Home » Blog » AA

Tag: AA

Alcoholics Anonymous is NOT about not drinking!

Author: Herb K.

Rancho Palos Verdes, CA
herbk12@hotmail.com
www.herbk.com

AA is the Fellowship that developed around a community concerned with problems of uncontrollable and excessive drinking. Yes: that is the initiating problem.

However, this community discovered that the solution was not to “stop drinking.” The solution was for the individual to seek and find a power/Power other than one’s self that would provide the effective intervention resulting in abstinence from alcohol. The AA Fellowship calls this a Spiritual Awakening/Experience which results from the rigorous personal application of a precise behavioral methodology – a Twelve Step course of action. This process precipitates a radical transformation of each person’s thinking patterns, feeling reactions, and especially manifests in a change in their actual behaviors.

The goal of AA is not sobriety – that is a by-product. The actual product/goal of AA is for each person to live a fully integrated empowered human life by:

1. Improving their personal consciousness through a consistent daily practice of inventory and meditation;
2. Enlarging their personal compassion through living their lives based on universal principles resulting in a deep commitment to helping others.

Each of the various Twelve Step cultures are NOT about their specific addiction. They are about introducing and fostering a “way of life” for each individual so they can be the best person they can be. Thus, they are positively connected to each other and the entire human community. The world is a better place for them having been a citizen of it. They leave a legacy of awakened people to enthusiastically do likewise.


Herb K. was given the gift of freedom from alcohol February 21, 1984. As a result of the application of the Twelve Steps as contained precisely in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, he experienced a profound spiritual awakening in 1988. Since then he has been very involved in carrying the message of recovery through presentations, facilitating workshops, and leading retreats.

He has authored three books to help people access the instructions and confirm the actual process contained in the Big Book for experiencing a spiritual awakening: Practicing the Here and Now: Being Intentional with Step 11 (2017), Twelve-Step Guide to Using the Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book (2004) and Twelve Steps to Spiritual Awakening: Enlightenment for Everyone (2010). His books are available on Amazon and other locations.

Intentional Consciousness – A Daily Practice

Author: Herb K.

Rancho Palos Verdes, CA
herbk12@hotmail.com
www.herbk.com

What is the message of the “wee small voice”?

What does it mean?

What is my prior experience?

What is the guidance; what are the implications for me?

What are the suggested principles as guidelines for my attitude and/or action?

What is the suggested change in my attitude and/or action?

What is the personal invitation to me today?

What is my specific response/commitment today?

How will I be accountable for this commitment?

Do I acknowledge the formula for my daily growth in understanding and effectiveness?           

            AWARENESS

            ACCEPTANCE          

            ADJUSTMENT          


Herb K. was given the gift of freedom from alcohol February 21, 1984. As a result of the application of the Twelve Steps as contained precisely in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, he experienced a profound spiritual awakening in 1988. Since then he has been very involved in carrying the message of recovery through presentations, facilitating workshops, and leading retreats.

He has authored three books to help people access the instructions and confirm the actual process contained in the Big Book for experiencing a spiritual awakening: Practicing the Here and Now: Being Intentional with Step 11 (2017), Twelve-Step Guide to Using the Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book (2004) and Twelve Steps to Spiritual Awakening: Enlightenment for Everyone (2010). His books are available on Amazon and other locations.

Love Loving

Author: Herb K.

Rancho Palos Verdes, CA
herbk12@hotmail.com
www.herbk.com

Before the beginning is the Word;

and the Word is God;

and the language is Silence;

and the essence is Love.

The Word is “Fiat”- unconditional creativity: powerless not to be what It is – Spoken.

A sound of generative energy manifesting as materiality. The Spoken Word, an overflow of essence and we are birthed—Love Loving.

That is our nature—our origin—image and likeness.

The delusion of materiality is: we are separate.

The work of spirituality is: real-ization we are not.

Oneness that is Unity; consciousness that evolves.

The invitation of becoming, built into our fabric—a memory of what is. Our materiality creating the original disequilibrium that we experience as thirst. We drink from the phantom sources of satisfaction that slake the thirst until they don’t.

The thirst continues, deepens, and expands; as does the pain.

We try harder, a self defeating spiral of disintegration; an experience of serial suffering.

The same force that drives the flower to open drives us to seek—a desperate cry from the wilderness of hopelessness. Our final collapse morphs into a faint awareness of an invitation and the possibility of hope.

Our word is spoken—“Fiat”: Let it be done!

This is the turning point—without certitude or feeling. A decision of yes; a response of action.

The momentum of the downward spiral is reversed; integration has begun. A long slow journey of awakening; a shift in consciousness. A return to equilibrium.

Walking toward the Light; walking in the Light; walking as the Light.

In the Now is Life and Life is Love. The language is loving; the essence is action; the action is intentional; the intention is Unity; and Unity heals.

The healing continues, deepens, and expands: Love Loving.


Herb K. was given the gift of freedom from alcohol February 21, 1984. As a result of the application of the Twelve Steps as contained precisely in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, he experienced a profound spiritual awakening in 1988. Since then he has been very involved in carrying the message of recovery through presentations, facilitating workshops, and leading retreats.

He has authored three books to help people access the instructions and confirm the actual process contained in the Big Book for experiencing a spiritual awakening: Practicing the Here and Now: Being Intentional with Step 11 (2017), Twelve-Step Guide to Using the Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book (2004) and Twelve Steps to Spiritual Awakening: Enlightenment for Everyone (2010). His books are available on Amazon and other locations.

The Next Frontier: Emotional Sobriety


Author: Bill W.

I think that many oldsters who have put our AA "booze cure" to severe but successful tests still find they often lack emotional sobriety. Perhaps they will be the spearhead for the next major development in AA—the development of much more real maturity and balance (which is to say, humility) in our relations with ourselves, with our fellows, and with God.

Those adolescent urges that so many of us have for top approval, perfect security, and perfect romance—urges quite appropriate to age seventeen—prove to be an impossible way of life when we are at age forty-seven or fifty-seven.

Since AA began, I've taken immense wallops in all these areas because of my failure to grow up, emotionally and spiritually. My God, how painful it is to keep demanding the impossible, and how very painful to discover finally, that all along we have had the cart before the horse! Then comes the final agony of seeing how awfully wrong we have been, but still finding ourselves unable to get off the emotional merry-go-round.

How to translate a right mental conviction into a right emotional result, and so into easy, happy, and good living—well, that's not only the neurotic's problem, it's the problem of life itself for all of us who have got to the point of real willingness to hew to right principles in all our affairs.

Even then, as we hew away, peace and joy may still elude us. That's the place so many of us AA oldsters have come to. And it's a hell of a spot, literally. How shall our unconscious—from which so many of our fears, compulsions and phony aspirations still stream—be brought into line with what we actually believe, know and want! How to convince our dumb, raging and hidden "Mr. Hyde" becomes our main task.

I've recently come to believe that this can be achieved. I believe so because I begin to see many benighted ones—folks like you and me—commencing to get results. Last autumn [several years back - ed.] depression, having no really rational cause at all, almost took me to the cleaners. I began to be scared that I was in for another long chronic spell. Considering the grief I've had with depressions, it wasn't a bright prospect.

I kept asking myself, "Why can't the Twelve Steps work to release depression?" By the hour, I stared at the St. Francis Prayer..."It's better to comfort than to be the comforted." Here was the formula, all right. But why didn't it work.

Suddenly I realized what the matter was. My basic flaw had always been dependence - almost absolute dependence - on people or circumstances to supply me with prestige, security, and the like. Failing to get these things according to my perfectionist dreams and specifications, I had fought for them. And when defeat came, so did my depression.

There wasn't a chance of making the outgoing love of St. Francis a workable and joyous way of life until these fatal and almost absolute dependencies were cut away.

Because I had over the years undergone a little spiritual development, the absolute quality of these frightful dependencies had never before been so starkly revealed. Reinforced by what Grace I could secure in prayer, I found I had to exert every ounce of will and action to cut off these faulty emotional dependencies upon people, upon AA, indeed, upon any set of circumstances whatsoever.

Then only could I be free to love as Francis had. Emotional and instinctual satisfactions, I saw, were really the extra dividends of having love, offering love, and expressing a love appropriate to each relation of life.

Plainly, I could not avail myself of God's love until I was able to offer it back to Him by loving others as He would have me. And I couldn't possibly do that so long as I was victimized by false dependencies.

For my dependency meant demand—a demand for the possession and control of the people and the conditions surrounding me.

While those words "absolute demand" may look like a gimmick, they were the ones that helped to trigger my release into my present degree of stability and quietness of mind, qualities which I am now trying to consolidate by offering love to others regardless of the return to me.

This seems to be the primary healing circuit: an outgoing love of God's creation and His people, by means of which we avail ourselves of His love for us. It is most clear that the current can't flow until our paralyzing dependencies are broken, and broken at depth. Only then can we possibly have a glimmer of what adult love really is.

Spiritual calculus, you say? Not a bit of it. Watch any AA of six months working with a new Twelfth Step case. If the case says "To the devil with you," the Twelfth Stepper only smiles and turns to another case. He doesn't feel frustrated or rejected. If his next case responds, and in turn starts to give love and attention to other alcoholics, yet gives none back to him, the sponsor is happy about it anyway. He still doesn't feel rejected; instead he rejoices that his one-time prospect is sober and happy. And if his next following case turns out in later time to be his best friend (or romance) then the sponsor is most joyful. But he well knows that his happiness is a by-product—the extra dividend of giving without any demand for a return.

The really stabilizing thing for him was having and offering love to that strange drunk on his doorstep. That was Francis at work, powerful and practical, minus dependency and minus demand.

In the first six months of my own sobriety, I worked hard with many alcoholics. Not a one responded. Yet this work kept me sober. It wasn't a question of those alcoholics giving me anything. My stability came out of trying to give, not out of demanding that I receive.

Thus I think it can work out with emotional sobriety. If we examine every disturbance we have, great or small, we will find at the root of it some unhealthy dependency and its consequent unhealthy demand. Let us, with God's help, continually surrender these hobbling demands. Then we can be set free to live and love; we may then be able to Twelfth Step ourselves and others into emotional sobriety.

Of course I haven't offered you a really new idea—only a gimmick that has started to unhook several of my own "hexes" at depth. Nowadays my brain no longer races compulsively in either elation, grandiosity or depression. I have been given a quiet place in bright sunshine.

 

Copyright © AA Grapevine, Inc. January 1958. Reprinted with permission.

Permission to reprint AA Grapevine, Inc., copyrighted material [in this publication, organization, or website] does not in any way imply affiliation with or endorsement by either Alcoholics Anonymous or AA Grapevine, Inc.

Herb K.'s Meditation | HEALING CIRCUIT

Healing Circuit

If there is a Reality we call God, by definition It is Everything:

It cannot become something;
It does not need anything;
It exists unconditionally.

Anything that is, comes from this Everything – Source overflowing Itself – an act of giving without expectation. We call that Love.

Love is wanting the best for someone else without expectations, without demands, without conditions – purely for the well-being of the other.

“Perhaps God created humans because God thought they would enjoy it.” Greg Boyle, SJ – Tattoos of the Heart

Over time, by the very fact of my existence, I have come to realize I am loved. This is my decision – a bold act of faith – an act of my free will.

A flower sprouts flowers.
A cat bears kittens
A human begets humans.
Love produces love.

This Reality, God, is a verb, not a noun: God’s ecstasy = Love overflowing Itself!

As my feet are for walking;
As my emotions are for feeling;
As my brain is for thinking;
Perhaps my free will is for loving.

Love Loving is my source; thus, my very nature is love; my primary purpose is loving.

When I am love loving, I am being my true self. My life is a gift received and my love is a gift given – without expectations, for the well-being of the other.

When we real-ize we are loved, we are able to love; as we are loving, others real-ize they are loved and are enabled to love.

Others can then real-ize they are loved, without demands, without conditions – purely: that their very nature is love; their very purpose is loving. The gift given is received – by them and then by me.

This is the Healing Circuit!

 


Herb K. was given the gift of freedom from alcohol February 21, 1984. As a result of the application of the Twelve Steps as contained precisely in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, he experienced a profound spiritual awakening in 1988. Since then he has been very involved in carrying the message of recovery through presentations, facilitating workshops, and leading retreats.

He has authored three books to help people access the instructions and confirm the actual process contained in the Big Book for experiencing a spiritual awakening: Practicing the Here and Now: Being Intentional with Step 11 (2017), Twelve-Step Guide to Using the Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book (2004) and Twelve Steps to Spiritual Awakening: Enlightenment for Everyone (2010). His books are available on Amazon and other locations.

SPONSOR: Considerations for Selection; Ingredients to a Profile

Author: Herb K.

Rancho Palos Verdes, CA
herbk12@hotmail.com
www.herbk.com

What is the ideal sponsor? Add your opinions in comments!

During a 1/2 day workshop on Sponsorship I asked attendees for feedback, from personal experience, of what are the desired ingredients for and "ideal" sponsor. This profile represents their response. REMEMBER = IDEAL! This person does NOT exist.

   Has had a spiritual awakening: a change in their thinking, feeling, and especially in their behavior
   Appears to have what you want
   Has a sponsor to whom they hold themselves accountable
   Willing to allocate time: meet; return calls; work Steps
   Has knowledge and experience with Big Book; has completed Steps
   Goes to meetings; has a home group
   Operates their life based on spiritual principles
   Genuinely wants to be helpful
   Has a positive attitude
   Has a consistent, daily Prayer and Meditation practice
   Listens; is patient; has common sense
   Has a personal life that is attractive: relationships; work; fun
   Shares experience and knowledge; not opinions
   Has some humility; acknowledges limitations
   Is confidential and trustworthy
   Embraces anonymity: theirs and yours
   Respects: does not guilt or shame
   Minimizes conversations about outside issues
   Willing to admit mistakes; knows their own limitations; undefended
   Interested in you having your own experience; not theirs
   Is inclusive; wants to be helpful; open to outside resources: medication; therapy; other professional interventions
   Familiar with Traditions, Concepts and Twelve Step History
   Knows the sponsor role is not:

                 Parent                                   Financier                                   Judge

                 Therapist/MD/Rx                Teacher                                     Hotel

                 Disciplinarian                       Employer                                 Attorney

   Is NOT an enabler; competitive; invested/attached; controlling; manipulative
   Is honest; non-judgmental; tolerant; patient; compassionate; encouraging; flexible
   Makes suggestions, not rules/requirements/mandates
   Does not protect you from consequences of your actions
   Is a guide, mentor, coach, cheerleader, and an accountability partner
   Is a role model: as a healthy human beingI
   Sees role: to be helpful/useful; a lantern, not the light
    Walks the walk!
   And most of all: Enjoys their sobriety!!


Herb K. was given the gift of freedom from alcohol February 21, 1984. As a result of the application of the Twelve Steps as contained precisely in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, he experienced a profound spiritual awakening in 1988. Since then he has been very involved in carrying the message of recovery through presentations, facilitating workshops, and leading retreats.

He has authored three books to help people access the instructions and confirm the actual process contained in the Big Book for experiencing a spiritual awakening: Practicing the Here and Now: Being Intentional with Step 11 (2017), Twelve-Step Guide to Using the Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book (2004) and Twelve Steps to Spiritual Awakening: Enlightenment for Everyone (2010). His books are available on Amazon and other locations.

How Does the Program Really Work?


Author: Herb K.
Rancho Palos Verdes, CA
herbk12@hotmail.com
www.herbk.com

My previous article was When Did Meetings Become the Program?  This article addresses my understanding and experience of how the program of recovery works.

Based on my 33 years of experience, there are many wonderful and helpful components to support the initial approach to recovery in AA:

  • Attending and participating in a variety of Twelve Step meetings;
  • Taking and performing commitments at those meetings;
  • Having and regularly attending a home group;
  • Getting and fostering an effective relationship with an experienced sponsor;
  • Obtaining and reading the literature, especially the books Alcoholics Anonymous and Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions;
  • Knowing and understanding the Twelve Steps.

But these, singularly or cumulatively, are NOT the program of recovery outlined in the Big Book Alcoholics Anonymous! The program of recovery is the actual application of the suggested Twelve Steps to our personal life.

Thinking that one can achieve the Step Twelve promise of a Spiritual Awakening by reading the Twelve Step literature, sitting in meetings, and discussing it with our sponsor, is like sitting in our garage, reading the auto manual with our mechanic, and expecting the car to be fixed.

Change is not going to happen until there is the application of the information in the manual!

My understanding of the AA program of recovery is a series of suggested personal actions described precisely in the Big Book:

We establish a personal relationship with:
Power: Steps 1-3 = our experience of “no choice” & a decision about and for Power
Self: Steps 4-7 = our identification & removal of the obstacles in us to Power
Others: Steps 8-9 =our willingness to change & to repair the damage we caused others.

It is a process based on a sequence of rigorous actions…

Prayer
Reading
Reflection
Writing
Discussion

… leading to the experience of the promised Spiritual Awakening. We are changed!

We continue to foster these relationships through a consistent daily practice of:

Step 10:   Inventory = Examining our disturbances and resulting behavior on the spot
Step 11:   Prayer and Meditation = Improving consciousness twice a day = a.m. and p.m.
Step 12:   Principles and Service = Enlarging compassion as an organic 24/7 attitude

In Step Ten the Big Book confirms that “We have entered the world of the Spirit. This is Our Way of Life, which we commence at the same time we start making our Step Nine amends: a commitment to continue the personal changes of one’s self and the repair of historical damage to others.

Although the program of recovery is not meetings or sponsorship, it is greatly facilitated and supported by both. However, going to meetings and talking to a sponsor will not produce or sustain the necessary personal Spiritual Awakening. This experience is the single promise of reaching Step Twelve. The program of recovery is a process of establishing and then maintaining an effective personal relationship with Power, our self, and with others.

The litmus test and sure evidence of an individual having experienced this Spiritual Awakening is a personality transformation – a measurable, visible change in thinking, feeling, and especially behavior. This conversion experience is positively disproportionate to the amount of work done by that individual – bigger than that person’s contribution warrants by itself. It is done TO us not BY us.

Step Twelve suggests we “… carry this message …”. Chapter 7 contains the practical suggestions for ”Working with Others.” It promises that this work will provide “immunity” from the spiritual malady. The consistent message throughout the text book is the need for and benefits of helping others. How then do we explain the lack of growth in AA membership and the deplorable rate of individual relapse?

Contrast AA’s slow growth in the last 40 years with the experience of modern multi-level marketing schemes. Those with financial incentives and a properly structured organization have outcomes showing exponential contact growth. At the same time, the recent development of social media and its successful use in advertising, also demonstrates geometric contact outreach.

What is AA’s growth problem? Has there developed a dis-connect from the original message and the tools that fostered it? AA was originally designed to produce freedom from alcohol through a spiritual incentive and to replicate that freedom for others through a personal outreach structure.

Could it be the classic “human problem”: loss of focus and the complacency of an easier, softer way? Has there been a gradual growth of an AA culture that perpetuates the misunderstanding of what is the “program of recovery”? Does most of the AA membership believe that meetings are the program? How relevant to the majority of AA’s membership is the application of ALL the Steps as contained in the book Alcoholics Anonymous?  Has the spirit of fellowship replaced the Fellowship of the Spirit?

These challenging questions raise even more questions. Has this unhealthy change in focus permeated the AA culture for so long that even the AA GSO Leadership and AA Board of Trustees, coming out of that culture, are shaped by it without being conscious of it? Perhaps their vision has been blurred by cultural cataracts.

Is it time for a thorough and rigorous inventory of the current understanding and integrity of AA’s 1st Legacy? Taking this inventory may allow AA to step out of the current culture to examine and evaluate the structure and outcome of events like the 2015 International Conference in Atlanta. This inventory may allow AA to pause and examine our current alignment with the original AA intent and mission. This process may help us develop themes and topics for our future regional and local Conferences/Roundups which will eventually foster a re-vitalization throughout the worldwide AA Fellowship with respect to AA’s 1st Legacy.

The actual intended program of recovery is a personal transformation through following the “precise” suggestions for each of the 12 Steps as described in the book Alcoholics Anonymous. The writers tell us, if we want what they have, we DO what they DID!

What did they do? Perhaps we need to revisit the ingredients and actions of the original founders and inventory our current ingredients and actions. Has there been a loss of focus through culture creep and distortion?

We can’t give away what we don’t have. But we will give away what we do have. If a person has an untreated spiritual malady, that is what they will transmit. If a sponsor doesn’t understand the program of recovery and has not experienced a personal spiritual awakening, then that sponsor will perpetuate and aggravate this culture of ignorance and slogans. They don’t know what they don’t know; they can’t see what they can’t see! They are passing on what was passed on to them. Activity is believed to be effective and meaningful action.

Perhaps the solution is to get back to basics. What did the first 100 do? They submitted to a process of ego deflation and personal transformation which freed them from alcohol by giving them a relationship with Power. They fostered their new power by helping others experience a Spiritual Awakening through this same conversion process – giving them a daily reprieve; helping them maintain and improve their personal spiritual condition.

Let’s use our vital current spirit of fellowship to return to our roots:

  • Accessing Power through the Big Book’s “program of recovery” experienced in the Steps!
  • Helping others find Power through the vital current of the Fellowship of the Spirit!
  • We need both meetings and Steps to survive and flourish.
  • The spirit of fellowship acknowledges our humanity. Without it, we become disconnected and heartless! With it, we have a forum for freedom.
  • The Fellowship of the Spirit recognizes our divinity. Without it, we become impotent and soulless! With it, we have a formula for freedom.
  • Are we human beings trying to have a spiritual experience? Or, are we spiritual beings trying to have a human experience?  YES! Both are true!
  • Is it time for the AA Fellowship to pause, take a breath, pray a prayer, and ask for guidance?
  • Is it time to set aside our slogans, our beliefs, our understanding of recovery?
  • Is it time to revisit our textbook, the Big Book Alcoholics Anonymous?
  • Is it time to reexamine our personal experience of each of the Twelve Steps?
  • Is it time for a new experience of awakening?
  • Is it time for an Alcoholics Anonymous renaissance?
  • IF NOT NOW – WHEN?

THANKS for listening.

My prayer and hope is that you discuss these thoughts with your recovery community and take appropriate and helpful action!


Herb K. was given the gift of freedom from alcohol February 21, 1984. As a result of the application of the Twelve Steps as contained precisely in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, he experienced a profound spiritual awakening in 1988. Since then he has been very involved in carrying the message of recovery through presentations, facilitating workshops, and leading retreats.

He has authored three books to help people access the instructions and confirm the actual process contained in the Big Book for experiencing a spiritual awakening: Practicing the Here and Now: Being Intentional with Step 11 (2017), Twelve-Step Guide to Using the Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book (2004) and Twelve Steps to Spiritual Awakening: Enlightenment for Everyone (2010). His books are available on Amazon and other locations.

When Did AA Meetings Become the AA Program?


Author: Herb K.
Rancho Palos Verdes, CA
herbk12@hotmail.com
www.herbk.com

Atlanta was my first International AA Conference - 2015; we celebrated AA’s 80th birthday. At the same time, my family and I celebrated my 75th natal birthday and my 31st year of the gift of sobriety.

I have been on a spiritual quest all of my conscious life: studied to be a priest in a monastery for 7 years; pursued psychology for four and therapy for more; experimented with most of the self-help panaceas of the 70s and 80s. I did not change. I could not see that I did not see. I was a seeker but not a finder.

In 1984 I was willing to attend a treatment program to support my wife’s recovery from her alcohol problem. After several weeks they asked me to not drink during the treatment time. I was willing to stop to support her. The next day was my first day without alcohol - February 21. That became my sobriety date! After several weeks they also asked me to write out my history of my experiences with drinking. I was willing to write and be honest. Within 60 minutes of writing I discovered a 30 year pattern that described my first drink at age 12: I drank all there was; got knee buckling drunk; blacked out; passed out; and woke up in the morning covered with my own vomit. The biggest surprise was not that I had a drinking problem. What really startled me was that I had never seen any of the VERY visible evidence. The treatment team suggested I go to an AA meeting. I was willing to do that. I attended my first meeting in April, introducing myself as “Herb, exploring being an alcoholic!” After several meetings I admitted I was an alcoholic and the elders suggested I get a sponsor. I was willing to get a sponsor. He suggested I call him every day, go to a meeting every day and be of service at those meetings. I was willing to do these things and did so for the next 4 years. I stayed sober but I did not change. I didn’t know that I didn’t know. I continued to be a seeker but not a finder.

The key to my initial recovery was a twofold gift:

Abstinence, for which I did nothing; people call this Grace;

My “willingness” to take the suggested actions; I call this Grace!

However, during these four years of being a “good” AA, my pre-sobriety behavior continued and I was restless, irritable, and discontent! I was having trouble at work, at home and most everywhere. The “bedevilments” were rampant. I was a man without integrity and clueless about internal guiding principles.

In 1988 in an AA meeting, I heard a man share about having an experience of being changed through a precise application of the Twelve Steps from the book Alcoholics Anonymous.  I asked for his help. Over the next year he guided me through that process. By the completion of the Ninth Step I was aware I had been radically changed. I had had an authentic spiritual awakening: a dramatic change in the way I felt, thought, and behaved; and it was done TO me not BY me! I lived with a sense of serenity, peace and  contentment. I knew that experience for the very 1st time. I had become a finder! My career problems were resolved; my marriage became healed; and, I found a personal relationship with the “Mystery” that I never knew was possible.

I have continued to be a seeker. Over the next 15 years I went through the complete Step process four times with 4 different Step Guides. Each time I was led by the Spirit to a deeper experience and a more profound awakening – more light, more change, more finding, more usefulness!

Based on my history and my experience I began to realize the power of the 12 Step program. At the same time, I also began to become conscious that, although an integral part of recovery, meetings are not the program. The Steps on the wall are not the program. The meeting mantras: “Put the plug in the jug and go to meetings” and “Meeting makers make it” may in fact be death sentences!

The Twelve Steps in the book Alcoholics Anonymous, applied to our personal lives, are the only “program of recovery”!

I have a growing concern about AA membership’s focus on meetings – as if meetings are the “program of recovery”. The GSO organized and sponsored International Conference put this concern on steroids. Over three days there were 220+ topic meetings; only 30% were directly or indirectly about the book Alcoholics Anonymous, the Twelve Steps, Spiritual Awakening, or living “Our Way of Life” (Steps Ten, Eleven and Twelve).

Over the last 27 years I have facilitated numerous in depth workshops on the Steps, the Traditions, and the Concepts. My understanding of AA’s primary purpose is to be an organization that supports a Fellowship wherein alcoholics share their experience of gaining freedom from alcohol through a Spiritual  Awakening - the promise of the Twelve Steps. My understanding also is that AA GSO is the administrative guardian and the AA Board of Trustees are the policy custodians of this 1st Legacy – the Twelve Steps as contained in the book Alcoholics Anonymous.

My initial experience of freedom from alcohol was pure Gift. My sustaining that freedom for four years was the direct result of my connection to a sponsor and meetings. My having a Spiritual Awakening during my 5th year is the direct result of a rigorous personal application of the suggestions in the Big Book for each of the Twelve Steps.

The program of recovery is contained in the Big Book – a “text” book with a “precise” set of suggestions for working each Step. The sole purpose of this Step work is to find Power through the experience of a Spiritual Awakening.

The Big Book boldly states in Step Ten that we will be placed in a position of neutrality with respect to alcohol – we have “recovered” - perhaps referring to the 1st half of Step One. Step Ten promises that “We have entered the world of the Spirit.” It also declares “we are not cured” - perhaps referring to the 2nd half of Step One. We have a daily reprieve from the original bondage of alcohol as long as we have a daily practice of staying awake by practicing Steps Ten, Eleven and Twelve. We find freedom from the “bondage of self”.

Step Twelve promises: “Having had a Spiritual Awakening as the result of these steps…”. In the Alcoholics Anonymous textbook, meetings are only mentioned twice:

A place where newcomers can gather once a week to bring their problems;

To meet frequently in each other’s homes to have fellowship.

It is very clear, meetings are not the program! Meetings are not included in the Big Book as any part of the suggested Spiritual Awakening process.

WHEN DID MEETINGS BECOME THE PROGRAM?

Alcoholics Anonymous had a meteoric rise in membership for the first forty years, until about 1976, as revealed in the various Big Book Forwards:

1939                           100

1955                    150,000

1976                 1,000,000                  700% growth

2001                 2,000,000                  100% growth

Although it is wonderful to see the increase in membership from 1976 to 2001, why has the rate of AA Fellowship growth slowed down so dramatically?

The alcohol addiction problem in America has not been diminished. Let’s estimate:

  • approximately one out of ten adults are alcoholic = 10,000,000;
  • about 10% attempt some treatment intervention = 1,000,000;
  • perhaps 10% of those find some long term recovery, most in a Twelve Step program = 100,000 a year. Apparently, by 2001, they are not coming, nor staying, as they were up to 1976!

The Big Book Second Edition (1955) speculated that “… of those who really tried …” about 75% recovered eventually. “Really tried” is the key. We can wonder what that meant to Bill Wilson, the author of these words? Perhaps:

  • Submitting to the entire Twelve Step process
  • Finishing amends
  • Living daily in a consistent practice of:
    • Inventory
    • Prayer and meditation
    • Practice of principles and service

Or, do we believe “really tried” meant going to lots of meetings?

Is it the correct question for a person’s sponsor or the members of the home group to ask about a person’s recent relapse: “How many meetings were you going to?” The recent book on recovery research: “If You Work It, It Works” reviews scientific studies about the effectiveness of 12 Step programs. The evidence is wonderful and very supportive of the wisdom heard in meetings: 90 in 90; get a sponsor; be of service. However, the success criteria of these studies focus mostly on meeting attendance, as if this were the principle component of the AA program of recovery.

It seems as if both the Fellowship itself, and the professionals who study it, reveal a basic misunderstanding of “powerless” and the process of accessing “power.” They reveal a basic ignorance of the real “program of recovery”: Big Book as a textbook; Steps as a process; Spiritual Awakening as the promised product; Steps 10, 11, & 12 as a daily practice of a way of life to sustain the experience.

Maybe what CS Lewis said in his book “Mere Christianity” can increasingly be said about AA:

AA has not been tried and found wanting; it hasn’t really been tried.

The middle way is usually the healthy solution. My experience reveals that both meetings and Steps are vitally important. Meetings fostered the necessary spirit of fellowship; Steps provided the required

Fellowship of the Spirit. Meetings provided me a forum to find the “program of recovery”; the 12 Steps provided me the formula for experiencing the “program of recovery.”

Perhaps you’re regional Conference Committee could select the topics for meetings based on the “precise” process of the Steps and underscore the promise of a Spiritual Awakening suggested in Step Twelve. Perhaps the focus of your local Roundups could be on the actual 1st Legacy “program of recovery.”

Is not this focus our primary responsibility to “…carry this message…”?

Let’s all pray, hope and work for a Big Book and Twelve Steps renaissance!

THANKS AA for my life that flourishes!!

 

 


Herb K. was given the gift of freedom from alcohol February 21, 1984. As a result of the application of the Twelve Steps as contained precisely in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, he experienced a profound spiritual awakening in 1988. Since then he has been very involved in carrying the message of recovery through presentations, facilitating workshops, and leading retreats.

He has authored three books to help people access the instructions and confirm the actual process contained in the Big Book for experiencing a spiritual awakening: Practicing the Here and Now: Being Intentional with Step 11 (2017), Twelve-Step Guide to Using the Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book (2004) and Twelve Steps to Spiritual Awakening: Enlightenment for Everyone (2010). His books are available on Amazon and other locations.