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Struggling with AA.

Old 06-24-2010, 05:55 AM
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Struggling with AA.

Hello everyone.

I haven't been posting for a few days - having an eventful time with AA and hoped some of you might have some thoughts.

So, I've been going to meetings, have found a sponsor and started working the steps. It seems that 1 & 2 were pretty much already in place. Step 4 doesn't seem scary as such but when it came to step 3, my sponsor suggested I get down on my knees there and then and pray. Nothing wrong with this in itself, and my sponsor isn't a christian (he's a Buddhist as it happens) but I found myself recoiling automatically from this suggestion.

I have some difficulty admitting that I am insane (certainly my drunken behaviour is, but I have managed to get by professionally / socially without being committed) and this ego-suppression seems to smack of brainwashing to me.

Many of the old-timers seem to do nothing but AA (which is cool but I have no desire to withdraw from my non-AA responsibilities) and weirdly often seem very troubled themselves. Angry.

I don't mean to knock AA or the people at the meetings. I will keep going, but these things concern me, as does the fact that any questioning or requests for clarification of the program seems to be met with more slogans.

So much of what I've been learning about makes perfect sense: a focusing on others rather than myself, living in the moment, a constant vigilance and adjustment of my behaviour and thought patterns, peer group support. 'Take what you want and leave the rest' is all very well, but doesn't ring true in the meetings I have been to, where some 'senior' members give the message that unless I do things precisely by the book then I am doomed to death. I don't want what those people have.

I am struggling with all of this and the fact that I don't feel at all able to raise these issues in a meeting (I have never heard anyone question or criticise aspects of AA in a meeting - it is like an unspoken taboo!) compounds things.

Any thoughts or comments would be very gratefully received. I don't mind at all that recovery is difficult and hard work, but the program is currently seeming much less flexible than previously and I'm concerned that I'll fall by the wayside.

Thanks everyone.
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Old 06-24-2010, 06:10 AM
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Originally Posted by sobermax View Post

I have some difficulty admitting that I am insane (certainly my drunken behaviour is, but I have managed to get by professionally / socially without being committed) and this ego-suppression seems to smack of brainwashing to me.
In the context of AA I believe that they are talking about insanity with the definition of doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Not the asylum.

As in each time I drink I may expect that things won't go to hell yet they always did.

For me to think I could control my drinking is certainly insane.

So for me it was smashing the notion that the status quo in my life was acceptable if I wanted things to get better. For me that was not dying or going to jail, thats about it. Couldn't keep doing the same stuff............... Thus the word I hate but that was necessary, change.

Brainwashing, yeah I hear ya, I thought that early one but I just went with the admission that I was so f'ed up my brain could use a good washing :-)
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Old 06-24-2010, 06:11 AM
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Hi,

I am not an AA person, so the only advice I can offer, is that balance has been crucial to my recovery. I have to strike a balance daily between the physical, spiritual and mental aspects of my life. If not, I suffer for it.

I hope you find something that works for you.
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Old 06-24-2010, 06:21 AM
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Nice post, thank you.

Well, yes, the steps are a set of instructions to follow to bring about a spiritual awakening and freedom from the chains of alcoholism. But really, they do not take over our lives, we are free to do anything we want to do, except drink. Quite the opposite of rigidity, they allow us to be free, free of addiction, free of self centeredness...

I mean, the way I see it... here are 12 steps, some with decisions to make, some with self assessment and "cleaning house" and some with ongoing action and helping others... How I incorporate that into my life is up to me... Gosh, with all that happens in my life, all the day to day and far reaching decisions and plans I need to make, all the people in my life, my work, my outside interests... the 12 steps are simply framework, a set of principles to follow... it's not my life... nor do I want it to be...

Some find that AA, the program and fellowship, are much more than a framework and they do wish to make it the central activity of their lives... Service, social, family... and that's OK!! It's wonderful actually, those that live and breath AA 24/7 give all of us in AA so much and we all benefit...

I am a catholic... but I have not joined the priesthood nor have I joined a monastery.

Maybe follow directions, get recovered, you'll know then the why and how of the program in your own life, moving forward... and even that is not static... AA well always be there.
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Old 06-24-2010, 06:24 AM
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Like any other fellowship AA will have difficulty listening to its own troubles and its probably not a good idea to bring these things up at meetings unless that is what the meeting is about. Even then, i would be cautious. Just talk about it with some trusted members and have your honest say about it not to change it so much as to get past it, you know.

The kneeling is not required of course. Pray or dont pray any manner you may choose or may not choose. A God of our own understanding is the way forward for all spiritual challenges from there start to finish.

Step Two restoring us to sanity is all about how sanity is always found within sobriety and not so much saying that we are insane ourselves without the drink. Of course drinking is insane for alcoholics, and we cant be sober if were drunk even with God's help. Dont worry about this so much you know.

Yeah, the program is not flexible in the sense of the larger fellowship of whatever meeting is going on. Each meeting has its own receipe if you will and they like to keep it that way, as is their right. You'll find a meeting that works for you, and if not create one!

As individuals we have all the flexibility we may ever require to enjoy the sober life we seek and have empowered through living the AA program as we may freely choose.

Hope things improve for you Sobermax. These things do very much get worked out for many members and you too can get pass them without falling by the wayside.

Rob
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Old 06-24-2010, 06:25 AM
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You've just listed my reasons for being reticent about AA! Perhaps in time I'll find it to be my only option but for now I'm trying different routes (self exploration, reading, this site, visualization). My next step will be an addiction counselor. For me at this point I consider AA to be a last resort. It just doesn't mesh well with the long road I've traveled to get where I am, spiritually.

All the best to you.
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Old 06-24-2010, 06:29 AM
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Hi im Sharon and Im an Alcoholic.

By the grace of my HP and people
like you here in SR I havent found
it necessary to pick up a drink of
alcohol since 8-11-90.

For that and you I am truely grateful.


I remember hearing the word
brainwashing one time in a
meeting and the reply was
their mind certainly needed
a brainwashing with all the
negative thinking they had.

Thinking they could do it
their way to stay sober and
time and time again they failed.

What i hear in meetings is a
constant reminder that drinking
sucessfully doesnt work for me.

In meetings and coming here
to SR I can see and hear for
myself that alcohol and drugs
is still alive and well and conti-
nues to kick azz big time out
there in the world.

With a program in place and
incorperating the steps in my
everyday affairs, living life
honest, giving and sharing
my own experiences, strengths
and hopes of what it was like
before, during and after alcohol
then i have a great chance of
staying sober another day.

The steps are there for a reason.
It is a guideline to living a happy
normal life as honestly as I an.

I dont stop formally working
the steps. I live them.

Just like the 10 commandments
that were set in place for us
to follow long ago learning them
as children.

Im no holy roly by no means.
I do however have faith in a
Power greater than I. Its a force
or whatever you take it to mean
to you. I for myself deep in my
gut know and feel there is a
Power guiding me and protecting
me along my recovery journey.

I believe that Power has been
with me forever.

Reason being is there have been
many awesome things to happen
in my life that i cant help but
believe .

It's those promises stated in
our Big Book of Alcoholics
Anonymous that keep me
coming back because they
are materializing slowly but
surely for me.

Those members in AA or
"oldtimers" are the ones i
look up to. They r the ones
with the wisdom and knowledge
that they so freely pass on
to me to remind me that
alcohol never worked for me
and a solid recovery foundation
does.

Im not chained to AA. It's a
way of life. All i do today is
pass on all the knowledge
to the newcomer. To share
my own ESH to give them
hope that life is wonderful
without alcohol.

It's awesome to be able to
see the world with a clearer
eyes. No fog or distorted
colors.
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Old 06-24-2010, 06:30 AM
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I pretty much agree with your thoughts SSIL75. That's far from saying AA doesn't work for countless people, it's just I would rather believe I can regain control of myself than admit I'm powerless. And like you I might well find I am powerless in time, but I'm searching different ways. I'm trying meditation, exercise, everything.
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Old 06-24-2010, 06:37 AM
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I don't do "knees" either...nor do I allow anyone else to dictate an acceptable form of either prayer or God.

My drunken behavior was my drunken behavior. My insanity was believing, despite all evidence to the contrary, that I could drink in safety...that this time it would be different. "Denial" is, in fact, a denial of what is real, and is a normal human ego defense mechanism. But the obessive overuse of denial which characterizes addiction is certainly abnormal, if not insane.

Many of those "old timers" subscribe to the belief that absent meetings, they will drink again...no matter how long they've been sober. This sobriety based on the fear of drinking isn't my own belief. When I'm acting out of fear, I tend to be angry, guilty, shameful, irritable and discontent. Love is my motivation....I try to practice the solution by "practicing these principles in all my affairs." I don't need AA meetings to do this, although I did at first. I still attend AA because I enjoy the fellowship of like minded people, and I get to practice tolerance for the "bleeding Deacons," who lecture rather than sharing their own experience, strength and hope. And Love, among other things, always gets stronger when I share it with others.

Anyone who believes that "my way is the only way," is guaranteed to respond either negatively or indirectly when their belief system is called into question. This, IMO, is simply a lack of openmindedness. As soon as I think I know it all, my mind snaps shut. Slogans are IMO very helpful, but they can also cover up a lack of true understanding.

I have done and continue to practice the program of Alcoholics Anonymous. In the beginning, I felt free to do it my way, and it didn't work. But my insanity kept me trying to avoid the heavy lifting that the twelve steps require. IMO....anything that keeps one sober and serene is a perfect solution. But if I am honest with myself and say that I'm doing the AA program, then I'd best do it exactly as it is layed out in the BB. No deviations or exceptions. If I modify it I'm deceiving myself to say I'm doing the AA program, and the first step is all about honesty. Those who claim AA didn't work for them have probably not, IMO, actually done the AA program fearlessly and throughly from the very start. Self deception was a real problem for me until I surrendered and decided to do exactly what those AA pioneers did, and which is explained in detail in the AA text, "Alcoholics Anonymous." Remember...this is a RETROSPECTIVE description...what we DID that worked. Which is why as soon as I share anything other than my own experience, strength and hope, I've wandered off the reservation. I had to admit that, being insane, I was not qualified to make additions or exceptions to the program suggested by AA.

Remember that hardly anyone is in an AA meeting because they are so well. IMO, only about 10% of attendees actually "get it," and this is pretty much bourne out by the "success" (or relapse) rate. Look for those people who radiate positive, loving energy, who don't complain, blame or feel compelled to be "authorities" on recovery. They're not so hard to spot...they have a certain "gleam" in their eyes and usually a smile on their face. They have a positive, loving message. There are no authorities or leaders in AA...only members and trusted servants.

Hope you keep coming, and experiment with different meetings. They are all autonomous and tend to have their own singular "personalities."

blessings
zenbear
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Old 06-24-2010, 06:37 AM
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Originally Posted by sobermax View Post
Step 4 doesn't seem scary as such but when it came to step 3, my sponsor suggested I get down on my knees there and then and pray. Nothing wrong with this in itself, and my sponsor isn't a christian (he's a Buddhist as it happens) but I found myself recoiling automatically from this suggestion.
Hi Max,

Good to see you back posting again. It is very common for a sponsor to get down on their knees alongside the sponsee as they take Step 3 and say the prayer. It's not compulsory though. I would guess that your sponsor just wants to show you how to get what he has. You said before you were attracted to his spirituality - trust him to help you show you how to get it. Fear has you recoiling from doing this and fears are always better out of our head either spoken or written down on an inventory, so please share with him how you are feeling.


I have some difficulty admitting that I am insane (certainly my drunken behaviour is, but I have managed to get by professionally / socially without being committed) and this ego-suppression seems to smack of brainwashing to me.
Have you listened to Joe and Charlie yet?

If not you can find their Big Book Study at the XA speakers website. There's a lot of listening but they do talk about what insane means in the context of the steps - in that it means not of whole mind or complete mind and they say the alcoholic is not of whole mind because he cannot see the truth. It doesn't mean that he is completely mad and unable to function as a human being.

As to the ego smashing and it being brainwashing. I really hope you just trust in this process and stick with this. I can promise you it is not brainwashing. The benefits you get from letting go of the ego are truly amazing. I can tell you that a lot of the time I live in a state of bliss which I could never have achieved with alcohol and I am like this all the time when my thoughts are aligned with my higher power (God) and not with my ego. Whenever I am feeling uncomfortable it is always my ego which has taken back over and edged god out.

If you are still not convinced, a friend of mine would say to your comment about brainwashing "What makes you think that your brain doesn't need brainwashing?"


Many of the old-timers seem to do nothing but AA (which is cool but I have no desire to withdraw from my non-AA responsibilities) and weirdly often seem very troubled themselves. Angry.
Yes, this is true. Working the steps and having a spiritual awakening is not compulsory in AA. There are many who use the fellowship and meetings to stay sober and AA is a very important part of their lives. They may appear angry, they may not - but they are sober and they are alive.

What I have learned to do is to concentrate on my own recovery and I am learning (practicing this a lot) not to have judgements of other people. I am happier when I am like that.

...Everybody has their place at AA but I don't necessarily listen to everybody.

I don't mean to knock AA or the people at the meetings. I will keep going, but these things concern me, as does the fact that any questioning or requests for clarification of the program seems to be met with more slogans.
Yes, the one-liners are easy to give a response. This is why we have sponsors to take you through in more detail with the program.


where some 'senior' members give the message that unless I do things precisely by the book then I am doomed to death. I don't want what those people have.
Some alcoholics need to be spoken to like this to break through the delusion that alcohol creates (see above insanity and not seeing the truth)
Other alcoholics need a more suggestive approach and need to be left to make up their own mind as to what they need to have to do.

There is merit in all approaches, so everybody will hear what they need to hear. If it is not for you, then don't pay attention to these people and listen to your sponsor. If these others annoy you, just think that maybe their abrupt words will save a life today - because it does happen.

I am struggling with all of this and the fact that I don't feel at all able to raise these issues in a meeting (I have never heard anyone question or criticise aspects of AA in a meeting - it is like an unspoken taboo!) compounds things.
I think if people could criticise AA at meetings, eventually there would be nothing in a meeting but a whole load of resentments and people wanting to fix AA. Everyone has felt like you have felt. If ever you get time, read up on the history of AA and see how the traditions were brought into place. There is a time, however, to raise issues about how the meetings are held and that is in a Group Conscience but I really would suggest that you speak to your sponsor about this first. There is a leaflet available called The Group or something similar I think. I've see it online as well - with more info on this.

Any thoughts or comments would be very gratefully received. I don't mind at all that recovery is difficult and hard work, but the program is currently seeming much less flexible than previously and I'm concerned that I'll fall by the wayside.
My first thought when I read your post was "alcohol - cunning, baffling, powerful"

Everyone feels like this before they have taken all the steps. You have not got any alcohol but you have not changed you and emotions and feelings can be difficult to deal with. I really hope you perserve and do listen to Joe and Charlie if you can. It was listening to them which opened up the BB for me and made sense of the 12 step program.

Well done on your sober time
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Old 06-24-2010, 07:06 AM
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Thanks, Sobermax, for starting this thread with some interesting thoughts, and for everyone's comments, I have a lot to think about here too.

I am an atheist. I'm not Richard Dawkins hardcore, just a person who was born without that "God gene" because my whole life I haven't been able to come to any awakening or sense that someone or something is out there designing everything. Just as others say that they know God, I my bones tell me in the greater universe I am nothing except for a collection of elements and cells.

Having said that, this thinking allows me the freedom to make my own meaning though life experience, love, kindness, family, friends, work, etc. I'm happy to simply exist. Unfortunately until monday morning this thinking also allowed me to continue through 10 years of destructive alcoholism.

I'm on my third day of AA. And the God stuff does bother me, so does the writing and logic (I hold a Political Theory major BA), frankly I won't really read into that stuff until I'm ready (maybe I never will), but I can tell you right now that if I don't keep going to those meetings and connecting with people with whom I can relate I have NO DOUBT that I will pick up a drink again. For me right now AA is serving the purpose and facility of my sobriety, along with my addiction counselor and the folks on this fabulous site.

I believe (hey look at that, I believe in something!) that one day I my 'view' of our world and existence, sober, will help me realize that peacefulness and calm that one of the commentators mentioned. If AA helps me get there, I'll take it.

Hope that adds something to your thoughts here!
-G
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Old 06-24-2010, 07:17 AM
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Thanks for these everyone.

aasharon90 - I am delighted that AA has been so successful for you and again, I don't mean to belittle or attack AA or any members (I am one!). I'm just looking for some guidance.

Comparing the BB to the 10 commandments is the sort of thing that makes me shrink away. Spirituality is something else of course. To secularish newcomers like me, language like that is anathema and reinforces the obstacle of 'god' and 'religion', even if that wasn't the intention.

Brainwashing. Most of the members are great people and I get much from the meetings. I wish though that more people could respond more rationally - simply repeating slogans isn't always helpful. I've heard that 'your brain needs washing' quote also and this sort of learned response is precisely what can be so frustrating at times. It twists the intended sense (here, the subjegation of the ego through misdirection) to 'the questioner has a 'dirty' brain and therefore what they say is invalid'. It seems that there is a slogan for any possible objection or query, many of which seem designed to belittle the newcomer. I understand why this is and I don't even mind that much, but simply repeating nuggets of wisdom isn't in itself wisdom and is difficult to accommodate.

I'm not trying to say that I don't respect people with long-term sobriety - of course I do! I am also entitled to observe that some of them at the meetings I attend do not appear to be at all serene and that it can be hard to reconcile what some say with how thry seem to be. There are some people who just radiate peace, so I guess I'll stick to them as much as I can.

I'm certainly not going to be put off my recovery simply because it is hard (it isn't as hard as drinkng alcohol, for sure). I really appreciate the good-sense responses to this post and the overwhelming support I've had from AA members. Also, very comforted to read that I'm not the only one finding aspects of the 12 step program difficult to absorb.

Thanks everyone.
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Old 06-24-2010, 07:19 AM
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Hey SoberMax.

Whatever you do man don't let this drive you back to the drink man. That happens a lot I would suspect. It happened to me. There are a vast amount of newcomers who attend one or two meetings and you never see again. Most at AA are the same people at all the meetings. Certainly I can go to any meeting within a 40 mile radius and know I'll know people there.

I am nearly a year sober and my recovery is my recovery and very personal to me. I empathise with the getting on kness and praying you speak of. Not for this alcoholic/addict. No way.

I have reached the point in my recovery where I am contented and happy and I know what works for me. Also the fact I nearly have a year proves to me that I must be doing something right. I am eternally grateful for my recovery and I am very contented and peaceful most of the time.

If you re-read some of my posts where I was struggling you may be able to relate to certain things.

As long as you are making sure that it isn't your own self-will running riot ie- your alkie mind tricking into doing things to set you up for relapse, then you should be OK.

It is possible to comprehend a higher-power without consciously ackowledging it directly every morning. Some need to do this, others like myself this will just turn their stomach and make drinking seem preferable.

Whatever happpens mate don't drink. I had to take time away from AA to keep my sobriety and I really accredit SR for keeping me grounded and full of clarity on a daily basis. I use AA when I need it and for many in the meetings this is also a foreign concept. But I realised that it's my sobriety that matters! I'l be in the police cell and losing my family and my life, not them.

I didn't want what many of the old-timers I saw there had either and realised I actually was happy with what I actually had! I treaded very slowly and cautiously throughout my early recovery as my mind was very vulnerable. However the majority at AA mean very well and are good people.

Do what you've gotta do to keep sober and recovering on a daily basis. It's your life.

All The Best
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Old 06-24-2010, 07:30 AM
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Originally Posted by sobermax View Post

I wish though that more people could respond more rationally - simply repeating slogans isn't always helpful. I've heard that 'your brain needs washing' quote also and this sort of learned response is precisely what can be so frustrating at times. It twists the intended sense (here, the subjegation of the ego through misdirection) to 'the questioner has a 'dirty' brain and therefore what they say is invalid'. It seems that there is a slogan for any possible objection or query, many of which seem designed to belittle the newcomer. I understand why this is and I don't even mind that much, but simply repeating nuggets of wisdom isn't in itself wisdom and is difficult to accommodate.
Once I "got", or understood and had my own experience with those "nuggets of wisdom"... it didn't bother when I heard them. In fact, shudder, I caught myself using them from time to time

The program of AA is in the Big Book, period... everything else is something someone else said... if what others say drive you crazy, and I am very sympathetic here because it's part of my AA experience too... go back to the Big Book... it's all in there.... BTW, like intention, I find the Joe and Charlie study guide very helpful and there are not too many annoying slogans ... I have the Joe and Charlie speaker series on my iPod

Great thread, thanx!
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Old 06-24-2010, 07:54 AM
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Sobermax,

One more thing...........

Kudos to you for starting this thread. Think it is helping alot of people.

C
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Old 06-24-2010, 07:55 AM
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Originally Posted by Chops View Post
Sobermax,

One more thing...........

Kudos to you for starting this thread. Think it is helping alot of people.

C
That is what I love about SR. Freedom.
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Old 06-24-2010, 08:17 AM
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I too, bucked the AA system when I first quit, ....the old timers..........and some of those charming phrases they freely tossed out.

What I have come to learn is................It was really ME I was trying to buck.

being told (or suggested) what to do, by someone who has what I so desperately wanted and needed (and who could show me the way)?
having my defects pointed out?
Being told I CANT do it by myself?
That I MUST rid my past baggage in order to be FREE?
Sincerely apologize to those I totally screwed over in the past?
That I really MUST help others?

cunning ............baffling............powerful
Yes it is.

The program of AA is in the Big Book, period...
exactly

What has truly helped me.....learning...."Open Mindedness"

Something I was told here recently (when questioning why some of it takes so darn long).........

In Gods own Time

good thread BTW
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Old 06-24-2010, 08:28 AM
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I have found that much of the stuff I picked up at SR has really helped me. I remember an old member who was very prominant on the boards when I was very early in sobriety had something in his signature along the lines of Got God... Get Good Orderly Direction

This really helped and continues to help me. When I hear God my mind just automatically converts it to mean Good orderly direction. Something which keeps me actively engaged in recovery rather than turned off and demoralised.

SR really has been a fantastic resource for my sobriety. Much of what I hear in AA I have already heard on SR.

Use SR daily to keep in contact with other alcoholics and addicts. I find this invaluable for my recovery from alcoholism and drug addiction.

Crucially though whatever happens... Just don't drink. Without that you're just p*ssing in the wind.
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Old 06-24-2010, 08:53 AM
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First and foremost - good post.

I'm an AA'er. I've got a sponsor and I'm on step 8.

Everyone above my post has said some great things. I only want to add that AA is simply a design for living. Everyone has a unique experience! How beautiful is that?

Take what you can and leave the rest. Also, remember that sometimes, those silly slogans you hear or an oldtimer who says the same thing over and over again, or the reading that gets read meeting after meeting after meeting...well, maybe there is someone in that room that needed to hear that. Maybe that even saved a life or stopped someone from drinking...just for that night.
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Old 06-24-2010, 08:58 AM
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"When I hear God my mind just automatically converts it to mean Good orderly direction. Something which keeps me actively engaged in recovery rather than turned off and demoralised."

Neo, I think this particular point is something that a lot of people could use. Not necessarily the same acronym or mnemonic device, but the idea of converting the notion of that special thing greater than us into a meaning that works for us. At least it could reduce the likelihood that some would be thrown back into a "hangup mode." The political debater in me wants to tune out people that say "It's all the same God." I don't think it is. I suspect the only thing that is the same to many people is the desire to believe in something connected to them. If someone is not comfortable with the baggage that comes with the words associated with an unfriendly feelings of the past, it would be nice for that person to find something friendlier - and without feeling like it is selfish to do so. Another way of putting it is that it would be nice to feel the relationship with that special power without being "pious" in the negative sense.

Sobermax, I am basically in the same place as I was when I read a few weeks ago that you were able to activate some sort of prayer activity in your mind and send out an "I love you" message into the world. Kind of yearning and still baffled, but not altogether suffering in it. This is another great thread, and I like how you articulate your honesty.
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