God = Group of drunks.

Old 09-12-2012, 10:23 AM
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God = Group of drunks.

Hello all. A bit of background to put my question into perspective: I am an alcoholic and a member of AA. I have been continuously sober now for a bit over twenty years. I am also an atheist. In the early days, this gave me a fair bit of difficulty but over the years I've been able to reconcile many of the sticking points I once had and allowed me to move past them.

How I did so has been gradual and had I not had so low a bottom and such a desperate condition, I don't suspect that I would have stuck around to have found the solution. As many would agree, the bottom in AA has gradually risen. People come in today who we never would have seen in the early days of this program and it has been my observation that many lack the desperation necessary to face themselves. I originally came into the program in 1978 (seven years dry followed by a seven year slip) and the idea of someone going more than a couple of months without doing a fourth and fifth step was unheard of - today it is not unusual to have people with four or five years being able to stay dry on meetings alone... not something I can relate to.

Anywho, to my question: In working with newcomers I've come across some lately who are, at the very least, agnostic and in some cases, atheist. More than a few, I suspect, are simply angry at the God of their understanding and will come around in time - others truly don't believe. I'm unsure of how to work with these folks.

We've all heard that we can choose a higher power of our own understanding and agnostic members have been told for decades that they can choose Group Of Drunks or Good Orderly Direction or any other of a long list of good intentioned suggestions. Almost in the same breathe though, you hear members telling newcomers that they need to 'turn it over' to that power greater than themselves.

Recently, an atheist newcomer, who I believe is sincere in her desire to quit drinking but acting out of frustration, dropped all he bills into the basket as the seventh tradition went around. She was frustrated and trying to make a point. What she said was this:

"Look, I know you all aren't going to pay my bills for me, but I really don't know what to do. You say that I can choose any HP I want and I've chosen the group - ya'll have stayed sober and I haven't been able to on my own so clearly you folks have something I want. Ya'll have told me that the group is a fine choice and that many have done so before me. But then, when I come to you with my problems you tell me don't drink, come to meetings and ask my hp for help. Well I've got 23 days without a drink, have been to 52 meetings and ya'll are my higher power. Ya'll ain't going to pay my bills, you don't want me doing the fifth step with the group...which I don't really want to do either but I would if it'd keep me from picking up a drink, ya'll aren't going to remove my shortcomings and you don't want me praying to you.

So how exactly can I use this group of drunks as my higher power?"

Thirty four years in the program and an atheist and really, I have no idea what to tell this young woman. How I did it will not work for her - and I don't see any alternatives. I would be grateful for any suggestions.
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Old 09-12-2012, 11:18 AM
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That's the downside of "Group of Drunks"... they can only do so much and they are just human beings like all of us... I don't want any part of being another persons higher power... I am fallible and will ultimately let her down.

Maybe she should just act like she has one... pray, even when she doesn't know or understand to what she is praying to... the action of prayer... doing it is the important thing. I pray a lot and I kinda feel silly about it, like, WTF is going on here, I am praying for the strength, insight, forgiveness, whatever, I need... and what really is gonna happen, you know?

I have come to believe the power is in the prayer itself.
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Old 09-12-2012, 11:21 AM
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Yes, a lot of folks who end up in AA are "mad at God" and call themselves atheists.
You can't be mad at God and be an atheist .... God exists, you're mad at Him !

My Higher Power that I call God has "evolved" over the years so I don't think an accurate and absolute definition is necessary nor possible.
Tell the newcomer to try to keep an open mind and it will all make more sense down the line.

All the best.

Bob R
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Old 09-12-2012, 11:31 AM
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Mark, thank you so much for responding. I agree wholeheartedly with the downside of the Group of Drunks acronym. I had a similar suggestion to the one that you've suggested here when I first came in...but it didn't work for me - though it might for her and I'll suggest it. In the event that she is in the same or similar boat as me however - do you have any other suggestions?

Here was the issue for me: I'm Buddhist. By definition, we are atheists. There is no Creator God to turn to or turn it over to. It does not mean that we are devoid of a spiritual inheritance. Praying, for me, is akin to sacrilege and I was looking for relief from the disease of alcoholism, not to be converted. Prayer therefore seemed duplicitous and dishonest.

If she's Buddhist, then of course, I'll have some suggestions for her - but I'm cautious about doing anything that might be seen as trying to supplant her belief system and so, if she's of another faith (if you will) that doesn't have a diety to pray to...any other suggestions?
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Old 09-12-2012, 11:33 AM
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Principles......The collective wisdom will have to work for her, and she'll have to dig into the principles.

She certainly can be helped with more talk, less...pray about it....

Frankly, I have a God of my understanding, and that generally makes me angry when someone says that.

Sounds to me like she needs SOMEONE to take some time and talk to her. Let's hope she gets more the a sponsor?
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Old 09-12-2012, 11:49 AM
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Prayer for me is a focusing, a channeling, an intense activity that is not a passive contemplative or meditative state.

Oh jeez, you know I am not just real eloquent in these things.

If she wants her bills paid, LOL, I got it, don't worry... IDK how that is going to work for her... If she needs the strength and confidence and direction (focus) to get it done... and she is willing to accept what comes of her efforts in this regard... maybe it will work for her.
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Old 09-12-2012, 11:58 AM
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She isn't willing to go to any lengths, there isn't much we can do....

I have no experience with this. I do know that my prayers might help.

My sponsor was an atheist, but willing to set aside old beliefs and know that their way wasn't working, proceeded to move into the steps. The spiritual experience was real and today, my sponsor does have their own higher power.

When she is really ready to stay stopped, she will. Some kind of belief or willingness to believe is essential to working the steps (program or design for living) that is the AA way. Has she attempted Rational Recovery? AVRT? SMART? Women for Recovery?

I couldn't stop until I was totally desperate, hopeless, and beat down; and then I was guided through the 12 steps.
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Old 09-12-2012, 12:53 PM
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"No human power could relieve our alcoholism."
Step two doesnt jive with the Group of Drunks philosophy IMO.
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Old 09-12-2012, 01:20 PM
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I always wondered why someone who doesn't believe in a power greater than themselves would choose a program that has a higher power as its main focus. I guess you're still getting free group therapy sessions but it kind of misses the point.
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Old 09-12-2012, 01:53 PM
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I know this has been asked before, but it still confuses me...

Does being atheist exclude having a Higher Power of any kind, or all types of spirituality?
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Old 09-12-2012, 01:57 PM
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i have zero expereince on being a Buddist .agnostic or atheist.
Therefore spiritual practices would be useless to
her from that POV.

No I would not be sponsoring her or suggesting she finds God.

I'm thinking you could tho legna so that is why you posted.
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Old 09-12-2012, 03:02 PM
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I don't have any issues with a concept of a God, I do have issues and anger at religion(s). That puts me in the lifetime agnostic category I guess. I accept some sort of master of the universe but rituals and prayers not only are meaningless to me, but are just plain silly in my opinion.

It was a delemma when I first came in. My sponsor's suggestion was to fake it. It seemed like a reasonable suggestion. That, and I was willing to go to any lengths. I've been faking it for over 34 years now. I've given churchin a few good trys and there is still nothing there for me. I have no problems that my beliefs may make me a fraud and a hypercrit. My spirituality is ok with that.
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Old 09-12-2012, 03:17 PM
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All excellent suggestions. Also, to the extent someone simply cannot make these ideas work for them, you might be doing the person a favor by letting them know about recovery programs (such as SMART) which don't require a belief in a higher power.

My former AA sponsor has done this several times now, and tells me she's glad to be able to help others even if it turns out that her own program isn't the right fit.
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Old 09-12-2012, 03:25 PM
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My HP doesn't pay my bills either.

I was recently at a first step meeting. One woman said "God give me everything I want today." I responded that my experience is that "My HP always gives me what I need ... not necessarily what I want." She said my experience is different than hers.....and she was respectful about it.

Any way, I wish my HP would give me everything I WANT.

I think I'm really off topic. Sorry about that.
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Old 09-12-2012, 03:36 PM
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Well, PaperDolls, IDK how off topic you are... Maybe the OP will redirect us if need be...

But, .... what is it that we want from our Higher Power, or is it need... Rhetorical question... but perhaps it is on point... maybe early on just getting through the day without picking up is all we need, or can even handle, at that point... you know?
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Old 09-12-2012, 03:37 PM
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Plenty of agnostics get sober and stay sober.

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Old 09-12-2012, 04:27 PM
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Interesting topic and one that hits close to home for me. I came in as an agnostic and used Group Of Drunks and "fake it till you make it" for about 12 years and was always had some level of discomfort. Like Legna was so beaten down when I came in that I was grateful that AA had an answer for me. It was after those 12 years I realized I'm an atheist and don't believe in a creator or personal interventionist god. What has worked for me recently is the concept of Goodness or what my mom would call being a mensch - a person of integrity an honor. Something like the good as I understand it in Buddhism (but I'm not actually a buddhist).

I don't pray to a deity but take to heart the spirit of the 3rd, 7th and St. Francis prayers without the religion. That's some really good stuff. To me prayer is action. It is by that action and striving towards the good that I can overcome my shortcomings. And it is with the help and counsel of you group of drunks and others that I'm able to keep going. It's not entirely by the book, but here I am going on almost 31 years. Oh my metaphorical god, how did that happen?

And some days my higher power is the picture of Harry Dean Stanton that is for some reason in the room of a Sunday evening meeting I sometimes attend.

How i work with newcomers or not so newcomers is how people worked with me. Coffee and conversation and the respectful exchange of ideas and the realization that this an ongoing process. I hope this has been helpful and relevant to the discussion.
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Old 09-12-2012, 04:34 PM
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My higher power is.......not me. I came into AA non-theist and am still today. The universe is infinite. I can work with that. Better than my finite self/ego.
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Old 09-12-2012, 05:02 PM
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Originally Posted by CousinA View Post
I hope this has been helpful and relevant to the discussion.
I loved it....Welcome to SR CousinA!
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Old 09-12-2012, 05:25 PM
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Yea, I am OK with him, I love his acting, especially in Repo Man, LOL...

It is a broad highway.
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