The Promises

“The Promises” on page 83&84 of the BB are the Founder’s observations regarding the aspects of the changed lives of the AA program. The Founders made no promises. They could not. The BB says ” If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are halfway through.”

Then a description follows about the reborn lives that resulted from this “painstaking development” . What is the stated goal of the steps, which is what they are talking about as their development? As per last page of the step 3 chapter of the 12X12, it is to “align our will with God’s Will”. Therefore by practicing the steps “painstakingly” , we align our will with God’s will for us as alcoholics. This right alignment results in a changed life – a life which demonstrates the characteristics described on page 83&84 of the BB commonly referred to as “The Promises” . If my life does not demonstrate “The Promises”, then I need to be more “painstaking” about my practicing the steps and aligning myself with God’s Will.

Another helpful self check in addition to confirming the presence of the characteristics of the “Promises” in my life, is to verify the absence of the “Bedevilment’s” listed on page 52 of the BB.

Here is the big takeaway – people make promises to other people. The AA promises are some but not all of the benefits of doing His (God’s) Will. There are lots of promises in the Good Book (which the founder’s based the Big Book on) - hundreds, if not thousands. The Good Book is full of God’s promises,and God keeps His promises….if we are painstaking about following His will. That’s our part of the bargain.

It is not only a bargain, it’s the deal of a lifetime.

A Letter From God

Imagine the proposition that there exists an actual letter from God himself to us personally and individually explaining His heart and mind and providing specific instructions for us to find him,  become one with him,  and possess all the most important things that he alone can provide.   If we in fact knew  that such a letter existed or there was even a possibility that such a letter existed,   would we not go to any lengths  to find that letter?  Would  that letter not be of more value than the objects of all the treasure hunts in all the history of man?  Jesus Christ claims that his teachings which are described in the Holy Bible,  are exactly that; …  a spiritual treasure map of sorts,  leading to our Heavenly Father and the ability to reside with Him in Heaven,  right now.
 If Christ is who he said he is,  then the things he said describe the heart and mind of God the Creator of all things. Therefore,  those words would be  the most important thing in the world and the most important thing in any and every man’s life.   If Christ is not who he said he is then one must concede that he was hopelessly insane, or worse,  and anything he said should be disregarded.
 Since the authors of the primary text of the 12 step recovery community the book titled Alcoholics Anonymous,  clearly state that the principles of the fellowship came primarily from sections of the Bible that are the teachings of Jesus Christ (Mathew: 5-7, James, 1 Corinthians :13) and also that the fellowship literature and structure was closely modeled after a previous fellowship known as the Oxford Group which openly confessed Jesus Christ as God Incarnate and as the focus of their fellowship.  If these things are true then the validity of the principles of 12 step recovery and the fellowship itself literally  hinge on this question:  Is Jesus Christ the One who has all power?  Is He the One God under which we were restored and united  with hearts and minds attuned to the welfare of others? Or was he some insane imposter fooling billions of people, the most colossal fraud imaginable?  This is a question it seems that every open minded member of the 12 step recovery community should want to explore by examining for themselves exactly what Jesus Christ said and how it relates to the fellowship.  Since Christ’s teachings are the foundation of the principles of the fellowship, perhaps the search for God should start with the object of the founders phrase “God as we understood Him”.  A wise man once said “if you hear hoofs at the door, look for a Horse first, not a Zebra”. Perhaps God is and has always been  hiding in plain sight.
Why is it so important  for every man to explore this issue?  Why does it matter who it is that is the focus of our spiritual life and worship, our Higher Power, God? Can’t  we get benefits from practicing the principles even if we don’t know  or acknowledge the true  source of those principles?  Yes of course we can and many have and many   do.  But it is like traveling to a wonderful foreign land, and  as a visitor there,  we can enjoy the benefits of that place but we can’t stay there forever. We are visitors not residents.   By accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, the One’s whose principles we practice anyway,  he tells us that we will remain with him forever,  not just enjoy the worldly benefits of using his principles during the short time that we are a living physical being as part of his creation.
There is nothing more important or urgent than establishing eternal residency in Heaven with our Creator through Christ.  We can immediately become a resident of Heaven,  it is free for the asking.  We need only ask the One who has all power to grant that request.  Only he can do so.  That is the Good News for all mankind.

The Essence Of Our Program

I was at a fellowship meeting last night and I had the great blessing of attending that meeting with my wife and her mother who was visiting from out-of-town. The meeting speaker was my daughter. All told, we had three generations present in the room, three generations that God has blessed up with a combined total of 86 years of sobriety.

The topic my daughter chose for her talk was fear. It was as if she had put her finger on the issue that involves the real essence of our program. She quoted the section of the book the big book of Alcoholics Anonymous that talks about fear, how we write those fears down, that the solution to those fears is putting God at the center of our life. The truth of her words struck me profoundly.

The keystone of the spiritual arch we build in our fellowship is having God in the center of our life, it’s the focus of everything that we do. This was the spiritual inspiration for the writing of the book of Alcoholics Anonymous and for the creation of our fellowship. The co-founders pamphlet quotes Dr. Bob on P 52 saying that the spiritual principles of our fellowship came from the Bible – specifically three sections – The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapters 5 through 7) , first Corinthians Chapter 13 which is the Apostle Paul’s dissertation on love (commonly read at weddings) and the entire book of James.

In contemplating the topic of fear, I’m also reminded of the emphasis on Psalm 91 which was also a mainstay of the early fellowship. I believe that there are two very powerful tools to be used in conjunction with the working of a thorough written fourth step and the steps that follow are careful study of study of Psalm 91 and of first Corinthians chapter 13.

The indisputable fact is that fear cannot inhabit the heart of a person if the center of  person’s heart is God and God’s love for them. One cannot serve two masters. Therefore, whenever fear grips me it is a self-centered fear. This fear is often summed up in the phrase we hear in meetings “losing something I’ve got or not getting something I want”. If I’m acting in love towards others from practicing the principle of service to my fellow-man and I’m loving them as Christ loves all of us beyond our comprehension, then I am immediately relieved of my self-centered fear because I’m focusing on the love of another person. God is love and God’s love dispels all fear.

The Big Book that says on page 62 that the keystone of our recovery is placing God at the center of our lives. It is only by having this God and love centered attitude towards life that  He removes our fears at once.

That has been true for me and will remain true as long as I’m willing to practice that love towards others in and out of our fellowship.

The Solution – A Spiritual Experience

When I was living in darkness I was afraid of the light and the One that all light comes from.  I was afraid of God and that fear came from my shame – my shame separated me from God .

I thought that the way that I was living meant that God would want have to have nothing to do with me and so I ran from him.  I had a certain idea of who God was and I felt I did not deserve him – that God was disappointed with me. The way I was living ultimately chased me into Alcoholics Anonymous and it took a while but at some point I realized that God was hiding in plain sight,  waiting for me there along with my other brothers and sisters.  They were all thrilled that I had come home!

So today I know that when our book tells us that there is one power that there is one who has all power that one is God may you find him now, I know that he is and always has been right there with me. He always will be so long as I am willing to reach out to him.

I know today that he is not the source of condemnation and shame but the solution to my shame.  I know that God is love and love is all that matters. If I live in love I live with God and when I do that I choose to live like it says on page 25 of the Big Book.  In the solution I choose to live in a spiritual experience with God and when I do that I find much of heaven right now.

Today heaven is not an exit strategy it’s a way of life that we can choose to embrace.

What a gift! Thank you Lord!

Old School AA AZ Conference 2013 Downloads

We have just added some articles that we are using in the October 13 2013 workshop with Dick B. These articles aren’t just for the workshop though – they are an interesting historical read all on their own! Get them below or on our Literature and Resources pages!

Articles (AA Workshop)

‘Spiritus contra Spiritum’

The phrase is often translated to mean ‘Spirit against the effects of spirits.’ Spiritus in latin is the word for both alcohol and the highest religious experience.

This phrase is referenced in Carl Jung’s letter response to Bill W. in 1961. Jung states that ” craving for alcohol was the equivalent on a low level of the spiritual thirst of our being for wholeness, expressed in medieval language: the union with God .(” As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul aftter Thee O God” – Psalm 42:1)

This is well said and ties in nicely with BB p 164 ” We shall be with you in the Fellowship of the Spirit, and you will surely meet some of us as you trudge the Road of happy destiny.”  I feel that destiny is union with God as Christ prayed for same for His believers in John 17:20-26.

I received a photocopy of those letters from Jung to Bill W. from the NYC GSO on Thursday 9-27-13, along with an article on the Oxford group- also known as the First Century Christian Fellowship- and their  influence on AA . The article concludes by saying “But He (God) apparently used Frank Buckman and the Oxford Group (to bring AA into existence)”.

If that bothers you, take comfort in the fact that it bothered Bill W. when Ebby first presented the Group message -that is, the Christian Oxford Group message -to him. But didn’t it all work out in a wonderful way!

Paul R ,Tucson.

Five Smooth Stones Redux

What a Shepherd Boy Can Teach Us About Stepping-Out With Faith in Our Lives and Recovery

Charles Stanley recently wrote a piece about David and his five smooth stones, and I believe the message is certainly strong for those in recovery.

David V Goliath

Remember, this is not the King and Warrior David, or the Psalmist David, but the Shepherd Boy David.   Most of us are at least tacitly familiar with the story of David and Goliath, as it has been a staple of Sunday school teaching for years.  It has sadly lost some power and meaning though, as it has become entrenched into the Western Canon as a watered down metaphor for the “underdog vs. the monolithic ‘big-guy”.   There is much more to the story than that for the alcoholic though….

For the full story please refer to 1 Samuel 17, but the synopsis is that the longtime foe of the Israelites, the Philistines are at it again.  Israel has defeated them quite often in the past, but this time the Philistines are led by Goliath, a “giant”, and their newest WWF fighting champ!

According to the Biblical record, Goliath stood “six cubits and a span” tall.  If an 18-inch length for a cubit is applied, this works out to a height of 3.2 meters or 9 feet six inches.  If the 21-inch length for a cubit is used this would be 3.5 meters or just over 11 feet!  (Note: A span is apparently nine inches).  Whichever tape measure we use, Goliath was big; especially considering archaeology reveals that the average height of a man in the Aegean and Canaan areas was 1.64 meters tall (5 ft. 4 ½ in.) during the Iron Age!

Of course, we all know the next bit:  This huge giant of a man, Goliath, stood out in front of the Philistines and taunted the Israelites across the field:  Send forth a single man on behalf of Israel to fight Goliath for all the goodies! Winner takes all!  (Cue the Deep Voiced Announcer:  “Let’s get ready to rummblllllle!!”)

But you know how it all ends:  David, the shepherd boy volunteers, hurls a stone, kills Goliath, goes on to become the King, and one of the most famous individuals in the history of mankind….

 Booya-touchdown!

David’s Victory And Recovery

So, how does this so called Sunday School Story relate to the program of AA and our lives in recovery?  Perhaps no where better than here:

Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path….

With all the earnestness at our command, we beg of you to be fearless and thorough from the very start. Some of us have tried to hold on to our old ideas and the result was nil until we let go absolutely.

Remember that we deal with alcohol—cunning, baffling, powerful! Without help it is too much for us. But there is One who has all power—that One is God.

May you find Him now! 
 Half measures availed us nothing. We stood at the turning point. We asked His protection and care with complete abandon. (BB pg. 58 and 59)

…So our troubles, we think, are basically of our own making. They arise out of ourselves, and the alcoholic is an extreme example of self-will run riot, though he usually doesn’t think so. Above everything, we alcoholics must be rid of this selfishness. We must, or it kills us! God makes that possible. And there often seems no way of entirely getting rid of self without His aid. Many of us had moral and philosophical convictions galore, but we could not live up to them even though we would have liked to. Neither could we reduce our self-centeredness much by wishing or trying on our own power. We had to have God’s help.

This is the how and why of it. First of all, we had to quit playing God. It didn’t work. Next, we decided that hereafter in this drama of life, God was going to be our Director. He is the Principal; we are His agents. He is the Father, and we are His children. (BB pg. 62)

Our Powerlessness

From the outset, we must recognize our utter powerlessness over alcohol and those things that kept us in the drink.  Alcohol does not just represent a metaphorical giant to the alcoholic; it will literally kill us, but usually only after destroying our families, jobs, finances and everything else of value first.  In our active disease, our minds cannot leave alone what our bodies cannot handle; this fate eventually becomes worse than a loud-mouthed 9-foot warrior to the alcoholic lost in his or her cups!

And so we must do what seems foreign to so many in the grips of this existential threat:  We must turn ourselves over to God’s care, and we must do so with the complete faith and knowledge that only He can deliver us from these chains of alcoholic misery in the first place.  The founders were VERY clear on this point, repeatedly hammering it into the material of the Big Book.  They were also clear regarding the following:  It only is by daily turning our lives over to His care that we can stay sober.  Beyond just staying sober, this is the only way we grow in our faith, our serenity, and in our ability to help others.   But it takes the first full step of faith; that first step of faith is taken every morning.  (Give heed to the voice of my cry, My King and my God, For to You I will pray.  My voice You shall hear in the morning, O Lord; In the morning I will direct it to You, And I will look up.  Psalm 5:2-3)

David’s Faith – Our Faith

So, going a bit deeper upon returning to our Sunday School story, consider again, young David:  A boy, probably a teenager, tending his father’s sheep gets called up to play music for King Saul.   David soon becomes Saul’s armor-bearer and gets to hang out with the men for a while-but he still has to go home and take care of the sheep, like a little kid on occasion (though he likely did it out of respect for Jesse, his father).  Now, along comes Goliath who not only threatens the Israelites, but insults their God.  All of a sudden everyone on the Israelite side is restless, irritable, and discontent…and fearful!   In other words, no one, no soldier, will face what in their minds, in their self-centered, self interested, fearful view is imminent death by stepping onto the battlefield. 

Except for David.  David quickly sees this man through the lens of childlike faith not as an enemy of gigantic proportions that threatened him with bodily harm, but as an enemy of the people of God, ergo of God Himself:

“Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?” (1 Samuel 17: 26b)

David is no fool-hearty hero “wannabe” here, and this is where secular society perhaps misses the point when they use this story as a metaphor for the underdog versus the bully.  David simply believes that this battle is already won because it is the only faithful outcome to consider.  All that this fight requires is that someone from the Israelites trust God and, go do it.  The modern metaphors would perhaps be better served if folks related this more like a Nike commercial-Just Do It!  That is the real message!

So David, “just does it”. Now consider the faith this took. He eschews the weapons and armor Saul thrusts upon him and takes up what he is comfortable with-the tools he has at that moment that he is used to.  Small, and seemingly inconsequential weapons better suited to defending a flock of sheep, he takes his staff and leather sling and collects five smooth stones.  Next, he squares off against Goliath, and after listening to the Giant hurl insults David proclaims the following:

“You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.  This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel.  All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.” (1 Samuel 17:45-47)

And of course, David dispatched of the Philistine with one single faith-filled effort….

All In

There are so many sermons and studies built around the “five smooth stones” and they all have merit.  But in the end, rather than ascribe virtue to the stones that we take up as instruments of our faith we can simplify it thus:  David took five stones, but only used one.  He had no way of knowing how many rocks it would take to kill a man like Goliath, and he took his staff too; maybe he would need that as well.  David took the steps that made sense pragmatically, but he left all the rest to God.  David stepped boldly out, placing his faith in, and indeed his very life into the hands of God against an enemy that had defeated and threatened and placed fear in the hearts of many bigger men than him.

So too, it must be with us in recovery.  We cannot conquer alcohol or stay sober without turning our will and lives over to the care of God-completely and without reservation.  And while we may not be able to do this perfectly at first, once we admit powerlessness (that part we must do completely and perfectly in order to begin the healing) we then must place our faith in something much bigger than ourselves. The founders speak of turning to God who has all power against alcohol.  David reacted to virtual death as viewed through the eyes of grown men, not with the same fear, but instead with the faith of a child. Through trusting in God’s Grace and Providence, rather than his own power, his faith is vindicated.  

We cannot live with one foot in recovery and one foot in our old life; we must live a life divorced from our old thinking and habits.  Without help it is too much for us.  But there is One who has all power-that One is God.  May you find Him now?

The real message of “David vs. Goliath”:  David, believed in his heart the seemingly unwinnable battle was already won-all he had to do was step out in faith and do what he knew how to do (“the next right thing”).  He found God, he kept faith, he faced his fears and turned them over.  No one said it was easy, just simple.

God, I offer myself to Thee—to build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy Way of life. May I do Thy will always!’’ (Third Step Prayer BB pg. 63)