Burning Desire to Share
Anonymous writes, “Bill W. was not "working" when he had that spiritual
awakening. He was quitting, surrendering, giving up. He
did not earn sobriety. “
I understand your not trying to be argumentative, but you are. So for fun, I’ll join in. Bill was absolutely “working”. This is a classic case of spreading the disease instead of the message. Bill’s story in the big book describes exactly how he worked what is now AA’s 12 steps although they were not written when he took them. Ebby showed Bill how to take them. Pages 13 and 14 of Bill’s story in the big book describe Bill working steps 3-11. Steps 1 and 2 are prior to page 13 in Bill’s story. “Then” Bill had a spiritual experience. That is precisely why AA has 12 steps. You work the steps, you get a spiritual experience that will expel your compulsion to drink and make you usefully and happily whole. Then to keep his spiritual experience, he had to give it away. That is spelled out in pages 15 and 16.
The big book chapter discreetly titled “How it Works” just happens to have the 12 steps in it. I don’t think the chapter has an ambiguous title. I think it means what it says. Even Dr. Bob said the steps are simple in meaning and will always work if you put half as much zeal in to the program as you did into getting another drink. The method to sobriety is not in a couple paragraphs in Language of the Heart. The Method to sobriety in AA is clearly spelled out in the first 164 pages if the book “ Alcoholics Anonymous”. That book by the way was intended to prevent the simple message of AA from being garbled over time. I see much garbling in the constant posts of our message being in language of the heart. Bill’s messages are in language of the heart. The AA message is in the Big book, written by Bill W and proofed by Dr Bob, the Akron and New York drunks. Anything in that book had to go through everybody. That way no bleeding deacon could force us all to believe a lie.
"Ebby showed Bill how to take them". Bill said that Ebby
did no preaching. Ebby did not instruct Bill on how to take
the twelve steps. Ebby only told Bill what had been his
experience. Ebby laid the tools at Bill's feet. He did not
try to cram the steps down Bill's throat. That is where
we have gone wrong. We have made the steps mandatory,
instead of offering them as suggestions.
"proofed by Dr. Bob, etc.". Bill wrote the Big Book,
he was the author. The chapters were sent to Dr. Bob and
the others for approval. But one great exception was the
objections from the agnostics and atheists. "As we understand Him" was added, and the Big Book and the steps
were to be offered to prospects as suggestive. ANONYMOUS
Thanks for trying to “save” AA. We all want the best for AA. I have a hard time believing the “true” method is on page 70 of Language of the heart. A paragraph or two in a book of Bill W’s grapevine articles? I’m just not stupid enough to think that Bill would write a chapter in the big book titled “HOW IT WORKS” then hide how it really works in a grapevine article. You are right about the humility, only an ego maniac would try to “save “ AA.
We really have to pay attention to detail. Bill did hide
"How It Works" in chapter five of the big book, trusting
that the alcoholic reader would find that information (truth) at the appropriate time. This timed revelation is
important. Bill explains it in AACA (Alcoholics Anonymous
Comes Of Age).
On page 70 in LOTH (Language of The Heart) Bill explains
the importance of the traditions, mainly how important
Humility is for us. It is page 70 in AACA (ALCOHOLICS
ANONYMOUS COMES OF AGE) Bill tells us how the message
was carried to Dr. Bob. We need to read and study those
books if AA is to survive. It will be very difficult to
"save AA" as long as the membership believes that AA
is alive and well. The numbers show otherwise. ANONYMOUS
if the 12 steps don't work, we've been wasting slot of ink. and air. we better let the 200 12 step groups
the most important part of my post is lost in cyberspace! anyway, i think we have "getting " sober confused with "staying " sober. many of us have had moments of clarity, then cried out for help only to have our ego creep back in and start drinking.
the AA program of recovery as stated in the 12 steps are what expells the compulsion to drink or if you prefer is how we stay sober. after we quit drinking. jails, detoxes, and treatment centers are there to help us initially get sober. AA meetings and steps are how we stay sober.
So Bill W didn't work to save himself but two million AA members, if they work at it, can save two million drunks per year. If I did the math right we would run out of drunks to twelfth step in the US in four to five years
Bill Wilson's spiritual awakening was during a "treatment" with belladonna, an extremely powerful hallucinogenic.
Are you insinuating that Bill's spiritual experience was the
result of being treated with belladonna. I don't know what
that drug is, but I do know that Bill wrote that he had been
cleared of most medicines when the miracle occurred. Bill is
the author; I take his word for it. I also know that the same gift was given to me and the only drug I had ever used
was alcohol and I had been free of that for two months when
my miracle occurred. My conviction is my own.
Bill's sobriety was a gift from God. Bill was finally
humbled enough to ask God for help. Bill asked for help
and the help was given to him. It was not any human power.
Following his spiritual experience Bill called his Doctor
to his bedside,
asking if he was insane. The Doctor examined Bill and
assured him he was not insane.
Bill W. had a spiritual experience. It is a wonderful
gift. Alcoholics Anonymous was and is built on that belief.
Why would anyone question that? If they are not alcoholic
it ought not be of any concern to them. Alcoholics Anonymous is for those who want and need it. It was there
when I so desperately needed help to stay sober.
No, Bill did not have the power to save himself. As an
alcoholic, I did not have the power to save myself.
Dr. Silkworth offered Bill a method of helping other
alcoholics to recover. This has nothing to do with
preaching the twelve steps. Dr. Silkworth's advice
had more to do with NOT preaching the twelve steps.
We have over a million sober AA members. We are supposed
to help ourselves stay sober and help other alcoholics to
recover. We are staying sober but have very little success
in helping others. True, we gained about 5,000 new members
last year. But we are still below the number of members
of twenty years ago. We can deny the numbers provided by
our trusted servants at GSO. Or we can look for our mistakes and try to correct them. Our mistakes (Bill called
them blunders) are posted all over the I-SAY What's on
your Mind Forum. I just hope those AA members who are
concerned will not give in and just walk away.
Future generations are depending on us. ANONYMOUS
I'm one of the 5000 new members that joined last year. I can unequivocally state that I had a spiritual awakening during step five. It didn't come as a thunderclap or a voice. It was a more subtle sign that God sent me to let me know he was there for me. I cried when it happened. It was a cry for joy. I wanted to shout it from the roof tops. I wanted to rush out and tell everyone the great gift I had received. The only people I've told were my fellow alcoholics. I share it sometimes in meetings. I know now how Bill must have felt and why he and others wrote the book. God inspired them. I thank God every day for his grace and have learned a great deal about myself with my character defects and shortcomings. Now that I know without a doubt that he is there, I can do no less than to help others. He guides my days and gives me peace of mind.
captdeep6 You had the spiritual experience Bill W.
writes about. I believe that by sharing that event with
others, our own belief is strengthened. Bill's grandfather
had the religious conversion eight years before his death.
He must have told his grandson, Bill, about it. After Bill
had his saving experience, he found a way of carrying
the message to other alcoholics, by sharing exactly what
Your experience came during step five. Mine came as the
result of steps one, two and three. Bill's came when he
cried out to God for help. Read the version on page 2
in "As Bill Sees It". Bill tells us exactly what happened.
Every alcoholics finds God in his own way. Finding God
is really not required to be an AA member. I do believe
that peace of mind IS required for lasting sobriety.
Nerf? How about a link so we can see for ourselves what you're talking about?
North East Regional Forum. The US and Canada consists of
eight regions. Each Region has a Forum every two years.
Something like that. Rose
When I came into Alcoholics Anonymous four decades ago the rooms were filled with smoke. Although
I did not like the smoke I stayed. The smoke I tolerated and when I got home I could leave my
outer clothes in the garage. Today's meetings are filled with pride and EGO. It is more
nauseating than the smoke ever was. And harder to wash off, even if I try. We just do not
smell our own stench. ANONYMOUS
I recently came back to A.A after 12 years of "sobriety" without much AA at all..many of us know how that goes..so here I am back again, just as my dear father told me I would be. Five months and I couldn't find even a temporary sponcer, or anyone to help me get to meetings once I moved ten miles away and the meetings run as the last buses do...so, as I say I came back again, it has been almost 3 months since I have been going daily. Actually 3 times daily...getting to the point; years ago these things I have mentioned among others; like having people chair the meetings with 6 moths clean time, etc.. I also completely see what the person above had to say. Tons of pride and ego, which as far as I knew was very much NOT the AA way, am I wrong? Thank you anonymous for pointing out just a few of the differences nowadays..
Maybe the higher power idea doesn't fit, no problem. Consider this, with each drinking/drugging event, our mind runs a new trail or trace like with any memory. Many many of our memories of substance abuse are not bad, in fact, were good. Sadly, at this end of our substance abuse career, the bad events are too costly to continue even if there are many more good events.
Think of the total collection of memory trails as a ball of yarn. The good events were far more in the total life span, so our own brain or mind wants to continue the journey. Remember brains like to relive good events and suppress bad ones. Therefore, with substance abuse, addiction, whatever you want to call this thing, you will never be able to trust your brain for long term recovery.
The power greater than one's self is the trust in the experience, strength and hope of OTHER's, outside or greater than one's self. That can be GOD or a Group Of Drunks. I am the only one that can talk me into a relapse and that is SELF. Respectfully submitted Mike from Va.
I'm two months sober... and I have a 7 year old girl. Today I took her bike riding. It hit me (finally) that I haven't been there for her. She struggled today.... but was learning. How could she know how to ride if her mom chose drinking over teaching her to ride? I hate this disease. But, today I am happy for my little girl. I'm so happy that she is getting the opportunity to have fun with the mom that I'm meant to be. I'm happy to not drink today. Thanks for listening.
Sometimes I look at my boys and feel the same. Did I not teach them alot of things I should have, I was to busy fulfilling my own needs. Even simple things, like hand tools. Can't look back too much, look forward, teach now.
Linda- Just wanted to say that that was a very nice little story. Always remember that story of yours if your tempted to pick up. I, too, though I have a 19 & 17 yr old , feel so blessed to be there for them and not my wine. Have a great day. :)
Thanks Linda for sharing..enjoy that moment and i'm sure the many others that are coming..and remember it!!..money cannot buy that experience!!...keep enjoying
Sounds like you have been reminded of a very good reason to say sober. If you choose a good method to accomplish that, it will be given to you.
I couldn't outlast it, I couldn't out smart it, I couldn't overpower it. A Higher Power, accessed through the use of AA's twelve steps simply discarded alcohol's control over me completely, permanently. You and your daughter deserve the same.
I am a grateful alcoholic and want to say you have many wonderful opportunities ahead of you. My disease gave me opportunity, without the HOW I wouldn't be where I am today. Every obstacle that I've faced so far I have overcome, just like your girl learning to ride a bike. With that said you helped her with her challenge, the same goes for the program. We are not alone, and that's what sponsors are for. Today's quote says, "No one at the gym, at work, in my neighbourhood, or even in church had ever hand out to me. In AA it happened every day."
I look forward to my Grapevine every month. I was given Living Sober by an old co-worker and it is a life saver and precious to me. I am so glad to be part of AA and I'm not a joiner of anything. It is the best organization out there. I read Bill W and it was wonderful. I wish and pray that one day my husband will join me in sobriety.
Thank you for being here for me.
"What we really have is a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition." Big Book, p. 85
Discussions lately about "god/no god," religion and spirituality seem to have stagnated after the plethora of quotes from AA-approved sources. Oh that it were that simple that we could quote a bunch of AA-approved stuff and have the matter settled. Nothing that involves humans, however, is that simple. As all of those quotes point out, there is not one spiritual path. There is no one path to spiritual wholeness. There are as many as there have been human beings on the face of the earth. So, I have a question, based on the quote above AND on all of the AA-approved quotes that are not from the Big Book.
What does the phrase "maintenance of our spiritual condition" mean to you? What is your spiritual condition right now? How do you maintain it so that you receive the daily reprieve that is promised? Where did you find that power greater than yourself?
1. What does the phrase "maintenance of our spiritual condition" mean to you?
“Maintenance of our spiritual condition” to me means work the whole program, daily. A slip is a slip, starts in the head and goes into our actions. Reread p. 86-88; Prayers: Serenity, 3rd, 7th, 11th step in BB, St. Francis, AA daily meditation, Grapevine online meditations all strengthen me to and fill be with courage to be responsible and willing to do the next right thing, now.
2. What is your spiritual condition right now? Today it is strong as I have done my morning prayer/meditation.
3. How do you maintain it so that you receive the daily reprieve that is promised? Work, work, work, call sponsor, work with sponsees/others, service work at club. Spend quality leisure time in responsible ways. Get plenty of sleep, eat right, take care of yourself physically, mentally and emotionally. Relax and Enjoy life.
4. Where did you find that power greater than yourself? When I had exhausted all my efforts to live a happy life and was still miserable (suicidal), I dared God; if he could direct my life better than I was doing, go for it. I give up and want to see how to live better. I was ready to learn how to follow His way, at least check it out.
Now, God has given me all the things I could not get on my own: a husband/happy marriage, restored family relationships, forgiveness even when I could not forgive myself, Healings from the bitter scars of my childhood, consequences of my bad choices and a failed marriage. God filled me with peace, joy, trust, hope and especially freedom to be me and acceptance of and like myself as I am.
Is there a God? My life reflects the Good Orderly Direction I found when I followed the inspiration obtained in meditation, reading BB and other good books, and in a great measure, your sharings in meetings.
THANK YOU FOR MY LIFE OF DISCOVERY! Being “restored to sanity” would be hard to imagine as I believe my life was dysfunctional from day one.
The spiritual condition is one of those vague but oh so real concepts that are at the heart of sobriety.
I was riding my mountain bike up a canyon in Idaho last week on a perfect fall day and stopped for a sip of water. The last warm rays of summer sun warmed me as a breeze rustled the cottonwood leaves that were a mix of fading greens and bright yellows. Suddenly, I felt my spirit soar as I remembered a poem Hemingway had written for a departed friend.
"Best of all he loved the fall
The leaves yellow on the cottonwoods
Leaves floating on the trout streams
And above the hills
The high blue windless skies
Now he will be a part of them forever”
It wasn't until I got to AA that I fully realized that I had a spirit, that it had a "condition" and that I was responsible for maintaining it. There are things I can do, or not do, that affect my spiritual condition. Over the years, the list has become quite long.
I am comfortable today with "God as I DON'T understand God". Because truly, the more I learn, the less I understand. But, as it says in the BB, "God could and would if He were sought". My daily reprieve is in the seeking; wherever that may lead me.
Great post and questions. I'm sure that my wife and ten other alcoholics that I love and respect will all have different answers. Here's mine.
I had spent half a lifetime working my way down the food chain, crashing cars, honing my character defects and winning vomiting contests. Somehow that didn’t turn out to be an effective apprenticeship to develop a keen awareness of God’s will for me and knowledge of how to carry that out. Fortunately for me, Alcoholics Anonymous spelled it out for me. “Next we launched out on a course of vigorous action, the first step of which is a personal housecleaning… (Step 4).
Almost every member of AA I’ve had any experience with misses the idea that Step Three says “made a decision…” Three birds are setting on a branch and one decides to fly south. How many are left? Three. Nothing was said of his flying, just making a decision. He may still be setting there frozen solid when spring comes.
So, what is God’s will for me? Spend all of my waking hours visiting jails and institutions carrying AA’s message? Raise a million dollars for the poor? Running for political office to get God’s will made into the law of the land? Wage a holy war against the infidels, or gays or gay-haters? Throughout the ages people have ABSOLUTELY KNOWN that one of these (or the opposite of these) or just about anything that pops into their head is God’s will. According to the last sentence on page 63 of our instruction book, God’s will is for me to do step four followed by five through twelve. Enjoy the fruits of creation as much as I can while treating others as I would like to be treated.
Where did I find a higher power?
The Big Book.
The 12 and 12.
A common college text "Religions of the World" Houston Smith.
A new age book "Conversations With God" Neale Donald Walsh
Wikipedia entries for a number of Christian happenings including the Council of Nicaea, Salem Witch Trials,
Cotton Mather and simple observation of modern religion. I have concluded that people in the religion business simply make it up.
Observing nature* and using God given reasoning.
*Not just trees in the woods nature but the entirety of natural conditions - physics, chemistry, biology, astronomy.
The result is that I am happy to live, not afraid to die, completely free of any compulsion to drink. I pray only for improvement in me and receive it.
Thanks for asking.
I've always believed in the existence of God but struggled very much in having a relationship with whatever It is. Right now we're on the outs.
No problem here. If God is so big, he/she can handle us giving him/her all our issues.
My anger and rage were too big for me causing me much pain. I nearly murdered my son but blacked out. Was that blackout a gift or not? I could have been imprisoned the last 20 years instead of in AA getting my act together with the help of the AA tools: BB, 12x12, sponsors, slogans, meetings, members sharings, daily meditations, Grapevine, and you my dearest chosen family for your love and support.
You have all shown me that it works if I work it. Daily, I now give God everything and in my best efforts, try to listen and learn, following Bill, Dr. Bob, all the old-timers and do the next right thing NOW. How it works: HOW Honesty, Openness, Willingness! That is everything for me. Still have a daily reprieve and am completely grateful for that and for the ability to live today Happy, Joyous and Free!
When I took inventory of my own shortcomings, those (real or imagined) of others became insignicant.
There is something wrong with people who claim to bigger than God, or their own god, that let mere words spoken by those they consider inferiors send them scurrying. We see others represented here that don’t believe in God and don’t have any problem with those who do. I was a member of the first group for as long as I could hold out against alcoholism’s progression. Members continued to point out the steps for recovery that they had used but no one applied much pressure and I have never seen it done. Then I finally had to face the fact that I was lying. I wasn’t an atheist or agnostic. I believed in God and was scared to death of him. I was finally ready for step two. I came to believe in a much different God than the charlatans of the religion I had known about had sold me. I found the one that does not make too hard terms with those who seek Him. The remaining steps followed until I joined those one hundred men and women who had recovered and wrote the book on it.
In case you haven’t noticed, you are preaching against preaching.
God in AA! Are you kidding me? For fun, I looked on www.164andmore how many times God is in the first 164 of the big book and 12x12, AA’s primary texts. God 298, higher power 23, spiritual 176, spiritually 8, spirituality 7, religion 55, and religious 22. If I added right, that’s only 589 times.
Complaining about God or spirituality in AA is like going to a baseball game and complaining about balls, bats, athletes running bases, hot dogs, peanuts, and cracker jacks!
Seriously, anyone who really wants clarification, do what AA’s have been doing since 1939, look in the big book for a consensus of what the group conscience of AA believes . I think page 19 the 3rd and 4th paragraph and page 46, 2nd paragraph through the 1st and 2nd paragraphs on page 47 has been putting this issue of God in AA to rest for the past 74 years.
In AA, it’s God as we understand Him, whatever that may be for each member. That’s the way it is in AA whether I agree or not.
Good luck to you and God bless you,
Corey. Count how many words there are in the Big Book. There are thousands. Count how many times the words God and Spirituality are mentioned. Then compare the two figures.
In 1986 the principle concern of USA/Canada General Service Conference was that due to the loss of copyright protection of the first and second editions of the Big Book. “…others others might publish modified or distorted versions of the A.A. recovery program.” Box 4-5-9 June July 1986, p.1 ‘36th Conference Looks Ahead’ http://aa.org/lang/en/en_pdfs/en_box459_june-july86.pdf)
Since then a plethora of distortions of the AA program have been published in books and on the internet.
In 1977 AA World Services published its position on the publishing of Big Book Study guides and other explanatory texts. The following are extracts:“..Increasing numbers of requests come to A.A. World Services for permission to reprint the Twelve Steps and other parts of the Big Book in "study guides" and other interpretive material. Some come from treatment centers that try to give instruction in the A.A. program to their patients… …that permission should not be granted to outside publishers or other parties to reprint A.A. literature for the purpose of study guides or interpretive or explanatory texts. If such interpretive or study guides are to be prepared, they should be published by A.A. World Services, Inc.”(Box 4-5-9 August/September 1977, pp. 1, 6, ’Big Book Study Guides? A.A.W.S. Arrives at a Position’ http://aa.org/lang/en/en_pdfs/en_box459_aug-sept77.pdf)
In 1986 Alcoholics Anonymous World Services Inc. began efforts to prevent the unauthorised use of the AA Circle and Triangle registered trademark.
In 1993, after AAWS was losing the battle to protect the Circle and Triangle against unauthorised and illegal misuse by around 170 outside entities including treatment centers, novelty manufacturers and publishers, it was decided by an ad-hoc conference committee to stop protecting the circle and triangle and to phase out its official use by AA World Services Inc. and AA Grapevine Inc. The decision was made after a large number of the fellowship supported the illegal misuse of the Circle and Triangle by novelty manufacturers manufacturing sobriety chips and medallions.
(Box 4-5-9 August-September 1993 pp. 5-6 ‘‘Letting Go' of the Circle and Triangle As A Legal Mark’ http://aa.org/lang/en/en_pdfs/en_box459_aug-sept93.pdf AA Grapevine December 1993, ‘Around AA Whatever Happened to the Circle and Triangle?’ http://da.aagrapevine.org/)
In 1986: USA/Canada General Service Conference gave this advisory action: “The spirit of the 1977 Conference action regarding group literature displays be reaffirmed, and recommended the suggestion that A.A. groups be encouraged to display or sell only literature published and distributed by the General Service Office, the A.A. Grapevine and other A.A. entities.” (AA Guidelines Literature Committees http://aa.org/lang/en/en_pdfs/mg-09_literaturecommittees.pdf)
In 2005 the Alcoholics Anonymous World Services Inc. and USA/Canada General Service Conference 1977 advisory actions were reaffirmed in Box 4-5-9. The following are extracts: “…Finally, Tradition Two tells me we have but one ultimate authority—a loving God as he expresses himself in our group conscience. It seems to me if we allow interpretations of the Big Book through study guides, we will also undermine our ultimate authority…. …that permission should not be granted to outside publishers or other parties to reprint A.A. literature for the purpose of study guides or interpretive or explanatory texts. If such interpretive or study guides are to be prepared, they should be published by A.A. World Services, Inc.”
The website you link to is a front for an outside publisher. It is not an AA website. Fun sometimes comes at the expense of society if it is not soberly tempered with responsibility. I hope one day you will become a responsible guardian of the fellowship and of AA Tradition. A good place to start is Concept XII, Warranty Five. (The AA Service Manual Combined with Twelve Concepts for World Service. pp 67-72. http://www.aa.org/pdf/products/en_bm-31.pdf
I don’t think the General Warranties of Conference have been withstanding against the pressures of corporate coercion for at least since 1986. AA may have lost more than we know. Authority for the AA program has slowly been switching from the ultimate authority in Tradition Two to distortions published by outside entities. Unless these General Warranties of Conference do begin to withstand the pressures of corporate coercion at group level in the near future, then the fellowship will continue to lose more of its identity and eventually disintegrate like the Washingtonian movement. A loving God in AA (as he may express himself in our group conscience that is) has put all the writing up on the wall. It has been there for some time. I’m sure some of us can see it a bit more clearly than others.
good information. Lets not forget that conference approval does not imply unapproval of other material. I learned that by tatle tailing to GSO. They aways reply with tradition 4.
7 or the 12 steps refer to God, higher power, or spiritual awakening. thats 58%.
“Newcomers are approaching AA at the rate of tens of thousands yearly. They represent almost every belief and attitude imaginable. We have atheists and agnostics. We have people of nearly every race, culture and religion. In AA we are supposed to be bound together in the kinship of a common suffering. Consequently, the full individual liberty to practice any creed or principle or therapy whatever should be a first consideration for us all. Let us not, therefore, pressure anyone with our individual or even our collective views. Let us instead accord each other the respect and love that is due to every human being as he tries to make his way toward the light. Let us always try to be inclusive rather than exclusive; let us remember that each alcoholic among us is a member of AA, so long as he or she so declares.”
(Responsibility Is Our Theme; The Language of the Heart p 333; AA Grapevine July 1965 http://da.aagrapevine.org/
Is there a point you want to make?
“He is asked to believe in a power greater than himself, or at least to keep an open mind on that subject while he goes on with the rest of the program. Any concept of the Higher Power is acceptable. A skeptic or agnostic may choose to think of his Inner Self, the miracle of growth, a tree, man’s wonderment at the physical universe, the structure of an atom, or mere mathematical infinity. Whatever form is visualized, the neophyte is taught that he must rely on it and, in his own way, to pray to the power for strength. He next makes a sort of moral inventory of himself with the private aid of another person. – one of his A.A. sponsors, a priest, a minister, a psychiatrist, or anyone else he fancies.”
(The Jack Alexander Article about AA, Saturday Evening Post, March 1st 1941, pp.19-20) http://www.aa.org/pdf/products/p-12_theJackAlexArticle.pdf
“All people having an alcohol problem who wish to get rid of it and make a happy adjustment to their lives, become A.A. members by simply associating with us. Nothing but sincerity is asked of anyone. In this atmosphere the orthodox, unorthodox, and the unbeliever mix happily and usefully together.”
- Bill W., (October 30, 1940;"Pass It On" p.173)
AA Grapevine July 1944
On Cultivating Tolerance by Dr. Bob
“During nine years in A.A. I have observed that those who follow the Alcoholics Anonymous program with the greatest earnestness and zeal, not only maintain sobriety, but often acquire finer characteristics and attitudes as well. One of these is tolerance. Tolerance expresses itself in a variety of ways: in kindness and consideration toward the man or woman who is just beginning the march along the spiritual path; in the understanding of those who perhaps have been less fortunate in educational advantages, and in sympathy toward those whose religious ideas may seem to be at great variance with our own. I am reminded in this connection of the picture of a hub with its radiating spokes. We all start at the outer circumference and approach our destination by one of many routes.
To say that one spoke is much better than all the other spokes is true only in the sense of its being best suited to you as an individual. Human nature is such that without some degree of tolerance, each one of us might be inclined to believe that we have found the best or perhaps the shortest spoke. Without some tolerance we might tend to become a bit smug or superior--which of course is not helpful to the person we are trying to help, and may be quite painful or obnoxious to others. No one of us wishes to do anything which might act as a deterrent to the advancement of another--and a patronizing attitude can readily slow up this process.
Tolerance furnishes, as a by-product, a greater freedom from the tendency to cling to preconceived ideas and stubbornly adhered-to opinions. In other words it often promotes an open-mindedness which is vastly important--in fact a prerequisite to the successful termination of any line of search, whether it be scientific or spiritual.
These, then, are a few of the reasons why an attempt to acquire tolerance should be made by each one of us.
Dr. Bob of Akron" http://da.aagrapevine.org/
“It is an historical fact that practically all groupings of men and women tend to become more dogmatic; their beliefs and practices harden and sometimes freeze. This is a natural and almost inevitable process. All people must, of course, rally to the call of their convictions, and we of AA are no exception. Moreover, all people should have the right to voice their convictions. This is good principle and good dogma. But dogma also has its liabilities. Simply because we have convictions that work well for us, it becomes very easy to assume that we have all the truth. Whenever this brand of arrogance develops, we are certain to become aggressive; we demand agreement with us; we play God. This isn't good dogma; it's very bad dogma. It could be especially destructive for us of AA to indulge in this sort of thing.”
- Bill W. (Responsibility Is Our Theme; The Language of the Heart p 333; AA Grapevine July 1965 http://da.aagrapevine.org/ )
“Nothing, however, could be so unfortunate for AA’s future as an attempt to incorporate any of our personal theological views into AA teaching, practice, or tradition. Were Dr. Bob still with us, I am positive he would agree that we could never be too emphatic about this matter.”
-Bill W. (Our Critics Can Be Our Benefactors; The Language of the Heart p. 346, AA Grapevine April 1963 http://da.aagrapevine.org/)
offline: I would like to encourage all AA members to read
this entire article. Bill wrote this article for the AA Grapevine in 1963. He repeats a warning he had first
written in the book AA COMES OF AGE page 232, 1957. Bill was always concerned about the future of our fellowship.
Bill's insight is beyond imagination. He could see that
Alcoholics Anonymous was becoming too much like a religion.
IMO, there were two main factors: The reading of "How
It Works" at meetings. And the acceptance of the 24 hour
book into AA rooms.
Looking again at the message at the bottom of page
232 AACA, it appears to have been added as a footnote.
I would assume that it was not written when AACA was
first printed, and was included in later years.
Someone, besides me, must have considered it important.
“THE phrase "God As We Understand Him" is perhaps the most important expression to be found in our whole AA vocabulary. Within the compass of these five significant words there can be included every kind and degree of faith, together with the positive assurance that each of us may choose his own. Scarcely less valuable to us are those supplemental expressions--"A Higher Power" and "A Power Greater Than Ourselves." For all who deny, or seriously doubt a deity, these frame an open door over whose threshold the unbeliever can take his first easy step into a reality hitherto unknown to him--the realm of faith.
In AA such breakthroughs are everyday events. They are all the more remarkable when we reflect that a working faith had once seemed an impossibility of the first magnitude to perhaps half of our present membership of three hundred thousand. To all these doubters has come the great discovery that as soon as they could cast their main dependence upon a "higher power"--even upon their own AA groups--they had turned that blind corner which had always kept the open highway from their view. From this time on--assuming they tried hard to practice the rest of the AA program with a relaxed and open mind--an ever deepening and broadening faith, a veritable gift, had invariably put in its sometimes unexpected and often mysterious appearance.
We much regret that these facts of AA life are not understood by the legion of alcoholics in the world around us. Any number of them are bedeviled by the dire conviction that if ever they go near AA they will be pressured to conform to some particular brand of faith or theology. They just don't realize that faith is never a necessity for AA membership; that sobriety can be achieved with an easily acceptable minimum of it; and that our concepts of a higher power and God as we understand Him afford everyone a nearly unlimited choice of spiritual belief and action.”
- Bill W.
(God As We understand Him: The Dilemma of No Faith; The Language of the Heart p. 251, AA Grapevine April 1961 http://da.aagrapevine.org/ )
“We can also take a fresh look at the problem of "no faith" as it exists right on our own doorstep. Though three hundred thousand did recover in the last twenty-five years, maybe half a million more have walked into our midst, and then out again. No doubt some were too sick to make even a start. Others couldn't or wouldn't admit their alcoholism. Still others couldn't face up to their underlying personality defects. Numbers departed for still other reasons.
Yet we can't well content ourselves with the view that all these recovery failures were entirely the fault of the newcomers themselves. Perhaps a great many didn't receive the kind and amount of sponsorship they so sorely needed. We didn't communicate when we might have done so. So we AAs failed them. Perhaps more often than we think, we still make no contact at depth with those suffering the dilemma of no faith.
Certainly none are more sensitive to spiritual cocksureness, pride and aggression than they are. I'm sure this is something we too often forget. In AA's first years I all but ruined the whole undertaking with this sort of unconscious arrogance. God as I understood Him had to be for everybody. Sometimes my aggression was subtle and sometimes it was crude. But either way it was damaging--perhaps fatally so--to numbers of nonbelievers. Of course this sort of thing isn't confined to Twelfth Step work. It is very apt to leak out into our relations with everybody. Even now, I catch myself chanting that same old barrier-building refrain, "Do as I do, believe as I do--or else!".
Here's a recent example of the high cost of spiritual pride. A very tough-minded prospect was taken to his first AA meeting. The first speaker majored on his own drinking pattern. The prospect seemed impressed. The next two speakers (or maybe lecturers) each themed their talks on "God as I understand Him." This could have been good, too, but it certainly wasn't. The trouble was their attitude, the way they presented their experience. They did ooze arrogance. In fact, the final speaker got far overboard on some of his personal theological convictions. With perfect fidelity, both were repeating my performance of years before. Quite unspoken, yet implicit in everything they said, was the same idea--"Folks, listen to us. We have the only true brand of AA--and you'd better get it!"
The new prospect said he'd had it--and he had. His sponsor protested that this wasn't real AA. But it was too late; nobody could touch him after that. He also had a first class alibi for yet another bender. When last heard from, an early appointment with the undertaker seemed probable.
Fortunately, such rank aggression in the name of spirituality isn't often seen nowadays. Yet this sorry and unusual episode can be turned to good account. We can ask ourselves whether, in less obvious but nevertheless destructive forms, we are not more subject to fits of spiritual pride than we had supposed.” –Bill W. –Bill W. (God As We understand Him: The Dilemma of No Faith; The Language of the Heart p. 252-253, AA Grapevine April 1961 http://da.aagrapevine.org/ )
“My own spiritual awakening had given me a built-in faith in God--a gift indeed. But I had been neither humble nor wise. Boasting of my faith, I had forgotten my ideals. Pride and irresponsibility had taken their place. By so cutting off my own light, I had little to offer my fellow alcoholics. Therefore my faith was dead to them. At last I saw why many had gone away--some of them forever.”
–Bill W. (God As We understand Him: The Dilemma of No Faith; The Language of the Heart p. 254, AA Grapevine April 1961)
“Of highest importance would be our relations with medicine and religion. Under no circumstances must we get into competition with either. If we appeared to be a new religious sect, we’d certainly be done for. And if we moved into the medical field, as such, the result would be the same. So we began to emphasize heavily the fact that AA was a way of life that conflicted with no one’s religious belief.”
- Bill W. (How AA World Services Grew Part II; The Language of the Heart pp. 150-151, AA Grapevine June 1955, http://da.aagrapevine.org/ )
“The fellowship is entirely indifferent concerning the individual manner of spiritual approach so long as the patient is willing to turn his life and his problems over to the care and direction of his creator. The patient
may picture the Deity in any way he likes. No effort whatever is made to convert him to some particular faith or creed. Many creeds are represented among the group and the greatest harmony prevails. It is emphasized that the fellowship is non-sectarian and that the patient is entirely free to follow his own inclination. Not a trace of aggressive evangelism is exhibited.”
- Dr. W.D Silkworth M.D., (“A NEW APPROACH TO PSYCHOTHERAPY IN CHRONIC ALCOHOLISM” Journal Lancet, July 1939. Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age, appendix E:a, pp 304-305)
“The atheist may stand up in an A.A. meeting denying God, yet reporting how he has been helped in other ways.”
- Bill W., October 30, 1940; Pass It On p 172)
Thank you for the quote references. This is important history because these discussions are still happening today.