Monday, January 23, 2012

Downstream Effects

It is morning, I am going to try to "catch" my new bus, but not actually get on it this morning, just to see how this is going to work.  So, I have just a few moments to post this.  Of course, I could be on the treadmill instead, but who has time to work out?

Yesterday I heard the fifth step of a woman who has been sober for over six years.  I have only sponsored her for about a year.  This was a specific 4th step about some pretty intense and overwhelming resentments.  We did what we do.  When I told her to do the prayers for the people she resented, she asked me what I meant.  I told her the prayer on page 67.

We asked God to help us show them the same tolerance, pity, and patience that we would cheerfully grant a sick friend.  When a person offended we said to ourselves, "This is a sick man.  How can I be helpful to him?  God save me from being angry.  Thy will not mine be done."  -- Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 67

I told her to pray this prayer about each of her resentments.  And to do it more than once.  To do it all the time.

She said "Oh my God Mary, I have never heard of this before!  This helps so much!  Thank you!"

She has told me that before.  She has never heard of this stuff before.

And I have asked, how can this be?  She has been a real member of AA for over 6 years.  She has had a sponsor all that time.

And then it occurred to me, her first sponsor was an atheist.  She took her through the steps, but I guess she skipped the whole praying part.  The whole God part.

What's left when you take out "those parts?"  I really don't know.

Now, I know this will raise the hackles of many.  But we really can't change the program to avoid raising hackles.  The result of that would be to kill many.  I would rather raise hackles than be responsible for the alcoholic death of many.

AA asks us to choose our own conception of God.  There is a whole chapter in the big book to Agnostics.  The writers of the book said "We found that God does not make too hard terms with those who seek Him.  To us, the realm of the Spirit if broad, roomy, all inclusive, never exclusive or forbidding to those who earnestly seek.  It is open, we believe to all men."  -- Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 46

I have known many agnostics who have been successfully sober, if they have an open mind.  "To those who earnestly seek."    There is a big difference between one who is unsure and is earnestly seeking and  those who firmly believe there is no God and who are not willing to seek.

I wish them the best, really I do.  But I do not know how someone could take another through the steps, carefully avoiding the "God parts."  That sounds like swiss cheese with only holes to me.

And I am looking at the result of that with this young woman.  Thank God she is sober.  But she certainly does not have that inner peace that comes as a result of working these steps - as written.

Thanks for listening....

I plan on staying sober today, and I hope you all do too.  By the Grace of God....


Syd said...

How is it possible to treat the spiritual malady without having a God of our understanding? I needed to pray and to have a Higher Power. It has brought me so much peace of mind.

Bill M said...

Well said Mary. The God part is the most important part to me. I wouldn't know how to manage it all without that part, it keeps me fearless in my recovery.

Patty said...

This post made my morning. Thanks for sharing it, Mary.

dAAve said...

I could not possibly agree with you more. On everything you say here.
She's fortunate to have found someone who will show her the program. As written.

Annette said...

Amen MC! I don't know where I would be without my HP.

AnyEdge said...

I firmly agree that the steps need not be changed. And I agree too that it is easier, in the beginning, for those with faith of some kind, and who have familiarity with prayer.

But I know too many successful, happy, sober, joyous and free atheists in the program to say that there must be a "god" as part of the higher power concept.

But I think that an atheist who sponsors a believer should absolutely NOT avoid the prayer and spiritual aspects. If they do, they are not sponsoring according to the program.

Barbara said...

Glad to know she has you as a sponsor now.

Kary May said...

Thank God I decided to read through "my blogs" this afternoon and thank you for this prayer. Seek and you shall find.

Lou said...

To me, it has always been the one and sovereign God. Not a higher power, not my understanding, but God.

My first sponsor was a Bible toting, scripture quoting ball of fire. I miss her, she did not mince words.

I don't know how people who do don't believe in God reconcile the program. I have no experience in that.

Mary LA said...

I hear you Mary Christine, but many people I know out here have had frightening or abusive experiences with religion and many others have no experience of any kind of spirituality or church or faith or God at all, a secular generation for whom this means nothing. They get sober without any concept of God or abstract higher power, looking instead to the collective power of those who have managed to stay sober one day at a time by going to meetings, getting involved in service and making amends.

For some, that is enough.