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S T U D Y  G U I D E

T O  T H E

A A  B I G  B O O K

 

With emphasis upon Principles before Personalities

this Study Guide presents

"A SPIRITUAL VIEW BEYOND THE LIMITS OF TRADITIONAL RELIGION"

by Ken W. as - "a member of Alcoholics Anonymous"

(see Forward to First Edition)

FORMAT REVISED AS OF JULY 2002

 

 

AUTHORíS PREFACE TO THIS STUDY GUIDE:

This is a Study Guide to the book Alcoholics Anonymous. It is dedicated to those who want recovery from alcoholism, but have difficulty with the word "God". Especially, as that word gets used by individuals who embrace traditional religious concepts of what it means to them. Be advised that other ideas and interpretations, which are consistent with the basic AA text, also have value and usefulness in the recovery process.

Should you choose to follow this Study Guide, you will be presented ideas which this author has found to be consistent with the basic text of AA. However, some of those ideas go beyond the limitations many traditional religions have in their interpretation of the word "God" and what that word means for them. Readers who are open minded (see Appendix II) may discover new thinking about "a power greater than yourself".

The three-letter word "God" is generally used to communicate a concept of infinite knowledge and power. Concepts, other than those utilized by traditional religion, do exist. One fundamental idea of God, based upon the basic text of AA, (see pg 55), is being offered in this Study Guide. Some individual alcoholics may find the approach is useful in their personal recovery.

It is self-evident that no person is qualified to speak for God, nor for AA as a whole. The vital spiritual experience, necessary for recovery from alcoholism, is intensely personal to the individual alcoholic. That is precisely the point. A readers concept of God need not follow traditional lines.

The experience of the first successfully sober members of AA tells us:

"Why don't you choose your own conception of God?"

(AA pg 12)

"We found the Great Reality deep down within us. In the last analysis it is only there that He may be found. It was so with us."

(AA pg 55)

Regardless of whatever approach you choose for yourself, you can be assured that:

THERE IS A POWER FOR GOOD,

AND YOU CAN UTILIZE IT IN YOUR LIFE.

 * * * * *

SECTION A02:

HOW TO USE THIS STUDY GUIDE:

COMMENTS:

"FROM REPETITION COMES RECOGNITION"

Any reader of this Study Guide material will quickly recognize that the author repeats numerous points of view with great frequency. There are similarly repeated references to the same pages of the AA basic text for recovery from alcoholism. This is intentional.

For those who are alcoholic, the entire message of AA could be condensed into a simple one-line expression:

"DONíT DRINK - NO MATTER WHAT".

Nothing further would be required as a message of sobriety.

Due to individual differences in a conscious awareness of the Great Reality of life, on lifeís terms, there are differences in individual alcoholics. What is understood by one may not be clear to another. That is precisely the point.

Certain mental attitudes repeatedly appear within the basic text for recovery from alcoholism. Comments are made, by the author about those ideas, emotions and attitudes as they repeatedly appear in the basic text. (see pg. 27). Many are repetitious. They appear to have significance for any alcoholic having difficulty reconciling use of the "three-letter word God" in the AA Big Book with the interpretations of that word commonly offered by traditional religions.

"We have no monopoly on God; we merely have an approach that worked with us." (pg. 95)

The Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous is "a company of equals". There is no second requirement for membership. AA gains itís strength from universal acceptance by those who are members, on their own say so.

"The only requirement for A.A. membership is a desire to stop drinking." (Tradition 3)

As a result, the issue of "human equality in the eyes of a Creator" becomes a point of departure between the AA program, and the basic precepts of many traditional religions. Where religion defines that which is and is not "God" for their followers, AA does not. Where most religious belief systems have boundaries to define what they "believe about God", the basic text for AA does not.

The only "belief about God" this author has found within the basic text of AA is a statement which finds universal acceptance for any alcoholic who seeks recovery as their primary purpose in this lifetime.

"We are sure God wants us to be happy, joyous and free. We cannot subscribe to the belief that this life is a vale of tears, though it once was just that for many of us. But it is clear that we made our own misery. God didnít do it." (pg. 133)

Where most traditional religions provide authoritative spokesmen on what is or is not acceptable human behavior "in the eyes of God", AA does not. In fact, the very beginning of AA was based upon a very simple idea:

"Why donít you choose your own conception of God?" (pg. 12)

"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." (pg. 12)

The demonstrated results of AA have clearly established that alcoholics can and do recover from a once seemingly hopeless state of mind and body. Those who have recovered obviously possess conscious awareness of something which is possible.

It is the contention of the author in this Study Guide of the AA basic text, that "recovered alcoholics" have "tapped a source of power greater than themselves". It is in the form of "new knowledge" about "the Great Reality" of life, on lifeís terms. (see pgs 53, 55, 60(c), 68, 129, 163-164 & Appendix II).

There is universal acceptance of the "three letter word God" as being "the source of all knowledge and the power of that knowledge". Any such awareness of reality is obviously "a power greater than any individual" could acquire during a single lifetime. Furthermore, there is more new knowledge available, than has been discovered by the entire human race since the beginning of time.

For practical human purposes, the available supply of new knowledge about life, on lifeís terms is infinite. (pgs 53 & 68). Where this has application to recovery from alcoholism, the basic text of AA is clear.

"Our description of the alcoholic, the chapter to the agnostic, and our personal adventures before and after make clear three pertinent ideas:

a.    That we were alcoholic and could not manage our own

lives.

a.    That probably no human power could have relieved our

alcoholism.

a.    That God could and would if He were sought.

(pg. 60)

At issue is "a fundamental idea of God" which this author suggests will be different within each and every alcoholic. (pg. 55). Every alcoholic will have differences in their personal awareness of that which is and is not "the Great Reality" of life, on lifeís terms. Therefore, it is the "belief in their own equality in the eyes of their Creator" which becomes the focal point of concern.

This author does not subscribe to any belief system which claims superiority of some human beings over others.

The word "ethnocentric" describes that mental attitude. Many traditional religions hold to such a belief system for their followers. (see pg. 23). Alcoholics who desire to retain a belief that "our group is superior to other groups" should not be reading this material. Not unless they are open minded enough to consider other ideas which can be found within the AA basic text for recovery.

Having been issued "fair warning", the reader of this Study Guide material should be prepared to encounter challenges to many well established "old ideas" about the disease of alcoholism. This will include observations about "the power" which has produced recovery for countless thousands of men and women from all segments of humanity. They should be evaluated with the "inherent intelligence" which can be found within every man, woman and child. (see pgs 55 & 86).

Before AA, no "second hand belief system" had been able to produce any results equivalent to what the AA program has demonstrated is possible for "any alcoholic with a desire to stop drinking".

"We find that no one need have difficulty with the spirituality of the program. Willingness, honesty and open mindedness are the essentials of recovery. But these are indispensable." (Appendix II)

With that mental approach to the material contained in this Study Guide of the basic text for Alcoholics Anonymous, some specific suggestions follow:

    1. Remember that no individual member of AA is qualified to speak for the Fellowship, except with the endorsement of the General Services Offices of Alcoholics Anonymous.
    2. Rely upon "The Twelve Traditions - (The Long Form) for clarification of what AA is and what AA is not. (see Appendix I).
    3. Consider the viewpoint of any individual member as just that. The view of "a member of Alcoholics Anonymous". This specifically includes any comments by the author of this Study Guide of the basic text. (see Foreword to First Edition).

Each "Section" of the Study Guide suggests reading some particular portion of the basic text. Then comments follow. When reviewing this Study Guide material, it is suggested that the reader consider it as if they were attending "a group meeting which is studying the basic text of the AA Big Book".

In that setting, consider that, over in the corner, sits an "old timer" who has been around AA for over half a century. He is usually long-winded, repeats himself frequently, and has an opinion on just about anything or everything pertaining to the AA program. However, he does usually wait to be called upon before unleashing his viewpoints on others. It is obvious he is reasonably familiar with what is contained in the AA Big Book. His observations are eagerly accepted by some "as a guru", and similarly rejected by others as being the blabbering of "an old man who has forgotten what it is like".

Despite the belief by many that "the old timer is full of crap" he remains sober, and has been sober a very long time. Frequently he may voice "a point of view" with which it is very difficult to argue, dispute, or to find fault with it. After many years of sobriety, he still attends a lot of meetings, and claims to be "reasonably happy, joyous and free". This will sometimes disturb those who find "their own personal belief system" is being challenged by what he says.

During any such meeting to Study the AA Big Book, you would expect to encounter a wide variety of viewpoints on the portions under consideration. The individual "Sections" of this Study Guide material reflect ideas, emotions and attitudes you might hear from the mouth of that "old timer over in the corner". (see pg. 27).

The written material of this Study Guide is being provide in a self-centered attempt to assure the efforts of a lifetime remain available to anyone who might be interested. They are the ideas, emotions and attitudes which produced satisfactory results for a single alcoholic. Other alcoholics are encouraged to put forth similar effort and make "their personal interpretation" available to other alcoholics in a similar and equal manner.

Recovery from alcoholism is something which requires continued effort to "perfect and enlarge a spiritual life". (see pgs 14-15, 35, 129 & 164). When evaluating this Study Guide material, it is suggested that the reader proceed at their own pace. Valid new knowledge will always displace and rearrange "erroneous old ideas and false beliefs".

The only measure of validity for ideas, emotions and attitudes which are the guiding forces in the lives of alcoholics is to be found in how well they work. Do they produce satisfactory results? Are they principles with application to anyone, anyplace and at any time? (see pg. 27).

The improvement of an established belief system is not an overnight matter. (see Steps 10 & 11). With this thought in mind, (pg. 23), study the material of each individual Section carefully, in the light of your own intelligence.

Scan rapidly through the material first, without paying any particular attention to the parenthetical references to other portions of the AA basic text. If the points being made are not clearly understood, then review the references for additional clarification. There is "no other authority" intended to be used than the basic text itself.

If the reader cannot reconcile with the basic text of AA anything they are told by anyone about the AA program, this author recommends it be considered suspect of error.

It is recommended that the reader progress through the extensive comments of the author over an extended period of time. Each individual Section was intended to serve as "a single lesson in an educational variety of a spiritual experience" for those with an open mind to new "ideas, emotions and attitudes". (pg. 27). Hopefully it will be useful to some alcoholics in producing "the personality change sufficient to bring about recovery". The comments are primarily intended for those experiencing difficulty accepting traditional religious versions of "God, as we understand Him". It is anticipated that any such transformation will develop slowly over a period of time.

"Yet it is true that our first printing gave many readers the impression that these personality changes, or religious experiences must be in the nature of sudden and spectacular upheavals. Happily for everyone, this conclusion is erroneous."

(see Appendix II - Spiritual Experience).

For the alcoholic who is "a defiant individualist" there is value in building a personal belief system on the foundation of the AA basic text for recovery. This approach to recovery has produced demonstrated results which remain unequaled by any other thus far. However, "Be quick to see where religious people are right. Make use of what they offer." (pg. 87). Just remember that their discovery of "a truth" is not the same as having knowledge of "all truth".

"Our book is meant to be suggestive only. We realize we know only a little. God will constantly disclose more to you and to us." (pg. 164)

With a mental attitude of willingness, honesty and open mindedness, give thoughtful intelligent consideration to the ideas, emotions and attitudes of any alcoholic who has achieved successful results in their life. Especially those which you would like to have included in your own. While no two individuals will ever be happy, joyous and free in an identical manner, anyone can acquire new knowledge of the Great Reality from almost anyone.

Any improvement in your own "conscious contact with God" will allow for spiritual progress in cooperating with life, on lifeís terms. It will occur as you understand more about "a power greater than yourself". This "spiritual growth" is to be found by constantly seeking new knowledge from the infinite source of all knowledge. That source is some intelligence referred to by use of the "three letter word God".

The individual alcoholic, seeking recovery will quickly recognize a need for reliance upon "a conception of God" that produces practical results. A fundamental idea of God as "the source of all new knowledge" is a simple approach which has worked well for many. (see pg. 46).

This approach to recovery has been particularly valuable to those alcoholics who have difficulty believing the versions of "a power greater than ourselves" offered by and available from the spokesmen for many traditional religious "ideas of God".

What this author has found by way of support for "a fundamental idea of God" from the basic text of AA is being freely offered in this Study Guide material to those who are interested.

TAKE WHAT YOU CAN USE, AND LEAVE THE REST FOR OTHERS

* * * * *

 

SECTION A04:

F O R W O R D T O S T U D Y G U I D E :

"ALL GENERALIZATIONS ARE FALSE - INCLUDING THIS ONE"

That is a principle, emphasized in this "Study Guide".

COMMENTS:

Disagreement with traditional religious beliefs need not block recovery from alcoholism. There can be both value and limitations to some of those old ideas and their belief systems. However, the power of new knowledge is infinite. (see pg 68).

Knowledge is power, and it provides additional freedom with the power of increased choice. There is always more to know. Any knowledge you do NOT possess is "a power greater than yourself".

Seeking new knowledge is equivalent to seeking improved power to make choices that were not previously available due to personal ignorance. As you understand new knowledge you are free to use it. (see Steps 3 & 11).

The ability of alcoholics to recover, from a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body, was new knowledge for many, when the book "Alcoholics Anonymous" was first written. That new knowledge provided alcoholics new power to make new choices. With those new choices they were able to enjoy a new freedom and new happiness. (see pgs 83-84).

There is no limit upon how much additional new knowledge (i.e.: "the power of God") anyone can acquire. More new knowledge, hence more power is available to anyone, any place, at any time if it is sought. (see pgs 47 & 60(c)).

By seeking more new knowledge, the seeker taps into an infinite source of power. (syn: "God" - see pg 59). That source is a power greater than yourself.

That message reflects a basic view of the AA Big Book which will be found in this Study Guide. It has been prepared for the sole purpose of sharing what has been found in the basic text with alcoholics who have problems with traditional religious interpretations of the word "God" and what that word means to their mind. The book "Alcoholics Anonymous" offers a path of recovery which extends beyond any requirement to conform to traditional religious ideas or practices.

Many alcoholics find personal fulfillment within a traditional religious belief system. Such readers may not be interested in seeking any additional improvements in their life. (see pg 133). For them to read on could expose their minds to other ideas and new knowledge which might disturb what they now believe about life.

Those who have found peace of mind and personal contentment with their faith, are advised to stop reading here, and set this book aside now.

Those who have continued to read this Study Guide material will recognize that many alcoholics have problems with traditional religious interpretations of the word "God". Some of those problems are aggravated by exposure to militantly religious and highly vocal AA members who insist "their way is the only way" to experience the "vital spiritual experience" necessary for recovery. The basic text on recovery from alcoholism does not support that claim. (see pgs 27 & 95).

Some religious groups of alcoholics insist it necessary to shave your head, or meditate in a certain position. Others believe it is important to don a yellow robe and chant in order to find spiritual enlightenment. Large numbers of other alcoholics emotionally insist that engaging in rituals, symbolic of being like a vampire and cannibal, is the only valid way of "communion with their deity". How much intelligence is involved in any of the different belief systems becomes a matter of personal choice. (see pg 23).

Though useful to many alcoholics, religious practices merely reflect personally chosen beliefs by individual alcoholics. Fortunately, none of those religious belief systems are necessary requirements for recovery. If they were necessary, then no one could or would recover without them. AA experience has indicated the only requirement for recovery is a desire to stop drinking. (see pg 58).

Principles of recovery, found in the AA Big Book, have universal application.

Those principles will work for anyone with a desire to stop drinking. There is no second requirement for membership. Similarly, there is no difference between an alcoholic with a Buddhist hang-over or a Baptist hang-over. The AA program works equally well in producing recovery for them both.

Furthermore, the only assumption about "what God wants for the alcoholic" is:

"We are sure God wants us to be happy, joyous, and free".

(pg 133)

Some individuals prefer having another human being (i.e.: "equal in the eyes of God") tell them if and when they are happy, joyous or free. If so, a different approach to recovery may produce what they want most. This Study Guide emphasizes the spirit of human equality as a concept which has been found consistently throughout the basic AA text for recovery from alcoholism.

In this regard, the reader may wish to consider the author of this Study Guide to be like "a sponsor". Someone, like a "safari guide" which you have chosen. Someone who is willing to point out what they have found in the basic text "Alcoholics Anonymous". Someone willing to take the reader on a guided tour of the basic text, while emphasizing points of interest from a personal perspective with a personal bias built into all comments which get made. Such an approach can be anticipated by anyone who continues reading this material.

Comments made by the author of this Study Guide are offered freely to alcoholics who are interested in them. Others may prefer taking a different approach to the basic text for recovery from alcoholism. The only important approach to sobriety for any alcoholic is the one that works best.

It is suggested the reader utilize whatever new knowledge is helpful to them, regardless of how or where it is acquired. If some of those ideas, emotions or attitudes have broader application in life than sobriety alone, then consider them a bonus benefit. They will be the power of new knowledge you will be free to use as you trudge the Road of Happy Destiny.

* * * * *

SECTION A05:

"COMMENTS ON SPONSORSHIP"

READ:

1.   Basic text of "Alcoholics Anonymous" from frontispiece through end of Chapter 11 on page 164.

2.   Appendices I - VI found in the back of the basic text.

3.   AA Pamphlet (P-15) - "Questions & Answers on Sponsorship".

COMMENTS:

It is a common recommendation to newcomers in the AA Fellowship that they get a sponsor who will help them understand what is in the basic text for recovery. This Study Guide was written with that consideration in mind. If the reader desires to use the author "as a sponsor" it is worthwhile to establish a clear understanding of what that relationship is. Specifically, in regard to interpreting the basic text for recovery that is found in the first 164 pages of the AA Big Book.

Where the reader chooses to use the author of this Study Guide "as a sponsor", it is recommended that anything which cannot be confirmed with that basic text be considered suspect of error.

Be assured that the author has made every effort to reconcile personal comments with the AA Big Book. While these and other outside views may provide value and usefulness, it is not recommended that any alcoholic bet their life and their freedom on something which they cannot confirm with AAís basic text for successful recovery.

Consider anyone you select as "a sponsor" to be like a "safari guide" you have chosen to lead you through territory which is new for you but familiar to them. In the process of your journey, you will inescapably be exposed to the personality of your guide, as part of the process. What they consider of significance or importance may not have the same value to you.

When reading material in this Study Guide, be aware that understanding the personality of the author is not essential to your own recovery from alcoholism. However, improving conscious understanding of the principles of recovery is required for a vital spiritual experience. (Step 11).

"We find that no one need have difficulty with the spirituality of the program. Willingness, honesty and open mindedness are the essentials of recovery. But these are indispensable." (Appendix II)

Because no one has all the answers in AA, individual members share their experience, strength and hope with each other. No individual member is qualified to speak for AA as a whole. Therefore, when selecting "a sponsor" as "a safari guide" to lead you through the unfamiliar territory of the basic text, the use of your own intelligence will be helpful.

Any observations offered in this Study Guide by the author are personal. While they have worked well, it should be recognized that other views exist. The objective is to help the reader improve ways to become increasingly "happy, joyous and free". (pg 133). This occurs by enlarging a conscious understanding of "a power greater than yourself" as presented in AAís basic text for recovery.

Different individuals seek different approaches to obtaining the fulfillment of their desires. (i.e.: "the answers to their prayers"). No one else really knows what they want for themselves. Because this author failed "mind reading" the alcoholic reader must make a decision concerning what new knowledge they are seeking for themselves. Part of that desire (syn: "prayer") may be answered from comments provided in this Study Guide. If so, utilize those ideas freely, and leave what is not suitable for someone who may find them helpful.

Be aware that some alcoholics are, or believe they are, unable to make decisions, in their own best interests. If so, they may require a conservator, caretaker or "a keeper" to protect them from themselves. AA places emphasis upon human equality, particularly in the eyes of a creator. For that reason, participation in AA may not be their best personal approach to recovery. Established AA members are not necessarily qualified to run the lives of other alcoholics. Beyond personal success with their own recovery, there is room for doubt concerning their expertise in other areas of living.

In AA, most established members have admitted their inability to successfully manage their own lives. Most also believe that, in the past, some "power, greater than themselves", had been lacking. (see pg 45). How they have tapped a source of power that has restored them to sanity may vary. The value of their choice will vary according to whomever renders judgment on their mental condition. (pg 23). Therefore the reader would be wise to utilize their own intelligence and exercise caution when making a selection of someone to provide them with "guidance".

Should an alcoholic desire "a sponsor" to run their life for them, they would require a "non-revocable Power of Attorney" in order to be effective. Remember that any alcoholic is always free to rebel, and they would likely try to outsmart "the sponsor" any time they disagreed.

Nonetheless, within AA, there still exists an ample supply of other alcoholics who are willing to run your life for you. The reason is that it is to their own personal best interests to share the secrets of their own success. The reader should be aware that any happiness, joy or freedom will be "their version" rather than your own. (see pg 133). Therefore, caution is recommended.

Because no two alcoholics are precisely the same, any "second-hand version of happiness" will ultimately conflict with a unique and individual personality. Therefore, it is recommended to place priority importance upon "principles before personalities".

Professional help for alcoholics is available from the fields of medicine, religion and psychiatry. Each professional is a specialist who has been trained in their specific discipline. There is no challenge to their expertise or competence in their chosen field of study. However, recognize that alcoholism impacts every major area in the life of the alcoholic. Therefore, no single discipline embraces the entire problem.

Because of their limited effectiveness, the professional community has not been able to offer significant demonstrations of success in producing recoveries from alcoholism. Those which do usually have developed close connections with or reliance upon the AA program of recovery. However, the AA program is not allied nor affiliated with any of them. (AA Preamble & Appendix I - Tradition 6).

Historically, "the reformed drunk" is known to the drinking society with a zealous religious outlook upon life. Experience indicates such emotional upheavals are usually temporary in nature and hold little long-term appeal to most alcoholics.

This author believes that it is difficult, if not impossible, to maintain that strong emotional intensity over any extended period of time. Eventually the intelligence of the alcoholic and the reality of life, on lifeís terms, will interject to disrupt that high emotional pitch. Then the emotional pendulum swings to the depths of depression and despair.

"All of us felt at times that we were regaining control, but such intervals-usually brief-were inevitably followed by still less control, which led in time to pitiful and incomprehensible demoralization." (pg. 30)

Accordingly, when considering any religious or other professional approach to recovery from alcoholism, it is recommended that the interested alcoholic apply an old familiar nursery rhyme by asking:

"Pie man, Pie man - let me taste your wares". "May I speak with some alcoholics who have recovered by using your methods please?"

This is considered an intelligent request, before spending substantial amounts of time and money on a solution. First consider the results being offered. Then decide if those results are what you want for yourself.

In San Francisco, California in May 1951 the surviving co-founder of AA related his earlier encounter with the John D. Rockefeller Foundation to obtain financing for facilities to deal with recovery from alcoholism. The man, who had provided much money for humanitarian purposes, wisely declined saying:

"This is the workings of the good will of one human being for another, and money would louse it up".

Human nature has changed little since then. Money, power and prestige can be an alluring diversion from the primary purpose of Alcoholics Anonymous. With the tradition of being self-supporting, AA escapes those distractions from recovery produced by the allure of "other peopleís money".

"Our primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety" (AA Preamble)

The "blind acceptance" that a "close minded belief" a particular religious concept of God alone is sufficient to produce recovery from alcoholism is yet another distraction. While many religions may offer useful ideas, emotions and attitudes about life, on lifeís terms, none is complete. Many newcomers have difficulty with this when seeking to improve understanding of "a power greater than ourselves". (see pgs 12, 23, 27, 42, 45, 53, 55, 59, 68, 95, 164 & Appendix II).

Be aware there is no "Official God Club" for AA. There is no difference between a Buddhist hangover and a Christian hangover. The reasons why AA has not stamped itself as a "Christian movement" are clearly defined in the writings of AAís co-founder. Some specific comments can be located on page 34 of the AA publication "As Bill Sees It". To avoid emotional confusion between the objectives of AA and "other outside activities" it is recommended those comments be read with an open mind.

Individual AA members frequently comment on what is in the basic text for recovery. Before relying upon "what they say", it is useful to consider "why they say it". Those statements may not be correct, and are still only personal interpretations which sometimes are inaccurate. If it is important, then check it out first with the basic text and decide if it means the same to you.

There can be a difference between what the text says, and a personal belief of what the text means. Because AA accepts anyone, who claims to have a desire to stop drinking, your own intelligence will confirm that you are apt to find a wide variety of people in any AA meeting. Unless you know precisely what is and is not included in AAís basic text for recovery there is no intelligent means of separating a solid foundation for recovery from the personal views of individual members.

Be cautious about relying upon "second-hand information". It can be perilous when it comes from an equal human being who is capable of being mistaken. Obviously you cannot know the difference without first enlarging your own understanding. (pgs 14-15, 35, 58 & Steps 10 & 11).

Where "Sponsorship" is concerned, this author suggests that you first read AAís basic text for recovery. (Pages 1 - 164). Then read the world-wide experience of AA set forth in the pamphlet "Questions and Answers on Sponsorship" (P-15). One provides the "minimum essential requirements for recovery" from alcoholism. The other contains

a variety of different approaches which will be helpful in selecting the kind of sponsor you want for yourself.

Before blindly selecting someone you wish to label as "your sponsor", this author makes the following suggestions and recommendations:

 

    1. Get a personal copy of the basic text "Alcoholics Anonymous" to highlight comments about "Sponsorship"..
    2. Open your book to the Frontispiece and highlight the portion that reads:

      "How Many Thousands of Men and Women
      Have Recovered from Alcoholism"
    3. Underline the word "Recovered".
    4. Read the basic text (through page 164) and carefully highlight each and every comment on "sponsorship" so you will know, with certainty, what is and is not contained in the basic text for recovery.
    5. Review the AA pamphlet noting the various approaches to "sponsorship" and decide what kind of a sponsor you want.

This Study Guide can serve "as a sponsor" to walk you through some things found by the author, within the basic text. The reader is welcomed and encouraged to do so. Like a "safari guide" this author will point out some areas considered worth noting during your journey. They reflect the value judgment of the author. You may or may not place the same value or importance on what you are being shown.

It is inescapable that you will be exposed to the personality of the person you choose to be "your sponsor". Be aware that agreement with their personality is not essential for your recovery. Acceptance of the principles of recovery in AA is indispensable. (Appendix I - Tradition 12 & Appendix II).

Most members of AA are willing, honest and open minded about their desire to be happy, joyous and free. (see pg 133). Most alcoholics are willing to "trade up" to something better if it can be intelligently established that it is an improvement. (see Step 11). Therefore, if you believe that your own "success story" already has elements of value to others, then sharing that new knowledge may have mutual value and usefulness. (pg 77).

Hopefully there will be some personal enrichment gained from use of this Study Guide of the AA basic text for recovery. The reader is encouraged to accept, utilize and share anything which provides value in the personal recovery process for any alcoholic. It is being freely offered for that purpose.

Just remember that what is offered here comes only from a single member of AA. (see Forward to First Edition). And, never forget that it is your own choice to accept or

reject the observations of any other individual. It is the use of your own intelligence which decides what has validity and is acceptable for you.

This author suggests your own successful methods for recovery be offered to others "cafeteria style" with the recommendation that they "take what they like and leave the rest". Not everyone is able to use the same information effectively in the same manner. The only real measure of value of any approach to sobriety is in how well the information works for the individual alcoholic seeking recovery. As equals, there is always more to be learned. (pgs 53 & 68).

IF KNOWLEDGE IS INFINITE - THEN SO IS IGNORANCE

* * * * *

SECTION A06:

"TO THE SERIOUS STUDENT OF THE AA BIG BOOK"

COMMENTS:

When this "Study Guide of the AA Big Book" was prepared, the author anticipated different degrees of interest by readers. The material is primarily intended for those individual members of AA who, like the author, have difficulty intelligently reconciling what they find in AAís basic text with various religious concepts of "a power greater than ourselves".

The purpose of this Study Guide is to provide those members with any value they can obtain from a half-century of experience in AA by this author. The reader is encouraged to take what they can utilize and leave the rest for anyone else who may find it has value in their recovery from alcoholism..

Recognizably, there will be readers who take a more casual view of both the basic text of AA and this Study Guide material. Some portions may either be accepted or rejected according to the personal belief system of the reader. A recommendation is made that they freely avail themselves of what is offered, with the open minded recognition that others may find different value in the perspective of the author.

It cannot be emphasized too strongly that each individual member of AA, when writing or speaking publicly about alcoholism, does not speak for the AA Fellowship as a whole. Their comments are no more nor less than that of "a member of Alcoholics Anonymous". (see Foreword to First Edition). They either do or do not believe in their own human equality.

The comments in this Study Guide reflect the experience, strength and hope of one single member with a desire to be of service and usefulness. (pg 77). Other views exist. They should be given equal consideration in the light of the intelligence which the reader can find within themselves. (see pg 55).

For the serious student of the AA Big Book, what follows are some recommendations from the author of this Study Guide in the approach to take when utilizing this supplemental material.

    1. Read the book "Alcoholics Anonymous" from the frontispiece through the end of Chapter 11 ("A VISION FOR YOU" pg 164). Then read the Appendices in the back of the book. The personal stories reflect how different alcoholics have utilized the principles of AA in their recovery.
    2. Scan through the Study Guide material without paying particular attention to the references provided to specific pages of the basic text. Read the Study Guide to obtain the general perspective of the author The parenthetical page references are intended to provide confirmation from the basic text of specific points being made.
    3. Review AA pamphlet "Questions and Answers on Sponsorship" (P15) plus the section "Comments on Sponsorship" provided in this Study Guide. Decide if you desire to have the author of this Study Guide walk you through the basic text. If so, the author will be providing a viewpoint, as a single member of AA, which goes beyond the limits of traditional religious belief systems. (see Appendix II).
    4. Those who wish to avoid being emotionally disturbed by exposure to new knowledge are recommended to set all of this material aside now. This avoidance of reality will delay having your established belief system challenged by inherent intelligence. (see pg 55). Alcoholics who are sufficiently open minded to consider "all spiritual concepts" in their recovery are recommended to continue in the following manner. (see Appendix II).
    5. Use this Study Guide of the AA Big Book as if the author were "a sponsor in print" who, like "a safari guide" is taking you on a conducted tour of the basic text. Each individual section is a single adventure. One where "your chosen guide" will point out various items considered to be of potential interest. Over the entire journey through the basic text, there will inescapably be frequent repetition of pertinent points which this author believes are important. Other "guides" may emphasize other elements found in the basic text. With an open mind, give consideration to them all.
    6. The serious student of the basic text of AA is encouraged to first read each individual section rapidly. Then return to the beginning of the section and check the parenthetical page references for further support to each point made in the Study Guide. Consider the basic text "Alcoholics Anonymous" as the authority on recovery, and view any comments made by the author of the Study Guide from that perspective. Use your own intelligence to confirm or reject the validity of any ideas, emotions or attitudes which have been presented for consideration.
    7. Do not blindly accept the views of the author, or of any other individual member of AA as being authoritative. First confirm what others tell you with the basic text and your own intelligence. Unless your own interpretation of the basic text is clear, it is well to challenge "anything you are told about the basic text". See if it will stand up to the light of intelligent examination. Reality is what it is without regard to the different beliefs of individual alcoholics.
    8. Where questions still remain concerning the comments provided in any section of the Study Guide, it is recommended that they be discussed with a wide variety of other members of the AA Fellowship to obtain different perspectives. At some point the serious student of the AA Big Book will make a decision as to what they accept or reject as the ideas, emotions and attitude to guide their own life. (see pg 27).
    9. Proceed, at your own pace, through the entire Study Guide, giving consideration to each section. Discuss your questions with others, either privately or in group discussions. Arrive at your own conclusions concerning your personal relationship with "a power greater than ourselves". (see pg 12). Recognize that any "second hand versions" reflect the beliefs of other individuals, developed at other times, and other places for other reasons. (see pgs 42, 86 & 95).
    10. Recognize that "the Great Reality" of life, on lifeís terms is not negotiable. Continue to enlarge and improve your own conscious recognition and understanding that "what is, is; and what is not the Great Reality" will become life on lifeís terms. (Step 11). Mentally prepare yourself to survive the certain trials and low spots ahead of your own journey through unknown areas of life you do not yet understand. (see pgs 14-15, 35, 42, 129, 164, Step 11 & Appendix II).
    11. Challenge your own belief system to determine if "what you believe" is a principle, which applies to any alcoholic, anyplace, and at any time. If there are exceptions, consider that your belief reflects your "personal preference" and defines your personality. (see Appendix I - Tradition 12).
    12. Share freely of what you find with others who willingly accept whatever new knowledge has enriched your own happiness, joy and freedom. (see pgs 89 & 133).

"Abandon yourself to God as you understand God. Admit your faults to Him and to your fellows. Clear away the wreckage of your past. Give freely of what you find and join us. We shall be with you in the Fellowship of the Spirit, and you will surely meet some of us as you trudge the Road of Happy Destiny.

May God bless you and keep you - until then."

(pg 164).

* * * * *

SECTION AO7:

ABOUT THE AUTHOR BY THE AUTHOR

COMMENTS:

Any autobiographical comments can quickly become "a premature obituary" and scarcely be labeled as "an objective view of the individual". Such must be the case for this portion of the authorís Study Guide of the AA basic text for recovery from alcoholism.

Countless thousands of men and women have recovered from a once seemingly hopeless condition called "alcoholism". With the possible exception that each individual recovery was "a miracle" because something happened which "was once believed could not happen", any experience of this author is now neither unusual nor particularly noteworthy.

Similar experiences of recovery are readily available in other personal stories which follow the basic text for recovery. Like all others, the journey of this author, as an alcoholic, began with birth and will end with death. There is no place for dispute of human equality on that fact of life.

The only significance of that journey is in how much conscious awareness of the Great Reality was developed of life, on lifeís terms. It is the experience, strength and hope of a single individual. What is offered here was acquired by a careful study of the AA basic text for recovery from alcoholism. That is the essence of this writing, and all else is incidental. Any value it may have will be found from viewing the AA basic text of recovery through the eyes of this author.

This Study Guide material was written for those alcoholics who are seeking answers.

The author recognized a need for "a power greater than himself" but was unable to intelligently reconcile "a conception of God" with the way it was presented by most traditional religions.

Other alcoholics experience similar difficulties. This Study Guide is part of a continuing an effort "to be of maximum service to God and the people about us". (see pgs 12, 55, & 77). It is not intended as "the answer to recovery" for everyone. However, it is an available option for those who can use "the experience, strength and hope" of another alcoholic to enlarge their own spiritual life. (pgs 14-15).

Many alcoholics who come to AA experience sudden and dramatic spiritual experiences or religious conversions, however most do not. The material in this Study Guide is directed to those seeking "the educational variety of a spiritual awakening" which occurs gradually, over a period of time. Of necessity, there is a requirement for a mental attitude of "willingness, honesty and open mindedness" when considering different ideas, emotions and attitudes without contempt, prior to investigation. (see Appendix II - Spiritual Experience).

The author of this Study Guide is offering, what may be awareness of new knowledge for some. It is intended for alcoholics seeking a spiritual awakening to the reality of their relationship to life, on lifeís terms. Only the individual reader can determine if any portion has value and usefulness in their own recovery.

The journey of this author in sobriety has included a wide range of life styles spread over a large portion of the planet. The similarities of alcoholics in different cultures is amazing. They cut across the boundaries which otherwise would separate human beings from each other. And, so does the AA program of recovery. It can and does produce recovery when it is not being blocked by close minded members attempting to force the AA program to fit into "their beliefs about how life should be".

This alcoholic has participated as AA has crossed racial barriers of the Ď50ís in the United States and was able to override the nationalistic attitudes between recently warring Europeans during that same period. Attitudes about alcoholism in West Germany, once were determined by their Catholic or Protestant faith and were overcome by alcoholics seeking recovery in AA. The political walls separating Western Europe from the eastern block and Russia were penetrated by AA in correspondence. Alcoholics in the Far East with religious and cultural attitudes far different from those where AA began, have embraced recovery in AA without abandoning their own unique customs.

As a result of direct experience, this author has reached a conclusion about AA, and the program of recovery outlined in the basic text.

The "universal principles" of AA take precedence over "local tribal customs". Particularly those involving traditional religious belief systems.

This attitude is being reflected by the author in this "Study Guide of the AA Big Book". Local or regional attitudes may be important, however that which has universal application is more important. (see pgs 53 & 68).

The way any alcoholic perceives themselves, and their relationship to life, on lifeís terms, becomes a determining factor in what they choose as actions. (see pg. 27). Each individual has a set of priorities and values. (see pg. 55). This author is no exception.

The priorities of what an individual will or will not do, and when they will do it becomes their moral inventory". That belief system determines the choices of actions made by each and every alcoholic. It reflects their "fundamental idea of God" and is only found within each individual. (see pg. 55).

How an alcoholic "sees themselves" is critical to the choices they make. This was dramatically illustrated by a young woman speaking to a large AA gathering in San Diego. She came from a predominately Hispanic community with a strict code of well defined ethnic, cultural and religious values. Her simple but powerful comment concerning her own recovery was:

"I used to be a Mexican, now Iím an alcoholic"

This author has been and still is many things which are used to separate and categorize individuals. What is important here is that "I am an alcoholic".

Placing "a label of alcoholism" on any individual implies having some idea of what that is. Those ideas can, will and do vary according to whom, when and where you ask about them. Social, political, religious and legal attitudes will vary according to the "local tribal customs" which are currently in effect. Because those views are constantly undergoing changes, any effort to produce stability requires seeking out whatever "principles" have universal application "common to any alcoholic, anyplace at any time".

Such was the case for this author. Successful recovery does have "one single requirement" which can only be determined by the individual alcoholic. It is the requirement that they develop and maintain a simple desire. One which takes priority precedence over all other desires, and thereby constitutes a fair definition of being "their prayer". Something no one else can do for them. On a daily basis, it is the dominant desire (i.e. "prayer") to:

MOVE INTO LIFE INSTEAD OF AWAY FROM REALITY.

This author made that decision in 1951, and has continued to seek improvements ever since. From that free choice all else follows.

Any problems which followed have all revolved around the lack of sufficient new knowledge to cooperate with the Great Reality of life, on lifeís terms. This author did not know how. No human power had all the answers to all questions. However, it was possible to seek improvement by consciously enlarging understanding of life, on lifeís terms.

This required abandoning "old ideas" and accepting "new knowledge". To do so it was essential to displace and rearrange the ideas, emotions and attitudes which had been guiding life activities. The indispensable requirement was a mental attitude of willingness, honesty and open mindedness.

The AA basic text of recovery has provided guidance on how to achieve that personality change, sufficient to produce recovery from alcoholism.

"Lack of power, that was our dilemma. We had to find a power by which we could live, and it had to be a Power greater than ourselves. Obviously. But where and how were we to find this Power? (pg. 45)

"Without help it is too much for us. But there is One who has all power---that One is God. May you find Him now." (pg. 59)

"Our description of the alcoholic, the chapter to the agnostic, and our personal adventures before and after make clear three pertinent ideas:

a.    That we were alcoholic and could not manage our
own lives.

b.    That probably no human power could have relieved
our alcoholism.

c.     That God could and would if He were sought. #9; #9; #9; (pg. 60)

"My friend suggested what then seemed a novel idea. He said, "Why donít you choose your own conception of God?" (pg. 12)

"Therefore, the main problem of the alcoholic centers in his mind, rather than his body." (pg. 23)

"Ideas, emotions, and attitudes which were once the guiding forces of the lives of these men are suddenly cast to one side, and a completely new set of conceptions and motives begin to dominate them." (pg. 27)

"I knew from that moment that I had an alcoholic mind. I saw that will power and self-knowledge would not help in those strange mental black spotsÖÖÖÖ It meant I would have to throw several lifelong conceptions out of the window." (pg. 42)

"When we became alcoholics, crushed by a self-imposed crisis we could not postpone or evade, we had to fearlessly face the proposition that either God is everything or else He is nothing. God either is, or He isnít. What was our choice to be?" #9; #9; #9; (pg. 53)

"He was as much a fact as we were. We found the Great Reality deep down within us. In the last analysis it is only there that He may be found. It was so for us." (pg. 55)

"We find that no one need have difficulty with the spirituality of the program. Willingness, honesty and open mindedness are the essentials of recovery. But these are indispensable." (Appendix II)

Recovery, from a once seemingly hopeless state of mind and body is and has been the dominant desire of the author. It has included a continuing priority to move into this life rather than to seek oblivion - be it recreational or permanent.

This author believes that "the Great Reality" is an intelligent definition for that three letter word "God". In the process of seeking improved understanding, there has been acquired a constant flow of new knowledge about how to personally cooperate with all life on lifeís terms. (see Step 11). The need for new knowledge has constantly changed as conditions have changed. For example:

IíVE NEVER BEEN THIS OLD BEFORE!

The only life, reality, or "God" this author is able to understand is that which is being experienced during "this lifetime". It is increasingly self-evident that there is approaching a point where this author will become "an expert authority on any next life". Until then, my beliefs about what comes next are equally as valid as those of any other living human being.

The author of this Study Guide of the AA basic text of recovery from alcoholism has chosen to freely share his personal experience, strength and hope with those alcoholics who can willingly accept whatever value and usefulness it might have in their own recovery process. If it does have any continuing value, then this author will have achieved "a life after death".

Where that help enables some other alcoholics be more happy, joyous and free, then it will be in harmony with "what God wants for an alcoholic". (see pg. 133). Those alcoholics with different belief systems are encouraged to put forth similar effort to clarify their own thinking for the benefit of other alcoholics who may want what they have discovered in the basic text of AA.

In seeking to improve a conscious understanding of life, on lifeís terms, this author discovered an inability to intelligently accept the ideas, emotions and attitudes offered as "the last word" by spokesmen for traditional religious concepts of "a power greater than ourselves". To "survive the certain trials and low spots ahead" it was imperative for this alcoholic to follow the novel idea presented at the beginning of AA and ask myself "Why donít you choose your own conception of God?". (pgs 12 & 14-15). There was no intelligent reason not to do so if I believed in my own equality in the eyes of my creator.

What others believed was what impacted their lives. What I believed would impact my own. That was equitable and fair, on lifeís terms.

"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" (pg. 12)

My own priority was recovery now - during this lifetime. Any subsequent experience was of secondary importance. Taking a clue from the AA Slogans, about dealing with "First Things First", this author made a decision believed to be an intelligent one. It was to focus effort, thought and concentration upon living

"ONE LIFE AT A TIME".

The result of that decision was relief from the fear, anger and guilt which had come from personal inability to live up to the expectations and demands of people claiming to have direct and superior connections to "the source of all knowledge and power". That low self-esteem gradually was replaced by a belief in human equality in the eyes of whatever is "the creative source of all life".

With equal access to new knowledge of how to be happy, joyous and free, it was obviously up to this alcoholic to seek it. In the process, it was discovered that new knowledge was being constantly provided on a daily basis.

It comes as "the daily gift of life" where all and everything in an infinite universe is made available. It is up to the individual to learn to either accept or reject it.

The only thing to accept or reject is this life, on lifeís terms. The simple process of being willing, honest and open minded to let go of old ideas and accept new knowledge of "the Great Reality" has produced satisfactory results.

It became apparent that absolutely everything required for any human being to be happy, joyous and free in this life is already being provided with the daily reprieve from oblivion. Having also been provided with brains to use, and the power of choice, it is a personal decision as to what portion of an infinite universe to seek, and then accept or reject. (pg. 86). All and everything which is "God" is already there to be claimed, if the alcoholic knows how to claim it. (pg. 53). Some have acquired that new knowledge, while others try to hold on to their old ideas.

This awareness of reality provided an intelligent concept of "a loving God" which wanted me to be "happy, joyous and free". (pg. 133). Instead of being "a victim" it is the responsibility of the individual to determine what they desire to have for themselves. That "prayer" then determines what they choose to do. The results are produced "on lifeís terms".

The personal problem of this author is continuing to be willing, honest and open minded enough to let go of my old ideas of how I believe life is, and learn to accept new knowledge of "the Great Reality" of life, on lifeís terms. Such mental effort to "enlarge a spiritual life" has proven to be a never-ending process sufficient for the entire journey during this lifetime. Thus far, no one has intelligently established themselves as being an authority on any future experience.

This author has achieved and maintained sobriety for over a half-century of living under widely varied conditions and circumstances. What is significant is that, for the most part, it has been a reasonably happy, joyous and free experience.

It is believed that other alcoholics, have had similar difficulties with the "second hand moral belief systems of traditional religions". Some may be interested in seeking a similar approach to recovery from alcoholism. If so, they are invited to freely partake of any useful material being offered in this Study Guide of the AA Big Book.

* * * * *

SECTION A08:

GETTING STARTED WITH AAíS BIG BOOK:

 

Read: From Front Cover through to "THE DOCTORíS OPINION".

 

NOTE: For the serious reader, the author recommends you do not skip this portion. It can be useful in placing the entire "Big Book" into the context of how it was first presented to the general public. This may be helpful in understanding the AA program as it now exists.

* * * * *

 

1. Open the front cover. If your book is new, you will note the very first page is blank. For the newcomer to AA, a blank page has been suggested as an indication of your personal knowledge of successful recovery from alcoholism.

For the established member, a blank page may indicate your ability to use new knowledge before you have it.

WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE HOW MUCH YOU KNOW, -

- IF WHAT YOU KNOW IS NOT SO?

2. The next page contains the title selected for the book, and became the familiar name of the fellowship "Alcoholics Anonymous"

.

At the time of first publication, there was a severe social stigma attached to being identified as alcoholic. At that time, alcoholism was considered by most of society to be both hopeless and incurable. Anonymity, as an alcoholic, was a matter of considerable importance to the earlier members. The principle of anonymity continues to be of major significance. Some of the reasons for emphasis have changed. An article "Why Alcoholics Anonymous is anonymous" can be found in the pamphlet "AA Traditions and How They Developed".

3. The next page lists Other Books, published by AA World Services, Inc. These provide information about Alcoholics Anonymous, and are "official AA literature".

Other printed material has been extremely helpful to some AA members for spiritual enlightenment, depending upon their geographical location. The Bhagavad-Gita, the Koran, the Holy Bible, and other "religious writings" are often

considered to contain authoritative definitions of the word "God". Use of such material is a matter of individual preference and personal belief.

It should be noted that AA does not use any religious definition of the three-letter word "God".

The program of Alcoholics Anonymous clearly defines itself as not wishing to engage in any controversy. By the exclusion of religious ideas of God, all who suffer from alcoholism may be included in AA without any requirement for accepting a particular concept of God. (see pg 12). Because different religious belief systems are frequently controversial, they are clearly outside of the realm of the AA program. By contrast, it is strictly a matter of personal preference as to what any alcoholic chooses to believe about "a Power greater than themselves".

4. Frontispiece, The book title page:

In addition to the title "Alcoholics Anonymous", this page indicates that the book is "the story of how many thousands of men and women have recovered from alcoholism". Your attention is directed to the use of the word "recovered".

Alcoholism, was once considered "a hopeless state of mind and body" from which recovery was not believed possible. Be aware that the word "recovered" is not synonymous with the word "cured". This author suggests that, when the condition of alcoholism is no longer "hopeless", an individual has "recovered". That they are not "cured" is adequately dealt with in "THE DOCTORíS OPINION" and Chapter 3.

The words THIRD EDITION in your present book indicate two previous publishingís. As of this writing, a "Fourth Edition" is being prepared. It is anticipated that page references for Chapters 1 through 11 will remain the same. Therefore, page referrals in this Study Guide are consistent with the Third Edition. Hopefully they will also be consistent with the new edition scheduled for release early in the new millennium.

Some page and format changes were made after initial publication of the FIRST EDITION in 1939, but the basic text remains the same. The "Forward" to both the first and second editions have been included in the THIRD EDITION for information. It is suggested they be reviewed. There has been growth and development within the AA Fellowship since the initial printing of the basic message of recovery from alcoholism. Personal stories of how different individuals have applied the AA program in their lives now reflect more recent experiences. It is anticipated that THE FOURTH EDITION will reflect similar changes to AA membership.

A circle, with a triangle appeared in earlier copies of the THIRD EDITION. It once was a symbol used to identify "official literature" of AA.

The three sides of the triangle, "Unity, Recovery, & Service", were sometimes thought of like "a three legged milk stool", with a need for balance between them. Though popular with many members, it became apparent that AA did not have any valid claim to the exclusive use of that symbol for AA literature. The symbol was also being utilized by other activities for other purposes. Subsequently, the "circle and triangle" to identify "official AA literature" was discontinued.

Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., New York City, indicates the corporate entity holding legal title to the AA Big Book. This became modified with the passage of time.

5. The reverse side of the Frontispiece page contains data on copyright dates, and printings.

6. The next pages provide the table of contents for the entire book.

7. The Preface is self-explanatory. It introduces the THIRD EDITION which will likely be replaced when the next edition is published.

8. The Foreword To First Edition, states the objective for publishing the original textbook for recovery from alcoholism.

"We, of Alcoholics Anonymous, are more than one hundred men and women who have recovered from a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body. To show other alcoholics precisely how we have recovered is the main purpose of this book."

9. The FORWORD TO SECOND EDITION clarifies that:

"Alcoholics Anonymous is not a religious organization. Neither does A.A. take any particular medical point of view, though we cooperate widely with the men of medicine as well as with the men of religion."

10. The FORWORD TO THIRD EDITION - indicates the experience that the AA program has transcended traditional barriers of language, culture and other obstacles which frequently separate people from each other. That unity of action by uniquely individual human beings with the problem of alcoholism continues to date.

* * * * *

SECTION A09:

THE DOCTORíS OPINION

 

Read:

From the beginning of "THE DOCTORíS OPINION" to the beginning of page 1 of Chapter 1, "Billís Story".

 

At the time this endorsement was written on AAís methods for recovery from alcoholism, the "unorthodox approach" was often believed to be "unscientific". Doctor William D. Silkworth, MD placed his professional reputation and credibility on the line with his support for the results being produced. Today, some of that viewpoint continues, in some medical circles. However, to their professional embarrassment, it is difficult to argue with or duplicate the success produced by those who follow the AA program of recovery from alcoholism.

One of the more significant observations made in THE DOCTORíS OPINION is that:

"---the action of alcohol on these chronic alcoholics is a manifestation of an allergy; that the phenomenon of craving is limited to this class and never occurs in the average temperate drinker"

Despite efforts by the professional community, to find "a medical cure", that physiological condition still remains a valid difference between "normal drinkers" and those who drink "as alcoholics".

In terms of the professional community finding a "medical solution" to the ever-present physical problems of alcoholism, the comment made was that:

"Frothy emotional appeal seldom suffices. The message which can interest and hold these alcoholic people must have depth and weight. In nearly all cases, their ideals must be grounded in a power greater than themselves, if they are to re-create their lives."

That observation was provided as part of THE DOCTORíS OPINION in 1939. It has not yet been surpassed by any other approach to recovery.

While much more has been learned, his observation of that one common denominator that physiologically separates the alcoholic from others, is as valid today as it ever was. In regard to the various types of individuals afflicted he observed:

 

"All these and many others, have one symptom in common: they cannot start drinking without developing the phenomenon of craving. This phenomenon, as we have suggested, may be the manifestation of an allergy which differentiates these people, and sets them apart as a distinct entity. It has never been, by any treatment with which we are familiar, permanently eradicated. The only relief we have to suggest is entire abstinence."

The doctor closes his comments with personal observations of recovery by an alcoholic who became "sold" on the ideas presented in the basic text of "Alcoholics Anonymous".

The ideas, provided in the basic textbook for AA, work now as well as they did in 1939. They reflect some universal principles which function successfully for anyone, anyplace, at any time. The resulting recoveries demonstrated by the AA approach to recovery from alcoholism are unsurpassed.

This success story has resulted in those same principles being copied and used in dealing with "problems other than alcoholism". While those problems are beyond the scope of the AA program, any individual, seriously interested in the recovery process, is encouraged to carefully study the book "Alcoholics Anonymous". Hopefully, this Study Guide will be useful in recognizing some of what that book contains.

Use your own intelligence to confirm or deny the validity of the comments you find when reading this Study Guide of the book "Alcoholics Anonymous".

* * * * *

SECTION A10:

ABOUT THE BASIC TEXT

 

The comments provided here are in no way intended to be read as being "Officially Approved AA material". No member of AA speaks for the Fellowship as a whole. That specifically includes the author of this Study Guide of the basic text for recovery.

Comments provided here are intended to be viewed as coming from one single established member of AA. Accordingly, it is recommended that written material provided by AA General Services Offices always be given priority consideration for accuracy. This is the source of "the best information available about AA". Other interpretations, specifically including this Study Guide, may have usefulness in "filling in gaps" or answering other questions. Take what you can use and leave the rest.

Whenever any member of AA shares their view and understanding of the program of recovery in AA, it is unavoidable that their view will reflect any errors which exist within their own mind. (see pg 23). Any reader interested in the historical background of AA will find numerous publications are available from the General Service Office of Alcoholics Anonymous. Complete order forms are available from them at Box 459, Grand Central Station, New York, N.Y 10163.

The reader should clearly understand that the comments provided in this Study Guide are not an official interpretation of AAís basic text for recovery from alcoholism. Instead, they provide the interested individual with the viewpoint of only one single member of AA. (see Foreword to First Edition).

This Study Guide was specifically prepared as an offering to only those members who have difficulty reconciling that emotionally volatile "three-letter word God" with traditional religious concepts. Hopefully, the reader will use whatever open-minded intelligence they have available when giving consideration to comments offered by the author. (see Appendix II). With an educational variety of a spiritual experience it is possible that some of the ideas, emotions and attitudes which are guiding forces in life will be improved, enlarged and enriched. It has happened to other alcoholics, and could happen to you. (see pgs 12, 14-15, 42, 53, 55, 133, 164 & Appendix II).

* * * * *

SECTION A11:

"ABOUT THE PERSONAL STORIES"

The personal stories which follow the basic text for recovery indicate how different individuals have applied the principles of AA in their own lives. They are essentially "a speaker meeting in print". Their experience, strength and hope is able to be shared on a broader scale than would otherwise be possible. (review Foreword to First Edition).

The essential message of recovery from alcoholism is contained in the basic text for recovery which is provided in the first 11 chapters of the AA "Big Book" Alcoholics Anonymous. These chapters contain the minimum essential requirements for recovery from a "once seemingly hopeless state of mind and body". The personal stories which follow indicate that those principles have been applied by a wide range of individuals with a desire to stop drinking. They clearly establish the AA program will work for anyone who is capable of being honest with themselves.

Contrary to the pronouncements of some of AAís more religious members:

THERE IS NO SECOND REQUIREMENT FOR AA MEMBERSHIP

Personal stories, which follow the basic text, indicate how various individuals applied the principles of AA in their personal life. They share, in a general way, what it was like before coming to AA, what happened to them, and what their lives were like when those stories were written.

Each personal story provides information on how alcoholics dealt with their own lives to produce changes. As the "AA message of recovery" reached more and more alcoholics, the personal stories, published in the first three editions changed to reflect the changing composition of AA membership. A forthcoming "Fourth Edition" will undoubtedly provide even more variations in how the AA program has been utilized.

NO INDIVIDUAL SPEAKS FOR AA AS A WHOLE.

All any AA member can do is to point out, what they have found in the basic text and clarify their own personal interpretation and application of that material. This specifically applies to any comments made by the author of this Study Guide.

Other views exist, and each member of AA is encouraged to share their personal view of the basic text with other interested alcoholics. The readers are encouraged to consider all viewpoints in the light of their own intelligence.

"We find that no on need have difficulty with the spirituality of the program. Willingness, honesty and open mindedness are the essentials of recovery. But these are indispensable." (Appendix II)

 

Regardless of common acceptance, it is recommended that any material, other than the AA basic text for recovery, be clearly identified. Obviously there are matters of religion, medicine, and philosophy which overlap in the problem of alcoholism. Because alcoholism impacts every one of those areas their respective approaches should be allowed to stand on their own merits.

It is recommended that the alcoholic reader allow the Fellowship of AA to stand on itís own record of results in producing recoveries. Doing this without any demand that AA be incorporated into some other pre-established concept will reduce conflicts with religion, medicine and philosophies which produce different results.

ALLOW SUCCESS TO SPEAK FOR ITSELF!

In reading the personal stories, this author recommends that they be considered as "A Speaker-Meeting in Print". In earlier times, the wealth of information now available about alcoholism was not easily accessible to newcomers interested in the AA Fellowship. Therefore, efforts were made to provide the "experience, strength and hope" of a wide variety of AA members.

Some areas large enough to have "regular speaker meetings" strove to provide a contrast to emphasize personal differences. Speakers who were well educated were contrasted with semi-literate alcoholics, street-walkers were paired with socialites, atheists with devoutly religious, and the wealthy with impoverished ex-drunks. This enabled any newcomer to recognize and understand the problem of alcoholism cuts across all social barriers, and so does the AA solution. This helped them to clarify the universality of the problem, and their own place as being more ordinary than special. The need to conform to some pre-established standard was reduced as a result.

Personal stories still serve much of that same purpose. The first three editions of the "AA Big Book" provide an indication of the changes which occurred since AA began in the late 1930ís. At this early part of the 21st Century, membership in AA continues to grow, and a Fourth Edition will undoubtedly continue that trend.

As it was in the beginning, it is recommended that the reader

TAKE WHAT YOU LIKE AND LEAVE THE REST

FOR THOSE WHO MAY BE INTERESTED.

* * * * *

SECTION A12:

ABOUT THE APPENDICES - I - VI

 

COMMENTS:

As with all else in this "Study Guide of the AA Big Book", the comments provided by the author are not intended as any official interpretation of any part of the AA program of recovery from alcoholism. The comments are strictly those of "a member of Alcoholics Anonymous". (see Forward to First Edition).

It is the clear understanding of this author that "no one speaks for AA as a whole". Similarly, all comments by any other member about the AA program are personal, individual and should be considered accordingly, except when endorsed by the AA General Services Office,

The Appendices I - V which are found in the back section of the basic text present the official position of AA on a variety of "outside issues". A careful study of "The AA Traditions", (Appendix I), will provide the reader with a definitive explanation both of "WHAT AA IS" and equally important "WHAT AA IS NOT".

* * * * *

APPENDIX I:

"THE AA TRADITION"

The Short Form:

The "short form" of the AA Traditions is frequently read at meetings and provides a handy reminder of what AA has established as itís primary purpose. This is more concisely stated by AAís own definition of itself.

"Our primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety" (AA Preamble)

A careful study of "The Long Form" of "The AA Tradition" is strongly recommended. This will help to avoid diversion from what the AA program has been able to accomplish, with superior results over any other approach to the problem of alcoholism for the alcoholic.

The reader will note that the Traditions of the Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous has succeeded in doing what no other human activity has accomplished with equal results. It has provided a framework which has enabled alcoholics to successfully join together, for "a common purpose", despite their innumerable personal differences which might otherwise produce conflicts and disrupt the recovery process.

The experience of this author, in over a half-century of active participation with AA activities in a large part of the world, is that those differences of race, religion, language, political philosophy, and ethic cultural values exist.

Differences tend to be divisive and create conflicts between ethnocentric groups. They tend to escalate in importance in areas where one group holds a dominate majority over smaller groups with an equal desire to get sober and stay sober. This frequently creates the impression that "if you are not doing it our way, you are doing it wrong!".

 

The Long Form:

"The Long Form of the AA Tradition" has always provided an equitable and fair resolution of any and all conflicts and differences disputed by groups within Alcoholics Anonymous. Therefore, a careful and thoughtful personal study of the "Traditions" is strongly recommended to any alcoholic seriously interested in their own sobriety and survival. This author cannot emphasize this single point strongly enough to convey itís significance.

One - Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon A.A. unity.

(Tradition One)

* * * * *

The candid view of this author is that the AA program is highly effective in dealing with itís primary purpose. It is strong medicine for recovery from alcoholism. Regardless of how noble other objectives may be, by diluting the basic purpose of AA with "other considerations" reduces AAís effectiveness and is a diversion from the one primary purpose which AA accomplishes with superior results to any other approach to recovery from alcoholism.

A "vital spiritual experience" appears to be one essential ingredient to recovery from alcoholism. Many alcoholics have erroneously assumed this required accepting "a conception of God" in the form of an established "second-hand belief system". Usually it gets provided by some self-appointed spokesman for one of the many different traditional religions. Fortunately, for all alcoholics, this is not the case. (see pgs 12, 27, 42, 95, 129, 164 & Appendix II ).

It is the understanding of this author that the AA program has provided a solution to alcoholism which is based upon universal acceptance of anyone with a desire to stop drinking. A careful reading of "The AA Tradition - (The Long Form)" will provide intelligent reasons why "conformity" is not required and can be in conflict with "universal acceptance of God as being everything". What is your choice to be? (pg. 53). Remember:

THERE IS NO SECOND REQUIREMENT FOR A.A. MEMBERSHIP

The solution to the specific problem of alcoholism, provided by AA, is still the most effective in terms of results, and it is difficult to argue with the success. Therefore it is counter-productive to dilute the effectiveness by attempting to incorporate it into the different primary objectives of many tradition religious belief systems. Those objectives are finite and limited to their own definitions of who and what they are. However, other pursuits can be freely retained by individual AA members once they reconcile what objective holds priority importance. (pg. 23).

The reader should be aware that AAís Twelve Traditions provide a framework for recovery for alcoholics who otherwise might never ever mix.

The clearly defined path of action by AA provides for maintaining recovery from a once seemingly hopeless state of mind and body. (see pg 95). "Conformity to any particular concept of God" is not a requirement. (see pgs 12, 27). Accepting this fundamental approach can avoid much personal conflict while still drawing strength from "a power greater than ourselves".

* * * * *

APPENDIX II:

"SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCE"

There appear to be two distinct varieties of "the vital spiritual experience" required for recovery from alcoholism. (see pg 27).

One is the "personality change, or religious experiences" in the nature of sudden and spectacular upheavals. These "transformations" though frequent, are by no means the rule.

Most "vital spiritual experiences" are of the "educational variety" because they develop over a period of time. (see Appendix II). Those differences in timing to accepting "a power greater than ourselves" create confusion for many newcomers to the AA program.

Many newcomers to AA, especially those who are not familiar with what is written in AAís basic text for recovery, will get confused about a "fundamental idea of God" they can only find within themselves. (see pg 55). Instead of utilizing the brains God gave them, (pg 86), they continue to "hold on to old ideas" by reliance upon a "second-hand belief system" developed by some other person, at some other place, and at some other time, for some other reason.

Personal freedom of choice allows many newcomers to futilely attempt to force-fit an infinite source of power into their already established, but nonetheless finite belief system. The resulting frustrations work against the very thing they most desire, which is to "do Godís will" and be "happy, joyous and free". (see pg 133).

Some alcoholics even abandon the indispensable ingredient of "being honest with themselves" in order to gain the acceptance of an ethnocentric group with a limited belief system. This can be contrary to their own best interests when relying upon a source of power that wants them to be "happy, joyous and free". (see pgs 12, 23, 27, 42, 53, 55, 58, 68, 86, 95, 129, & 164).

Some alcoholics seeking recovery cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program of AA. Instead of letting go of their "old idea of God", they attempt to conform to those "second-hand concepts" created by others. They erroneously believe others have a "monopoly on God" and many attempt to "fake it until they make it". (see pg 95).

With that freedom many abandon a genuine desire to "seek God" and learn how to be "happy, joyous and free". (i.e.: "Godís will" see pg. 133). Instead, they decide to "seek conformity with a second-hand version" created by some other equally fallible human mind. (see pgs 23, 42, & 60(b)).

Without dispute, there is much benefit to be gained from the precepts of many traditional religions. However, it is the belief of this author that there is infinitely more available. (see pg 68). What is your choice of priorities to be? (see pg 53).

AA recommends the acceptance of new ideas, emotions and attitudes as one way to acquire the vital spiritual experience required to displace and rearrange the guiding forces in the life of an alcoholic. (see pg 27). Those who accept the proposition that "God is everything or else He is nothing" will readily recognize that rejecting any part of reality is equivalent to "rejection of God".

Acceptance may require new knowledge and improved understanding of the Great Reality (i.e.: "God" pg. 55 & Step 11). There are others who will insist upon "special favoritism" over "all those who disagree with their belief system" thereby denying them human equality in "the eyes of their Creator".

The essential and indispensable ingredients for the "educational variety of a spiritual experience" are the mental attitudes of "willingness, honesty, and open mindedness" The alcoholic, seeking recovery either does or does not have that mental outlook upon "a power greater than themselves". (see pg 23).

Accordingly, this Study Guide attempts to point out some elements which may be helpful in developing new ideas, emotions and attitudes about that power. It is definitely not intended to be considered as "the last word" on any aspect of the AA recovery program.

"Our book is meant to be suggestive only. We realize we know only a little. God will constantly disclose more to you and to us. Ask Him in your morning meditation what you can do each day for the man who is still sick. The answers will come, if your own house is in order. But obviously you cannot transmit something you havenít got. See to it that your relationship with Him is right, and great events will come to pass for you and countless others. This is the Great Fact for us." (pg 164).

* * * * *

APPENDIX III: "THE MEDICAL VIEW ON AA"

The principles which guide modern medical practices recognize individual differences in human beings. Nowhere are unique individual differences any more significant that when dealing with recovery from alcoholism. Why the differences exist may not be completely understood. However, accepting that they do exist is crucial to recovery for the individual alcoholic.

It is the belief of this author that any attempt to produce any "One Size Fits All" approach to recovery is doomed to failure if it omits recognition of physiological differences between alcoholics and social drinkers. Medical science already recognizes a wide variation in the body processes of different individuals. For example, some individuals absorb fluids from their stomach to their blood stream more rapidly than others. Some have differences in how equitably their bodies distribute what they have absorbed to various parts of the body. Others variations exist in how rapidly their body processes utilize and eliminate what they take in. Those differences apply to the infinitely variable supply of substances available to them as part of a daily diet.

Inherent in every individual is some intelligence which can and does take what is consumed, process it, and produce that which is the physical body of the individual. This occurs, be they alcoholic or not. No one needs to attend classes of instruction in order to learn this process. It is automatic, and will differ by individual in the way it works.

Some understanding of DNA structure has enlarged the ability of the medical profession to deal with some of those differences. Other differences are less well recognized or understood. Recognizing the existence of those differences can be important to the extent that new knowledge is useful in providing relief from alcoholism.

The point here is recognition that some intelligence, unique to each individual, is operative to take the nourishment they consume and change it into something which produces the physical body of each individual alcoholic.

What that is and why it does what it does, in the way it does it, is still beyond the realm of complete understanding by the medical profession. That is precisely the point. There is more to be understood. Seeking understanding of an infinite source of all new knowledge (i.e.: "God") is the essence of all scientific study.

Neither science nor religion has been able to demonstrate that they have "all the answers" to the problem of recovery from alcoholism.

Where traditional religions seek new knowledge only when it is compatible with their definitions of their group, science seeks new knowledge without any such limitations. Both contain some understanding, neither can intelligently claim to have "the answer to explain everything". The AA program readily accepts from either whatever produces desired results.

This author proposes that seeking more new knowledge is equivalent to seeking power to improve cooperation with the Ultimate Reality of life on lifeís terms. Willingness, honesty and open mindedness are essential and indispensable ingredients. Scientific investigation is concerned with those principles which have equal application to anyone, at any place and at any time.

The AA program of recovery from alcoholism has transcended barriers which otherwise separate human beings from each other and indicates it is utilizing principles which have universal application. Some of those same principles were also discovered and incorporated into some religious belief systems. Unquestionably, there is more to be revealed.

* * * * *

 

APPENDIX IV: "THE LASKER AWARD"

Now, over a half-century later, the value of Alcoholics Anonymous is still recognized as "a great venture in social pioneering which forged a new instrument for social action; a new therapy based on the kinship of common suffering; one having a vast potential for the myriad other ills of mankind.".

The numerous "spin-off Twelve Step programs" are a testimony to the effectiveness of the AA program. Imitation truly is the most sincere form of flattery.

When the Lasker Award was first received, there was a significant decision made, which is believed to be crucial to the success of the AA program. This was the refusal of AA to accept the monetary award accompanying the trophy. While the trophy itself was accepted, the money from outside sources was respectfully declined. The absolute insistence upon being "self supporting through our own contributions" was considered crucial to the continued survival of the then budding fellowship. This was a decision made by alcoholics who had all too often relied upon financial support from "other peopleís money".

The Lasker Award trophy remains a tribute to early AA members deciding to accept responsibility for their own actions and being willing to clean up the wreckage of their own past

* * * * *

APPENDIX V:

"THE RELIGIOUS VIEW ON A.A."

The most significant element of any religious view of the A.A. Fellowship is the extent it believes in the equality of every human being in the eyes of their creator. AA does, many religions do not.

Anything less than total equality is a matter of personal judgment. Any personal judgment is based upon what the individual believes to be their personal relationship to that creative power. It is self-evident that this is a power which is greater than themselves.

The belief system of any individual may be one of superiority to others. Be it as an individual, or as the ethnocentric belief that "our group is superior to any other group". Whenever a belief in superiority is established, then equality is lost to that individual or group. A concept of "a power greater than ourselves" is impacted accordingly. (see pgs 12, 23, 27 42, 53, 55, 62, 68,86, 93-95,129,164 & Appendix II). Conflict is created with the decision to believe that "my concept of God is superior to your concept of God". Resolution of the conflict is found in "how well it works" rather than arguments of "how well it would work if only others would do it my way". What is your choice to be? (see pg. 53).

This author believes that, as children, anyone is capable of being taught to believe just about anything which the dominant adults in their life present to them. As they mature, their own minds are then free to accept or reject what they have been taught. (see pg. 23). This then becomes a power struggle over a matter of personal choice. The maturing child either accepts or rejects themselves, as equal human beings.

Eventually a belief system becomes a guiding force in life. (review pg 27). Unfortunately there are frequently errors which require correction. (review Appendix II). Almost any religious interpretation of "a power greater than ourselves" can be accommodated within the AA program. The alcoholic in AA seeks new knowledge from some infinite source which is all and everything in the Great Reality of life, on lifeís terms. (see pgs 12, 23, 27, 42, 45, 53, 55, 68, 86, 95, 129, & 164). With most traditional religions, that same mental condition of open mindedness is not necessarily encouraged.

AA seeks to understand and cooperate with all of the Great Reality. Most religions attempt to define it and induce conformity to their limited concept. This, they do to the exclusion of anything outside of their own definition.

Herein lies the potential for conflict within the individual alcoholic. This author believes the AA program offers them an intelligent method for resolving such conflicts by enlarging and improving their conscious contact with that infinite source of new knowledge and power. (see Step 11).

It is proposed here, that if any particular "religious conception of God" were really "the only valid path to recovery" then no alcoholic could or would ever recover without it. World-wide experience has indicated that any alcoholic can and many frequently do recover without conformity to any particular "idea of God". The inescapable fact still remains that, at the very beginning of AA, there was the suggestion made of:

"Why donít you choose your own conception of God?"

(pg 12)

That idea of mental freedom was presented and accepted. The success of utilizing that approach with alcoholics will speak for itself. Alcoholics Anonymous continues to cross the borders of diametrically opposed religious belief systems to produce successful results in recovery.

While AA accepts any alcoholic with any fundamental idea of God, not every religion is willing to accept alcoholics with "concepts of God" which do not conform to their own well-defined and exclusionary belief system. (pg. 55).

When following the AA program of recovery, the alcoholic is not expected to "throw out the baby with the bath water" and abandon their religious belief system. That which produces "Godís will for the alcoholic to be happy, joyous and free" (see pg 133) is obviously worth retaining. Whatever works does not require fixing. However, there is always room for improvement in how to cooperate with life, on lifeís terms. No religious belief system relieves the alcoholic from the consequences of their own personal ignorance.

The power of necessary new knowledge comes from some "greater intelligence" which is the source of all knowledge and all power. The AA program offers each individual alcoholic a "tailor-made personalized approach to the reduction of their personal ignorance of reality". This is considered preferable to accepting on blind-faith the "second-hand belief system of traditional religions" which often have some other "primary purpose". Not everyone agrees with this observation.

For those alcoholics who desire to be happy, joyous and free in sobriety, they must decide if it is to be their own version or that of some other "second hand belief system". This author recommends that any alcoholic honestly seeking recovery to approach both religion and AA in the same manner.

TAKE WHAT YOU CAN USE AND LEAVE THE REST

That recommendation applies equally to any comments found in this Study Guide of AAís basic text for recovery.

* * * * *

APPENDIX VI:

"HOW TO GET IN TOUCH WITH AA"

There is increased public awareness of Alcoholics Anonymous as an available method for recovery from alcoholism. With the increased speed of communication, alcoholics seeking recovery can more easily locate A.A. groups and meetings.

There is also an increase in the erroneous interpretation of what AA is and is not. Some views are that AA is opposed to drinking alcohol by anyone. Others suggest that a particular "concept of God" is required for participation. Still others assume that the AA program is an arm of the local judicial system. Fortunately none of these is accurate.

For any alcoholic seeking recovery, it is recommended that they rely upon the official literature authorized by AAís General Service Office to interpret the position of Alcoholics Anonymous on any issue or question of importance.

While each member is qualified to speak from their own personal viewpoint, as an individual, no member is qualified to speak for AA as a whole. That specifically includes the comments provided by the author of this Study Guide who is merely attempting to point out what one single member has found in the basic text of recovery. Hopefully it will be of value and usefulness to others who are seeking happiness, joy and freedom in their own recovery from a once seemingly hopeless state of mind and body. (pg 133).

"When writing or speaking publicly about alcoholism,, we urge each of our Fellowship to omit his personal name, designating himself instead as Ďa member of Alcoholics Anonymousí. (Foreword to First Edition)

* * * * *

SECTION B:

THE BASIC AA TEXT

SECTION B01:

Chapter 1

BILLíS STORY

READ: Chapter 1: BILLíS STORY - Pages 1 - 16.

* * * * *

This is the story of AA co-founder Bill W.

Because the focus of this Study Guide is upon spiritual considerations, anyone experiencing resistance to the word or idea of "God", may benefit from the approach, presented to him.

"Why don't you choose your own conception of God?"

(Pg 12).

This is a fundamental approach to recovery. It has opened the door for recovery from alcoholism to all who suffer. Because conformity and agreement with any particular interpretation of the meaning of the word "God" has been excluded, the AA program has been able to transcend the finite limits of traditional religions. It also avoids the conflicting boundaries of a multitude of different religious beliefs.

"When, therefore, we speak to you of God, we mean your own conception of God. This applies, too, to other spiritual expressions which you find in this book." (Pg 47)

Understanding the depth and weight of this message can be enhanced by referring to page 34 in the AA publication "As Bill See's It". The significance of the non-alliance of AA to any particular religion is officially clarified for all to see.

This is what co-founder Bill W. used, as a starting point. It is as valid for you as it was for him. As, with many, your own spiritual experience may be of "the educational variety", as referred to in Appendix II. Conformity is not and never has been required for recovery. (Tradition #3, - the long form).

* * * * *

SECTION B02a:

Chapter 2

THERE IS A SOLUTION

PRELIMINARY COMMENTS:

You, the reader, have made a decision to consider the ideas, emotions and attitudes being presented by the author of this Study Guide. If so, consider them for their possible benefit to your own recovery process. From reading the Preface and Forward to the Study Guide you will probably have recognized some idea of the personal bias of the author,

If you were not offended, or did not reject it, then you likely continued and read "How To Use This Study Guide". If so, you discovered the concept of "Sponsorship" was addressed. Also, that there is a separate section in this Study Guide offering a viewpoint on that subject. (see Section A05). It includes possible implications to your own recovery. You would do well to read it before continuing.

The Forward to printings of the AA Big Book, preceding the Third Edition, provide the reader with a sense of the changes that have occurred, since the beginning of AA. That was a time when a handful of alcoholics discovered a solution to their seemingly hopeless state of mind and body. Changes continue to occur up to and including this present time. Placing the contents of the AA Big Book into the context in which it was written is significant. It is a step toward understanding the intent of what was written, when it was written, and why. As of this writing, a Fourth Edition is in process of being published.

The personal story of the co-founder of AA, is Chapter 1 - "BILLíS STORY ". It is well to recognize he was simply another human being. One fully equipped to fall into the pit of despair from his own alcoholism and to experience the fulfillment of recovery from that once seemingly hopeless state. If you allow yourself equality, as a human being, his message of recovery is and can always be available to you - if you want it.

This author's primary suggestion is to give priority to the message of recovery. The messenger, being a human being, is subject to human error. No individual has total awareness of that Ultimate Reality of Life which some refer to as "God". If you wish to disagree with the messenger, you will find areas for disagreement. However, there are also similarities. They are found in the message itself. It is a message which may contain useful information to enrich and improve the quality of your own life. That choice to give that message your thoughtful consideration is your own.

* * * * *

 

STEP ONE:

"We admitted we were powerless over alcohol--that our lives had become unmanageable." (pg 59)

READ: Chapter 2 THERE IS A SOLUTION Pages 17 - 29

This chapter deals primarily with Step One of the AA program:

Having read Chapter 1 - BILL'S STORY, you are aware of some of the details related to his personal recovery. Conformity was not and is not a requirement for recovery. However, some concept of a power, greater than that of the individual, is essential.

The co-founder was free to choose his own concept of what the word "God" meant to him. (pg 12). That message was valid then, for him. It is equally valid now, for you.

The single most significant message is, that there is hope for recovery, if you want it. Your personal chances for recovery are near 100% if you are willing to do what the first members did.

The first thing you will hear read at many meetings is the Preamble of what AA is. AA's own definition of itself includes the simple statement:

"The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking." (AA PREAMBLE)

There is no second requirement for membership. No one else really knows if you do or do not desire to stop drinking.

The experience of the first members of AA, is read at the beginning of most meetings.

"Rarely have we seen a person fail, who has thoroughly followed our path." (pg 58)

Therein lies the secret of their success and your own freedom to choose the direction you take. Either you want what they have, or else you do not. What they have is recovery from a seemingly hopeless state of mind a body, called "alcoholism". Is that what you really want?

"If you have decided you want what we have and are willing to go to any length to get it - then you are ready to take certain steps" (pg 58)

* * * * *

 

The following comments, address themselves to STEP ONE:

We are people who normally would not mix. ...... The tremendous fact for every one of us is that we have discovered a common solution. We have a way out on which we can absolutely agree, and upon which we can join in brotherly and harmonious action." (pg 17)

The AA concept of alcoholism, as an illness, is presented on page 18. Though incurable, by traditional methods, the ex-problem drinker with a solution, is able to accomplish quickly, what professionals have failed to do, with any comparable degree of success.

This appears to be the common bond that has held the fellowship of AA together. It is based upon mutual desire and enlightened self-interest. It includes recognition that none has all the answers. Each individual example of recovery contains elements of value and usefulness to some, though not necessarily all others who wish to recover. This is an attitude, embodied in the AA approach to dealing with a newcomer. However, it should be noted that not every individual who identifies themselves as a member of AA reflects that attitude in their own personal dealings with newcomers.

THERE IS A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN HAVING A ANSWER

AND HAVING THE ANSWER.

One approach allows other solutions to exist which you may wish to consider. The other implies that "my way is the only way". The latter attitude is difficult to reconcile with any claim to open-mindedness. (see Appendix II).

The reader will note that, as AA members, none make a sole vocation of working with others (page 19). This is sometimes confusing to those who have encountered hospitals, treatment programs, or social service activities which use the AA program. Usually, there is money involved in those programs, and many have attempted to incorporate AA into their activities. Where money becomes an object of primary interest, the reader should be aware that

THERE ARE NO DUES OR FEES FOR AA MEMBERSHIP.

Many of the professionals have their own personal AA experience which enables them to be more effective in their chosen field of work. Anyone unclear about the separation between the AA program of recovery and other methods will do well to review The Twelve Traditions - The Long Form. (see ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS - Appendix I).

Similarly, it is well to remember that, as AA members, no individual alcoholic lays any claim to professional qualifications, "we merely have an approach that worked with us" with alcoholism. (see pg 95).

There is a different and more practical reason AA members try to be helpful to the alcoholic who is still suffering from the malady.

"Our very lives, as ex-problem drinkers, depend upon our constant thought of others and how we may help meet their needs." (pg 20)

Occasionally some AA members consider themselves qualified to offer advice in professional areas where they have no expertise. A newcomer would be well advised to exercise caution and intelligence when deciding who has experience to produce the kind of results they desire. Some help others as a profession for money. Others, with no professional qualifications, try to help others in order to help themselves. The important element for attention of the alcoholic is the result which is produced.

The program of Alcoholics Anonymous has produced successful recoveries, which are unsurpassed by the professional community. If you are interested in what you have to do in order to have those results produced by AA, be aware that is this is the purpose of the AA "Big Book".

The purpose of this Study Guide is to point out what the author has found in that basic text. Other interpretations may have equal or better value and usefulness to individual readers. If so, you are encouraged to utilize whatever may be helpful to you. After all, that is what you are looking for isnít it?

Pay particular note to the need for mutual assistance in the recovery process. Then consider the significance of ignorance and misunderstanding. Particularly when directed to differences between moderate drinkers and the alcoholic.

Remember that many different ideas, emotions and attitudes about drinking get developed in a society where the majority react physically to alcohol in a different way than does the alcoholic. (see pg 27). The thoughtful reader will recognize a thread of ignorance and misunderstanding running through many of their old ideas. Especially those concerning their personal relationship to "a power greater than themselves". Some will come to recognize there is an infinite source of all knowledge which they may eventually describe by use of the word "God". (see pgs 53, 55 & 68).

The moderate and even the continuous hard drinker is different than the alcoholic in one notable way. Unlike the real alcoholic, the average drinker does not lose all control of his liquor consumption, once he starts to drink. (pg 20).

The inescapable conclusion remains, that once an alcoholic takes any alcohol into his system, it is virtually impossible for him to stop, on his own! This reflects the "phenomenon of craving" which separates the alcoholic as distinct from other drinkers. (see "THE DOCTORíS OPINION" ).

Not everyone who drinks, even to excess, is necessarily an alcoholic. Opinions vary as to why some are different. However, it is certain that some are. Either you are one of them or else you are not.

"We do not like to pronounce any individual as alcoholic, but you can quickly diagnose yourself. Step over to the nearest barroom and try some controlled drinking. Try to drink and stop abruptly. Try it more than once. It will not take long for you to decide, if you are honest with yourself about it. It may be worth a bad case of jitters if you get a full knowledge of your condition." (pgs 31- 32)

There is a description of the real alcoholic in Chapter 2 on-pages 21 & 22, which existed when the AA Big Book was written. Successful recovery by those first members is meaningful. It is important because it has allowed countless others to find a solution before reaching that stage. They recovered earlier in the progression of their personal problem with alcohol. Demonstrated results since then are a tribute to the effectiveness of the AA program.

When evaluating your own problem with alcohol, it is suggested you consider similarities. Does any part of their experience apply to you and your drinking?

Your attitude and what you believe about your own drinking will become a determining factor in your own recovery process. While others may point out to you what they see needs changing, it is only when you see something you desire to change that you will voluntarily take action to do so.

A relatively simple formula exists for changing your life, where alcohol is concerned.

This is what is available in AA. Individual members share their experience, strength and hope with you. You decide if you do or do not want some part of what someone else has to offer. The choice is yours. No one else can, nor will do your wanting for you. That recipe for change may, at your own discretion, be used to make changes in other areas of your life as well.

PRINCIPLES WHICH WORK IN ONE AREA MAY WORK IN OTHERS

Any responsibility for making a choice of what to accept or reject is your own. It is individual and personal. The only valid measure of success is in how well it works - for you.

The consequences of any choices made will also be your own. Either by a conscious selection, or by default by choosing not to choose. Therefore, you, the individual, are ultimately responsible for the results that follow the choices you do make.

The proposition is clearly stated, that "the main problem of the alcoholic centers in his mind, rather than his body". (see pg 23).

Any physical reaction to alcohol is not operative until alcohol is introduced into the body. For whatever reason, a choice got made to pick up a drink. Short of being forced down his throat, it is the mind of the alcoholic which decides there is some "desirable element" connected with the choice.

As an illustration, substitute a different substance. After a hard day of work, few would decide, to treat themselves to "a nice cold glass of bleach". They consciously recognize the consequences as being totally undesirable. (see Step 11). Accordingly, they have little difficulty refusing this option. It is clearly understood that "drinking bleach" will make them sick, quick, and there is no temptation.

However, because alcohol has produced something desirable, in the past, they have a different attitude. (see pg. 27). They may attempt to temporarily recapture a condition that is now gone from their life. This is the insanity of alcoholism. Doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results. You may recognize the role of ignorance and misunderstanding about reality. (syn: "God" - see pg 55).

While it may be obvious that the main problem of the alcoholic is a mental one, consider the significance of taking the first drink. Particularly with a demonstrated inability to stop, once started.

DONíT GET IN THE ROLLERCOASTER

IF YOU DONíT WANT THE RIDE

At this point, the reader is directed to a careful study of Chapter 3 - "MORE ABOUT ALCOHOLISM" (see pgs 30-32) to emphasize the experience and suggestions made by earlier members of AA concerning this mental attitude.

It is undeniable that some individuals get a physical reaction which is different from others, when drinking alcohol. Volumes of medical literature have been written about differences in body processes among individuals and the way they react to different substances. Those uniquely individual physical differences are not significantly changed by the use of will-power. Neither is there any medical "cure" available at this time.

Science may one day accomplish this, but it hasnít done so yet. (pg 31)

So, where is the problem? Is not" "lack of power" the dilemma of most alcoholics? (see pg 45).

The alcoholic lacks the power of choice where taking the first drink is concerned. If the alcoholic already knew how to stop drinking, and stay stopped, then that knowledge could and would be utilized by choice. It seems self-evident a need for the power of new knowledge is required. (see pg 59).

The problem is a mental one, impacting the power of choice. The message of AA is not "how to change the physical condition" which is a matter of interest to the scientific community.

The message of AA is that if you are one of those who is bodily and mentally different, there is a solution. (review pg 30).

For the indecisive reader, the crucial question is

WHICH ONE ARE YOU?

You either know the truth about yourself, or you do not. If you have doubts, then try some controlled drinking. (see pgs 30-32).

"The fact is that most alcoholics, for reasons yet obscure, have lost the power of choice in drink. Our so-called will power becomes practically nonexistent, We are unable, at certain times, to bring into our consciousness with sufficient force the memory of the suffering and humiliation of even a week or a month ago. We are without defense against the first drink." (pg 24)

You may, at this point, be consciously aware of some ignorance and misunderstanding concerning your relationship to alcohol where choice is concerned.

New knowledge of the truth (i.e.: "improved awareness of God" -see Step 11) is "a power greater than yourself".

Power is something you cannot utilize until you have it. There are others who had solved their problem and their solution continues to be found in a deep and effective spiritual experience. (see pg 25). They offer any alcoholic "a simple kit of spiritual tools" which will be effective if you want to utilize them.

Be cautious about confusing or equating the term "spiritual" with "religion". No one has a monopoly on the infinite power of consciously understanding "the Great Reality" of all life, on lifeís terms. (review pgs 53, 55, 68, 95, Step 11 & Appendix II).

It may be helpful to consider some universally accepted synonyms used to describe what that three-letter word "God" means to the mind which encounters it. One is "omniscient" - or "all knowing". Another is "omnipotent" or "all powerful". Some other common meanings to describe that word "God" are that "God is Truth", "God is Good", and "God is the Ultimate Reality of Life".

Those terms, and meanings will be utilized with frequency in this Study Guide. While you, as an individual, may disagree in the use of those terms for yourself, they are commonly used in communication by others and have been chosen by the author to illustrate the message found in the basic text of AA.

The reader who dares to question traditional religions or their claims to special knowledge of other characteristics about the word "God", may find it useful to substitute those synonyms. This may make it easier to have the same kind of "deep and effective spiritual experiences which have revolutionized our whole attitude toward life, toward our fellows and toward Godís universe." (pg 25).

There is a phrase, often heard around AA.

"WE HAVE LEARNED THE TRUTH

AND THE TRUTH HAS SET US FREE"

Consider the extent you are "all-knowing" or "all powerful" in your ability to both control and enjoy your own drinking. It may be beneficial for the alcoholic reader to seek the power of new knowledge from the source. (see pg 59, 60(c), 164, & Appendix II).

Once again, , the reader who is alcoholic is referred to Chapter 3 - "MORE ABOUT ALCOHOLISM" (see pgs 30-32). This may help clarify your own answer to yourself.

* * * * *

SECTION B02b:

Chapter 2

THERE IS A SOLUTION

STEP ONE - Contíd:

"We admitted we were powerless over alcohol--that our lives had become unmanageable. (pg 59)

READ:

Chapter 2 - THERE IS A SOLUTION - Starting on page 26 with "A certain American business man. " to the end of Chapter 2.

COMMENTS:

Information on page 26 and page 27 of ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS repeatedly appears in this Study Guide of the basic text for recovery from alcoholism. It embodies a fundamental principle related to recovery from alcoholism and the way the mind of an alcoholic works.

The author of this Study Guide strongly recommends that anyone interested in recovery from alcoholism give those comments serious consideration. Do not skim over them lightly. It is recommended you give intense thought to the significance of displacing and rearranging the ideas, emotions and attitudes which are the guiding forces in your life. It may well be the essential ingredient to freedom from the bonds of alcoholism.

* * * * *

A consistent thread of a principle has been found in the basic AA text for recovery from alcoholism, which is the book ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS. The reader will find it on pages 26 and 27 of that book.

Here is outlined the plight of one alcoholic individual who availed himself of the best medical and psychiatric help available at that time. (the psychiatrist, Dr. Jung) As an alcoholic, his acquired self-knowledge was useless. He was dominated by ideas, emotions and attitudes which were self-destructive.

The doctor had tried and failed to produce an emotional displacement and rearrangement of those guiding forces. Those mental processes dominated the life of the alcoholic. He was considered a hopeless case.

The only known exception to that otherwise hopeless state of mind and body were found in those who had a vital spiritual experience which displaced and rearranged the ideas, emotions and attitudes which had previously been the guiding forces in their lives.

The individual seeking help felt relieved because he considered himself to be "a good church member". That, however, was not the necessary vital spiritual experience required for recovery. It was also necessary that he remained "willing to maintain a certain simple attitude".

"We find that no one need have difficulty with the spirituality of the program. Willingness, honesty and open mindedness are the essentials of recovery. But these are indispensable." (Appendix II)

The reader of this Study Guide should be aware of a simple truth.

TRADITIONAL RELIGION DOES NOT HOLD A MONOPOLY

ON THE SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCE REQUIRED

FOR RECOVERY FROM ALCOHOLISM !

A multitude of ways exist by which individuals have successfully recovered from alcoholism in the AA program. This has occurred both with and without association with some religious body. The AA program does not embrace one in preference to any other. Therefore, caution should be used when it is proposed that there is only one valid path to a vital spiritual experience in AA. This simply is not so. If it were, no one could or would recover without it.

For the person approaching AA for the first time, there may be a critical difference in what that word "God" means to you now, and a new idea you may acquire as you continue.

When the AA program began, the co-founder Bill W was presented a novel idea now used by many other alcoholics. It was the suggestion

"Why donít you choose your own conception of God?"

(pg 12)

The reader of this Study Guide is equally free to willingly "maintain that same simple attitude".

"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." (pg 12)

Most traditional religions have some finite boundaries about what they do or do not believe. This defines them as a group. You either do or do not accept their definitions when the word "God" is used. By contrast, a concept exists of the word "God" within AA which does not have those limitations which embrace some alcoholics while excluding others.

"When we became alcoholics, crushed by a self-imposed crisis we could not postpone or evade, we had to fearlessly face the proposition that either God is everything or else He is nothing. God either is, or he isnít. What was our choice to be?" (pg 53)

"Perhaps there is a better way---we think so. For we are now on a different basis; the basis of trusting and relying upon God. We trust infinite God rather than our finite selves. (pg 68)

In order to be a legitimate member of any traditional religious group, the personal belief structure of the alcoholic is inside the limits of that organization. It is not outside of those boundaries for those who are honest with themselves about it. Embrace a particular idea of God and it is yours. However, recognize that your idea may not be the only valid one.

For those who are open minded, it is inescapable to recognize the existence of other versions. Some of those other ideas about God may possibly have desirable qualities not included in your own chosen belief.

Willingness to "trade up", whenever and wherever another version produces superior results will enlarge the "fundamental idea of God" which has been a guiding force in the life of the alcoholic. (pgs 27 & 55). That willingness allows a new freedom to consider new knowledge beyond the finite boundaries of old ideas. (pg 58).

"If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it." (pg 83)

Many alcoholics encounter the AA program of recovery with a disbelief in the fundamental idea of God. This is not unusual. It is an arrogant claim that what they now believe about the word "God" is all there is to be known. This attitude can be applied to "believers" and "non-believers" equally. Such a "belief system" can be a guiding force in the life of that individual. Fortunately, those old ideas, emotions and attitudes also can be displaced and rearranged.

Consider the experience of the disillusioned ministerís son who asked himself the simple question:

"Who are you to say there is no God?" (pg 56)

That thought can have particular importance to someone encountering other alcoholics who proclaim "they know the only true version". Different interpretations of the word "God" are available to those who recognize equality in their relationship to the source of all life. Those troubled by the pronouncements of religious alcoholics may ask another simple question:

WHO ARE YOU TO SAY THAT "GOD" IS WHAT THAT WORD MEANS TO YOUR FINITE MIND?

The author of this Study Guide has discovered and is presenting to the reader a fundamental idea for consideration about the AA program. Some AA members may disagree with this approach to recovery from alcoholism.

It is the basic premise of this Study Guide that the program of AA is sufficiently broad and flexible to include any religion. None incorporates the entire potential of the AA program. There is always more new knowledge to be learned and understood by anyone who seeks it. (pg 60(c)).

The author of this Study Guide has found this fundamental idea of God to be consistent and compatible with the basic text for recovery. The alcoholic reader may wish to refer to the basic text of "Alcoholics Anonymous" (pg 55) for emphasis. In the FOREWORD TO SECOND EDITION it is clearly stated "Alcoholics Anonymous is not a religious organization". Comments in officially approved AA literature explain why AA is not allied with any religious belief system. (Suggested reading - "As Bill Sees It" - pg 34). It provides comments written by the co-founder of AA.

"Truth" is a universally accepted synonym for the word "God". An alcoholic who has learned the truth about his condition and an option for recovery may still choose to continue drinking. However, the understanding of that truth has set him free from what previously was a seemingly hopeless condition.

There has been a revelation of truth (syn: "God") in the form of new knowledge of reality. With it there is produced enlarged freedom of choice to use that new knowledge. There is an endless supply of more truth available for anyone. The new knowledge is recognizably "a power greater" than previously possessed. At a conscious level of understanding, there is more truth, hence more God available for anyone to seek and use. (see pg 60(c) & Step 11)

INFINITE TRUTH = INFINITE GOD

For the individual with strong religious ties, it is suggested that no individual, nor any group of individuals, has a monopoly on all and everything that is Truth about the Ultimate Reality of Life on Lifeís terms. (see pg. 95). That is something recognizably infinite and beyond the capacity of any finite human mind to understand. However, more can always be revealed. (pg. 164).

UNDERSTANDING REALITY = UNDERSTANDING GOD

(Step 11)

However, the reader should be "quick to see where religious people are right". (pg 87). Most traditional religions were developed because their human founder had discovered some truth. However, accuracy about one area of infinite knowledge does not mean accuracy in all other areas as well. Many religious alcoholics have erroneously assumed their chosen belief system embodies all truth. (i.e.: "all of an infinite God" - see pgs 53 & 68).

For purposes of this Study Guide, improved conscious awareness of new knowledge is the essence of a "spiritual awakening". (Appendix II).

A new awareness and understanding of the Ultimate Reality of Life (syn: "God") becomes new knowledge. Understanding that new knowledge provides an enlarged range of choices, with new power to improve the selection of what is available to be used. (pg 85). Therefore the very process of seeking more truth from an infinite source becomes a practical means of "seeking God". (pg 60(c)).

But, where do we go to look for more?

"We found the Great Reality deep down within us. In the last analysis it was only there that He may be found. It was so with us." (pg 55)

What does the word "only" mean to your mind? (pg 23).

"Most of our experiences are what the psychologist William James calls "the educational variety" because they develop slowly over a period of time." (Appendix II)

Education occurs in the mind of the individual. There is a thinking process involved. One which confirms, that an idea is valid to the mind of the alcoholic. An idea is believed to be true because it stands up to the light of the intelligence inherent within every individual. (pgs 55 & 86). Anything else will be a "second-hand belief system" based upon the unthinking emotional acceptance of the beliefs of other equal human beings. Many "religious alcoholics" will disagree.

Recognition of a human capacity to learn new knowledge can be equated with an educational variety of a spiritual awakening. Furthermore, an expanded awareness of the Great Reality (syn "God" - pg 55) can be equated with the option to "improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him." (Step 11).

To illustrate the inherent ability to improve conscious contact with reality, the reader is asked to consider the following:

    • Do you believe everything that anyone tells you?
    • Do you believe some things some people tell you?
    • By what process do you decide what it is you will believe?

This author suggests that things you believe are guiding forces in your life. They form the ideas, emotions and attitudes upon which your life operates. (pg 27).

Unless your belief system includes all knowledge, and the power of that knowledge, "a huge emotional displacement and rearrangement" may be required for "the necessary vital spiritual experience" which is essential for recovery from alcoholism. (pg 27).

The alcoholic reader is challenged to contemplate their finite limitations from a lifetime of learning as a single individual. Moreover, consider the ultimate and finite limitations of all human awareness acquired thus far. The only understanding possible is that conscious awareness of the Ultimate Reality which is synonymous with the word "God". It should be self-evident there shall always exist more which is to be known.

IF NOTHING CHANGES, NOTHING CHANGES.

From a practical standpoint, enlarging the awareness of reality by the individual is a more intelligent approach than attempting to restrict awareness of the Ultimate Reality of Life on lifeís terms. (syn: "God").

While the alcoholic reader may not know how to make personal changes, there is ample evidence from AA that other alcoholics (i.e.: "equal in the eyes of God") have changed the guiding forces in their lives. The reader of this Study Guide has the capacity to learn what others have learned. Using the power of that new knowledge then becomes a matter of personal choice.

Obviously no one can use knowledge they do not possess. (pg 164). The vital spiritual experience required for recovery from alcoholism is made clear by "three pertinent ideas":

(a) That we were alcoholic and could not manage

our own lives.

(b) That probably no human power could have relieved

our alcoholism.

(c) That God could and would if He were sought.

(pg 60)

 

If this is valid, then it follows that an alcoholic acquires the necessary vital experience by seeking God. (pg 60). The only place they can find that Great Reality it is within themselves. (pg 55). The ability to improve conscious contact with reality requires willingness, honesty and open mindedness to seek more new knowledge than is already possessed by the alcoholic or any other human power. (review pgs 14-15, 45, 55, 68, 129, 164, Step 11 & Appendix II).

"Some of us have tried to hold on to our old ideas and the result was nil until we let go absolutely." (pg 58)

The only place a change can occur is within the individual. It involves their "fundamental idea of God" (pg 55) and what that word means to their mind. The author of this Study Guide has found a fundamental idea of God, within the basic text of AA which is consistent with "God" as being an infinite source of new knowledge and the power that goes with it.

".....we had to fearlessly face the proposition that either God is everything or else He is nothing. God either is, or He isnít. What was our choice to be? (pg 53)

The reader may ask of themselves:

o    Does my fundamental concept of God include all of reality?

o    Does it exclude some part of all that is life?

o    Is there something in life which is not God?

Further consider, that the only place any change to a fundamental idea can occur is within your own mind. Involved is what that three-letter word "God" means to your mind, and what you believe about it when that word is used by others.

At this point the alcoholic reader may well be asking:

o    What is it that I really do believe when encountering the word "GOD"? Is it intelligent to my own mind?

(see pg 23)

Some traditional religions reject portions of the Ultimate Reality of Life because it is not part of their concept of God. AA has no opinion on the issue of sectarian religion. (Tradition 11). No AA member nor AA group is qualified to speak for AA on this controversial matter. That specifically includes the author of this Study Guide. (Appendix I - Tradition 10 - The Long Form).

Nonetheless, it is obvious that conflicts do occur, in the minds of some alcoholics. (see pg 23). It is the purpose of this Study Guide to point out material in the basic AA text which may be helpful in resolving those difficulties. It should be noted that many sectarian religions do not embrace all and everything which is life. (pg. 53). The choice of what to believe will be the personal desires of the individual alcoholic, because there is nothing in the basic AA text which rejects any sectarian religious beliefs.

By contrast, the AA program is all-inclusive, and anyone with a desire to stop drinking is a member, by their own decision. (see Appendix II - Tradition 3 -"The Long Form").

THERE IS NO SECOND REQUIREMENT FOR MEMBERSHIP IN AA

For the alcoholic reader experiencing conflicts between sectarian religious beliefs and the AA program, it is advisable you first carefully examine the belief system which has become a guiding force in your life.

Some traditional religions deny validity to any spiritual concepts except their own specific definition of "God". In so doing, they block out all other spiritual ideas in order to stay within the finite limits of their own existing old ideas. (see appendix II). This may not always be sane thinking for an alcoholic confronted with the proposition that either God is everything or else He is nothing. (page 53 & Step 2).

We have no desire to convince anyone there is only one way by which faith can be acquired. We think it no concern of ours what religious bodies our members identify themselves with as individuals. This should be an entirely personal affair which each one decides for himself in the light of past associations, or his present choice. #9; #9; #9; (pg 28)

The reader may discover that identification with any particular religious body is of no concern by the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous. Recognition of this may help avoid confusion and placing limitations on the word "God". Consider this when reading the basic text of "Alcoholics Anonymous". It may be helpful when seeking "the vital spiritual experience" essential to recovery from alcoholism. (pg 27).

As you understand this truth about the AA program of recovery, you may also say to yourself:

"YES, I AM ONE OF THEM TOO; I MUST HAVE THIS THING"

(page 29)

* * * * *

SECTION B03a:

Chapter 3

MORE ABOUT ALCOHOLISM

STEP TWO:

"Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity." (pg 59)

READ: Chapter 3 - MORE ABOUT ALCOHOLISM - Starting on

page 30 with "Most of us have been unwilling to admit we were real alcoholics." to the end of the first paragraph on page 32, ending with "It may be worth a bad case of jitters if you get a full knowledge of your condition."

 

COMMENTS:

The AA program of recovery, from a once seemingly hopeless state of mind and body, is contained within the first 164 pages of the AA Big Book. It is:

The Story of

How Many Thousands of Men and Women

Have Recovered from Alcoholism

(Frontispiece)

The author of this Study Guide wishes to point out the word "recovered". The condition of alcoholism may not be "cured", but it is no longer a hopeless condition for which nothing effective can be done.

When the AA program first appeared, it was an unorthodox solution for many in the scientific and religious communities. Because it produced results which they were unable to duplicate, the effectiveness of AA was difficult to dispute.

Over half-a-century later, that same recovery process is no longer surprising. Public focus has shifted from asking "does AA really work?" to asking "what does that have to do with me"? And, "what else can it do?"

Because the AA program has worked well on the universal problem of alcoholism, there is sometimes an erroneous tendency to assume it is also "the answer" for numerous other problems. No such claims are made by Alcoholics Anonymous. Some AA members combined the AA program with their religious belief systems causing erroneous ideas to get voiced by some individual members. Therefore the alcoholic reader is advised to use extreme caution when establishing any individual as an authority on alcoholism.

This is particularly important when dealing with any of the medical or spiritual elements involved in the recovery process. To avoid misunderstanding of what AA is and is not, this author recommends a careful review of the long form of the AA Traditions. They are contained in Appendix I of the basic text for recovery. The officially sanctioned AA pamphlet "Problems Other than Alcohol" will also be informative.

Any non-AA material should be considered an outside opinion. It may be valid, or it may be that someone simply believes it is valid. That specifically includes the comments found in this Study Guide which provides the view of one individual. That viewpoint may not have value to every alcoholic reader seeking recovery. That choice of what to believe is individual. The use of caution and intelligence is recommended.

In this Study Guide, the alcoholic reader will be asked, again and again, to examine the ideas, emotions and attitudes which are the guiding forces in their life. (pg 27)

The serious reader will be shown portions of the AA Big Book which clearly suggests they have personal access to some inherent intelligence within themselves. (page 55) That inherent intelligence permits any alcoholic to displace and rearrange the guiding forces in their life. (pg 27). Particular emphasis is placed upon changing that thinking process which creates a desire to distort personal perception of reality with the use of alcohol.

If the alcoholic reader thoroughly follows the suggested steps of recovery provided in the AA program, their lives can become dominated by a completely new set of conceptions and motives. (pgs 27 & 58). That change can, will and must eventually produce different conditions.

IF NOTHING CHANGES, THEN NOTHING CHANGES

Certain promises have been made which will always materialize for those who painstakingly follow the path of action outlined by the AA program for recovery from alcoholism. (see pgs 83-84). They are available to any alcoholic who really wants what the writers of the basic AA text found for themselves. Any desire for those conditions is personal. Because mind-reading is an imperfect art, no one else can be completely certain what it is you really want for yourself. (see pg 58 & Appendix II).

Regardless of any disputes about what produces recovery it is clear that, for the drinking alcoholic, continued drinking will eventually lead to confinement or a premature death. This makes the choice of action a very personal matter to anyone with a drinking problem.

As an individual understands the seriousness of their personal condition, there is increased motivation to do something about it. (see Steps 3 & 11).

SOME ARE MOTIVATED BY INSPIRATION, OTHERS BY DESPERATION!

For some, hospitalization and treatment by professionals with medical qualifications may be required. That treatment is well outside the scope of the AA program. Many members of AA may have a sincere desire to be helpful, as individuals. However, when offering professional or technical advice:

 

WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IS MAKE

HOW SINCERELY YOU ROW YOUR BOAT

IF YOU ARE ROWING IN THE WRONG DIRECTION?.

Therefore the use of intelligence is recommended when accepting advice. This author suggests looking for principles which have universal application. They tend to be more reliable than personal preferences or beliefs. That specifically includes comments the alcoholic reader finds in this Study Guide.

Once free from the physical craving for alcohol, a newly motivated individual often discovers a new willingness to re-evaluate ideas, emotions and attitudes affecting their life. (Appendix II). When personal survival is involved, that willingness to replace old ideas with a new set that works becomes an intelligent decision. Holding onto old ideas about drinking is non-intelligent and is frequently an emotional choice. Such a choice is difficult to claim as sanity in the light of any intelligent self-examination.

Recognition of this potential for a personal conflict of motives, occurring within the alcoholic brings us to STEP TWO.

S T E P T W O :

"Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity." (pg 59)

The mental attitude by which the alcoholic reader approaches Step Two may be critical to their recovery. (see pgs 23, 27 & 58). For the individual with a drinking problem, recognition that some individuals cannot safely drink alcohol is tantamount to acceptance of a personal problem. Physiological differences may account for the phenomenon of craving which differentiate alcoholics from their fellows. ( see The Doctorís Opinion). Thus far, no one has discovered any way to change the body processes of an alcoholic that may differentiate them from others who can safely engage in "recreational oblivion" with the use of alcohol. (see pgs 30-32).

After the phenomenon of craving, has been dealt with, by hospitalization or other means, the main problem of the alcoholic centers in his mind rather than in his body. (page 23). For the alcoholic, the recognition they cannot safely start drinking alcohol again is essential. It must be dealt with regardless of any physical differences which may exist.

The physical phenomenon of craving must be dealt with first. After that, any alcoholic who honestly desires to get sober and stay sober can successfully deal with their problem. (pg 58). No assistance from anyone else would be required unless they lacked power of the knowledge of how to do so. (see pg 45).

IGNORANCE OF A SOLUTION

IS LACK OF POWER TO SOLVE A PROBLEM

With new knowledge, that same individual gains a greater power of choice. An available solution which was previously unrecognized is new knowledge. This may help illustrate that effective recovery is primarily centered in the mind. (see pg 23).

JUST BECAUSE YOU DONíT KNOW THE ANSWER

DOES NOT MEAN THERE IS NO ANSWER

New knowledge enlarges the power of decision to accept or reject reality. (syn: "God" - pg 55) It is the power of choice to recognize and accept "what is and what is not". (i.e.: "The Ultimate Reality of All Life" - "God" - see pg 53). An improved conscious awareness of that reality is always available. (Step 11).

Inability to recognize and accept reality may qualify as a definition of "insanity". Any conscious choice to knowingly hold onto old ideas which leads to confinement or premature death would probably be another.

Step Two focuses upon the insanity of drinking - for the alcoholic. Various examples of insane thinking, are provided by recovered alcoholics. Chapter Three describes how that mental condition manifested itself to early members of AA. An ample supply of additional examples are constantly available from other members in AA meetings.

Self-knowledge, when unchanged, is not sufficient for recovery. (pg 39).

There is an obvious inability to use the power of new knowledge which the alcoholic does not possess. (see pg 164). This is continually illustrated by failures of alcoholics to both control and enjoy drinking. (pgs 30-32). There exists an obvious need for the introduction of some power, greater than themselves. (pgs 43 & 45).

Thinking, which is restricted to the finite limits of self-knowledge, does not produce results for new situations. (pgs 14-15). The word "God" implies the power of all new knowledge. However, that idea, when utilized by traditional religion, gets limited, confined, and restricted to whatever is their specific belief system. Their ethnocentric group concept may also contain something which is "not God". (i.e.: "not part of the Great Reality" see pg 55). That chosen belief system is not all inclusive of everything in life. (syn: "God" - see pg 53). As such it is a finite belief system. (see pg 68).

Upon intelligent examination, what is known or believed may not be valid. "You donít know unless you know". Lack of new knowledge blocks the power to choose a belief system which is in perfect harmony with the Ultimate Reality of All Life. (pg 60). To avoid mistaken choices would require knowledge equal to an "omniscient God". Anything less than perfection is subject to error with room for improvement.

To date, this author has not found any such experts. (pg 60(b)). However, both in and outside of AA, there does seem to be an abundance of individuals who claim "second-hand knowledge" which they believe to be valid. Their claims of expertise frequently come from sources of questionable authenticity. It is possible this may be their own choice of a self-centered belief system. (see pgs 42, 46, 62, 95, 164 & Appendix II ).

Many AA groups read a portion of Chapter 3 as part of their meeting format. (pgs 30-32). This has special benefit for any alcoholic who may still be seeking a way to both control and enjoy drinking. This author recommends that the alcoholic reader imbed upon their mind (pg 23) a portion of the first paragraph of Chapter 3. Pay particular attention to the statement:

"The idea that somehow, someday he will control and enjoy his drinking is the great obsession of every abnormal drinker. The persistence of this illusion is astonishing. Many pursue it into the gates of insanity or death" (pg 30)

That single illusion can and frequently does reappear in the mind of alcoholics in disguise. It is an old idea which can be like the actor in a one-man-play who constantly reappears in different forms. One time as a young man, then as a girl, an old man, or the villain. Each new character is in a surprisingly deceptive new costume. However, on close intelligent examination, nothing real has changed. It is all an elaborate mental deception. (pg 23).

What you see is merely another aspect of an old belief system. There are an endless variety of ways an old idea can be presented to any mind which is not paying attention to reality. Therefore, it should not be surprising that the deception frequently succeeds. Nonetheless, in reality, it is still the same old idea. It is a personally chosen belief that there is something beneficial to be obtained from drinking alcohol. Constant vigilance and the use of inherent intelligence (pg 86) is required to prevent that old idea from becoming a guiding force in the life of an alcoholic.

THE PRICE OF FREEDOM IS ETERNAL VIGILANCE

For the alcoholic seriously interested in staying alive and being able to carry their own keys, this is, and must remain a top priority. Experience has indicated that nothing is quite so effective as working with other alcoholics. (pg 89). This is a very practical and available means of survival.

Therefore, by itís own definition, as AA members:

"Our primary purpose is to stay sober, and help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety". (AA Preamble)

The difference in motivation and primary objective between AA and "expensive treatment programs" may partially explain why they seldom accomplish significant results when compared to the "cost-free" approach of Alcoholics Anonymous.

The false belief that sufficient money will buy desirable results is not necessarily a valid one. That error has been borne out by many, with seemingly unlimited financial resources, who have destroyed themselves after attempting to buy personal happiness. (see pg 133). That concept of the power of money has limitations and is a false belief held by many members of the professional community.

Most alcoholics need to cast aside that old idea. While expensive treatment programs cater to the affluent, many have depleted their resources before considering recovery. Few professional treatment programs can offer continual "cost-free exposure to new knowledge". Most traditional religions also have a limited ability to provide a constant flow of new awareness of reality. (syn: "God" - pgs 14-15). Their boundaries are defined and within the finite limits of what they have to offer. To the best knowledge of this author, the AA program has no such limitations. Especially for those alcoholics who are seeking the power of new knowledge of reality. (pg 60(c)).

"Our book is meant to be suggestive only. We realize we know only a little." (pg 164)

Old ideas do reappear in an infinite variety of new ways. If they are allowed to remain unexamined and unchecked, they easily become familiar habit patterns of thinking. Those habit patterns of thought then encroach upon the lives of the inattentive. Eventually, they may become guiding forces in the mind of the alcoholic. (see pgs 23 & 27). When recovery from alcoholism is desired, making conscious intelligent choices of priorities about drinking alcohol is a continuing requirement. (pgs 14-15). Recognizing this seemingly automatic mental process is an important part of maintaining recovery.

HOW SAFE DO YOU WANT TO BE?

Continued self-examination is an inherent part of the AA program. (Step 10). It incorporates growth in self-awareness on a continuing basis. It is continually available from the freely given time and attention which gets offered by other members of AA, as individuals. New knowledge is available to those seeking demonstrations of success and failures. The supply of that information is seemingly endless. (see pg 68).

Active participation in the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous is both available and affordable to any and all who want it. There is no profit motive to distract it from a clearly stated primary purpose. (see AA Preamble).

* * * * *

SECTION B03b:

Chapter 3 - Contíd

MORE ABOUT ALCOHOLISM

STEP TWO:

"Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity." (pg 59)

READ: Chapter 3 - MORE ABOUT ALCOHOLISM - Starting on

page 32 with "Though there may be no way of proving it, ......." to page 39, ending with "This is a point we wish to emphasize and reemphasize, to smash home upon our alcoholic readers as it has been revealed to us out of bitter experience."

 

COMMENTS:

At the time the AA Big Book was written, many of the early members were what was once referred to as "last-gaspers" . They had pursued their drinking to extreme lengths. Early on in their drinking careers, most alcoholics could have stopped. This is significant to those coming to AA sooner in their drinking than those first members.

It is still not fully understood why some individuals respond to alcohol differently than others. There is however, no dispute that alcoholics are affected differently. It is clear that differences do exist.

With the substance alcohol remaining measurably the same, any differences are to be found within the individual. Unless that individual makes the choice to pick up the drink, the physical phenomenon of craving is not activated. This indicates that "the main problem of the alcoholic centers in his mind". (pg 23). That problem then becomes a matter of personal belief about the ability to safely consume alcohol.

For the alcoholic reader, there comes the question of application. This author suggests that at least part of the answer to a drinking problem is to be found in some idea, emotion or attitude that is a guiding force in their life. (page 27)

With that thought in mind, in all honesty, ask yourself:

o    How do I decide what I believe is valid?

o    Is what I believe the result of my thinking or someone else?

o    How do others become an authority to me?

o    Does their thinking produce results that work for me?

o    Do I believe better results are possible?

    • If so, why donít I have better results in my life?
    • Could there be something better neither knows about?
    • What do I believe is the source of new knowledge?

(see pg 60(a-c))

In the simplest of terms, consider that you, the reader, do not possess all knowledge about everything in life. Similarly, no group of individuals, knows everything about everything. Some source exists to which individuals have equal access to new knowledge and the power that goes with it. (see pg 59).

Any decision to accept or reject reality does not change "what is and what is not" the truth. It is the belief about reality within the alcoholic which determines their free choice of action. (see pg 55).

WHAT YOU DO AFFECTS WHAT HAPPENS TO YOU.

Where alcoholism is concerned, the reader probably already knows where they stand. If in doubt, the earlier members of AA suggested:

"....... try some controlled drinking" (pg 31).

If you have already done sufficient research, you are probably aware that once an alcoholic starts drinking, they are unable to control when or where they will stop drinking. When left to their own limited resources, they will continue to drink. Without outside interference, the real alcoholic will do so unless they are locked up or die prematurely. (see page 26). That phenomenon of craving has been considered a physiological difference. One which separates the alcoholic from his fellows because of the way his body processes alcohol. (see pg 30). Those bodily differences cannot be changed anymore than the color of their eyes.

"The fact is that most alcoholics, for reasons yet obscure, have lost the power of choice in drink. Our so-called will power becomes practically nonexistent. We are unable, at certain times, to bring into our consciousness with sufficient force the memory of the suffering and humiliation of even a week or a month ago. We are without defense against the first drink." (pg 24)

 

This author suggests that, as long as a sufficient quantity of alcohol is present in the system of the alcoholic, that phenomenon of craving continues. This author believes any attempt to reason with an alcoholic, while they are drunk, is wasting time. Until sufficient alcohol is eliminated from their system, the alcoholic is functioning with distorted intelligence as their personal defense against continued drinking. The craving continues until there is overwhelming interference produced by some unavoidable personal priority. Therefore, it is not surprising that earlier AA members have said:

 

WHEN THE DESIRE TO STAY ALIVE IS EQUAL TO

THE DESIRE FOR ANOTHER DRINK, THEN

AN ALCOHOLIC IS READY FOR AA.

If, the reader is an alcoholic, this will apply to you. Earlier members pursued their drinking into the gates of insanity or death. No matter how intelligent you may be in other areas, no matter how morally good or financially wealthy and powerful, those qualities are insufficient to produce a change in those unique individual body processes which make you an alcoholic. (pg 38).

Thus far, the only demonstrations of recovery in any significant quantity come from "a vital spiritual experience" capable of displacing and rearranging ideas, emotions, and attitudes which are guiding forces in the life of the alcoholic. Being "a good church member" is not the message of recovery which this author has found in the basic text. (see pg 27).

If you have reached the fellowship of AA early in your drinking career, it may be possible for you to stop by other means. That was the belief of those "last gaspers" responsible for the book "Alcoholics Anonymous". They also qualified that belief with recognition of a bit of reality.

"Though there is no way of proving it, we believe that early in our drinking careers most of us could have stopped drinking. But the difficulty is that few alcoholics have enough desire to stop while there is yet time." (pg 32)

There are both risks and benefits to be considered by the alcoholic when deciding if they honestly desire to stop drinking. In making a personal choice, the reader would do well to ask themselves:

"WHAT DO I STAND TO GAIN, AND WHAT DO I STAND TO LOSE?"

Neither age, sex, length of drinking, nor the quantities consumed seem to determine who is and who is not alcoholic. Neither does language, ethnic or religious background nor differences of race and culture make that determination. Nonetheless, the AA program provides a means of recovery which works for any individual who is an alcoholic. (pg 58).

"We are people who normally would not mix."

(pg 17)

Alcoholism cuts across boundaries which otherwise separate people from each other. The concept of a physical allergy, described in "The Doctorís Opinion", has not yet been replaced by any better explanation. Neither has there been any other approach to recovery which has produced results comparable to the AA program. A predominate belief within the AA program, by those who have recovered from alcoholism, is:

"ONCE AN ALCOHOLIC, ALWAYS AN ALCOHOLIC"

Science may one day prove that belief to be erroneous, but it hasnít done so yet. (see pg 31). In "real life terms" the results will remain the same. Any alcoholic is free to accept or reject that idea as a guiding force in their life. The choice is only as important as their desire to stay alive and carry their own keys.

The reader should recognize the professional community is under great pressure to find "a cure for alcoholism" because of the cost to government and society. That is a matter of interest to those concerned with such issues, and is outside the scope of the AA program for recovery.

Individual alcoholics, who find sufficient personal benefits from drinking may allow their lives to be used for trial and error experimentation. The value placed upon drinking over survival is personal. As alcoholics, it is their own life they are gambling with, and it still belongs to them. However, with sufficient continued drinking, even that may get changed without their permission.

Anyone questioning the benefits and risks of drinking would do well to examine their thinking on the subject. (pg 23). Of special importance is the idea that somehow, someday it will be possible to both control and enjoy drinking alcohol on a risk-free basis. (see pg 30). When benefits outweigh risks, that decision becomes the definition of sanity you desire (syn: "pray for") to have applied to your life. If so, that idea has become a guiding force in your life. (see pg 27 & Step 11).

To date neither science nor religion has produced any method by which alcoholics can both control and enjoy drinking. Until that occurs, any belief that drinking can be indulged in, on a risk-free basis, is an illusion. Where control is possible the alcoholic does not enjoy drinking. When they enjoy drinking there are no controls, restrictions or limitations.

The Ultimate Reality of Life is not changed by "wishful thinking". Individual alcoholics, who claim sanity for themselves, make their own choices between illusion and reality. Those choices may qualify as the difference between "Godís Will" (syn: "the Ultimate Reality") and "self-will run riot".

The alcoholic individual is directly impacted by their own definition of sanity. Other people may have different thoughts on the same subject. They too are free to act upon what they believe and this becomes the basis for the choices they make. That principle implies human equality. (i.e.: "in the eyes of God"). Alcoholics frequently find themselves in conflict with that equality of choice and the freedom to take action according to what they believe.

Human error is possible. It is equally possible for anyone who does not know everything about everything. This will include expert authorities in the fields of science and religion. The author of this Study Guide is no exception.

The reader may not question their own judgment regarding their relationship to alcohol. However, many are willing to stake their life and freedom on the limited and finite degree of knowledge they now possess. Perhaps their best interests would be better served by an attitude of willingness, honesty and open mindedness to understand more new knowledge. (Step 11 & Appendix II).

More new knowledge is always available. Short of attaining "spiritual perfection" there is always room for "spiritual progress".

(pg 60).

A review of Chapter Three of the basic text illustrates how one alcoholic knew what he knew about alcoholism. He had made a beginning improving his life and then found himself drunk again. The potentially fatal error was in the belief that he had acquired sufficient knowledge to maintain sobriety. The flaw was that he failed to enlarge his spiritual life. (review pgs 14-15, & 35).

FOR EMPHASIS: This author repeats the word - "ENLARGE"

Changes and new conditions are the inevitable result of living life, on lifeís terms. (pg 85). The idea that what is now known is enough to deal with any new situation is an egotistically attractive but "erroneous false belief in personal omniscience". That "all knowing" quality generally gets reserved for an idea of "God". (pg 55). Old ideas may not always apply to new and different conditions. (pg 58). The desire to enlarge awareness of "the Great Reality" (i.e.: "God" - pg 55) is a personal desire for more "spiritual growth". (pg 60).

HOW MUCH MORE KNOWLEDGE DO YOU WANT?

Because everything in life changes, constantly improving conscious awareness of reality (syn: "God" - see Step 11) is a critical factor in recovery from alcoholism. The total knowledge acquired in a single lifetime is never enough to deal with everything which comes along that is new and different.

SELF-KNOWLEDGE IS NOT ENOUGH FOR RECOVERY.

Similar limitations can be applied to all human knowledge. The sum total of all human awareness since the beginning of time is not only finite, but it also has limitations. More new knowledge can and will be revealed to those seeking to enlarge their understanding of "the Great Reality" (syn: "God" - see pgs 55 & 60(c)). It is recognized that spokesmen for traditional concepts of "God" may disagree. (see pg 12).

Herein lies a noteworthy difference between reality and many religious interpretations of life, on lifeís terms. Most traditional religions view "God" within the confines of their own definition and belief system. This precludes intelligent adjustments to accommodate new knowledge and excludes the introduction of additional information. (see pgs 53 & 68). That "closed-minded belief system" is difficult to reconcile with life, on lifeís terms. (i.e.: "God") and usually requires an attitude referred to as "blind faith".

What is your choice to be? (pg 53)

A very specific interpretation of the word "God" is a fundamental part of most traditional religions. Accordingly, what they believe about "God" must be defined in finite terms and that gives their belief system limited application. Unless they also claim spiritual perfection, that ethnocentric belief system is incomplete. Other views can and do exist. Some may even produce improved results. (pgs 53, 55, 68, 164, & Appendix II).

There is always more new knowledge to be obtained about an infinite universe. (pg 68). Only someone in possession of "all knowledge" (i.e.: "an omniscient God") would have the power of choice to fully cooperate with principles governing all life. (syn: "God" see page 53).

"But there is One who has all power -- that One is God.

(pg 59)

It is a principle with equal application to all life, on lifeís terms, that each new day of living life presents new and previously unknown conditions. (pg 85). To intelligently respond to changes requires seeking new knowledge. (pg 60(c)). It is one of the "Laws of Life" that apply equally to all, regardless of any other differences which may exist between them as individuals.

It seems self-evident that accommodating new, and previously unknown conditions demands new knowledge. The "ONE SIZE FITS ALL" approach, offered by many traditional religions, has limited application. There is no dispute about the value they do have. (pgs 87 & 89). However, there is the inescapable recognition that more may be revealed. (pg 164).

Should there be conflict with that view, the alcoholic reader may wish to answer some questions about their beliefs involving their relationship to an ever-changing universe.

    • Is yesterdayís knowledge all you require for today?
    • If you need more new knowledge, where do you believe original ideas come from?
    • Where do you believe the first person got their original idea?

Observe how some old ideas continue to prevail as a guiding force even when they may have potentially life-threatening consequences. Frequently there are some beliefs which need to be displaced and rearranged to produce "a vital spiritual experience". (pg 27). While anyone can believe anything they choose, when it comes to understanding "the Great Reality" (i.e.: "God" - pg 55 & Step 11) it is self-evident that "you donít know unless you know".

Limited "self-knowledge" is always insufficient to overcome an old idea which is producing insane behavior because it is incomplete. There is an obvious requirement for new and different thinking. There is a need for new knowledge and "a vital spiritual experience" capable of producing a personality change sufficient to bring about recovery from alcoholism. (see pgs 23, 27 & Appendix II).

New ideas are an essential ingredient in making intelligent choices under changing conditions. Unintelligent emotional decisions can be self-destructive. "Spiritual progress" requires an intelligently and realistically enlarged awareness of improved results, on lifeís terms. (see pgs 14-15, 35, 60 & Step 11).

INSANE BEHAVIOR OVERLOOKS CONSEQUENCES

(see pgs 37 & 38)

Absence of a conscious contact with reality is commonly considered as insanity. The implications can be disturbing when it is recognized that no one has total awareness of all and everything that is reality. The implication is that insanity is a matter of degree related to conscious awareness of "life, on lifeís terms".

It is worth noting that Step Two does not suggest "a Power greater than ourselves could turn alcoholics into social drinkers like all those others". However, when sober the alcoholic reacts, to life, much as others do. (pg 22). This presents questions about the relative sanity of society as a whole.

In significant contrast to much of society, what is claimed by AA is that:

"No one among us has been able to maintain perfect adherence to these principles. We are not saints. The point is, that we are willing to grow along spiritual lines. The principles we have set down are guides to progress. We claim spiritual progress rather than spiritual perfection." (pg 60)

"BUT OBVIOUSLY YOU CANNOT TRANSMIT

SOMETHING YOU HAVENíT GOT."

(page 164)

So, where is the problem and where is the solution? Power to make intelligent and sane choices includes recognition of the consequences of actions taken. That may require more new knowledge.

IF I KNEW BETTER I WOULD DO BETTER

The power to consciously choose a better answer must come from some source of new knowledge. (i.e.: "God"). It does if a more intelligent decision is to get made. This is because the present level of self-knowledge is inadequate. In order to "trade up" to "improved spiritual progress", open-mindedness is an indispensable attitude. (see pgs 42, 60, 129, 164 & Appendix II). Despite the value of many belief systems and their old ideas, this becomes an important factor when making the best possible choice. It is worth recognizing that:

THE GOOD CAN BE THE ENEMY OF THE BEST

&#

Perhaps a story, making the rounds, will lighten the significance.

A man attended the funeral of a business associate. Surprised by his premature death, he inquired of the cause. The widow related her late-husband drank over a fifth of whiskey daily for several years, developed liver disorders, high-blood-pressure, kidney failure and had a heart attack.

The friend asked "hadnít he ever heard of AA?". Pulling herself up with great dignity, she replied "well he wasnít that bad".

Like the widow in the story, some alcoholics have erroneous ideas and attitudes about drinking. They ignore the fact that some people cannot drink without creating potentially life-threatening conditions.

As a consequence of their ignorance of reality, many alcoholics die prematurely because they sincerely applied an erroneous belief system to their own lives.

This author believes this mental condition merits serious and intelligent examination. There are others who may disagree.

* * * * *

SECTION B03c:

Chapter 3 - Contíd

MORE ABOUT ALCOHOLISM

STEP TWO:

"Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity." (pg 59)

READ:

Chapter 3 - MORE ABOUT ALCOHOLISM - Starting on

page 39 with "Let us take another illustration." to the end of Chapter 3 ending with "His defense must come from a Higher Power."

COMMENTS:

If the reader has accepted the views of the previous section, there should be little doubt that:

"the actual or potential alcoholic, with hardly an exception will be absolutely unable to stop drinking on the basis of self-knowledge." (pg 39)

"Self-knowledge" is finite and is limited to the amount of information one individual can acquire during a single lifetime. In an endless universe there is always more new knowledge available than any individual mind, or group of human minds can consciously understand about life on lifeís terms. (see pgs 53, 60, 68, 164, & Step 11).

Of necessity, traditional religions have finite and limited concepts of God, which exist within the framework of their own belief systems. While there is nothing in AA in conflict with efforts to define the infinite, (see pg 68), a significant difference between religion and AA is their effectiveness with recovery from alcoholism. If a religious belief system is able to produce the kind of recovery desired, the alcoholic should use it to the fullest extent of its value and usefulness. However, it is well to recognize that there is more. When a chosen religious belief system does not produce desired results, then a different concept of "God" may be more beneficial. (pg 12).

In AA, every alcoholic eventually becomes faced with the proposition that:

"God is either everything or else He is nothing.

(page 53)

That concept is the same as saying:

THERE IS NOTHING THAT IS NOT GOD!

It is a "concept of God" that equally includes every man, woman and child within whom there is a "fundamental idea of God" (pgs 12 & 55). The AA program makes clear some pertinent ideas, including "God could and would relieve alcoholism if He were sought". (page 60). Short of science discovering some "God-gland", or other physical solution, the problem of alcoholism is within the mental processes of the alcoholic. (pg 31).

".......the main problem of the alcoholic centers in his mind rather than in his body. (pg 23)

For the alcoholic seeking recovery, it is suggested they examine their "fundamental idea of God" which exists deep down within themselves.

In the last analysis it is only there that He may be found. (pg 55)

If the word "only" means "there is nothing else", then this author submits that:

THE THING YOU ARE LOOKING FOR IS

THE THING YOU ARE LOOKING WITH

That proposition makes certain assumptions about the mental capacities of the alcoholic reader. They are that:

    • God is All Intelligence - you have some intelligence.
    • God is the Source of All Truth - you recognize some of that truth.
    • God is all that is Good -, during your limited lifetime, you have some of what is good.
    • God is the Ultimate Reality - your own mind can recognize some differences between reality and fantasy.
    • God is the Source of All Creation - you have some creative abilities.

If your concept of God includes any of the above you have direct access to some "infinite intelligence" which is described by using the word "God". It may be self-evident there can be more than you, or any group of finite human minds, is now able to understand. (see pg 68 & Step 11).

As an equal human being, your own fundamental idea of God is no more nor less valid than any other. The only validity is if it is or is not true. Anyone can be mistaken. No one really knows everything, nor does any group have total understanding of "the Great Reality" which is called "God".

Within that context, all traditional religions will have a limited view of reality.

ĎWE LEARN MORE TRUTH - AND IT

SETS US FREE FROM "OLD IDEAS"."

New awareness of reality includes new freedom from the limitations of "old ideas". That new knowledge provides for an enlarged awareness of reality. It is "spiritual growth" which allows for greater freedom of choice. (see pgs 14-15, 35 & Step 11).

This author suggests that acceptance of "the Ultimate Reality of All Life" requires recognizing an infinite concept of God. (see pgs 42,49 & 68).

The alcoholic experiences relief from a seemingly hopeless condition in life as he understands more truth about his relationship to life, on lifeís terms. (see Step 11). From a viewpoint that "God is everything", (pg 53), ignorance of any truth is equivalent to "ignoring God".

New knowledge of reality provides an enlarged spiritual life. (pg 35). This implies that old ideas, emotions or attitudes may require rearrangement to accommodate the discovery of new knowledge. (pg 27). It is not by accident that Appendix II "SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCE" contains the following quotation:

"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

(Appendix II)

In an ever-changing world, any alcoholic will encounter new conditions. If they are to be dealt with intelligently, new thought, new ideas, and new solutions may be required. Old beliefs about the reality of life may be inadequate. New conditions may open the doors to awareness of something new which is true. Therefore an open mind is indispensable to "spiritual growth". (pgs 14-15, 23, & Appendix II).

Self-knowledge and reliance within the finite limits of what is now known is not sufficient for continued recovery. (pgs 14-15, & 68). This makes it difficult to accept any of the traditional religious belief systems which are unable to demonstrate significant results with alcoholics.

A close minded attitude is particularly difficult to maintain when other approaches offer better results. As a consequence, any conscious effort to do so requires some degree of contempt - with or without prior investigation.

IT IS DIFFICULT TO ARGUE WITH SUCCESS

Where the word "God" is synonymous with "the Great Reality", (see pgs 53 & 55), then, as Aristotle once observed:

"WHAT IS - IS; AND WHAT IS NOT - IS NOT"

Some alcoholics consider "the Ultimate Reality of Life" to be the same as "Godís Will". From that viewpoint, any conscious refusal to accept valid new knowledge will become a mental block and barrier to the recovery process. (see pg 42 & Appendix II). When "God is Truth", then:

WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE HOW MUCH

YOU KNOW, - IF WHAT YOU KNOW IS NOT SO?

However, within that same context, when dealing with recovery from alcoholism:

"But the ex-problem drinker who has found this solution, who is properly armed with facts about himself, can generally win the entire confidence of another alcoholic in a few hours. Until such an understanding is reached, little or nothing can be accomplished." (pg 18)

The significant point is that the "ex-problem drinker" has acquired some new knowledge, which is now sufficient to stay sober. That new knowledge was not available until it was sought and accepted. (pg 60). Constant changes and new conditions in life may require even more new knowledge. (pgs 14-15). Therefore:

"We are not cured of alcoholism......... What we really have is a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition." (pg 85)

With the increased power of more new knowledge comes increased freedom of choice. An alcoholic with that increased power is then able to intelligently displace and rearrange "old ideas". (pgs 27 & 58). That freedom from mental limitations is acquired by developing an attitude of being willing to go to any length to recover from alcoholism. (pg 58 & Appendix II).

As an enlarged awareness of reality is sought, relief gets provided, on a daily basis, from some endless supply of new knowledge. That power is equally available to all. (i.e.: "God" see pgs 14-15, 45, 55, 60, 164ł Step 11 & Appendix II). This mental process is not a cure for alcoholism. However, it does provide relief, from a once seemingly hopeless state of mind and body. (page 60).

As an alcoholic improves their understanding of reality, (i.e.: "God" - Steps 3 & 11), they gain freedom to let go of erroneous beliefs and old ideas in order to accept something better. (i.e.: "Let Go and Let God" -see pgs 82-84). That alcoholic consciously improves what is "good for them". (i.e. "Godís Will for them"- see pg 133 & Step 11).

IF KNOWLEDGE IS INFINITE,

THEN IGNORANCE IS ALSO INFINITE!

Expanding the horizons of their own mind is "spiritual growth" available to any alcoholic who seeks it. (see pgs 58-60). Will-power alone does not replace ignorance nor "those strange mental blank spots" due to incomplete awareness of reality. (see pgs 39, 42 & 85). Any alcoholic can obtain a daily reprieve from alcoholism by maintaining an attitude of willingness, honesty and open-mindedness to enlarge their awareness of reality. But, first they must learn how. This is accomplished by seeking conscious contact with the source of all new knowledge. (i.e.: "God"- see pgs 14-15, 35, 42, 85-86, Step 11 & Appendix II).

This "fundamental idea" of a personal relationship to "a power greater than ourselves" is consistent with AAís basic text for recovery. (pg 55). Authorities and spokesmen for traditional religious concepts of God may disagree. Those experts on religion may be able to better explain their differences in producing successful recoveries. The alcoholic reader is always free to agree or disagree with anyone they choose.

 

&# "Why donít you choose your own conception of God?

(pg 12)

Any alcoholic who wants to stop drinking will encounter suggestions from a wide variety of sources. Comments in this Study Guide are only intended for those alcoholics who desire to choose their own conception of "God". This is in direct contrast to other alcoholics who prefer "a second-hand concept of God" developed for them by someone they consider an authority on the infinite. (see pg 68). Ultimately the choice of "who and what to believe" becomes a matter of personal responsibility.

THE ALCOHOLIC READER WHO CHOOSES NOT TO EXAMINE THE "OLD IDEAS" GUIDING THEIR LIFE, SHOULD NOT PROCEED FURTHER WITH THIS STUDY GUIDE.

Blind faith requires conscious thought and effort to have emotional desires over-ride inherent intelligence. Mental confusion and emotional turmoil is the price paid whenever reality forcefully displaces and rearranges the belief system which has been the guiding force for an alcoholic who has chosen not to think. (review pg 27).

The approach to the AA program offered here presumes willingness, honesty and open-mindedness to consider new knowledge about recovery. (see Step 12 & Appendix II). Any preference to hold on to "old ideas about God" may be better fulfilled by some traditional religious belief system. However, this author recommends first evaluating their success record with alcoholics.

Alcoholic readers who choose to continue will also note a similar inability of doctors and psychiatrists to successfully provide any permanent solution to the problem of alcoholism. To their surprise, "a bunch of alcoholics" discovered and demonstrate "a way to stay sober that works". (pg 95) Their "professional know-how" may have great value in other areas, but the professional community frequently lacks the "real-life experiences" which are well-known to many recovered alcoholics. (pg 18).

There is a big difference between finding "a way to live" in contrast to knowing "the only way to live". This becomes one of the more significant differences between AA and many other approaches to recovery. For the alcoholic betting their life on a recovery program it may mean their survival and freedom

Experience indicates a necessity for an alcoholic to constantly enlarge their spiritual life. They must continually improve their conscious understanding of reality. (i.e.: "God" see pgs 14-15, 35, 86 & Step 11). A daily reprieve from alcoholism is contingent upon maintaining this attitude at a conscious level. (pg 85 & Step 11).

That mental condition requires maintaining an "open mind" about the endless changes constantly occurring in life. (pgs 14-15, 23, 27, 35, 42, 45 129, 164, & Appendix II). This includes a "fundamental idea of God" which is compatible with "God" being "everything" rather than "nothing", hence "the source of all knowledge".(pgs 53 & 55).

It is obvious no one can utilize the power of knowledge they do not have. Making changes to accommodate new conditions requires some new knowledge. If the realities of life demand "know how" an alcoholic does not possess, then in that situation they are powerless. (pg 164).

Without knowing everything required, for every new situation, more new knowledge will always be required for continued recovery from alcoholism. Any concept of "God" as being "a source of all knowledge and all power" will fit that idea. (pgs 12, 53, 55, 59, 68, 164, & Appendix II). However, the reader will note that:

THERE IS NO ARRIVAL POINT FOR A "CURE"

An effective mental defense can come from the power of new knowledge. (pg 59). This author maintains that new knowledge is continually required for a continual "daily reprieve" (pgs 14-15, 35 & 85). More new knowledge is always available. More than all human experience has acquired since the beginning of time.

Now, imprint upon your mind a concept of paramount importance.

"Once more: The alcoholic at certain times has no effective mental defense against the first drink. Except in a few rare cases, neither he nor any other human being can provide such a defense. His defense must come from a Higher Power." (pg 43)

The significant difference that separates individuals, in regard to recovery from alcoholism, is relatively simple.

THERE ARE THOSE WHO KNOW, AND

THERE ARE THOSE WHO DONíT KNOW

For an alcoholic seeking more power to cooperate with life, on lifeís terms comes the question:

o    Why close your mind to new ideas?

o    What do you stand to gain?

Some alcoholics may already have everything in life they desire (i.e.: "pray for") in order to be happy, joyous and free. (i.e.: "Godís will for them" - see pg 133). They will not be reading this material, or need to seek anything more, because they will already have all they want from life, within their established limits. However, most alcoholics are more like "nice honest street-hustlers", because they are constantly looking for a way to "trade up" to something better than what they already have.

"LET GO AND LET GOD"

To reconcile any conflicts with "old ideas" about the meaning of the word "God", consider the following:

    1. Words are used to communicate ideas.
    2. The three-letter word "God" communicates an idea.
    3. That idea exists within your own mind.
    4. What exists in your mind is not identical to any other mind.
    5. Your "belief about God"" is no more nor less than "your idea of God".

Your "fundamental idea of God" exists within your own mind and "it is only there that He may be found" (pgs 23 & 55).

This author calls your attention to the word "only". It is suggested your "old idea" of what the three-letter word "God" means to your mind may benefit from being "displaced and rearranged". (pg 27 & Step 10). Unless the reader knows everything about everything, it might be possible to improve what you already believe about that word "God". (pgs 14-15, 23, 35, 42, 45, & 164 ). With conscious improvement, your concept may better agree with the Ultimate Reality of All Life, (pg 46), and qualify as "spiritual progress". (pg 60 & Step 11).

Toward that objective, this author suggests the alcoholic reader honestly ask, and answer, to their own mind, the following questions:

    1. Is your "idea of God" producing results you desire?
    2. If not, what needs to be changed? God, or your "idea of God"?
    3. Is your "idea of God" an "old idea"?
    4. Do you know where you got it?
    5. Was it "your idea" or "a second-hand belief" you blindly accepted from someone else"?
    6. Have you ever evaluated "what you believe about God" - in the light of your own "god-given" intelligence?
    7. Do you believe you have "equal access to Godís knowledge and power"?
    8. Do you want to improve your own life?
    9. Does new knowledge produce improvements in your life?
    10. Could that new knowledge be "a power greater than yourself"?

* * * * *

SECTION B03d:

Preliminary to Chapter 4

WE AGNOSTICS

STEP TWO: - Contíd

"Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity." (pg 59)

READ:

Having just read Chapter 3 - MORE ABOUT ALCOHOLISM, this section is preliminary to Chapter 4 - WE AGNOSTICS.

COMMENTS:

Before beginning Chapter #4 "WE AGNOSTICS", it may be useful to give some separate attention to Step #2 "Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity". This section will examine some ideas, emotions and attitudes which accompany that mental process.

As a child, I believed a number of things which did not stand up to intelligent examination. The concept of "a fat man somehow magically coming down a chimney with a huge bag of toys" at the Christmas Holiday was once believable. My own inherent intelligence eventually forced the question of "how does he do that?"

As the result of intelligent inquiry, my belief in Santa Claus eventually was displaced by a more realistic view of the seasonal activities. It was a new view of the holidays that was very different from the "old idea", and much more in line with reality.

How did such a change occur within my own mind? On the premise that:

"ANY PROBLEM CAN BE SIMPLIFIED, IF IT IS

BROKEN DOWN INTO SMALL ENOUGH PARTS"

changing a belief suggests a mental process of letting go of an "old idea". (i.e.: "Let Go and Let God" - see pgs 12, 23, 27,42,58,164, & Appendix II).

This mental process includes a fundamental basic idea which seems self-evident. Namely that a belief compatible with reality is more sane than one based upon fantasy, speculation, or wishful thinking.

An honest examination of "old ideas" which were guiding my life produced the obvious conclusion that some of them might be erroneous. (see pg 27, Steps 4 & 10).

"I NEVER MADE A MISTAKE BEFORE, BUT THIS MIGHT BE ONE!!

 

For example:

    • If I believe something I also believe it is true.
    • Because I believe it is true, I also believed it can not be changed.
    • If something cannot be changed, then others should agree.
    • When others disagree with my truth, then they are wrong.

Where sanity is concerned, this is where the trolley gets off the track. (Step 2). It is an "erroneous old idea" that a belief system is correct when it conflicts with reality. (pgs 23, 27, & 37-38). Many religions have that problem. It particularly includes the expectation that others either do agree, or else they should. Any expectations about what others "should believe" produces conflict. (pgs 60-62). Those conflicts block being "happy, joyous and free". (syn: "Godís will" - pgs 75-76, 84 & 133). This is a potential problem, for the alcoholic, when related to alcoholism and recovery.

EXPECTATIONS ARE A DOWN-PAYMENT ON A RESENTMENT

When reality does not conform with what I believe about reality, my tendency is to force the issue. That includes trying to force agreement from others. (see pgs 60-61). Disagreements destroy any real harmony, balance or compatibility with life, on lifeís terms. This mental action produces conflict. (pg 23) When a resentment accompanies that conflict, the desire (i.e.: "prayer") for escape from reality is not far behind.

Most alcoholics have experienced the "recreational oblivion" produced by drinking. They may not be aware that other solutions are also available to resolve conflicts created within their own mind. New knowledge can provide relief from those same conflicts with reality.

Understanding all of reality is beyond the practical limits of any single lifetime. Seeking to improve conscious awareness of reality is synonymous with seeking "Godís Will". (see pg 133 & Step 11). When there is a conflict with reality, any emotional resistance to retain an erroneous belief qualifies as "insanity" in the form of "self-will run riot".

"Selfishness--self-centeredness! That we think, is the root of our troubles. Driven by a hundred forms of fear, self-delusion, self-seeking, and self-pity, we step on the toes of our fellows and they retaliate. (pg 62)

Retaliation comes from those other "equal human beings" (i.e.: "in the eyes of God") who get pressured to abandon independent thinking. This denies them their equality by the expectation they will agree with what another "equal human being" believes to be true. The retaliation seems unjustified because of the belief which claims "I am right and they are wrong".

There is significant difference between demonstrating a better answer and claiming to have the only right answer. Equality goes out the window whenever someone insists they are right, and others are wrong. This happens, and resentments arise when individuals, or groups, allow a close-minded belief system to become the guiding force in their lives. While the reader may be exempt,

"Resentment is the "number one" offender. It destroys more alcoholics than anything else. From it stem all forms of spiritual disease, for we have been not only mentally and physically ill, we have been spiritually sick. When the spiritual malady is overcome, we straighten out mentally and physically." (pg 64)

Strong emotional desires have fueled many erroneous beliefs. Wanting life to be a certain way is not always the way reality is. By improving conscious contact with reality (i.e.: "God" see Step 11), it became apparent that beliefs about "Santa Claus" were an illusion which existed in my own mind. It may have been shared by others, but like it or not:

FANTASIES GET REPLACED BY ACCEPTANCE OF REALITY

There is an abundant supply of established experts on that topic within the professional community. They usually charge a fee for their services. The AA program differs from professionalism in that regard. (review Appendix I - The Twelve Traditions (The Long Form). The author of this Study Guide makes no claim of any professional expertise in the fields of mental health, physical illness or spiritual sickness. The observations that are made are based upon a study of AAís basic text for recovery from alcoholism. They are freely shared with any alcoholic who may find them useful. They are equally free to be discarded by those who do not.

It can be emotionally painful for an alcoholic to replace their fantasies with reality. ("Let Go and Let God"). Therefore it is worth recognizing that:

    • Loss of an illusion can be a disappointment.
    • Disappointments are emotionally painful.
    • Avoidance of pain is natural behavior.
    • Alcohol temporarily masks the pain of disappointments.

An intelligent choice will produce long-term results. (see pgs 37-38).The "temporary relief" received by drinking alcohol is akin to someone peeing their pants during a blizzard because "they wanted to feel warm for a little while". No one disputes that it works.

A desire to believe in Santa Claus is both childish and self-centered when it includes an emotional demand to be right. However, when the belief conflicts with the facts of life, it does appear someone has to be wrong. As a child, my own ego insisted that it wasnít going to be me. Alcoholics have been described as being "sensitive, childish and grandiose". If so, that attitude produces confrontation and conflict with reality which disturbs personal happiness. (see pg 133). Resistance to reality lasts only as long as "old ideas" can be retained by the inherent intelligence which is part of the alcoholics own mind. (see pgs 23, 53, 55, 68 & 85-86)

A close-minded attitude obliges an alcoholic to shut out anything which does not fit what they believe. While retaining that attitude, they can only allow themselves to see what they want reality to be. That is "self-will run riot". Mentally and emotionally a close minded alcoholic is unable to admit being wrong. (see Step 10).

Repeated reliance upon emotional attitudes creates a habit pattern of thinking. (see pg 68). One which produces a childish demand to be "right", and includes automatic rejection of new or different ideas. "The Great Reality" is a reasonable synonym and concept for the word "God". (pg 55). Unhappily for some, any personal efforts to defend erroneous beliefs eventually yield to the Ultimate Reality of life, on lifeís terms. For others, it can be a welcomed opportunity to "trade up" to something better. (i.e.: "Godís will" - see pg 133).

By seeking an expanded awareness of reality (syn: "God"- pg 60(c)) it is possible to experience relief from problems caused by erroneous beliefs. This occurs by improving a conscious understanding of how to relate to that Ultimate Reality (see Step 11). All that is required is to place a demand upon ones own mind for an enlarged awareness of the truth (syn: "God"). If this is a dominant desire (syn: "prayer") it is possible to "let go of old ideas". (pg 58). By that personal choice an alcoholic can change beliefs which had previously been guiding forces in their life. (pg 27). There was a time, for this author, when that equality and freedom of choice seemed impossible. However, with new knowledge of reality, that personal belief system was changed.

Many alcoholics believe it is impossible to be happy, joyous and free without being able to drink alcohol. What gets lost in sobriety is the temporary distortion of reality which is based upon yet another "erroneous belief". Namely, that there is nothing in life worth doing unless there is a drink connected to it. Within their own mind a belief exists that not drinking means being deprived of something worthwhile.

Such a moral value system is a mental attitude that can be a guiding force when making decisions. (review pgs 23, 27, Steps 4 & 10). It incorporates the idea that "what" is believed is not only correct, but also is not subject to change".

It is stupid and illogical to consider as valid something you honestly believe will not work.(see pg 49, 53, & Appendix II). However, when an alcoholic uses "their own inherent intelligence", it is difficult for a "false belief" to stand up to demonstrations of success. (see pgs 23, 37-38, 42-43,46,49,86, & 164).

REALITY IS MORE POWERFULL THAN FANTASY

No human power has yet been able to produce any appreciable number of alcoholics who can control and enjoy their drinking. (pgs 30-32). Personal efforts often fail due to lack of understanding of the physical phenomenon of craving which affects alcoholics but not others. (see "The Doctorís Opinion"). On that matter there is no personal choice involved. To date, it is not yet possible to change whatever unique individual physical body processes produce that phenomenon of craving. (pg 60(a-c)).

"Science may one day accomplish this, but it hasnít done so yet." (pg 31)

Until such a "revelation of new knowledge" occurs, alcoholics have no more choice about how alcohol affects their physical body processes than they do about changing the color of their eyes. The AA program provides alcoholics with a choice of how that bit of reality impacts their life. That personal choice is:

o    YOU CAN BE A DRINKING ALCOHOLIC

OR

o    YOU CAN BE A SOBER ALCOHOLIC.

This is a fact of life once believed impossible and is now known to be possible. The fact that thousands of men and women have recovered from a once seemingly hopeless state of mind and body is now a reality. (see "Frontispiece"). It is a bit of reality even the most stubborn minds have difficulty rejecting.

Recovery from alcoholism is now a clearly established option. Those alcoholics who still claim their situation is hopeless are like the man who:

"STOOD ON HIS LEFT FOOT WITH HIS RIGHT FOOT

AND COMPLAINED BECAUSE HE COULD NOT RUN"

New knowledge of Reality (i.e.: "God") has displaced that old belief in limitation. The still-drinking alcoholic remains powerlessness over alcohol, but not the consequences of drinking. Anyone who is alcoholic may never ever be able to control and enjoy drinking. However, they can begin to learn how to be happy, joyous and free without drinking now. That choice is individual based upon what is the alcoholics most important priority. (i.e.: "prayer" - see pgs 53, 68, Steps 4 & 10).

The operative "old idea" recognized personal limitations and lack of power. However, the real problem is a mental one, found in the erroneous or limited belief about changing conditions that can be changed. (pg 23). With an enlarged awareness of reality, (syn "God"), many alcoholics now understand what others have done to produce a successful solution. (pgs 14-15, 42 & Step 11). That successful solution is "a power greater than themselves" because it is derived from new knowledge which they previously did not have.

New freedom requires letting go of the limitations of old ideas, emotions and attitudes which is reflected by the sum total of "self-knowledge". ("Let God & Let God" - see pgs 27, 58, 68, & 83). As the alcoholic is "relieved of the bondage of self", the doors of their mind are opened to accept the power of new knowledge. (pg 63 & Step 10). Until that change occurs, that "power greater than ourselves" remains lacking and unavailable. (see pg 59 & Step 2).

"Lack of power, that was our dilemma. We had to find a power by which we could live, and it had to be a Power greater than ourselves. Obviously. But where and how were we to find this Power?

Well, thatís exactly what this book is about. Its main object is to enable you to find a Power greater than yourself which will solve your problem." (pg 45)

o    NOTE: THE BASIC AA TEXT FOR RECOVERY SPECIFICALLY INDICATES WHERE THAT POWER IS TO BE FOUND.

"We found the Great Reality deep down within us. In the last analysis it is only there that He may be found. It was so with us." (pg 55)

Any "traditionally religious alcoholic reader" is always free to disagree or hold on to other ideas. (see pgs 27- 28).

The word "only" often creates emotional problems for alcoholics who believe their traditional religion has an exclusive path to power. Especially when that "old idea" is part of a consciously chosen belief system. They have an emotional stake in "being right". Under those conditions any problems they experience are caused by their personal choice to limit or exclude some portion of reality. (i.e.: "God"). That mental illusion seldom creates a problem when what is believed is compatible with the Ultimate Realty of All Life (syn: God).

"Some of us have tried to hold on to our old ideas and the result was nil until we let go absolutely." (pg 58)

An alcoholic is always free to believe anything their mind can conceive that they want to believe. (pg 23). However, what is believed may not always agree with "the Great Reality" of life, on lifeís terms. The real problem is when a belief is erroneous it conflicts with life, on lifeís terms. (i.e.: "Godís will vs. self-will run riot").

REALITY DOES NOT CHANGE, - BUT BELIEFS DO.

Comparing a belief system with reality allows an alcoholic to be honest with themselves about what is believed. That open mindedness helps them become willing to "trade up" to a new set of conceptions and motives which produce successful results. (see pg 27 & Appendix II). New knowledge and more power is always available for those seeking it. (pgs 42 & 46).

 

 

"Thus we grow. And so can you, though you be but one man with this book in your hand. We believe and hope it contains all you will need to begin.

We know what you are thinking. You are saying to yourself: "Iím jittery and alone. I couldnít do that." But you can. You forget that you have just tapped a source of power much greater than yourself. To duplicate, with such backing, what we have accomplished is only a matter of willingness, patience and labor." (pg 163)

Consider that new knowledge is a source of power to be tapped to gain an enlarged awareness of reality (syn: "God"). That enlarged spiritual life is available to anyone seeking to learn more than they already know. Any previous understanding of reality (i.e.: "old ideas and beliefs") will always have limitations. Improved conscious awareness of reality produces a spiritual awakening to more of that power which some refer to as "God". (see Step11).

Regardless of what any alcoholic now believes about reality, there is more. More new knowledge (i.e.: "new truth") is available for discovery. There is access to more power than now exists in the mind of any individual or group of individuals. There is enough more to be understood, that a concept of infinite reality can be applied to it. That infinite concept of "God" opens the door for any alcoholic to endlessly enlarge their spiritual life. (see pgs 12, 14-15, 35, 68, 129 & Step 11).

For this author, that revolutionary concept pointed to an unfamiliar path of enlarging a spiritual life by improving conscious awareness of reality. It was a "new idea" that no one need be limited by their "old ideas". Of greatest significance was, that an existing belief system could be changed. Something once believed to be impossible could be changed into a belief that it was possible.

That new idea suggested freedom of the individual who wanted to do so to change any belief by placing a demand upon their own mind. For this author, that implied complete freedom to "believe anything I wanted to believe", regardless of how well it agreed with reality. It was also self-evident that anyone lacking all knowledge and perfect intelligence could easily believe something that was not true.

For many alcoholics, that unstable concept of reality (i.e.: "God") can be emotionally disturbing because the universe they live in is the one their mind believes it to be. (pg 23 & Step 2). Their belief system includes their personal power to create changes. For an alcoholic, the new concept can be pretty "heady stuff". It implies a new freedom and a different relationship about who does what to whom as a "fundamental idea of God". (see pgs 12, 23, 55, 83, 133 & 164).

One bit of reality, which is equally available to all, became self-evident.

"YOU HAVE THE CAPACITY TO CHANGE THE UNIVERSE-

BUT ONLY BY THE COUNT OF ONE"

For an alcoholic, this is the freedom to eliminate one drinking alcoholic from the universe and replace it with one sober alcoholic. Changing others may not be possible, but the chances for personal success are nearly 100%. It is possible, to let go of erroneous beliefs and accept reality. The experience of others has already demonstrated this is possible. Their statement to any alcoholic is:

"Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path" (page 58

For alcoholics who still believe they lack power to change, (see pg 45) those early members go on to suggest:

"But there is One who has all power - that One is God. May you find Him now!" (page 59)

If the reader is asking - "Where do I go to get power to change the universe?" (pg 45). Successfully recovered alcoholics have stated:

"We finally saw that faith in some kind of God was a part of our make-up.....We found the Great Reality deep down within us. In the last analysis it is only there that He may be found." (page 55)

Consider the word "only", and what that word means when changing a belief structure guiding your life. It suggests individual access to the intelligent power of some new knowledge which is greater than you now possess. Also consider that same power in relationship to "three pertinent ideas" about how the AA program works. (see pg 60). Paraphrased, they suggest that:

    • (a) The individual alcoholic does not have all the answers.
    • (b) Neither does any group of humans, including the spokesmen for traditional religions.
    • (c) But, if you choose to seek more new knowledge, you find relief within your own mind as you improve your personal understanding of reality.

Relief comes by tapping into some infinite source of power you find within yourself. (pg 163). If you choose, this can become your own "fundamental concept of God" and what the word "God" means to your own mind (pg 12 & 55). Should you choose to hold on to "old ideas" which have exclusive limits, then any spiritual progress will include those same restrictive limitations.

THERE IS A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN "BEING A POWER"

AND "GIVING A POWER A DIRECTION"

What any power does is determined by the direction provided by the user of that power. The fundamental nature of a power does not change to suit any belief system or a desire to be right. Those principles stay the same, regardless of how well it is understood. Power just works the way it works according to whatever principles apply. (review Appendix I - Tradition 12 "The Long Form").

For an alcoholic, this relationship is akin to having access to a cross-country high-tension electrical power cable. That power can be used to light cities or destroy lives. Direction given to any power relies upon knowledge and understanding of that power. Any consequences are determined by the way the power receives direction. Those decisions will be limited by beliefs about how the power works. An alcoholic is free to use any available power to do what they want done. (i.e.: "their prayer" see pg 59). In the hands of a child or a fool, access to infinite power can be applied with dangerous and destructive consequences.

Restrictive thinking and a limited belief system creates a concept of "a power greater than ourselves" that overlooks making improved choices. (Step 11). Spiritual progress enlarges that belief system and allows something previously believed to be impossible to be changed into a belief it is possible.

A MIRACLE IS SOMETHING WHICH HAPPENS

YOU DIDNíT BELIEVE COULD HAPPEN?

Personal experience follows about using this principle which merely illustrates a potential for any alcoholic to tap into an unlimited source of "power greater than ourselves". It implies that any alcoholic has a potential, within themselves, to use power to produce miracles. (i.e.: "the miracle of recovery" see pgs 55 & 163).

This author first scoffed at the idea and suggestion that beliefs could be changed. Especially when it was suggested that a demand upon my own mind could change a belief something was impossible into a belief it was possible. With a heavy streak of defiance, the suggestion was rejected as unintelligent, ridiculous, hence unbelievable. The honest emotional desire was to establish that "what I already believed" was correct. However, my own inherent intelligence did consciously recognize that personal improvement was possible. (Steps 10 & 11).

There was a strong emotional need to prove any personal problems were not of my own making. That belief system implied being the victim of some intelligence which had singled me out for special attention. At the time, that old idea fit a belief about a very special relationship to some "power greater than ourselves". That somewhat self-centered attitude never considered that a personal choice to create "self-improvement" might also be available.(see pgs 14-15, 35, 53, 55, 62, 68, 133 & 164).

Exposure to the AA program produced overwhelming evidence that "other equal human beings" (i.e.: "equal in the eyes of God") had changed their lives. Many claimed to have once believed many of the same things that had been guiding my life. If I wanted equal understanding of new knowledge others had, then, there was a need to follow their path to success with an open mind. (pg 58). A strong desire to "stay alive and carry my own keys", (i.e.: "a prayer") made it important to know if they were speaking the truth. (syn: "God"). Especially so when they said "you have the freedom to change what you believe is impossible into a belief it is possible"?

With a strong streak of defiance, the most ridiculous and impossible thing imaginable at that time was "a belief in flying elephants". Certainly that was so outrageous no one could ever even argue about it. My task was to change that belief of the impossible into a new belief that it was possible. This was all supposed to occur based upon my own desire (i.e.: "prayer") to "change my belief". Though more than a little skeptical, I decided to give the idea my best shot by demanding my own mind reveal that "it was possible for elephants to fly". Here is what happened.

Soon, I recalled having read about someone in Nevada who had bred horses to the size of a large dog. It had taken time, but it had been done. "Why not elephants too?". "Just how small could they eventually become?". That was an unknown open to speculation.

A Zoology professor in college had shown that certain tree squirrels had developed skin flaps to help them leap long distances for food. Those that got food were able to breed offspring. Eventually, some of their offspring were able to glide through the air, and that was "flying". "Why not elephants?".

Today, DNA engineers manipulate and modify many life forms. "Why not the physical characteristics of elephants?". Was it totally inconceivable that science might one day be able to reduce elephants to the size tree squirrels? Or, manipulate other genetic changes where tiny elephants might fly as some squirrels now do? Certainty was being displaced and rearranged. (review pg 27).

The next change in my belief system was to acknowledge that if government had a security interest in elephants that could fly, then time and resources would be applied to producing results. Though it probably would not happen overnight, it could happen. Other projects, once believe impossible, had become possible. "We put a man on the moon, didnít we?".

My own mind recalled that, many years ago, when taking high school Chemistry, the experts then believed that "the atom was the fundamental building block of the universe and indestructible". Soon after, that belief system got shattered at a Cyclotron in Berkeley, California by the Galileo of our modern era. Humanities view of reality and the universe (i.e.: "God") is now quite different. Our view of reality, as a result of that new knowledge of the power of atomic energy has improved. Obviously, in the hands of a fool it can create problems.

By placing a specific demand upon my own mind for new knowledge, I had to acknowledge something I once believed to be impossible could be changed into a belief that it was possible. The resulting conclusion was that:

IF KNOWLEDGE IS INFINITE, THEN

IGNORANCE IS ALSO INFINITE!

From a practical standpoint, the reader will readily recognize that they are not apt to be making any serious decisions based upon having access to flying elephants during their lifetime. That would not be intelligent. However, it is important to acknowledge that some of our most sacred beliefs are subject to change. Therefore, any choice to hold onto "old ideas" is a matter of your own personal preference.

The great obsession of every abnormal drinker that "somehow, someday he will control and enjoy drinking" is included. It is possible that science may one day accomplish this. However, it is also very apparent that "it hasnít done so yet". (pgs 30-31). How intelligent it would be for an alcoholic to bet their life and freedom on an unproved theory is their personal choice of how to use their brains. (pgs 55 & 86).

Just how valuable such a new discovery might be is open to speculation. Perhaps akin to recent discoveries of how older women, past menopause, can now conceive and bear children. That "blessing" may hold little appeal for many women now freed from raising small children. With that behind them, some have discovered a new freedom and new happiness which they now prefer.

Drinking for an alcoholic is no less demanding than parenting upon their time and freedom. They either want to drink or they want to do something else more. No one else does their "wanting" (i.e.: "praying") for them. The price paid for drinking is the loss of freedom to do other things, or make alternative choices, at the same time.

Though only the alcoholic makes the decision to drink, it has been suggested there are only seven basic reasons for making that choice. For those who donít know what those reasons are, they are: "Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday - etc.".

Any intelligent choice will have certain requirements for understanding what is to be gained and what is to be lost by the choice. It is important to have an intelligent basis for comparison of differences. Without that awareness, any choice will be made in ignorance of available new knowledge.

Many alcoholics ignore the power of new knowledge and the practical experience acquired by recovered alcoholics. This personal choice to ignore new knowledge leaves them powerless to compare sobriety with a drinking way of life. They have automatically excluded themselves from any advantages to sobriety. (see pgs 12, 23, 27, 42, 45-49, 53, 56, 62, 83-87, 93, & 133).

Some valuable lessons can be learned from the exercise of "changing a belief". One is the discovery that there is new knowledge about anything which is now a guiding force in your life. (pg 27). The supply appears to be infinite. (see pg 68). Another lesson is in how to utilize new knowledge in all our relations and all our affairs to improve being happy, joyous and free. (see pg 133, & Steps 10, 11, 12).

Before a spiritual experience can produce a fundamental change in ideas, emotions and attitudes guiding an alcoholic, some indispensable elements are required. They are a mental state of willingness, honesty and open-mindedness. The only place to find that power is "deep down within yourself". (See pages 23, 27, 55 and Appendix II).

 

* * * * *

SECTION B03e:

Preliminary to Chapter 4

WE AGNOSTICS

STEP TWO: - Contíd

"Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity." (pg 59)

READ:

Scan the entire Chapter 4 - WE AGNOSTICS to gain familiarity with the entire contents of the chapter. More specific page readings will follow.

COMMENTS:

This next portion of STEP-TWO is focused upon the idea of some sort of "a Power greater than ourselves". With that thought comes the implication some sort of intelligence actually exists and human beings are connected to it in some manner. Furthermore, that, as individuals, they have the capacity to utilize that Power to produce changes in their personal lives. That is the essence of Step Two.

For adherents of many traditional religions, there is no question about such matters. Oftentimes, those individuals will speak with great authority, even claiming to know precise details about what that power is, where it is, what it wants, and how to gain special favor with it.

In contrast, there are others who claim, with equal certitude, that no such power exists. Both are doing the same thing. They are claiming knowledge which is beyond the scope of human intelligence. They do this either as "devout believers" or "emphatic non-believers". Both are voicing their personal belief system. Something based upon what they believe and their personal right to believe it. In this Study Guide there is no argument against the right of anyone to believe anything about anything.

Between the two extremes of the devoutly religious and the atheists, there are a large number of alcoholics with an honest desire to stop drinking. Many have questions or doubt the accuracy of what other equal human beings are telling them. Being sufficiently honest with themselves, they are willing to admit they do not know. (see pg 53). They are seeking answers they do not possess, and suspect that what others claim to know is not much better. However, if they are open minded, this allows them to consider new knowledge and new ideas about different answers. (see Appendix II).

Many alcoholics come to AA questioning the accuracy of ideas, emotions and attitudes which have been guiding forces in their lives. Usually, their old ideas reflect a belief system acquired during early childhood which has never been challenged by their own inherent intelligence. (see pgs 27 & 86). Many of those concepts came from well-meaning, but frequently mistaken adults. Many develop a "show-me" attitude which includes willingness to accept new ideas if someone can demonstrate they are an improvement to which they can "trade up".

Many alcoholics who proclaim to adhere to "traditional religious beliefs" are, in all honesty, a bit skeptical. They have nagging doubts over "too many unanswered questions". Nonetheless, they remain nominally religious on the surface. However, once engaged in an honest self-examination many simply discover that "they just do not know". (pg 53). Their religion does not provide intelligent answers to questions existing in their own mind. Many alcoholics are uncomfortable when a very religious person asks them to abandon their own inherent intelligence to accept, with "blind faith", something they are being told by some equal human being. For many of them the unhappy choice is to be gullible and agree, or else be excluded from the group. (see pgs 47 & 86).

Fear of exclusion is frequently aggravated by "pressures to conform". (see Tradition 3 - long form). Often what gets overlooked is that there may be others, within that same group who also have similar doubts. They too are unwilling to display their own ignorance and lack of conformity. This leads to superficial relationships where each one is being "phony" with the others when expressing their beliefs about "a power greater than themselves". Such a personal belief system can create a great deal of inner turmoil. (see pg 23).

In the book "Alcoholics Anonymous" Chapter 4 "WE AGNOSTICS" addresses some of those questions. It may contain valuable information for many alcoholics by providing them a concept of the word "God" as a source of "infinite intelligence" available to anyone. (pgs 12, 46, 53 & 68).

This author suggests the reader ponder the sky on some starlit night for a recognizable demonstration of order in the Universe. It is something which is still beyond the limits of human comprehension.

Where there is order, there is evidence some intelligence produced the orderliness. Inability to completely understand that intelligence seems to be one common denominator for any and all human minds. One belief system is as valid as another unless it is based upon principles supported by facts and reality.(syn: "God").

For the alcoholic reader who may believe they know precisely what that intelligence is, a few questions are worth answering. They involve the ideas, emotions and attitudes which are guiding forces in your life. This is the thinking process which determine actions that impact your life. (see pgs 23, 27 & Step 11).

.

1.   How much knowledge of the Universe do you now possess?

2.   Is it adequate, or could there be more?

3.   If so, how much more?

4.   Could there be more to life than you now understand?

5.   Can you utilize knowledge you do not possess?

6.   Are you ignoring knowledge you donít yet have?

7.   Is there any intelligence greater than your own?

8.   Do you desire (syn: "pray") to cooperate with it?

9.   Could you improve on that cooperation?

10.               Would your life be improved if you did?

What follows are a few observations which suggest awareness already exists of "a power greater than yourself".(pg 55). It does not require agreement or conformity with many of the traditional religious belief systems.

If you burn your finger, it blisters, and you lose skin. Some intelligence immediately goes to work to replace it, without you even having to ask. Whatever that intelligence is, draws upon infinite resources from the universe. It utilizes food, water and air. You are directly involved in the process by your own personal choice of what gets taken into your physical body.

The "stuff of life" gets processed within your body in a manner already operative within you. (review pg 55). Some intelligence converts what was previously unrelated to you, into new skin for your physical body. Not only does that occur, but it happens with great precision. The exact amount of skin required is put in the precise right place. The color is uniquely your own containing your specific fingerprint and DNA pattern. That process involves new knowledge which is not completely understood by any human being. (see pg 164).

The significant point is that the intelligent orderly process operates automatically. It is not something you must learn to do. It does not require the prior approval of anyone. It is operative in your life without you having to ask, plead, pray or do something pleasing. Nonetheless, there is a personalized element involved when you choose to cooperate or resist.

DO YOU BELIEVE THIS IS RANDOM COINCIDENCE?

That intelligent orderly process can be relied upon to work unless action is taken to interfere with it. Blocking that natural healing process can be done by choice. Few alcoholics would consciously choose to take "self-inflicted wounds" if they understood what they were doing. (see Step 11).

The alcoholic reader will note that interference with the natural inherent healing power can occur as the result of ignorance. Actions can be taken to block improvements without total awareness of those consequences. This conflicts with the most intelligent process which is operating automatically in an effort to put your life into order with the rest of the universe.

Consider the implications of unintentionally resisting that intelligent healing process. It occurs because actions get taken based upon the "mistaken belief" that some other choice was better. That "erroneous belief system" is an example of "self-will run riot", and may qualify as being "insane behavior".

STEP TWO of the AA program for recovery suggests that we:

"Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity." (pg 59)

The results of chosen actions remain the same despite any amount of "sincerity or good intentions". The reliable orderliness, which operates automatically, has been blocked by "some other concept of a power". One that does not produce the same results. (see pg 55).

When that natural orderliness is blocked by some "erroneous belief system", that idea has become "a power greater than yourself". The results are a matter of personal choice and preference. (i.e.: "self-will run riot"). When that belief system is a guiding force, (pgs 23 & 27),there is great significance to the application of Step Ten

"Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it" (pg 59)

Step Two suggests that some power "could restore us to sanity". (see pg 59). This process has value when applied to "a fundamental idea of God". Especially any "second-hand idea" based upon traditional religious explanations of what that word should mean to your mind.(see pgs 12, 23, 53, 55, & 68). This author suggests that:

IF YOU KNEW BETTER YOU WOULD DO BETTER!

There is also the implication in Step Two that sanity previously existed, and that an alcoholic could be restored to that state by some power greater than they now possess. This author suggests a departure from sanity may be the result of resisting the inherent intelligent power already within us. Such resistance would be based upon a "mistaken belief" about reality. (syn: "God").

This is where the alcoholic confronts their own "belief system" within their own thought processes. (pg 23). This is where their "fundamental idea of God" defines whatever intelligence produces orderliness in an infinite universe. (pg 55). On the assumption that the universe is all and everything, the alcoholic has a choice between doing their own thinking, or accepting a "second-hand concept of God" on "blind faith" according to what they have been told by some equal human power.(see pgs 12, 23,,53, 55 & 60(b)).

A sane and more intelligent choice would be to improve conscious understanding, and learn to cooperate with whatever that power might be. (Step 11). Conversely, it would be "insane behavior" if they did not cooperate with whatever knowledge and understanding is available until it is intelligently established that something better is available.

If there really is something more than an "infinite universe" to be considered, then whatever that might be would currently be based upon speculation. Until something is established as factual, one speculative idea is just as valid as any other. On that point, freedom of belief is unrestricted and is strictly a matter of personal preference.

Many alcoholics believe the way an infinite universe operates represents "the Will of God". Those who have other ideas may substitute any other interpretation they prefer. The only criteria for any intelligent evaluation is the results produced by the belief system.

TO THINE OWN SELF BE TRUE

Most humans view "other animals" as "lesser beings". However, it is generally recognized that animals are endowed, by their creator, with basic instincts. They already possess some inherent knowledge of how to be what they are. They have been provided with some fundamental intelligence of how to live in the universe, as it gets presented to them.

Dogs do not attend meetings to learn "how to be a better dog". That observation may appear ridiculous on the surface. However, that belief system changes when it gets applied to the ideas, emotions and attitudes some alcoholics have about other alcoholics. In actual practice, both dogs and small children get trained to conform to different standards of behavior established by human beings. All human beings are equals. (i.e.: "in the eyes of God").

DO YOU BELIEVE YOU WERE ANY DIFFERENT?

At some time in the past, a human power decided what was best for you to believe. (see pgs 60(b) & 62). Admittedly, they probably possessed more awareness of reality (syn: "God" - pg 55) than you had acquired at that time. However, many alcoholics never ever challenge their source of information. (Steps 10 & 11). For an infant, the caring adult in their life is their "God". This remains so until the child gains sufficient knowledge and experience to claim human equality. Some alcoholics never do.

Many children believe the adults in their life always know what is best for them. That belief may or many not be so. However, from a position of authority and control, the adult is able to impose beliefs upon a child the same way they would train a dog. Once trained, those beliefs become the ideas, emotions and attitudes which govern the childís behavior.(pg 27).

Few alcoholics escape some sort of that training. Because their trainer lacked complete knowledge of all and everything, gaps will exist in their belief system. As a result of that lack, mistakes get made which conflict with reality. (syn: "God" - see pg 45).

When conflicts with reality exist, there is usually some pressure to eliminate them. To reduce conflict, there is a need to discard and replace old ideas, emotions, or attitudes. (see pg 27). That can be difficult when they are already firmly established as guiding forces for decisions to take action. Some alcoholics call this process "learning to grow up and become a responsible individual". It is obvious that not every alcoholic wants to free themselves from the beliefs they received from the dominant adults of their childhood.

However, there are many other alcoholics, who were trained to conform, but find they cannot accept the proposition that "other human beings" are their superior. (i.e.: "in the eyes of their creator" - see pg 55). Some inherent intelligence deep down within themselves recognizes their own human equality. Often, their response is to rebel in order to express their own individuality. As a result of this "thinking process" many are easily manipulated. When someone says "yes" they automatically will say "no" in some highly predictable fashion.

Rebellion can become a chosen method of response in life. For many alcoholics it is their response which is still being dictated by the same source of "old ideas, emotions and attitudes". (pg 27). It is their continuing response to the dominant adults who trained them in childhood. It is no longer important if that mental training was by conscious intent, ignorance, or even by default. They are still reacting emotionally to "what others believe".

This "second-hand belief system" specifically includes the meaning of the word "God" to the alcoholic. While it usually occurred with "sincerity and good intentions", that is not always the case. Sometimes a "second-hand belief system" has been forcefully imposed upon a child without them ever being consulted for any in-put about their own desires. (syn: "prayers"). Any freedom to disagree either gets stifled, or else produces "open rebellion". Oftentimes the child gets forced to "stuff their honest feelings" and become "a phony" by conforming outwardly in some superficial manner. Many alcoholics carry that pattern of thought and behavior into their adult life. (see pgs 12, 23 & 27).

Because some adult controls the activities of their life, most children intuitively recognize that resisting a superior force is not sane behavior. For some, conformity becomes such a firmly entrenched mental habit it is difficult to change. (pg 23). Not only are they taught "right and wrong; good and evil; and how to act", but they get told what and how to think by individuals who believe they are "expert world authorities" on those subjects. Sadly, for many alcoholics, those ideas, emotions and attitudes are not compatible with reality. (see pg 27).

THERE IS A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN BEING TOLD

WHAT TO THINK AND LEARNING HOW TO THINK!

Recognition of the difference produces a new freedom to choose different directions when future thinking is involved. (pg 83). That new direction of thinking is directly related to Step Two of the AA program.

Serious mental conflict exists when what you have been taught to believe, is not the reality of life, on lifeís terms. One choice to resolve the conflict involves seeking to improve understanding of those principles which apply to anyone, at any place, and at any time. The only other option is to rely upon speculative wishful thinking based upon beliefs which are not necessarily valid. (pg 68). The reader can decide for themselves which choice they believe would be most sane.

The author of this Study Guide believes that:

INTENTIONAL CONFLICT WITH REALITY

IS INSANE BEHAVIOR

It is not sane behavior to stubbornly let "self-will run riot" by insisting upon holding onto old beliefs, in the face of the Ultimate Reality of Life. (syn: "God" see pg 58). Consider this scenario from a practical standpoint of personal survival for a "Booze-fighter".

You are in a boxing ring with an opponent of endless strength, energy, and stamina. One who knows how to deal with every trick in the technique of boxing. You, on the other hand, may know some tricks, perhaps even a lot, - but certainly not all there is to know.
In the early rounds of your fight, you make a good show for yourself. You show skill and promise, and even land a few spectacular blows. This produces cheers and applause from the spectators. Spurred on for more of their approval, you find you are actually enjoying the challenge.
As the bout goes on, you take a punch or two. Still able to shake it off, you continue , you are undaunted. Your confidence remains high. Then, you take a few more hard punches, and they rattle you a bit. But, not enough to upset your desire for more approval from spectators. So, you pull yourself together and attempt to overpower your opponent.
As you continue, you get slammed to the mat. Not once, but repeatedly in a series of successive blows. You attack your tireless opponent with all the skill, courage and energy you possess. And what happens? You get slammed down again, and again, and again. Now what?

It seems to me, the "Booze-fighter" has a choice. They can stay in the fight, or toss in the towel, surrender and admit they have been beaten by a superior force. (see pg 30).

The world has lost many valuable lives because a "Booze-fighter" tried to stick it out, and "keep on fighting" until there no were no longer any choices or options. But, once they "throw in the towel" the fight stops. The all consuming "battle with booze" is over. Eventually, (with or without aid) the "Booze fighter" is free to do other things. In time, scars and bruises heal unless they go back in the ring for more.

If the alcoholic reader identifies with the "Booze-fighter" you already recognize this bit of your relationship to life, on lifeís terms. By recognizing the reality of your situation, you may have made a decision to change what you have been doing. As the result, you may have already gained new knowledge and learned new and different ways to relate to "a power greater than yourself".

The old idea was a belief that skill and cunning would enable you to gain applause and approval of others. Money, property and prestige were held in high priority esteem as being of supreme value. (review Tradition 6). This produced a belief about being able to wrest satisfaction and happiness out of this world if only you managed well. (see pg 61). However, in the face of "the Great Reality", (i.e.: "God" - pg 55), the emotional desire to win got replaced by a more intelligent and sane desire to survive. (syn: "a prayer")

THE DESIRE FOR SURVIVAL CAN BE STRONGER

THAN THE DESIRE FOR APPROVAL.

This author suggests that change in a belief system about personal moral values was prompted by some inherent intelligence, deep down within the alcoholic, which is capable of recognizing the truth. In a very practical sense, it is a mental attitude, referred to as "surrender". (see pg 23). The AA basic text suggests the inherent intelligence to recognize and cooperate with "the Great Reality" comes from deep down within yourself. (syn: "God" pg 55).

As a consequence of choices made with improved intelligence, sanity and understanding of "the Great Reality", something happens.

"We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it." (pg 83)

As the result of valid new knowledge, a valuable lesson gets learned about how to accept a new freedom to consciously improve future contacts with reality. (Step 11). This revelation of truth is like the light-hearted comment about a nursery rhyme

"There was an Old Woman who Lived in a Shoe.

She had so many Children, she didnít know what to do!"

AND THEN SHE DISCOVERED

WHAT CAUSED THEM!

With an enlarged awareness of reality comes freedom to change and devote attention to other matters. It is no longer necessary to continually repeat making the same mistakes. Not unless there is a return to the automatic habits and behavior of old ideas because the lessons were forgotten. This may be the single most significant reason why some members of AA continue attendance at meetings. How safe do you want to be?

It is well to recognize other beatings in life may occur as the result of other failures to cooperate with reality. There are endless other lessons to be learned in life, but the principle is the same.

An alcoholic can end their career, as a "booze-fighter". It can be ended by "throwing in the towel". Any such choice to "surrender" would likely be considered an "enlarged spiritual life". Making that choice demonstrates "an improved conscious contact with God" (syn: "The Ultimate Reality of Life")" which results in "being restored to sanity". (see pgs 14-15, 35, Steps 2 &11).

The desire for that kind of sanity, and making the choice to "surrender", belongs exclusively to the individual alcoholic. So do the results of whatever action gets taken. Fortunately, for any alcoholic reader, the chances for success in the recovery process are nearly 100%.

"Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path" (pg 58)

* * * * *

SECTION B04a:

Chapter 4

WE AGNOSTICS

STEP TWO: - Contíd

"Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity."

READ:

The entire Chapter 4 - WE AGNOSTICS with awareness of preliminary comments made in the two previous sections.

COMMENTS:

The two previous sections have attempted to put this Chapter into context. Specifically, that AAís basic text for recovery does not include the duality of most traditional religions. Any basic belief of "good and evil" is not an integral part of the AA program. Instead, the emphasis is placed upon a "cause and effect" relationship to "the Great Reality" of life, on lifeís terms. This includes a concept of the word "God" as being an intelligence responsible for an orderly universe of infinite proportions. (see pgs 12, 45, 53, 55, 68, 164, & Appendix II).

This fundamental idea of "a power greater than ourselves" is a process which gets developed and improved within the finite limits of human intelligence. For the most part, it is the result of an ever-expanding conscious awareness and understanding of what is and is not life, on lifeís terms. (Step 11). Furthermore, that any such fundamental idea of God is a personal concept which varies by individuals. (see pgs 12, 23, 27-28, 35, 39, 42,45-49, 53-56, 77,85-87,89,93-95, 98-100, 129, 133, 152,158,161, 163-164 & Appendix II).

Traditional religious belief systems are not universal to all who have recovered from alcoholism. This is in contrast to results which are demonstrated by using the principles found in the basic text of the AA program. Accordingly, any "fundamental idea of God" is individual. It is a personal interpretation of the meaning of that three-letter word "God".

It is on that point the adherents of many traditional religions find their minds will snap shut. Instead of having willingness, honesty and open-mindedness to consider new ideas, many abandon their own "God-given intelligence" and become emotionally irrational. It is precisely that mental action which is the essence of Step Two. (review pgs 23, & 36-38).

"MY INSANITY IS SUPERIOR TO YOUR INSANITY!"

Once again any reader, who finds themselves being emotionally disturbed by what is found in the basic text for recovery from alcoholism, is warned to set aside the material in this Study Guide - now.

This Study Guide will not change anything which is real. However, reading this material may disrupt some old ideas, emotions and attitudes which are guiding forces in your life. (pg 27). If you do not want that to happen, then donít continue reading. Any choice to continue is your own.

What follows will address some issues concerning personal belief systems" held by alcoholics. There are many who experience difficulty accepting the words "God" or "spiritual", as having any significance in their personal recovery from alcoholism.

"To one who feels he is an atheist or agnostic such an experience seems impossible....". (pg 44)

It is suggested that the operative word here is "seems". With new knowledge and an enlarged awareness of reality, a different mental outlook can occur. What once "seemed impossible", now can be viewed as "possible".

New knowledge has produced a change in the way of looking at reality. The word "God" conveys an "idea" about "the Great Reality" of life, on lifeís terms. (pgs 55 & 161). That mental concept exists in the mind of the alcoholic using the word. (pg 23). That same word "God" may have a totally different meaning to a different alcoholic when they hear it. It is rare to find two alcoholics who will apply identical meanings when that word is used.

If someone tells you they now have "Buddha in their liver" the chances are you would not understand what they meant. It may have great emotional significance to them, but not for you personally. But what happens if someone suggests you should find "Jesus in your heart"? Is there a difference? Do you really know what that means? Is it not self-evident that what is being said is something highly personal with strong emotional overtones? For that reason, it is an important part of recovery for alcoholics to examine their personal "belief system" for errors. (pgs 12, 27, 42,46).

DO YOU BELIEVE THAT

WHAT YOU BELIEVE MORE IMPORTANT

THAN WHAT THEY BELIEVE?

If so, why do you believe what you believe ? Those ideas, emotions and attitudes make up your personal belief system and determine the actions taken in your life. They include your fundamental idea of God which is a guiding force in your life. (see pgs 27 & 55). From a purely practical view, your personal beliefs about the word "God" are either producing results you desire (syn: "what you pray for") or not.

If your belief system is working to your satisfaction, then use it. If not, you may wish to seek something different. If your dominant desire (syn: "prayer") is to be happy, joyous and free and you are not, then it is suggested that you take action and make changes to improve and enlarge your spiritual life. (see pgs 14-15, 35, 133 & Step 11). On the premise that new knowledge allows an alcoholic to make improvements, there is always more of that power available to anyone.

"Well, that's exactly what this book is about. It's main object is to enable you to find a Power greater than yourself which will solve your problem." ....... "We found that as soon as we were able to lay aside prejudice and express even a willingness to believe in a Power greater than ourselves, we commenced to get results, .....". "Much to our relief, we discovered we did not need to consider another's conception of God. Our own conception, however inadequate, was sufficient ......". (pgs 45-46)

At this point, the alcoholic reader of the basic text for recovery is asked a specific question:

"Do I now believe, or am I even willing to believe that there is a Power greater than myself?" (pg 47)

The answer you give, to your own mind, may well determine success or failure in your recovery from alcoholism. (pg 23). After that, it becomes a matter details and facts about what you believe. Recognize that your belief may not necessarily be consistent with the Ultimate Reality of Life.(syn: "God").

The question gets addressed in the basic text as to "why" someone should believe in a Power greater than themselves. To consider limited finite human understanding of an infinite universe as being "all there is", smacks of arrogance. It is a mental attitude which is not justified by overwhelming evidence of new knowledge. There are too many new facts of life so self-evident that they cannot be denied with any claim of intelligence.

Any denial of reality appears to be an emotional desire rather than any sustainable claim of intelligence. Some emotionally religious alcoholics prefer to abandon their own intelligence in favor of countless vain attempts to force reality into conforming with the way they want it to be. (see pgs 30, 60-62).

When there is a difference between beliefs and reality, there will be a conflict. That conflict can block or obstruct personal happiness, joy and freedom when dealing with life, on lifeís terms. Nonetheless, large numbers of alcoholics insist upon retaining those conflicts for their entire lifetime. However:

THERE IS ALWAYS MORE AWARENESS

AVAILABLE TO ANYONE

One problem for many religions is that they rely upon an emotional belief system using finite human intelligence in an attempt to understand and explain the infinite reality of life, on lifeís terms. Such a belief system does not stand up well to a concept of God as infinite intelligence. (syn: "omniscient" - pg 68). Human intelligence is limited by what is now known and understood. However, it is capable of being enlarged by improved conscious understanding of what is available to be known. (Step 11).

"Instead of regarding ourselves as intelligent agents, spearheads of Godís ever advancing Creation, we agnostics and atheists chose to believe that our human intelligence was the last word, the alpha and the omega, the beginning and end of all. Rather vain of us, wasnít it?" (pg 49)

As "spearheads of something greater than ourselves", there is always room for spiritual growth into the unknown of the universe.

Any concept of spiritual growth is difficult to reconcile with many traditional religions when their belief systems define boundaries or reject some element of reality. This occurs when some human intelligence claims to possess knowledge of "the Will of God". The claim itself is personal and is not a problem until what is believed gets imposed upon others. Even that imposition need not be a problem if there is equality given to the beliefs of others. (i.e.: "equal in the eyes of God").

There is a problem with a belief system when it denies any idea of human equality to those who disagree. When what someone believes is harmonious with reality, any conflict can be resolved with sufficient new knowledge.

"People of faith have a logical idea of what life is all about." (pg 49)

The problems with "blind faith" occur when what is believed becomes undeniably in conflict with life on lifeís terms and how it is being experienced by other alcoholics. Many people with faith in traditional religious concepts find their beliefs make intelligent good sense to them. Their belief system provides them a fundamental idea of what life is about and it is acceptable to them. While it is useful and valuable to them, they do not expect agreement or that their beliefs will be understood by other alcoholics. Their personal idea of what life is about may be logical to their own mind. That is not the point. Something is "true" not because someone believes or said it is. It is true because it IS true.

The fundamental premise about life, which supports a belief system either does or does not, conform to reality.

This author submits that any limited concept of reality (syn: "God") will produce a limited belief system as the guiding force in life. (see pg 27). Conversely, an unlimited concept (pgs 53 & 68) offers endless opportunity for more spiritual growth. (pgs 14-15, 35, 129 & 164). The result of any spiritual progress is an improved understanding of reality. (syn: "God" - see pg 27 & Step 11).

Many alcoholics, experience difficulty accepting limited concepts of reality. (i.e.: "God" - pgs 55 & 161). Not because the belief system is wrong, but because it is inadequate for the needs of life, on lifeís terms.

A desire (i.e.: "prayer") for something "more" creates a need to "seek something more" (see pg 60 a, b & c). That observation can be paraphrased by the statement:

MORE TRUTH NEEDS MORE "GOD" TO EXPLAIN IT

Problems can result from "blind faith" within the limited and exclusive framework of many traditional religious beliefs about the word "God". Those kinds of problems became the basis for preparation of this Study Guide for alcoholics with a similar difficulties accepting reality.

As an illustration:

"Some contemporaries of Columbus thought the idea of a round earth was preposterous." Their concept of reality included a belief in a "flat earth", which of itself is a harmless fantasy. But, put that belief system into action, and what happens?

One or two of the men who believe the earth is flat, get aboard a ship with Columbus at the helm. As Columbus takes them toward what they believe to be the edge of the earth, their fear increases.

Ultimately, there is a fear for survival based upon an "erroneous premise" that the earth is flat. With that belief system operative, as a guiding force in their lives, they may also believe it would be justifiable homicide to throw Columbus over the side.

Such action would be a rational decision based upon a logical idea of what life is all about. However, that impeccable logic would be based upon a belief system with a false premise that "the earth is flat".

What was erroneous was a belief in something which was not consistent with the Ultimate Reality of life.

It should be noted that alcoholics are held accountable and responsible for their actions.

Therefore, the alcoholic reader is advised to consider that:

WHAT YOU DO AFFECTS WHAT HAPPENS TO YOU

Because part of a belief is erroneous does not necessarily mean the entire belief system does not have some validity. That is a mistake often made by those alcoholics who completely reject all of the values found in traditional religions. This attitude is akin to "throwing out the baby with the bath-water". Some old ideas may be based upon an "erroneous belief system" while other elements retain their value and usefulness and continue to have practical application.

As a further example:

Galileo's views were once labeled as religious heresies when he claimed the earth moved. An "infallible authority on God" said, "the earth stands still". There was practical proof provided by a method of celestial navigation at sea. The navigator charts a course based upon the movement of the stars in the heavens.

Many of those methods of navigation are still used today. Within certain limits, they continue to have practical application and are still useful to those functioning within the boundaries of that harmless illusion about reality.

It is also worth noting that, after 300 years of accumulated new knowledge one "infallible authority on God" felt compelled to proclaimed "the previous infallible authority had been mistaken".

The point is that there is always "more truth" to be learned about reality. Even by those who are your chosen experts on "God".

EVERYONE STANDS ON THE THRESHOLD BETWEEN

INFINITE KNOWLEDGE AND INFINITE IGNORANCE.

At this point, the alcoholic reader may have noticed a difference between a personal belief and those universal principles which govern all life on lifeís terms. (i.e.: "God" see pgs 53, 68 & Appendix I -Tradition 12).

Such a difference is of no great consequence unless there is a problem.

But, when other concepts produce successful results you are unable to duplicate, it becomes obvious they may know something new or different. If their results are desirable, it is difficult to argue with their success.

"When we saw others solve their problems by a simple reliance upon the Spirit of the Universe, we had to stop doubting the power of God. Our ideas did not work. But the God idea did." (pg 52)

For the alcoholic willing to examine their personal belief system, some questions arise.

    • Are the fundamental beliefs guiding your life based upon principles or your personal preferences?
    • Do you ask "is it moral" or "does it work"?
    • Which set of "standards" do you use?
    • Why do you believe one is better than the other?

There are many choices of moral standards which are available. However, universal principles have universal application which are equal for all. When personal preferences conflict with reality, a change may be required. (see pg 42, Steps 4 & 11).

The alcoholic reader is advised to investigate whom, or what is the "moral authority" for their life. How certain are you of their credentials or their validity to be one? Why have you chosen them to guide your actions? "Are they your God?" Remember that it is your actions for which you will be held accountable as an individual during this lifetime.

It is recognized that "other ideas and beliefs" may have a greater range of consideration. Your present belief system may have elements of usefulness. However, recognize that, just as a concept of this planet being the center of the universe still has value for nautical navigation, that same belief system is not adequate for a spaceship landing on the moon.

On that note, you may wish to consider comments and references in Appendix II concerning "open-mindedness". What is your attitude when new knowledge is presented for consideration? There is a simple "cause and effect" relationship involved in recovery from alcoholism.

"It is the work done that is alone of moment, and the way in which it works, on the whole that is the final test of a belief."

Thus far, more alcoholics have become sober by utilizing the principles of the AA program than from any other approach. (see pgs 44 & 45) It may not be "moral" or "good" by traditional standards of medicine, religion or psychiatry, but, it does work, and there is more to be revealed: (see pg 164)

IT IS HARD TO ARGUE WITH SUCCESS

.

For the alcoholic seeking personal recovery there is a question of personal priority. Is it more important for you:

o    To achieve successful results?
or

o    Conform to a "second-hand belief system"?

Some significant comments about the word "God" are to be found in this portion of AAís basic text for recovery. Being open minded to different concepts and new knowledge may help the alcoholic who is experiencing difficulty with the way that word "God" gets used by the authorities of many traditional religions.

The observation has been made that a fundamental idea of God is an inherent part of everyoneís make-up and is to be found within ourselves. Furthermore, that it is only there that idea may be found. (pg 55)

It has also been suggested that, by thinking honestly, and searching diligently, if you wish, you can join in a recovery process which produces successful results. (see pg 58). This introduces questions about beliefs in human equality.

The AA recovery process still works better than any other approach thus far. With emphasis placed upon the process, this author suggests that when the alcoholic reader is seeking to enlarge their understanding of "a power greater than ourselves":

THE THING YOU ARE LOOKING FOR, IS

THE THING YOU ARE LOOKING WITH.

THE POWER YOU ARE SEEKING is your own fundamental idea of God. There is more than exists now which is available from within your present and limited conscious understanding of reality. It is possible there may be an infinite amount more new knowledge which can be discovered and revealed from within your own mind, if you seek it. (review pgs 23, 27 & 60).

The alcoholic reader who is serious about their own recovery process may wish to review the entire basic text with this thought in mind. This author strongly recommends that you do so. You may discover you already possess some inherent intelligence and the power to recognize the truth.

Though you may question human equality in other matters, regardless of how morally superior you might consider yourself to be, you cannot utilize knowledge you do not possess. (see pgs 68 & 164). Only a mind willing, honest and open-minded to the acceptance of new knowledge will be able to improve. What gets improved is a conscious contact with that Ultimate Reality of All Life which gets defined by use of the three-letter word "God". It is suggested that this mental action qualifies as "spiritual progress". (see pg 60).

An alcoholic who was emotionally attached to an old idea raised an important question concerning the validity of all beliefs of all religious people. (see pg 56). His problem was not with "God", (syn: "the Great Reality"- pg 55), but rather with his own "fundamental idea of God", and the claims made by others.

It is worth noting that, from within his own mind came a thought. One which acknowledged there might be finite limitations to his beliefs.(review pgs 53, 55-56, & 68). By questioning his own belief system he was able to displace and rearrange the ideas, emotions and attitudes which had been guiding his life. (see pg 27).

A thought produced the change. That thought came from within his own mind. This is where the real problem existed. (see pg 23).

That change in attitude was a vital spiritual experience produced by a willingness to believe there was something more than what he already understood. (see pgs 12, 23,27 & Appendix II).

This "revelation of reality" (i.e.: "God") occurred by honestly and open-mindedly being willing to ask of his own mind the question:

"Who are you to say there is no God?"

This author suggests his own mind discovered a simple truth concerning his personal importance in an infinite universe. Where "Truth" is a valid synonymy for the word "God", it follows that he acquired "a conscious contact with God". It was a revelation of truth and a "vital spiritual experience" which included a concept of something which existed beyond the range of human understanding. (see pgs 27, 53, 68 & Appendix I - Tradition 12).

As an equal human being, in the eyes of his Creator, he had enlarged his spiritual life. (see pgs 14-15, 35, 129, 164 & Appendix II) It came by seeking an improved understanding of "the Great Reality" which is God. (see pgs 53, 55, 60(c), 161 & Step 11).

The reader may observe that this "revelation of reality" occurred while he was thinking about his thinking. That mental action has value as a definition for the word "meditation". (see pg 23 & Step 11). You may wish to use it in your recovery process.

* * * * *

SECTION B05a:

Chapter 5

HOW IT WORKS

STEP TWO: - Contíd

"Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity."

READ:

From the beginning of Chapter 5 - HOW IT WORKS, commencing with "Rarely have we seen a person fail..." to page 60 (c) ending with "That God could and would if He were sought"..

COMMENTS:

This is the portion of the basic text for recovery from alcoholism which is frequently read at the beginning of many AA meetings. The reader should be aware that the comments provided in this Study Guide about any portion of the AA Big Book, are those of a single individual speaking or writing as "a member of Alcoholics Anonymous." (see Foreword to First Edition).

No individual member is entitled to speak for the AA Fellowship as a whole. Accordingly, the reader should be aware that these comments are expressing personal ideas, emotions or attitudes. (see pg 27). There are no claims made to be an authority. No endorsement by AA or any other activity is intended or implied The reader is free to accept or reject any of the contents of this Study Guide according to whatever value they might receive by considering the personal views of this author.

In preceding chapters, the personal powerlessness, insane behavior, and need for power, of the alcoholic, were illustrated. It was established, that other alcoholics had recovered from their condition by tapping a source of power greater than they previously possessed. Power is power and:

ANY POWER FUNCTIONS ACCORDING TO CERTAIN PRINCIPLES

There is no evidence any part of the universe is functioning differently. The reader of AAís basic text has already been asked to choose a personal concept of an infinite power referred to as "God". (see pg 12).

"When we became alcoholics, crushed by a self-imposed crisis we could not postpone or evade, we had to fearlessly face the proposition that either God is everything or else He is nothing. God either is, or He isnít. What was our choice to be?" (pg 53)

If the reader has chosen to believe the proposition that "God is everything", then there is nothing which is "not God". Of necessity, that would include all power. (pg 59).

Life functions according to certain principles which may or may not be understood by the alcoholic who is experiencing them. (see Step 11). Those principles have endless implications as more new knowledge about "the Great Reality" is revealed. (pgs 55, 161 & 164). Many alcoholics believe those principles are "The Laws of Nature" or "Godís Laws". (see pgs 93-94). Whatever else they might be, and regardless of how well they are understood, they are non-negotiable conditions. They govern all of life, as lifeís terms for human existence. The religious alcoholic should feel free to substitute any concept with a more intelligent explanation of reality.

The "power of God" is either "everything or nothing". Any ideas, emotions or attitudes about that power are based upon a personal belief system. (see pgs 12, 23, 27, 53 & 55). Either all or nothing! That is as much as any human being can comprehend during this lifetime. Whatever life is, that is all there is.

However, during this lifetime, there is an infinite supply of more power to be found by seeking new knowledge of reality. (i.e.: "God"- see pgs 55 & 161). Any alcoholic who uses that power with intelligence will seek to improve their understanding of the principles by which that power operates. They have a need to know if they desire (i.e.: "pray") to minimize personal mistakes in judgment. Anything which may occur beyond this lifetime is still speculation based upon some chosen personal belief system. That speculation will quite naturally involve a belief about how the principles of power work for them.

"Lack of power, that was our dilemma. We had to find a power by which we could live, and it had to be a Power greater than ourselves. Obviously. But where and how were we to find this Power?

Well, thatís exactly what this book is about. Its main object is to enable you to find a Power greater than yourself which will solve your problem. That means we have written a book which we believe to be spiritual as well as moral." (pg 45)

A principle works the same for anyone, anywhere, at any time. Principles do not apply only to special groups, and not all others. Whenever someone claims to base their life upon "Godís Laws", they are of necessity referring to "those principles" which govern life on lifeís terms. This implies they are privy to "all knowledge and all understanding". (see Steps 10 & 11). On that point, this author suggests that:

INFINITE POWER REQUIRES INFINITE KNOWLEDGE

FOR COMPLETE UNDERSTANDING.

 

 

In most traditional religions, there exist emotional arguments to the contrary. Almost invariably a traditional religious belief system will exclude some portion of reality. Any such belief system will conflict with the proposition that "the power of God is everything" because something in life gets excluded as "not being God".

The alcoholic reader will decide for themselves what they choose to believe. That choice will be influenced by whomever they have chosen as an authority in their life. Many alcoholics have problems accepting any authority.

Someone demonstrating success with how a principle works is qualified to tell others what they did to produce those results. Alcoholics who have recovered from "a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body" are qualified to comment on their own experience. This experience has validity, despite any other differences. However:

PERSONAL EXPERTISE IN ONE AREA

MAY NOT EXTEND INTO OTHERS.

In Chapter 5 the reader is offered specific experience of early AA members concerning recovery from alcoholism. With the validity of their own experience and success as the basis of their authority, they inform any alcoholic that:

"Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path." (pg 58)

The good news for the still suffering alcoholic is that their personal

chances for recovery are about 100%. The bad news is they must do what the others did to recover.

This places personal responsibility upon an individual alcoholic to decide if they want what those early members had. If they are "willing to go to any length to get it", then that decision and desire becomes a reasonable definition of "a prayer for new knowledge". Only the individual can really decide what it is that they want. The choice is a simple one, and personal responsibility is inescapable.

Some alcoholics cannot or will not make decisions in their own behalf. Institutions and others will often try to fill their needs. (pg 60(b)).

There are alcoholics who will prefer to have someone else run their lives for them. Many of them cannot or will not accept the truth about themselves or take any responsibility for the consequences of their own actions. This may be due to some inborn defect which is beyond the scope of the AA program. The early members of AA recognized this:

"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. There are such unfortunates. They are not at fault; they seem to have been born that way. They are naturally incapable of grasping and developing a manner of living which demands rigorous honesty. Their chances are less than average. There are those, too, who suffer from grave emotional and mental disorders, but many of them do recover if they have the capacity to be honest." (pg 58)

Serious mental or emotional problems need not completely bar an alcoholic from recovery. Remember, that the capacity to be honest, is essential to the recovery process. A "limited capacity to be honest" may only produce "limited spiritual progress" (see pgs 58-60). On that point, the alcoholic may question whomever they believe is the expert on their mental or emotional condition. How did that person become an authority, in your mind? (pgs 12, & 23).

A general pattern of principles for recovery emerges from the personal experience of alcoholics who have recovered. Those principles have universal application. (pg 95). Sharing their stories of recovery allows others to evaluate their "personal secrets of success". Then there is an intelligent basis for deciding, if they want any part of that available new knowledge. The newcomer either does or does not want to change.

IF YOU WANT TO CHANGE, YOU HAVE TO CHANGE!

Unless you believe you are "a victim of God", your life is your own responsibility. No one else does your wanting ("praying") for you. To the degree you have any responsibility for your own life, there is no intelligent reason to live a life you do not want to live. (see pg 133).

Many alcoholics prefer the "recreational oblivion" provided by alcohol and do not want what the AA program has to offer. If so, then honestly ask:

"WHAT DO I STAND TO GAIN, - AND

WHAT DO I STAND TO LOSE?"

Should the desire to drink come into balance with an equal desire to stay alive and carry your own keys, you may wish to reconsider. (see pgs 31 & 32).

Because a phenomenon of craving makes alcoholics bodily and mentally different from their fellows. (see "The Doctorís Opinion" & pg 30) it is not possible for them to both control and enjoy drinking. Like it or not, for the alcoholic, it is a choice of either uncontrolled drinking, or total abstinence. Some alcoholics disagree and pursue their belief into the gates of insanity or death. Those who stop drinking before it is too late are able to accept new knowledge of their relationship to reality and then have a different set of options open to them.

With new awareness and understanding (see Step 11) the alcoholic is in an improved position to decide what they want most. While it may not be possible to have it both ways, a dominant desire is a reasonable definition of "a prayer". Upon that, there is total freedom. The alcoholic is always free to want to cooperate with life on lifeís terms. (i.e.: "praying for Godís will"). They can also demand something else.(syn: "self-will run riot"). While the principles of life may respond to either desire, (i.e.: "answer either prayer") the desire to accept or reject reality is personal.

ACCEPTANCE = "LIKE IT OR NOT, THATíS HOW IT IS!"

For those alcoholics who have decided they want a path to recovery, it is available to be claimed now. The AA program has already demonstrated results. They are real and are more successful than any other approach thus far. The extent and depth of a desire (i.e.: "prayer") for sobriety is directly related to how clearly the alcoholic understands the truth about their drinking and their personal relationship to reality. (see pgs 30-32 & Step 11).

That understanding will include some new knowledge concerning those principles which govern all life, on lifeís terms. They are the same principles which many call, "the Laws of Life" or "Godís Laws" and are something no one understands completely. (pg 68). Few alcoholics would dispute there is more to be understood about their personal relationship to alcohol.

Either you are or are not alcoholic. Reality will not change simply because it is not the way you believe it should be. Awareness of reality can be enlarged by including new knowledge. (i.e.: "conscious contact with God" - see pages 14-15, 35, 68, 129, 164, Step 11 & Appendix II).

A review of Chapter 3 of AAís basic text may help clarify what is consistent with your experience? Self-honesty is helpful in deciding if recovery from alcoholism is desirable. It will be, unless you do not believe you have a problem. (pages 30 - 32).

Any alcoholic with a strong desire to stay alive and carry their own keys, is usually ready to consider the AA solution at any cost. Having acknowledged the existence of a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body, they will wish to be free from that life-threatening problem. The most intelligent choice is to choose a path of action which produces results. (see pages 83 - 84).

"At some of these we balked. We thought we could find an easier, softer way. But we could not. With all the earnestness at our command, we beg of you to be fearless and thorough from the very start. Some of us have tried to hold on to our old ideas and the result was nil until we let go absolutely." (pg 58)

Spokesmen for traditional religions often make questionable promises about receiving rewards in some "next life". Alcoholicís, who are serious about recovery during this lifetime, will ask of them:

DONíT TELL ME - SHOW ME

When an alcoholic arrives in AA they usually carry a lot of excess mental baggage in the form of "ideas, emotions and attitudes" by which they run their lives. (see pg 27). Because those guiding forces are used to deal with life, on lifeís terms, there is understandable resistance to letting them go. Most alcoholics need to be convinced that something better is available. The demonstrations of results by other alcoholics is a powerful argument. It frequently overwhelms any speculative belief system which suggests that they:

"Work and pray and live on hay!

Thereís pie in the sky bye and bye

when you die!"

Recovered alcoholics usually find it is necessary to make significant changes to the belief system which has been a guiding force in their life. (see pgs 27, 42, 45 58, 129 & 164). New knowledge is required if they want to change their personal relationship to alcoholism. To do this it is necessary to change their belief system. This is a frightening experience when it is all they have to work with.

NEW KNOWLEDGE REDUCES OLD FEARS

As long as "an old belief system" is a guiding force, it is not possible for new knowledge to operate effectively. Insistence that reality conform to an established belief system, (i.e.: "self-will run riot"), blocks spiritual progress. Any improvement of a conscious understanding of life, on lifeís terms requires the power of new knowledge. (Steps 10 & 11).

"Remember that we deal with alcohol - cunning, baffling, powerful! Without help it is too much for us. But there is One who has all power - that One is God. May you find Him now!" (pg 59)

It should be self-evident that "alcohol", per se, is not anything which is a "cunning, baffling and powerful" force. A bottle of whiskey will just sit there gathering dust until someone does something with it. It has no conscious capacity to baffle, be cunning, or exert any power over anyone or anything. Not even a hopeless, helpless alcoholic. It is thinking about drinking which is "the problem". (see pg 23).

The alcoholic reader will recognize that their thinking is based upon the ideas, emotions and attitudes which are guiding forces in their life.(pg 27). They constitute a belief structure involving a personal relationship to life on lifeís terms. (i.e.: "God"). Some of those beliefs may not be consistent with what is or is not that "Great Reality".

Thinking itself is not the problem for the alcoholic. It is their "erroneous thinking" which is in conflict with reality. Those differences are what produce undesirable results. (see pgs 85, 86, 87 & 133).

It should be obvious that before any alcoholic can get drunk they must first make a decision to pick up the bottle; remove the cap; and then put the "bottle of booze" to their lips, before the contents can do anything to, or for them. It is that action which produces certain consequences. Any results are determined by the choice of action. Their attitude about the consequences is either one of approval or disapproval.

This author suggests that assigning intelligence to a substance in a bottle is insane thinking. It is mental rationalization intended to escape responsibility for the consequences of a choice. (see pg 23)

It is "the idea" of taking a drink that is cunning, baffling and powerful. It is an "old idea" fighting for survival. One based upon a belief in a false premise that there is something of value to be gained from taking a drink.

Denying validity to an "old idea" is to challenge the belief system which provides the foundation for an entire lifetime. Such a drastic action can be a very frightening consideration.

When an alcoholic demands to be "right at all costs", then when something goes wrong they must insist the fault is outside of themselves. (see pg 62). Any personal responsibility for picking up the drink, is unacceptable, and especially so when there are undesired consequences. Regardless of the excuses, it does not invalidate the truth. The choice to pick up the drink was their own.

So here is the dilemma of the alcoholic. Their inherent intelligence recognizes they have freedom of choice. Their belief system prompts actions based upon old ideas they think will produce results to their personal best interests. Self-delusion, self-seeking, and self-pity blocks intelligent self-examination which might establish they are mistaken. With an obvious need for a solution, they seek a source of power outside of themselves.

It may never have occurred to the mind of that alcoholic they already have direct access to the infinite power of new knowledge, from deep down within themselves. As a result of that oversight, they ignore "the Great Reality" and their potential for spiritual progress which is already part of their make-up. Any alcoholic has, within themselves, the capacity to enlarge their spiritual life by seeking the power of new knowledge. (review pgs 12, 14-15, 23, 27, 35, 42, 45, 53, 55, 68, 77, 85-86, 93-95, 98, 129, 133, & 161).

It is self-evident some intelligence produces order in the universe. Something demonstrates an ability to keep life in working order in accordance with certain principles which govern all life. Understanding those principles requires seeking new knowledge before that power can be utilized. Whatever other qualities one might assign to it, that power becomes a reasonable explanation for the word "God". (see pgs 10 & 12).

An ability to tap into that intelligence, and thereby improve cooperation with the principles of life, is the "hope" shared by early members who suggest "if we can do it - you can do it too".

This author suggests that, any alcoholic with a sufficiently strong desire (i.e.: "prayer") to recover can do what they did.

SOME ARE MOTIVATED BY INSPIRATION,

OTHERS BY DESPERATION.

The early AA members, acquired the power of new knowledge by seeking to learn "the secrets of successful recovery". (Steps 1-12).

"Half measures availed us nothing. We stood at the turning point. We asked His protection and care with complete abandon" (pg 59)

The principles of recovery are not new, even though they may have never been successfully applied to alcoholism before in quite the same way. The principles which govern all of life have been discovered and re-discovered since the first cavemen sought ways to improve his lot in life. The infinite variety of uses which can be made of those principles are determined by the objectives and goals of the user. Out of their desperation, the first AA members applied them to their personal survival from alcoholism.

Continued drinking for them was insane. It lead to an early death or confinement. Available "ideas, emotions and attitudes" about life on life's terms had proved to be inadequate for survival. But, by trial and error they discovered that "other ideas" worked.

The word "God", conveyed an idea of new knowledge and the power they needed to survive. New knowledge is always available for any alcoholic and seeking it allows alcoholics to be free, - on life's terms. This became part of their conscious understanding of reality. (Step 11). The need for that mental improvement was a self-evident requirement for continued survival.

"Faith without works is dead, he said. And how appallingly true for the alcoholic! For if an alcoholic failed to perfect and enlarge his spiritual life through work and self-sacrifice for others, he could not survive the certain trials and low spots ahead. If he did not work, he would surely die. Then faith would be dead indeed. With us it is just like that." (pgs 14 & 15)

As alcoholics, it was necessary that they decide which direction to go. Those who were ready to abandon their old ideas completely, became free to set their lives in a totally new direction. Improving a personal understanding of reality is one direction which is always available to anyone. For many alcoholics, that is synonymous with improving their fundamental idea of the word "God".(pgs 12, 55, & Step 11).

For some alcoholics, the admonition to:

"LET GO AND LET GOD"

becomes:

"LET GO OF YOUR OLD IDEAS AND LET

WHAT IS GOOD FOR YOU HAPPEN".

As the first members discovered a solution to their seemingly hopeless state of mind and body they recognized it was the result of doing certain things. What they did was to break their actions down into small steps which ultimately became a program of recovery.

"Here are the steps we took, which are suggested as a program of recovery:" (pg 59)

Evaluate what is your primary purpose. (see Steps 4 & 10).

o    Are you trying to be good rather than get well?

o    Are you trying to please someone or something?

o    Is it producing results that work for you?

Nothing is wrong with being good for moralistic reasons. It is an admirable human quality worth development. However, when it conflicts with survival and personal freedom, the important practical question is:

o    When will there be results?

The answer to that question becomes critical for most alcoholics. Especially when the promises involve some speculative life after this life. This may hold priority importance for some alcoholics. However, many others seek results which can be demonstrated in this life.

Of course, there are those religious arguments which suggest:

o    Be good now and collect your reward later.

That admonition is based upon a belief in some next life. This may or may not be accurate. The "pay now and collect in the next life" is difficult to explain as being an intelligent belief system due to lack of any creditable evidence to support it. Without any factual support, what is believed is more likely to be a strong emotional desire to have reality conform to a matter of personal preference. (syn: "self-will" see pg 85).

Eventually, every alcoholic will be an expert authority on whatever happens "after this life". Until that personal experience is acquired, this author suggests that:

"MY IDEAS ABOUT THE NEXT LIFE

ARE JUST AS VALID AS ANY OTHER"

 

A practical morality for an alcoholic seeking recovery is to live "One Life at a Time" and utilize the wisdom found in an old nursery rhyme:

"Pie man, pie man - let me taste your wares!"

by asking those who offer some other solution:

"May I see some samples of your results, please?".

Some alcoholics prefer a chance to observe others, who drank similarly, and then recovered by those methods. This provides an intelligent basis for deciding if that is what they would want for themselves.

What the moral authorities of some traditional religions have to offer may or may not be wishful thinking. For some alcoholics, it can have greater appeal than AAís practical experience of living this life, on lifeís terms.

This author has learned that:

THE APPROACH OF AA TO SOBRIETY IS PRACTICAL

BECAUSE IT PROVIDES BENEFITS IN THIS LIFE.

Rather than offering the alcoholic an official list of rewards and punishments, to be experienced in some next life, AA provides a cause and effect approach to a spiritual awakening. One which can be experienced in this life. A "spiritual awakening" with a continuing effort to "enlarge their spiritual life" is essential for the alcoholic who really wants to recover. (see pgs 14, 15, & Appendix II).

There are significant differences between the two differing approaches to sobriety. The individual alcoholic must decide which one they prefer.

It should be noted that AAís 12 steps of recovery, are based upon principles which work for any alcoholic. They are not limited in their application to some select group of personalities which has been specially chosen to the exclusion of other alcoholics.

* * * * *

SECTION B05b:

Chapter 5

HOW IT WORKS

STEP TWO: - Concluded

"Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity." (pg 59)

READ:

From the beginning of Chapter 5 - HOW IT WORKS, commencing with "Rarely have we seen a person fail..." to page 60 (c) ending with "That God could and would if He were sought"..

COMMENTS:

For the alcoholic seeking a practical approach to recovery, there is value in reviewing AAís -12 steps in a business-like manner. (see pg 64).

An intelligent businessman will have the capacity to recognize when he is going bankrupt. He will recognize the inability to continue conducting his affairs in the same manner they have been managed in the past. This will become apparent after first exploiting all of his best known skills. Then, in a final act of desperation, he may seek out other sources of new knowledge for help to survive.

Essentially, this is what the first members of AA did with their bankrupt alcoholic lives. Once recovered, they were consciously aware that they had tapped a different source of power which enabled them to survive. This included a "price tag" in the form of an obligation to help others in similar circumstances. As result, they offered that knowledge to those who were interested.

Try reviewing the 12-steps in this very practical context:

    1. We admitted we were not running our lives intelligently, and we had become bankrupt as individuals.
    2. We came to believe our lives could be salvage with the use of greater intelligence.
    3. Decided any improved intelligence, could do a better job, once we understood what was possible.
    4. Took stock of what we knew of successful living.
    5. Admitted the possibility of being mistaken.
    6. Let go of worthless old ideas.
    7. Asked for help to unload belief systems which were no longer useful.
    8. Listed people owed, and became willing to set things straight with them.
    9. Made things straight and equal when we could, unless it would hurt them or force us out of business.
    10. Inventoried new ideas, and quickly unloaded mistakes.
    11. Studied other belief systems to improve our own.
    12. Paid for the help we received by trying to help others.

The alcoholic reader may find value in viewing AAís 12 Steps of Recovery from this practical business-like manner, rather than from a religiously moralistic viewpoint. It can be useful to view recovery from a different perspective that removes myth and superstition and puts it into a more practical context. The author recognizes the foregoing analogy may appear overly simplistic when applied to a life-threatening condition.(see pgs 25, 46,, 52 & 57).

Obviously there is more to AA than a business-like approach to spiritual bankruptcy. However, it can be a useful starting point for alcoholics who have difficulty with "second-hand belief systems" about morality. It may open doors to new thinking and the discovery of how much more new knowledge is available. It can be if you do not close your mind to all spiritual concepts. (see Appendix II).

Alcoholics who are accustomed to "traditional spiritual concepts", may be emotionally overwhelmed by the suggestion to "open your mind to more than what you already believe". If so, they will find themselves in good company with early AA members.

"Many of us exclaimed, "What an order! I canít go through with it." Do not be discouraged. No one among us has been able to maintain anything like perfect adherence to these principles. We are not saints." (pg 60)

Either you are or you are not willing to salvage your own life by accepting help from intelligence greater than you now recognize is available. (see pg 164) Willingness is what is required. That is a personal choice no one else can make for you.

Nothing is required which you do not already possess!

However, only you can provide the desire for spiritual progress. (pg 60).

NO ONE ELSE CAN DO YOUR WANTING FOR YOU!

Whatever is your dominant desire is a reasonable definition of "your prayer". By definition, it is something you want, above all else. If any intelligent power responds to something called "a prayer", then that is what it responds to. This author suggests there is a requirement for new knowledge. Otherwise, you would do it yourself - if you knew how.

It makes sense to carefully consider what you want. Your desire is what establishes the direction any power will take to provide your fulfillment. Or, if you prefer more traditional terms, - "to answer your prayer".

Unfortunately many alcoholics cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program because they are unwilling to accept the answers they ask for.

WHY BOTHER PRAYING FOR SOMETHING,

IF YOU WONíT ACCEPT IT

WHEN YOU GET IT?

In the real world, any answers you get will be on lifeís terms, not yours. If you are dissatisfied, it suggests you believe a mistake has been made. Should, reality be unacceptable it implies whatever created an orderly universe (i.e.: "God") needs improvement.

That idea also suggests you already understand how reality should be. Further, that it would have been a good idea to consult with you first. Could that be spiritual pride? Could it possibly be that your own belief system might be erroneous and the real problem is your attitude? Which choice would be the most intelligent to your mind? Remember, the focus here is on "being restored to sanity".

Most alcoholics have a desire for the best answer to a problem. (see pg 133). Until someone understands all the realities of life, on lifeís terms, it is inevitable that mistakes will be made. Some mistakes may be due to intentional resistance to reality. However, they usually occur from a lack of understanding of how things really are. That is ignorance, because it ignores whatever new knowledge is required to produce better results. (see Step 11).

IF I KNEW BETTER IíD DO BETTER.

Only "a saint" would never make a mistake.

"We are not saints. The point is that we are willing to grow along spiritual lines. The principles we have set down are guides to progress. We claim spiritual progress rather than spiritual perfection." (pg 60)

The operative word is "grow" for spiritual progress. That means "enlarging a spiritual life" by "improving conscious understanding" of some infinite intelligence which is called "GOD". (see pgs 12, 23, 27, 35, 42, 53, 55, 60(c), 129, 161, 164, Step 11 & Appendix II). This is an endless process.

It is on this point the traditional morality of religions and the practical morality of the AA program frequently part company. They take different directions with their primary purpose. Religion offers the last word on the destination. AA leaves everything open to change.

In AA, anything which is now believed to be true is subject to change and revision as more is revealed. (see pg 164, Steps 3 & 11). There is no dogma from "authorities" or "self-appointed spokesmen" who issue precise instructions on spiritual guidance they have received but you did not.

This author recognizes that emotional arguments exist in support of claims made by traditional religious spokesmen. Sadly for them, they are unable to provide an approach to "the Great Reality" (syn: "God" - pg 55) which can intelligently support any claim to having the last word on what is best for all. The reader of the basic text of AA will discover that it does not have any sacred cows or unintelligent emotional beliefs to be defended.

As a matter of personal preference, most alcoholics willingly "trade up" to something better. Which approach to life is "better" will vary, by individual. It will be determined by what they want and what they believe is "the best available" to them.

The alcoholic reader may have already achieved their own version of "the best" and not desire anything more. However, other alcoholics seek new knowledge to improve their lives. (see pg 133). You, may ask yourself which it is that you most want for yourself.

Any alcoholic is able to "trade up" in the way they manage their lives by using a practical business-like approach. (see Steps 10 & 11). By using principles which improve results, there is always room for spiritual progress. (pg 60) This process develops a better relationship to "the Great Reality" of life, on lifeís terms. (syn: "God").

It is possible to experience spiritual progress without having all the answers. There is spiritual growth in gaining power from new knowledge and enlarging conscious awareness of reality (syn: "God" - pgs 14-15, 35, 55, 161, & Step 11). With a fundamental idea of God as the power of infinite new knowledge, there is always room for more improvement.. (see pgs 12, 53, 55, & 68). Each alcoholic either chooses to seek more, or else rely upon what they already have. (pg 60(a-c)).

"We trust infinite God rather than our finite selves."

(pg 68)

An alcoholic who is completely satisfied will have little motivation to seek improvement. If life is acceptable, within the range of what is currently known, they will not be interested in seeking anything more. There is no intelligent purpose in having a desire (syn: "prayer") to "trade up" if there is nothing to be gained. Alcoholics who believe they have "arrived" at that point are not likely to be reading the material found in this Study Guide.

Recovery from alcoholism is available to any alcoholic who is willing to grow along spiritual lines. (see pg 58). Uncontrolled drinking produces life-threatening conditions. A refusal to accept recovery is a decision of questionable sanity. (see pg 30). Particularly when offered a solution which has demonstrated successful results,

IT IS HARD TO ARGUE WITH SUCCESS

Those who acquire the "know-how" have the power to use it in their lives. They also have the choice not to use the power of that new knowledge. Once again, no one could do their wanting for them. (i.e.: "their praying").

This new and enlarged freedom of choice was discovered by early members of AA seeking a way to recover. They acquired new knowledge of what worked, when other available approaches failed. To the alcoholic who wanted to recover they provided the following message:

Our description of the alcoholic, the chapter to the agnostic, and our personal adventures before and after make clear three pertinent ideas:

(a) That we were alcoholic and could not manage our own lives.

(b) That probably no human power could have relieved our alcoholism.

(c) That God could and would if He were sought.

Those three pertinent ideas may have been used elsewhere. They represented new knowledge for alcoholics desperately seeking recovery because they focused on problems with alcohol. This author suggests that they replaced the primary purpose found in old ideas, emotions and attitudes guiding the choices of the alcoholic. (pg 27). Where the previous belief structure did not work, a new set of conceptions and motives did.

To paraphrase what the first members had to say, consider it from the following perspective:

(a) Where our drinking was concerned, the knowledge we possessed was not enough to produce recovery.

(b) No person, nor group of persons had all the answers for our unique individual problems

.

(c) Relief was found by seeking new knowledge from a source of power greater than we had been using.

 

Regardless of the approach, the fact remains that the condition of alcoholism is no longer a hopeless one. Action can be taken to produce recovery, if the alcoholic wants it enough. That is the message in the basic text of Alcoholics Anonymous. The choice to accept or reject recovery is yours, and yours alone.

Recovery has the requirement to become willing to discard old ideas, emotions and attitudes which have been guiding forces in life. To the surprise and disappointment of many alcoholics, their "religious convictions" do not spell the necessary vital spiritual experience required for recovery (pg 27). To experience recovery, the alcoholic must replace them with a new set which produce successful results.

A path toward successful recovery and improved sanity is to be found within the basic text "Alcoholics Anonymous". They are mentioned specifically in Chapter Five entitled "How It Works" which reflects the experience of early members who had acquired new knowledge, and it worked. They had tapped an infinite source of new knowledge and power and they knew it.

"Joy at our release from a lifetime of frustration knew no bounds. Father feels he has struck something better than gold. For a time he may try to hug the new treasure to himself. He may not see at once that he has barely scratched a limitless lode which will pay dividends only if he mines it for the rest of his life and insists on giving away the entire product." (pg 129)

* * * * *

SECTION B05c:

Chapter 5

HOW IT WORKS

STEP THREE:

"Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God, as we understood Him."

READ:

Chapter 5 - HOW IT WORKS, starting at pg 60 with "Being convinced, we were at Step Three....." through to pg 64, ending with "Our liquor was but a symptom. So we had to get down to causes and conditions."

COMMENTS:

By now the reader has had ample opportunity to consider the authorís viewpoint concerning the first two steps in the AA recovery program. Be reminded there are other views. Use those ideas which produce results you desire for yourself. After all, it is your own life with which you are dealing.

There is no rigid conformity required in AA. In fact, quite the contrary. There are no official authorities or spokesman on correctness. There is only personal experience concerning the recovery process. (see Tradition #3 "The Long Form"). Perhaps this is one of the more revolutionary aspects of the AA program It certainly is when compared to other approaches to sobriety. That also applies to any AA member who may attempt to interpret the AA program for you. (see Foreword to First Edition). This author is specifically included.

This personal freedom of choice will extend itself to any fundamental idea of superior intelligence or power capable of providing relief from alcoholism. For many adherents of traditional religions, AA has done the unthinkable by starting with that idea of personal independence:

"Why donít you choose your own conception of God?" (pg 12)

The alcoholic who conceded to Step One

"We admitted we were powerless over alcohol and that our lives had become unmanageable"

had the choice to hold on to their old idea of God or seek survival by considering a different approach to Step Two as others had when they conceded powerlessness and:

"Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

If you, the alcoholic reader, are unable to accept that approach to Steps One and Two, try reversing them and try honestly to acknowledge that

&#"you are not powerless over alcohol, and that your life is not unmanageable"

furthermore that

"there is no Power greater than yourself, and that your life is the direct result of deliberate sane actions you have chosen as your version of personal happiness".

Such a view would include that you only drank by choice, and the results were something you consciously planned to have happen the way they did. (review Steps 10 & 11). This view may provide the reader with some fresh thinking about any problems concerning their drinking. (review pgs 23, & 42).

The alcoholic reader is invited to consider their personal behavior while drinking. Can you honestly claim it qualifies as any definition of "sane behavior"? For those who may debate the issue, your attention is directed to a suggestion by the earliest members of AA.

"We do not like to pronounce any individual as alcoholic, but you can quickly diagnose yourself. Step over to the nearest barroom and try some controlled drinking." (pg 31)

Be aware that such an experiment is perilous and potentially life-threatening for someone who really is alcoholic but believes differently. For them, reality is a fantasy in their own mind. (pg 23). This author suggests reality will ultimately prevail, despite any personal beliefs to the contrary.

The Ultimate Reality of life on lifeís terms (syn: "God") will eventually conflict with an "erroneous belief system". The alcoholic will experience the emotional turmoil of a conflict unless they know how to effectively deal with it. That knowledge is the power to enjoy a quiet mind.

It is suggested that "the power of the truth" is a viable concept of a power greater than the alcoholic possesses. Only the truth, which is recognized and understood at a conscious level, is available for use. (see Step #11).

Any continued conflict with reality is not a sane choice if there is the "know-how" available to resolve the mental confusion and emotional turmoil. For the alcoholic, that new knowledge capable of producing effective results, is "a power greater than themselves". Once again, "new knowledge is new power".

YOU DONíT KNOW UNLESS YOU KNOW

This author suggests there is always more to know. The three-letter word "God" is most often used to describe "all and everything (see pg 53). Regardless of disagreements about the nature of reality, rejecting it is tantamount to rejecting the word most used to describe it. Reality is what it is.

"When we became alcoholics, crushed by a self imposed crisis we could not postpone or evade, we had to fearlessly face the proposition that either God is everything or else He is nothing. God either is, or He isnít. What was our choice to be? (pg 53)

The serious reader will have reviewed their relationship to alcohol in the light of Steps One and Two. This author can only point to areas which may not have been considered. Actions, taken, in your best interests, will be your own. The choice of action is yours alone. It will be to "accept reality" or else reject it because of a "different belief system".

Others may pressure or coerce an alcoholic into doing what they believe is best for them. The alcoholic reader may even agree to let others run their life and do their thinking until they are able to make choices for themselves. This may be convenient, until gaining a position to outsmart them. Until then, the price they pay is with their own personal freedom. Eventually, an alcoholic will do what they really want to do.

A word of caution to those who make that choice. Be aware if you turn your will and your life over to another human power, (see pg 60 (b)), and that person is also an alcoholic, they may fall short of perfection. They may provide some answers, but none have all the answers you may require. Eventually you are likely to need more new knowledge. This may be information which is power greater than they possess. At some point, a need will arise to seek the source of all new knowledge. (syn: "God" see pg 60 (c)).

The individual alcoholic is the only person who can effectively decide where they stand concerning the first two steps of the AA program. It is worth recognizing that there shall always be other opinions. Some may or may not be valid. However:

THE REALITY OF THE TRUTH, AND

THE TRUTH OF REALITY

DOES NOT CHANGE.

If you are alcoholic, but do not believe you are, then continued drinking may be required. If your relationship to alcohol is unacceptable now, then more drinking will probably convince you of the true nature of your condition. (see pgs 31 & 32). This author cautions that the risks involved are potentially life-threatening. Any decision to take them is your own, and based upon what you believe is reality and how it applies to you. Are you so confident about "what you believe" that you are willing to bet your life on it?

Some alcoholics have already acquired a full knowledge of their condition. They already know they are unable to both control and enjoy drinking. (see pg 32). If the reader does not know, then the solution to their problem may require new knowledge which is power greater than they now possess. With this admission, and by their own choice, they are mentally ready to continue in the recovery process -. (see pg 23).

 

"Being convinced, we were at Step Three, which is that we decided to turn our will and our life over to God as we understood Him. Just what do we mean by that, and just what do we do?" (pg 60)


S T E P T H R E E :

Breaking this next step into smaller parts can be helpful.

"Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God, as we understood Him".

"Made a decision ----". This is an inescapable personal responsibility. Where freedom of choice is a reality, no one else decides what you want. Your dominant desire. (syn: "prayer") is your own. No one does your wanting for you.

There may be coercion, intimidation or even force for your compliance with the desires of some other human power. However, your true and equal desire (i.e.: "in the eyes of God") is always your own. Left to your own devices, within your own mind, you want what you want. This freedom is your own, regardless of approval or agreement from others.

Freedom to decide what is most desired (i.e.: "prayed for") is a mental quality equally inherent within all human beings. Any decision to exercise that personal freedom of choice, when the opportunity presents itself, inescapably rests with the individual. This has particular significance when choosing what to believe about the word "God".

For an alcoholic, the successful approach to recovery in the AA program, contains an essential ingredient. It is a decision to believe, or even be willing to believe there is some power, greater than themselves. (see pg 47). Those alcoholics convinced that Steps One and Two have application to them, will recognize continued drinking is a destructive power greater than themselves. It should be obvious they require access to a constructive power capable of producing recovery.

THERE IS POWER FOR GOOD AND YOU CAN USE IT

Merely acknowledging the possible existence of such a power is enough to create hope some such power might be available for personal use. That hope exists in the mind. (see pg 23). It is "a thought" which the alcoholic has created. It is available if that thought is what the alcoholic truly desires.(syn: "prayer"). It need not conform to reality, but would be "a sane thought" if it did.

Awareness of another alcoholic who knows how to recover from alcoholism is adequate proof such power exists. Alcoholics who acquire that "know-how" have both the power and the freedom to recover. Their new knowledge is obviously a "greater power" . Where drinking is concerned, recovered alcoholics possess a conscious understanding of reality the still drinking alcoholic does not yet have. (see Step 11). Those who already have the power of that new knowledge can use it to make improved choices. Any other alcoholic could learn what they understand, if they wanted to. That capacity has already been provided, and continues to be provided on a daily basis. (pg 85-86).

"----to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God,----" is a mental attitude reflecting a belief about a personal relationship to the source of all life (syn: "God"). For purposes of recovery from alcoholism, that belief system may be incomplete or inadequate. Its validity will depend upon how well it produces satisfactory results. Alcoholics who believe they have no choices will not likely attempt something they do not believe to be possible. Those seeking survival and an improved awareness of reality (syn: "God" - pg 60(c) & Step 11) are more apt to allow their minds to grow spiritually. They do this by correcting mistaken beliefs about reality and eliminating erroneous limitations in order to enlarge their spiritual life. (see pgs 14-15, 35, 164, & Step 10).

It may be useful to consider some synonyms commonly used to define the word "God". These are some of the same definitions used by many traditional religions. They reflect fundamental ideas about the nature of the "power greater than ourselves" required for recovery from alcoholism:

o    God is Truth

o    God is Good

o    God is the Ultimate Reality

The reader has an available option to view Step Three in a manner which goes beyond the limits of myth or superstition. (pg 23). Step Three can become an attitude of substituting practical mental equivalents of:

o    I would rather be told the truth than something I would like to hear.

o    I would rather have what is good for me than to get my own way.

o    I would rather live in reality than live in fantasy.

Those ideas, emotions and attitudes, are available as a guiding force capable of producing a vital spiritual experience. While religious convictions of an alcoholic may be very good, they are nonetheless restricted by the finite limits of that "exclusive belief system". Whatever else they may be, most traditional religious belief systems include some elements of reality while simultaneously rejecting others. (see pg 27).

This becomes increasingly apparent with the conscious understanding that:

o    there is more truth

o    there is more good, and

o    there is more reality.

There is more to be understood of "the Great Reality" (i.e.: "God" - pg 55) than that which any human power currently understands. (see Step 11). With an "infinite concept of God", there is always more available than any finite mind could possibly acquire in a single lifetime. (see pgs 12 & 68). All that is required for any alcoholic to have more is to seek more. (see pg 60(c)).

Seeking more is a choice based upon the inescapable personal responsibility to want more power.

"Lack of power, that was our dilemma. We had to find a power by which we could live, and it had to be a Power greater than ourselves. Obviously. But where and how were we to find this Power?" (pg 45)

"But there is One who has all power---that One is God. May you find Him now!" (pg 59)

"----as we understood Him"--- can be troublesome until the word "as" becomes the operative word in this step. Improved understanding can be found by breaking this portion to smaller parts.

Any emphasis upon the word "we" would imply some approved "AA concept of God". Such an idea would suggest that "we of AA know God and all those others donít". Such an idea would be equivalent to creating a new religion, in competition with traditional religions, for the beliefs of mankind.

That is an erroneous idea which conflicts with the very essence of what AA says it is. (see the AA Preamble, Foreword to Second Edition, pgs 12, 17, 19, & 95). For further correction of that mistaken idea, this author recommends a careful review of the basic text "Alcoholics Anonymous". (see "The Doctorís Opinion", pgs. 27,28,42,44 - 50, 52-56, & Appendices I, II & V).

Emphasis upon the word "understood" produces some equally disturbing questions which remain unresolved.

o    How can any finite human mind understand something which, by definition is infinite?

In Western cultures, it has been traditional to use the word "Him" when referring to the source of all creation. The AA program works equally well in Eastern cultures with a different tradition. This raises unintelligent, but frequently emotional sexist overtones.

One need only consider the obviously ridiculous question of:

o    Does your own mind cloth the deity in a "jock-strap" or a "bra"?


It should be self-evident using the word "Him" is allegorical rather than realistic. And, of course, "who would really know?"

However, the meaning of the expression "as we understood Him" is changed when emphasis gets placed upon the word "as". By making the word "as" operative, the pieces fall into place and begin to make intelligent sense.

The word "as" implies a process and some sort of change. In recovery from alcoholism, the change is clear. It is a change from "a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body" to one of "hope." (see "The Doctorís Opinion & Chapter 11). That hope is fortified by the practical experience of successfully recovered alcoholics who stated

"Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path" (pg 58)

The experience of this author has been that "as I understand the truth", there is "relief from ignorance of reality". There is "relief" from the consequences of repeating mistakes based upon "erroneous beliefs" about reality. (syn: "God"). The relief is a new freedom to correct the ideas, emotions and attitudes which had been guiding forces. (see pgs 27 83, & Steps 10-11).

What was erroneous was a belief system which left out unknown portions of "the Great Reality" defined as "God". (pg 55) The mistakes of old ideas were errors of omission. The previous belief system left out some part of reality that was good for me. As conscious understanding of that portion of reality, is enlarged, spiritual progress occurs. (see pgs 14-15, 35, 164 & Step 11).

When a personal concept of reality (i.e.: "fundamental idea of God" pg 55) is no longer limited by old ideas, then conflicts with reality change. Choices are possible which are more in harmony with life, on lifeís terms. (syn: "Godís Will"). The inevitable consequence is an improvement in personal happiness, joy and freedom . (see pg 133 & Step 11).

For this author, there was further relief "as" I understood it was good for me to accept the premise that "Godís Will for me" is to be happy, joyous and free. ( see pg 133). The result of that decision was more personal freedom to "trade up" to that condition. That enlarged freedom of choice eventually held greater value than holding on to old ideas. (see Steps 10 & 11).

Furthermore, "as" an improved awareness of reality was acquired, new freedom was gained to cooperate with it. (see pg 83). Having accepted that the word "God", meant "God is everything" (pg 53), it was necessary to make another decision about trust. Either to "come to believe" that the ultimate reality of life, could and would provide something superior or else to hold on to old ideas. (i.e.: "Godís Will" vs. "self-will run riot"- see pg 58).

Those who had already recovered from alcoholism claimed "we trust infinite God rather than our finite selves". (pg 68). Human minds have limitations as to how much understanding can be acquired in a single life-time. With "the Great Reality" being "everything" (i.e.: "God" - pgs 53 & 55) this must include everything that can be known about reality.

No individual or group of individuals can sanely or intelligently claim a complete conscious awareness of infinite knowledge. With incomplete understanding it follows that some old ideas, emotions and attitudes might be mistaken. This enlarged spiritual awareness produced more questions:

o    Was I willing to be honest with myself about what I believed, and open minded to the suggestion there could be more to understand?

o    Could I acknowledge "my old idea of God" might not include everything to be known?

o    When I was wrong, could I admit it? (Step 10).

To this author, certain conclusions seemed self-evident. Complete knowledge and understanding of "everything" is more than any religious group can acquire. The sum total of all human knowledge may be vast, but nonetheless finite and limited in scope. The potential for human improvement and progress by consciously understanding reality (syn: "God") is both unlimited and endless.

Seeking to understand more truth, good and reality in life, is an acceptable equivalent to seeking God. It is a continuing process. The limiting restrictions found in many traditional religions are noble attempts to define the infinite created by other finite individuals. They merely attempt to define what they believe about some infinite power and what it does or does not include. Those numerous belief systems may contain exceptions, accuracy and mistakes.

With the AA approach to recovery, there is freedom from any and all of those limitations created by a belief in old ideas. In particular, any "old idea about God". Ideas, emotions and attitudes which guided decisions in life can be improved with change. The change occurs by being willing to give honest and open minded consideration to the experience, strength and hope of recovered alcoholics. (see Frontispiece & pg 27). That allows freedom to question old values, (pg 83), and asking for an honest answer to the question:

"Why donít you choose your own conception of God?"

(pg 12)

That revolutionary attitude about spiritual progress can open the door to an unlimited opportunity for more happiness, joy and freedom. (see pg 133). Any new knowledge of reality allows for an enlarged spiritual life which previously had been blocked by a closed-minded attitude. (see pgs 14-15, 25 & 35). It changes a "fundamental belief system" that some "self-appointed spokesmen for God" hold a monopoly of the subject. (review pg 95). This includes recognition that any other personal and equally limited views are being excluded from consideration.

IF KNOWLEDGE IS INFINITE, SO IS IGNORANCE

How much change and improvement is desired? Once again, how much knowledge and understanding of reality does anyone desire? That desire is inescapably personal. It begins with a basic and fundamental desire (i.e.: "prayer") for spiritual growth.

o    Do you want more? - or

o    Are you willing to settle for what you know now?

The point any alcoholic stops seeking more new knowledge is the point where they stop seeking "God". That decision to stop seeking any improved understanding of life may be made consciously or by default and neglect. The results are the same. (see pgs 14-15 & Steps 10-11).

An endless supply of more power resulting from new knowledge is always available. (syn: "infinite God" vs. "our finite selves" - pg 68) The point an individual stops seeking more new knowledge is the same point they start shutting out God. This thought will be emotionally disturbing to alcoholics who believed they had "this God business nailed down with their religion". (pg 27).

Religions can be spiritually satisfying to many alcoholics until some overwhelming problems arise. Many living problems require more new knowledge and a greater understanding of reality than the old religious belief system is able to provide. Then satisfactory answers are required which are based upon reality. When old ideas do not provide a solution, many complain and wonder "why me?". As equals, in the eyes of their creator, there is the question:

"WHY NOT YOU?"

Some alcoholics believe they are the victim of some malevolent intelligence which has singled them out for specialized treatment. That belief makes them a very special and important individual. This is often easier to believe than to accept personal responsibility for errors in those ideas, emotions and attitudes which dominate their actions. (see pgs 27, 62 & 133).

For an alcoholic, such an attitude may qualify as "self-will run riot" by relying upon a self-limiting belief structure to guide their choices. Then they become like the man who stood on his left foot with his right foot and cried because he could not run.

With change as a constant element of life, rejection of personal change is equivalent to rejection of personal growth. Spiritual growth comes from improving a conscious understanding of the Ultimate Reality of life. (syn: "God" see Step 11).

From that perspective, any resistance would be a decision to resist "the Will of God" to be "happy, joyous and free." (see pg 133 & Step 2). For the alcoholic, this is using their "god given power of choice" to produce destructive resistance to reality and to their fundamental idea of God. Something which is the foundation of the belief structure of every man, woman and child. (see pgs 12, 55 & 62).

The power of choice exists within alcoholics to take actions compatible with the reality of life on lifeís terms. (syn: "Godís Will"). They also have the ability to improve their conscious understanding of what life is (syn: "God" see Steps 10 & 11). Intentionally resisting improvements in personal happiness, joy and freedom could be considered insane behavior. Particularly when the power to accept that spiritual progress has been made available. (pgs 60 & 133).

So where is the real problem? Is it not a closed-minded attitude about letting go of old ideas? (see Appendix II). As a consequence, alcoholics can become victims of their own ignorance. By placing blind faith in old ideas of God, they ignore "Godís Will for them". (pg 133). They choose not to believe that "God wants them to be happy, joyous and free".

IF THEY KNEW BETTER THEY WOULD DO BETTER

The intelligent choice for most alcoholics would be a personal preference to conduct their lives in optimum harmony, balance and compatibility with reality. Such a condition would reduce conflicts, and increase personal happiness. Most alcoholics freely and willingly select such a relationship to life (syn "Godís Will") when they have the "knowledge" of what is required.

The power to choose personal improvement is available to everyone on an equal basis. Any personal power of an alcoholic reflects their personal level of understanding of life, on lifeís terms. This is a term synonymous with, and a valid concept of the word "God". Within the limits of their fundamental idea of God. (see pg 55), an alcoholic is free to accept or reject reality. Their choices reflect their beliefs about reality. Though reality is what it is, the belief system is always subject to change, as more new knowledge is revealed. (see pg 164 & Step 11).

The author recommends the alcoholic reader review Step 11 in light of that fundamental idea of God which is found deep down in every man, woman and child. (pg 55). Ask yourself if your dominant desire (syn: "prayer") is for improved harmony, balance and compatibility with what is good for you. Unless you have already reached a pinnacle of being happy, joyous and free, the ability to make improved choices requires new knowledge and greater understanding of life on lifeís terms. (syn: "God")

YOU DONíT KNOW UNLESS YOU KNOW!


The need for new knowledge and greater understanding is essential for anyone seeking improved cooperation with reality.

There is a quote of Herbert Spencer provided in Appendix II on "Spiritual Experience". It has important implications when applied to a fundamental idea of God that may already exist within your own mind. (see pgs 23 & 55).

"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." (Appendix II)

From that perspective, this author has reached some conclusions. Namely, that the indispensable essentials for recovery are to be found in a willingness to replace inadequate old ideas which are guiding forces in life. Honesty is required in acknowledging that "old ideas about God" might be inadequate due to incomplete knowledge and understanding. (see pg 45). That open-mindedness is essential when considering other conceptions of God in the light of oneís own intelligence. (see pg 12). The reader may prefer a different interpretation.

With that focus, the alcoholic reader is asked to answer to their innermost self if their mind is open or closed to all spiritual concepts. If you agree that "God is everything" (pg 53), then this author suggests there is nothing to accept or reject except God. (i.e.: "the Great Reality" see pg. 55).

The power of acceptance is a choice which remains with the individual. Are you, the reader, completely happy, joyous and free with your life, as it now? If so, your most intelligent choice is to continue viewing life as you do now. There would be no valid reason to change. There would be no intelligent purpose in seeking improvement in any present condition. If, however, you believe more improvement is possible, then an "enlarged spiritual life" is available if you seek it. (pgs 14-15, 35, 60(c) & Step 11).

EVERY ATTITUDE YOU HAVE IS

ONE OF ACCEPTANCE OR REJECTION!

* * * * *

 

SECTION B05d:

Chapter 5

HOW IT WORKS

STEP THREE:

"Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God, as we understood Him." (pg 59)

READ:

Chapter 5 - HOW IT WORKS, starting at pg 60 with "Being convinced, we were at Step Three....." through to pg 64, ending with "Our liquor was but a symptom. So we had to get down to causes and conditions."

COMMENTS:

Because the word "God" has produced such volatile reactions from so many different sources, there is no desire here to create more controversy on that subject. Very frequently, groups will argue about the superiority of their version of that word, and what it means to them. That is their belief. It may have elements of both accuracy or error. With an infinite concept of "God", (pg 68), regardless of what part of the belief system may be valid, it follows there can always be more. Hence, any individual interpretation is, of necessity an incomplete belief system.

By contrast to an infinite concept of a Power, greater than ourselves, most religious definitions are finite. They tell you what is and is not within that specific belief system. Individuals then choose to agree or to disagree. They either do or do not embrace that particular belief structure. Other concepts do exist.

What the alcoholic chooses to believe becomes their fundamental idea of God. It is a thought that exists within the mind of every man, woman and child. (see pgs 23 & 55). Alcoholics believe in a particular concept of God because they believe it. Those who are honest with themselves recognize anyone has the capacity to change what they believe about that power.

For many, it is inconceivable that differences might exist between "God" and their "personal idea of God". Some then become troubled by efforts to reconcile their belief structure with the inherent intelligence existing within their own mind. (see pgs 23, 27 & 86).

WHATEVER A PERSON BELIEVES

THEY ALSO BELIEVE TO BE TRUE

For many alcoholics it is a shock and surprise to discover that what they believe is not necessarily so. It may be valid, in part, but is seldom, if ever, a complete understanding of that "infinite power". (pgs 53, 68, 164 & Step 11).

This lack of knowledge produces conflict with any attempt to reconcile what is believed with the Ultimate Reality of Life. (syn: "God"). Resolution of the conflict requires the power of more new knowledge. (pg 45).

Without a complete conscious awareness of the Ultimate Reality (syn: "God"), gaps will always exist in what is understood. However, it is always possible to make improvements.

"We claim spiritual progress rather than spiritual perfection." (pg 60)

To experience personal improvement requires being willing to cooperate with the realities of life. This open-mindedness must be an honest desire to seek spiritual progress rather than rigidly adhering to the old ideas of a personal belief system. (see pg 61, Step 11 & Appendix II)

Only an innocent child will believe everything anyone tells them. It is likely the reader does believe some things some people tell them. How do you decide what it is you will believe? (see pg 23).

This author suggests, every man, woman and child has some inherent intelligence they use to decide what they believe and what they do not believe. As a child, the alcoholic has made their personal choice from an endless supply of new knowledge. Some alcoholics stop seeking to enlarge and improve their conscious understanding of that infinite source of new knowledge, (i.e.: "God" - see pg 68 & Step 11). It is that new knowledge which is power anyone can tap into as "a power greater than themselves".

"We finally saw that faith in some kind of God was a part of our make-up, just as much as the feeling we have for a friend. Sometimes we had to search fearlessly, but He was there. He was as much a fact as we were. We found the Great Reality deep down within us. In the last analysis it is only there that He may be found. It was so with us. (pg 55)

Early members of AA suggested that alcoholics have direct access to a source of power greater than themselves. (pgs 12, 14-15, 23, 27, 35, 39, 42, 45-49, 52-55, 62, 68, 85-87, 93-95, 98, 163-164 & Appendix II). Many different "god clubs" previously discovered various elements of that same intelligence (syn: truth, good, reality = "God"). Many also believed they had found "the last and final word" on what others should believe. With an open mind, any of them can be improved by seeking more conscious awareness of reality. (i.e.: "God" - see pgs 42, 60(c), 129, 164 & Appendix II).

This observation will have little value or usefulness to alcoholics who are completely satisfied with their lives and no longer seek spiritual progress. Alcoholics with a "mind set" locked into protecting "old ideas" will often disagree. Others are only indirectly concerned with those differing belief systems.

Almost all alcoholics have some degree of inherent intelligence. In the interests of personal survival, they will intuitively avoid self destruction. Those with sufficient intelligence will recognize a threat to their survival. Alcoholics who continue drinking will eventually include mental distortion from drinking as being life-threatening. (Steps 1-3 & 10-12). As they understand this personal relationship to life they will also recognize it is not restricted nor limited to any particular religious belief system.

Many alcoholics consider themselves victims of some whimsical force and deny their own capacity to recognize reality. However, for those alcoholics, desperate enough to try anything to survive, some interesting suggestions and observations were made by the earliest AA members:

"Why donít you choose your own conception of God?"

(pg 12)

"We trust infinite God rather than our finite selves"

(pg 68)

"But he had found God--and in finding God had found himself." (pg 158)

"We realize we know only a little. God will constantly disclose more to you and to us." (pg 164)

Old ideas about God either work, or they do not. Either they produce happiness, joy and freedom for the individual alcoholic, or they produce something else. (see pg 133). The individual alcoholic decides what answers the dominant desires in their own life (syn: "their prayers").

Few alcoholics will require someone else to tell them when they are happy, joyous and free. (see pg 60(b) ). It is a capacity, they find deep down within themselves (see pg 55). They are also able to recognize when they are not in that "heavenly state" but in conflict with reality. That inherent intelligence is evidence of access to a power to recognize more truth, more good and more reality (syn: "more God"- see Step ll)

LIFE IS THE GREAT REALITY

This author contends that, because life is constantly undergoing changes, there never can be a final or last word on what is "the Great Reality" (i.e.: "God" - see pg 55). Readers with a "fixed conception of God" may disagree. (see pg 12).

Old ideas in conflict with reality are not morally bad. Morals are belief systems created by individuals. Some self-proclaimed authorities on morality have established rules for others to live by.

Spiritual belief systems can be enlarged or discarded. Any alcoholic is free to believe anyone or anything they choose to believe. On a practical basis, old ideas may be recognized as inadequate simply because they are incomplete when dealing with reality. (syn: "God"). This author has observed that those claiming expertise or moral superiority usually rely upon emotional rather than intelligent arguments to support their claims.

In an infinite universe, there is always more of anything. This specifically includes more knowledge of Godís will for us and the power to carry it out. (pg 133 & Step 11).

Any enlarged personal awareness of reality is equivalent to an improved spiritual life of the educational variety. (see Appendix II). It is always available, if sought.

THERE ARE NO LIMITS ON HOW MUCH

ANYONE MAY LEARN ABOUT THE

ULTIMATE REALITY OF LIFE

 

STEP THREE:

An essential spiritual concept found in the AA "Big Book" is:

"Why donít you choose your own conception of God?"
(pg 12).

Comments provided in Chapter Five concerning Step Three indicate that earlier members made a decision to turn their will and lives over to the source of all power. It became their personal concept of God, as they understood what that was. A "concept of God" was neither defined for them, nor for any of the alcoholics who came to AA after them.

There is no "official AA version of God". Neither is there any definition of how "we" (of AA) understand God. By contrast, the AA Big Book repeatedly makes statements indicating AA is dealing only with general principles common to a variety of belief systems. (see pgs 93-95). Any emphasis upon the word "understand" implies an ability to fully define or comprehend that "infinite power", which is God (see pg 46, 53 & 68). Any view of Step Three emphasizing the word "Him", carries sexist connotations which lead to ridiculous conclusions.

However, the word "as" does imply a process of understanding that occurs within the alcoholic. This appears to be a more intelligent and unrestricted interpretation. Many alcoholics choose traditional religious concepts of "God" because they prefer limitations to their personal understanding.

For alcoholics who have found fulfillment within the limitations of traditional religious belief systems, there is no purpose in seeking anything more. Being open-minded to "other ideas" would not increase personal happiness, joy, or freedom (see pg 133). This author suggests such a choice establishes a limit on how much "God" you want in your life. (pgs 23 & 42).

At the risk of over-simplification, (see pgs 57 & 62), this author believes:

"THERE IS MORE TO UNDERSTAND

THAN CAN BE UNDERSTOOD"

Few alcoholics choosing an infinite concept of God will dispute that idea. It is repeated in Step 11, and endless opportunities exist to enlarge a spiritual life.(see pgs 14,15, 35, 47, 53 & 68). Many alcoholics will enlarge their spiritual life through traditional religions much more than they might have done without them.

"We have learned that whatever the human frailties of various faiths may be, those faiths have given purpose and direction to millions." (pg 49)

The significant issue is acceptance or rejection of anything more. Within the precepts of their chosen faith, some alcoholics automatically exclude any different ideas of God? The alcoholic reader may believe their chosen religion possesses the last and final word on "a Power, greater than ourselves"? If so, have you adequately resolved the question:

IS THERE MORE?

Each individual must decide either to look, or not to look beyond the boundaries of their particular faith. However, certain mental attitudes are indispensable to recovery from alcoholism. (see Appendix II). There is spiritual growth to be found by looking beyond traditional religious terminology. When describing their "fundamental idea of God", it is recommended the alcoholic reader determine if there might be more. (pgs 23 & 55).

Before that can be done, the alcoholic must first quit pretending to already possess infinite knowledge and the ability to apply its power in their life. (see pg 23) Anyone is free to claim they possess that power. The results speak for themselves. It should be self-evident that no human, nor group of humans embraces all knowledge. (syn "God" - see pg 60(b)). In plain language:

o    Do you have all the answers to life? - or

o    Could there be more to learn?

Where a desire exists for more new knowledge (syn: "more God"), there is a need to enlarge a spiritual life for those who want results. (see pgs 14,15, 35)

WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE

HOW MUCH YOU KNOW --

IF WHAT YOU KNOW IS NOT SO?

Any improved conscious awareness of "the Great Reality" (i.e.: "God") which goes beyond the present limits of understanding by individuals or traditional religious groups, allows for an enlarged spiritual life. (see pgs 14-15, 35, & Step 11). This can produce an improved personal relationship to "life on lifeís terms".

"First of all, we had to quit playing God. It didnít work. Next, we decided that hereafter in this drama of life, God was going to be our Director." (pg 62)

Anyone making a decision to seek an infinite concept of God, becomes faced with human limitations. There are finite limits to human understanding of that which is infinite. This specifically includes any and all accumulated human knowledge to date because there is always more to be understood.

"Lack of power, that was our dilemma. We had to find a power by which we could live, and it had to be a Power greater than ourselves. Obviously. (pg 45)

There is a limit to how much of reality any human mind is able to understand in a single lifetime. There is no limit to how much more new knowledge any individual may seek at any given time.

The limited range of human understanding identifies a fundamental difference between AA and most traditional religions. One is an open-minded desire to constantly seek and understand more of the infinite reality of "All Life". (syn: "God" - pg 53). The other defines boundaries. AA readily acknowledges "we know only a little". (pg 164). Many religions function from an erroneous premise of having discovered what "God" is, and then deciding not to look beyond that idea. The choice to accept that fundamental idea is individual and personal. (pg 55).

This author suggests any alcoholic can be free from such limitations to their spiritual life by clearly establishing a simple mental attitude. (see pgs 23 & 27). It is an attitude about Step Three which includes an honest desire to:

o    Be told the truth instead of what you would like to hear.

o    Get what is good for you, instead of having your own way.

o    Deal with reality, instead of fantasy.

These are all synonyms used to identify the meaning of that "three-letter word ĎGodí". If that is something better than what you now enjoy, it will be necessary to accept it before you can enjoy it.

The reader, making the decision to seek more truth, good and reality, (pg 60(c)), becomes faced with a choice. Either:

o    You have all you want from life. (syn:"God"),

- or else

o    You want more.

If another human being is able to claim from life something you desire, then they know something you do not know. With that knowledge, they have the power of choice to accept something life offers, on lifeís terms. As an equal, you may also enlarge your own spiritual life and go beyond your own present level of understanding. The important question is where the alcoholic places faith in what produces spiritual progress. (see pg 60).

"We trust infinite God instead of our finite selves." (pg 68)

Any choice to enlarge a spiritual life will impact the ideas, emotions and attitudes which are guiding forces (see pgs 14, 15, 35, 27 & 47). When making such a choice, consider the following:

    • Why accept a concept of how to manage your life based upon inadequate knowledge?
    • Why accept that some human power already understands all new knowledge? Specifically, any "religious spokesmen for God"
    • Why limit where or how to improve conscious understanding of new knowledge received from the source of all knowledge? (syn: "God")

Each alcoholic has the inescapable responsibility to utilize their "god-given" freedom of choice. With it, they establish the direction which will be the guiding force in their life. Deny that and you deny your own humanity. What each individual wants the most is what they will choose as their direction. That dominant desire is equivalent to any concept of a prayer.

Wherever there is order, there is evidence some intelligence produced the orderliness. The ability of an alcoholic to produce orderliness in their own life is restricted to what intelligence they recognize, understand and control.

This author considers it self-evident some "infinite intelligence" produced the orderliness of a seemingly endless universe. Other opinions exist which include specific locations where specific activities have occurred. Some religious individuals claim to have special knowledge of precisely what those places are like. It is the belief of this author that no one really knows those details. Some alcoholics will seek more new knowledge. In contrast, some will choose a belief structure on blind faith with an assumption there is nothing beyond what they have been told by others.

Because each alcoholic is part of an endless universe, they have freedom of choice to either cooperate with or else resist whatever that fundamental orderliness of life might be. Any cooperation requires some degree of conscious understanding of what is going on in life. (see Step 11). Personal happiness, joy and freedom appear to be a by-product based upon the degree of personal understanding. With enlarged understanding, derived from new knowledge, there comes new power to cooperate with "the Great Reality" of life (syn: "God"). With that enlarged spiritual awareness also comes the freedom to choose new directions which reduce conflicts caused by ignorance.

"God, I offer myself to Thee - to build with me and do with me as Thou wilt" (pg 63)

For some, that idea of a fundamental relationship to God, is expressed by the open-minded attitude of:

I WANT TO BE SHOWN THE WAY

THAT IS BEST AND RIGHT FOR ME.

Such a mental attitude presumes lacking present ability to make that elegant choice within the range of self-knowledge already acquired. (see pgs 23, 45 & 133). It also opens the mind to accept new knowledge and spiritual progress.

Alcoholics who believe they completely understand right from wrong will also believe their mistakes are willful intent to take "self-inflicted wounds". (Review Step 2). What they claim to understand will be a "second-hand belief system". One provided by their chosen set of authorities on that subject. Closed minded alcoholics will neither need nor desire help beyond what they already believe. Other alcoholics may allow room for personal improvement and seek enlarged awareness of "the Great Reality" (syn: "God" - pg 55, 164 & Appendix II).

However, a desperate alcoholic will want to "trade up" and make the elegant choice. They will seek "the best possible conception" of spiritual progress which is available to them. (see pg 12). Whatever enables that progress is the essence of some personal power. (pg 55).

Any alcoholic seeking improvement is free to utilize any of the thoughts freely shared by this author. Some ideas may stimulate new thinking about the meaning of the word "God". (pg 23). You, the reader, are free to use any idea from any source - if you choose.

With an open mind, there is freedom to constantly enlarge a spiritual life. This new direction includes recognition and acceptance that there can be more to "infinite God" than is included in any "second hand belief system" provided by self-proclaimed authorities.

Any alcoholic has a capacity to acquire a better understanding of life. (see Step 11). An open minded approach provides new thought and access to more of the intelligence that is inherent within everyone. (see pg 55). Improved understanding is required to cooperate with the Ultimate Reality of Life (syn: "God"- see pgs 14-15, 35, 42, 95, 129, 164 & Appendix II).

Accordingly, this author believes an open minded choice about a personal conception of "God" is a practical choice. (pg 12) It will be the best choice of all available choices when contrasted with unthinking conformity to "second hand moral codes".

Progress occurs when the dominant desire (i.e.: "prayer") of the alcoholic is to enlarge their spiritual life (pgs 14, 15 & 35). Complete understanding of the elegant choice is not an option within any individual lifetime. However, "spiritual progress rather than spiritual perfection" is always possible (pg 60).

With this chosen objective comes the desire (syn: "prayer") to acquire more understanding, and to improve cooperation with reality. (syn: "God"). More happiness, joy and freedom occur as a by-product. (see Step 11 & pg 133). At the worst, there will be an improvement over holding on to old ideas which are in conflict with reality.

"Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will" (pg 63)

No two individuals think in precisely the same manner. Thought patterns are both unique and personal. Accordingly, some degree of personal responsibility exists for those habitual thought patterns which are guiding forces in the life of an alcoholic. (pgs 23 & 27). This can become "the bondage of self" when those habits of thinking are a block or barrier to something better. This author believes that whenever spiritual progress is sought, it is essential to be willing to let go of old ideas in order to let what is good happen. (i.e.: "Let Go and Let God" - see pg 42)

"Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy Love and Thy Way of life." (pg 63)

Improving a conscious awareness and understanding of truth, good and reality helps eliminate ignorance of "the Great Reality" (i.e.: "God"- pg 55 & Steps 10-11). By seeking an infinite concept of God, more is constantly revealed. (see pgs 60, 68 164). As this occurs the limited and finite spiritual understanding of the alcoholic is enlarged. (see pgs 14-15, 35 42, 85, 87, 129, 163-164).

Concurrently, the personal ignorance of the alcoholic will be gradually reduced, dissolved and eliminated. (review Appendix II). This "educational variety of a spiritual experience" produces a new attitude about reality. Included will be a desire to have "erroneous beliefs" displaced and rearranged by improving a conscious awareness of truth, reality, and what is good. (pg 27).

This new attitude is available to any alcoholic if "God" is sought, without placing religious limitations on the definition. (see Step 11). For many, this requires breaking out of traditional habits and thought patterns. (pg 42). Doing so allows the alcoholic to accept more freedom to cooperate with life on lifeís terms. (Review Step 11). Reduction of personal conflict with reality improves personal success in living. When observing this occur in another alcoholic, the reader will notice a personality change. (Review Appendix II).

Such a personality change often provokes interest from other alcoholics. If the results are an improvement, others may decide they want to "trade up". (see pg 58). What they desire is something they did not previously possess. Is it not the power of new knowledge?

A natural by-product of alcoholics who learn how to cease fighting anyone and anything is "a love of life". (pg 84). It becomes "a love for a chosen way of life" which seeks cooperation with reality. As that occurs, there is ever increasing harmony, balance and compatible with life, on lifeís terms. (see pgs 85, 133, Steps 3 & 11).

"May I do Thy will always!" (pg 63)

This simple attitude is a personal preference for a new way of living. When that attitude becomes the dominant desire of the alcoholic, it becomes their "prayer". It is a desire to let go of old habit patterns of thinking as guiding forces in their life. (pg 27) Acquiring such a new attitude is of critical importance to the alcoholic seeking recovery. It is always available to those willing to work for it. (see pgs 58, 83 & 84)

"PRACTICAL EXPERIENCE shows that nothing will so much insure immunity from drinking as intensive work with other alcoholics." (pg 89)

For the alcoholic seeking recovery, that immunity from drinking is not denied to anyone.

"THERE ARE STILL ENOUGH DRUNKS TO GO AROUND"

However, any decision to significantly change a way of life is not to be taken lightly. The capacity to be honest is a critical element to success. Being coerced, or merely "going through the motions" is not necessarily effective. The alcoholic reader already knows if they really desire to change their life.

"We found it very desirable to take this spiritual step with an understanding person, such as our wife, best friend, or spiritual adviser. But it is better to meet God alone than with one who might misunderstand" (pg 63)

Misunderstanding is possible for anyone. The alcoholic reader is cautioned to beware of those overly zealous AA members who state "God told them what He wanted for you". The foundation of your own recovery will be on questionable grounds unless you can reconcile their claims with the principles found in the book "Alcoholics Anonymous". Therefore, ask yourself the question:

"HOW SAFE DO I WANT TO BE?"

Unless you are able to confirm something with AAís basic text for recovery, it is suggested the alcoholic reader consider it as "suspect of error". It may not be a "principle of recovery", but merely reflect "the personality of your chosen authority". This admonition specifically includes any comments offered by the author of this Study Guide.

PRINCIPLES BEFORE PERSONALITIES

(Tradition 12)

New ideas impact decisions made in other areas of life beside drinking. To some degree, they will rearrange a basic approach to life.(see pg 27). Such growth and change is required to improve understanding of all and everything that is life. (syn: "God", see pg 53 & Step 11).

Once again, it is suggested that the alcoholic reader consider Step Three as a process of enlarging a spiritual life by developing a new mental attitude of:

1.   I would rather be told the truth than something I would like to hear.

2.   I would rather have what is good for me than get my own way.

3.   I would rather live in reality, than in some fantasy.


Taking this vital and crucial step has little permanent effect unless accompanied by willingness to let go of old ideas, emotions and attitudes which have dominated behavior in the past. That means accepting freedom from "the bondage of self" which has prevented an enlarged spiritual life. What was previously believed was not necessarily morally bad, but instead was practically ineffective. (pg 27).

Any attempt to be "good" presumes someone has an "official standard for goodness" and is competent to instruct others on what that is. Getting "well" presumes reducing conflicts with the Ultimate Reality of Life (syn: "God"). What is your choice of direction to be? Do you believe you are:

o    "Bad" with a need to be "good"
or

o    "Sick" with a need to "get well".

This may be difficult for an alcoholic who habitually views themselves as a "victim". Especially if they believe they are being "punished for being morally bad". Such a belief system will include being punished by some whimsically unpredictable and malevolent personality. The alcoholic, seeking recovery must either accept or reject the observation of successfully sober AA members:

"So our troubles, we think, are basically of our own making. They arise out of ourselves, and the alcoholic is an extreme example of self-will run riot, though he usually doesnít think so." (pg 62)

This is bad news to the alcoholic who believes their emotional stability is dependent upon the favorable opinion of others whom they cannot control. The erroneous belief is that other equal individuals are in control their own personal happiness. The good news is that many, who once considered themselves victims, have now tapped a source of new power, they find within themselves. (pgs 55 & 163). As they discover this truth about themselves, they are set free from the limitations of their old ideas. They now possess the power to change the universe -- but only by the count of "ONE". For the alcoholic reader, this means:

YOU HAVE THE POWER TO ELIMINATE ONLY

ONE DRINKING ALCOHOLIC FROM THE UNIVERSE

AND REPLACE IT WITH ONE SOBER ALCOHOLIC.

Before embarking upon any vigorous action to produce changes, first consider what it is that needs to be changed. (pg 63). Which erroneous beliefs are still guiding forces in your life? Which parts of your belief system are practical and which parts are ineffective? It is advisable to make this determination before changing your present way of life.

Habitual patterns of thinking determine what you will do, and when you will do it. (review pg 27). This suggests a need for an inventory of the ideas, emotions and attitudes which are guiding forces and reflect your personal moral values. That thought brings us to Step Four where we:

"Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves." (pg 59)

* * * * *

SECTION B05e:

Chapter 5

HOW IT WORKS

STEP FOUR:

"Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves." (pg 59)

 

READ:

Chapter 5 - HOW IT WORKS, starting at pg 64 with "Therefore we started upon a personal inventory." ---through to page 67 ending with "We admitted our wrongs honestly and were willing to set these matters straight."

 

COMMENTS:

It is reasonable to assume that any alcoholic who has read this much of the basic text of AA is now considering the personal value of examining old ideas, emotions and attitudes which are guiding forces in their life. (see pg 27). Some consideration is now being given to "trading up" from a belief system which may not have worked well in the past to something which will produce improved results. Those who seek an infinite concept of God can be assured that more improvement is available. (pg 68).

Alcoholics who are not yet convinced that drinking is a problem for them may find it necessary to try some controlled drinking in order to gain a full knowledge of their condition. (see pgs 31 & 32). That potentially lethal action may help them decide if their present belief system could benefit from changes in the moral values which determine what they will or will not do, and when they will do it. As such, they are guiding forces. Continued survival may require some of them be displaced and rearranged. (see pg 27).

Those alcoholics, already convinced that drinking is life-threatening, are already aware of being unable to start drinking and then control when and under what conditions they will stop drinking. With that awareness, they recognize that some portion of their life has become unmanageable. (see Step 1).

Some recognize their life may not be completely unmanageable every time they drink. For those who still want to drink, this author recommends they drink only on those occasions when they can control it. The value of benefits derived from drinking compared to risks to life and freedom reflect "moral priorities" guiding their life. Only the individual alcoholic will know if and when those conditions exist. (review pgs 30-32). Any mistakes in judgment can be tragic.

The alcoholic reader will recognize it is their own life which is being considered here. In any effort to create "a way of life" which is in harmony, balance and compatibility with reality, it makes intelligent good sense to take stock of what values you are working with. How well do your own "moral priorities" produce desired results?

That requires mental action and the examination of the ideas, emotions and attitudes guiding your life. (see pgs 23 & 27). Other opinions on morality exist. Many are worth considering. This author suggests such an examination is the essence of Step Four.

Within that context it behooves the alcoholic to intelligently examine their own moral values, and open-mindedly consider value in other belief systems. There is always room for improvement for anyone in their conscious understanding of the Great Reality which is "God". (see pg 55 & Step 11). If the objective is to "trade up", this may be obvious. (see pg 60(c)).

That concept recognizes human equality in relationship to a Power greater than ourselves. Accepting that equality is a point of mental confusion and emotional turmoil for many alcoholics.

Religious belief systems were developed by others "at some other time, in some other place, for some other purpose". Once an alcoholic is aware that the seemingly impossible morality of many traditional religions belong to someone else, they are obliged to deal with their own belief about human equality. Specifically where it concerns "their own conception of God". (see pg 12).

New knowledge can and frequently does provide improved understanding of "the Great Reality" which is defined as "God".(see pg 55 & Step 11). Values from antiquity may not be in harmony, balance or compatible with life on lifeís terms as it is being experienced now. The moral values of others who were not alcoholic may not be the valid standard for every alcoholic in every specific situation. It is not necessary for any alcoholic to adopt moral values developed in antiquity in order to be happy, joyous and free now. (syn: "Godís Will"- see pg 133). It is only necessary to adopt those morals which do produce the results desired. Many spokesmen for various religions will disagree.

The reader should be alert that Step Two of the AA program does not suggest some "Power greater than themselves" will make alcoholics like people who are not alcoholic. This may be "a blessing" because we may not be living in a sane society. Similarly, Step Four does not say the values of any of the traditional religions are necessarily valid. While their self-appointed spokesmen may often make those claims, it is the alcoholic (i.e.: "equal in the eyes of God") who ultimately makes that determination for themselves. (review pg 95). Many religious belief systems contain beneficial elements because they are the same universal principles which have continually been rediscovered since the days of primitive man. Which "moral values" are chosen will depend upon what the individual alcoholic "believes are best".

Benefits from some belief systems get deferred until some speculatively future lifetime. It is recommended an alcoholic follow those spiritual leaders who are able to demonstrate the kind success they desire. (i.e.: "pray for"). If, their primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety in this lifetime (refer to "The Preamble" of AA), they may prefer to ask to see results. This would imply a priority preference for results in this lifetime over some speculative other experience. Once again, this choice of values is a personal one.

"If you have decided you want what we have and are willing to go to any length to get it--then you are ready to take certain steps." (pg 58)

The intelligent alcoholic will inventory their own moral values instead of blindly accepting a set of values established by others. That choice may involve when they want results. There is practical value in paraphrasing a familiar AA Slogan:

"ONE LIFE AT A TIME"

If the reader accepts personal equality, as a human being, they already know they possess all the human capacities required to be one. And, so does everyone else equally as well. As individuals, each alcoholic is free to develop or not develop any personal traits which are human qualities. A single lifetime will not allow sufficient time to perfect every personality trait. However, you the reader, have already improved upon some portions of your personal life.

Time was when anything you now do well, was new knowledge. Others have also made individual choices to develop their human qualities. Different groups place different values and priorities upon different qualities. Depending upon the objectives of the group, some may also develop an ethnocentric attitude that their group is superior to other groups. This does not mean they really are, it just means they have their own choice of values. When followed, those belief systems will have different priorities which produce different results.

A self-evident conclusion is that there is always room for improvement in any area of life. (see pg 60 & Steps 10-11). Some spiritual progress may be easier due to unique characteristics which allow every individual to be separately identifiable. As an individual human being, each alcoholic is both unique and equal. (i.e.: "in the eyes of God").

HUMAN EQUALITY AND SAMENESS

INCLUDES PERSONAL UNIQUENESS

This author suggests personal uniqueness is part of your sameness with every other human being because everyone has it.

Personal improvement is a choice either made by you, or by some other human being. Allowing the moral values of others to guide your life reflects your own priorities. (see pg 27) Who else could have appointed another person as an authority for your life?

No alcoholic can be more than human. Any alcoholic has some capacity to do whatever is humanly possible. Moral values reflect when and how an individual alcoholic will make their best choice.

"Many of us exclaimed "What an order! I canít go through with it." Do not be discouraged. No one among us has been able to maintain anything like perfect adherence to these principles. We are not saints. The point is, that we are willing to grow along spiritual lines. The principles we have set down are guides to progress We claim spiritual progress rather than spiritual perfection." (pg 60)

 

On the premise that what you do impacts what happens, this approach determines your relationship to life (syn: "God"). How much intelligence and how much emotion go into the choice will reflect your belief system and personal priorities.

The good news is that you are no longer a victim. You have the option to enjoy a new kind of freedom and happiness. (see pg 83) The bad news is that you are obliged to accept personal responsibility for your own mistakes in judgment. (see pg 133). Improving that mental action (pg 23 & Step 11)) requires self examination. Many alcoholics consider this preferable to conformity with a "second hand set of rules" developed by other and equal human beings.

S T E P F O U R :

"Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves"

Before beginning any journey toward a new goal, it is desirable to know where you are starting from. This permits intelligently charting a course to move in the desired direction. Evaluating ideas, emotions and attitudes which are guiding forces (pg 27) helps determine if those choices produce the desired new direction in life. If not, then thoughtful replacement with a new set of values that does work is probably indicated.

There is a natural resistance to abandoning habitual ways of dealing with reality (syn: "God"). Familiar patterns of behavior may be the only known way of dealing with problems even when there is something better available. (pg 60(c)). For many alcoholics, "trading up" to an improvement (syn: "conscious contact with God" - see Step 11) is their preferred choice. While a "better way" may be available, if it is not understood it cannot be used. Therefore, ignorance of the truth can be a flaw which blocks personal progress.

Placing the principles of life before any limited personal value system is a change in moral values. An attitude of intolerance or belligerent denial toward personal ignorance can be a formidable obstacle to personal progress. (see Appendix II). Change that way of thinking and you change your fundamental relationship to life. (syn: "God" see pg 55). When alcoholics do this, their whole attitude and outlook upon life will be new. (see pgs 27, 84, & Appendix I -Tradition 12)

Some alcoholics have discovered that placing priority on principles of life over their personal belief system, has produced desirable results which others can learn and enjoy. It occurs as the result of adopting a new attitude about personal ignorance of new knowledge (syn: "God"- see pg 27). An infinite supply of new knowledge is available to anyone who seeks it.

YOU DONíT KNOW UNLESS YOU KNOW!

Awareness of a lack of the power to be happy, joyous and free, (see pgs 45 & 133) eventually brings each alcoholic face-to-face with their old idea of "God".(see pgs 53, 55, 58 & 68). Familiar ideas and habitual patterns of thinking exist deep inside everyone. When a fundamental idea of God is erroneous, there is value in promptly admitting it is wrong. ( see Step 10).

The alcoholic reader may have already established that their old ideas were not working sufficiently well to produce desired results. (i.e.: "the answer to their prayers"). When presented with the proposition that the source of all new knowledge, can provide relief. (syn: "God" see pgs 60(c) & 68) this will require a decision. One of choosing personal priority value between two seemingly conflicting concepts of a power that will produce results.

"Some of us have tried to hold on to our old ideas and the result was nil until we let go absolutely." (pg 58)

Where a life-threatening condition is recognized, many will make changes out of desperation rather than from inspiration. Some will seek help outside themselves, from a desire to be good. (see pg 55). They may even rely upon a "second hand belief system" where some other human power is qualified to tell them what is good for them. (syn: "God") This is frequently based upon some emotional promise of rewards and punishments rather than any intelligent recognition of cause and effect.

The desire to stay alive and carry their own keys is likely to be the real motivating factor. This will readily occur with those alcoholics who have pursued their drinking careers to where their primary objective is survival..

"We are like the passengers of a great liner the moment after rescue from shipwreck....................." (pg 17)

When traditional religious values are in conflict, it becomes a matter of personal preference between "goodness and survival". Under those conditions, it is easier to accept a solution that works. ("First Things First").

Most alcoholics recognize it is the most intelligent choice to survive first and then be good later. The reverse may not be an option. No one really knows for sure. Eventually, everyone will become an equal expert.

Alcoholics, who seek answers beyond their present belief system, can be reassured that help is available from the results others have produced. Others have learned to understand new knowledge after not knowing how to recover from alcoholism. The ideas, emotions and attitudes which had guided their lives got displaced and rearranged, out of their own desperation to survive. (pg 27).

IT IS HARD TO ARGUE WITH SUCCESS

The Ultimate Reality of life (syn: "God") did not change. What did change was the conscious understanding of reality by the alcoholic who learned how to improve cooperation with it. (Step 11). It was necessary for them to discover what was lacking in their conscious awareness of reality. (i.e.: "God" - see pgs 53, 60(c), 68 & 164).

"Lack of power, that was our dilemma." (pg 45)

Drinking alcoholics lack the power to utilize the same new knowledge which sober alcoholics possess. (see Step 11). However, the power of that new knowledge is available, if it is sought. (pg 60(c)). If one alcoholic can understand how to stay sober, any drinking alcoholic can learn more of what they know. This brings the drinking alcoholic to a point of decision. Either they want new knowledge, or they prefer to hold onto their old ideas. (see pg 58). Either they will be obliged to seek more power from an infinite source of new knowledge (syn: "God"- see pg 45) or else settle for what they have. So, what is your choice to be? (pgs 53 & 68)

INDECISION IS HELL!

To make matters worse, those who believe there is no "power, greater than themselves", may be asked:

"Who are you to say there is no God?" (pg 56)

On those occasions where understanding reality is inadequate, the alcoholic is vulnerable to their own ignorance of what is good for them. (syn: "God for them"). The mind of the alcoholic is resisting some greater good and increased happiness. (see pgs 23, 68, 133 & 164). Under those conditions they encounter fear of the unknown. This author suggests it is fear of new knowledge coming from a self-centered struggle for survival of old ideas, emotions and attitudes. (pgs 27 & 62).

Some alcoholics find an opening in the walls of their mental defenses (see pg 23) where their minds will allow in new knowledge. The power of valid new knowledge breaks down defenses of erroneous beliefs, and reality is eventually forced upon them. Then, huge emotional displacements and rearrangements will occur as a natural result. (see pg 27).

This author suggests that, when we know the truth, we become freed from the limits of our former belief system. (see pg 83). For those who question this process, you are asked to consider that:

EVERYTHING YOU NOW KNOW

WAS ONCE UNKNOWN TO YOU!

Few alcoholics believe everything everyone tells them. Most do believe some things some people tell them.

 

Within the mind of an alcoholic, there are some people who are considered to be authorities. At the same time, there are others who are not viewed in that same light. The choice of who is and who is not believable becomes a determining element in how an alcoholic will approached their problems. It is often a decision they made at some time in the past which is now placing them in a position to be hurt. (pg 62). Unless they are getting results they desire now, (i.e.: "pray for"), some of their old ideas about "who and what to believe" is now a road-block to recovery. (pg 58).

The problem, is they made "gods" of other people accepted as authorities on "what to believe is the truth". (syn: "God"). This was followed by a calculated defense against anything that might establish they were wrong. (see Steps 10 & 11). Was there room for error? (see pg 23).

INHERENT IN ANY BELIEF IS THAT

THE BELIEF ITSELF IS TRUE!

By acting upon false beliefs, the alcoholic becomes a creator of confusion. (see pgs 61-62, & 133). Cooperation with reality is obviously more sane than fighting it. (syn: "God"- see pg 84). When, out of personal ignorance, an alcoholic rejects what is good for them (syn: "Godís Will vs. self-will run riot") their troubles are of their own making. (pgs 62 & 133).

"WHY BOTHER TO SEEK ANSWERS

IF YOU WONíT ACCEPT THEM?"

 

At those times, the alcoholic lacks the power to choose to cooperate with life on lifeís terms. Before it is possible to reduce any conflict with reality, (i.e.: "God"), the first requirement is to recognize it exists. This was essentially done in Step One. Making spiritual progress toward cooperation with the Ultimate Reality of Life (syn: "God &/or Godís Will for us") is obviously more sane than to deny it. Whenever conscious understanding of reality is lacking, (see pg 45 & Step 11), improvement is always possible.

Anything short of "omniscience and omnipotence" requires some sort of "power greater than ourselves" to improve sanity. An alcoholic needs more new knowledge of reality in order to have more sanity about drinking alcohol because drinking it distorts their perception of reality. (i.e.: "God" -see pg 55). Seeking that power begins by letting go of old ideas and changing fundamental beliefs about the power. (see pgs 23, 27, 55, & 58). Many old ideas about the nature of the power may need to be cast aside. ("Let Go and Let God" - see pg 42).

This often occurs after an alcoholic has observed others obtain different results from what their "chosen authorities on ĎGodí" had told them. If they had been telling the truth, they would be producing successful results. If different concepts provide what is most desired, many alcoholics will seek the power of that "know-how". This appears to be a more sane choice than belligerently "holding on to old ideas". (pg 58 & Appendix II). Giving open minded consideration to new knowledge becomes the essence of Step Two.

When alcoholics have an honest desire (i.e.: "prayer") to cooperate with life, on lifeís terms, it creates a demand for new knowledge of how to do it. That demand is for the "power of intelligence greater than their own". No matter how else it is defined, the "three letter word ĎGodí" incorporates that idea. (pg 63).

That same demand is also for help to produce "a personality change sufficient to bring about recovery from alcoholism". This author believes the acceptance of new knowledge to replace old ideas becomes the essence of a spiritual experience. (see pgs 27, 68 & Appendix II).

Each alcoholic is faced with making a decision to hold onto old ideas, or else seek conscious contact with new knowledge greater than they possess. That new knowledge includes power to produce desired results. Without that new knowledge, any conscious cooperation with the Ultimate Reality of Life (syn: "God") is not possible. Fortunately, for any alcoholic who seeks recovery, that personal improvement is always available to those who are willing to accept it.

Making a decision to seek improvement (pg 60 & Steps 10 & 11) allows "a completely new set of conceptions and motives" to become dominate.(see pg 27). Hence, the alcoholic is required to decide what is their dominant desire (syn: "prayer"). Their new attitude establishes a new and different personal relationship to the One Power which is the Gr