In church basements, community rooms, unmarked clubs all around the world, folks are meeting at this very moment to state to others and to themselves, “I will not drink or use today.” There are over 2 million members in 115,000 groups in 175 countries meeting together to reach for serenity, courage and wisdom. Within the fundamentals of their practice is a recognition that there is something larger than themselves. Be it God, in a panoply of expressions; their Higher Power or, simply, an unknowable cosmic mind ~ the architect of life is patiently awaiting discovery.
Some of these are “speaker meetings” where people tell their stories. Maybe all they have is 30 days of sobriety under their belt, as they stand and give witness to their choices. Some are fortunate to hear the story of a person who has earned over 50 candles on their AA birthday cake. Sharing is a gift to both speaker and listener. Hundreds of stories are reprinted in the AA magazine, The Grapevine and the “Big Book.”
Tom B., an impassioned speaker in AA, often begins with, “You think you have an alcohol problem but what you have is a God problem.” Tom began his life as a deeply curious and committed seeker who took a thirty year slip and fall into full throttle drunkenness. Certainly it was that ever repeating first drink that almost killed him but it was his dogged hard-won recall that God was actually in the driver’s seat that brought him back. The white flag went up the pole and surrender brought him home.
There are many secrets in the meetings of all those people, often sitting on folding chairs. One of them is that each person is free to create, define, even reject the notion of God. While armed soldiers are busy killing one another over the God of their turf, bombers are blowing up buildings, trains and people over cartoons and novels, two million alcoholics are quietly designing their personal Higher Power and assembling their sobriety one day at a time.
There may be many conversations about the nature of God, Higher Power, volition etc., however the bottom line is that there is something (someone) greater than our self. Be it Yahweh, Jesus, Buddha, God, the collective consciousness or, even, the group of AA, there is more than just our puny and, often, failing self.
Another secret is that AA does not require advance faith. The requirement is the surrender and once authentically tried, things begin to change. It is through the experience of those changes that faith begins to collect. It is the ultimate example of, “show me!”
The only leap needed is opening the door. The key to opening that door is surrender to one’s Higher Power. Opening the door begins clearing the fog and getting a glimpse of our shiny, intuitive, comprehensive self. That self is just on the other side of the door and what we don’t realize is that the key to that door is on the inside. Turn it. It is only yours to turn.
A third secret is that one’s Higher Power is revealed and expands through the commitment to participate with other members. Jesus taught, “Wherever two or more of you come together, I am there.” It is in the sharing, in the space between the outstretched hands, when they meet and how they cast for unity and similarity that God is present. Two pilgrims actually create that presence in their exchange. It is what Dan McKanan of Harvard Divinity School named, a Prophetic Encounter. Martin Buber calls it, I and Thou. To tell one’s story is life changing. It informs the listener and transforms the teller.
Within the 12 Steps, the word God (Power) appears in 6. There is no mistaking that it is an integral component to recovery. As Tom B. puts it, it is fundamental.
Step 2 We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
Step 3 We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
Step 5 We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
Step 6 We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
Step 7 We humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
Step 11 We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
However, it is optional. It is never required. The only requirement is the DESIRE TO STOP DRINKING.
You can change the words to mean anything that inspires. Maybe change Him to Her; from God to Goddess. A Buddhist might reach deep within and a Christian call to the heavens. The salient idea offered is that you are not alone. Strength is available beyond a drinking day. Forgiveness will be in reach. Hand the unbearable bag of rocks to one who is waiting and able. Peace and calm are on the way. There is love at hand.
As they say, It worked for me, it might work for you.