “cofounder” Rev. Sam Shoemaker called “self-made religion” and “absurd names for God.” A wilderness of outright idolatrous thinking and amateur psychological introspection. Let me illustrate “A New Way Out” with my own experiences. He continues with;
“Nonetheless, I began bringing newcomers to Christ, and into our Bible fellowship, while not in any way diminishing their participation in and service to Alcoholics Anonymous. Today some of these newcomers are more than 18 years sober, are married, have a family and a job, and are blessed with strong believing. I thanked God daily for what He had done for me. I asked God daily for His directions as to how to serve Him. I studied the Bible daily and read Bible-based literature daily. I prayed to God daily for myself and others. I affirmed the clear evidence that God could and would and did rescue me”.
When entering into conversations with my Christian friends we become, in time, a step closer to the light that allows me to see the shadow of darkness that envelopes much of these higher power shenanigans. The depth of our Christian talks are as profound as any one of us wishes to go, and the deeper we go the more we wonder at what else is out there in the greatness of Jesus and His Scripture. The light can be blinding at times but always beautiful. There is ceaseless discussion and prayer to be had in a never ending discourse that is totally consuming; I always leave these discussions wanting to know more. Unlike my friend who suffers under the guise of pride and intellect, there is no pretense that one person is higher than another. There are those who are more mature who lead the House Groups and are directed to speak at our meetings more than perhaps those new around, therefore creating a wonderful learning experience.
During that period of my spiritual development, regarding my intellectual friend, I was in no position to argue or put forward questions asking where he had obtained his information from. I was far too fearful to search out his credibility. Nowadays I like to add, I never really take on board any suggestions unless the proprietor belongs to a home group, has faith in Christ and attends a church regularly. This doesn’t mean to say I ignore others, it’s just the way God directs my thinking.
Here is an example of my recent recommended readings to show you where my Spiritual search is directed.
‘We are not preaching a state but a walk. The highway of holiness is not a place, but a way. Sanctification is not a thing to be picked up at a certain stage of our experience and forever after possessed, but rather it is a life to be lived day by day and hour by hour. We may for a moment turn aside from a path, but the path is not obliterated by our wandering. It can be instantly regained. In this life and walk of faith there may be momentary failures. Although very sad and greatly to be deplored, they need not disturb the attitude of the soul as to entire consecration and perfect trust or interrupt, for more than a passing moment, its happy communion with its Lord. The great point is an instant return to God. Our sin is no reason for ceasing to trust’. (Hannah Whittle Smith, p136)
How fantastic is this news that our return to Christ can be as swift as our doubts and departure. In her book Hannah explains that in our human thinking discouragement and despair follows failure, but God believed otherwise, and we realize this on our return to Him. She explains further that it is better to face our fears immediately and get rid of them, to sanctify ourselves and afresh our minds freeing us from the burdens that can haunt us for years, and all this was written in or around 1880.
During all these discussions with Christians, particularly those in AA, I felt a slight burn in me that gave me hope. Initially however, during my early recovery, the only hope I had was to get the last word in before we were slung out of the coffee shop at closing time, which happened often. Many times we spent an hour or so outside the coffee shop continuing our banter. During these discussions I was a confused mentally obsessed alcoholic that was simply not drinking and who had little idea of anything close to ‘our creator’. Having control issues, I would not settle unless all those present at the coffee shop were seated in their normal positions. If anyone sat in my corner seat I would corrode with resentment, but lacked the courage to say anything. I needed that seat in the corner with the wall behind me, giving me an omniscient view of the whole restaurant. From the evening meeting I would drive at speed to get to the coffee shop first so I could get my seat. There were so many special people in AA that shared their time with me and listened to my stories that were simply about me, I really didn’t have anything else to discuss. Many recovered addicts said keep it simple and keep coming back, which was unusual. Often I was told not to come back ever again after yet another drunken display.
One of the most difficult so called higher powers I encountered was with an old acquaintance who appeared at a hospital where I was visiting a friend. We were occasional drinking buddies. I chatted to her after seeing her at a meeting the following week and over the following months we spoke rarely and nodded politely to each other. It appeared that the friendship was not ready to be renewed. Gossip soon spread amongst other members that my old friend was involved in all kinds of debauched witch craft. With her own admission she had in her house a wooden wheel that had a bird wing, rat’s skull and other dead animal bits and pieces stuck to its outer rim. Each gruesome detail held a reference to some apparent earthy spiritual meaning. She often discussed that she had held witch craft meetings at her house, and explained that she was a white witch, whatever that is I am not sure. This lady was very ill indeed and had some haunting dark half secret of herself and her daughter being involved in a London Dungeon. She told this story in dribs and drabs to many, and told each of us not to tell anyone. She laughed at me when I told her, after inviting her for a coffee with the usual crowd, how wrong it all seemed. She could almost taste the fear in me. Once again my new faith failed because of my doubt and judgmental attitude. As time went on this particular women walked straight through the gates of insanity and has, as I write, spent many months in a mental institution. When these thoughts plague me I think of the comforter who fills us with light. By the grace of God all could be made well with this disturbed woman. Whatever went on in this ladies life God could free her up from all of it. The Bible tells us that those who sin more receive more love.
“Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” (Luke 7: 47)
The evil surrounding this particular lady was not hidden under a blanket of smiles. The situation was bold and brutal, it was deliberate and brassy where she voiced her beliefs loudly and on many occasions she suggested that her sobriety was as good as anyone else’s in the coffee bar. The darkness in her eyes matched up with everything she’d said. There were men too that took on board her suggestions and found themselves accompanying her home after the coffee bar had closed. What we had here was not a fatal illness or evil gem that had been discreetly hidden amongst the group that would be very hard to detect. This was not “the accursed thing in the midst of thee” (Joshua 7: 11) that was eventually cast out after being found amongst a large group of people as the bible explains. This was not a situation where on the surface all appeared well, and like an iceberg underneath lay a much bigger problem. Here we had an individual that was causing defeat in and amongst those who wanted nothing other than to get well, which was clearly their initial intention. Here we had a person who boasted both sobriety and a complete lack of trust in God, a person that not only boasted no God at all but furthered her cause by suggesting everything contrary to God, and she found agreement from disheveled men who seemed to be having one last grasp at actually having a valued opinion, or agreeing with her to benefit an interior sexual motive. The primary problem here was the chink in the armour of the alcoholic that the literature suggests must be found had not been touched at all.
When wrapped up in sickness I only wanted to be comforted and to achieve this all I needed was to find people pleasers that would laugh at my jokes, tell me I looked good, or that they liked my shirt, or say something, anything that applied a thin coat of gloss over my ramshackle state of mind. How I spent hours justifying my individualism separating myself from the rest of those who needed God. While surrounded with disease many addicts have little concern about handing their will and life over to the care of God. Fear generates doubt, so an addict having turned their will and life over to the care of Jesus and then doubt, nothing, no feeling, fire-works, tears or emotion, then what?
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5: 1)
The yoke of slavery as far as I am concerned is my own self-will!
A Thursday evening meeting was about to start when a newcomer walked into the tea room and while making herself a cup of coffee I could see instantly that something in her had changed. Her eyes were like crystal glass and her smile was not her own enforced static grin. She had changed so dramatically in such a short space of time I couldn’t stop looking at her. She detected my puzzled look and explained to me her knew found freedom.
“I can’t believe it”, she began, “I prayed last night for the first time in my life and it was just amazing, I can’t explain it but it felt amazing”.
She stared straight at me and gave me a child-like smile. Something had clearly happened to this newcomer who had only been sober for a few weeks. She picked up her coffee and walked into the main hall in time for the meeting. I knew it then, and I still know it today, that this particular woman had asked God for help and He gave it to her immediately, as He can and does to those who seek out His kingdom. “When God is for us who can be against us”? (Romans 8: 31)
“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord”. (Romans 8: 37-39)
Once God had found a way in, it is imperative that we learn how to maintain this new freedom. We must avoid becoming the flimsy reed written in the scriptures where the growth is immediate and quick, only to wither away within a few months. The evil gem that had control over the woman mentioned above had been removed by God. To have a hidden gem or defect removed, it can at times take a few Christians to discover where the evil gem is. To be sure, the gem in me was lying under an invincible position of a supposed prideful and intellectual victory, always feeling taller after I’d won a discussion or two. Listening to a sermon one day I heard.
“We cannot move forward and relinquish our passion for the truth if within us is some self-seeking judgment”,
Consistently leaning on my own understanding of a god that I felt others had scoffed at, which was generally self-seeking and prideful judgment. I do remember my all-knowing broad sweeping sentences were laughed at during house group one evening, and underneath my earnestness was a desire to never return to that small group until they, the whole church even, realized what a catch they had amongst them. “Why don’t they listen to me”? I screamed silently. “Don’t they know who I think I am”? Subtle justifiable resentment became the detestable thing that attempted to kill the Holy Spirit within me and caused me to corrode from the inside out. To set the doubts deeper into our hearts we attempt to answer the “who or what is God” question ourselves, and we feel shunned when no one will listen to our ramblings. All we need to do is to sit still amongst our Christian fellows and allow the crevice in our ego to be got at. If a person is with God, they can say anything they want, which may hurt a little, in fact quite a lot at times, but the benefits far out way that slow back sliding decline into darkness. The problem here is justifying resentments and anger with intellect, burying it all under all kinds of rationalizations. We can however take on board the suggestions by our Christian colleagues, confess our sins to one another and redeem our inner nature by continually praying to God and asking Jesus for forgiveness. All this must be completed before the sun goes down. The scriptures tell us that we must never go to sleep on our anger. Above all, the previous understanding I had of a made up god never could suffice under the forces of evil that are prevalent in our society. It is therefore far better to be honest by admitting that I never understood God at all, which was a sufficient enough understanding to make my spiritual beginning.
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7)