No worshipping for me

Atheist & Agnostic AA members

 

 

 

 

 

 

from The Grapevine, Oct 2016

I work a secular program, omitting the religious aspect (as I see it) of AA philosophy. Try as I could, “acting as if” just did not cut it for me. I was being untruthful. The power greater than myself that restored my sanity was death. I did not want to die at age 35 and it was going to happen if I did not change direction.

I do not worship the Big Book. I read it as literature, documenting what the early AAs thought and did to stay sober. Similarly, the Steps are a guide to sobriety. The word “miracle” is not part of my vocabulary. I believe we dismiss our ability to grow and change when we use this word. Hard work, dedication and emotional growth are part of my language. I do not think that divine intervention occurs when a member loses the desire to self-destruct via alcohol any more than when they relapse. The Serenity Prayer works fine for me as a vital tool for living. Never having been on my knees to say the Third Step or the Seventh Step Prayers, I am sober and happy nonetheless.

My personal payback occurs when I answer the phones at our intergroup office or make copies of tapes or CDs to give away to members. Payback also occurs when I go to speak, sponsor an alcoholic, or simply attend and share at meetings. If I did not go to meetings at age 80, how would any newcomer know that the program works for me?

In a sea of many religious AA members, it’s often lonely being secular, but I have to remember that without AA I would be dead. I owe my life to this program and the many sober members I’ve met and interacted with for all these 45 years.

God on Every Page

Atheist & Agnostic AA members

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

from The Grapevine, Oct 2016

When he opened the Big Book for the first time, he thought … How will I ever fit in?
Recently I visited a relative in Maine who asked me only one question about AA: “Is it religious?” My first thought was, Of course it is. Instead I paused, and told her she had asked the $64,000 question.

I thought back to that bleak day 10 years ago when I washed up into AA, still a bit tipsy, beaten into a state of reasonableness and literally dying to find a way out of my alcoholic addiction. As my head cleared, I started reading the Big Book, and since the word God seemed to be on almost every page, I thought I had to return to the Christianity I was raised under in order to get sober.

I soon realized our book didn’t actually say I had to return to the God of my youth. But I felt it strongly implied that those who really got the program and stayed sober eventually returned to their faith in good old American fundamentalist Christianity. I was so depressed. I’d never fit in with these people, I thought.

Fortunately I found a wonderful sponsor, a born-again Christian no less, who was instrumental in taking me through the Steps, including the God parts, and showed me how I could find a new way of living free from that hopeless state of mind and body I had dragged into AA with me.

We read the Big Book side-by-side, often re-reading “We Agnostics” and the Appendix II on spiritual experience. He said that if I didn’t have the power myself to stop drinking and manage my life, I’d have to rely on some other power that did. The main thing was that power had to be greater than me.

We discussed the Oxford Group’s Four Absolutes and the Buddhist’s Eightfold Path. He suggested I could replace the word God with Good, or with Higher Power or Group of Drunks or Good Orderly Direction. Our book called it God, but we can call it anything we want.

Had I believed in God there would have been no problem, but I didn’t. Try as I might, I could not convince myself I had an ethereal friend who would direct my will according to some predetermined life plan. So how could I get sober and stay sober without all that God stuff?

I asked those who had what I wanted if they believed in God, and if not, how they stayed sober. I was amazed at the number of people who spoke of their reliance on a truly spiritual force to stay sober, and never referred to God. They told me how they had worked through the Steps and slowly discovered that their Higher Power had nothing to do with God or religion.

As I went through the Steps, I came to believe in a higher purpose, not a higher being, to help me change the way I thought and acted. My higher purpose is to live by the principles of the Steps. The power I draw on is that unsuspected inner resource which makes me willing on a daily basis to strive for honesty, integrity, compassion, tolerance, humility, love and service. After cleaning house, sharing my faults, making restitution and starting to help others, I was relieved of my obsession to drink and much of my selfishness and self-centeredness. I became grateful for what I had and was much more comfortable in my own skin.

So how did I answer my friend’s question? I told her AA is a spiritual program although many of its members are religious. I said the Big Book was not simply an instruction manual, but a historical document, and reflected the predominately religious roots and views of its early members.

Our book is not perfect, but it does try to keep the door open to atheists, agnostics, freethinkers and alcoholics from all walks of life. Today, I don’t need God to have a higher purpose in my life and to practice the principles of the Steps. I simply need to believe that with help from the Fellowship and my inner resources, I can change my own attitude and actions and continue to enjoy the enormous benefit that change has brought into my life.

Alex M., Louisville, Ky.

from The Grapevine, Oct 2016

When he opened the Big Book for the first time, he thought … How will I ever fit in?
Recently I visited a relative in Maine who asked me only one question about AA: “Is it religious?” My first thought was, Of course it is. Instead I paused, and told her she had asked the $64,000 question.

I thought back to that bleak day 10 years ago when I washed up into AA, still a bit tipsy, beaten into a state of reasonableness and literally dying to find a way out of my alcoholic addiction. As my head cleared, I started reading the Big Book, and since the word God seemed to be on almost every page, I thought I had to return to the Christianity I was raised under in order to get sober.

I soon realized our book didn’t actually say I had to return to the God of my youth. But I felt it strongly implied that those who really got the program and stayed sober eventually returned to their faith in good old American fundamentalist Christianity. I was so depressed. I’d never fit in with these people, I thought.

Fortunately I found a wonderful sponsor, a born-again Christian no less, who was instrumental in taking me through the Steps, including the God parts, and showed me how I could find a new way of living free from that hopeless state of mind and body I had dragged into AA with me.

We read the Big Book side-by-side, often re-reading “We Agnostics” and the Appendix II on spiritual experience. He said that if I didn’t have the power myself to stop drinking and manage my life, I’d have to rely on some other power that did. The main thing was that power had to be greater than me.

We discussed the Oxford Group’s Four Absolutes and the Buddhist’s Eightfold Path. He suggested I could replace the word God with Good, or with Higher Power or Group of Drunks or Good Orderly Direction. Our book called it God, but we can call it anything we want.

Had I believed in God there would have been no problem, but I didn’t. Try as I might, I could not convince myself I had an ethereal friend who would direct my will according to some predetermined life plan. So how could I get sober and stay sober without all that God stuff?

I asked those who had what I wanted if they believed in God, and if not, how they stayed sober. I was amazed at the number of people who spoke of their reliance on a truly spiritual force to stay sober, and never referred to God. They told me how they had worked through the Steps and slowly discovered that their Higher Power had nothing to do with God or religion.

As I went through the Steps, I came to believe in a higher purpose, not a higher being, to help me change the way I thought and acted. My higher purpose is to live by the principles of the Steps. The power I draw on is that unsuspected inner resource which makes me willing on a daily basis to strive for honesty, integrity, compassion, tolerance, humility, love and service. After cleaning house, sharing my faults, making restitution and starting to help others, I was relieved of my obsession to drink and much of my selfishness and self-centeredness. I became grateful for what I had and was much more comfortable in my own skin.

So how did I answer my friend’s question? I told her AA is a spiritual program although many of its members are religious. I said the Big Book was not simply an instruction manual, but a historical document, and reflected the predominately religious roots and views of its early members.

Our book is not perfect, but it does try to keep the door open to atheists, agnostics, freethinkers and alcoholics from all walks of life. Today, I don’t need God to have a higher purpose in my life and to practice the principles of the Steps. I simply need to believe that with help from the Fellowship and my inner resources, I can change my own attitude and actions and continue to enjoy the enormous benefit that change has brought into my life.

Alex M., Louisville, Ky.