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Sun Feb 12, 2012, 06:06 PM

Why all this "G**" S*** in recovery? [View all]

Let’s forget, for a moment, our personal takes on how it does or doesn’t work for us, why it’s a turn-off or a tool, a barrier or a doorway. Those are important discussions, but let’s step back a little further: Why is the “G**” stuff (or the “Higher Power” stuff, or the “Spiritual Source” stuff or whatever you want to call it) there AT ALL?

AA and the Big Book are the most widely-used recovery tools in America, and, let’s face it, no matter how we try to weasel around it and make it palatable for the non-theist or the anti-theist, the God-stuff is all over it. The majority of treatment programs use some version of an AA-influenced structure both during treatment and as an aftercare tool. Even when they carefully expurgate the explicit goddy language, you know it’s lurking underneath all that “spirituality” talk.

It’s not hard to understand how it got there in the first place. The Big Book was written, and the principles of AA recovery were conceived by people from a Judeo-Christian cultural matrix. The early practice of AA relied heavily on Church basements, and it was tested and came of age in communities where the overwhelming majority professed some form of belief.

But why is it still there? If there’s any truism that resonates for recovery programs of any and all varieties, it’s this: “Whatever helps. And nothing that harms.”

I asked the wisest-about-recovery person I know the question: “After all the research and all the millions who have been through treatment, haven’t we learned yet what exactly it is that helps people recover?”

And I got the answer (most recovering people have heard this one,) “If jumping up and down on your left foot ten times and saying ‘boola-boola’ with each jump helps you not drink, then that’s useful for your recovery.”

Recovery (we say it on our website a lot) is a big room with many doors. But for so many people the label “God” is not on a door, it’s on a huge barrier that keeps them from getting into the room at all.

I think it all goes back to the first step: We are powerless over the disease.

Yet, it’s possible to recover. Therefore, there is something that works. It’s not us, because we’re powerless: That’s the nature of the disease. It’s what the disease is, being powerless over our drug, or over booze, and so on.

So to recover, we have to find that other power, latch onto it, and let it work in our lives, and use that power to recover.

To each of us, that power is going to manifest a little differently. We can call it “the accumulated wisdom and experience imparted to us in the context of fellow-sufferers.” We can call it “insight and capability built and shared through diligent practice with others like us.” We can call it “spiritual grace” or our personal “Higher Power” or “God.”

And whatever we call it is an accurate description for us and can be utterly meaningless or even ridiculous to others. Nevertheless, it comes down to the same thing for everyone in recovery: It’s the power that can help us recover, if we are willing to give over trying to do it on our own. If we’re willing to give over control. If we’re willing to accept guidance. If we’re willing to do stuff that seems to make no sense. If we’re willing to hang out with all those crazy alkies and addicts who aren’t like us in any way except they share our disease.

That power exists. You can call it a Jungian collective consciousness, a shared delusion, a spiritual force, or a deity, or anything you want, but that power exists.

Calling it “God” may be a barrier for some, even many. Truthfully, I’ve never seen it keep an atheist from recovering once the atheist was ready to recover.

An anti-theist friend of mine (don’t get her started on the words “Higher Power….”) who achieved recovery after many painful attempts over some decades once told me that the hardest reason for drinking she had to give up (because it was the most powerful) was “I can’t possibly recover because I’d have to hang around with all those offensive, deluded god-botherers who are always trying to convince me I’m wrong.” After toughing it out for a few years, one meeting she heard herself using the words “spiritual awakening” and darn near went out and bought a bottle of vodka.

Then she laughed, and realized it just wasn’t that important any more. She still didn’t believe in God. She didn’t have to. And she didn’t have to let others’ different beliefs bother her, or interpret anyone else’s attribution of sobriety to divine intervention as an attempt to proselytize her.

“(Your description here) grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

That doesn’t mean “mysterious bearded daddy-deity do to me or for me.” It means “I need something, and I can’t do it on my own. Acknowledging to myself (and others, if we’re in a group) that I can’t do it on my own and that I need help, is the first step on the road to doing it.”


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Reply Why all this "G**" S*** in recovery? [View all]
TygrBright Feb 2012 OP
applegrove Feb 2012 #1
Tripod Feb 2012 #2
NMDemDist2 Feb 2012 #3
Tripod Feb 2012 #5
tavalon Feb 2012 #9
tavalon Feb 2012 #8
NMDemDist2 Feb 2012 #10
tavalon Feb 2012 #11
NMDemDist2 Feb 2012 #12
tavalon Feb 2012 #13
NMDemDist2 Feb 2012 #14
tavalon Feb 2012 #15
NMDemDist2 Feb 2012 #16
tavalon Feb 2012 #17
NMDemDist2 Feb 2012 #18
tavalon Feb 2012 #19
NMDemDist2 Feb 2012 #20
tavalon Aug 2012 #38
Old Codger Aug 2012 #36
tavalon Aug 2012 #37
oldhippydude Feb 2012 #4
tavalon Feb 2012 #7
tavalon Feb 2012 #6
demosincebirth Feb 2012 #21
Dembearpig Mar 2012 #22
demosincebirth Mar 2012 #23
lins the liberal Mar 2012 #24
progree Mar 2012 #27
NMDemDist2 Mar 2012 #25
TygrBright Mar 2012 #26
get the red out May 2012 #32
Tripod Mar 2012 #28
Stuart G Mar 2012 #29
NMDemDist2 Mar 2012 #30
Tripod Mar 2012 #31
demosincebirth May 2012 #33
tavalon Aug 2012 #34
HelpmeHelp Aug 2012 #35
ismnotwasm Sep 2012 #39
Myrina Apr 2013 #40