Twelve step programs can be life-saving paths for those in desperate need of direction and support. My opinion sides with the obvious, they are highly available and free; which means when it comes to people blithering out excuses they’re in a hopeless place where no one will help them, my eyes roll backwards so far I can see my bald spot. One thing’s for sure, the effectiveness of any particular group is limited to the quality of the recovery of those in said group, which means messages and lessons will vary drastically. This sucks, but it’s all too true. It ALSO means when first entering the program one must go to a large variety of meetings before one where healing and more importantly, honesty is required on both sides of the table.
The idea of embracing a higher power, insofar as what’s expected by the steps themselves and those who are willing to help and guide you, is probably the most common stumbling block I’ve encountered. Some oppose the structure of A.A. and similar programs because of what they feel are built-in Christian ethics and ideas. Hogwash. Yes, there are some references to religion, but rest assured no one is forcing this. There are zero recruitment practices encouraged. It exists for two very important reasons, at least as far as I’m concerned.
- Most people have some sort of religious background in the first place, and in the United States it happens to be Christianity, which, by the way, covers a plethora of beliefs and titles, most of which don’t get along anyway. Even if this is only from unwanted childhood experiences, very few people have never been to a church service. Let’s face it, a lot of us grew up with celebrating the holidays of Christmas and Easter anyway through television specials and family events, so there’s a Pavlovian response built-in.
- There HAS to be a starting point to the idea of embracing a “higher power.” Where the person goes from here is totally up to them.
The preconception of a “higher power” as needing to be a deity of some sort is nothing more than an excuse on the part of the person seeking treatment to deny help and go back to a self-destructive and self-centered lifestyle.
Let’s take a look at what “higher power” actually means. I can think of no one on Earth who cannot look toward a “higher power.” No one at all. If you are the type of person who wants more money, there are thousands of people who are obviously above you on the food chain. If it’s a peaceful mind you seek, one free of mental torture and anguish, there are legions of people who successfully practice this lifestyle. If it’s alcohol you want to be free from, trust me, there are plenty of those who were once in a hopeless state now willing to share their journeys. ANYONE who possess what we want is indeed a higher power. This is the way of life to begin with. We learn to read, communicate, work, play, and improve everything we do on the heels of those who have gone before us. Without the willingness to be led by others we are left with nothing but trial and error, and while trial and error may ever so slightly advance us toward our goals, it’s a horse and buggy ride compared to the rocket ship of teacher/student. The speed at which we learn from others is determined by a single factor, we MUST be willing to be criticized, which is the same thing as dropping the ego and embracing humility. This is a skill, one that can be honed and perfected, and when it’s wielded with practice and focus, can command the very power of the universe. Take notice that religion is totally off the table at this point. If this way of embracing life leads to an inner understanding of what God means to you, so be it. As far as I’m concerned it doesn’t matter.
I will add this last observation which comes from experience. Don’t let the walls of A.A. (or any 12 step program) hold you in from exploring other venues and ways of expressing your dreams and goals. The Big Book itself says these two sentences towards the end of chapter eleven. “Our book is meant to be suggestive only. We realize we know only a little.” Even the authors of this manuscript were insightful enough to admit their way was only a start. I’ve known many people who have sought out other paths in addition to the program and it can be a wonderful, and more than likely necessary enhancement to a stratospheric life. It certainly has for me.
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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood