Ten years ago, when I was asked to lead a recovery group at the DWI facility, I was faced with a daunting opportunity. I was nervous and a bit intimidated. I knew that I did not want to run an AA group, but I did not have a clear idea of what I wanted to do with the group. I knew I was meant to do something different for these men.
One night, as I contemplated what to do, I ran into a long-ago sponsor at a meeting. I asked him what he thought of my new calling. He told me to look at the Preface of the 1955 Big Book. The next week, when I saw him at another meeting, he asked me if I had looked at the Preface. I answered, “No.” I could not imagine that I could learn something by reading the Preface of the 1955 book. The next time I met him he asked again and once again I said no. Then he said, “I guess you do not want to know what my suggestion is.” After I thought about his comment, I decided to read the Preface. When I saw him next, I answered his question. I said that I thought he wanted me to read the statement that “50% of those who came into AA obtained recovery and that 25% got it after some convincers and the rest never got the Program”. He said,” Yes.” Then he said something that I have spent the past 10 years contemplating. He told me that, if I could figure out why the statistics were what they were, then I would know what my contribution could be.
After 10 years, I have some thoughts on the subject.
Back in the 1950s, there was a revitalization of Christian thought. Churches were being started up everywhere and people, in general, had a deep belief in religion. At that time, spirituality and religion were synonymous and individuals who came into the program did not have as difficult a time accepting God (a Higher Power) as people do today. Today, access to recovery programs is easier and socially more accepted. Unlike the 1950s, people can check themselves into rehabilitation centers. They can look up a phone number to a recovery group using their cell phones and be connected to recovery programs online. On the surface, it would seem more accessibility would make the recovery process easier. However, today, the connection between spiritualilty and religion is not as straightforward. While some people’s faith is based in an organized religion, others gravitate toward a less structured expression of spirituality and a growing number of people have had little to no experience with any concept of God. The combination of easier access and a less clear concept of a Higher Power actually puts addicts today at a disadvantage. I believe people in the 50s came into the program from the position of a much lower bottom. As a result, people entering program in the 50s were in more pain and were more desperate than many who come into program are today. If the pain is severe enough and if a person already has at least some belief in God, it is easer for them to surrender to the God concept. Since many individuals entering program in the 50s did have a belief in God, they had an easier time surrendering their will.
I have stated in many of my blog posts that I believe the Second Step is the most difficult step in the Program. While we might not struggle too much with the idea that there is a Higher Power out there that can help us, it is more challenging to accept that this Being is more powerful than us and that we need His help. Our own egos and our need to “control” everything around us can be a major stumbling block in recovery.
In the early days of the Program, alcoholics came searching for recovery when they were desperate. Oftentimes, they were so desperate that they immersed themselves in the Program and were ready to surrender their will (their ego) to God. I have learned that until we surrender our will, recovery is impossible. Learn from the past. If it worked back in the 50s, it will work today.
For the past ten years, I have been leading Alpha programs for those in recovery. My goal has been to help recovering alcoholics move past their bottom, through their pain and discover the promises that come as they learn to surrender their will to God. Most of those individuals who have participated in the Alpha program remain sober today and are on the path of change. Coming to believe that God’s Spirit lives within us is the greatest influence in our recovery journeys. It is the secret.
Come see what it is all about. Life is meant to be lived. We grow by learning from each other. I invite your comments and stories so we can help each other on our journey to discover life beyond addiction. I also invite those of you who live on the North Fork of Long Island to join me at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Greenport NY each Wednesday evening at 7:00 PM for an open discussion about God as our Higher Power. The purpose of these discussions are not to convert anyone to an organized religion rather it is meant as a vehicle to developing a personal relationship with God.
– Deacon Austin