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Old 01-30-2015, 03:54 PM   #15 (permalink)
EndGameNYC
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Join Date: Jun 2013
Location: New York, NY
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My studies in philosophy predated my first time sober, which lasted for twenty five years. The "God Problem" in philosophy is about proving the existence of God (or not), and how it is that people tend use the deity to vicariously save themselves from unhappy lives with the promise of an eternally happy afterlife. Or to excuse bad behavior. Or to control the masses. Or to shirk personal responsibility. But faith is not the same as proof; rather one is diametrically opposed to the other. I didn't care about my reservations around seeing the word 'God' in the AA Big Book Twelve Steps at my first meeting. Being raised a Catholic and all that entailed in that time and place only filled me with revulsion for organized religion generally. The expression "recovering Catholic" became popular some time in the 1990s, as I recall, for good reason.

I never pretended to believe in a higher power in all the years I've spent in AA, although I have used that expression in the service of clarity and expedience. I'm humbled by the awesome Universe and the enormity of Existence; I don't need to attribute this to a spiritual Commander-In-Chief. When I've spoken about faith, it's been along the lines of my believing that there was and is a better way for me in life, not in the belief of a displaced spirit who rewarded me for my good deeds, or who punished me for my bad behavior. God is not a vending machine, and faith in God does not come with a money-back guarantee. For me, to speak about faith, my faith, is often to trivialize it.

Here's the thing...If I'm so overcome by my resistance to faith in a Supreme Being, then I am also forever victim to both the idea and to the practice, so much so that I'll avoid anything that hints at such a belief. I'm a spiritual or religious reactionary with little tolerance for those who believe. In such a case, and being who I am, I would have to ask myself why it is that I experience such revulsion to something that does not directly involve me, that does not influence me (or so I might think), and that does not play any meaningful role in my life, even though it does for so many people. Within the context of alcoholism and recovery, why am I participating in an internal religious war when my life is falling down all around me?

If AA hadn't "worked" for me, it wouldn't have been because God or a higher power is part of the program, particularly since belief in God is not an issue for me. No one in AA ever told me that I would die or that I couldn't get sober without God in my life or in my program, despite the fact that I met many people who were zealous about God and religion in AA. And I never had a reason to think so on my own. I'm sure other people have had different experiences. One of my friends in AA, former NYPD and nineteen years sober likes to say, "It's a God program." (I can feel some people's skin crawling at reading this. ) It never bothered me, and usually made sense. I have a condition that defies reason and logic; I do what hurts me and hurts other people, even though I don't want to hurt myself or anyone else. Why wouldn't there be a solution that does the same? The paradox, for me, is exquisite. Science could not save me. "Evidence based treatment" (the calling card for all that is good and right in the contemporary treatment of all things; the modern day deus ex machina) could not save me. There is nothing that science has to offer me in terms of my getting and remaining sober.

AA tells us that all we need for membership is "a desire to stop drinking," not "a 100% certainty, conviction or commitment to stop drinking." If you go to an AA meeting with no desire at all to stop drinking (which, some might say is contradicted by your attendance), you will not be turned away unless you are disruptive. Nor does AA tells us that we need a complete and unwavering faith in God or a higher power. If you can't get past the reality that some people will emphasize faith or faith in God in AA, then don't go. I worked the AA Big Book Twelve Steps without either excommunication or police involvement, despite the fact that my emphasis was on action rather than belief in a higher power.

Nobody wants to be an alcoholic. Nobody goes to AA because they're happy with their lives, or because they've always looked forward to being in AA. We often read comments like, "AA isn't for me," or "I don't like AA." Nobody likes AA. You're not supposed to like it when you're trying to get sober. More often than not, you're there because you're miserable. Why wouldn't you find a way not to be there? I didn't like AA, and AA wasn't for me either. I also didn't like any other type of treatment or program that would help me to live a sober life. What I liked was drinking. What I liked much less than AA was my slow and systematic suicide.

Many people avoid consulting medical doctors. What if they find out there's something wrong with me? What if I have to take my clothes off for him or her to examine me? What if they touch me? What if I have to change my diet or stop smoking/drinking/overeating/sitting around all day in order to save my life? I don't want to change my diet, exercise or take medication that makes me feel "weird." What if I have cancer? Diabetes? High blood pressure?

If a medical doctor advertised that spiritual fitness were an important part of his practice, I imagine that he or she would have less business than otherwise. But if your doctor is able to communicate to you that good emotional or spiritual health contributes to good physical health, you might take that knowledge to heart, given that it's coming from your doctor. I doubt many people would argue against emotional stability or spiritual tools as part of their fight against cancer or heart disease. (There is what I think is an outstanding program for children fighting cancer, known as "Kids Kicking Cancer" that provides for emotional and spiritual fitness within the context of their medical treatment.)

Philosophy, personal convictions and religious orientation went out the window for me when I came to understand that I was fighting for my life.

This isn't a promotion for AA. They don't need it. The OP implicitly references AA and refers directly to the concept of the "God Problem" and a "higher power." I don't care where people go to or how they get sober. If you don't at least have a little bit of faith that you can heal, that you can live a better life, that you don't have to drown in misery for the rest of your life, then there is no program that will save you. And even if it is only pain that drives you to sobriety, then you've certainly got a good chance recover.
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“The world we see that seems so insane is the result of a belief system that is not working. To perceive the world differently, we must be willing to change our belief system, let the past slip away, expand our sense of now, and dissolve the fear in our minds.” W. James
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