God as  I understand him.

Tired of hearing the word god in meetings? Freaked out a little bit because you need to get sober, but it appears that the 12 step meetings you are going to is a religious experience?

It’s going to be okay. As said, relax the hoop you have to jump through is a lot bigger than anyone may realize.

According to Google, God is defined as, “a superhuman being or spirit worshiped as having power over nature or human fortunes; a deity, or the creator and ruler of the universe and source of all moral authority; the supreme being.” – Source: Google Query

Why don't you choose your own concept of a higher power?
Why don’t you choose your own concept of a higher power?

While all of that is fine and dandy, how does that affect things inside of a meeting? If I were not a religious person, and I needed these meetings to change my life, how does all of this come into play?

In my experience, the word god was attached to negative experiences I had with that. Some with a certain denominational church, some with others “acting in the name” of god. I had to change the meaning of God, so Good Old Drunks and than later Good Orderly Direction. God, in the sense associated with 12 step groups is a word used to sum up your experience with a power greater than yourself.  That is how I associate it. The word God for me is now attached to all things worthwhile that have contributed to my experience in recovery. The sharing circle, used in meetings, is a power greater than myself, and that works just fine for a higher power.

Simply put, the beauty of 12 step groups is it is, <b>God as you understand it</b>. If your God is a Turnip then it is a Turnip. If it is Nature, then it is beautiful. If it is a religious deity that feels right for you, than embrace it. The best way I had it explained to me is, that I could choose my own higher power, and that I could make that higher power anything I wanted. William James describes in a variety of religious experience, that each person’s spiritual experience is unique unto their own. So, embrace God as you understand it. Go with what feels right for you, don’t let anyone tell you that you must believe a certain way. What works for someone else spiritually, might not work for you, and vice versa. Everyone experiences spirituality differently.

The keys are this. What matters is to be willing to believe in something bigger than you, stay open minded to new ideas, and focus on honesty by staying true to yourself.


Willingness, Honesty and Open Mindedness

Willingness, honesty and open mindedness are the essentials of recovery. But these are indispensable.

Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous – Appendix II Spiritual Experience page 567

Much can be said about Willingness, Honesty and Open Mindedness, and the first thing that comes to mind is quite simply the acronym of HOW. Rearranged slightly, yet the same three words we have the solution to the steps. How to do the steps? Apply HOW. Honesty, Open mindedness and Willingness.

Honest with myself first. Honest with myself about whatever it is that I am struggling with, honest about the situation with me on the inward level first. Once I begin to be honest with myself, then I can begin to be honest outward. This is not to be confused with cash register honesty. most of us will do the right

Willingness is the effort
Willingness is the effort

thing if someone makes a mistake. Most of us generally tell the truth to the best of our abilities. This deeper honesty that I am referring to, is inward only. I could lie to myself about something. Rationalize it. Hmm, Rational Lies. I can rationalize and justify a situation or a behavior to myself, to make it acceptable to me. When upon self-appraisal, upon being honest with myself, I could see how I was lying to myself about the truth of something. The type of Honesty required here is Self-Honesty.

Next is Open Mindedness. If I am closed minded to anything, then I begin immediately to shut down to growth, potential and change . Open mindedness led me in the beginning to try my substance to change how I felt. I had the open mindedness to try the substance. It changed how I felt. I liked that change so I continued to use that substance. I developed a problem. So now, the type of open mindedness I am looking at will again lead me to change. I am looking at trying a spiritual solution for recovery. If I identify a problem in being Honest with myself, if I then consider being Open Minded to new ideas, then I begin to position myself for new experiences. If I am closed minded to trying something new, then I will never have new experiences. So Open Mindedness is very important.

This leads to the final clause, however in my opinion, it is the most important. Willingness. If I am not willing to try something, then I won’t it is that simple. Usually, in my experience, willingness comes when I get tired of living my life a certain way. That tiredness sometimes comes in the form of pain. Pain is a great teacher, and usually motivates me to change. In effect pain creates willingness. So as a result of wrong living, I ended up in some painful situations, and in turn willingness to change was created. I developed the willingness through pain, through suffering through making mistakes.

When I no longer wished to be in the situations that were happening, when the pain was greater than the reward and I could see that. It was then I became wiling. When I became willing  I could see the truth inside of me, thus I became more honest. Once I could be honest about the situation, then I could look at options. Find alternatives, become open minded.

It’s no mistake that even though I am referring to the acronym of HOW, that when Bill wrote appendix II, he put them in the order of Willingness, Honesty and Open mindedness. It took pain to create a desire for change, which leads naturally to being more honest and open mind. The beauty of the quote I just mentioned, the sexiness of it all is this. It states that these are the essentials of recovery. Then it reinforces that fact by saying they are indispensable, in the next separate sentence.

This is concept is hit home twice, that willingness, honesty, and open mindedness are fundamental principles for change.



Giving yourself to this simple program

“…completely give themselves to this simple program… “

– Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous Page 58

This is actually only a partial sentence from the first paragraph of How it Works, which is commonly read at many meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous. The larger sentence reads, d231f7c82374f8fea0a0100802d93bb8“Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program, usually men and women who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves.” – page 58 AA Bigbook.

The larger sentence carries one point, however inside the sentence are a few other statements. I have found in the past, when I focus on a particular clause, it can change my perspective slightly on recovery and help me understand a point a little better. For example, think of the weight that is carried when looking at the simple statement of “completely give themselves to this simple program”. This implies first that If I give myself fully, completely to this simple program, then I will begin to understand recovery a little bit better.

I can actually translate this statement into an action. With ‘completely give’ with the phrase completely give being an action, I can simply give myself to the steps 100 percent. The moment I do this, I begin an entirely different approach to life, an entirely different mindset develops inside of me.

When I completely give myself to this simple program, then I have let go of my old ways. Then, I am open to new ideas, then I have developed the quality of willingness that is necessary to do the steps. When I completely give myself to this simple program, then I am teachable. I am in a position to learn new and interesting things about me.

The steps, the 12 steps of recovery, they are actually quite simple statements to live by. Guides to life, stepping stones to spiritual principles, a solution to live by. This much I am certain of. While initially this program may not seem simple, once I am willing to completely give myself to it, that willingness, that openness, helps to create the simplicity found in 12 step living.



Contempt Prior to Investigation

There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance—that principle is contempt prior to investigation. —Herbert Spencer 

Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous Appendix II page 567

Here is a little piece that ends up in the big book of Alcoholics Anonymous, as probably one of the more famous quotes that exists in Alcoholics Anonymous today. That is “contempt prior to investigation”.

Contempt prior to investigationThis particular quote, has a few statements in it, that are certainly worth investigating further. First of all, contempt is defined according to Google as a disregard for something that should be taken into account. How many times have I been too quick to judge something, too quick to come to a conclusion without having all the facts? That is the purpose of this quote, in context to the big book of Alcoholics Anonymous. It is in reference to spiritual matters.

Quite often, many of us will judge religion, or spirituality, or in fact, another persons belief system without looking further into the spiritual matter in question. Before disregarding spiritual experiences, investigate them with an open mind.

This quote, in its entirety, states, that contempt prior to investigation is a principle that blocks us against truth and keeps us in the dark. What this quote is saying is, this. Before you claim to know all the facts, or have all the facts, understand that there is always more facts that arise. There is always the other half of the story. So try to be open minded to the facts. When I can do this, when I can be more open minded that I might not have all the facts, then I I become teachable.

For an interesting read on how this ended up in the big book, please enjoy this article that I found on thefix.com.



Bottles were only a symbol

“After all, our problems were of our own making. Bottles were only a symbol.”

– Big book of Alcoholics Anonymous page 103

This is a great statement, when I read it today, however when I first read it, it was really more like eating humble pie. Our problems were of our own making. bottles-659150_640This is a big piece to digest when you first read it. It is true though, and the more I look at it these days, the more grateful I am to know this simple fact.

If my problems are of my own making, then I have something great here. I have an inside problem, which in turn can be solved internally as well. This literally means, the answer lies within. I no longer have to look outward for a solution to my troubles, I no longer have to search. How do I find it within me though?

The answer awaits in the 12 steps. The steps are a solution to the problems I experience in day to day life. Alcoholism, was a result of my internal struggles, the bottles were only a symbol to a much greater problem. Alcoholics Anonymous is an inside job. Time and again, there is reference made to the answers being within us through the literature. If this is true, if the answer really is within, then I have found the answer I have searched outwardly for, my entire life. What a relief that brings.


Letting Go of things and moving on

“Let Go Absolutely”

Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous Pg. 58*

This is almost a funny statement, because you cannot partially let something go, you can only let it go completely. If you haven’t let something go, you’re still holding onto it. It’s that simple. Yet on page 58 it states Let Go Absolutely. This serves to emphasize a point, in that in order for 39928-Move-Onchange to come about, this needs to be done by letting go completely. When I let go of something, I feel it. I feel the release, I feel relief. I feel acceptance internally and I am at peace with whatever it was I needed to let go of.

If I have not accepted something, in other words, if I have not let it go, then I am still going to be troubled by it. To let go takes understanding, takes compassion and love. Additionally though, when I have truly let something go, it brings me far greater clarity on the situation, a deeper sense of compassion, and a broader sense of Love. So coming to that point of acceptance, that is when I have let something go, and that is letting go absolutely.

I did this once, I wanted to understand how the things I was struggling with in life weigh me down. So I took rocks, I wrote on the rocks with a marker what I was struggling accepting, then I put the rocks in a backpack. I then hiked to the river not far from my home. Now, I took the rocks out of the backpack, and I threw them into the river, releasing them, in effect physically letting go. I then walked home with a much lighter backpack and less strain on my shoulders. I could feel the difference physically, walking home I had more bounce in my step and I felt lighter. – When I let something go, when I have truly accepted something, I can feel the difference internally, feeling in effect, much lighter in life.


Doing the next right thing

“We earnestly pray for the right ideal, for guidance in each questionable situation, for sanity, and for the strength to do the right thing.”

– Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous Pg. 70*

confuseOften I have heard, what is Gods’ will for me? Often it can cause many, including myself, to almost over analyze, to over think things far too much to the point of being stuck with a certain decision. Analysis Paralysis, I have heard people call it.

I have found, that in order to do the next right thing, it may not always serve my best interests. It may not always appear to be the greatest thing for me, It may even be difficult to do. What I have learned, in my experience is,  the doing next right thing brings about true self esteem, true self confidence and true self love. This is gift beyond measure, and is a result of prayer**.

Additionally, there is certain choices, certain crossroads that we come to when we make a decision in life. Do we choose that direction based on serving selfish needs, or do we make that choice based on what is best for everyone involved? Prayer, for me is the guiding force that helps direct my thinking in times of indecision. It allows me to trust the universe for what it is, and head in the right direction.

So the next time you find yourself trying to figure out some difficult situation, try praying to whatever it is You believe in, give what you’re struggling with to that Power, and then don’t try and figure out the problem. Your answer will come once you quiet your mind.


A design for Living

“A new life has been given us or, if you prefer, “a design for living “that really works.” – Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous page 28

My old way of managing life was not a design for living. It was management by crisis, based on order of importance in the chaotic life I was living. Alcohol helped me to cope, it helped me to deal with my feelings. Design 1The Steps teach us to live again. The Steps, teach us how to face life on life’s terms. With some practice, understanding, and guidance from a couple of good sponsor’s, the Steps have changed my life, my perception and my experiences to the point where I can see the world with new eyes today.





Powerlessness and a state of unmanageability

“Lack of Power, that was our dilemma.”

Big book of Alcoholics Anonymous page 45

This is really like saying, I am powerless, as powerlessness is a lack of power. It’s been my inability to accept that lack of power that can still make my life uncomfortable today. My inability towpid-hands-tied accept my alcoholism led me to believe that I could control it, control being just a matter of finding the right combination of circumstances.

Powerless, as defined, meaning we are without ability, influence, or power, in a situation. This can be a difficult thing to accept. Lets say I am late for work or school. When I offer my reason for being late, even though it may be completely reasonable, I may still be subject to reprimand or ridicule. I have no power over how others react to circumstance, in effect, I am powerless. If I accept that powerlessness, then I can go about my day without dwelling too much on the event. It is when I don’t accept my powerlessness over something, that creates conflict, inside of me, and within.

It is my opinion that for the most part, control over anything is an illusion. When I am trying to control people, places and things, whether it is in my actions or in my thinking, my level of serenity, goes down. So when I can let go of control, allow people and places to be as they are, and let the universe decide, then my peace within goes up.






To Fully Concede

“We learned that we had to fully concede to our innermost selves that we were alcoholics. This is the first step in recovery.” –Alcoholics Anonymous big book page 30 *

What a great statement this is, there is so much packed into two short sentences. The sentence opens up with its first clause of “We Learned”, so this means at this point 3260546-the-black-king-surrendering-on-a-chess-boardthere is something that has been teaching us. Most people learn through the process of making mistakes, the value of learning from a relapse, as eluded to in the previous paragraph. Second to concede means to accept as true, my personal favorite definition is this one. “admit that something is true or valid after first denying or resisting it.” **

So what this basically is saying to me is, We learned through the process of making mistakes that we had to accept it as true to our innermost selves, our innermost selves being accepting this in our hearts, that we were alcoholic. When we could do that the battle in our thinking would quiet. At least it did for me.

The second sentence, “This is the first step in recovery.” is not to be confused with step one of the 12 steps. It is important to identify though, this process is a first step taken in relevance to understanding step 1 on a deeper level. Once I begin to move toward acceptance of my alcoholism, or in any case, whatever it is you are powerless over, then understanding step one with more depth and clarity happens.

Were I  to re-write this, in a simple format for me to digest, It would read like this, “We learned through the process of mistakes, that we had to fully accept in our hearts that it was true that we were powerless over our substance of choice, and that with acceptance of that powerlessness, I begin to open my mind to a solution. Once eliminating that doubt, then we can begin to move forward with fully comprehending the first step of the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.

** https://www.google.com/search?q=concede+define&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8