Religion and AA Meeting Protocol

New to AA? Got questions? Here's the place to ask. Note that no one person speaks "officially" for AA. AA meetings in your local area are always the best source of information. Note that anyone may post and reply to messages in this forum.
ImTbD
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Religion and AA Meeting Protocol

Post by ImTbD » Tue Aug 03, 2010 8:09 pm

Hi Folks,
I am new to AA but not new to the 12-step concept. I have close people in my life who have benefited from such a program, and I trust their judgment completely.
However, I have to say I am daunted by many of the speakers - especially in the online meetings and chats, who focus more on God than on the subject of alcohol.
Moreover, I have seen some talk about AA as akin to following a religion, and that just turns my "Oh lord, it's a CULT....RUN!" knob to High.

So, can someone please tell me what is the proper protocol for someone who may be completely put off by such heavy and, frankly, incredibly shallow, religious diatribe? Can I speak up and say "enough already?" Or is that considered completely rude and combative?

I am accepting of all faiths and consider myself spiritual as well. I am also pretty dang sure I need this program. But if I have to hear Preacher Johnnie wax poetic about how he found God, and only God can save you, and ya better hear the MESSAGE of AA, yada, yada, I honestly don't think I am going to be able to stick with this.

Are there chat areas for people who are a little more... uh... into talking deeply and intelligently about the steps and about individual stories? (Trying really hard not to sound like a snob ... but hell. Maybe I am.)

Please advise! Thanks!

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Marc L
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Re: Religion and AA Meeting Protocol

Post by Marc L » Tue Aug 03, 2010 9:40 pm

Hi there;
I'm Marc and I am Alcoholic.
Welcome to e-AA.
Opinions regarding what AA is, isn't and God and all that jazz are just that, opinions.
Why don't you take a look at what the first hundred drunks who built the foundation of AA have to say about the fellowship. These guys wrote a book called Alcoholics Anonumous. It will probably answer most your questions.

Good luck with all that jazz; :D

Marc
Recovery won't just happen by Osmosis. You gonna' have to work at it some.
12th Step work ain't just a job... It's an Adventure.

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Blue Moon
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Re: Religion and AA Meeting Protocol

Post by Blue Moon » Tue Aug 03, 2010 10:36 pm

Maybe you need to try a different meeting? But the subject of alcohol is only useful in gaining identification, it doesn't offer a solution to alcoholism. Otherwise we'd all be recovering on a barstool. Plently of drunkalogues to be heard in a bar.

The subject of God is however the word means to the person speaking. For sure, AA does have its fair share of religious zealots who are perhaps incapable of realizing there's more than one way to define or understand a Higher Power. Yet such people are a part of this program, for one thing we need to practice if we're to sustain quality sobriety is love and tolerance.

I suggest you find whatever concept of a Power greater than yourself makes sense to you.
Ian S
AKA Blue Moon

hazel4

Re: Religion and AA Meeting Protocol

Post by hazel4 » Wed Aug 04, 2010 1:00 am

Hello and Welcome

I am Hazel, alkie in Cambridge UK and although I have great faith, I have no one religion. I have never associated AA with a religion, but the programme needs to refer to a Higher Power that I choose to call God.
I guess that Higher Power i.e. something that had total power over me, mentally and physically, used be called Alcohol. Just a name. Glad I changed it.

I see AA as a 'fellow ship', a great ship of fellows, all arriving by assorted crafts, from millionaires yachts to a battered rowboat. All now headed for a safer harbour than they could ever have dreamed of and only the 'Captain' knows the tides. There will not be calm seas all the way, but I trust Him implicitely to guide us through.

Any Higher Power of your understanding will work in offering a spiritual way forward and, I believe, in 'its' own time and place. Mine works much of the time through people and, since they are all too human, there are some who offer lessons I can use and some whose diatribe I cannot. Teachers and Preachers.

Why not try us for awhile. You can always disembark at the next port. There is bound to be a bar there!

Peace
Hazel

p.s No you may not interrupt a speaker at a meeting, no more than you would at any other non-AA occasion. :roll: Politesse rules. That person needs to be tolerated, not heckled. Just imagine if it happened to you. Accepting the things you cannot change was the toughest part of the Serenity Prayer for me. I love Mankind; it's just people I have a problem with !!
Last edited by hazel4 on Wed Aug 04, 2010 3:35 am, edited 1 time in total.

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ann2
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Re: Religion and AA Meeting Protocol

Post by ann2 » Wed Aug 04, 2010 2:49 am

Hi, welcome! I think once you get comfortable with what AA is, you will be more tolerant of what you hear of what it isn't. The best way, which was recommended to me, is to read the literature of AA. There are many books, starting with the Big Book and Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, going on from there, AA Comes of Age, also Pass It On, The Good Oldtimers, the booklets Living Sober and Came to Believe, and numerous pamphlets. I also recommend Bill W.'s Grapevine writings which are put together in the book Language of the Heart. Some of these are online at www.aa.org and most you can purchase through an AA group or by going to the AA Intergroup or Central Office in your area.

Read the whole history and foundation of AA. Understand what it is, thoroughly for yourself, and that includes of course following the recommended course of action as outlined in the 12 steps. Meetings aren't the solution to the drinking problem nor do they provide the serenity that enables us to live a day at a time without drinking. They aren't what we need to do in order to stay happily sober -- the steps are. So whatever you hear in a meeting, try to put it in place with what you have learned from your reading.

And keep asking!!!

Ann
"If I don't take twenty walks, Billy Beane send me to Mexico" -- Miguel Tejada

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Re: Religion and AA Meeting Protocol

Post by Lali » Wed Aug 04, 2010 3:05 am

ImTbD:
Our higher power is very important to us in our quest for sobriety. Our higher power does not have to be God, some people use the people in the rooms of AA. I do not believe that there is anything shallow about my God or my fellow AAers here in this forum. My God keeps me sober. As Ian stated, “such people are a part of this program, for one thing we need to practice if we're to sustain quality sobriety is love and tolerance.”
You stated, “But if I have to hear Preacher Johnnie wax poetic about how he found God, and only God can save you, and ya better hear the MESSAGE of AA, yada, yada, I honestly don't think I am going to be able to stick with this.” I’m sorry you feel this way. The alternative to this program is usually jail, institutions or death. In my little town, just in the last 2 weeks, we have buried two young alcoholic men.
I’m also sorry that you find us intellectually bankrupt. We have a member of Mensa here as well as many very intelligent people. What we are doing is working for us so far so try not to look down your nose at us. If you want to stay, we are all happy to help you however we can.
Step 1: I can't
Step 2: He can
Step 3: I think I'll let him

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LetgoJoe
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Re: Religion and AA Meeting Protocol

Post by LetgoJoe » Wed Aug 04, 2010 7:37 am

I know I have sat in meetings and had to listen to things that were where people were at and not sharing the same beliefs at the time. The hard part of it for me was when I was still in that place where I had not really focused on my own development and accepted this "new way of life," and embraced this AA program - mostly because I did not know what this new way of life was yet. And to learn what this new way of life is I have to be honest, willing and open-minded, as it suggests in the "How It Works Chapter" of the Big Book. There was another part of this that has already been touched on that I can relate to that gave me willingness and that was the pain of doing things my own way, my own devices, coming into AA. Yeah, I was a real intellectual, problem was it mostly resulted in self-centered outcomes that brought pain and frustration. So once I started realizing that, I began to understand that I should open my mind and be willing to try something else - after all, what I was doing coming here new wasn't working. What I was doing is what got me here needing help.

My magnifying, quick fix, intellectually, over analyzing mind in the beginning was something I heard others share about as being a problem within themselves. They shared about how they did some actions in this program to overcome what was blocking them and taking bit by bit of what sounded better and finding the willingness to let go of things that block us, to do something different. My human willful nature wants me to push away that which is different than what I believe from my memory and experiences. In the beginning to seeking a solution, was the desperation of not wanting the pain, which gave me the willingness to be honest and open my mind - to try something else even if I did not agree with it. I was asked for a good while, "What did you have to loose?" and "If you wish, later, you can always have what you came in here with refunded to you." Ultimately, after figuring out that I was an alcoholic and I wanted what people shared that they had as a result of working the steps, I did those steps with a sponsor and I started seeing that I could live a life without alcohol and have peace and joy in my life. But it all began with that willingness.

I also found that I could listen and analyze and think about things and the like - and then realized that there was a difference between knowing a thing and thinking a thing and doing something different - changing my behaviors. If what I am doing is not working, try something different. In AA, I hear some suggestions about the something different and once I DID them I truly believed they worked because I EXPERIENCED them. I then BELIEVED DIFFERENTLY because I saw the truth of it from my own experience. That then began the establishment in faith in this program working in my life and the more I can continue doing that, I see growth in it. ~Joe K.
Honesty gets us sober, tolerance keeps us sober. ~Bill W.

ImTbD
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Re: Religion and AA Meeting Protocol

Post by ImTbD » Wed Aug 04, 2010 1:40 pm

All,
Thank you very much for your insights. I really appreciate your thoughtful suggestions and views.
==============
LisaR,
I apologize if I in any way implied that "you all" are lacking in any way. That was not my intent. I try very hard not to generalize.

My concern were the few but very vocal and long-winded people who seem incapable of dialog beyond religious rhetoric -- no talk of steps, no discussion of personal journey, just bible and/or Big Book thumping and vagaries.

My post was written in fear that if I can't hear something of a little more substance in the chat rooms, I am not going to be able to connect with the program.
===============

Again, I thank you all for your kind attention to my question.

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Re: Religion and AA Meeting Protocol

Post by Dean62 » Wed Aug 04, 2010 11:19 pm

ImTbD wrote: I have close people in my life who have benefited from such a program, and I trust their judgment completely.
I think you should ask them exactly what you have asked here. You have a valuable resource in your friends who have benefited from the steps and your trust in them is something many people new to AA don't have.....in anyone. I still have a hard time trusting people.

Luckily I don't have to like everyone or what they say in meetings to stay sober. For me it's the other way around. I hear people laugh at, put down or roll there eye's when talking about my "higher power". If it keeps them sober, good for them.

After reading the beginning of "There is a Solution" with my sponsor he had me pay attention to all the people at the next meeting and how different we are in order to see just how tolerant we can be. Most of the people in AA meetings I would not have even said hello to outside of the rooms.

BB page 17
"We are average Americans. All sections of this country and many of its occupations are represented, as well as many political, economic, social, and religious backgrounds. We are people who normally would not mix. But there exists among us a fellowship, a friendliness, and an understanding which is indescribably wonderful."
ImTbD wrote: My post was written in fear that if I can't hear something of a little more substance in the chat rooms, I am not going to be able to connect with the program.
Other people can't keep me out of meetings but my ego can.

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Re: Religion and AA Meeting Protocol

Post by Lali » Thu Aug 05, 2010 3:05 am

ImTbD, I suggest that you try a few more chat meetings before you give up on them. I'm sorry, I don't recall if you have been asked this yet, but have you been to any face to face meetings?
Last edited by Lali on Fri Aug 06, 2010 3:26 am, edited 1 time in total.
Step 1: I can't
Step 2: He can
Step 3: I think I'll let him

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Re: Religion and AA Meeting Protocol

Post by Layne » Thu Aug 05, 2010 9:24 am

I am accepting of all faiths and consider myself spiritual as well. I am also pretty dang sure I need this program. But if I have to hear Preacher Johnnie wax poetic about how he found God, and only God can save you, and ya better hear the MESSAGE of AA, yada, yada, I honestly don't think I am going to be able to stick with this.
Preacher Johnnie has to listen to your side of it, so it only seems fair to me that you have to listen to his side of it.

Open mindedness to GOD TALK and bible thumpers did not come easily to me when I first came into the rooms of AA, but it was needed before I could begin to grasp the program of AA.

Contempt prior to investigation, kept me in alcoholic pain longer than I needed to be.

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Re: Religion and AA Meeting Protocol

Post by Steven F » Sat Aug 07, 2010 12:02 am

Hi ImTbD,

Hope I got that name right :-).

It's an interesting question. Truth be told, I didn't like that "God" word in the big book (http://www.aa.org/bigbookonline/) myself. It took me quite some time to figure out exactly how I stood towards the word, anything I had connected to the word myself, and anything I see others connecting to the word. I had to "un-learn" some stuff before I could be open enough for something else.

I can elaborate on that in a private message (might hold some controversial stuff when I start talking about particular religions), but the core of the thing is this. God, in our programme, is "God as you understand him" (I sometimes use the abbreviation "Gayuh"). Nobody will tell you how to look at that, and you should never be tempted to tell anyone else. Some will find power in a religious God, some will think of it as universal energy or karma. It doesn't matter. What matters is that we believe there is a power greater than even ourselves. So that we can stop trying to arrange the universe.

That "understanding" of God is not the same as a definition. I always had issues with that word, because English is not my first language and I haven't yet found a good replacement in Dutch. We don't need to make up a description that fits us (in fact, I strongly urge you NOT to do that). We need to have some concept of God we are comfortable with - loose or tight, whatever goes for you in your present situation. The true issue is: are you comfortable with the idea of a higher power, and with the idea that this power can do things for you without you standing there to try to control or "back it up"? When we are comfortable, we can accept and we can feel accepted. And that is when we can have an open mind.

I guarantee you that your "understanding" of God will change over time. I have no idea in what directions - that is your personal journey.

We are reading an awful lot of "God" even in this post :D. Let me tell you: the use of this word is convention. It is just a word of which everyone more or less knows it means something bigger than ourselves. We might as well have called him "Bob" for the purpose of this programme, but the word "Bob" will prompt certain images and ideas from you. Just try it. If I were to say "here is Bob" - what do you imagine Bob to look like and to be able to do?

The same with the word "God". It is a laden word, while nobody really knows what God is and what it can do. The thing is, when you hear that guy in a meeting talk about God, he is talking about something different than the set of conventions and ideas you yourself conjure up when hearing that word. And the other way around.

I can tell you a story about how I "found God" (actually - "found acceptance that there is such a thing and experience that it does something for me"). I can also tell you a story about how I rejected any notion of God at some point, how I got infatuated by religious abacadabra at another, or how the issue waxed and waned in importance like waves on a beach. If that helps you open your mind, I will. But I will never tell you anything about that in the hopes that you might pick up my ideas about "my higher power". That is not what this about.

"God" is personal to all of us. If we already talk about it, it is to share how we found that personal thing (so that others might understand it is possible and plausible and helpful). Not to throw you a "God" and say "here, take this one - that's the right one".

I hope this helps you. Don't hesitate to send me a PM should you want to talk about this further.

hazel4

Re: Religion and AA Meeting Protocol

Post by hazel4 » Sat Aug 07, 2010 3:53 am

Steven F wrote:Hi ImTbD,

"God" is personal to all of us. If we already talk about it, it is to share how we found that personal thing Not to throw you a "God" and say "here, take this one - that's the right one". .
......................................
Thank you Steven and I must apologise for the following, but unable to resist. I was once a naive nerd who needed to 'borrow' a more loving God than my Old Testament one. I received a number of 'suggestions' for which I am grateful, even those that cannot bre repeated! :shock:
So...laughing at myself, I offer this oldie

A man inserted an ‘ad’ in the classifieds. “Wife wanted”. Next day he received a hundred letters, They all said the same thing. “You can have mine”

Whatever works.
Yours in sobriety
Hazel

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Re: Religion and AA Meeting Protocol

Post by Sober25 » Wed Aug 11, 2010 4:21 am

ImTbD wrote: But if I have to hear Preacher Johnnie wax poetic about how he found God, and only God can save you, and ya better hear the MESSAGE of AA, yada, yada, I honestly don't think I am going to be able to stick with this.
I know where you are coming from, my friend. I've been in AA for many years and I've heard my fair share of the kind of people you mentioned. In my area it sounds like a revival meeting sometimes. I would recommend you find a sponsor who will allow you to be you and not expect you to fit into his/her mold. Of course that doesn't mean he/she needs to allow you to do self-destructive behavior, but will help you to find a spiritual path that you are comfortable with without cramming his/her God down your throat. Best wishes to you.
AA has one program of recovery - the 12 steps. It's tried, tested, proven and gauranteed.

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Re: Religion and AA Meeting Protocol

Post by justmeandmycoffee » Wed Sep 01, 2010 10:53 pm

ImTbD,

Hi, my name is Emily and I am an alcoholic. I can definitely relate to what you are saying. I am spiritual, but not Christian. I was raised Christian, but not subscribe to those beliefs anymore. I don't have anything against any religion. I consider myself Pagan (and believe in more than one God/Goddess), and believe that all religions lead to the same God, even though each religion has it's own way of defining God.

I have had the experience of being in a meeting and someone reading out of the bible. Internally, I felt like their religion was being pushed down my throat, even though that was not how it was intended. The main thing that I realized was that I was not being forced to listen to them reading. I opted to get up, and go outside to smoke a cigarette, instead of getting angry. When I came back in, the person was done speaking, and the rest of the meeting was very good.

The point I am trying to make is that you do not have to listen to everything that is said in a meeting, and you can leave at any time. But keep in mind, you may miss what you need to hear if you leave completely.

Just wanted to let you know that you are not the only one that can be turned off by all the religion talk in the rooms.

Take care,
justme

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