I get a daily thought in my email every day regarding Alcoholics Anonymous. I wanted to share today’s with you because I find this thought to be dangerous.
My friend suggested what then seemed to be a novel idea. He said, “Why don’t you choose your own conception of God?” That statement hit me hard. It melted away the icy intellectual mountain in whose shadow I had lived and shivered many years. I stood in the sunlight at last. It was only a matter of being willing to believe in a Power greater than myself. Nothing more was required of me to make my beginning.
Alcoholics Anonymous, page 12
I think this thought is dangerous for a couple of reasons. On the one hand, I know that no human power can relieve us of our alcoholism, but on the other hand we’re told that there is one who has all power, that one is GOD, may you find him now. I know in my heart that the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous meant the God of Abraham, the Father of Jesus Christ, our Savior, our Redeemer. I believe it is He who relieves our compulsion and squashes our physical cravings and delivers us from the bondage of addiction and helps us to become neutral when it comes to alcohol. It is He who renews our mind and our spirit, and takes away our character defects if we ask. It is He that heals our drug and alcohol battered body. It is he that forgives our offenses (our sins) and provides the river of living water. It is not a tree, or a door knob, or the AA group, or a dog, or a universal spirit, or the wind, or fire, or mother earth, or Buddha, or Mohammed, or the spirit of Bill W. It is not our own concept of God. There is only one God. He’s contained entirely within the Holy Bible. He is all sovereign and all powerful and all caring and all knowing. He wants us to live life sober and abundantly. For me, being told I can “invent’ my own God does not encourage me or make me feel good in my spirit. I would most likely invent a God that is far less powerful and judging than the God of Abraham. I run the risk of creating in my mind a God who is all loving, and I’ll tend to let out God’s wrath, His hatred of sin, His disdain for false prophets and Pharisees, and self-righteous worshipers.
But this God is a jealous God. He does not want us to seek a solution to our difficulties on our own, or to use some written formula or steps or rules of behavior. He doesn’t want us trying to behave ourselves into heaven, or even out of drunkenness. We cannot find our own solution to the sin problem. We have a sin nature. We walk often in the flesh, where we cater to our instincts, our wants, our desires, our cravings. Left to our own devices, we lie, cheat and manipulate. Sometimes we even steal. We justify or rationalize our behaviors. We don’t even consider whether we’re doing something wrong. And if we examine our behaviors outside of the scope of the Law of Moses and the commandment of Jesus to operate from a platform of love, we totally miss the point. We can’t get into heaven by obeying a bunch of rules, and we can’t beat our cravings for alcohol without intervention from the Lord Jesus Christ.
How It Works has it right: No human power can relieve our alcoholism. With this in mind, how can we successfully make “the rooms” of AA our higher power? Yes, there is strength in numbers. Two minds are better than one. 12-Step interventions work. We can talk to a struggling alcoholic and share our experience, strength and hope. Picking up the phone and calling someone on your phone list can help you derail your intention to drink at that particular moment. But people do not possess the power necessary to relieve your alcoholism. If the only way you deal with cravings is to call and talk about them when they occur, then you’re not going to grow strong in your ability to stop experiencing cravings in the first place. If you call on fellow members of AA only, and you don’t get into a relationship with Almighty God, you will always be troubled with cravings. You see, there has to be a change within us. A change that renews our mind and alters the way we think of alcohol, period. This change comes from the Lord Jesus. The Big Book promises us that if we work the Steps, rely on God, and thoroughly follow the treatment plan, it is rare that a person fails in his effort to get and stay sober.
So when I see people going to meetings day after day, airing their dirty laundry, their complaints, their heartaches, and seemingly struggling with a compulsive thought to drink, I think they are missing something. We’re promised we can come to a position of neutrality regarding booze. We will be able to be around it without wanting to drink it. We can go wherever we need to go, with good reason, and feel safe even if alcohol is present. Yes, it is often suggested that we take a sober friend along, and this does help us be accountable for our behavior at the event. But if I am on good spiritual ground when I come across a drinking opportunity, the Big Book tells me I will not pick up a drink. A good part of what helps me resist any temptation is my prayer to God to keep me away from a drink or drug today. To be in touch with God enough that my behavior will be that which God wants. Here’s the thing: the more we walk in the will of God, the easier it gets to do so. It’s like exercising our spiritual “muscles.”
I am not picking on Alcoholics Anonymous. I will say, however, that just going to meetings and reading the Steps as part of opening up the meeting will not give you any power to resist the temptation to drink. Saying the Lord’s Prayer, paying particular attention to the line that “yours is the kingdom and the POWER…” will not automatically infuse you with the power over the drink. How It Works tells us “There is one who has all power, that one is God, may you find him now.” That line hints that we have to seek God. He’s there, and He will reach out to us as we reach out to him. I truly know of no successful breakaway from alcoholism while using a door knob, a tree, a rock, the sun, mother earth, Thor the thunder god, universal consciousness, the rooms of AA, the cosmos, Buddha, Mohammed, or any other source as a higher power. However, I know of numerous alcoholics that have put down the drink one day at a time through seeking God Almighty. Moreover, Jesus Christ died for my sins and iniquities, my bondage, my illnesses. He was tortured, whipped, spat upon, mocked, and murdered for my sake. By His stripes I am healed. I am set free from the bondage of addiction. And that is what makes me able to be free from alcohol one day at a time.
I attend AA meetings. I don’t always share, and I sometimes chair the meeting. When we say the Lord’s Prayer, I substitute “Jesus” for “God.” I often pray silently that God would move among the meeting, tugging at people’s hearts to share what they need in order to get healthy, that newcomers would have a light bulb go on over their head. I pray for the presence of the Holy Spirit. For insight that will edify and benefit others in the meeting. That God would keep the meeting safe and on track. That no one leaves before the miracle happens. I thank God for keeping me sober another twenty-four hours. That he puts the right words in my mouth when I share. The only thing I don’t do is preach about Jesus, and frankly that makes me feel guilty. I know Christ came to set the captives free. So I save that conversation for one-on-one after the meeting or on the phone. May God bless the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous.