Is The Coffee Pot Your Higher Power?

     “We, of Alcoholics Anonymous, are more than one hundred men and women who have recovered from a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body. To show other alcoholics precisely how we recovered is the main purpose of this book.” From Alcoholics Anonymous, xiii, Forward to the First Edition.

     Interesting that the preamble in many AA meetings today comes from page 25 or page 58 of the Big Book, as if the program starts there. Maybe that’s why so few recover from modern-day AA groups and quasi-12 Step treatment programs.
     The one and only time I introduced myself as a “recovered” alcoholic at a local meeting, about 40 or 50 heads whipped around and stared me down angrily. You’re not supposed to use the word “recovered” in AA now, even though the first line of AA’s Big Book (1939) couldn’t be more clear: “Alcoholics Anonymous – The Story of How Many Thousands of Men and Women have Recovered from Alcoholism.”
     If I never opened up the book written by AA’s co-founders, I would have (sadly) forever caste myself as being ‘recovering’ or ‘in recovery’. I would have always been recovering and never recovered. Sure, I was ‘in recovery’ as I left detox and embarked on the Steps. But as I began to take action and grow spiritually, my mind was made sane again and I no longer suffered from the insanity of alcoholism. I no longer had to worry about picking up a drink or any other temptation. From that moment on, I have been recovered.
     Sure if I were to stop growing and begin hurting others, I could then re-enter non-recovered territory. And yes, I know that I am always one drink away from detox, and that I will forever have ZERO power of alcohol. But I also know this: If I need to drive around all day going from meeting to meeting after 20 years of sobriety, there is definitely something wrong with my program. AA was intended to free the alcoholic or drug addict from their insanity. AA is a spiritual program of action that lifts the mental obsession and puts us into contact with God.
     Today, sponsors in watered-down, spiritually sick AA groups will tell newcomers to just make their Higher Power the group of people in the meeting. ‘G.O.D.’ refers to Group Of Drunks, as if a group of drunks can keep a chronic, hopeless alcoholic sober. One time I listened to a speaker tell the group that she just makes her Higher Power the coffee pot. Some sound advice: Don’t make your Higher Power the coffee pot at your home group. And you also might run into some trouble making your Higher Power the rims on your car, the knocker on your door, your new iphone, or the 52-inch TV in your living room (a popular one).
     Bottom line: Chronic, hopeless alcoholics and addicts can and do recover and live a lifetime of freedom, peace and happiness. The difference is that those who are free have taken Steps as they are laid out in the Big Book, the original AA textbook. The Big Book, contrary to what we might hear before the raffle at our local AA meeting, is not just a collection of stories. It describes the specific 12 Step process in detail. It lays out clear-cut directions on how to take these Steps and recover from “a seemingly hopeless condition of mind and body.” (Ibid.)
God, I am still and I know…

AA Sponsorship

     What is sponsorship?

     Is it approaching some newbie at an AA meeting and telling them that they need a sponsor and that you’re the man to do it? Is it then dragging your sponsee to AA meetings day after day after day? Is it calling your sponsee on Saturday night to make sure he isn’t drinking? Or is it fielding frantic and desperate phone calls from your sponsee as he teeters on the edge outside of a bar? Is it providing a social structure for your sponsee by taking him out for dinner, a movie, or some bowling? Is it telling your sponsee where to work, who to be with, or what friends they should have? Is it getting all militant and beating the shit out of him? Better yet, is it telling your sponsee what kind of clothes to wear? Is sponsorship determining what colored socks to wear on Monday? Sure that may sound ridiculous, but it’s just as ridiculous as all the other useless actions I just mentioned.

     Sponsorship is NONE of the above. Watered down, modern AA has spawned all sorts of new ideas and norms about what sponsorship is. Hollywood has well-defined the slew of AA cliches – the meeting room, the sob stories, the group prayer, and the sponsor who calls you when you’re in trouble. Sorry to say that none of these things have much to do with Alcoholics Anonymous, which was originally nothing more than a series of spiritual actions designed to restore the addict to sanity by accessing the power of God, or Spiritual Power, if you like. It is a way to God – nothing more, or rather less.

     The 12 Steps was the sole program of AA – a rigorous and life-changing set of actions to heal ourselves from deep within. An enormous amount of work is necessary to extract the life-detsroying character defects that sabotage all good things in life. The work continues as we make amends to all who we have harmed. We take Steps to prepare us for our new life of purpose, the purpose of helping others who still suffer. If all we did was to sit there in meetings, make some coffee, be the treasurer and pass out sobriety coins, we remain untreated, insane, and a threat to every newcomer who walks through the door. Why suffer? Why struggle through each day when there is a solution?

     Sponsorship is very simple. It is one person who has taken Steps and recovered taking another addict through the Steps as they are laid out in the Big Book. That person must be willing to change and grow along spiritual lines. Our job as sponsors is to hook the sponsee up to God and then get out of the way. Nothing more. I take them through the first 7 Steps, guide them with their first few amends and then they should be on their way.

     It is not my job to be their friend or to listen to them blab on all night about their feelings or struggles, allowing them to validate themselves as some sort of victim. It is definitely not my job to call them. If you want to get better, then it is you who have to call me and I’ll tell you what I did. Nothing more. And by the way, your feelings don’t matter. I don’t really care how you feel. Sound harsh? Well, it’s really not so harsh when you think that our pathological focus on ourselves and our feelings, our constant engagement with self-pity is the exact thing preventing us from getting better.

     Holding on by a thread is not AA. AA is a set of spiritual tools that we can use to build a foundation of strength, peace and freedom. We can be forever rid of the mental obsession, the insanity before a relapse. There are no such things as cravings. There are no such things as triggers. We are either okay or not okay, recovered or recovering, sane or insane. There is no in between. Same with sponsorship.

God, Make me a better man today…

Half Measures

     Half measures availed us nothing…

     The Big Book says that if we have decided we want peace and freedom then we must be “willing to go to any lengths” to get it.

     It also says, “We thought we could find an easier, softer way. But we could not.” – Alcoholics Anonymous, p.58

     Why do half measures yield zero results? Because our solution must be more powerful than our addiction, which has grown very powerful over the years. If we have been a one-man wrecking ball for years and years, then group therapy, some role play, and a few anti-depressants aren’t gonna cut it. Also, God knows that we have been half-assing life yet fully expecting top notch results. Why would we get off so easily for a lifetime of recovery? Isn’t it better for addicts to do some hard work on themselves for a payoff that we really don’t deserve to begin with?

     We must be willing to go to any lengths because this requires us to fully commit to spiritual growth. If we are willing to do anything it takes to get better, then we have undergone a fundamental change within. We have let go of our old ways. In fact, we may have to shed our entire identity or life’s purpose. This is the requirement to undergo an “entire psychic change”, where alcohol and drugs are no longer a problem for us.

     The psychic change is also responsible for changing the way we think and the way we conduct ourselves. No longer will we live and breathe through a self-centered frame of reference. To undo a lifetime of selfishness, we must be at least willing to do anything it takes.

     By the way, that famous Big Book line ‘half measures availed us nothing’ was taken from the text of an old relative of mine: Richard Peabody’s The Common Sense of Drinking

God, remind me everyday that half measures yield half results, or no result whatsoever…