True to the roots of AA and the 12-step program
Seeking God as your higher power
When I began my journey in sobriety cell phones and personal computers were still just a future promise for the average person. PC’s existed but they cost thousands of dollars and had less computing power than today’s cheap cell phones. The monitors were huge with small black and white screens and weighed as much as a boat anchor. The earliest cell phones cost hundreds of dollars and air time charges were as much as 4 to 5 dollars a minute! Research and fact checking involved a trip to the library and a session with the microfiche.
Early on I was VERY trusting in AA
Newly sober I trusted just about everyone for explanations, directions and AA history. As I started hitting the chip milestones, 30, 60, 90 days I became a little more discerning in whom I placed my trust.
At meetings I would look for the old-timers. They would be in the same seats week in and week out providing continuity and comfort. Crazy Phil from Signal Hill, Irish Annie, Boston Mary, Vodka John, Singing Sam, TC, Val & Val, I’m The Other Phil and many others. If a bit of AA history or statement on recovery was recited by one of them I accepted it as gospel.
Having placed certain individuals on a pedestal, their word became inviolate. I soaked up AA jargon and began parroting things I heard in meetings. I had read the Big Book once (so now I was firmly on my way to becoming an expert on all things AA) and around 6 months did my 5th step so now I was part of the tribe and could speak with some authority (as only a newcomer can) on all matters recovery.
Began to research The Oxford Group
Sobriety was good. As the years drifted by my sharing mirrored those I revered, many of whom had moved on to the meeting in the sky. Around ten years sober the internet had become a real tool for information and research. On a lark one day I typed in “Oxford Group” in a search engine. I already knew everything about them because I had heard the history recited in meetings for years.
Imagine my shock when I discovered that all I thought I knew was wrong. Not only were they still in business, having heard for years in meetings that they had gone the way of the Dodo but they listed assisting in the formation of AA as one of their great historical accomplishments! (Note: a few years ago they changed their name to Initiatives Of Change.)
The flood gates opened. I began researching AA, the origin of the steps, the history of the fellowship and so on. It became immediately clear that the oral recitations in meetings had become corrupt. How could we expect the history or the true meaning of bedrock principles like “God as you understand Him” repeated again and again over many years to retain accuracy? But we did and do.
The original founders believed that God was the only higher power
Today it has become accepted in meeting speak that God can be a doorknob, a chair, a group of drunks etc. This line of thinking is contrary to the founders’ intent. Don’t take my word for it. Clarence Snyder (The Home Brewmeister) had his last drink on Feb. 11 1938. His sobriety began at the knee of Dr Bob and he participated in the discussions that led to the codification of the book Alcoholics Anonymous (the Big Book).
He started AA group #3 in Cleveland and is credited by Bill, Lois and Nell Wing as the first person to officially hold a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous on May 11, 1939. So the next time you read in the Big Book about a meeting or gathering Bill is referring to an Oxford group setting not AA since the first AA meeting didn’t take place until after the Big Book was published.
Clarence wrote an article titled “My Higher Power-The Light Bulb. Follows are quotes from that article: “ In their sincere and honest attempt to maintain a ‘hands-off’ policy regarding fellow members’ religious beliefs and perhaps sensitivities, our founding fathers exercised gentle wisdom and proffered spiritual freedom. No one, it was rightly thought, should be permitted to impose his or her own religious concepts and beliefs upon any other member of the fellowship.
God as the only higher power should not have been tampered with!
This area was much too important to the prospective recoveree to be tampered with by mortal man. The very life of the prospect depends, ultimately, upon his or her ‘personal relationship’ with a Power greater than themselves. The notion was valid in the Program’s earlier days-AND IT STILL IS!” and “It was never intended that phrases such as ‘higher power,’ ‘power greater than ourselves,’ or ‘as we understood Him’ were created as an enabling device to justify our membership’s continued avoidance of a connection with our creator.
Page 46 of the AA book says, ‘we found that as soon as we were able to lay aside prejudice and express even a willingness to believe in a Power greater than ourselves, we commenced to get results, even though it was impossible for any of us to fully define or comprehend that Power which is God.’ Again,…‘that Power, which is God.’ Our founders apparently held no reservations, whatsoever, with Who was dealing with them. Perhaps, we would be well advised to think twice before we attempt any ourselves.
Alcoholics Anonymous is not allied with any religion, as we well know. But it is allied with God, ‘for our very lives as ex-problem drinkers depend on it.’ It is allied with spirituality, for despite what our preamble states, AA is not a ‘fellowship,’ it is a spiritual way of life.” All emphasis provided by Clarence. So a chair, a light bulb, a group of drunks? I think not.
Sadly, recovery rates are way down because of this change.
Lets be clear, no one is at fault because those repeating the incorrect information, as I had, didn’t and don’t have any malice in their hearts. They are just misinformed. One of the mistakes I made, and there have been plenty, was to hammer people with the truth. I thought, incorrectly, that everyone would greet accuracy openly. I soon discovered that sacred cows, like the 4th column in the inventory, die hard. Oh, you thought there was one? Nope.
There was in the manuscript (more accurately referred to as the multilith) but it was changed before the 1st edition was published. The reason for the change becomes obvious when you read the original. No, I am not going to tell you. Go do your homework. Remember, the Big Book is a text book. A reading of the 11th step from the multilith is an eye opening experience as well.
The resistance I have encountered over the years has been interesting and life changing. When I wore a younger mans clothes it would anger me. Today it breaks my heart. When AA began the recovery rate was 50% plus. The rate today is much less. Learn and study our history. Don’t take anyone else’s interpretation as the final word, regardless how much you personally like or respect them. Great places to start your history study are West Baltimore AA and Silkworth.net.
Speak the truth with passion
Bring a lunch. Give yourself the gift of knowledge. Remember you may be the only copy of the Big Book a newcomer sees. Speak the truth delivered with passion and compassion and remember that you have turned your will and your life over to the care of God and you are now standing on the firing line of life where He will keep you unharmed.
Today I teach the process citing the founders and earliest members words. I realize I know only a little, God will disclose more to you and I as long as we are about His business, not our own. Peace.