My Understanding of Alcoholics Anonymous

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stevenlchilds

My Understanding of Alcoholics Anonymous

Post by stevenlchilds »

There is a point of powerlessness that every alcoholic will eventually pass if drinking is not stopped. The

alcoholic will not be able to stay sober. The choice will be made to drink again and again. Because drinking

is causing severe trouble and the choice is made to drink again the drinker is thought of as insane.

Insanity is probably the best word for this powerlessness over drink. Often the point of powerlessness has

been passed before the drinker is aware of it. The drinker thinks stopping is his/her choice and this is not

the case. The drinker has become powerless.


Most alcoholics can’t quit without getting help. Therefore some can quit on their own. The help suggested

to the drinker is to practice the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. Practicing the 12 steps brings about a

spiritual awakening. There is no mention in the book about how the alcoholic who can quit on his/her own

does it. They are not seen as true or real alcoholics. Interestingly, the ones who quit on their own have also

made the life changes that the ones who need help have made. They also work the 12 steps in some

fashion. They also have spiritual awakenings. They have also done intense soul searching and have also

become honest with themselves. There are both types of alcoholics attending AA. Both types work the 12

steps to stay sober and to become spiritually awakened. The Big Book say's it is not a comprehensive

picture but only a rough idea of the true alcoholic.


Alcoholics anonymous is said to be based on the idea that alcoholic addiction is a disease. The cure or

treatment is a moral change. The majority of the 12 steps are about moral changes. Some alcoholics

recover from alcoholism and some remain powerless their whole life. Either way the way to stay sober is

to do the 12 steps. Those who have recovered from the disease and have their power of choice back also

continue to work the 12 steps in some fashion. My point here is the moral life change is common to all.

The spiritual awakening is common to both. It is a must in order to be returned to sanity and to stay sane

in regards to the drink. Sadly many alcoholics do not regain their sanity. The normal people that never go

to Alcoholics Anonymous also work a moral program of some kind if they have ever had any life difficulty

that warrants self introspection. The pain of existential choice brings about the soul searching and the

desire for a spiritual awakening. There is a desire to be relieved of the suffering from painful choices.

There is a desire for happiness.


Change must be made in thought and actions. Change must be made in dreams and desires. Selfishness is

seen clearly as a problem that causes more pain to everyone. We begin to realize we cause trouble for

others just by being here and we want to minimize it. We want to pay our own way. We want to give to

others rather than take from others. We become very grateful for that which is given to us by others. We

are grateful for being accepted. We begin to accept others unconditionally too. This is called unconditional

love. It is what heals us. We are not to judge others only ourselves.


The life changes in Alcoholics Anonymous are based on a faith in a higher power. We turn our lives over to

its care. This Higher power can be a God or it can be the AA way of life. Some say GOD stands for Good

Orderly Direction. Atheists are welcome at AA. All religions are welcome at AA. If you want to quit

drinking you are welcome at AA and are a member just as you are. AA is a suggested program not a

required program.

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Ken_the_Geordie
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Re: My Understanding of Alcoholics Anonymous

Post by Ken_the_Geordie »

Thanks, Steven, is the above you own work? I liked it, but I'm not sure I would've used the word 'moral' and 'moral change'. Lacking morals, or rather having a moral weakness sounds like we have a choice in the matter. All we have to do is grit our teeth, and we can have the 'moral backbone' to sort stop drinking.

But that wasn't my experience. I knew it was morally wrong to drink the way I did; it was damaging both my family and myself; but I just couldn't stop drinking no matter how hard I tried. I came to AA spiritually sick, not morally sick (I still knew what was right and wrong), and I was fixed at a spiritual level; there was nothing about my morals that needed fixing (though I do agree that there is a link between morality and spirituality)

I believe my spiritual awakening to be my more positive outlook upon life, aspiring to be a better human being by living my life upon a spiritual basis.

Anyway, I'm probably just splitting hairs with you; apologies; and welcome to the forum, I see this is your first post; why don't you introduce yourself in the newcomers area of the forum so we can shake your hand interweb style?

Regards,

Ken, an alkie from the UK
I'm more commonly known as Tosh (it's a nick name, but everyone I know in real life calls me it); just in case there's any confusion; I tend to use Tosh or Ken interchangeably and it confuses some; including me. ;-)

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Re: My Understanding of Alcoholics Anonymous

Post by Steven F »

Hi Steven - and welcome!

Interesting post... I hope you don't take offence if I ask you if you are alcoholic yourself. I ask this because there are some elements in there that may hold truth on the surface of things, but also do just that - scratch the surface. Two elements in particular I would like to talk about.

First, the idea of a "moral change". I do not believe the "cure for the disease of alcoholism" (in itself already an expression we can debate about ad infinitum) is a moral change. The term "moral" implies the distinction between right or wrong, something that is different in many (personal and societal) cultures and therefore can hardly be seen as universal. Most of us had no lack of morals. In fact, many of the alcoholics I know - drinking and sober - have a very keen understanding of what is right and what is wrong. The difference between recovered and not recovered, in my view, is not even that all of a sudden we would be doing "the moral thing", rather that we stop trying to decide for ourselves (alone or through the set of values taught to us) what would be the right thing to do in a given situation. When I stop worrying about that, I allow myself to set aside my fixed ideas and to receive guidance from something we call God. That guidance manifests itself mostly through intuition, but also because we get more aware of our surroundings as they are. And not as we construct them to be. Precisely that is the level of awareness I gain through the programme of action of AA.

I'll give you an example. Let's say somebody does something nasty to us. It would morally be ok to turn your back to that person, even to take revenge of some sorts (depending on what set of morals you are conditioned to adhere to).

But let's say that the wrong that is done to us in reality does not exist? We think somebody did something to us to get to us, but in reality, that person just did something very normal without having us in mind. Our inventories are full of that...

A more precise example? Ok. Say two parents decide to divorce, simply because they can't get along anymore. I would submit there is in essence nothing wrong with that (not in my set of morals anyway). However, the child lives the disruption, and assumes the one parent left because he or she has not been adequate as a child. Upon this assumption, the child acts (rejecting the one parent, for example). That parent in turn presumes that the child is rejecting him or her because of propaganda by the other parent, and becomes resentful because of that (e.g. turns a friendly divorce into a revenge exercise). Nobody did anything immoral per se, but everyone reacted on assumptions about the motives of others.

You see, it is not how we react to reality that is the problem. It is an inability to see reality; to drop those goggles that have made us live in a world that is actually not there. This is where the - or at least my - problem is situated. I can act moral all I want, but if I do it on false assumptions, I will disturb something, open myself to retaliation, and get hurt. In that sense, we don't "cause trouble for others just by being here and we want to minimize it". In reality, we are not that important to be able to cause trouble for others just by being. We can act upon personal assumptions, which act may seem to come "out of the blue" to others who don't share these assumptions, and upon which (the act, not the assumptions) they will react to us. By reacting to what is in essence not there, but just a fabrication of our own mind, we create our own troubles.

This brings me to the second: power of choice. The only power of choice I have at present is to either set my self aside and accept guidance, or to shut myself off from it. The guidance is there, my power consists of paying attention to it. Or not. The reason why I wish to pay attention to it is that my life is infinitely better when I do. And crumbles when I don't. Today, I have the power and trust to ask others what exactly they mean by their words and their actions. I can do that without fear, simply because somebody not loving me does not take away from me. What others do or feel can only add, not negate. I do not any longer feel rejected as a person when someone disagrees with a position I hold. I see myself (most of the time) for what I really am (instead of the inflated vision of myself), and that part of me is, in general, untouchable.

In order to gain that position, I had to clean up the trash from the past, so that I didn't create new problems. And then I needed to understand that I don't do things solely on my own power, but with help. God empowers me to do things, but without God, there is little power to do anything worthwhile to others. Without being open to God, and understanding that my own thoughts can only create a reality which is actually not there, I can not stand in this life with a neutral attitude. And then I will be picked up again by my imaginary hurricane of what I think other people think of me. And then drinking to put down that imaginary hurricane would become a very appealing option again.

All the above is experience-based and is by no means perfectly true every single moment of every single day. I don't claim to be right or even to be complete. This is just how I live it, and how I perceive what is happening through the programme of AA. Albeit it very small aspects of it - the full picture is of course quite a bit bigger than that :-).

stevenlchilds

Re: My Understanding of Alcoholics Anonymous

Post by stevenlchilds »

It was AA itself that used the word moral in the 4th step. I do not have a problem with it. I let my conscience and GOD, Good Orderly Direction be my guide. I am talking about dysfunctional religious morality. I am talking about AA morality. :wink: I knew I was alcoholic when I was 21 and did not want to quit for 12 more years. I was able to quit before coming to AA and then relapsed on about 4 or 5 one day occasions. On page 24 of big book it says most alcoholics can't quit on their own. I am saying I am one of the alcoholics that can and did and I did it by becoming spiritual/moral/thoughtful/mindful/good orderly direction on my own. My paper is all about it. Thanks for the questioning. i hope to bring about more unity. I will leave AA if AA does not want me.

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Re: My Understanding of Alcoholics Anonymous

Post by Toad »

Howdy,
Somewhere I saw or heard something like , Keep It Simple. Now that made sense to this real
alcoholic.

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Re: My Understanding of Alcoholics Anonymous

Post by avaneesh912 »

First of all, AA admits that it does not have a monopoly on recovery from the Alcoholism. Also, you claim on "On page 24 of big book it says most alcoholics can't quit on their own." I would like know exactly which paragraph are you talking about? I don't see this on page 24, perhaps you are taking the contents totally out of of context?
Show him the mental twist which leads to the first drink of a spree. We suggest you do this as we have done it in the chapter on alcoholism.(Alcoholics Anonymous, Page 92)

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Re: My Understanding of Alcoholics Anonymous

Post by avaneesh912 »

At present, our membership is pyramiding at the rate of about twenty per cent a year. So far, upon the total problem of several million actual and potential alcoholics in the world, we have made only a scratch. In all probability, we shall never be able to touch more than a fair fraction of the alcohol problem in all its ramifications. Upon therapy for the alcoholic himself, we surely have no monopoly. Yet it is our great hope that all those who have as yet found no answer may begin to find one in the pages of this book and will presently join us on the high road to a new freedom.
Here is what we read yesterday in the Big book Study. So, AA is for people who are looking for solution and not for those who already have one. Just because AA is free, people like you want to come in and start tooting your horn about your solution. There are traditions and there are concepts to carry the message of AA, which is the spiritual awakening as THE RESULT of working the 12 steps of AA.
Show him the mental twist which leads to the first drink of a spree. We suggest you do this as we have done it in the chapter on alcoholism.(Alcoholics Anonymous, Page 92)

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Re: My Understanding of Alcoholics Anonymous

Post by Mike O »

Toad wrote:Howdy,
Somewhere I saw or heard something like , Keep It Simple. Now that made sense to this real
alcoholic.

AMEN, Brother!!
:)

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Re: My Understanding of Alcoholics Anonymous

Post by Steven F »

Well, I find this searching quite interesting. Don't see nothing wrong with it either, actually.
stevenlchilds wrote:It was AA itself that used the word moral in the 4th step.
The word "moral" is mentioned a bit more often than that: it is found on pages 11, 44, 45, 59, 95, and 137. I find what is written on the bottom of page 44 of most importance to this topic: "If a mere code of morals or a better philosophy of life were sufficient to overcome alcoholism, many of us would have recovered long ago."

I had these things, but they didn't help me. Living on a spiritual basis did/does.

When I first read that "moral inventory", I also had to check that. Did it mean that I would list all my good and bad things (Websters definition: "an itemized list of current assets; a list of traits, preferences, attitudes, interests, or abilities used to evaluate personal characteristics or skills")? I could have done that, but I wanted to find out what the problem was, and more importantly: why it was the problem. So I made a list that basically refers to how I think, and checked if that was just or unjustified. When I look in a dictionary today, one of the meanings of "moral" is "founded on the fundamental principles of right conduct rather than on legalities, enactment, or custom". Transferred to the inventory: are my resentments founded on these fundamental principles? Or rather on my constructed idea of reality? Is my perception of fundamental principles correct? Is it something that helps me, or rather something that holds me back and makes me closed-minded? The latter was of course the most interesting to investigate.

I must say I applaud you for living a spiritual life without needing AA. Great work!
I will leave AA if AA does not want me.
But that's a bit "playing the victim", wouldn't you say? AA doesn't take anyone in or throw anyone out. People might not want to hear what you want to say, and groups of people might tell you that they would rather discuss something else, but AA in itself has no entry exam.

The point is: the programme of AA tells me exactly how life on a spiritual basis can be achieved. It doesn't tell me it's the only way, but it is the only text that gives me these precise instructions, and that I have found myself capable of following. If there are other sets of instructions, that is great. We are here to discuss this particular (AA) set.

It doesn't really matter what donkey you have taken to climb the mountain. In the end, we're all in the same place enjoying the view.

stevenlchilds

Re: My Understanding of Alcoholics Anonymous

Post by stevenlchilds »

The paragraph is on page 24 in italics. It says most alcy's have lost the power of choice in regards to drinking.

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Re: My Understanding of Alcoholics Anonymous

Post by avaneesh912 »

And you don't agree to that fact?

Again, AA admits it does not have a monopoly over recovery from alcoholism. And if you go to few pages after what you are quoting, you will see the big book admits that there other ways to find God.

The distinguished American psychologist William James, in his book :Varieties of Religious Experience," indicates a multitude of ways in which men have discovered God. We have no desire to convince anyone that there is only one way by which faith can be acquired. If what we have learned and felt and seen means anything at all, it means that all of us, whatever our race, creed, or color are the children of a living Creator with whom we may form a relationship upon simple and understandable terms as soon as we are willing and honest enough to try. Those having religious affiliations will find here nothing disturbing to their beliefs or ceremonies. There is no friction among us over such matters.

Our hope is that many alcoholic men and women, desperately in need, will see these pages, and we believe that it is only by fully disclosing ourselves and our problems that they will be persuaded to say, "Yes, I am one of them too; I must have this thing."
Show him the mental twist which leads to the first drink of a spree. We suggest you do this as we have done it in the chapter on alcoholism.(Alcoholics Anonymous, Page 92)

stevenlchilds

Re: My Understanding of Alcoholics Anonymous

Post by stevenlchilds »

Agree with what? Do you mean page 24 avaneesh912? Do you agree some alcy's can quit on their own? Read the paragraph on pg. 24 It says that most alcy's can't quit on their own. There fore Bill was saying some can quit. So what is the problem with that?

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Re: My Understanding of Alcoholics Anonymous

Post by avaneesh912 »

Staying stopped and facing life situations without the need to take a drink is what its all about. A design for living. I too quit on my own before I entered AA. But today, looking back 4 years, especially last seeing that i can wade thru the life situations past six moths at ease, I really feel confident that I keep working on my spirituality, I could continue to do the same rest of my life.

From what I understand from your posting, you quit on your own and you yourself admit that you had a spiritual awakening or some sort (outside the AA system) which AA has no stance on.

Again, i post from the preface:

We are not an organization in the conventional sense of the word. There are no fees or dues whatsoever. The only requirement for membership is an honest desire to stop drinking. We are not allied with any particular faith, sect or denomination, nor do we oppose anyone. We simply wish to be helpful to those who are afflicted.
Show him the mental twist which leads to the first drink of a spree. We suggest you do this as we have done it in the chapter on alcoholism.(Alcoholics Anonymous, Page 92)

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Re: My Understanding of Alcoholics Anonymous

Post by Lali »

Mike wrote:

"Toad wrote:
Somewhere I saw or heard something like , Keep It Simple. Now that made sense to this real
alcoholic."

Ditto on the AMEN, Mike!
Step 1: I can't
Step 2: He can
Step 3: I think I'll let him

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Re: My Understanding of Alcoholics Anonymous

Post by Blue Moon »

stevenlchilds wrote: Alcoholics anonymous is said to be based on the idea that alcoholic addiction is a disease. The cure or treatment is a moral change. The majority of the 12 steps are about moral changes.
Hmm. I wonder about this assertion.

Some of the most morally-upstanding individuals I have ever met will never quit drinking until after they get off their knees and do something different.

The Steps are about changing actions, resulting in a psychic change - which is not necessarily the same as moral change. Early AA's interpreted this psychic change as "spiritual experience", because it's mental or emotional rather than physical or financial in nature, and was often sudden. The wording was later changed to "spiritual awakening" as new folk described a lack of sudden experience yet were also staying sober with the same process of action.

I had a "blinding flash" spiritual experience, not unlike what Bill W described. But that wasn't a moral change and, like Bill, I still knew I wasn't going to stay sober until my actions changed. So whether recovery is a moral change depends on the definition of "moral".
Ian S
AKA Blue Moon

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