Alcoholics, God and psychotherapy focuses on the Rambling Bricklayer’s personal journey alongside details, histories, successes and failures of how addicts search for recovery.
I am sure the psychiatrist negated a nod when I walked into her office. Immediately she began a no nonsense key holding approach to unlocking the self styled padlocked barbed wire that was wrapping me up and cutting me to pieces. The self-willed barbs were sharp, intricate and painful to say the least. I sat down sheepishly, her eye brows dipped. Oh no, I’ve already done something wrong, I thought, painfully. She studied me for a moment, weighing me up while taking notes. Her pen took brood swoops across a page with confidence like a real professional. “Don’t worry” she said “the notes are for our file only”. I clearly wasn’t fit enough in the head to read what she had written, the words were for “their file only”.
Alcoholics Anonymous began in 1935 after a New York Speculator Bill W’s relentless search to find other alcoholics lead him to an Akron Physician named Doctor Bob. Bill W had been sober for 6 months and believed that he needed to freely pass on both his knowledge of alcoholism and spiritual message to remain sober. On visiting Doctor Bob he began to explain the physical allergy, mental obsession and spiritual malady that they were both suffering from. Although Doctor Bob drank again after this meeting he was sold on the ideas brought to him by his new friend Bill W and he soon sobered up never to drink again. Meetings developed after further participant alcoholics appeared keen to sober up, and within three years they had 100 sober members. Bill W penned the basic text, a book called Alcoholics Anonymous and from it the fellowship took its name. Within the book a twelve step programme details a set of suggestions on how an alcoholic can stay sober. The Book became known as the Big Book and has sold over 30,000,000 copies worldwide, and has helped spread the word of AA to many different countries across the globe. Throughout the early days as Alcoholics Anonymous grew, Bill W took stock from the Reverend Samuel Moor Shoemaker, Jr Rector of Calvary Episcopal Church in New York. Sam Shoemaker was described many times by Bill W, as a co-founder of AA. Sam Shoemaker explains;
“The reason so many people in A.A. give thanks that they are alcoholics is that the problem of living, and the failure to meet life successfully, is singled down for them to the problem of alcohol. It is definite and specific. This is exactly what Christianity has taught from the beginning, not only about a problem like alcoholism, but about the whole range of human defeat: that the old clichés like ‘exerting more will power’ are utterly impractical. We are just as powerless by ourselves over temper, or a bad tongue, or a moody disposition, or a habit of lust, or a hard and critical spirit. It is only pride and lack of insight into ourselves that would keep anyone from saying, ‘our lives have become unmanageable.’ This is the first step, not only towards sobriety, but towards self-understanding and the knowledge of life.” Bill Pittman and Dick B., Courage to Change: The Christian Roots of the Twelve-Step Movement, pages 208-09.
It is correct to assume that alcoholics that have a limited understanding of God can ‘give thanks’ and find a fellowship in Alcoholics Anonymous where sober members will identify with their dilemma, show love followed by an initiation into the God idea through the 12 step programme, hoping that the struggling alcoholic will have a shift in their thinking and find a faith that can relieve them from their stigma. Many alcoholics have had a spiritual awakening as a result of the Alcoholics Anonymous 12 step programme, regardless of their past. Having followed the directions written down in the Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book, and once a few simple steps have been taken to instigate a new found freedom, the alcoholic can use their experience and continue to help others, which can be the primary focus on maintaining sobriety. Concerning my own recovery however, particularly in the coffee houses after Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, I simply instigated discussions that prompted an intellectual approach to the steps. Perhaps I could find the hidden gem that must be lurking beneath what was often perceived as a ‘simple programme’. My motive was, although I never realised this at the time, to maintain an intellectual superiority above other alcoholics making me appear sharper and therefore more valuable than them. The gem I craved was nothing more than a sober intellectual self that I hoped would finally be discovered within a fellowship that yearned after members like me. I felt the rapture of imaginary applause when I walked into the room. Many times I glanced around meetings thinking how could this bunch of rabble possibly survive without my bright and intellectual sharing. During my most boastful moments I believed with all my heart that I was sharing at a deeper level than they had experienced before. Many times the more sober members approached me after meetings to lovingly challenge my sharing and rather than take on any humility by their corrective attempts, I would storm off in anger, only to return a few minutes later with thoughts of putting them straight. Lacking the power to straighten out my own life I was hardly well placed to straighten out anyone else’s. This self-righteous toing and froing caused terrible anxiety and eventually sent back on the bottle. If only I could talk up a well-structured discussion that often ended in argument and resentment, then I would be seen as a more prominent member of AA.
Often while walking to meetings my imagination would sore to great heights placing me on podiums standing side by side with great intellectual speakers. Sobriety, so I believed, could only be achieved by probing spirituality with an intellectual stick and I hoped to be good at it. While all this was carrying on I failed to recognize that this whole thought process was part of my unmanageable life, which was the second half of step 1. Full of determination with stamping feet, I would become relied upon amongst this body of alcoholic degenerates, and higher and higher I exalted my imagined self to positions of authority. My inner self however had already been shaped by years of denial, and although I had been sober for around a year, it would be a while yet before any light would find its way in. My general negativity, which was fear, pride and supposed intellect, persuaded me that all was fine and therefore I had no real reason to search for God. Knowing all along that searching for God amongst the junk yard of my life, where the only path was burdened with corrosive debris, meant dispelling the dishevelled self by discussing my sins with another. An invisible magnetic field surrounded me making redemption impossible, which was also protecting me against pain and repelling me away from anyone that spoke of God. A type of gravity pulled me away from people who could have become wonderful friends. Walking on the opposite side of the road to these Christians and knowing I should cross over but simply couldn’t because pride would not have it at all, and my invisible taught puppet strings repelled me to walk on unaided. I had what I often called, Porcelain skin, which I could mask a serious intellectual look upon my undercurrent of an intense sadness mixed with momentary outbursts of anger.
Within AA, the term higher power is used, which suited my ideals and sickness far better. It made sense to me that to remain sober it would be a good idea to learn about, for example, The Oxford Groups and the psychoanalyst Carl Yung. Having heard the more intellectual members discuss them both when referring to the creation of the 12 step programme, studying them both seemed like a good idea. I reckoned it was about time that I got to know the steps at a deeper psychological level, which kept me from actually applying them to my life. My intellectual search preventing me once again, as it did when I was at university and my first few attempts in AA, from confessing my defects and sins to another. Depth psychology, so I believed, was the only answer. Early in my research it became very clear that God was nothing other than a simpler term for Psychoanalysis and the unconscious mind. Those that didn’t understand can use the term God, but those like me that had no problem in unlocking the sickness by intelligence could move forward with a full understanding of how the mind really worked. My limited intellect managed to demote God to a shallow place where Christians who wanted to avoid the inner truth could revel and pretend. It seemed logical that the intricate parts of my mind had to be unlocked, which could only be achieved by using a host of elaborate psychological words, intellectual discussions and mind altering thought processes. Every single discussion I had was warped with fragmented ideas of what I could do, and not what I couldn’t, which was stay sober. The opposite side too my thinking was of course the truth, and once I found that I was actually being loved by those Godly impersonators, therefore by God, the illness came to an end, but that wasn’t to come for a while yet. The keys to the Kingdom were far from my grip.
Raniero in his book ‘A Life in Christ’ explains “Another way of arrogantly eliminating the difference between creator and creature, between God and the self, is to confuse them, which is the form that impiety takes on today in depth psychology”. (p5)
How true this statement is regarding my own personal recovery, and how easily I could have simply dropped dead had I continued on in this confused state and therefore missed the truth, which would have been the saddest thing of all. Raniero explains further that the discovery of the unconscious mind is used as yet another method of eliminating God. This elimination therefore leaves the Store House full with no proprietor, which is then claimed by scholars of the day and simply rearranged in various so called modern literary and psychological formats to suit them. It is like a shopper walking into God’s supermarket with row after row of all kinds of goodies on the shelves, and at the end of each row a large sign reads ‘All free, Help Yourself’. The shopper fills the trolley to the brim and finds other trolleys and does the same thing, and after filling up ten trolleys the shopper sets up a stall down the street and begins to sell the goods cheaply to people who have failed to see Gods sign. Repackaging and relabeling the boxes is all very well if the item inside is still the same. But of course this is not the case, unless you point the finger at Jesus the whole spiritual idea, the essence of a psychic change, disappears no matter how hard one try’s to convince sufferers through rehashed definitions. Denying Jesus therefore is one method modern psychology uses to promote psychological theories, by selling them on as original, when it is clear to me that the results psychologist search for is found through Jesus. A friend of mine leant me a book that had supposed ideas on how to get to, and soothe, the inner child by looking over your childhood with an adult perspective. The book suggested that most of our pain is caused by emotions that have been stored away since child hood, and concentrates the reader on how to redeem them and therefore redeem the inner self allowing room for freedom and peace. After reading through the author’s deliberation on his ultimately unwholesome life until he found faith through this particular process. He detailed that to achieve a successful outcome one must put faith in a spirit, with which he used a cartoon type sketch of a wizard. Immediately interest drained right out of me, oh no I thought, not another higher power to contend with. Although I must say looking closer at the image of the wizard, which the author kindly drew for the reader, did look rather like how I would draw Jesus. Being confused about where to go with this form of therapy I sort out some answers from my close Christian colleagues who advised me in two areas. The first was to continue with God rather than the suggested wizard, or forget the whole project altogether. On discussing this with a further Christian friend who explained that he went to visit the author in a seminar in London, and ended up crying his eyes out. He loved the whole process, but he said it could only be successful using Christ and certainly not an image of an imaginary wizard. Having said this, the problem my friend encountered was the lack of faith in others who were there, where many people were psychologically travelling back to their childhood without the correct faith to deal with what was exposed to them. The suggested wizard lacked the necessary power that Jesus has in great supply. It appears then that modern psychology can work along side faith. Having the correct so called higher power in place, which is Jesus, all psychology can then be attempted without fear. Having said this, isn’t there a paradox here? Having Christ we only need ask once and the correct people will be put in our paths regardless from where the help comes from, which I suppose may come in the form of professional psychology. Nevertheless, it took me two years to get to know the most basic understanding of the Bible, after receiving some solid beginner’s advice from my first House Group leaders. I was not in a position to pick and choose the various psychological processes that would ultimately disrupt my focus on the bible. While reading the Bible I knew that I had found the answer, and that all my time was being used positively. Finally I was rid of the never ending search for psychological literature that would ultimately, so I believed, explain to me what the bible really meant.
Throughout my first two years, the resurrection, Jesus dying for us, Jesus had to die, the power of the cross, the way, truth and life and so on were all introduced to me with such simplicity and love. All the above have now been answered and the obstacles that were created by these statements have been removed. From early sobriety I have read my Bible every day to meet my daily reprieve and more and more of my inner truth has been revealed, as long as I discuss my limited understanding with others. One thing is for sure, that this journey is all learning and not all knowing, it is progressive and not conclusive. When I say not conclusive I mean that we are only human and the power from God’s message is constantly refreshed. The rebirth and love offered by Jesus is a life learning experience in itself, which is at times difficult to take. It can be too much when surrounded by those who share the same compassion as you and clearly have love in their hearts. The more I learnt the narrower and longer the path became, simply because I could see doorways that were originally closed to me opening up, and inside there was more and more Christians that had an interesting (sometimes dangerous and avoided) swerve on the Scriptures. You will read later how all other discussions that I had with regard to the higher power themes were completed in an evening and never raised again. These conversations regarding so called gods fizzled out like a suffocating camp fire. There never seemed to be much more to say on the matter after, say, a two hour discussion on all kinds of higher powers. The Big Book tells us the message must carry depth and weight. With regard to Jesus the pruning of the self-will, the meaning behind why He did what He did, when He could have prevented dying on the cross at any time, is never ending. Every time I pick up the Bible there are constant reminders of true wonder and the greatness of Christ. Spiritual growth always needs clipping and trimming so more growing can take place in the light.
Attending church too has similar results. I have never once turned up at church thinking it will be the same as last week. There has always been some kind of newness surrounding my church. If you haven’t experienced this yet, then you may need to join a house group where you can find the vexing of the spirit that will see you straight. Jesus was described to me once as a constant water fall, and because of doubt all we receive is the spray. What is offered by God is a soaking, what we sometimes take is dampness. God is constant, a continuous never ending process of learning and discovering the supernatural. The knowledge and keys to the Kingdom is in both the scripture and Christians that love passing on God’s message.
Dr Carl Jung did not believe in the resurrection of Christ by suggesting that Christ was a man, which in one sense is true, but He was also God incarnate, the word made flesh that lived among us to show us “the way, the truth and the life”. It is clear that the words and terms in the bible are borrowed and reshuffled by modern psychotherapy, even with Christ saying we will do more than He, the Jung approach is simply not what Jesus meant. Jung himself sent people back to church hoping a psychic change would take place, which shows, in fact, how humble Jung actually was.
Although Jesus said to mimic Him, we can only mimic with the truth that sets us free by pointing the finger at Christ and thanking Him rather than exalting ourselves via a modern psychoanalysis. When reading, participating in and discussing both Freud and Jung, I knew that my obsessive thinking and my utter inability to meet life on life’s terms would remain untouched. My maladjustments, obsessions, victimization and need to rescue others haunted my every move with or without Carl Jung and Freud. Counselling sessions amounted to nothing when up against alcoholism. Psychiatric nursing was hopeless; on one occasion in 1996 a psychiatrist failed to diagnose my alcoholism and set me free with the words, “you’re not an alcoholic”. He signed a piece of paper and slammed my file shut. He looked at me and smiled after unleashing the good news. “Your not an alcoholic” was similar to hearing “You’ve won the lottery” Wonderful I thought, and with that summary I went straight to the pub to tell everyone, “hey fellas guess what, I’m not an alcoholic”. Within 3 weeks I was stabbed in the face twice, had my cheek bone broken at the eye socket and had 5 teeth damaged with one tooth being knocked out by the blow from the knife. I had 11 stitches either side of my mouth, 22 in all. On waking up in hospital other patience thought I had been hit by a car, perhaps I had, I really had little idea of what had happened. I do remember however, the doctor explaining to a group of students each of my injuries, it was like I wasn’t there as he pointed and detailed each stitch and bruise. Even in that state my mental illness searched for approval from my audience. It was my chance to shine, and if there were tap shoes by my bed I am sure I would have obliged. Instead however, I mimicked the Elephant Man character played by John Hurt. “I’m not an animal, I’m a human being’ and then dribbled and slurped down my chin deliberately through my busted mouth. Not one laugh, which gave me resentments immediately. A professional psychiatric miss diagnosis of an illness that can only be dealt with by a self-diagnosis was once again my undoing. Returning home feeling like I had lost my winning ticket I visited the psychiatrist once again. (When I mention ‘the psychiatrist’, I am referring to various psychiatrists)
I am sure the psychiatrist negated a nod when I walked into her office. Immediately she began a no nonsense key holding approach to unlocking the self styled padlocked barbed wire that was wrapping me up and cutting me to pieces. The barbs were sharp, intricate and wrapped around my brain making my thinking painful to say the least. I sat down sheepishly, and her eye brows dipped. Oh no, I’ve already done something wrong, I thought, painfully. She studied me for a moment, weighing me up while taking notes. Her pen took brood swoops across the page like a professsionals signature. Maybe she’s painting me, I wondered? “Don’t worry” she said “the notes are for our file only”. I clearly wasn’t fit enough in the head to sign the papers that sealed my fate. Looking rather like Margeret Thatcher with darker hair, she put her notes down and immediately showed me a photograph of a healthy liver and then three or four images of damaged livers that were cut from dead alcoholics. She raised her voice while thrusting the large colourful pictures in front of my face. I gasped in shock horror hoping to keep her happy and to show her that her efforts were working. Studying her face I knew that this reaction stuff is what she wanted. Under these conditions I really did not know that I was playing a passive people pleasing role, it simply came naturally to me. We completed some paper work where I answered a set of questions that detailed anger, rage and realisation of when these crop up. A set of rules were listed suggesting what I needed to do once the anger raised its ugly head, all of which was utterly useless. How on earth would an alcoholic find the list, read the 20 options and then make a decision on which one could prevent anger from boiling over. To make a successful outcome I had to also decide on the type of anger that was disturbing me and take appropriate action. “Be still for a moment and ask yourself”, she said, “is this anger rational or irrational and make a decision”. Is this before or after smashing up the furniture, I wondered? When leaving the office I felt bound up with paranoia, having been told I have two types of anger instead of just the one I had, which was more than enough thanks, before meeting my new professional friend. I thought about the notes she had taken making me feel like my soul had been sliced at and a part of it was now in that folder alongside the dead liver photographs, and signed away by whats-her-name. Walking away and staring back I felt so powerless. I made it home and paced my flat, panicked and phoned the psychiatrist to ask what was inside the folder. Another counsellor answered and retrieved the folder from its secret hiding place, started reading it out to me while telling me that all was okay. I began to scream down the phone telling her to shut up because others in her office could hear what she was saying. I got louder and more threatening and demanded that they give me the folder. They assured me that all was top secret and told me that the information was for them only. Within two minutes they instructed me not to return to the office. My mind spun to such a frenzy I marched back to the office only to pace up and down the street, far too afraid to go in and give them what for. I paced up and down for a while in an attempt to calm myself, sat on a bench and rocked myself back and forth for comfort. ‘I need a drink’ was the best I could come up with, and within an hour or two I was falling about drunk. The police took me home and I remember a police officer pressing me down on my settee and telling me to shut up. I have no idea why, where, how or what happened to create that scene.
Furthering with my intellectual charge I found that the Oxford Groups attempted to replicate 1st century Christians who followed Jesus Christ’s so called four absolutes, which were 1. Absolute Honesty. 2. Absolute Purity. 3. Absolute Unselfishness. 4. Absolute Love. Revisiting Jung (who I had read very briefly while studying Literature and Cultural Studies), was a psychoanalyst who by many accounts gave AA step 2. On reading and cementing this new found knowledge I drank again twice, was hospitalized 3 times with a sugar allergy that triggered severe swelling to my lips, cheeks and neck. These facial inflammations happened on each occasion at approximately 4am, and grew rapidly like a pressure pump blowing up a balloon in seconds where my face blew up to comical proportions. To prevent the swelling I was prescribed 8 steroid tablets to be taken for 3 mornings after each swelling event, and I was given a polystyrene box that had what the doctor nick-named ‘booster injections’ inside, with which to jab into my leg anytime I could see the swelling start, and all this on top of 7.5 soplicone sleeping tablets. Uppers in the morning and downers at night, which was a combination akin to my complete and utter madness. On one particular visit to the hospital I fell into a suicidal depression and began to plan my death, these thoughts lasted for about an hour or so and were soon replaced with my old reliable friend the alcohol obsession, and on leaving hospital that morning I was drunk within a few hours. Over the next 9 months anger took hold of me like never before, and sent my thinking to places I never wish to visit again. AA colleagues persevered and on many occasions I was taken for smoking breaks between meetings to prevent my shouting and swearing from disturbing those who were searching recovery. Due to untreated alcoholism my anger and rage lead me to the drink once again. Finally I decided that drink was far better than to carry on with the state of thinking that I had developed while sober. Alcohol had become the sedative stabilizing and slowing my mind down to a speed where I could cope. I point blank refused to visit the doctor’s again, visions of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest haunted me. Although to be diagnosed with some form of depression was becoming an option, which is why I decided to keep my distance from our professional friends.
Finally, while I was asleep one night, a change took place in my thinking where I woke up on a Monday morning free from hurt and pain. Absolute surrender had taken place, after laying still for an hour or two, I got out of bed, emptied my flat of alcohol and went straight back to AA. Within three weeks I was praying twice a day to Jesus after my friend took me to a church where they had small prayer books that focussed on day to day living, which married up with the AA mentoring ‘one day at a time’, which I now know originates from Christ.
“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own”. (Mathew 6: 34)
I studied the Big Book relentlessly for a year and went through the steps in just a few days, my step four was completed in an afternoon and my step 5 followed that evening. After listing approximately seventy resentments I found my part in each of them using the basic four defects of dishonesty, inconsiderate, self-seeking and frightened. What an amazing relief that throughout all me child hood resentments I could write down in black and white that I was frightened. The defeat was immense that there was no need to search elaborate wording or discover any great hidden dream or child-like hidden truth, only to admit that I was actually frightened when for years I stacked up ego and admitted that I wasn’t, which was opposite to the truth. ‘The truth will set you free’ and my great God how true this scripture became! No longer did I need to hold on to old ego ideas that placed me on the broad highway to destruction.
‘Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it’ (Mathew 7: 13-14)
I completed step 6 and 7 by pondering for an hour looking over my first 5 proposals, which I found extremely difficult, pondering for an hour I mean!, if you disagree then try it yourself and see how hard it is to ponder for five minutes let alone an hour as the Big Book suggests. Step 8 and 9 suggest making amends to those harmed, and the later steps are where I maintain my sobriety on a Godly basis. From Friday evening when I started the steps, I had completed them all by Sunday morning, my spiritual awakening was complete.
After being sober for 8 years I felt a strong need to return to my studies and revisit my research to once again see where and how the psychoanalyst Carl Yung played such a pivotal role in the AA psychiatrist, and in my inability to recover while I focussed my attention on psychoanalysis and intellect. It seemed to me, after reading the Bible every day of my sobriety, that the source of all sobrieties is blatant and obvious. The Gem I was looking for in the first place had nothing what-so-ever to do with any psychologist or mind altering child-like therapist, but was in the Spirit of Jesus Christ who, through scripture, tells us that He was the physician and was here to heal the sick. I suppose, even with my head full of histories and darkness, I knew this all along but with my dis-ease having control I would consistently pull myself away from the truth by fear and intellect. Thinking I knew best, and it nearly killed me.
The route from the Oxford Groups is clear with many references written by early AA members, including Bill W who said that the Oxford Group 6 step programme was too difficult to maintain and therefore could be ‘wriggled out of’ by alcoholics, and with the support from the first 100 hundred AA members Bill W began to write what was perceived to be the more prominent 12 step programme. Regarding Doctor Jung, the Big Book explains that he was asked a question by an alcoholic patient who the doctor regarded as a hopeless case. Jung told his patient that he had never seen one as hopeless recover.
“Are there any exceptions”, the patient asked, and Doctor Jung replied.
“Yes, there is. Exceptions to cases such as yours have been occurring since early times. Here and there, once in a while, alcoholics have had what are called vital spiritual experiences. To me these are phenomena. They appear to be in the nature of huge emotional displacements and rearrangements. Ideas, emotions, and attitudes which were once the guiding forces of the lives of these men are suddenly cast to one side, and a completely new set of conceptions and motives begin to dominate them. In fact, I have been trying to produce some such emotional rearrangement within you. With many individuals the methods which I employed are successful, but I have never been successful with an alcoholic of your description.” (Big Book; p26, 27)
The Big Book explains that Doctor Jung suggested once in a while an alcoholic of a hopeless variety can find recovery through spiritual means, which is truly inspiring for a doctor of such standing to see an alcoholic as utterly hopeless that no amount of psychology would suffice and untangle the frustration and despair incurred by this particular alcoholic. Bill Wilson wrote to Doctor Jung and thanked him for his ‘candid and humble statement’.
Having recognized this humble admittance, it appears that Doctor Jung failed however to address the sweeping crusades of the Salvation Army and the various Methodist Church movements where millions of alcoholics were set free by Christians passing on God’s message. It could be argued that by 1935, when AA began, many many milllions of alcoholics had found sobriety since the beginning of the Salvationists, let alone many more Methodist movements that had stood on the front line of alcoholic epidemics that swept through towns and countries. Here we need only focus on the epidemic that raced through London and Wales in the 18th century for evidence. For Doctor Jung to conclude that; ‘Here and there, once in a while, alcoholics have had what are called vital spiritual experiences.’ is simply incorrect and flawed. For me to write this as a layman with personal experience regarding alcoholism could be seen as troublesome, so we need to look squarely at the Methodist church movement and nothing more.
Doctor Jung looked at Jesus as a man and denied all the deity Christianity claims. It must be said that in the time of Jung, Nietzsche the German philosopher, claimed in approximately 1882 that ‘God was dead’. There were many modern artists and writers too who claimed that man was taking ‘diabolical liberties’ (D H Lawrence, Lady Chatterly), and how we were separated into class structures where one body of people were seen as higher beings with more moral responsibilities than their subordinates. For decades prior to Nietzsche and the Modernist movement, Doctor Frankenstein haunted our fictional accounts of progress, and who created a monster that appeared more like a marching revolutionist or working class miner who was feared and disliked by middle class society. Minority groups of so called upper class people were steadfastly dehumanising others, as Karl Marx reviewed in his theories of control over education, industry and commerce. Ugly undernourished men walking home from the mines after working themselves almost to a walking death was all in the name of national progress, which simply made those who owned the mines richer. There was of course some progress in communications, travel, sewer systems and town planning, but at an extraordinary expense of human attitude and life. Jung also had to contend with Darwin theories that had been floating around the intellectual arena long before Darwin wrote The Origin of Species, where decade’s later ‘natural selection’ was politicised and hammered home by Hitler. Over centuries of the degenerative building of two world wars and the absolute suffering of human beings who were forced to queue in line to die; from the slow death in the mines to the rapid evil in the nazi death camps finally the end of the industrial revolution began. Where was God in all this? No wonder theories developed that searched the new unconscious mind, which once willingly exposed, became the supposed modern labyrinth of freedom. The psycho therapeutic discovery allowing man to free himself from his ailments, as long as we discuss our dreams and child-like behaviours with a professional psychoanalyst, was the modernist ideal that had settled into middle class lives. Perhaps a new religion of sorts was beginning to take shape? The working classes, right up to the Jarrow Crusade in 1936, were seen as unworthy of any serious analytical attention, and therefore cut off from any psychic development or spiritual growth.
Yung moreover spent 3 years with the atheist Freud, which makes Jung appear very spiritual indeed having to contend with a particularly Godless society at the time. Consequently, what we have here is an early 20th century man who had been raised with constant battles between various spiritual and non-spiritual connotations. It is no surprise at all that in his book Jung suggests;
“Christian civilisation has proved hollow to a terrifying degree. The inner man has remained untouched. His soul is out of key with his external beliefs.” Psychology and Alchemy.
Christianity by its very nature can be anonymous regarding identity, food and clothing and is concerned only with our inner most thoughts, which is the will. It is only our inner self that concerns Jesus. Christians are not to worry about what they eat or wear, their external appearance means little to the soul nurtured by Christ. Food, clothing and even our emotions become tamer and far more reasonable once the Lord has entered into the equation. The Bible tells us that God knows our hearts.
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes”? (Mathew 6: 25)
Therefore, since through Gods mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways. We do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. (2 Corinthians 4: 1.2.)
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. (2 Corinthians 4: 16.)
How many times have I began to pray for one thing or another only to realise half way through praying that the thing I am asking for is bound up with self-gratification. It is my God conscience that wins the day and on completing my prayers I try to process my earlier thinking and look at why I almost asked for something I neither needed or even wanted in the first place. This whole process takes approximately 10 minutes. ‘God knows our thinking’, we must shed light in the dark corners of our mind by admitting, until then nothing can be done to free us from sin. Jesus explains that we must not be ‘white washed graves stones’ that are clean on the outside and full of desolate bones and dust on the inside. Christ is saying that we must have our inner thoughts put right first. We cannot, as true Christians, hold on to any old ideas that have negative connotations, and pretend to be full of the Spirit. I have tried this, holding on to old ideas, and thanks to God and the close proximity to Christians in my house group, I was ultimately found out. My spirit became vexed and challenged in certain areas of my life where I thought I knew best. In church on Sunday mornings I could shift from one group to another to prevent detection from my inner most thoughts. Having a House Group on the other hand detected all that was wrong with my thinking and being ultimately found out things improved. Therefore it was God that removed my fears by vexing and probing through Christians questioning my motives. Therefore, ‘God did for me what I could not do for myself’
Skating around the surface will not do; Jung’s theory where ‘the inner man has remained untouched’ is simply not Christian and clearly apposes one of the essential ingredients needed to maintain sober Christianity, which is to ‘confess our sins to one another’. It could be argued that the premise of modern Christianity is bound with recognizing that the physical body of an individual Christian is nothing more than the tabernacle, or tent, that surrounds the Holy Spirit.
There is a prominent itch inside my heart and mind that only a Godly Christian can scratch. My inner most thoughts must be bared so the light can shine and reveal any dark thoughts that I may have. Mature Christians have the capacity to withdraw thoughts and burdens like no other group therapy I have ever entertained where the truth revealed itself without any help from me. During house group we, as mentioned before ‘discuss our sins with one another’. Once trust had developed, which was swift and came after the first prayer in my first house group, and then the inevitable spilling of self-began. Words were pulled out of me like bad teeth. Thoughts that were deep and hidden amongst the brambles and years of junk that I had accumulated. These stagnant thoughts could only be untangled by Christians that had a clear and precise understanding of scripture. Having already shaped my personality by both my addiction, and my previous psycho therapeutic experiences, I had nowhere else to go. “Lord, to whom shall we go. You have the words of eternal life”? (John 6: 68) Many had left Christ because they failed to understand Him. Where else and who else could I possibly turn to? The last chance saloon was still open and all I needed to do was walk through the door and search for the narrow path. Everything that was said and done was justified through scripture by the more mature Christians, which gave hope and more trust. I began to love people that I hardly knew, which for a while was very confusing. I would drive home after an AA or house group meeting and resent the fact that I silently loved these new people, that they were sharing something so special with me was almost too hard to bear. The whole concept of Christianity, I learned, involves the inner spirit and demotes the outer shell (our bodies) as clay pots, vessels and many other references that carry the message of God. Christianity is therefore the opposite of the above quote by Jung and must be seen as such.
Without engaging too deep into the Jung debate, which I will leave to those with less experience in alcoholism and more experience in psychology. It is clear that the intellectual psychologist plays such a pivotal role in any modern search for spirituality, particularly with elaborate essays and reports that compare Jung to Jesus himself. Looking at this briefly! Within a short walk of my home there are 12 churches of various denominations, all built in the name of Jesus with each having their own approach but similar belief system in place. The variables tend to focus on the correct age for baptism, the blood of Christ as real or symbolic, the part played by the mother Mary and so on. (libraries could be filled with this subject alone)
In his book ‘A Life in Christ’ Raniero suggests that the new millennium has brought the body of Christ closer, even with the various denominations. How then can any modern day psychologist compare to all this, regardless to their professionalism and popularity status? It is inconceivable that, regardless of intellectual discovery, a modern man can be compared to Christ. During a lecture that I attended the professor stated that Karl Marx writing had found his way on to more library shelves than any other writer in history. He wrote on the board all the subject areas that have borrowed and quoted directly from Marx. History, English literature, sociology, psychology, economy, politics, cultural studies to name a few were listed amongst many more. Even with all this amazing achievement by one German economist writer and having covered such elaborate subjects, still cannot come close to entering the psych in the way Jesus has entered into and built our communities. For good measure we could put Marx, Freud and Jung in one pile, which would still be inconceivable in comparison. Jesus has entered into the hearts and minds of an immeasurable amount of people. When walking in, say, St Pauls cathedral do we really see Christ, or are these places just another museum to visit. Each generation builds and leaves Christ’s legacy and not their own swerve on the word of God as certain scholars claim.
The church buildings I walk by every day have been built in the name of Jesus and all share in the body of Christ. I can walk in anyone of them and pray to the same love of God regardless of denomination and religious dogma. Jung cannot begin to play such a role in society no matter how much is written in our intellectual circles. When reading the ‘Jung or Jesus’ essay written by the secretary of the Jung society, it is clear that primary building blocks of which we build our lives are being ignored. In one particular essay there is mention of church leaders reading Jung and taking on board his suggestions, when I am amazed at the entrance to, say, Canterbury Cathedral and how the key stone was placed in the arch all those centuries ago, which was built in the name of Jesus. The psychology comes after the event and not before. We can search for reason all we wish, but the facts still remain that Jesus is beyond and above our psychology. To benefit my discussion I need only look at the relatively small key stone at Canterbury Cathedral, without having to note the fantastic interior piers and columns that have also stood for centuries. Not to mention the thousands of cathedrals all over the world that had been built in His name. All this physical representation is immense, which is beyond all boundaries set by any other living creature that has walked on the face of the earth. There cannot be a comparison to Jesus regarding any other person at all. Both the Spiritual and physical representations are there to see. Can both the physical and spiritual building blocks of Jesus Christ compare to a few books written by Carl Jung that have been retrieved from a shelf in a Christian library. The building blocks of my life are written in the ever-lasting scriptures and not in the forever changing face of psychology. Generation after generation have put Christ first, and all that follow him can study and write on the peace that he provides. Science counts for nothing without peace. It is plain to see that the mystery of the Holy Spirit promised by Jesus is the guiding force that delivers the fundamentals of living to those who ask, and then do the works. The clearing of the soul cannot be achieved by intellect alone, believe me I’ve tried. When completing my degree in literature after quoting both Freud and Jung in my dissertation, I celebrated after throwing away my<em> antibuse</em> medication that was designed supposedly to prevent me from drinking alcohol. The obsession was so strong I’m afraid reading Jung, analysing dreams or taking medication could not prevent my charge to the public house, and then my waking up 3 days later under a bush 200 metres from my home.
“While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the “sinners” and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?”
On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners. (Mark 2 15-17)
From the moment Jesus was accused of being a ‘drunkard’ because he walked with drunks and sinners was the beginning of the new ethos that was to set us all free from having sacrifice, idolatry, psychology and law as a primary resource of redemption, all of which had no bearing on guiding the addict from their fatal obsession.
The law and alcoholism.
To be sure, anything from the law to Doctor Jung’s psychoanalysis will not keep an alcoholic from their stash. It is laughable to suggest that laws, prisons, psycho-therapy and intellect can relieve and prevent active addiction. The law dictates that we must not drink and drive, and details the consequences quite clearly if we do. The courts are full of alcoholics who drink and drive regardless of the law. A National Health psychiatric nurse at a local hospital explained to me that over the year when she had completed her training they had not one case recover from addiction, and there were hundreds that walked through the coded electric doors, of which I was one. To keep the NHS figures satisfactory the doctors moved the alcoholics and addicts sideways from alcohol to antibuse, and heroin to methadone. Both the alcoholic and addict find their way back to their drug of choice once the obsession takes hold, regardless of mind altering discussions or prescribed drugs. Having said this, it has been brought to my attention that once in a while societal punishment can bring an addict closer to their needed rock bottom. Having seen addicts imprisoned and having to bear the societal dogma can be one way that directs an addict to see the era of their ways, and that perhaps, with the benefit of time they can see clearer and perhaps get well. Therefore society must look at what is reasonably practical with regard to freeing our homes and streets from the spiritually sick. We must be careful not to venture into the ‘Crime and Punishment’ scenario explained by Michel Focualt (quote here) with hierarchical society becoming the natural selectors set out by Darwin. Once society appears to see one group exalting themselves above others problems can occur where those that have developed a higher state of being set out moral goals followed by methods on how to destroy so called lesser beings. In Jesus we are all invited and not one of us, regardless, is left behind.
I saw a drunk who lived in the same high rise block as me. He was staggering home with his 7 year old son. I shared the lift with them and made sure that he got into his flat ok. I felt so sorry for that boy and as an ex drunk myself I had little regard for his drunken father, who reminded me of what I once was. I was sickened and did not want the man near me. I will never forget the look on that young boys face, it was soul destroying and hopeless, painful and heart breaking. The following weekend I saw the man again and he had most of his teeth knocked out, a broken cheek bone and a closed black eye. This time he was alone. He had been beaten up in his own flat. His so called girlfriend visited him with her homeless friends where they stole his booze and beat him senseless. I hoped the young boy was safe with his mother who lived down the road. The swelling on the drunks face was severe, and he was black and blue with bruises. He was leaning next to a wall and I could tell that he was negotiating when to cross the road and stagger back to his flat. He lived on the tenth floor, the floor above me, I really couldn’t be bothered to help him home because he stank really bad and had pissed his trousers, just like I had many times when I was drinking. He was a mirror image of my old self. I had often used that wall as a support myself, just like he was. Three weeks later he was found dead in his flat after being kicked to death by the same homeless group of alcoholics who went to his flat again to steel his alcohol, and I can only suppose that this time he fought to the death to keep it. I live else-where now and often park my car by that block of flats and look up and wonder what happened to that young boy. The drunk, I found out later, had had a good home and job before his wife couldn’t take anymore and told him to leave. Before the alcohol got a grip on him he was a professional dental technician. This man did not choose to drink! He drank because he had a mental obsession, physical allergy and spiritual malady.
It is quite clear that without God many addicts die in their transgressions and disease. How Jesus completed His ministry is beyond any comprehension and understanding of why He would do such a thing for the sins of many, and how one man could carry all that on His shoulders. Once I could see, after 3 years of reading the Bible and attending a house group, that He was in fact the Son of God and did what he did because He loved us all far beyond anything we can ever realise. The will of Jesus takes away the sins of many, but how can this be realised by an addict who has very little understanding of God at all. Simply listen to a person that has consumed alcohol to such a degree and to be sure you will only receive from them a blast of fear, self-will, ego or intellect at various levels of coherence. Active alcoholism creates such a self-seeking and self-righteous state of mind that the listener can only feel anguish, and have concern whether or not these ramblings have anything to do with an illness at all.
It is moreover, almost impossible for anyone at all to take on board the ramblings of an ex drunk that has not had a drink for many years without taking any inventory at all, let alone having God in their life. Quite often these non-drinking and untreated alcoholics are worse than those still drinking. I am sure I was in my first two years of child-like sobriety that was saturated with anger and ‘belligerent denial’. It appears a little strange to ask an addict who has spent most of his or her life in cuckoo land, to look into the God idea. This, it appeared to me, was why the term higher power was used as a softer option, rather than having to take on board God from the beginning. It was suggested to me that I could use the fellowship as my higher power until I found something more suitable. In my experience this idea never worked at all. The message carried had no weight and seemed loose and could be easily shook off. Bill W broke away from the Oxford Groups, or was asked to leave, because the four absolutes were too difficult for an alcoholic to follow, which initially is viable. It could be argued here that offering a softer option by using higher power terms may not be the answer for some alcoholics that need firm and direct discipline coming from one source, which is God through Jesus Christ. The options alcoholics have are too broad and roomy, when Jesus tells us to keep our paths straight and narrow. AA, it could be argued, has developed postmodern theories where the alcoholic can shop around for whoever sells the best god or higher power idea, and skate on the surface without having to look too deep into the reasons why they drank so much in the first place, which can only be achieved through faith in God. The very argument Jung brought to our attention has been brought to light in the fellowship that he himself has been a minor beneficiary to. Therefore, we could suggest that Jung, using his own words “has proved hollow to a terrifying degree. The inner man has remained untouched. His soul is out of key with his external beliefs.” Psychology and Alchemy. To be sure, my soul was out of key to my external beliefs, and to be hollow to a terrifying degree appears very emotive indeed but how true. It appears that this statement is true with regard to all types of psychotherapies and not Christianity as it was originally meant. Every part of my body screamed for an answer to my obsessive thinking and the fact that I honestly and whole heartedly felt the answer was in some form of professional psycho mind altering counselling, shows me how wrong I can be. Time and again I went back to the same source looking for an answer, only to be so consumed with anger and rage knowing all the time my real answer was alcohol, or God. There are no grey areas here, as the Big Book suggests God is everything or He is nothing.
god as you understand him, or an understanding God
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 continues to explain our rewards and yields of fruit that is better than gold. The fruit in AA is the dishevelled new comer who finds the path and has been given the keys to the kingdom, someone who has been released of 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 we must ‘not lean on your own understanding’. And tells us further ‘not be wise in our own eyes’ and details why we must avoid elaborating our own conception that will eventually lead us into some type of self-indulged behaviour. Throughout the Bible we are told not to worship carvings of timber, people, earthly things, the sun, idol worship and false Gods.
‘For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; 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 two simple lessons, firstly, that I was sick with or without alcohol and secondly, I found out why I drank so much. Without alcohol to sooth me, my thinking raced to and from 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 present ways of seeing things, I had scant chance of finding any. With or without alcohol my coping mechanisms were distraught. Over the following six months I drank again on two occasions with both binges lasting ten days. I returned to AA and immediately found a sponsor who took me through the programme outlined in the Big Book. Fortunately the man who guided me was a Christian, although I never knew this at the time. I learnt about the alcoholic physical allergy, mental obsession and spiritual malady that I too was suffering from. We studied the Big Book in a group where the 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, all of us making sure we had read through four pages each day highlighting messages, promises and actions that we needed to take 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 with one another. Before this study I was clouded in total darkness and could not come into the light for fear that my deeds would be exposed. Within a few weeks my porcelain skin began to show cracks and the chink in my ego armour could now be got at. The following months pursued where chunks fell away and the sensitive skin underneath had to be nurtured in God’s wonderful light. During the book study I was told that there was no wrong or right, simply highlighting the areas where you identify with those early alcoholic pioneers will suffice. After releasing my inventory in step 5, 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.
I’d had a spiritual awakening as a result of the 12 step programme. 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 focussed on a daily spiritual way of living. They were friends that I had noticed before, but for all the wrong reasons. I visited various churches to gain access to faith, was baptised in 2009 and have since been a member of the Vineyard Church where I have attended almost every Sunday. Further to this, I attend a house group where we study scripture and focus our attention on moving away from fleshy pleasures this world offers and towards the Holy Spirit freely given by Jesus Christ. Within this house group I have had further spiritual experiences and met men and women that have a wholesome truth about themselves that can only come from one source, God through Jesus Christ. 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. They have found the inner flame that brightens their eyes and makes their path narrower, clearer to see and hear the quiet inner voice of peace. They listen for and receive the silent whisper that speaks through the words long written down. I began to enjoy church far more once I stopped determining my understanding of addiction upon others. It was only then that I became approachable and was questioned further about alcoholism and addiction. It was only then where I was included by other church members who were opening 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 many of the meetings I attend. It was 2 years before I found the truth. Moreover, I have found the AA fellowship to be one of the hardest places to work the 12 step programme. Many in AA much prefer to discuss keeping things real 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 both Jesus through scripture in their life. There are those who cannot and will not listen to where the 12 step routes sprung from.
‘These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit. (NT-Jude 17)