Posts Tagged ‘christianity’


Limited by the 12 steps

December 16, 2010

It is often my experience that AA can be limiting.  AA was how I got sober.  The practice of the 12 steps also helped me order my thinking in ways that made me less anxious, depressed, and irritable.  Beyond that though, I have found most of my help in personal growth outside of AA.

Yet many people in AA discourage or minimize other approaches to personal growth, claiming that “The Program is all we need”.  I disagree.

The only contribution AA formally makes to any issue other than our alcoholism is the suggestion in step 12, “we tried to practice these principle in all of our affairs”.  This is fine, but for me and what I want from life, it is insufficient.  I want more than just sobriety.  And I am glad that AA recognizes its own finite scope.

We are free to, and it is suggested, that we strive for better things in all of our affairs.  But this is where AA must leave off.  AA history shows that any time AA tried to be more to people than a way to get sober, it failed.  This is not because AA does not care or wish for better things for us, it just appears that there is a limit to which the scope AA can be effective.

Where I find AA limiting is when members profess that AA is all we need.  Or that all roads lead to AA.  Sorry friends, I don’t see it that way.  In fact, by and large, AA’s I have known as a group do not have a very high standard for themselves when it comes to matters like relationships, health, fitness, and career development. 

How is it that so many of us are snatched from the jaws of death of alcoholism, only to continue in other jaws of death like toxic, abusive or non-functioning relationships, poor eating habits, obesity, under-employment, financial irresponsibility, lousy parenting, and the biggest mystery of all to me… SMOKING. 

I know so, so, soooo many AA members whose lives are disasters in these ways.  Yet they profess the great power of their program and “higher power”.  For me, AA was a life-preserver that God used to help save me from alcoholic destruction so that I could continue living long enough to find other solutions for growth and recovery in addition to my recovery from alcoholism.

In my experience, the AA bar is fairly low.  Divorce is as rampant in AA as anywhere else.  I am constantly hearing stories of conflict, painful breakups, problems with parenting, and unexpected pregnancies.  Standards of health and fitness are probably worse than the average sampling of people.  I am in the minority as a non-smoker. 

I know these are not official AA positions.  I guess my point is that if AA is the only process of growth in a person’s life, then one shouldn’t expect much beyond getting sober and a little more sane.

For me, I have a hard time imagining that God threw me a lifeline just for me to jump back into a different sea of destruction.  I want a lot in my life.  I want a great marriage, great relationships with my kids and family, great health, great fitness, financial prosperity, and to be a resource to anyone whose path I cross. 

To accomplish these things, I need a lot more than just AA.




Whats with “God as we understand Him”?

September 28, 2010

I hear ongoing concern and even debate over “God as I understand Him”.  For those not familiar with the 12 steps or AA, “God as I understand Him” comes from the wording in the third AA step.  Specifically, “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him”.

Those who have a clearly defined understanding or belief of who God is, appear often to find this challenging or offensive.  I suppose I understand.  Yet even among people of the same faith systems, do we not all know God only as we understand him?

Do any two Christians, Muslims, or Jews understand God the exact same way?  What about our various denominations, sects, and cultures of any major faith?  Do they not all have very distinct view of what they presume to be the same God?  Are there not members of major faith systems who profess the same God yet some feel God is a God of violence while others feel God is a God of peace and kindness?  Clearly a difference in understanding.

Others are concerned that AA, which certainly appears to have been rooted in Christianity, was tainted when step 3 was changed from “God”, to “God as we understood Him”.  On one hand, I understand their concern over the morphing of their specific belief that yielded results into something compromised for broader appeal.  On the other hand, I don’t understand where this is still not an honest statement because we all can only believe to the degree our understanding allows us, can’t we?

My understanding of God changes continually as I feel he reveals more to me of who he is and how he works.  I believe in the same God I believed in many years ago when I was going nuts with anxiety, depression and ramping up for active alcoholism.  But I understand God today a lot differently than I understood Him then.  This does not mean God changed.  It means my understanding changed.

I used to believe the philosophies and theologies of men who sought to package and sell God to me through their organizations.  And much of what I understood has indeed proven to me to be correct.  But the understanding I had of God through this set of perspectives did not help me get sober.  In fact, their input based on their understanding barely helped me at all.  Some of them even told me that God did not work a certain way or through certain people or organizations that turned out to be the very people and organizations who did indeed help me get sober and recovering.

So were they really interested in helping me find God and seek his help, or were they more interested in my conformity?  Perhaps I will never know.  Nor do I resent them for trying.  They were likely just trying to share God as they understood Him.

One day, I am sure greater truths will be revealed.  And we may find out which understanding of God is correct and incorrect.  Maybe there is a “Road to Damascus Experience” awaiting us and thus we ought to use wise caution in saying who God is or isn’t.  Until that day, how can any of us not be limited by our experiences, cultures, perceptions, and basic natures in our understandings of who God is and how he works?




Barometer of progress

April 11, 2010

How do we measure progress in recovery or simple growth as a person?  I am not sure how to quantify this progress, yet I have discovered observable indicators that I see on a frequent basis that tell me that life is changing, progressing, and that I am growing.

I woke this morning to find my car having been ransacked last night.  I lost a bag full of work-related papers, a pair of prescription sunglasses, and a ring I had bought my daughter for her birthday I had left in the glove box and was going to give her tomorrow.  All told, probably $700 worth of belongings.

My reaction? Smirk, and a quietly verbalized “niiiicee”, as I stood there in the driveway looking at the open door of my car with remaining contents of my glove box on the passenger seat and floor.  I smirked further at the thought of the thieves trying to wear the sunglasses.  They are prescription lenses… they will not have any fun with them.

The telling part was my initial reactions did not include rage.  Nor did they include feelings of deep loss for these items.  I sit here disappointed at the inconvenience and forthcoming expenditures.  But that is it.  I am not furious.  I am not panicking.  In fact, I am blogging over it.  Thats it.  In days and weeks to come, I will replace the items and move on.  Even though I paying for all of these things is not something I can easily do at the drop of a hat.  But so what.  I have lost things in the past and I will lose things in the future.  So did millions of others throughout history.

Some of my barometers of progress include:

  • Road rage: Am I getting any better at how I behave in traffic?  Can I apply the principles of recovery such as acceptance, tolerance, and surrender to the behaviours of others in traffic?  My answer is yes.  More than ever.
  • Relationships: This is the big one.  As far as I am concerned, recovery expresses itself the greatest in how our relationships are going. Any one relationship can have trouble.  The more important question is, are our relationships in general improving?  Do we have more positive interactions in our lives?  Do we connect with stronger and better people more frequently?  Do we have people who can speak honestly with love into our lives?  Do we have any less flare-ups with people than we used to?
  • Handling change:  How do we handle change and crisis now?  Is it any better.  Do we “lose it” as often?  Feel the victim? Go into a rage? Sulk? Whine? Gossip? Self-pity?


Recovery is not something we do “in the rooms” or while we are working steps.  Recovery is how everyday life changes and improves.

So I hope someone out there is enjoying my prescription sunglasses.  And I hope they get a good buck at the pawn shop for the ring.  Summer is a ways off and I can easily replace the glasses by then.  My daughter is in my life and tells me she loves me every time I see her.  The ring can be replaced too.

Today is a beautiful day.  The final round of the Masters Tournament starts soon.  I will see my kids tonight.  I love my wife, and I am healthy.




No dread, no regret, no resent

March 24, 2010

My mantra for the past few weeks has been, “Just for today, I will not dread, regret, resent”.  What an amazing few weeks it has been!

I simply resolved at the beginning and throughout each day, to avoid wherever possible these three pitfalls of thinking.  Any time my mind migrated there, I would simply immediately redirect to something positive.  I would not join in the internal dialogue in my head that would say things like,

“Man, today is going to be a tough day”, (dread)

“You really should have chosen a career as __________ “, (regret)

“I really hate that guy”, (resent)

You get the picture, I am sure.  I simply found myself drifting into these thought paths more than I cared to and to no practical end.  I was the only one who was hurt when I did.  Well, initially anyway.  Then I would hurt others by my behaviour that resulted from the emotional funk from dreading, resenting, and regretting.

And who am I to question God as to why the path I took was not the right one for me?  How do I know I am not exactly where I need to be and can be of most value to myself, God, my family, and humanity?

Who’s to say that if one of the things I regret not doing would not have been my undoing?  Who’s to say that if my ‘ship came in’ the way my thoughts felt it should have, that I wouldn’t have sunk it?

Life is amazing today.  As long as I remain in today and grateful for everything.

There is no place for dread, regret, or resentment in a life that, as Don Draper puts it, “Moves in only one direction, forward”.




The Big Book is not a Bible. Bill and Bob never asked us to worship AA.

January 26, 2010

I gotta tell ya…. I just don’t get where it was ever intended or suggested that the Big Book of AA should ever be considered a Bible or any sort of holy text.

And in all I have read and experienced in AA, I have never got even the slightest impression from the founders or the organization that the program of AA should be worshipped.

Yet I continually hear and read individuals quoting the Big Book as if it were infallible scripture and deifying the 12 steps and practices of AA.  I also hear and read opponents of AA and 12 step making ridiculous claims about the hidden agenda of the founders of AA.

To me, the Big Book is nothing more nor less than a collection of valuable observations, experiences, and suggestions of a bunch of now-sober alcoholics who found a few practices and way of life that work for them.  These observations and experiences include many self-admitted mistakes in attempts to get sober and help others do the same.  So the notion of the infalibility of the Big Book makes no sense to me.

Similarly, AA encourages us to engage the practices of our faith and to recognize where “religious” people are right.  So I remain unclear and unconvinced as to how this could all be a conspiracy.

Bill W declined many opportunities for personal gain, publicity, awards and accolades.  This is considerably different than many religious leaders of a variety of faiths.  How many religious leaders build huge empires only to become corrupt by their fame, power and wealth.  Yet people of these same faiths criticize AA and its founders.  Many religious leaders could learn a lot from some of what Bill W practiced in limiting temptations of money, property, and prestige.  Maybe he was just wise enough to know that these things corrupt people and their purposes.

To me this all seems like a tempest in a tea pot stirred up by people who are threatened by the effectiveness of AA.  newsflash…. it works for many of us.  Millions in fact. Get over it!  Why not thank God for it?

AA is not, and never was proposed as competition for religious faith.  If anything, AA told us to go back to our faith and beliefs.

There will always be fanatics who take anything worthwhile to an extreme.  Thats why many football fans paint their faces, dawn jerseys, and act like a bunch of morons over whether their team wins or not.

Today, I am clean and sober.  And I have been for years.  A day at a time.  And today, I believe more in God and the Bible than I ever did.  AA just helped me get/stay sober long enough to stay alive so I could believe and serve God again.




How to control everyone

January 19, 2010

Is controlling others not the most prevalent obsession in our world today? And has it not always been?

Tyranny and coercion are the easy control strategies to spot.  What about manipulation? What about false “kindness”? What about silence? What about avoidance? Or projecting “patheticness”? Or suggestion?

Why do we seek to control?  I believe one reason is so we can feel safe.  If others are doing our bidding, or conforming to what we want them to say, do, or be, are we not then buffered to some degree from whatever threatens us?

If we get them to believe what we believe, does it not help us avoid having to question our own beliefs? Do we create a matrix that we can just plug into?  Instead of being free-thinking and continue to re-test and re-validate or adapt our beliefs in a changing and growing world? 

Does this not describe many cultural groups such as corporations, religious groups, political parties, and many 12-Step groups?  Does this not also describe many nationality groups, marriages and families?

Do all such groups not tend to develop their pet theories, seek to gather support for those theories, then lock into and defend those theories by antagonizing new ideas?

Do many such groups not tend to proselytize and build support, then insulate by creating an “us and them culture”?  Then act surprised when others use the descriptor, “cult”?  Even if it is an overstatement of our insular behaviour?

Is it not human nature to want to control others so we feel secure and are spared the effort of thought and change?

It is tougher to be open-minded than it is to continually think and grow.  I’ve tried it both ways.  Open-minded is tougher.  It is easier to want to control people, places, and circumstances.  For me anyway.  And seemingly for much of the rest of humanity.




Silent Killers

December 29, 2009

Gas Leak - Silent Killer

My wife and I were discussing some of the silent relationship killers that we have observed recently.

The big things are easy to spot…. abuse, infidelity, raging, name-calling, etc.  Those are no-brainers.  Any relationship would be endangered where these are present and it would be obvious.

But what about the silent killers?  Things such as, but not limited to…

  • Silence
  • Blame
  • Taking for granted
  • Mild, repeated criticisms
  • Indifference
  • Guilting
  • Oblivion
  • Letting attractiveness go
  • Over-talking
  • Cutting sarcasm
  • Subtle control
  • Intolerance
  • Others

Do things like this not sneak in under the radar and lodge themselves into our relationships and slowly kill them?  Or at very least make them perpetually painful?

Do these not become well-rehearsed habits of behaviour that get woven into our patterns of interaction and tangle themselves to intricately that we don’t see them until years of damage is done?

How do we prevent these from happening?

In my experience, it starts with an awareness that these kinds of things can sneak in on anyone’s relationship.  I am not just talking marriage.  I am talking siblings, parenting, friendships, workplace, etc.

Next, I believe a good dose of humility and some brutally honest feedback can help a great deal.

In my experience, it is not a matter of IF some silent killers will try to make their way in, it is WHEN. 

Forewarned is forearmed.  Silent killers helped destroy my last marriage.  My wife’s too.  We are taking every precaution to remain aware this time around.