Burning Desire to Share
I remember at all meetings that everyone left feeling like it was your home group. They called them the mom & pop meetings.
I agree about cross talk not being from AA. I remember AA as going around the table in rotation. I feel that cross talk & random meetings are a product of treatment centers, Not AA. In rotation everyone had a chance to pass or contribute. No one left the meeting without being respected as a part of that meeting without being able to pass.
After reading many of the opinions throughout the year, it gave me the impression that AA has devolved into two opposing camps. This is far from the truth. I don’t see this in our home group. The majority of us view AA as a Fellowship as stated in the Preamble; a place with a primary purpose and a diverse cultural membership who embrace traditional religious, non-religious and spiritual or humanist points of view. In general, we share a good view of 12-Step recovery and believe it is helpful, however, we recognize that the big book reveals human confinements and cultural biases of the writers as it reflects the 1930’s. We see AA as a family with an egalitarian mission supported by a democratic group conscience. But for the devolved and rigid individuals, their focus has shifted from our primary purpose to defending recovery turf. The fundamentalists believe AA is a Program which contains a finished and unchangeable truth. A Big Book divinely inspired with a 12 step plan; the Word of God flowed through Bill’s pen one desperate night; a perfect book infallible and steadfast, which offers the only means to sobriety. The other not helpful point of view is the close-minded progressive who believes AA is religious and needs a total overhauling. They see AA using covert brainwashing methods which provide members a “Stepfordian” recovery of robotic bliss; however they must forfeit their individuality to do so. When either camp points the finger or claims superior recovery everyone loses especially the new person. We are to welcome everyone with support until the healing takes hold of them and not force our selfish and ego-driven viewpoints onto them. One of the first things I tell a sponsee is to keep an open mind and to have tolerance and flexibility.
Does anyone have any experience they can share about the Reading of HIW at meetings? Does anyone
understand why this custom has to stop? When I try to bring it up at meetings, it is like I am
trying to change everyone's religion. I am certainly not an agnostic or an atheist (not that there is anything wrong in that). But I don't try to cram my religion down anyone's throat. We have made
several blunders in AA over the past three decades. The reading of How It Works aloud at meetings
as part of the format was our most tragic mistake ever. I made that statement to our General
Service Office manager, and she gave me a blank stare. Reading "How It Works" aloud at meetings
changed the dynamics of A.A. and certainly not for the better. We have been stagnant for over
two decades now. Does anyone know the gravity of that statement? Alcoholics are suffering and
dying. Many are turning to drugs, when they find that AA doesn't work for them. We hold in our
hands the most effective tool ever for the "cure of alcoholism". And it is not the twelve steps.
It can be found in Dr. Silkworth's "cart before the horse IDEA. Most AA members today have no
idea what that technique is. Stop preaching! Reading HIW is preaching. Alcoholics are dying; their
families are suffering while we read HIW and chant. "Keep Coming Back". ANONYMOUS
The program of AA has many suggestions. It's important that old or new members know how the program works. It's also important that an informed member or group let the new comer know the GOD in how it works is still a name for a higher power of each members choice. Call it higher power , the group, the buddha, jesus christ, ect. It's just important to know it isn't the aa indivisual with 24 hrs or a 100 yrs.
I keep reading this opinion over and over in the forum. OK. I get it. You don't like the reading of How it Works, chanting, holding hands, Lord's Prayer at meetings. I don't agree with some of those things either. Though the door to AA is pretty wide, I too would prefer that it be wider- that there not be anything in AA that would make an alcoholic want to run for the exits.
That said, if I want to make changes in AA, I go to the monthly business meeting of my home group, as I did yesterday, and offer my suggestions. Yesterday, we agreed to make changes to our preamble and in how we chair meetings. (some members think others share too long and go off topic...imagine that!) Over the years, we've made significant changes to our meeting & group.
Another option is to start a new meeting. Some folks in my home group thought we needed more focus on the steps so we started a Step Meeting that met in an adjacent room each Saturday. After a couple of years, that meeting petered out. No problem, our main meeting is still going strong and there are other strong step groups in our area.
I've seen members start an entirely new meeting based on whatever they think AA should be. Our local meeting for "Atheists, Agnostics and All Others" seems to be doing very well. I doubt they are holding hands, reciting the Lord's Prayer or leading off with HIW.
As the Tradition says, "each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or AA as a whole". So have at it.
Here's a bit of wisdom from the 12&12....
"Over the years, every conceivable deviation from our Twelve Steps and Traditions has been tried. That was sure to be, since we are so largely a band of ego-driven individualists. Children of chaos, we have defiantly played with every brand of fire, only to emerge unharmed and, we think, wiser. These very deviations created a vast process of trial and error which, under the grace of God, has brought us to where we stand today.
When A.A.'s Traditions were first published, in 1946, we had become sure that an A.A. group could stand almost any amount of battering. We saw that the group, exactly like the individual, must eventually conform to whatever tested principles would guarantee survival. We had discovered that there was perfect safety in the process of trial and error. So confident of this had we become that the original statement of A.A. tradition carried this significant sentence: "Any two or three alcoholics gathered together for sobriety may call themselves an A.A. group provided that as a group they have no other affiliation."
Each AA group is autonomous and has a group conscious. A group has every right to read “HIWs” if voted on by members. Our group voted against reading “HIWs.” We open the meetings by just reading the Preamble and going straight to the topic. During group conscious we discussed how readings and other rituals where cutting into the meeting time and sharing our ESH is more important than pushing what we felt, after all, is a suggested program. Although everyone agrees the program works, it truly doesn’t reflect the diverse nature of recovery that we see. Some members pointed out that it could instill a narrow and misleading picture of AA and not show the complexities that come with recovery and living sober in the real world. We accept that not everyone works the 12-step program, which is their right and this doesn’t make us better because we do. Love and Tolerance
Thanks for the reply. My obsession with HIW began
4-5 years ago when I discovered that Alcoholics Anonymous
had lost most of its effectiveness. I found the passages
where Bill W. warned us about AA becoming a religion. He
wrote that nothing could be so destructive for AA's future.
Bill must have seen it coming in 1957 and 1963 when
those warnings were published. I believe reading that
reading HIW and the 24 Hr. book as part of the format makes
us look like a religion.
Our Saturday morning Traditions meeting is an hour meeting, but we voted to always stay until everyone had a
chance to share. We read the first two and a half pages
of chapter five and the page in the 24 Hr. book in
addition to the chapter on the Tradition of the week.
We had a strong group, usually up to forty members every
Saturday. We discussed deleting the extra readings for
about six months at our business meetings. We finally
voted on a new format and the vote was a very close.
We voted in favor of deletion, but we lost half of our
group. We have not increased to the forty count again,
after three years. We still pay the rent $75. monthly
but just barely. We seldom have more than twenty members.
I am deeply saddened by the hard feelings. Many of those
members were good A.A. friends. But I am convinced that
those readings have seriously harmed Alcoholics Anonymous.
We have made several other serious perhaps fatal mistakes,
All need to be corrected if A.A is going to be around for
the thousand years our co-founder wanted. ANONYMOUS
How it works is how it works...and it does very well.
Not everyone is going to have the desperation and willingness to do what is necessary to get into recovery no matter what we do.
My own inventory showed that my corrective opinions about how things ought to be were just uninformed and grandiose manifestations of intolerance, mywayism, and refusing to accept that everything is exactly as it should be. Check out what Dr. Paul said on pg 417. He was right about me...maybe you will find yourself there too?
I don't think there is any way to "stop" HIW from being read out loud at meetings. Each AA group is an autonomous entity and can do what it chooses to do, except for an outside affiliation (3rd tradition - long form). Reading HIW, holding hands in a circle, chanting, etc. are all things each group chooses to do.
But it would be helpful to newcomers to AA if there were fewer of these type of meetings where HIW was read out loud and more meetings where the format was welcoming to newcomers who are not ready to find God NOW!
Isn't our primary goal to be helpful to newcomers? The
format ought to be welcoming to newcomers, whether they are
ready to find God NOW, or they really don't know what they
are looking for. True, some alcoholics who approach us are
ripe, and ready for the spiritual HIW approach. But I believe that most are still searching. We offer them hope
by sharing our own experience, strength and, most important,
hope. We close the door by telling them what to do, instead
of telling them our own personal story.
The custom of reading HIW aloud at meetings certainly
can be stopped. It will take a lot of persistent work. A
group conscience meeting is the best way to start. If
your group has no group conscience, develop one. Call
for a group conscience meeting, or as a last resort,
bring up the topic at the regular meeting.
Bill placed HIW in chapter five for a special timed
effect. If "How It Works" were to be the first thing a
newcomer ought to read or hear, would Bill not have
placed it in chapter one? Bill was following advice
given to him by Dr. Silkworth. Bill details this advice
on page 68 in AACA. I am not going to copy the page here.
Perhaps someone else can "cut and paste" the material
which begins at the bottom of page 67 AACA. Bill writes
"Quote: Just before leaving for Akon, Dr, Silkworth had
given me a great piece of advice. Without it, A.A. might
never have been born". end quote. My conclusion is that
if AA could not have been born without that "cart
before the horse idea", then we will not survive or thrive
without it. Reading HIW as part of the format ignores
that IDEA. Again, there are some who are "ready" when
they finally get the courage to come to us. We must be
willing to help the rest of them to become ready. We
allow them to "Come to Believe". If we are attractive
enough, our hope is that they will stick around until
the miracle happens.
NOTE. "Each group is autonomous and can do what it
chooses to do" is only one third of tradition Four.
There are two storm signals. I believe that this
HIW reading aloud at meetings has all but destroyed
our life saving fellowship. Bob H. Seymour, Ct.
I believe that because there are many formats, readings are good; However each group serves to the best of their ability do carry the message of hope! It was one of the first forms of service work within the groups that I attended1! The best meetings were the meetings after the meetings. It has been a few years that I have had physical issues along with a speech problem, but whatever works is good! P.S. the best way to change things is attend the groups business meetings!
I was raised in a family with no religion. At the age of around 12 I started looking for something but I didn't know what it was now I realize it was the Holy Spirit. At the time though I didn't now this and I got side tracked and on the wrong path inside I started to drink. The Latin word for alcohol is spiritus coincidence probably not. Now In AA I've gotten back on the right track and found what I was looking for all this time not spiritus in a bottle but the the right kind of spirit. Maybe the Greeks thousands of years ago new something.
I know that worldly things won't provide the solution to the depth of my alcoholism. Yet I am jobless, practically homeless and I worry about things not getting any better. I have been asking God to remove my fears, but I find myself struggling with fear of the future and of economic insecurity. I want to be helpful to others, but I can't do that if I'm caught up in self-centered fear. This is my second real shot at AA. I had a few years once, then went back out for a few. It's harder this time around. My situation is more desperate and I feel stuck.
I have heard many times that it is easier to stay sober
than to get sober. There are multitudes who are struggling
with fear of the future and of economic insecurity. Contrary
to "the promises", many sober alcoholics are among them.
I hold the belief that those who are always smiling are
either on something or up to something.
But if you don't spend that eight dollars for a pint,
you can use it to buy food. Maybe someone near you is
hungry: you could share it with them. You also have access
to God's greatest gift to the alcoholic sufferer, Alcoholics Anonymous. I believe Ebby was in your
shoes when he approached his old friend Bill W. He
stayed at Bill's home for a period of time. Ebby never
regained his fortunes, but did have periods of sobriety.
Fear can be a great motivator. Just don't numb it
with liquor. I fear that my house will be cold in the
morning, so I bring in the wood at night for the wood
There are many who are caught up in self-centered fear.
You can be helpful to them. Listen to them. Offer them
a little of your time. (not advice! time!) You will learn
how to really care about others.
But I cannot resist offering advice to you. "Don't take
that first drink, and stay close to AA." It has worked for
me for several decades. It will work for you. ANONYMOUS
Hang in there! It WILL get better....
We have a wonderful resource for dealing with fear right in the 4th step. I often recommend that my sponsees do that part of the 4th step first. That prayer is so simple and both parts are equally important.
But the lists of the fears is is the number one thing to do. I recommend that folks write one fear per line and don't leave out any thoughts that come to mind. Don't say 'that is silly, I'm not going to write it." Be honest and write what comes to mind...every fear that comes to mind. Probably you will have pages and pages...I did. That list will help you recognize fears and that the prayer needs to be said every time a fear pops up. 'Take away my fears and direct my attention to what you would have me be." BTW, I had to give my imagination something creative to do.
First, thanks for sharing with us. It's not easy. I need to be reminded what it feels like to be in your shoes, so you are helping me and others. I think fear is a natural response to your difficulties and I hope both end soon. It isn't unusual to find people miserable in mansions and happy in halfway houses. The program of recovery spelled out in "Alcoholics Anonymous" altered my attitude to enable me to find the good in difficulties. Can you honestly look at that sign on the meeting room wall and say that AA failed you the first time?
"I was told by a sober member of AA that if I wanted to stay sober I would need to do three things: get a sobriety date and don't change it, get a sponsor, and get a home group."
I'm hopelessly confused and hope someone can help me out. In my years of AA membership I have used the second, third and fourth editions of the Big Book, have worn out a few copies of the 12&12, and have lost or given away a few copies of "As Bill Sees It". I have searched on line and asked dozens of long time members, and cannot get an answer to my question, Where in our AA literature does it say we cannot get sober without a sponsor and a home group?
I was told many years ago I should put my faith in some kind of Power greater than myself. All my Big Books say,
"But there is One who has all power - that One is God. May you find Him now." (page 59)
"No human power could have relieved our alcoholism." (page 60)
You wrote, "No human power could have relieved our alcoholism." This is commonly misquoted in the rooms.
The correct quote is "That PROBABLY no human power..." People who use it conveniently leave out the word "PROBABLY." This is too much of an important word to omit because without it we would be a religious program. Let's quote AA correctly and not take AA into our own hands. This word widens Bill W.'s hoop and permits the agnostic or atheist member the right to remain a non-believer or a not-sure if that is their choice. I have known people in my group who rely on human power and they seem to be just as joyful as the next person or myself.
Thanks for paying close attention to detail. Leaving out the word "probably", closes the door for far too many alcoholics. We have dropped the word and have dropped
the ball. We have become known as a strange religion.
Another phrase "We are not a glum lot" is used to justify
the incessant chanting. Being serious and reverent does
not make us a glum lot. Chanting makes us look like a
religion or cult. ANONYMOUS
God 1st 4 me
Did the useful/helpful/hopeful experiences of AA members stop after publication of the big book or 12 x 12, or with Bill W's death? I absolutely believe that there is no wrong way to stay sober, and the most unhelpful thing I could have been told when I walked into the rooms a while back would have been that I had to get a sponsor, had to work the steps, had to find a god of my understanding. However, I have come to believe in the advice of Rumi: "It is necessary to have a guide for the spiritual journey. Choose a master, for without one this journey is full of trials, fears, and dangers. With no escort, you would be lost on a road you have already taken. Do not travel alone on the Path." Bill W considered Ebby to be his sponsor, but also obviously helped and was helped by Dr. Bob, and sought advice from Father Dowling. Basically, I can become "overcome by the spirit" and forget why I am on the Path, which is why I need someone, or several someones, to call me on my B.S. No god ever speaks to me directly, which is why I need the guide. But that is just my program at this moment in time.
I don’t think I have ever read anything that says you must have a sponsor to stay sober, but lots that suggests it’s a good idea. Mostly from the 12x12, see below.
... advisers the guidance they feel they have ... 12&12 Step Five, p.60
It is worth noting that people of very high spiritual development almost always insist on checking with friends or spiritual advisers the guidance they feel they have received from God.
... sponsorship for ten newcomers, and was gently ... 12&12 Tradition Eight, p.168
Then we saw that if a hardworking secretary answered the phone dozens of times a day, listened to twenty wailing wives, arranged hospitalization and got sponsorship for ten newcomers, and was gently diplomatic with the irate drunk who complained about the job she was doing and how she was overpaid, then such a person could surely not be called a professional A.A.
1.... sponsors? 12&12 Step Twelve, p.112
Can we have the same kind of confidence and faith in these people who have been infected and sometimes crippled by our own illness that we have in our sponsors?
2.... sponsors come to the rescue. 12&12 Step Four, p.46
At this stage of the inventory proceedings, our sponsors come to the rescue.
3.... sponsors declared that we were the victims ... 12&12 Step One, p.22
Our sponsors declared that we were the victims of a mental obsession so subtly powerful that no amount of human willpower could break it.
4.... sponsors of those who feel they need ... 12&12 Step Four, p.46
The sponsors of those who feel they need no inventory are confronted with quite another problem.
5.... sponsors or spiritual advisers that we first ... 12&12 Step Five, p.58
Often it was while working on this Step with our sponsors or spiritual advisers that we first felt truly able to forgive others, no matter how deeply we felt they had wronged us.
6.... sponsors pointed out our increasing sensitivity to ... 12&12 Step One, p.22
Relentlessly deepening our dilemma, our sponsors pointed out our increasing sensitivity to alcohol -- an allergy, they called it.
... sponsor already has the advantage of knowing ... 12&12 Step Five, p.61
Besides, your sponsor already has the advantage of knowing something about your case.
2.... sponsor, but not necessarily so. 12&12 Step Five, p.61
This person may turn out to be one's sponsor, but not necessarily so.
3.... sponsor continues, "Take, for example, my own ... 12&12 Step Two, p.26
The sponsor continues, "Take, for example, my own case.
4.... sponsor's ear alone. 12&12 Tradition Twelve, p.185
Enthusiastic over the spectacular recovery of a brother alcoholic, we'd sometimes discuss those intimate and harrowing aspects of his case meant for his sponsor's ear alone.
5.... sponsor, "is a very good question indeed. 12&12 Step Two, p.26
"That," agrees the sponsor, "is a very good question indeed.
6.... sponsor or spiritual adviser, earnestly asking God's ... 12&12 Step Nine, p.86
Do we lay the matter before our sponsor or spiritual adviser, earnestly asking God's help and guidance -- meanwhile resolving to do the right thing when it becomes clear, cost what it may?
7.... sponsor or spiritual adviser, we make a ... 12&12 Step Ten, p.89
Then there are those occasions when alone, or in the company of our sponsor or spiritual adviser, we make a careful review of our progress since the last time.
8.... sponsor points out that our friend's life ... 12&12 Step Three, p.39
Of course the sponsor points out that our friend's life is still unmanageable even though he is sober, that after all, only a bare start on A.A.'s program has been made.
9.... sponsor probably points out that the newcomer ... 12&12 Step Four, p.46
The sponsor probably points out that the newcomer has some assets which can be noted along with his liabilities.
10.... sponsor probably says, "Take it easy. 12&12 Step Two, p.26
His sponsor probably says, "Take it easy.
11.... sponsor promptly proves by talking freely and ... 12&12 Step Four, p.46
This the sponsor promptly proves by talking freely and easily, and without exhibitionism, about his own defects, past and present.
12.... sponsor sold me one idea, and that ... 12&12 Tradition Five, p.154
Years later, this tough Irish customer liked to say, "My sponsor sold me one idea, and that was sobriety.
13.... sponsor usually laughs. 12&12 Step Two, p.26
At this juncture, his A.A. sponsor usually laughs.
... adviser. BB How It Works, p.63
We found it very desirable to take this spiritual step with an understanding person, such as our wife, best friend, or spiritual adviser.
"I don’t think I have ever read anything that says you must have a sponsor to stay sober, but lots that suggests it’s a good idea. Mostly from the 12x12, see below."
You've given a lot of quotes without answering my question so I'll repeat it. Where does it say in our literature that we can't get sober unless we get a aponsor and a home group?
The late Chuck C. states in "A New Pair of Glasses" that he never had a sponsor. He died with 38 years sobriety. I have a number of friends with 20+ years who have never had a sponsor. I was on active duty in the Navy when I got sober and in my first two years the longest time I spent in one place was ten months aboard ship in the Pacific. I wasn't any place long enough to get a sponsor or home group. In fact, for a good part of those two years I wasn't any place that had a home group. Last July I had my 42nd AA birthday.
That does not mean I'm anti-sponsorship. I believe sponsorship is important for both the sponsor and the pigeon, but I don't think any alcoholic has the right to tell another alcoholic he must or must not do something. To quote "A New Pair of Glasses" again, "In AA we share, we don't tell."
Now back to your first sentence, two things jumped out at me. First, you haven't been avble to find the answer to my question, either. And second, if the 'suggestions' concerning sponsorship are so important, why don't we put the same importance on the 'suggested' twelve steps?
The 20 quotes from the 12x12 are where sponsorship is discussed. I thought you might like to read up on what your missing if you don’t have a sponsor. You probably won’t find anything that says you must find a sponsor, just lots of how good it is to have one. That is the answer to your question, no requirement, just suggestions.
I don’t know for sure about chuck c having a sponsor, but I have heard speakers who he sponsored that were glad he sponsored them, just listen to Johnny H. After listening to tapes of chuck and johnny, I would have to say chuck did a lot of telling. You can get an earful at xaspeakers.com. they have the talk chuck c did that they wrote “a new pair of glasses” from.
I think being sober in AA is a combination of experiences. Few stay sober for long without working the steps, however some do. Few stay sober without going to a regular home group meeting, however some do. Few stay sober without a sponsor to lead the way, however some do. Many stay sober by working the steps, home group membership, and sponsorship. You may be able to get by with 2 out of 3. My life is important to me, that’s why I’m using all three. Steps, home group, and sponsorship.
You still haven't addressed my question so I'll try again:
Where in our AA literature does it say we cannot get sober without a sponsor and a home group? To put it another way, Where does the AA literature tell us we MUST have a sponsor?
More to my point, where are we told (In AA literature) that we need a sponsor to explain the Big Book to us? That we must let a sponsor make all our decisions for us? Or that each and every alcoholic who comes through the doors of AA is too stupid or brain damaged to get sober without a sponsor?
nothing says you must get a sponsor. there are 103 "must" in the big book, but nothing about a sponsor. Sounds like you have had or know somebody that had a dominating sponsor. my sponsor simply took me through the steps in the big book. he said the book would protect me from him and that If i couldn't reconcile what he said with AA liturature to disregard.
the grapevine has a nice booklet of stories on sponsorship along with AA's pamphlet questions and answers on sponsorship.
As far as being too brain damaged or stupid to get sober without a sponsor, for myself, yes. If I knew how to be sober and happy on my own, I wouldn't need AA. I could share my opinion on experiences I have never had. too me sponsorship is mutual. we share our 5th steps with each other, attend the same homegroup, go to roundups, even fish and workout together.
the person who really benefits from the relationship is the sponsor. nothing gets you current better than a sponsee who is ambitious about the program.
speaking of Chuck C, Saturday a sponsee and I drove 50 miles to hear clancy i, one of chuck c sponsees. we had a good time, enjoyed some fellowship, ate great pizza in a place that happened to also be a bar and drove 50 miles home. we have both recovered and where spiritually fit so we can go anywhere and do anything as long as we are spiritually fit.
when I think of the relationship ive had with my sponsor over the years, I feel sorry for you. there is one person on this planet that knows everything about me, and he still loves me. you sound like you could use a little unconditional love.
If someone gives you an unqualified answer that you want to hear, exactly what are going to do with that precious information?
I don't think you are confused at all. I think you know as well as anyone that a single member of AA is capable of saying absolutely anything. We see examples here frequently. Have a great day.
To stay sober you would need a fixed sobriety date. None
of these are in any way requirements for A.A membership The only requirement... I personally have
never had a sponsor. by today's AA standard. I have had numerous home groups. I have
held the same sobriety date since 08 Feb 1970.
All of my Big Books read the same, except for the
stories. I firmly believe that we ought to have stayed
with the Third Edition.
Bill wrote in AACA that where to place How It Works
in the book "worried the life out of me". He decided
to place it exactly where he placed it. IMO, that is where
it belongs. This chapter contains the truth, but must
be offered to other alcoholic sufferers with an equal
amount of Grace. There has to be a balance, to make the
message palliative to those approaching us.
We offer the solution in a suggestive manner.
A suggestion is different from a request or a demand,
Bill wrote plainly that "our Book is meant to be
suggestive only. We realize that we only know a little".
Too many A.A. members are satisfied with "a little".
There are thirty more years of experience and knowledge
available. Bill did not end it in 1939.
Thanks for not being an AA dropout. So many have
just walked away. I decided to stay. Bob H. Seymour, Ct.
There’s a myth in the rooms that suffering makes us deep and it predisposes us to be more spiritual and to say big things. Somehow it builds character and is leads us to think we are more celestial than religious people because we have been there in the fire. It's not that way in real life. Suffering can make us shallow, arrogant, greedy and opaque. Spiritual posturing is not the same thing as actually being spiritual. Of course it’s easy to pose than to do the actual work. After several years in AA, I decided to return to the Catholic Church and attend mass regularly as a counterpart to my recovery. To think that religious people are not spiritual and that they are less than are just ridiculous viewpoints. It’s difficult to sit through AA meetings when insults and jokes are thrown at organized religion. Take for instance this common assertion; “Religion is for people trying to stay out of hell and spirituality is for people who have been there” People continually pass on that pompous expression without questioning the validity of it. Just look around the world and tell me religious people have not suffered or have been in hell. Suffering is not a requirement for spirituality and there is no hierarchical system of spiritual organization. Whether a person is religious, atheist or in between, spirituality transcends “pecking orders” and resides in everyone equally waiting to be awakened if needed. Are there other members who feel uncomfortable with religion bashing during meetings? I am indebted to AA mightily because it provided me the time and space to rediscover a faith as I eventually segued from AA to the church. I also discovered that not all AA members find a need to disrespect religion because they have the intelligence to understand that AA borrowed ideas from various religious systems. Thanks AA
While I consider myself a militant agnostic, I agree with you that there is a lot of intolerance in AA - against those who have a faith that includes an organized religion or religious denomination, as well as folks like me. The "principles before personalities" idea applies equally to organized religions, where it is too common to equate the messenger with the message. I bristle when people insist that the Big Book was divinely inspired. It was in the sense that all writings are (including "The Communist Manifesto" and "A Study in Communism," to take two extremes), but is of course of human construction and therefore limited by its author's experiences and prejudices. Bill humbly noted "we know only a little - more will be revealed." I have come to respect those who have returned to the faith of their youth as you have, which most spiritual leaders recommend over a smorgasbord approach, which I fall victim to. In the end, we all need an open mind about all things, except of course about the propriety of having a drink.
I've only been in AA for awhile but I've noticed a lot of people getting upset (resentments) about people expressing there OWN opinions. Just because someone says something doesn't make it wrong or right. Getting upset and judging someone for making a judgement is like the old saying two wrongs don't make a right. I just try to be confident in my own beliefs I don't feel like I have to defend my religion. I just pray for them and love them that way I don't end up with resentments because we all no where that will lead me.
I understand where you are coming from. It’s common to hear negative remarks towards agnostics, atheists and organized religion. This issue is should not be taken lightly and it is more severe than just someone expressing an opinion, especially when the majority of the group laughs. It hurts AA as a whole and makes us look bad. The Preamble states we share our experience, strength and hope. There is nothing that states “We share our opinions.” Opinions about outside issues have no place in the rooms and should not be tolerated because then the natural progression would lead to which opinions are acceptable and which are not acceptable and who would be in charge of this judgment. Criticizing religion, politics, race, gender or culture harms AA and makes us look like that annoying drunk at the other end of the bar that just won’t shut up. We do not want to give the wrong impression to the person who just walked through the door. I am certainly welcome to share what helps me get sober but, when I start joking about the way you get sober and making comments about your God or political party then there is going to be a problem. We shouldn’t be naïve about this but, instead be more responsible and sensitive when sharing around the table or from the podium.
But you hit the nail on the head. It's the laughing that's the problem it's a form of cross talk that encourages the person sharing. Cross talk needs to stop the negative and also the positive kind. The nodding of the head,the ya ya ya's the laughing just feeds into the person sharings EGO or miss directed opinions.There is a lot of sick people that's why there hear hopefully trying to get better. As far as criticizing a race or religion I would talk to the person after the meeting and voice my opinion on the matter. Or I would at the next meeting bring up the topic intolerance and voice my OWN OPINION. Which is love not hate.
What is an opinion? I believe that the effectiveness of
Alcoholics Anonymous, in helping others to recover, has
diminished severely over the past two decades. If my
belief is supported by membership numbers developed by
our trusted servants, is it really just my opinion?
IMO, our failing is due to blunders we have made over
the past three decades. I saw, heard and participated in
most of those mistakes. I fought to keep the 24 hr. book
as part of the format. I loved that book and still do.
But today I understand why it was rejected and must be
removed from our AA rooms. Is that just my opinion or
does the fact that this book has been rejected by two
of our General Service Conferences make this more than
just an opinion.
I have come to appreciate "sharing sessions" where
each member has five minutes to voice an "opinion",
without fear of being judged or upsetting anyone.
In the A.A. meeting (official meeting) I try to share
from my own experience and of course strength and hope.
I believe that any discussion which may upset or offend
a newcomer ought to be avoided. ANONYMOUS
I was raised in a family that was strict atheist. It was driven in to me that people that believed in religion were brain washed and that the only will you needed was your own. For years my will run riot I tried to be god, I tried to control everyone and everything and when things didn't go my way I got upset. I thought I should be perfect and no one could live up to that standard. I think that might have been part of the reason I drank because I could never be happy it's exhausting trying to be god. I always new there was something missing and in AA I finally found it with my upbringing I was able to choose a higher power of my OWN and to change the things I can and give the rest to my higher power. Now I try to do his will not my own and I realize there is only ONE who is perfect and it sure isn't me. I've finally found piece of mind and serenity. Now I can only hope to carry the message of AA and to let people choose.
THAT is very true, when I found the long term answer to a long term disease I was one that tried to live sober without believing in a power greater then me (GOD as I understand him today)and the beauty of the fellowship was, nobody told me 1 had to believe what they believed, but to find something that I believed! Today by the (GRACE OF GOD AS I UNDERSTAND HIM STEP 3), inspite of having many health issues that make it hard to go to meetings, or even speak in meetings, my desire to not drink has remained strong, as well as not drinking for today! I am one them old timers that even though I am not as active now I am grateful! To quote a phrase from a good friend;" I am not what I could be, not what I should be but I'm not what I used to be!
Hi, is there an agnostic or atheist pamphlet for the newcomer? My group doesn’t have one and many newcomers have asked. I’ve recommended The Agnostic Chapter but, they seem to believe it’s not helpful. Some have communicated to me that they are offended and it reads more like a conversion story. Some think AA = God. I’ve ensured them this is not true and our doors are open to anyone who has a desire to stop drinking. We do not force god, religion or spirituality on anyone and to us AA = Sobriety. I can only do so much but, it’s still confusing to the newcomer. It would be extremely helpful to them if we actually had a pamphlet stating it’s quite alright to remain agnostic or atheist in AA if they chose to do so. My experience is limited to prayer and footwork so that’s all I can share with them. At least some of them get the footwork part. The others’ seem combatant for now and I wonder if they are this way naturally or it is because we are setting them up to fail with a lack of clarification, which would be in conflict with our Preamble and the Responsibility Statement. Any thoughts?
Jim B. was the early atheist in AA who was responsible for the qualifying language "as we understand god." In approximately 1969, the Grapevine published his story commemorating his 30 years of sobriety without belief in god. I found it helpful. I was also introduced a book by Laura S outlining a Buddhist approach to the steps. There are a couple of other in print as well. Most recently, a secular guide to recovery was made available through the AA Agnostica website, where I downloaded it to my Kindle. I highly recommend it for the god fearing as well as the godless.
Bill W's later writings show a lot more tolerance and maturity on spiritual matters than did his effort in the chapter "We Agnostics."
I’m not so sure Jim B was sober 30 years with no belief in God. Please read some excerpts from his story, “the vicious cycle” in the big book.
“My brilliant agnosticism vanished, and I saw for the first time that those who really believed, or at least honestly tried to find a Power greater than themselves, were much more composed and contented than I had ever been, and they seemed to have a degree of happiness which I had never known.”
“Around this time our big A.A. book was being written and it all became much simpler; we had a
definite formula which some sixty of us agreed was the middle course for all alcoholics who wanted
sobriety, and that formula has not been changed one iota down through the years.”
“When I started to tell the boys how we did it in New York and all about the spiritual part of the program, I found they would not believe me unless I was practicing what I preached. Then I found that as I gave in to this spiritual or personality change I was getting a little more serenity.”
“And I still say that as long as I remember that January 8th in Washington, that is how long, by the grace of God as I understand Him, I will retain a happy sobriety.”
You can read more about Jim B in the 12x12 on pages 143-145. He is Ed in the 12x12. I have heard Jim B speak and have read about him in the big book and 12x12. After gathering all the information I would say Jim was against theology throughout his sobriety, not agnostic. How could he stay agnostic while his brilliant agnosticism vanished, giving in to the spiritual side of the program, working the program as written in the big book, practicing what he preached, and stating by the grace of God? Do agnostics say “By the grace of God as I understand Him”? No, they do not.
The founding Jim B that I am familiar with lobbied for the words "as we understood him". He resisted the God business until he tried to start a new group in Philadelphia, early on. "When I started to tell the boys ...about the spiritual part of the program, I found that they would not believe me if unless I was practicing what I preached. Then when I found that as I gave in to spiritual or personality change, I was getting a little more serenity."
He closes his story crediting "God as I understand him" for maintaining a happy sobriety.
That doesn't sound like an atheist to me.
A person doesn't need to chase down a forty some year old Grapevine to find Jim's story. It's entitled the Vicious Cycle in the Big Book.
Mr 1969 Grapevine, looks like you got tripped up again. Have you heard the suggestion "When you are trapped in a hole, first stop digging"?
Sounds like you are doing all you can.
Other than the Chapter to the Agnostic, I do not know of anything in AA literature that specifically addresses this issue. In my experience, the message in the BB and from members has always been pretty clear regarding god and HP. I learned that I was free to choose my own concept; and I did. No one in AA, including sponsors, has ever questioned my concept of a HP or tried to convince me I should believe differently. Nor have I done so to others.
Atheists and agnostics in our area started a group named "Atheists, Agnostics and All Others". The group is going strong and group members have been very active in service. You might search your local meeting schedule to see if such a group is available in your area.
You could suggest to the agnostic newcomers that they get a copy of the AA conference approved book Living Sober and use it. It's chock full of AA experience on how to live sober, without the emphasis on coming to believe in God that is in the Big Book. You could be up-front and honest that the 12 Steps and the Big Book do show a path to God. The Chapter to the Agnostic does try to convince the agnostic to believe in God. I am not surprised that they were offended when you directed them to that chapter, especially when they were seeking reassurance that they would not have to convert to a belief in God. Agnostics have always been welcome in AA, but please acknowledge to the agnostics that the 12 Step program is a God based program. If or when they are ready, the 12 Steps and the Big Book will be there for them. They can certainly work Step One and use the Living Sober book until they are ready to work the rest of the Steps. But they can take what they want and leave the rest until that day.
I Have heard from AA & Big Book Historians that the Atheist & God talk isn't new and has been around since the writing of the Big Book and to please, quiet the Atheist crowd the We Agnostics chapter was put in the Big Book.
I think reading page 47 and the line "Choose your own conception of God/HP/Mother Nature or the AA group"
To me this is the beauty of the AA program, had AA been a Go to this church or adopt this belief I am not sure I would have made it.
I just Googled AA atheists and there are lists of meetings for just that belief.
Isn't it ironic that a belief that there is No God is in itself a belief in something?
Perfectly understandable. They just want something called Alcoholics Anonymous to solve their alcohol problem but want the specifications rewritten to something completely different than what has been found to work.
There is no conflict. Simply tell them, if you have a desire to stop drinking, come in, sit down, drink coffee, put a dollar in the basket if you can afford it. Listen, share, read, whatever the format is for the meeting. If you don’t want to believe in God, don’t. If you don’t want to pray, don’t. Although I have never seen anyone need to do it in over thirty years, if someone tells you have to leave, point to tradition three and tell them you are a member and aren’t leaving. If they want to believe in something you don’t, extend the same courtesy to them that they have to you. If you feel uncomfortable with their beliefs and prayers, put on a pair of big boy pants and get over it. No one guaranteed me that I could change virtually everything in my life and be comfortable doing it.
If there is a pamphlet such as you describe it will be in the literature catalog at AA.org. If there isn’t, feel free to write one for them and post it here. I’d like to see what’s in it.
I believe that it is a conversion story. If we allow each
newcomer to choose without any pushing or prodding, many, if
not most, will become "converts". We prod and push new members out of our rooms by the demands we make of them.
It may take six months to achieve the spiritual awakening, which Bill W. experienced in his hospital bed.
The "quality" of the awakening doesn't appear to be
Telling a newcomer who may be truly agnostic or atheist,
they have to find God and find Him NOW, would be offensive,
especially when we have just read the preamble stating that
we are not allied with any sect. I know it reads: May you
find Him now. It sounds like a demand to me.
About four years ago an article "Without a Higher Power"
appeared in the AA Grapevine. With a little effort you
can find it. I believe you will find it helpful. ANONYMOUS