One of the key concepts of A.A. in the 1940's: Get the newcomer to Step Twelve as quickly as possible, so he or she can experience the life-changing spiritual awakening that occurs as the direct result of taking the Steps. Assure the newcomer that our program of recovery will relieve his or her alcoholism/addiction. Show the newcomer that the process is simple, straightforward and that it really works.
Earl T. (pictured right), founder of A.A. in Chicago "wished that every A.A. could have the benefit of this type of sponsorship today". In his story, "He Sold Himself Short" (p. 287 in 2nd and 3rd editions and p. 258 in 4th edition.) he explains how he was taken through the Steps.
"The day before I was due to go back to Chicago, a Wednesday and Dr. Bob's afternoon off, he had me down to the office, and we spent three or four hours formally going through the Six-Step program as it was at that time. The six steps were:"
- Complete deflation. (Step 1)
- Dependence and guidance from a Higher Power. (Steps 2, 3, 6, 7, 11)
- Moral Inventory. (Steps 4, 10)
- Confession. (Step 5)
- Restitution. (Steps 8, 9)
- Continued work with other alcoholics. (Step 10)
"Dr. Bob led me through all of these steps. At the moreal inventory (Step 4), he brought up some of my bad personality traits or character defects, such as selfishness, conceit, jealousy, carelessness, intolerance, ill-temper, sarcasm and resentments. We wen over these at great length and the he finally asked me if I wanted these defects of character removed. When I said yes (Step 6), we both knelt at this desk and prayed, each of us asking to have these defects taken away" (Step 7).
"This picture is still vivid. If i live to be a hundred, it will always stand out in my mind. It was very impressive and I wish that every A.A. could have the benefit of this type of sponsorship today. Dr. Bob always emphasized the religious angle very strongly, and I think it helped. I know it helped me, Dr. Bob then led me through the restitution step, in which I made a list of all the persons I had harmed (Step 8), and worked out ways and means of slowly making restitution (Step 9). I made several decisions at that time. One of them was that I would try to get a group started in Chicago (Step 12), the second was that I would have to return to Akron to attend meetings at least every two months until I did get a group started in Chicago, third, I decide I must place this program above everything else, even my family because if I did not maintain my sobriety I would lose my family anyway. If I did not maintain my sobriety, I would not have a job. If I did not maintain my sobriety, I would have no friends left."
Sponsorship (A.A. Grapevine, April 1961)
"Though three hundred thousand have recovered in the last twenty-five years, maybe half a million more have walked into our midst, and then out again."
"We can't well content ourselves with the view that all these recovery failures were entirely the fault of the newcomers themselves. Perhaps a great many didn't receive the kind and amount of sponsorship they so sorely needed. We didn't communicate when we might have done so. So we AA's failed them." -- Bill W.
I am posting this for a sobriety friend. Please note that I didn't write this.
I wish to have it understood at the outset that this writing is entirely the interpretation and viewpoint of the author, and not those of Alcoholics Anonymous. I owe my very life to A.A. and would not want to be the cause of any confusion among fellow members of A.A. as to the source of this writing. It is solely mine. I hope that no one confuses the interpretations of one individual, myself, as representative of anyone other than that one person.
We are all free as individuals to interpret the A.A. program in our own unique lights. I have done so in mine. I offer them to others, not to cause controversy, harm or dissension. I offer them to help heal those like myself who need them.
This is not written for those that have a conventional belief system of any kind. If you have a church, a religious or God belief system that suits you gives you peace and that you feel answers most of your questions, you probably do not need it.
This was written for those who are stumbling along, trying to achieve sobriety but failing, resistant to the A.A. program, not working the steps, not achieving the peace of mind available to all because of one reason. They cannot accept God or a Higher Power.
There is another group like myself. They come into A.A. as atheists or agnostics. Then they begin to get an inkling, an idea that something is at work in their lives, something spiritual, something greater than themselves. Like me, they are not certain what it is, except that it is helping them, guiding them. It is moving circumstances in ways that aid them in the achievement of their sobriety.
In order to stabilize my sobriety, I had to understand reality. In my opinion, understanding reality, must include an understanding of the Higher Power and whether such a thing is real, a part of reality or not.
To do this I had to work through certain processes, some of these took months, even years, but I had to be free to go forward. There are those like me who also must be free if they are going to go forward.
Doing this means that I might write things that could be offensive to some people.
After being sober since 1960 in A.A., including working through my own problems and watching the successes and failures of others, I have come to certain conclusions. One that those who work less than the full Twelve Steps diminish their potential for attaining and maintaining sobriety. Two, if they attain sobriety; they seldom attain any great degree of peace of mind. The fewer steps worked; the poorer will be the results achieved.
I hope to show ways to work the steps without a conventional God concept or the necessity for one.
I am not an accomplished writer. I am an alcoholic. I am also cursed with an obsession for total logic. It is a drive.
This writing is my thinking, my ideas, my working through problems similar to yours. I will try to share them with you; in order to shorten your journey through the wilderness I have been through. Please do not read this for fancy style. Read it for content, for ideas. Read it to get sober and stay sober.
I have no hopes to sober up the whole world with my writing, nor to even sober up all of those to whom this writing is directed.
My desire is to help you realize there are many ways to conceptualize a Power greater than ourselves, one that can be useful in working the steps
This is one alcoholic's journey, trials, tribulations, thoughts and speculations. It is written and offered for whatever help it might give. It is neither writ on stone, nor handed down from a mountain top. Argue with it if you will. Perhaps it will help you think along lines you might not have considered before.
This is for us, those on the quest, the search, the drive for the truth. We choose to continue the search because the truth is too important to us. What is written here is what happened to me. These are my thoughts, my ideas and my conclusions. I hope they will give you some ideas, thoughts and possibilities. I do not demand or expect that others will agree with me. My ambition is to help people think for themselves.
Before A.A., before I was more than a beginning alcoholic, I began to doubt. I began to question, first my denomination, then soon all religions. Any readers that are similar to me will understand the problems and confusion that I went through.
I went through much the same set of steps from the religion I was raised in as many others have. First I found too many errors and inconsistencies in my own denomination. Then I started studying others. If they did not have the same mistakes, they had others.
Again as many others have; I made the error of getting my categories mixed. Disproving a religion or even all religions does not disprove the concept of or the existence of God.
The question is not, "Does this religion or that religion's explanation of God, make logical sense?" Nor does it mean, "Does any religion's explanation make sense?" The question is, "What evidence is there concerning the question of God?" Alcoholics Anonymous further refines the question by implication. "Is there any evidence, concerning whether there is a Power greater than ourselves; that is spiritual and takes an interest in my life or others? Is this Power concerned about our lives? Does this Power, intervene in our lives?" These are the questions we are concerned with and will discuss.
Concerning evidence, first let us remember that the old explanations about God, Gods or Higher Powers are all hundreds and thousands of years old. If you would read some of the old scientific explanations about electricity or fire -- you would be struck with the absolute ridiculousness of them. Yet fire exists! Electricity exists!
The atheist when presented with evidence in these matters, cries, "Coincidence! Imagination!" There is a Flat Earth Society. When presented with evidence that the Earth is in fact round, they cry, "Coincidence! Imagination!" No matter what evidence you might advance about the actions of an aware Spiritual power, he must try to explain it away. When all else fails, he falls back on coincidence, the ultimate rationalization. The atheist is as often closed minded as the convinced religionist.
The prime contradiction that bothered me, the one that caused perhaps the most mental and emotional anguish, concerned Heaven and Hell. How could a God that I was told is all loving, good and kind intend to send a large proportion of humanity to Hell, a place of eternal torment and punishment. I found this to be a contradiction of insurmountable proportion.
I must say again that the question is not what seems the most obvious, whether the various religions' explanations of an afterlife are logical and make sense. No, the question is, "Is there any evidence for the immortality of humanity?"
I found too that the world, with its evils, its injustices, was inconsistent with an omnipotent (all powerful), all wise, all good, all loving, benevolent God.
So in following sound premises I arrived at an unsound conclusion. I decided there was no God. I became an atheist. Except during those occasions when I became desperate, afraid, maudlin or perceived instances where something had interfered, or taken a hand in my life.
I found religion as taught, to be fraught with too many inconsistencies and contradictions to be tenable as a guide for my life. It seemed not to be consistent with the reality of the cosmos, the world.
Actually, I went into A.A. as an Atheist/Agnostic. I was an atheist until something would happen in my life to give evidence that something was guiding or operating in my life of a spiritual nature. Then I would measure it against the only thing I knew about spirituality, religion. I would realize that it was impossible that it could be true on that basis and the doubts would take over again.
That was where I stood when I entered A.A.. Because of the depths alcohol had brought me to, I was willing to learn. I knew that I was sick, perhaps insane. I knew that my life's basic premises, the very philosophical foundations of my life had led to my ruin.
Now all of these things were again open to question. The people in A.A. said they owed their sobriety, their very lives to God, or if I preferred, a Higher Power. The members of A.A. were obviously well and saner than I, so their premises and philosophical foundations had more truths than mine.
I became open to instruction, to learning, to change, to experiment with the premise of God again.
I found A.A. to be unique as a spiritual program. It does not define God; neither does A.A. demand, total allegiance to its belief concept. It says, "God as you understand Him."
I attempted to approach all religions; including the one I had been raised in, afresh, logically, without beliefs, expectations or preconceptions. Using this approach, there was not one religion that made sense to me.
I was aware that all of the major religions and many of the minors had evolved great philosophical and moral schools, teachings and many other noble and good things. Also they have been the fountains out of which many good and noble things have sprung.
There are many good men or women of all religions and denominations who have given and are giving selflessly of themselves to help others. All religions have produced some wonderful people. That was not the problem.
The problem was that I could not accept their logic in explaining God, man and the universe. I could not see how anything built on false basic premises, while still grounded in its false roots could be anything but illogical, no matter how much good it may or may not have done.
Causing good things to be, does not mean that a belief system is necessarily true. If that were the case, then all belief systems would be true, no matter how they contradict one another.
I came to the conclusion that the good, comes in two ways. First from good men who produce good works regardless, and would have done so no matter what faith they were raised in. Secondly, from a Higher Power, Who has had aeons of experience working with good men and women trying to do good and be good in all sorts of churches and in spite of some religious belief and some with no religious belief. So for whatever it is worth, this is what religion appears to be, to me.
I repeat, there are many theologies connected with these religions and most of them are complicated. I sought for the basic premise, that premise from which all else followed. If that premise were false the rest must be. For example, if the basis of astronomy was that the earth was flat and the center of the universe. Then all or most of the teaching about the planets and stars would be in error.
Perhaps this old poem says it better than I can:
The Blind Men and the Elephant
It was six men of Indostan
To learning much inclined
Who went to see the elephant
(Though all of them were blind.)
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind.
The first approached the elephant,
And, happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl;
"God bless me! But the elephant
Is nothing but a wall!"
The Second feeling of the tusk
Cried; "Ho! What have we here
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me 'tis very clear
This wonder of an elephant
Is very like a spear!"
The Third approached the animal,
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up and spake;
"I see," quoth he, "the elephant
Is very like a snake!"
The Fourth reached out his eager hand,
And felt about the knee;
What most this wondrous beast is like
Is might plain quoth he;
"Tis clear enough the elephant
Is very like a tree!"
The Fifth who chanced to touch an ear,
Said; "E'en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most;
Deny the fact who can
This marvel of an elephant
Is very like a fan!"
The Sixth no sooner had begun
about the beast to grope,
Then seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope,
"I see," quoth he, "the elephant
Is very like a rope!"
And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!
So, oft in theologic wars
The disputants, I ween
Rail on in utter ignorance
Of what each other mean,
And prate about an elephant
Not one of them has seen!
John Godfrey Saxe
Sometimes a poem or a parable says more in a short space than pages of argument. This poem could also very well refer to the various schools of psychology. They all disagree and argue that the other is dead wrong.
On the subject of the after life we find much disagreement.
Even if as some contend that Hell is punishment for sins actually committed, the penalty outweighs the crime or crimes. Eternity is an extremely long time.
The concept requires a punishing unrelenting God, one who will mete out His punishment on someone, no matter what.
I will give one last thought on Hell. I have two daughters, two granddaughters, one grandson and another on the way. Now if someone raped and or murdered one of these, I would desire revenge. I would perhaps want to torture and kill him, perhaps burn him at the stake. I think after just so much torture; I would begin to be sated of desire for vengeance. Causing so much pain to another human being would probably make me ill after a time. Most people would become sick to their stomach, under such circumstances. I and most other people would eventually feel pity.
They would have us believe that God is: (1), all good and all-loving, and (2), wishes to burn everyone who displeases Him, forever. We are to believe that we imperfect human beings have more compassion and pity then this loving, good God. We can accept the convolutions of logic that attempt to reconcile this twisted illogic or we can dump it and start afresh.
We must remember that most religions were designed when people were tribal and barbaric. Those people were locked in their own time, with their own ethical standards. They were trying to grow and help others to grow ethically and spiritually within the limitations of their times and situations.
When we view them, what they wrote and what they preached, for what they truly were, stepping stones along a spiritual and ethical path, we can judge them with greater compassion.
God either has or does not have certain characteristics. He either does things in a certain way, or He does not. We must ultimately believe what we and others whom we know to be honest have experienced in their lives. When we find writings that do not contradict what we know to be true we can test them out to see if they work in reality.
We cannot allow ourselves to be shackled to any writings just because we have been told they are holy. Not when all the internal evidence of the writings themselves contradicts it.
We still have the problem of explaining the existence of evil in the world. This is the question that every religion has tried to answer in its theology.
The atheist marshals some extremely telling arguments against the God of religion and God in general. They are the evil inequities, injustices, etc.: the disparities of birth, retardation, crippling diseases, health poverty and wealth. They include those people, born with no real chances and those who have all the chances. These inequities include those whose childhoods and environments give them very, little chance to be good and those who start life out good, with perfect beginnings.
The atheist further argues, that evolution disproves God. That God, if there were a God, would not have evolved the dinosaurs, then wiped them out; nor taken so many millions of years to generate and evolve man.
Early in my recovery from the emotional and spiritual ravages of alcoholism, I was veering between agnosticism and belief. The evidence in my life of aid and guidance, was pushing me toward a belief in a spiritual force; I knew not what.
Then, came a day of crisis for me. As the day wore on, I knew that though the fifth step, "Admitted to God, to ourselves, and another human being, the exact nature of our wrongs," is suggested. For me it was, do it now or return to drink. There was no choice, none at all. I wrestled with it all day, trying to find an easier, softer way, to no avail. At eleven thirty at night, I began.
I reviewed my life. I emptied myself. I opened the floodgates on things I had thought, felt, done and wanted to do. I felt drained, released and relieved, as one feels upon vomiting up an illness. I also felt dirty, defiled and beyond the pale of what is acceptable in the human community. The feeling that one gets that "I am worse, nastier, dirtier, a greater criminal or sinner than anyone else. I am beyond redemption." My feelings were extreme; but the pain and anguish were excruciatingly real.
These were the feelings I had as the A.A. member to whom I had told these things went to prepare more coffee. This was at 4:30 A.M. in January of 1961. It had been five emotional, tormenting hours. I went into a darkened empty part of the building, alone. In my aloneness, in my anguish, in my grief, in my feeling of, being beyond the pale of acceptability of other people, beyond the acceptance of God Himself, if there was a God, I cried out, "Have You turned your back on me too?"
Immediately the room was brighter, lit up by a Being of pure white light. He replied, "I have never turned my back on you, it is you who have turned his back on Me."
I was shocked. I was aghast. I was dumfounded. I was frightened. I was relieved. I was comforted. I was forgiven. I was blessed. I was accepted. I was loved, all in a magical instant of time.
What was it that I learned in that magical moment of time? For though it was but a short time, one senses and knows with a total knowing, a full sensing. I sensed a Being of love, of power, of miracles and magic. There was no sense of remoteness or awesome terrible power one would get from an ultimate God of the universe, nor a sense what the religious people term, angelic. This was not it either. He was higher, more exalted. The Being was truly holy.
The Being was totally composed of white light, what should have been blinding white light. Because it was so brilliant, I shouldn't have been able to look at him and see. However, I did look. I did see a Being of white light who seemed to have a head and shoulders. He looked at me and though He was too bright for me to see if He had eyes in our sense of eyes; I sensed a seeing of me, a looking, a regarding of me.
This was an approachable Being. One that could be cursed at, disbelieved, and still love, with no heavenly wrath, no wrath at all. It was a Being with a sense of humor, with real love. There was a sense of companionship and guardianship for me alone, that had gone on for unknown, uncounted time and would never end. I would never be deserted, never alone. I had never been alone, but before I didn't know. Now I know. The Being of light had always been there, will always be there, no matter what.
Though I use the terms, He and Him, I know the terminology doesn't fit. The Being, was neither male nor female, but both, not neuter, nor unnatural. This Being was so much more than either. The Being was a composite, a unity, a completeness and much more than that.. That is why the term "It" cannot be used for this Being. "It" is a thing, a neuter, an object. This Being was complete. More complete than anyone I knew. I sensed the power and thrust that is masculine along with the enfoldment and love that is feminine. Words cannot describe a knowing, a sensing.
Those who have never had this happen to them, feel they would bask for hours in the Heavenly presence, communing, learning, enjoying. I cannot speak for others, only for myself. It was like using jumper cables to start another car. When the engine starts, you remove the cables because the sustained power is too strong. I withdrew from the contact that had come so unexpectedly.
What was the aftermath? The aftermath was a sensing, a knowing, whenever I reached out of a presence of guidance, of help, the difference between believing and knowing. Some believe, I know! I said nothing about it to anyone for years, for fear of being thought, strange.
This visitation, this miracle happened in January of 1961, years before the books about death or near death experiences, where people met a Being of Light. These others had experienced death or near death in order to meet this Being. My visitation was without a near death experience. It was only later when I read the books and recognized that the description was the same as some of the near death experiences. I saw that this was the same type of Being.
But was it God, the ultimate God, a monotheistic God, something or someone else? Was there a God, a religious type of God, a God demanding adoration, fear, tithes, obedience?
I had to look again to the evidence in my own life, and in those around me in A.A., and given my studies, my learning, my experiences, including my meeting with the Being of Light; there was something at work in my life. It was something of Power, something good, something that cared for me, loved me, something was helping me. I knew that I was not alone, that I had never been alone. I felt that this "Being of Light" had always been with me.
I cannot believe that I am unique in being guided and guarded by a spiritual being, a Being of Light. So I must conclude, that probably everyone is so guarded, so guided -- whether they are aware of it or not.
To my thinking if this is so, then this Being is the explanation of many of the spiritual experiences written and spoken about by so many. In all probability, no one goes through this life alone, and never has.
Then I began to search for a system of belief that explained and encompassed what I had experienced, what I knew. One that explained logically the world, natural and spiritual as I had experienced it. It is doubtful that any of us can come to a totally satisfactory answer, but we can make an attempt.
In this my personal journey along the spiritual pathway of truth, I give my opinions, my thoughts and my ideas. People will question my humility and unbiased viewpoint. As to humility, I believe it is to a large extent a realistic view of one self in the reality of the world. What I am writing is my attempt to find as much as I can about this reality.
Am I unbiased? No one is unbiased, nor am I. I can only judge from my viewpoint. I can only measure from where I stand, with the evidence now available. All men are the measure and judges of their own reality. I am doing the best that I am capable of at this time. I hope you will do the same.
Any search for understanding of God requires certain things: the integration of personal experiences, the real experiences of others, psychology, psychic phenomena, parapsychology, physics, astronomy, genetics, evolution, prayer, answers to prayer, spiritual guidance, spiritual phenomena and all the various scientific disciplines. It requires reading and studying of various books, scriptures and other religious writings.
The reading of religious writings convinced me of a few things. That parts, bits and pieces of different religions seem to make logical sense, though no one religion did. There was also a tradition, among most religions of an esoteric, inner teaching, which was secret. The Essenes, Pythagoras, Jesus, the Sufis of Islam taught that there were parts of their doctrines that could not be committed to writing, parts that were secret.
There is evidence, stretching into the dim past of psychic abilities, psychology, bits and pieces of science, just being discovered, rediscovered and not yet discovered. All religious writings, though differing in their theologies, seem to be describing the same or similar psychic phenomena. There could not be this crossover of agreement unless they were having similar experiences.
So, I studied various writings, including some scriptural writings. Not as ineffable words of God, but as writings of people like me; who had experienced something and were attempting to explain it in light of the knowledge they had to work with at the time. Approached that way, in light of modern day psychology, parapsychology, sociology, genetics, physics, science and evolution, there was much to be learned.
Two books by psychologist Dr. Lawrence LeShan, "The Medium, The Mystic and The Physicist," and, "Alternate Realities," pointed out the similarity between cosmic views of mediums, mystics, physicists, scientists, mystical religious writings and shamans.
Lawrence LeShan also wrote another book, "How to Meditate," which discusses all aspects of meditation from a psychologist's viewpoint, without a theology.
One other book, "The Way of the Shaman," by anthropologist Michael Harner brings out one interesting thing; that there is a correlation between mystic realities of shamans, in various parts of the world, with no way of contact between them.
These are merely three of the scientific writings I studied. I merely use them to prove that there is much to be studied in the search for truth. Of course I recommend, "The Varieties of Religious Experience," by William James, as a starting point. The journey to the truth is long and difficult, but worthwhile.
A.A., the "Big book" and the "Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions," these are practical. They are practically arrived at in the crucible of having kept what worked and discarding what did not. Our lives, the lives of all alcoholics in A.A. were sick, very confused and headed toward disaster. By working this program, we turned our lives around and brought about the intervention and aid of a Power greater than ourselves. So in our search for guidelines, we start with the A.A. program.
Let us see what can be learned this way. To start with, nowhere in A.A., is there anything about securing God/Higher Power's forgiveness. There is a lot about making amends, about trying to heal the ill will, resentments and hurt feelings of other human beings, gaining their forgiveness where possible. Obviously guilt is unhealthy and making amends is the best way to remove it. I have never found it necessary to secure, to plea for, or request my Higher Power's forgiveness. My recovery seems, to be no different from nor inferior to those who did seek it. I must conclude that divine forgiveness or its necessity is not rooted in reality. To need forgiveness would imply that I could harm God. That idea is both inconceivable and extremely arrogant.
So how do we understand God? We have used man as a measure of God, down through the ages to the detriment of both. He has been postulated as being jealous, punishing, killing and destroying. Why? Because a member or members of a remote species of sentient beings on a small planet circling a remote sun on the edge of a middle size galaxy: were not going to the right church, obeying the proper rules and taboos, using the proper name for God, were eating the wrong food or not being respectful to the right priests or ministers. These are not Godlike behaviors. These are human behaviors. We humanize our Gods.
We attribute our worst, our basest, our most immature emotions and attributes to our Gods. We make our Gods jealous, demanding of adoration, childish and paranoid. We have always used man as our measure, usually man's worst measure.
The problem of measure is how do we do it differently? If an ant were to measure a man, she would use an ant's terms in an ant's understanding. Can we do better? Can I do any better? Possibly not, all I can do is try.
Shall we try to understand something different but close to us? First, become mentally and emotionally a dog. Feel like a dog. Look out of a dog's eyes. Remember dogs are color blind with just a hint of blue and brown but everything else shades of gray. Run sniffing the ground, discerning a texture, a feel of odors. Knowing what they mean, reading the scents as we do a book. Continue it for a while.
Now we will do a lobster. No, we won't do a lobster, because we didn't really do the dog. What we did was put on a masquerade dog suit and played dog. We can play at it, play around it, but we cannot truly do it. We can only approach it.
So how can we understand something like God? Imagine the gulf between us.
An average galaxy has about 10,000,000,000 stars. The galaxies that are known, number 800,000,000. So, there are more than 8,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars. This was written before the further knowledge from the Hubble telescope which would raise the numbers. Figure the percentages. If 1 percent, even one tenth of 1 percent, one hundredth, one thousandth of 1 percent of these stars had planets with intelligent life, it would still be a fantastically large number. Allow for a couple million or billion intelligent beings on each of these planets and it comes to a fantastic number of sentient beings.
Now we have a God in charge of this vast cosmos, all the galaxies, suns, satellites, intelligent beings and all the life on all the worlds. We have God that is farther from us than we are from the ant. Farther than we are from an amoeba.
Three things emerge from this. (1) How could we hope to comprehend a being of this magnitude? (2) Do we really need to? (3) Is this the way it is? A vast multitude of life, beings and things going up to our level and after that, just a vast, empty gulf, between us and this God, who is beyond comprehension?
Do we truly need to comprehend? In one sense no, billions of people have lived and died with some of the most ridiculous concepts and I doubt that God punished them. On the other hand, reality which is part and parcel of God has its own punishment. Ignore the laws of gravity at your own peril. In reality are not our studies in A.A. and working the steps attempts to comprehend God, reality and its workings?
The view of the world and the cosmos as expressed by the religions is extremely provincial, very egocentric. Most people and religions believe that the place where they are, is the naval of the world, that this world is the center of the cosmos, or at least the center of God's interest in the cosmos. In reality, this world is less than a mote; a particle of dust in this galaxy and the potential of this galaxy being the center one is very remote. The egocentricity of this world or any part of it, being the center of focus of an ultimate God's interest, boggles the mind. Another view is required, one that takes into account the vastness of the cosmos, the numberlessness of probable worlds with intelligent life.
We human beings are just scratching the surface of knowledge of the cosmos. We are pushing back the frontiers of knowledge, but the unknown is so very much vaster than the known. We cannot even guess the dimensions or extent of the universe. All that we can say, is that we see so and so many galaxies with present instruments. We have no idea whether it is ten or a million times greater in extent than the area of the cosmos, which we know. When we weigh the dimensions of the known against the unknown, when we minuscule human beings say, we know there that is no God, it is the height of egotism and arrogance. We cannot know there is no God. The field of inquiry is too great.
Too many people demand to understand God totally and completely, before they will believe, ask for help or pray. They do not realize how ridiculous they are talking and thinking.
Let us imagine, we are in one of the many areas in the world that gets its electrical power from the generation of atomic energy. Do we demand that we understand Einstein's Theory of Relativity, atomic theory, and electric generator building before we will turn on the lamp?
How can we hope to comprehend a being of this magnitude? In reality we cannot. All we can hope for is bits and pieces, hints and conjecture.
Here are a few of mine. God created this immensity and/or is managing it the best way possible under natural, supernatural, ultra-dimensional and whatever laws pertain; in the best way He knows at this time.
In viewing A.A., I haven't seen any alcoholic instantly struck with sobriety, sanity, and emotional and spiritual maturity. I don't say it can never happen, but only in very special circumstances, subject to rules and laws of which I am not aware. To all intents and purposes, healing requires time, effort, work, prayer, meditation -- a change in the alcoholic before the Higher Power can get through to work from His side, to work on the alcoholic on this side. It seems necessary to clear blocks and debris on our side to open the way.
The religionists would tell us that God deliberately limits Himself. That He is omnipotent, but that he deliberately sets limits and restrictions on Himself and lets evil have its sway. Another facet of the argument is that He limits Himself in order to allow us to have freedom of choice.
In that case, if God were omnipotent, having created everything and everyone; He has created us with all our biases and inclinations. He thus controls everything and everyone anyway. Therefore, He would be ultimately the creator and cause of all evil as well as good, and the one who punishes us for what is ultimately His responsibility. This is, to me, the behavior of a devious, perhaps sick God.
My Higher Power, as I have experienced Him, is not evil, not vicious. Most of my troubles, in one way or another, were of my own making. I cannot believe that the others were initiated maliciously or evilly by God or this Power greater than myself. When I have turned to my Higher Power, I have found Him to be good. Others who have had personal experience with some power of a spiritual nature in their lives know first hand that there is something good at work.
If God is omnipotent, we have a paradox. I cannot reconcile the question on that basis. I find it impossible to accept this logically. There has to be another explanation. To my logic God is not omnipotent. This is the only explanation that fits all the facts! He is doing the best He can within the scope of natural and spiritual laws we know of and many that we are yet to know.
Also, the arguments of atheism concerning evolution, science, evil or unfairness to prove the nonexistence of God are answered simply. God is not omnipotent! Those who opt for an omnipotent God will say that it is because God chooses to do it that way. They rationalize that He wants certain results that He can get that way. But it seems to me that an omnipotent God could do it more easily and softly. He could make me perfect without all this pain and effort to strive for perfection. They tell me I appreciate it more this way. An omnipotent God could easily, create me chock full of appreciation. So I must conclude that my Higher Power is doing the best He can and needs all the help He can get.
So now on top of questioning the need for divine forgiveness we are questioning one of the cornerstones of traditional theologies, the omnipotence of God Himself. What does omnipotence mean? Simply put; it means that God is all-powerful, all-wise, all-knowing, (past, present, future). That He can do anything He wants. That there no laws, nor rules, natural or supernatural, that can govern, restrain or stop Him from doing anything He wishes.
Let us look where the idea of an omnipotent God started. It started with the Jewish prophets and priests. Other religions have followed their lead.
Well is God omnipotent? Of course He is! Isn't it obvious? All of the major religions agree and everyone knows it. Or do they? Is it so obvious?
Let's look at some things that are obvious to anyone with eyes to see and a mind to deduce the obvious. Here are three obvious truths; the world is flat; the earth is the center of the universe; God is omnipotent.
What is the shape of the world? We can see by looking around us with the naked eye it is flat. Otherwise we would fall off or roll down the sides. Of course there are problems. We should be able to go to the top of Sears Tower in Chicago, with a good telescope and view New York or Paris. We cannot. Why not? Then there is the odd way that ships at sea disappear, bottom first, top last. How can we explain it, refraction of the air, the sheer distance?
The earth is the center of the cosmos? Again with the naked eye it is obvious, isn't it? But once again you invent a telescope and start to measure, check and study. It soon becomes obvious that the design is more immense, more beautiful, grander.
Let us view the logic of an omnipotent God: where does it take us? As I stated, God seems unable to change us unless we are totally willing. God will not jail or coerce us. In A.A. or out of it, I know of no case where God changed anyone through force whether they would or not. I must bow to the evidence. He cannot or He will not.
What about miraculous healings? There have been some and not in the dim past either. Diseases are healed. Illnesses go away. The crippled walk. But I know of no replacement of lost limbs. There are limits, but there should be none for an omnipotent God.
So, we are forced to one of two conclusions. Either there is no God or He is not omnipotent.
Is this the way it is? An evolution that starts with inert matter going all the way up to us and perhaps others like us, then a vast unbridgeable gulf between us and the unimaginably vast power and intelligence that is God. For even if He is not omnipotent, when was the last time you gave birth to a star?
A Few Unconventional Thoughts
Up until now I have torn down some old thinking and shared some things that happened to me. Perhaps you feel that I have only confused you more. Please remember, if you were not already having difficulties in these areas you would not be reading this booklet. So, please be patient with me.
So at this point, hoping that I have more evidence and science to work with, I will pass around a few theories of my own. With at least one difference, I hope. None of what I have written or will write is proposed as revelation of immutable truth: some has been personal experience, some personal deduction, some pure speculation. Read it, then make your own speculations and deductions.
The important thing is that we are free. We are free to reject what does not make sense. We are free to reject what is not logical. We are free to reject what I have written. Study, learn, think; above all think. We do not have to accept something just because it has many adherents. Look for logic and proof, the two most important ingredients.
I am at this point going to put forth some of my own speculations. I feel that they are logical. Perhaps you will agree, perhaps not. But the important thing is that it will hopefully start you to thinking along your own track. Remember above all that A.A. has vast amounts of proof that it has a method of sobering up alcoholics. The proof is all around us. So any theories that contradict A.A., are highly questionable.
So for whatever it might be worth here are a few more of my speculations.
We who were outside of the conventional belief systems, felt pity for those people trapped in religious thought that we felt stunted their lives. Those of us who were argumentative often tried to save them from themselves. While at the same time, before we came to A.A., we were trapped in a cult and were unaware of it.
By my definition, a cult is an organization, possibly religious in nature, one that shuts down your mind, takes all your money and assets, controls your every waking moment. It usually puts you into new and/or demeaning work for the benefit of the cult. The drinking world we inhabited was the cult and alcohol was our God.
A.A., acted as a deprogrammer, to set us free. A.A.'s buzzwords and slogans were very good and very necessary in the first crucial months, to still, to quiet the tremors, the jitters, the terrible fears that sat on our shoulders. Through the power of repetition, the force of the group, the words soon triggered positive responses in our subconscious wherein lay the emotions and the obsessions. A.A., started triggering positive responses and healing emotions, in place of the negative.
We all, those of us who have been in A.A. any length of time, have attempted to skirt the working of some if not all the steps. We have used many rationalizations. One of my favorites, was that because I could understand the psychological reasons behind the step or steps; there was no need of me actually working it. This, of course, was the attempt of the conscious (the will) to bypass the spiritual and be like other people, the nonalcoholics. But if an intellectual answer could have won the day, I would never have been brought so low, never been an alcoholic; or at the very least, I should have been able to intellectualize my way to sobriety. The problem is that tools of the intellect are inappropriate for the job. It is on a par with trying to use a computer to break broncos.
We know that we are the result of millions of years of evolution. There were the simian packs that evolved into human tribes. It is merely a few thousand years since we became feudal, then citified. The pack/tribal time is so great against the time of civilization as to make it insignificant.
The evolution that went on during the pack/tribal time is still within our genes, our nervous systems, the ROM of our brain system and biology. ROM is a computer term that seems apt in this context. It means, read only memory. Read only memory can be read, but not written or rewritten. It can be utilized, but not changed. It must be worked with or worked around. Two examples are: our need for ritual, as in funerals and weddings and in a need to deal with our guilts and guilt feelings.
Computers can be programmed in many ways, but certain biases are built in, ways of conceptualizing, ways to operate and limitations on ways to operate. Categories in which certain data will be placed, including in some instances stimuli, e.g., (a) will result in operation, (b) to be followed by either (c) and/or in some cases (d). The concept in some ways matches the operation of the human brain. There is a reality to the concept of the subconscious as a fact, whether called the emotional side or whatever terminology is used. The conscious mind concept is real also, sometimes called intellect or will. These things have their own reality in the ROM of the brain, nervous system and biology of every human being.
This is the system in which, due to some biological difference, alcoholism takes root and grows. We can be as intellectual as we like, but our subconscious will reach for a drink and baffle us when we least expect it.
Negative emotional patterns and patterning do not cause alcoholism, but they do complicate it. They do stand in the way of recovery. They do cause relapses.
This system is what must be dealt with in any program that tries to bring sobriety. This reality system is the one that A.A. deals with. A.A. touches the most bases within this system. This is the reason for A.A.'s high rate of success. A.A. is a moral/spiritual program. In dealing with the subconscious, moral concepts work, emotional concepts work, spiritual concepts work.
Dr. Rhine was the father of modern day parapsychology. He originated the term Extrasensory Perception (ESP.). Using mathematics and extensive testing, he proved the existence of ESP., gaining acceptance and respectability for the subject in the scientific community. Rhine used the laws of probability to prove that when coincidence exceeded the probability of chance it proved the existence of ESP. My life had far too many coincidences. Someone, something higher was taking a hand.
Driven as I was by the immediacy of the pain and misery in working the Program, I had to experiment with prayer. The results of the experiments were intermittent answers to prayer and too, too many coincidences to be coincidences. Help in times of desperate need. The arrival in my life of A.A.s to help when I felt that drinking was the only answer to a dilemma but really did not want to. The help was often the coincidental arrival of someone from A.A. at unlikely times and places, just when I so desperately needed a hand, to turn me around, away from returning to drink. Oddly enough, the help was sometimes, my own wandering into someone else's life, just when my own experiences or words would make a crucial difference.
In looking back surveying my personal journey in Alcoholics Anonymous, in what could termed a Physcho-Spiritual realm -- I see what happened when I prayed and when others prayed. A group of people embarked on a spiritual search for healing, without theological constraints, is a good laboratory in which to study spiritual reality. A.A. stands the hard test of spirituality working in the here and now, the world in which we must live.
Psychic phenomena, spiritual phenomena, spiritual guidance, prayer, answers to prayer and meditation, all seem to operate out of one gray area, the emotional side of man, the subconscious. Do you know of any successful prayer that is totally unemotional, cold and intellectual? Prayer is always emotional. Joy, pleas, sorrow and desperation are all parts of prayer. All of these are emotional.
Prayer what is it anyway? There seem to be two kinds. Public recitation type prayer that is more to exhort and unite groups spiritually and emotionally, which might or might not reach a spiritual power. The other is usually private, personal and emotional; this type is aimed at a spiritual power whether it gets there or not. This prayer is usually mental. Personally, I have found that it appears to work better with more pictures and feelings with fewer words. You might say, telepathic communication with your spiritual power.
What does all this prove? As any scientists, we study a thing by its behavior and the results of its reaction. I have witnessed answers to pleas, prayers and/or commitments irrespective of what name He is addressed under. God/spiritual power is not parochial. He seems to answer and love everyone regardless of church, race or nation. This is an important step in understanding prayer.
When I was new in A.A. I wanted to know and understand about prayer. So I thought I would go and ask an old timer.
Now in those days when A.A. was young, an old timer was anyone who was sober fifteen years or more. So I went and found a man who was sober for fifteen years.
I asked him, "Tell me what is prayer?"
This is what he told me, "For the first five years in A.A. I kept slipping and going back to drink. I decided that I needed to find some magic so I could stay sober.
"So I set out on a journey, a spiritual quest. I traveled far and wide looking for some one to explain the nature of magic to me.
"Finally I came to a small village in the jungle. There I met a witch doctor, they call them shamans now, he was from the little tribe that lived there. The shaman was so ancient that his skin looked like seasoned, wrinkled parchment. I asked the aged man, "Please can you tell me what magic is and how does it work?"
The man studied me for a long moment and replied, "Yes, I will explain magic to you. I will also show you magic that works.
"First I must explain to you that prayer is a magic rite. For you see magic and prayer are identical. Both, first look to some Higher Power, or God for results. In both magic and prayer, a person is petitioning a higher spiritual power to change the future from being a continuation of the way things have been, to something different, presumably better. Then the procedure is begun in whatever way is appropriate to that person's belief system.
"Now I will show you a magic rite, that is done among my people, that when done properly always works.
"You see, among my people, fire is a very holy thing. Because of this, you see, we always do our magic rite, our prayer to bring down fire from the fire God.
"Watch closely now, for you will soon see the magic generation of fire."
Then the wizened old shaman sat on the ground, his legs in a lotus position. "Now," he said, "we must focus our minds on the fire God, Ashahra Gorah, meditating on His fiery nature."
Then he began to chant, "Hocus pocus, hocus pocus, hocus pocus, hocus pocus...." As he chanted, he reached down and took out two sticks of wood and began to rub them together briskly. "Hocus pocus, hocus pocus, hocus pocus...."
"You are a fraud!" cried the old timer, "You are a bloody fraud!"
"Ah," said the ancient shaman, "you have not looked closely enough at the two sticks that I hold in my hands. For you see this stick I have in my right hand is willingness.
"Willingness to change. Willingness to change anything that stands in the way of the prayer coming true. Perhaps it is something that I refuse to give up that keeps me from getting the good I pray for. Perhaps it is guilt that I hold in my heart that makes me feel unworthy that my prayer come true. It may be that I have been taught that praying for myself is selfish and I should not do it. It might be that I have been taught that I must work very, very hard in order to get anything and that using magic is unfair.
"If this is so, then what you really have is this action," he put the stick in his right hand on the ground and continued to move his left hand vigorously back and forth in the air.
He then held up the stick in his left hand, "This stick is belief, or faith. Perhaps you believe that there are no Gods, or if there are they no longer listen. Perhaps you believe that what you are praying for is impossible. It might be that you believe the Gods only listen to important people.
"If one of these things is so, then you will have this," he then laid down the stick in his right hand and started sawing the air powerfully with the stick in his left.
"Then of course there are those who pray like this," he said as he laid down both of the sticks and chanting, "Hocus pocus, hocus pocus," he sawed the air in front of himself with his empty hands.
"All right, all right," the old timer conceded. "But you know that hocus pocus, stuff is sheer nonsense."
"Ah, no," the old shaman said quietly. "Quite the contrary. Everyone uses hocus pocus. Hocus pocus is necessary to keep your concentration and rhythm correct. Praying with beads is hocus pocus. Thinking that you can only pray in a building with stained glass windows is hocus pocus. Thinking that we can only pray on our knees is hocus pocus. The idea that God is so archaic that he must be prayed to in old English, with many thees and thous is hocus pocus. The thought that we must use candles, or candles of a certain color is hocus pocus. We all use hocus pocus in our prayers and magic. Some of us recognize it."
The shaman then wiped the sweat from his forehead, "You see my sweat? Perhaps you did not know that prayer, true prayer, is a very strenuous, very emotional action. Without emotion, you pray with no heat. If there is no heat, there will be no fire.
"It is also something that must be repeated often.
"When you have you have your spark, some people do not put the spark to the kindling and the fire does not ignite. How many people almost have what they have prayed for, then reject the answer for one reason or another and thus there is no magic, no answer to their prayer.
"How many people get sober in your organization, their lives start coming together, then they get drunk and ruin it all?"
Of course the above is a parable. I wrote it specifically in an effort to explain what I believe prayer is and something about how it works. Naturally when I use a parable form, I take the chance that you might believe that something further on is fiction also. I promise that all parables or fables will always be labeled as such.
Some Examples of Answered Prayers
There have been many instances in my life and the lives of people in and out of A.A. that I have known, to be cases of what I consider answered prayer. Many of them lack certain elements that would make the claim indisputable. The deep dyed skeptic can say, either coincidence or self suggestion.
Another problem in finding and/or proving cases of healing is the investigators. There have been many cases of healing of cancer by prayer, by healers of varying degrees of renown.
The members of the medical profession immediately respond that it is a case of spontaneous remission. Spontaneous remission in this instance simply means that they don't know why it went away; and refuse to accept the possibility that it could have been caused by a spiritual procedure. Yet, if it had gone away while a new and unknown chemical procedure was being tested -- they would have immediately credited the chemicals.
In the examples I intend to cite; some element precludes this quick easy response.
In the examples I use, you only have three responses: I am a liar, I am self deluded, or I am telling the truth.
Case number one.
Over thirty years ago, I was involved in a divorce from my first wife. In the state of Indiana at that time it was impossible for a father to gain custody of a child as long as the mother was living and wanted custody. It did not matter, what the merits of the case might have been. The courts were locked into the position that the mother was the best possible custodian, no matter what.
In my case at that time I was still drinking and was not a fit custodian for my daughter. Nevertheless, I tried to get custody of my daughter. Quite naturally I lost.
To be perfectly candid, I must say that as in so many divorces, my motives for seeking custody were not the purest. I was driven by spite as much as anything. It was a battle of wills. My daughter was a pawn in our divorce battle.
Five years later I had sobered up in Alcoholics Anonymous. I discovered that the man my ex-wife had married was a violent abusive alcoholic. He was not abusive to my daughter, just to my ex-wife. Still my daughter was living in this environment.
There was one other reason I wanted custody. My ex-wife was one of those women, who are so man-dependent that they use sex to get a man to take care of them, marriage if possible, any other arrangement if necessary.
This type of woman is becoming rarer today because of the woman's movement and it is a very good thing. One of my concerns, at that time, was that my daughter not grow into a dependent sexually manipulative person, like her mother.
I consulted a good attorney who was also a friend of mine. He informed me that the climate in the courts of Indiana had not changed and that there was no possible way that I could gain custody of my daughter. It was a lost cause.
At that time I was studying a type of prayer discipline that I had read about and decided as a last resort to try it.
I composed myself, cleared my mind and began the prayer action. First I assured myself that this prayer was solely for the benefit of my daughter, not any vendetta against my ex-wife.
I then prayed for a solution that was exclusively for my daughter's best interest, not mine, nor my ex-wife's. Then I cleared my mind as the book had suggested. Clearing one's mind, really clearing it, is a very difficult task. Then I waited.
I then heard a voice speak to me. It was very precise and matter of fact. It said, "Put your daughter in an orphanage. Make it a Roman Catholic one, because with their restrictive attitude toward sex, they will counteract her mother's almost self degradation in that regard. She has been pulled in one direction for years. She will then be pulled in the opposite by the nuns. She will then settle somewhere in the middle, toward normalcy. Have your daughter put in an orphanage a good distance away from here. Thus she will not be subject to a continual emotional tug of war, between you and her mother."
My first reaction was elation that my prayer action was a success; it had worked. My second was, what a stupid answer! I am in no position to carry out any of it. My ex-wife had sole custody; this was Indiana. I dismissed the entire incident.
Then a week later, I received a telephone call from the child welfare people. They informed me, that my daughter was experiencing emotional difficulties in general and difficulties at school. It was her home environment and did I have any suggestions?
I quickly gave them the full set of instructions as relayed to me in the prayer action.
The plan was set into motion. My daughter was there for four years, then returned to her mother. By that time her mother had gotten her life into better shape.
Growing up was no better for her than the average child in those years. The proof of the advice is in the results. My daughter is married, the mother of two daughters. She is a college graduate, with a master's degree in social work, a self sufficient professional.
The prayer worked. She is her own person.
The important thing about this prayer is that the spiritual power I dealt with could manipulate people and circumstances. If you discount the ability to manipulate people and circumstances -- you must admit that at the very least it could foretell the future, to enough of an extent, to give me the correct advice in a situation, that had not even happened yet.
Case number two.
This case involves my youngest daughter, from a second marriage. It happened in 1986. She was involved in an auto accident. Though there was no outward disfigurement, the cartilage in her nose was broken. She could not breathe through her left nostril.
My daughter was scheduled to be operated on in June after graduation. It was so scheduled to avoid having swelling and discoloration, during graduation exercises.
I had read about this healer who worked by telephone and mail. He did not charge nor proselytize. He owns and operates apartment buildings in Florida. The man has no church or anything of that nature. He says that if can pray for others to prosper; he can certainly do the same for his own fortunes and needs no donations for himself.
Mr. Y. works from the theories of a man, who is now deceased, named Max Freedom Long. Like all of the rest of us Mr. Y. uses a certain amount of personal "hocus pocus." By and large he is an intelligent sincere individual.
I wrote him a letter on my computer. I then had my daughter sign a blank piece of paper not telling her what would be printed on it. Then I ran it through my printer to put the letter above her signature.
The reason I did it this way, is that I did not want to raise false hopes in my daughter.
The letter asked for healing for my daughter, before the scheduled date of her operation; so that she need not undergo surgery.
The weekend before the scheduled surgery, while on a ride at an amusement park, she accidentally bumped her nose on her boyfriend's head.
When they arrived home, she told me that she could now breathe through that nostril. I told her to make an appointment with her physician. He canceled the scheduled operation because it was no longer necessary.
Coincidence, you say. I challenge you to get punched in the nose sufficient times to place a broken nasal cartilage back in place, by sheer coincidence.
The suggestive power of knowing she was being prayed for? She did not know. I had not told her.
Case number three.
This case requires a little explanation.
It involves a woman of my acquaintance who was then and had been for thirty-five years a multiple personality. At age four as the result of massive child abuse and trauma, she split into two alternate personalities.
There appear to be two basic types of multiple personality. The first type is of the type mentioned in "Sybil," the true personality is present, but is preempted from time to time by alter, created, false personalities. There is a second type similar to that mentioned in "The Three Faces of Eve" case and "When Rabbit Howls." The true personality is not present. This lady had been of the second type, until therapy had aroused the true personality about two years before I made her acquaintance.
I met her in a writing club we both attended. At that time her therapy was at a standstill.
She gave me a manuscript that she had been working on at the suggestion of her therapist. It concerned a case of multiple personality. She said that it was partly autobiographical. She asked me to help her with it.
When I read it, I realized that it explained certain peculiarities that I had noticed in her behavior; I realized that it was highly autobiographical.
The lady told me that she, A. was the true personality. She had been aroused by therapy, but was not able to eradicate the other personalities and feared for her life as the other two, B. and C. were suicidal.
She also had a drinking problem and was attempting to stay sober in A.A.. When she made an effort to stay sober, sometimes one or the other of her alter personalities would take over and start drinking.
She called me one evening from her home in a nearby community; she was drunk.
I remembered what Mr. Y. in Florida had done previously at a distance for my daughter. I called him and requested his help. Mr. Y., asked for her first name, age and her location at that immediate time.
He then started his prayer ritual and worked for an hour. When he was finished, I thanked him and went to bed.
In the morning I called A.. I asked how she felt. She admitted to a massive hangover. I asked as to B. and C.. She replied that they were gone. I further asked how she felt as to their absence. She answered that she felt empty and alone.
I wish that I could say that this solved all of her problems and that she lived happily ever after. Life seldom works quite that way; I am afraid.
I had made two false assumptions. The first was that she would automatically stop drinking without the presence of B. an C.. Two, that she was ready to be free of her alter personalities. On a subconscious level, the level where these personalities are created, there was still a compulsion to continue to use the other personalities to solve problems, although in an irrational manner.
She continued to drink and within two months she commenced something she had never done before, manufacturing new personalities at the least sign of personal stress.
Eventually through study, I came to the conclusion that multiple personality requires three ingredients. The person must be a hysteric. The person must have suffered, massive physical and\or sexual abuse as a young child and have a high IQ. She fit all three categories.
I thought if I could eliminate one leg of the triad, it might break the pattern of personality creation. I could not eliminate her past. Nor could I eliminate the intelligence.
That left the hysteria. Hysteria is classed as a psychoneurosis in which there is conversion of mental conflicts to physical symptoms. It is marked by amnesia, hypnoidal states, fugues, tremors and multiple personality.
Another fact is that hysterics are the best hypnotic subjects. The early experimenters in hypnosis all used hysterics when they could find them.
Through questioning the lady, I became convinced, that multiple personality is the result of powerful self hypnosis at an extremely young age, in a desperate effort to solve insoluble problems. The child attempts to escape a terrible situation in a way that is natural to them, entrance into a hypnoidal state in which the conscious mind withdraws. In desperation the subconscious creates an alter personality to deal with the situation.
Over time the coping method becomes habitual. The alter personality becomes entrenched and others are sometimes created, to deal with other situations. Sometimes the conscious mind withdraws for many years. In some cases it never returns.
What started as a coping mechanism, becomes a way of life that causes almost as much, if not more trouble than they were created to alleviate.
The question remained, what causes a person to be a hysteric? I suspected hypoglycemia. I had her go to a physician to be tested. She was a hypoglycemic
Through diet and taking evening primrose oil capsules, she ceased being a hysteric and stopped splitting and creating new personalities, for a time.
She has reverted to drink and has manufactured new and different personalities
As to prayer, what does this all prove?
First, there could not have been suggestion or hypnosis as she had no idea that I was going to call Y. in Florida. Further, she had no idea that Y. had been called until after she told me that B. and C. were gone.
Second, it proves that you cannot heal a person by prayer unless and until the person wishes strongly to be healed. Y. has since changed his policies and refuses healing to anyone solely on the request of a third party. It is a waste of his time. He only accepts prayer requests by the individual that is in need of healing and is willing to cooperate to the best of their abilities.
It also proves what I have said before; without the cooperation or at least the neutrality of the subconscious, prayer is destined to fail.
I have listed three cases that I consider classic examples of prayers answered. I could list many more but these are the best and they each prove a point that I consider important.
There is one other problem with cases to cite; quite often those who get wholesale answers to prayers are fanatics of one stripe or another and are not open to scientific, open-minded inquiry.
By their very nature, fanatics are sometimes more successful in these things than open-minded searchers like myself. We tend to be too relaxed, open minded, skeptical and less prone to the single-mindedness necessary.
Only, when we are driven by personal needs or those of people very close to us, are we capable of dredging up the emotional fire necessary to pray for ourselves or others effectively.
Prayer if it is nothing else (and it has many more facets) is at base an emotional thing and without the emotion it goes no where. The emotions can be desperation, love or fear of something, prayer for deliverance, etc..
There is a much used analogy: electricity is a power we cannot explain totally, but we can use it. Let us carry the analogy one step further into spiritual reality. Imagine a person born and raised in the wilderness, with no access to electricity. Heating and cooking are done with wood. Lighting is from candles fashioned from beeswax taken from a hive in the woods. In the summer the cabin is hot and stuffy.
Now this person moves to a house in the city. Not believing in electricity, the heating is still done with wood. The electric pilot light in the hot water heater is not started. Water is heated on the stove. The lighting is from candles purchased from the local hardware store.
The house is hot and stuffy in the summer. The central air conditioner stands idle. All cooking is done on the gas range, lit with matches. The microwave stands in the corner gathering dust. The automatic coffee maker is ignored, as coffee is brewed in a pot on the stove. Of course the television, radio and telephone are equally useless. They too gather dust,
This person does not believe in electricity. It cannot be explained to his satisfaction. So, naturally it is unbelievable.
Those of us who refuse to open our minds to the possibility of a Higher Spiritual Power deprive ourselves in many more ways than this. We also deny ourselves access to a fuller more wholesome life.
An Unconventional Viewpoint
In surveying my journey in A.A., the best term would be that it is a Physcho-Spiritual realm. I saw what happened when I prayed and when others prayed. A.A. is a good laboratory in which to study spiritual reality. It stands the hard test of spirituality working in the here and now, the world we must perforce live.
In A.A. certain actions are suggested, certain actions are taken. Steps are worked.
What are the results? On the whole the results are positive. People stay sober. People find greater peace of mind. The Alcoholics Anonymous program works in the real world, with real people. We must conclude pragmatically that it has a greater hold on reality than therapies and programs that either do not work or give lesser results.
Look at ourselves and others in A.A.. After years of denial, we are finally willing to change one thing or die. We become willing to stop drinking, but that is about all. Even when it is obvious that change is necessary for sanity, peace of mind and sobriety, we balk and rationalize to avoid change.
In A.A. terms, we are supposed to turn our will and our lives over to the care of a Power greater than ourselves. Why? Because when we came into A.A. we saw what others were doing and saying. If we were honest, we recognized that in comparison to others, we were almost totally wrong in many if not all departments -- morally, spiritually, in our personal relations, in our thoughts, thinking and many other areas. Our view of reality was warped and misshapen. Misshapen views of reality give misshapen results in life. This is a description of insanity.
Others in A.A. said they had made a commitment to a power greater than themselves. Some called this Higher Power, God, some Allah, some Jehovah, some Father, some Jesus; some used other names and some simply Higher Power. Those with some order of maturity and serenity had made the commitment.
It has been shown previously that this commitment must be worked at, that we do not become puppets. So, we do not have that to fear. We think that He will not assist us to be evil, mean and nasty. We must do those things on our own. I believe this to hold true. Spiritually mature people eventually don't desire to be evil, mean and nasty.
Perhaps this would be an appropriate time to discuss rationalization. Rationalization vies with resentments as the prime enemy of an alcoholic's sobriety.
Any discussion of rationalization could start with a simple definition. Rationalization is the language we use to justify what we want to do. It would cover the thought to a certain extent, but it would not cover it entirely, nor well.
To truly understand rationalization, we must understand that Freud neither invented nor discovered the subconscious. He merely painted it with a broad brush of sexuality. While sex is fun and a reasonable portion of our psychological makeup, it is not the overriding drive behind everything that he said it was.
Others studied it and discussed it more rationally. William James was one. I cannot quote the original statement exactly, but it went like this, "Whenever there is a contest between the emotions and the will, the emotions will win every time."
If we recognize the correlation between the will and conscious mind and the one between emotions and subconscious -- we begin to see some daylight.
Because we are biochemically and genetically alcoholics, alcohol does strange and magic things for us (and eventually to us). The social drinker who sometimes looks down on the suffering alcoholic would be just as addicted if he or she received the same effects from alcohol as we do.
The subconscious mind comes into action at this point. Everyone tries to cope with stress and other negative emotions. We all find coping mechanisms. We all repeat successful coping mechanisms, alcoholic and nonalcoholic.
The seductive power, is in the powerful effect, of alcohol and other drugs, on those of us who have the body-brain, biochemical predisposition toward addiction. It is almost as if the alcoholic and the nonalcoholic were drinking different liquids. It will get both of them drunk if they drink enough of it. Alcohol will not addict the person who is not triggered physically to become addicted. The one cannot become addicted. The other can do nothing else but become addicted.
Responding to the almost magical ability of this beverage, to make the world our feelings and our thinking seem right, our subconscious minds begin building a pattern, a methodology of coping, through this to us unsocial, social beverage. It makes a deep rooted, emotional decision about alcohol. This pattern is reinforced every time we drink. It soon becomes an obsession.
When we start drinking, alcohol reacts differently in our physical and emotional being. It is powerful and it begins to set up a physical compulsion and an emotional obsession.
I will give you an example of an obsession from a college textbook I read years ago, but it is still valid.
A psychology professor was demonstrating hypnosis to a class. He had found an excellent subject in a female student. While she was under, he told her, "When I awaken you, you will not remember anything, even that I succeeded in hypnotizing you. But during the lecture, when you see me tug on my left earlobe you will immediately get up and go to the coat room. You will get my white lab coat. You must put it on me before you can return to your seat."
He awakened her and apologized for wasting her time trying to hypnotize her when it seemed obvious to her that she could not be hypnotized. She resumed her seat and he continued his lecturing. During the lecture the professor tugged the earlobe. The subject went immediately to the coat room and brought back the lab coat. "Here Professor put on your lab coat."
"Why should I put on my lab coat?"
"So you won't catch a chill."
"Catch a chill? Look at the thermostat. It's seventy degrees in here. Besides, I already have on a sport jacket."
"That's why you should put on your lab coat. So you won't get chalk dust on your jacket."
He put on the lab coat and she returned to her seat.
What does this all prove?
The hypnotist induced an obsession that she had to get him to don his lab coat. The obsession was in her subconscious mind, the seat of the emotions. The rationalizations were sent up by the subconscious mind to the conscious to fulfill the obsession.
It didn't matter that the rationalizations were irrational. They were powerful and demanding. She was at their mercy until her obsession was fulfilled.
Our alcoholic drinking gets worse because the alcohol is doing things to and for us that it doesn't do for the social drinker. No matter what we do emotionally and mentally; because of the physical basis of our disease it will always rehook us, if we ingest it again. It is never safe for us to attempt to become social drinkers.
The subconscious, starts sending up rationalizations, to fulfill its obsession. "One drink won't hurt. Just one, to relax. It's a hot day, it will cool me off. After all this time sober, surely I can drink safely now. These A.A.s are a bunch of religious fanatics. They don't know what they are talking about. A.A. is trying to control my mind." This one is especially good because alcohol has controlled our minds on a subconscious level for years. It still does or it would not be sending up these rationalizations.
Our attempts to control our drinking or go on the wagon are all the actions of the conscious and the subconscious conflict.
The subconscious is the emotional part of the mind. The conscious is the intellect, the reasoning part. It should be in charge, or at the least the senior partner.
In a healthy person they work in harmony. In an alcoholic the subconscious is trying to be the whole person, and accomplishes it even if poorly, for years.
When they speak in the literature about deflation in depth, they are talking about the deflation of the subconscious. It is willing for once in a long time to surrender the reins. It is ready because the pain and anguish that have resulted from the alcoholic drinking have forced it to surrender.
The rationalization process is one of the circuitous ways it has to try to regain them. We know intellectually that we cannot drink safely, yet the rationalizations still come.
The subconscious has great resiliency, great emotional power, great deviousness. All we can do is attempt to defuse the obsessional-emotional demands in the subconscious.
This is where we call upon a Higher Power, something more powerful to help in this unequal contest.
This too, is the reason we have so many rationalizations why the steps don't apply to us: why this or that step is unnecessary for us, why this characteristic is not really a character defect.
Rationalization is not limited to Alcoholics. We find it whenever and wherever reason and intellect are in conflict, with obsessions and compulsions rooted in emotion, the subconscious mind. There are certain things that must be remembered in dealing with the subconscious, sheer brute determination rarely works. Anger at the subconscious is self anger and self hatred, and is self defeating.
Many things work. Hypnosis sometimes works. Prayer often works if coupled with an understanding of a Higher Power that does not cause the subconscious to cringe in fear and shame and not participate in the prayer.
Reeducation of the subconscious is another avenue used in A.A.; the steps are reeducation and removal of negative emotion through concrete action.
Ultimately the commitment to turn one's will and life over to the care of one's Higher Power leads to growth, maturity and serenity both mentally and spiritually. If you can, give it a try. Look to those, whose poise and maturity interest you; ask questions.
Turning It Over
In Islam there is a mystical branch, known as Sufiism. They are described as pilgrims on a journey. The journey is toward a union, a knowledge of God, wherein the knowledge, the knower and that which is known are one.
There was once a very saintly Sufi, who was approached by an Arab merchant in great spiritual need. He asked, "How may I attain to your union with God, your serenity?"
The Sufi answered, "There is a pigsty nearby. You must be willing to go there, and root and wallow in the mud, the muck and the mire with the pigs."
Not only was the concept normally repugnant to most people; but to make it worse, to the Muslim, pigs are an unclean animal and taboo. Thus, the entire idea was virtually impossible for him to conceive.
So, the merchant replied, "I sorrow greatly; for I cannot. I cannot." Then he went away sorrowing.
A number of years later, in great sorrow and trouble the merchant returned. He was in extreme spiritual agony
He approached the Sufi, and said, "Where now is the nearest pigsty? Now I am in greater need of God than ever before. If rooting and wallowing with the pigs will give me union with God then, root and wallow, I will, and right now!"
The Sufi replied, "There is no need to root and wallow with the pigs. If you will recall, I said, "'You must be willing.'"
The parable is very illustrative of the concept of turning our wills and lives over to the care of our Higher Power.
Rarely if ever, are we required to do or be something that is truly repugnant to us. Nevertheless this is always one our prime fears.
At times we fear turning our wills over because we feel we might need to be able to do certain things in self defense. We fear that total commitment will render us defenseless to our enemies.
There are other fears and inhibitions that stand between us and turning our wills and lives over to the God of our understanding. We fear the loss of our freedom. We fear to become puppets. We fear to become nonentities, zeros, nonexistent as a personality, wherein our Higher Power will so swamp and overwhelm us, that we cease to be ourselves.
The truth is that Higher Power, to all evidence available, wants us to become the utmost that we can possibly become. The acme, the apex, the fulfillment of whatever our potential might be.
During our drinking, we were pushed by our addiction, shoved and coerced into crippled, sick and demented behavior and thinking. This was not us! We have allowed circumstances, places, other people and things, to coerce us into being what we do not want to be. That which was not us.
The contradictory truth is, that in order to be ourselves, the best thing we can do is, to surrender to a power greater than ourselves, a friendly, loving, spiritual power.
How do we surrender? With prayer. But what is prayer? Prayer is first and foremost an emotional action and secondarily a spiritual action. Try praying coldly and intellectually.
We pray and surrender spiritually and emotionally.
This action can often open the doors to guidance and help from our Higher Power on a magnitude that we could never have imagined, because for the first time we have thrown the door wide open.
The reality of the situation is that the Higher Power is parental. We, in relation to our Higher Power, are much the same as children.
By being willing as in the spiritual parable we are not required to lose any real freedom, but we must be willing.
Our Higher Power, like any loving parent, only takes over that portion that we are incapable of handling at that moment in time. For most of us, we are treated as any beloved children by a loving parent. Our freedom is not abridged. We are drawn into a closer union, but only to the extent that we allow.
Then we suddenly find our prayers begin to be answered. We are guided. We are loved. We are freer than we have ever been in our lives.
Our Higher Power wishes to see us mature spiritually, mentally and emotionally and stands ready to help us at any time we are willing to totally surrender. The key is willing!
One observation we can make from others' lives and our own lives in A.A., is that the Higher Power wants us to have happiness at depth. We can remember the fleeting so-called happiness we had during our drinking years on occasion. What happiness we had was usually selfish.
Our happiness in A.A. is usually less selfish. It is usually coupled with following the guidance of a Higher Power. From this we can assume that our Higher Power wants us happy. We can further conclude, that the more we call the Higher Power to guide us, the greater happiness we will have.
There are certain questions that must be asked and answered, understandings that must be found before we make a commitment to a Power greater than ourselves. Is this Higher Power going to operate us as a puppet master, allowing absolutely nothing of free motion, not one twitch? Are we going to be bystanders to our own lives as this Power greater than ourselves, manipulates our lives totally? In actual practice, it seems to be the other direction that causes confusion. If we stand and wait for instructions before dressing and eating, we are likely to starve to death, naked.
While we are seeking direction, if your mind works in the same manner mine does, you are probably floundering around in search of a moral code you are able to live with. When we were drinking, we veered back and forth between a code of dog eat dog, rationalizing anything and everything and attempt to be perfect in every way. Our old ways did not work. We need something that works and that we can live with.
Concurrently, with my search for reality on a Theological and real world basis was my need for a code or set of rules of ethics or morals. During my drinking days my ethics and morals had deteriorated to an alarming degree, although I had felt great guilt at the same time. I needed something to live by that I could understand.
The various religious systems had so many contradictions that I could not pick or choose between them. I found though, that all religions in one way or another said one thing, one way or another. They either said, "Do unto other as you would have others do unto you," or, "Do not do unto others, as you would not have others do unto you." Almost without exception I found this to be true. I elected to live by this code to the best of my ability. Whenever I have a question or a problem about what to do in any given situation, I hold it up to the question, "Would I want this done to me?" I have found that almost invariably that this test yields the right answer. I would not be stolen from, so I do not steal. I would not be lied to, so I do not lie. I would not be cheated, so I do not cheat.
Starting as a temporary expedient, it remains my code for living. I have found none better. Perhaps you will; perhaps eventually I will also. In the mean time I would suggest you try it as a temporary code of morals to live by.
We look for divine direction. Do we get it by mail or telephone? It may sound facetious, but I am pointing out a problem we all ponder. The difficulty in getting guidance and direction is just one more indication that God or the Higher Power is not omnipotent. It is part of the need for the Twelve Steps or some program to get through to Him.
In over fifty years of life, I have experienced two-way verbal communication with my Higher Power only twice. Most of the time, we get an occasional hunch or urge, we follow them and good things happen. Of course, at other times, we get urges and hunches with subtle differences. We realize that these were not divine, but our own basic desires. One of the goals of spiritual growth is learning the difference between them.
The Third step in A.A. is something that requires continuous work and effort. It is not a once and forever thing, but in my opinion the reward is well worth the effort.
I must reiterate that this is my journey, my search for total reality. Part of it must deal with whether man is immortal, whether there is an afterlife and if so what kind.
In our short sojourn here in this existence, we change radically from birth to death. We are promised by religion that we will be frozen as is. Deep down we know that change is death. Death is change: death of the old, birth of the new. When I change, the old I dies, a new I is born. That is why we fight change so desperately, even when the change is for the better. We fear death. We fear change.
I admit that I fear change. I fear the death of the I that I am, as I evolve through life and death and the spiritual growth and change that is inevitable.
I have already discussed the irrationality of Hell. So let's look at Heaven, harps and wings? I rather doubt that, but total eternal bliss? It sounds rather boring on the face of it.
The rest of it, the idea of heaven being, a reward is also rather difficult to conceive. Reward for what? Believing in a religion? All those who never heard of that particular religion, miss out regardless of fault or lack of it. Ridiculous! That one is good rather than evil -- evil in what way and by whose judgment? Mostly the judgments of men who need or wish to control others. The judgments take no account of heredity, genetics, environment or a thousand and one things that go into behavior. Nothing allowed for length of life, either. I have had over fifty years to study and ponder the nature of reality, good and evil. While someone else, might be only allowed a very few years to determine where and how they will spend eternity. It seems terribly sloppy and unjust to say the least.
The search for the truth requires courage. Fairy tales seldom need it. Everyone marries the Prince and lives happily ever after, or goes to Heaven. Reality, the truths as I have perceived them, often demand courage. The accepted religions all promise that when we die we will enter into an afterlife and be frozen, frozen as to personality, growth level, persona if you will, body and soul.
I admit that the things that I see as obvious, cause me apprehension. It would be easy to turn my back on the search for the truth. It would be comfortable to shut down my mind and join a conventional religion that promised eternal freezing, eternal unchange. But my mind was shut down for years with alcohol, so I seek the truth regardless.
The concept of a cosmos of vast evolution does not fit in with this being the only life I have to live; it being first a test and then an eternity of being immortal, frozen, just as I am changeless. I am not today the same person I was ten years ago. Neither of them is the same as the person l was twenty years ago. None of them is the same as the drunken, drinking alcoholic that preceded them.
I had to look to something that took evolution, change and longer life span into account. Reincarnation demanded another look. Pythagoras the Greek mathematician and philosopher believed in it. Hindus, Buddhists and many varieties of Pagan and Heathen believed in reincarnation. I don't know if they all constitute a majority of the human race over time but they were not all fools; some of the best brains and philosophers considered it as part of their reality. These include one of America's founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin.
There is one thing considered part of the concept of reincarnation that always draws laughter; it is the idea of returning as a rat or a cockroach as punishment. To start with that is transmigration of souls, not reincarnation. I agree it is silly. There is too, too much of me to be compressed into a rat or a cockroach. It is possible that the spiritual spark that is me started a long time ago in the animal kingdom or lower and worked its way up. Bouncing back and forth like a yo-yo makes very little sense. Once human, we probably never return to the animal that makes a great deal more sense.
Another part is Karma. On first look God, or Higher Power, exercising the laws of Karma to punish or reward, e.g., an eye for an eye, sounded judgmental and in some cases downright vicious; particularly when a person cannot remember what he is being punished or rewarded for.
There were other ideas, however. Nothing was for punishment or reward in the human sense. Everything including what has come to be known as Karma, is for us to learn, to grow, to evolve to a higher spiritual growth.
When I began to look at this life as a grade, a level, in a centuries-long evolutionary growing process, that I had evolved, I was evolving and would continue to evolve. I concluded that I was in a process of evolution.
I thought back to my school days. The pep rallies, the problems, the fights, the love affairs, the team rivalries, the fears over grades, the many things that were so important then, but are all so unimportant now. They were all so transient, but all a part of my growing, learning and evolving into adulthood. Perhaps there is another growing, another adulthood, another grade on the vast road of growth. I began to sense that I was not only growing, I was looked after and was a growing, evolving part of a growing, evolving universe that is Divine.
Some will argue that God was remiss in making us forget what we experienced in previous incarnations, but tolerate me in my theorizing. It is conceivable that reincarnation operates under laws that are immutably interwoven in the fabric of the universe, just the same as gravity. Following that premise we come to the conclusion that God can operate within such laws, but not in contravention of them.
I have spoken of evolution, evolution of life and spiritual evolution. This is not only on the level of that within a life span but also through the chains of life upward to man. What about beyond man? Step by minute step the progression climbs to the pinnacle -- the apex of humanity, then what? Where do we go from here? If my judgments are correct, we reincarnate, but forever and ever? If we are evolving, growing and changing then logic would say no.
Logic says no two counts. (1) We are working for perfection, even those of us who are unaware of it. So where are the multitudes of perfected people that should be stacking up? I for one, do not see that many. (2) The concept of a vast evolutionary growth over aeons, which gets us here and no farther, doesn't fit. The vast gulf between us and the ultimate, vast God that powers or is the universe is awesome. It demands filling.
It demands filling because there must be more stages of growth and/or development beyond this. Conventional religious thought says we go this far and no farther. We are then cast in concrete, frozen as it were, no more change no more development.
There must be more stages. Logic demands that there be a continuation of development. How many more, I have no way of knowing. Discerning what the ultimate goal is, is beyond our capacity. Knowing with absolute certainty is impossible to any of us. So, we are left with speculation and conjecture. You are perfectly welcome to yours. What follows is mine.
My personal belief is that the Being of Light is the next step up, the next school after humanity. I think perhaps when I perfect myself as best I am able, which is what I will evolve to, be changed to, graduate to. Naturally it will be in ways I cannot conceive of or know at this time. To be perfectly honest, I am rather sure that I am not ready this time and will probably need to return as a human, how many more times is useless to conjecture. I wish I could say that I knew I was ready for graduation. It would be nice, not to have to go through more grades in this school. This is a rough school on occasion.
It would seem that the Being of Light would logically be the next step up from man. I personally believe that when I graduate finally; it will be to become a Being of Light. There is undoubtedly a vast unknown series of steps above the Being. What they are I cannot know at this level. I can no more comprehend the steps beyond; than the lobster can comprehend me, much less the amoeba. The best I can hope to do is try to understand the next level, the Being of Light level, in the same way a chimpanzee could understand me--poorly and on a chimpanzee level, not a human level.
My capacity to understand the next level is naturally poor, but all I can do is try as best I can. We live one day at a time, one lifetime at a time. A stab at understanding this level and the next is the best we can do and that task is truly awesome.
I can neither comprehend nor believe that the unknowably vast God of the cosmos is my own, personal Higher Power. The distance is, to my understanding, unbridgeable. No, the sense that I got in my vision of the Being of Light was that He was my Higher Power, my guardian, my guide. I had no sense, of His being the ultimate God. This, to me, holds the most logic, the most sense.
"Varieties of Religious Experience," was written by William James in 1902 and the writing to me seems to be obtuse and convoluted, but I do recommend it to you despite its difficulty. The following quotation is from the book and I think, appropriate at this place.
"...The only thing that it unequivocally testifies to is that we can experience union with something larger than ourselves and in that union find our greatest peace. Philosophy with its passion for unity and mysticism with all its monotheistic bent both pass to the limit and identify the something with a unique God who is the all-inclusive soul of the world. Popular opinion, respectful of their authority, follows the example which they set. Meanwhile the practical needs and experiences of religion seem to me sufficiently met by the belief that beyond each man and in a fashion continuous with him there exists a larger power which is friendly to him and his ideals. All that the facts require is that the power be both other and larger than our conscious selves. Anything larger will do, if only it be large enough to trust for the next step. It need not be infinite, it need not be solitary. It might conceivably even be only a larger and more Godlike self, of which the present self would then be but a mutilated expression, and the universe might conceivably be a collection of such selves, of different degrees of inclusiveness, with no absolute unity at all. Thus would a sort polytheism return upon us -- a polytheism which I do not on this occasion defend, for my only aim at present is to keep the testimony of religious experience within its proper bounds."
We have done much speculation on the nature of God. I believe I would be remiss if I did not throw this one in at this point of free wheeling speculation. Let us step outside western concepts of the old man with the white flowing beard, forming worlds as on a potter's wheel, let us look to an eastern one. God is! All of the world, the worlds, the suns, the galaxies are God! If you haven't considered it before; you might find it ludicrous, repellent and impossible, but on consideration it might make sense of sorts. When the singularity that erupted into the big bang--the origin of the cosmos as we know it--perhaps it was the birth pangs of an awesome intelligence and power, erupting into being. Stop and consider it as I did. It would explain quite a bit. The obvious limitations on God and what He can and cannot do. His doing of many things we consider incomprehensible. Think about it as I have; it has a superior validity of logic.
In the writings of India was the concept of God being the universe, rather than being the creator of it. A cosmos that lives, breathes, and vibrates with an intelligence beyond our comprehension. Think about God as an evolving intelligence, of which we are evolving parts of the intelligence, a God of power wherein the forces are governed by laws some of which we know and many others that appear miraculous because we haven't discovered them yet.
As part of this concept of a dynamic cosmos that has over many aeons breathed in and out, expanded into beingness and contracted into nonbeingness; is the mystical counterpart of the big bang theory. I concluded that we are part of a vast evolution.
There are many other concepts of God or Higher Power than the conventional. What I have written is mine, not necessarily yours. Don't close your mind because none of these concepts suit you. Later, when you have had time to dry out, one of them may. Perhaps you can, as I have, search out your own best answers.
The answers are not in the bars nor in the bottle. They are in books, in people's lives and in their spirits. They are wherever you seek if you search with an open mind.
There is one more group I must address before I go on: those who feel that God has abandoned them and those whose thoughts can be expressed as, "God wants nothing to do with me because...," or," There might be a God, but He doesn't believe in me!" This idea is neither new nor unique. So, please give this a thought. If God is not omnipotent and needs all the help He can get from this level; perhaps you have been going about it wrong. Look at those around you, those who have maturity, serenity, peace of mind. Ask. Study. Learn. Open up the clogged passages of your thinking, clean out the cobwebs, drive out the bats, let in the light, have the humility to admit you might be wrong and others right. They are happy. You are not. They must be doing something right; you must be doing something wrong.
It is the height of egotism to think that you are so terrible a person so awful that a truly loving compassionate Higher Power would abandon you. It is highly unlikely that you have done anything worse than anyone else in A. A. has done. They are sober and recovering. You can be too.
One of the many purposes of sharing is to gain a more rational understanding of the true nature of our wrongs, to recognize our wrongs and to become aware that we are not unique, not alone
I realize, there are still those who cannot or will not accept the possibility of a Higher Power. So where does that leave you? I would hope that those who consider themselves atheist, would move over into the agnostic column, as the concept, "There is no God," is unprovable and arrogant.
For Those Who Cannot Accept the Conventional Beliefs
So, you cannot accept the religion of your fathers. You, like I, are also unable to accept the religious theories of your fellow members of A.A. It's not the end of the world. You are not condemned to inevitably getting drunk, contrary to what some people might think or say.
I have managed to stay sober since September of 1960 with some very unconventional thinking. There are those who are certain that my ideas will get me drunk. Even if I were to drink tomorrow, it would not prove anything other than I had managed to restore myself to insanity.
With the right attitude, we can stay sober. When we want to stay sober, we will do those things and take those options that lead to sobriety.
Perhaps if it is well thought out, our sobriety will be that form of sobriety will be that which is best for each of us.
There are many in A.A. who cannot accept a conventional God concept, But we must accept one prime concept: that they are not God!
Believing you are God is not peculiar to the intelligent, the philosopher. All practicing alcoholics operate and think as if we are the centers of the universe, the most important, the arbitrator of what everyone else should do, think and enjoy. We judge others. We demand perfection from them that we cannot find in ourselves. We know what is best and right for others. We are extremely intolerant of other people's weaknesses when we cannot control our own.
The first point in recovery is to realize that we are sick, in many ways--that a high percentage of our life is not sane that it is not working. It must be changed. The question is what we must change and how much of our lives must we change.
That is the purpose of the fourth and fifth steps. We must inventory on our own. Then we must inventory with another farther along the road to recovery. We must be willing to reconsider our entire life, and perhaps most important, our life's philosophy, our world view.
Not being able to accept a conventional God concept, where do you go from here? The A.A. program can be worked as a straight psychological, ethical program. Morals and ethics really are interchangeable, but pure psychology, without morals or ethics will seldom, if ever, sober up alcoholics.
We will be examining the steps with a view to the concept that our Higher Power needs all of the help that he can get on our side, in order to wrought any change from his.
Contrary to what some religionists would, have you believe; most philosophers and free thinkers are every bit as ethical as they are. So, we must start considering the program as an ethical psychological exercise, as well as a spiritual one.
Now of course, all we have to do is, figure out what ethics are. To find out what they are it would help to ponder where they started.
A pack animal must interact with others in the pack. Methods and means of interaction are necessary to preserve the pack. Preservation of the pack preserves the individuals and consequently the genetic material, genetic material, which keeps the pack successful, will be passed on.
Behavior that preserves the individual will usually preserve the pack/tribe, but not always. Behavior that preserves the pack/tribe, usually, but not always preserves the individual. Consequently, there are compromises.
Of course we hope that as time goes by, we will include more of the human race into our tribe. Hatred of outsiders and others different from ourselves is a part of our pack/tribal mentality. Love of family if also part of our genetic heritage, hopefully a positive one.
The behaviors and compromises equal the mores, the morals and ethics. This encompasses some, but not all, of the concept of sin. The elaborations and embellishments on these basics cause some, but not all, of the problems and confusion.
The rest of the difficulty comes mainly from two directions. One, is when the individual's survival behavior interferes with pack/tribal survival. Two, when pack/tribal survival behaviors interfere with individual survival. By survival, I am not only speaking about living but also about heritage, the passing on of genes.
A few examples are that the nurturing of both parents permits the long childhood of man, which in turn permits learning and ultimately civilization. Some methods by which a man assures survival of his genes, ownership of the female and all forms of male domination societies. In societies that permit female promiscuity, the male nurtures his sister's children. He knows they share a portion, of his genes. Morals/ethics equal genetic descent.
To a large extent, if the ethics and morals are not built into the genetic structure, at the very least the hunger and absolute need for mores, morals and ethics are built in.
So, we accept that we have an absolute need for an ethical moral life. We can go into a long philosophical discussion of what kind of morals and ethics we should live by. But it would be well at this point to reconsider the A.A. Twelve Steps from the viewpoint of ethics, totally without a God concept.
The next section deals with the Twelve Steps, hopefully from a different viewpoint.
Perhaps some of you think it still too spiritual, but we who claim a thirst for reality at any price must face certain facts.
Pragmatically, the A.A. twelve step program works! It works because it deals with the reality of homo sapiens as it is, not as we or someone else, think it should be constructed. The moral/ethical aspect of man must be dealt with; it cannot be ignored.
We have tried our own way; it did not work. Now we try the Twelve Steps. With the wide-open spiritual/ethical views of A.A., we can start from wherever we stand.
John Donne said, "No man is an island." We must deal with other people on a moral/ethical level, the level we all live on, in which we interact with one another. We can do it. We must do it or die. We will do it.
A Look at The Steps
In our short sojourn here in this existence, we change radically from birth to death. We are promised by religion that we will be frozen as is. Deep down, we know that change is death. Death is change, death of the old, birth of the new. When I change, the old I dies, a new I is born. That is why we fight change so desperately -- even when the change is for the better. We fear death. We fear change.
I admit that I fear change. I fear the death of the I that I am, as I evolve through life and death and the growth and change that is inevitable.
Nonetheless, the next section is devoted entirely to examining the Twelve Steps of A.A. totally on the basis of reason, rationality and pragmatically without reference to a religious point of view. We will strive to do this with the theory of an aware but not omnipotent Higher Power.
Those that use such statements as, "No one is too dumb for A.A. but there are many who are too smart," are dead wrong. No matter how smart or dumb we might be we can and do use rationalization. It is just that we who are intelligent often spin much more elaborate, intellectual and seductive webs to justify returning to alcohol that it tends to give intelligence a bad name.
Intelligence can be used to understand ourselves, alcohol, drugs, alcoholism and addiction. Used in that manner it can only lead to sobriety and sanity.
This is not a rewrite of the steps but, another viewpoint.
The Twelve Steps of
1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol - that our lives had become unmanageable.
2. Came to believe, that a power greater than ourselves, could restore us to sanity.
3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
Reprinted with the permission of A.A. World Services Inc.
for Those With an Unconventional God Concept
1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol - that our lives had become unmanageable.
Read all the literature about alcoholism, preferably the newer things. The more the physiologists and neurologists investigate, the more the evidence is piling up that the cause of alcoholism, is physical and genetic.
The Swedish study of biological children of alcoholic parents adopted by nonalcoholic parents, is one case in point. The children developed alcoholism at the same rate as children raised by their alcoholic biological parents; a rate much higher than the national average, higher than the rate for natural children of nonalcoholic parents.
Also the genetic children of alcoholics became alcoholic at the same rate as children of alcoholic parents who were raised by alcoholic parents. That is even when their adoptive parents were not alcoholics.
The studies at Downstate Medical Center, Brooklyn, New York, by Dr. Henry Begleiter show that there is a brain abnormality in the P-3 component which deals with the memory and emotions common to alcoholics, that causes an unusual brain wave, shared by their children at the same percentage rate as other studies have shown alcoholism to develop in children of alcoholics. There will need to be more follow up studies of course, but more and more evidence indicates the physical basis of alcoholism.
Various psychological studies have shown, that alcoholics have no more psychological problems before pathological drinking sets in than the population as a whole. The psychological problems that are present in alcoholics are usually caused by the alcoholism; they are not the cause of alcoholism.
There are alcoholics that suffer from schizophrenia, but we would never say that only schizophrenics can become alcoholics. If an alcoholic can be also a diabetic, then we must accept the fact that an alcoholic could have been a neurotic before he became an alcoholic. The one did not necessarily cause the other.
One of the problems in studying alcoholism is the fact that twenty-five percent of the children of alcoholics have the genetic factors that cause alcoholism.
Thus, many of the parents of alcoholics, are themselves alcoholics; a high percentage of alcoholics thus come from alcoholic, dysfunctional families. Some alcoholics come from multigeneration alcoholic dysfunctionalism.
All too often we mistakenly come to the conclusion that the cause of alcoholism, is psychological or dysfunctional families.
The cause of alcoholism is genetic, a physical problem. Dysfunctional families and other psychological problems do complicate the problem and often make the attainment of sobriety much more difficult.
Naturally these problems must be addressed and dealt with if we are to attain happy, serene sobriety.
We alcoholics must accept the fact that we are alcoholic, that we are powerless over alcohol, that it is rooted in our physiology and we cannot trade in our bodies.
Whether we believe in God or not, we are powerless over alcohol and will remain powerless.
According to James R. Milam Ph.D. ("The Emergent Comprehensive Concept of Alcoholism"),
Research shows that sober alcoholics are already as mature as social drinkers. That isn't good enough because social drinkers freely drink to relieve psychological tension. Because of residual physiological damage, alcoholics have lower tolerance for psychological stress. They must transcend normal maturity to be able endure greater tension and never resort to chemical relief. A.A. provides a program of character building to this end.
I recommend his entire monograph if you can secure it.
With or without a God concept, conventional or otherwise, our lives are unmanageable. The first step was never a step requiring any spirituality at all. It merely compelled us to face reality about something that we had so shrouded with denial that oft times we had convinced others to agree with our insane rationalizations.
One of Bill W’s great innovations over the original six steps that he inherited from the Oxford Groups was the other part of the First Step was -that our lives had become unmanageable.
I have seen many people who felt that though their drinking might be out of control, they were still managing their lives with a little difficulty, but still it was not unmanagable. Until they were convinced also of its unmanagability our sobriety was at best short term.
We need help. A.A. provides it in the next eleven steps.
2. Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves, could restore us to sanity.
The program and its accumulated wisdom of how to live sanely and soberly is a greater power. The peer pressure of the group can act as a power greater than one sick alcoholic.
In utilizing this step we all too often overlook the obvious. It is not necessary that this power be the omnipotent master of the universe. As William James so aptly put it, "... if only it be large enough to trust for the next step. It need not be infinite, it need not be solitary."
3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of an aware spiritual power that is friendly to us and has demonstrated that fact in many ways.
The people of the program have lived through most or all of the problems we are experiencing, or will experience. Admitting that we are sick, that we do not have all the answers and that others have some answers that might work for us, even if in a different way, in a slightly different context, that is the beginning of humility. Realizing that we are not all-wise, all-knowing, not God, that others know more in certain areas than we do, is humility.
4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
Made a searching and fearless moral and ethical inventory of ourselves. The term, ethical is added to illuminate the fact that moral is not a "God" term. Nowhere in the A.A. Big Book does the term "sin" enter in. There are only two categories of wrong, wrong done to other human beings and wrong emotions that harm ourselves. These wrongs are those things that are dysfunctional to our own physical and emotional health, also dysfunctional to our healthy interactions to others in human society.
These emotions are also very dysfunctional, in any attempt to fashion a working relationship with a higher spiritual power.
This is not because the spiritual power is building barriers. It is because we build them on a subconscious level and they oft times become inpenetratable, unless broken down on our side.
5. Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
Admitted to ourselves and another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. Healers of the mind and psyche down through time have found again and again that confessing, sharing things, feelings and emotions hidden in the deep recesses of our subconscious minds, are healing and freeing actions. It opens the door to sharing, and in sharing, learning that we are not unspeakably evil, weird or insane, but merely ill as other alcoholics have been ill before us.
When we alcoholics, especially in early recovery, operate in total isolation, our thinking can become extremely confused. We need the interaction, sharing and cross checking of someone who is on the same path -- the path of recovery from alcoholism.
Without the sharing of the Fifth step, we cannot hope to participate in the sharing in depth so necessary to recovery.
Admitting these things to our Higher Power is not to gain forgiveness. It is to gain the Higher Power's assistance in rendering them powerless to wreak the havoc in our lives that they have in the past.
It is a case of bringing them out for our Higher Power to assist us in their transformation and ultimately in the transformation of our lives.
6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
Were entirely ready to have all these defects of character removed. It might seem the height of simplicity to state that first we must be ready to be willing before we can change. But many people know they should change, but are not really ready nor really willing. Perhaps the closest they can come is wanting to be willing.
7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
Humbly sought guidance and help in removing our shortcomings. We do need the help of someone or something. In this case it must and can be someone, probably in A.A.. It possibly could be that someone and both of your Higher Powers, if that makes sense to you.
Unaided, alone, and on our own, we have descended deeper and deeper into the morass of alcoholism. We cannot continue, on the hermit's path. We seek and obtain the help, spiritual and psychological, available in A.A..
Around any A.A. table we can find, a plenitude of experience of recovery from alcoholism, through the use of a spiritual agency. It is not necessary to agree theologically and doctrinally with someone, to learn from their experiences.
It is not important that we agree on what name we call this Higher Power, nor what book best describes it; rather it is important what personality it has.
A pig will automatically go back into the mud and slop because it is a pig. Without the program, without the steps, particularly this one, we do not change. Without change, we will still be the persons who crawled out of the slop and the mud. We will, like the pig, automatically go back into what we crawled out of, because this is all we know and the only place we feel that we belong.
To attain recovery and serenity, we must change. All of the steps in the A.A. program are designed to bring about this change and this is one, of the key ones. Remember, there are books, pamphlets and people in the program that can help us if we are open minded in our search.
8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
Sins against Gods or churches are never mentioned in A.A., only harm to others. Guilt is something we alcoholics cannot live with. Real guilt for harming real people must be dealt with. Forgiveness of others, the removal of our resentments is necessary to our health and freedom from alcohol.
All of this is inherent in becoming willing. It is of paramount importance that we learn in this and all steps that the act of becoming willing is of primary importance. Without it nothing happens.
Becoming willing to act and change is sometimes the most difficult part of the program. So often, we disregard the steps pertaining to becoming willing and wonder why the steps are not working.
9. Made direct amends to such persons wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
Many people think they know how to rid themselves of guilt and resentments. But God or no God, Higher Spiritual Power or no Higher Power, these emotions can only be removed through person to person action. Many try to intellectualize this step in order avoid the initial emotional pain, but we cannot have the emotional freedom without the action.
10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
The other steps are designed to remove the debris of the past, this one to assure that we do not accumulate new guilts, new resentments. Because if we feel guilty for wrongs we have done others, we soon resent those we have wronged.
When we overlook this fact in our recovery, we soon find the old barriers resurrected and we are back in our spiritual and emotional desert, trying to make spirituality, reason and common sense work and not understanding our failure.
11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
Sought through prayer, study and meditation to improve our depth of understanding of this program and whatever spiritual power that we can conceive of, seeking knowledge of how to implement this program in our lives.
Seeking humbly, means to acknowledge other people's expertise in working and living this program, with some measure of serenity, peace and sobriety. It means, being willing to ask, to study, to learn from any source.
Meditation does not necessarily need a conventional God or a conventional God-concept. Lawrence LeShan has written a book, "How to Meditate," that deals with this and is one, of the best I have read. It touts no religious viewpoint, gives no doctrinal tenants to observe, but discusses extensively all aspects of meditation from a psychologist's viewpoint.
Meditation can help to create the psychic unity with a natural, spiritual reality that can aid the flow of recovery. I beg of you to at least study the subject and consider it.
Try this experiment:
Pick a comfortable position, sitting, reclining or lying down -- one you can stay in without discomfort or paying attention to your body. Close your eyes and start a pattern of deep breathing, and pay as little attention to it, as possible.
Remember and go back in your mind to a place that was outdoors. Return to nature, a pond, a valley, a forest, somewhere that gave you a feeling of peace. Sink into this place. Feel yourself in unity with this place, with nature itself. Bask in the union and the peace. Let the peace flow through you. Feel it and enjoy it as long as it lasts.
Rest a few moments. Reflect on the peace, the unity with the world and everyone and everything in it, along with your recovery and peace with the world.
Perhaps not at first, perhaps not for some time, but soon you will find spiritual doors opening.
This was one form of meditation, without the need for a divinity or a God concept. Give it a try.
12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
Having had a spiritual, emotional and psychological awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
A spiritual experience such as I and others have had, is not the same as a spiritual awakening. Quite often as in my own case, it happens to someone who is spiritually at such a low ebb that it is the only way that a Higher Power can help.
Also it usually happens when there such a psychic pain that for a brief time all of the blockages, fears and other obstacles to the spirit are down. Then the power can flow in and transform lives.
After this, can come, the awakening that could not break through before. Whether we are aware of it or not, it is obvious that in spiritual matters, there must be natural laws that apply. I am not speaking of laws that some omnipotent God has laid down to suit his fancy; no I mean natural laws akin to gravity or thermodynamics.
The awakening, is when we alcoholics, who spent most of our lives in a state of emotional immaturity, grow up. Growing up is genuine concern and regard for others and the removal of negative emotions. Carrying this message to alcoholics is genuine regard and it strengthens our own sobriety. Anyone who is sober and working this program has a message to carry.
Practicing these principles in all our affairs maintains and strengthens our maturity, our sobriety. The cosmos, the galaxies, the suns, the worlds, the spiritual powers and the ultimate God itself are governed by natural laws, principles and dynamics.
All species of the animal kingdom are so governed. We humans are governed by natural laws, principles and dynamics in our interactions with one another and within the forces within our own psyche, the interplay between the intellectual and the emotional. These are the principles of this program, the optimum usage of these dynamics for health and sobriety.
In conclusion, in this thesis I purposely tried to limit my own personal experiences, to avert the appearance of trying to convert you to my own beliefs, my own conclusions. The totality of my experiences led me to certain conclusions and conjectures. I have tried as much as possible to give you the bare bones -- no more than a mere foundation for you to build your own system on. To do more would be grossly unfair.
I am well-aware that no one can prove that there is an ultimate God -- as a creator and/or prime mover and shaker of the universe. Just so with the concept that there is no God. Both are unprovable.
As with others like myself, I have had experiences, things happening in my life, that gave me sufficient evidence that there is a Power greater than myself, that this Power loves me, wants to help and guide me. To my experiences and feelings this Power is very personal and oriented to my problems and to me. There are others like myself, reading this who have had similar experiences and come to similar conclusions.
In point of fact, and by pure logic, none of this is proof of an ultimate supreme God and I am well-aware of it. Also, at this time I know of no way to prove the existence of such a God.
To my way of thinking, logic dictates, that there is more than the Higher Power as I have experienced it, that the progression goes higher; that there is a guiding power to it all. But this power would be so awesome and beyond my comprehension that there is no way for me to really understand it. It is really futile to try.
So, I do what I can under the circumstances. I form a working hypothesis; that there is an ultimate supreme God. It seems logical, but I am aware it is impossible to prove.
Based on my own, personal experience and evidence, I am convinced that there is a Power greater than myself.
Since they seem different, I operate as if they are different -- a Higher Power and an ultimate supreme God, separate, operating on different levels -- the Higher Power concept, with personal evidence, the supreme God concept with logic, but without sufficient evidence.
I have tried to be as candid and honest as I possibly could in my writing. I am aware that I have possibly offended some people. For this I apologize. But I feel it is necessary to show that we can use evidence and logic, to come to a logical operating basis for living with a Higher Power concept that works, when we are unable to accept the conventional explanations. You may and probably will come to different conclusions. That is fine.
The truth is in the poem about the elephant. My opinion, your opinion the opinions of the various theologions or religions are all pretty much Terracentric, being centered upon this planet, this solar system. None take into the reality of the vast Universe, galaxies, other planets, civilizations Spiritual intelligence etc..We are all of us blindly fondling parts of an elephant vast beyond imagination. None of us are even remotely capable of understanding the immensity of the ultimate totality of God. We are all of us including myself aware of one part of the elephant. We are all trying to convince other of our small part of the elephant being the whole elephant. None of us have succeeded. We do the best we can with what we have. We can do no more.
There has been another interesting discovery by science since I have started writing this study. Science has discovered an area in the brain that gives a sense
a presence usually spiritual in nature. They think that this is a physical cause of all spiritual experiences and proves that there is no God, nor any reality of spiritual experiences.
However, this does not explain the section that I included on answers to prayer. It does not explain the answer to the problem about my daughter that was answered as to placement of my daughter in an orphanage temporarily that turned her life around. The Entity whether God or an agent of God obviously knew the future because I had not yet been contacted by the juvenile authorities, the answer was not valid until after when I was contacted.
This section of the brain does not explain the healing of my other daughter’s nose being healed, or fixed. Neither does it explain the removal of the multiple personality being healed even temporarily without her knowledge.
So how do we explain this scientific finding? Let us take an analogy. Most of the animal kingdom does not see colors. Some birds do and the ape/ monkey family including humans do see colors. But some humans are color blind. They see the world in varying shades of grey.
No one would say that because some peoples brain optical system cannot see color, that colors are a myth and not real.
If spiritual reality is real and true, part of the universe, part of reality, perhaps part of a dimension that we perceive with difficulty if at all it has been a part of our evolution in perceiving reality. Some people have it some have it in a lesser degree, some not at all.
But we cannot rule out the spiritual reality that some cannot sense any more than we can rule out color that some cannot see. None of us can see infra red nor ultraviolet, though some animals and insects can. Reality is something that is perceived differently by different people. The shaman and the mystic perceive reality differently. However reality is multifaceted and much greater than we know.
I want to say that this thesis is not to change A.A., nor to rewrite the Twelve Steps.
It is to give a new outlook, a new viewpoint. My own personal experiences and ideas were stated to give you a springboard to launch your own thinking on the subject.
Having lived through similar problems, I trust that I have been, able to show that no matter how unconventional or different we might be; there is a way to approach the program that will work for each of us. The program has been working for me. It can work for you.
There are five steps to getting well: (1) Knowing something is wrong with you. (2) Admitting it. (3) Knowing you need help. (4) Asking for it. (5) Following instructions. You know where you stand in the above steps. Do something about it.
The A.A. program is open, available and operable for anyone with any type of spiritual belief and to those with none. Those who are either unconventional or doubters or unbelievers have to work at it a little harder and think it out a little more thoroughly. But, we can make it work for us! We can stay sober if we want to badly enough! I have. Others have.
Now I would like to suggest that you take your new viewpoint and go back to the writings of A.A.. Look at it with the knowledge that they have worked for someone as unconventional as myself and they can work for you. Give it a chance. Give yourself a chance. Get into the program.
All you have to lose is your drunkenness, your misery, your unhappiness and your insanity. You have sobriety, happiness, sanity and life itself to gain.
Claim it all!
With few exceptions, our book thus far has spoken of men. But what we have said applies quite as much to women. Our activities in behalf of women who drink are on the increase. There is every evidence that women regain their health as readily as men if they try our suggestions.
But for every man who drinks others are involved - the wife who trembles in fear of the next debauch; the mother and father who see their son wasting away.
Among us are wives, relatives and friends whose problem has been solved, as well as some who have not yet found a happy solution. We want the wives of Alcoholics Anonymous to address the wives of men who drink too much. What they say will apply to nearly everyone bound by ties of blood or affection to an alcoholic.
As wives of Alcoholics Anonymous, we would like you to feel that we understand as perhaps few can. We want to analyze mistakes we have made. We want to leave you with the feeling that no situation is too difficult and no unhappiness too great to be overcome.
We have traveled a rocky road, there is no mistake about that. We have had long rendezvous with hurt pride, frustration, self pity, misunderstanding and fear. These are not pleasant companions. We have been driven to maudlin sympathy, to bitter resentment. Some of us veered from extreme to extreme, ever hoping that one day our loved ones would be themselves once more.
Our loyalty and the desire that our husbands hold up their heads and be like other men have begotten all sorts of predicaments. We have been unselfish and self sacrificing. We have told innumerable lies to protect our pride and our husbands' reputations. We have prayed, we have begged, we have been patient. We have struck out viciously. We have run away. We have been hysterical. We have been terror stricken. We have sought sympathy. We have had retaliatory love affairs with other men.
Our homes have been battle grounds many an evening. In the morning we have kissed and made up. Our friends have counseled chucking the men and we have done so with finality, only to be back in a little while hoping, always hoping. Our men have sworn great solemn oaths that they were through drinking forever. We have believed them when no one else could or would. Then, in days, weeks, or months, a fresh outburst.
We seldom had friends at our homes, never knowing how or when the men of the house would appear. We could make few social engagements. We came to live almost alone. When we were invited out, our husbands sneaked so many drinks that they spoiled the occasion. If, on the other hand, they took nothing, their self pity made them killjoys.
There was never financial security. Positions were always in jeopardy or gone. An armored car could
not have brought the pay envelopes home. The checking account melted like snow in June.
Sometimes there were other women. How heartbreaking was this discovery; how cruel to be told they understood our men as we did not!
The bill collectors, the sheriffs, the angry taxi drivers, the policemen, the bums, the pals, and even the ladies they sometimes brought home - our husbands thought we were so inhospitable. "Joykiller, nag, wet blanket" - that's what they said. Next day they would be themselves again and we would forgive and try to forget.
We have tried to hold the love of our children for their father. We have told small tots that father was sick, which was much nearer the truth than we realized. They struck the children, kicked out door panels, smashed treasured crockery, and ripped the keys out of pianos. In the midst of such pandemonium they may have rushed out threatening to live with the other woman forever. In desperation, we have even got tight ourselves - the drunk to end all drunks. The unexpected result was that our husbands seemed to like it.
Perhaps at this point we got a divorce and took the children home to father and mother. Then we were severely criticized by our husband's parents for desertion. Usually we did not leave. We stayed on and on. We finally sought employment ourselves as destitution faced us and our families.
We began to ask medical advice as the sprees got closer together. The alarming physical and mental symptoms, the deepening pall of remorse, depression and inferiority that settled down on our loved ones - these things terrified and distracted us. As animals on a treadmill, we have patiently and wearily climbed, falling back in exhaustion after each futile effort to reach solid ground. Most of us have entered the final stage with its commitment to health resorts, sanitariums, hospitals, and jails. Sometimes there were screaming delirium and insanity. Death was often near.
Under these conditions we naturally make mistakes. Some of them rose out of ignorance of alcoholism. Sometimes we sensed dimly that we were dealing with sick men. Had we fully understood the nature of the alcoholic illness, we might have behaved differently. How could men who loved their wives and children be so unthinking, so callous, so cruel? There could be no love in such persons, we thought. And just as we were being convinced of their heartlessness, they would surprise us with fresh resolves and new attentions. For a while they would be their old sweet selves, only to dash the new structure of affection to pieces once more. Asked why they commenced to drink again, they would reply with some silly excuse, or none. It was so baffling, so heartbreaking. Could we have been so mistaken in the men we married? When drinking, they were strangers. Sometimes they were so inaccessible that it seemed as though a great wall had been built around them.
And even if they did not love their families, how could they be so blind about themselves? What had become of their judgment, their common sense, their will power? Why could they not see that drink meant ruin to them? Why was it, when these dangers were pointed out that they agreed, and then got drunk again immediately?
These are some of the questions which race through the mind of every woman who has an alcoholic husband. We hope this book has answered some of them. Perhaps your husband has been living in that strange world of alcoholism where everything is distorted and exaggerated. You can see that he really does love with his better self. Of course, there is such a thing as incompatibility, but in nearly every instance the alcoholic only seems to be unloving and inconsiderate; it is usually because he is warped and sickened that he says and does these appalling things. Today most of our men are better husbands and fathers than ever before.
Try not to condemn your alcoholic husband no matter what he says or does. He is just another very sick, unreasonable person. Treat him, when you can, as though he had pneumonia. When he angers you, remember that he is very ill.
There is an important exception to the foregoing. We realize some men are thoroughly bad intentioned, that no amount of patience will make any difference. An alcoholic of this temperament may be quick to use this chapter as a club over your head. Don't let him get away with it. If you are positive he is one of this type you may feel you had better leave him. Is it right to let him ruin your life and the lives of your children? Especially when he has before him a way to stop his drinking and abuse if he really wants to pay the price.
The problem with which you struggle usually falls within one of four categories:
One: Your husband may be only a heavy drinker.
His drinking may be constant or it may be heavy only on certain occasions. Perhaps he spends too much money for liquor. It may be slowing him up mentally and physically, but he does not see it. Sometimes he is a source of embarrassment to you and his friends. He is positive he can handle his liquor, that it does him no harm, that drinking is necessary in his business. He would probably be insulted if he were called an alcoholic. This world is full of people like him. Some will moderate or stop altogether, and some will not. Of those who keep on, a good number will become true alcoholics after a while.
Two: Your husband is showing lack of control, for he is unable to stay on the water wagon even when he wants to. He often gets entirely out of hand when drinking. He admits this is true, but is positive that he will do better. He has begun to try, with or without your cooperation, various means of moderating or staying dry. Maybe he is beginning to lose his friends. His business may suffer somewhat. He is worried at times, and is becoming aware that he cannot drink like other people. He sometimes drinks in the morning and through the day also, to hold his nervousness in check. He is remorseful after serious drinking bouts and tells you he wants to stop. But when he gets over the spree, he begins to think once more how he can drink moderately next time. We think this person is in danger. These are the earmarks of a real alcoholic. Perhaps he can still tend to business fairly well. He has by no means ruined everything. As we say among ourselves, "He wants to want to stop."
Three: This husband has gone much further than husband number two. Though once like number two he became worse. His friends have slipped away, his home is a near wreck and he cannot hold a position. Maybe the doctor has been called in, and the weary round of sanitariums and hospitals has begun. He admits he cannot drink like other people, but does not see why. He clings to the notion that he will yet find a way to do so. He may have come to the point where he desperately wants to stop but cannot. His case presents additional questions which we shall try to answer for you. You can be quite hopeful of a situation like this.
Four: You may have a husband of whom you completely despair. He has been placed in one institution after another. He is violent, or appears definitely insane when drunk. Sometimes he drinks on the way home from the hospital. Perhaps he has had delirium tremens. Doctors may shake their heads and advise you to have him committed. Maybe you have already been obliged to put him away. This picture may not be as dark as it looks. Many of our husbands were just as far gone. Yet they got well.
Let's now go back to number one. Oddly enough, he is often difficult to deal with. He enjoys drinking. It stirs his imagination. His friends feel closer over a highball. Perhaps you enjoy drinking with him yourself when he doesn't go too far. You have passed happy evenings together chatting and drinking before your fire. Perhaps you both like parties which would be dull without liquor. We have enjoyed such evenings ourselves; we had a good time. We know all about liquor as a social lubricant. Some, but not all of us, think it has its advantages when reasonably used.
The first principle of success is that you should never be angry. Even though your husband becomes unbearable and you have to leave him temporarily, you should, if you can, go without rancor. Patience and good temper are most necessary.
Our next thought is that you should never tell him what he must do about his drinking. If he gets the idea that you are a nag or a killjoy, your chance of accomplishing anything useful may be zero. He will use that as an excuse to drink more. He will tell you he is misunderstood. This may lead to lonely evenings for you. He may seek someone else to console him - not always another man.
Be determined that your husband's drinking is not going to spoil your relations with your children or your friends. They need your companionship and your help. It is possible to have a full and useful life, though your husband continues to drink. We know women who are unafraid, even happy under these conditions. Do not set your heart on reforming your husband. You may be unable to do so, no matter how hard you try.
We know these suggestions are sometimes difficult to follow, but you will save many a heartbreak if you can succeed in observing them. Your husband may come to appreciate your reasonableness and patience. This may lay the groundwork for a friendly talk about his alcoholic problem. Try to have him bring up the subject himself. Be sure you are not critical during such a discussion. Attempt instead, to put yourself in his place. Let him see that you want to be helpful rather than critical.
When a discussion does arise, you might suggest he read this book or at least the chapter on alcoholism. Tell him you have been worried, though perhaps needlessly. You think he ought to know the subject better, as everyone should have a clear understanding of the risk he takes if he drinks too much. Show him you have confidence in his power to stop or moderate. Say you do not want to be a wet blanket; that you only want him to take care of his health. Thus you may succeed in interesting him in alcoholism.
He probably has several alcoholics among his own acquaintances. You might suggest that you both take an interest in them. Drinkers like to help other drinkers. Your husband may be willing to talk to one of them.
If this kind of approach does not catch your husband's interest,it may be best to drop the subject, but after a friendly talk your husband will usually revive the topic himself. This may take patient waiting, but it will be worth it. Meanwhile you might try to help the wife of another serious drinker. If you act upon these principles, your husband may stop or moderate.
Suppose, however, that your husband fits the description of number two. The same principles which apply to husband number one should be practiced. But after his next binge, ask him if he would really like to get over drinking for good. Do not ask that he do it for you or anyone else. Just would he like to?
The chances are he would. Show him your copy of this book and tell him what you have found out about alcoholism. Show him that as alcoholics, the writers of the book understand. Tell him some of the interesting stories you have read. If you think he will be shy of a spiritual remedy, ask him to look at the chapter on alcoholism. Then perhaps he will be interested enough to continue.
If he is enthusiastic your cooperation will mean a great deal. If he is lukewarm or thinks he is not an alcoholic, we suggest you leave him alone. Avoid urging him to follow our program. The seed has been planted in his mind. He knows that thousands of men, much like himself, have recovered. But don't remind him of this after he has been drinking, for he may be angry. Sooner or later, you are likely to find him reading the book once more. Wait until repeated stumbling convinces him he must act, for the more you hurry him the longer his recovery may be delayed.
If you have a number three husband, you may be in luck. Being certain he wants to stop, you can go to him with this volume as joyfully as though you had struck oil. He may not share your enthusiasm, but he is practically sure to read the book and he may go for the program at once. If he does not, you will probably not have long to wait. Again, you should not crowd him. Let him decide for himself. Cheerfully see him through more sprees. Talk about his condition or this book only when he raises the issue. In some cases it may be better to let someone outside the family urge action without arousing hostility. If your husband is otherwise a normal individual, your chances are good at this stage.
You would suppose that men in the fourth classification would be quite hopeless, but that is not so. Many of Alcoholics Anonymous were like that. Everybody had given them up. Defeat seemed certain. Yet often such men had spectacular and powerful recoveries.
There are exceptions. Some men have been so impaired by alcohol that they cannot stop. Sometimes there are cases where alcoholism is complicated by other disorders. A good doctor or psychiatrist can tell you whether these complications are serious. In any event, try to have your husband read this book. His reaction may be one of enthusiasm. If he is already committed to an institution, but can convince you and your doctor that he means business, give him a chance to try our method, unless the doctor thinks his mental condition too abnormal or dangerous. We make this recommendation with some confidence. For years we have been working with alcoholics committed to institutions. Since this book was first published, A.A. has released thousands of alcoholics from asylums and hospitals of every kind. The majority have never returned. The power of God goes deep!
You may have the reverse situation on your hands. Perhaps you have a husband who is at large, but who should be committed. Some men cannot or will not get over alcoholism. When they become too dangerous, we think the kind thing to do is to lock them up, but of course a good doctor should always be consulted. The wives and children of such men suffer horribly, but not more than the men themselves.
But sometimes you must start life anew. We know women who have done it. If such women adopt a spiritual way of life their road will be smoother.
If your husband is a drinker, you probably worry over what other people are thinking and you hate to meet your friends. You draw more and more into yourself and you think everyone is talking about conditions at your home. You avoid the subject of drinking, even with your own parents. You do not know what to tell your children. When your husband is bad, you become a trembling recluse, wishing the telephone had never been invented.
We find that most of this embarrassment is unnecessary. While you need not discuss your husband at length, you can quietly let your friends know the nature of his illness. But you must be on guard not to embarrass or harm your husband.
When you have carefully explained to such people that he is a sick person, you will have created a new atmosphere. Barriers which have sprung up between you and your friends will disappear with the growth of sympathetic understanding. You will no longer be self conscious or feel that you must apologize as though your husband were a weak character. He may be anything but that. Your new courage, good nature and lack of self consciousness will do wonders for you socially.
The same principle applies in dealing with the children. Unless they actually need protection from their father, it is best not to take sides in any argument he has with them while drinking. Use your energies to promote a better understanding all around. Then that terrible tension which grips the home of every problem drinker will be lessened.
Frequently, you have felt obliged to tell your husband's employer and his friends that he was sick, when as a matter of fact he was tight. Avoid answering these inquiries as much as you can. Whenever possible, let your husband explain. Your desire to protect him should not cause you to lie to people when they have a right to know where he is and what he is doing. Discuss this with him when he is sober and in good spirits. Ask him what you should do if he places you in such a position again. But be careful not to be resentful about the last time he did so.
There is another paralyzing fear. You may be afraid your husband will lose his position; you are thinking of the disgrace and hard times which will befall you and the children. This experience may come to you. Or you may already have had it several times. Should it happen again, regard it in a different light. Maybe it will prove a blessing! It may convince your husband he wants to stop drinking forever. And now you know that he can stop if he will! Time after time, this apparent calamity has been a boon to us, for it opened up a path which led to the discovery of God.
We have elsewhere remarked how much better life is when lived on a spiritual plane. If God can solve the age old riddle of alcoholism, He can solve your problems too. We wives found that, like everybody else, we were afflicted with pride, self pity, vanity and all the things which go to make up the self centered person; and we were not above selfishness or dishonesty. As our husbands began to apply spiritual principles in their lives, we began to see the desirability of doing so too.
At first, some of us did not believe we needed this help. We thought, on the whole, we were pretty good women, capable of being nicer if our husbands stopped drinking. But it was a silly idea that we were too good to need God. Now we try to put spiritual principles to work in every department of our lives. When we do that, we find it solves our problems too; the ensuing lack of fear, worry and hurt feelings is a wonderful thing. We urge you to try our program, for nothing will be so helpful to your husband as the radically changed attitude toward him which God will show you how to have. Go along with you husband if you possibly can.
If you and your husband find a solution for the pressing problem of drink you are, of course, going to very happy. But all problems will not be solved at once. Seed has started to sprout in a new soil, but growth has only begun. In spite of your new found happiness, there will be ups and downs. Many of the old problems will still be with you. This is as it should be.
The faith and sincerity of both you and your husband will be put to the test. These work outs should be regarded as part of your education, for thus you will be learning to live. You will make mistakes, but if you are in earnest they will not drag you down. Instead, you will capitalize them. A better way of life will emerge when they are overcome.
Some of the snags you will encounter are irritation, hurt feelings and resentments. Your husband will sometimes be unreasonable and you will want to criticize. Starting from a speck on the domestic horizon, great thunderclouds of dispute may gather. These family dissensions are very dangerous, especially to your husband. Often you must carry the burden of avoiding them or keeping them under control. Never forget that resentment is a deadly hazard to an alcoholic. We do not mean that you have to agree with you husband whenever there is an honest difference of opinion. Just be careful not to disagree in a resentful or critical spirit.You and your husband will find that you can dispose of serious problems easier than you can the trivial ones. Next time you and he have a heated discussion, no matter what the subject, it should be the privilege of either to smile and say, “This is getting serious. I’m sorry I got disturbed. Let’s talk about it later.” If your husband is trying to live on a spiritual basis, he will also be doing everything in his power to avoid disagreement or contention. Your husband knows he owes you more than sobriety. He wants to make good. Yet you must not expect too much. His ways of thinking and doing are the habits of years. Patience, tolerance, understanding and love are the watchwords. Show him these things in yourself and they will be reflected back to you from him. Live and let live is the rule. If you both show a willingness to remedy your own defects, there will be little need to criticize each other. We women carry with us a picture of the ideal man, the sort of chap we would like our husbands to be. It is the most natural thing in the world, once his liquor problem is solved, to feel that he will now measure up to that cherished vision. The chances are he will not for, like yourself, he is just beginning his development. Be patient.
Another feeling we are very likely to entertain is one of resentment that love and loyalty could not cure our husbands of alcoholism. We do not like the thought that the contents of a book or the work of another alcoholic has accomplished in a few weeks that for which we struggled for years. At such moments we forget that alcoholism is an illness over which we could not possibly have had any power. Your husband will be the first to say it was your devotion and care which brought him to the point where he could have a spiritual experience. Without you he would have gone to pieces long ago. When resentful thoughts come, try to pause and count your blessings. After all, your family is reunited, alcohol is no longer a problem and you and your husband are working together toward an undreamed of future.
Still another difficulty is that you may become jealous of the attention he bestows on other people, especially alcoholics. You have been starving for his companionship, yet he spends long hours helping other men and their families. You feel he should now be yours. It will do little good if you point that out and urge more attention for yourself. We find it a real mistake to dampen his enthusiasm for alcoholic work. You should join in his efforts as much as you possibly can. We suggest that you direct some of your thought to the wives of his new alcoholic friends. They need the counsel and love of a woman who has gone through what you have.
It is probably true that you and your husband have been living too much alone, for drinking many times isolates the wife of an alcoholic. Therefore, you probably need fresh interests and a great cause to live for as much as your husband. If you cooperate, rather than complain, you will find that his excess enthusiasm will tone down. Both of you will awaken to a new sense of responsibility for others. You, as well as your husband, ought to think of what you can put into life instead of how much you can take out. Inevitably your lives will be fuller for doing so. You will lose the old life to find one much better.
Perhaps your husband will make a fair start on the new basis, but just as things are going beautifully he dismays you be coming home drunk. If you are satisfied he really wants to get over drinking, you need not be alarmed. Though it is infinitely better that he have no relapse at all, as has been true with many of our men, it is by no means a bad thing in some cases. Your husband will see at once that he must redouble his spiritual activities if he expects to survive. You need not remind him of his spiritual deficiency he will know of it. Cheer him up and ask him how you can be still more helpful.
The slightest sign of fear or intolerance may lessen your husband's chance or recovery. In a weak moment he may take your dislike of his high stepping friends as one of those insanely trivial excuses to drink.
We never, never try to arrange a man's life so as to shield him from temptation. The slightest disposition on your part to guide his appointments or his affairs so he will not be tempted will be noticed. Make him feel absolutely free to come and go as he likes. This is important. If he gets drunk, don't blame yourself. God has either removed your husband's liquor problem or He has not. If not, it had better be found out right away. Then you and your husband can get right down to fundamentals. If a repetition is to be prevented, place the problem, along with everything else, in God's hands.
We realize that we have been giving you much direct advice. We may have seemed to lecture. If that is so we are sorry, for we ourselves, don't always care for people who lecture us. But what we have related is based upon experience, some of it painful. We had to learn these things the hard way. That is why we are anxious that you understand, and that you avoid these unnecessary difficulties. *
So to you out there - who may soon be with us - we say "Good luck and God bless you."
Our women folk have suggested certain attitudes a wife may take with the husband who is recovering. Perhaps they created the impression that he is to be wrapped in cotton wool and placed on a pedestal. Successful readjustment means the opposite. All members of the family should meet upon the common ground of tolerance, understanding and love. This involves a process of deflation. The alcoholic, his wife, his children, his " in laws," each one is likely to have fixed ideas about the family's attitude towards himself or herself. Each is interested in having his or her wishes respected. We find the more one member of the family demands that the others concede to him, the more resentful they become. This makes for discord and unhappiness.
And why? Is it not because each wants to play the lead? Is not each trying to arrange the family show to his liking? Is he not unconsciously trying to see what he can take from the family life rather than give?
Cessation of drinking is but the first step away from a highly strained, abnormal condition. A doctor said to us, "Years of living with an alcoholic is almost sure to make any wife or child neurotic. The entire family is, to some extent, ill." Let families realize, as they start their journey, that all will not be fair weather. Each in his turn may be footsore and may straggle.
There will be alluring shortcuts and by-paths down which they may wander and lose their way.
Suppose we tell you some of the obstacles a family will meet; suppose we suggest how they may be avoided - even converted to good use for others. The family of an alcoholic longs for the return of happiness and security. They remember when father was romantic, thoughtful and successful. Today's life is measured against that of other years and, when it falls short, the family may be unhappy.
Family confidence in dad is rising high. The good old days will soon be back, they think. Sometimes they demand that dad bring them back instantly! God, they believe, almost owes this recompense on a long overdue account. But the head of the house has spent years in pulling down the structures of business, romance, friendship, health - these things are now ruined or damaged. It will take time to clear away the wreck. Though the old buildings will eventually be replaced by finer ones, the new structures will take years to complete.
Father knows he is to blame; it may take him many seasons of hard work to be restored financially, but he shouldn't be reproached. Perhaps he will never have much money again. But the wise family will admire him for what he is trying to be, rather than for what he is trying to get.
Now and then the family will be plagued by spectres from the past, for the drinking career of almost every alcoholic has been marked by escapades, funny, humiliating, shameful or tragic. The first impulse will be to bury these skeletons in a dark closet and padlock the door. The family may be possessed by the idea that future happiness can be based only upon forgetfulness of the past. We think that such a view is self-centered and in direct conflict with the new way of living.
Henry Ford once made a wise remark to the effect that experience is the thing of supreme value is life. That is true only if one is willing to turn the past to good account. We grow by our willingness to face and rectify errors and convert them into assets. The alcoholic's past thus becomes the principal asset of the family and frequently it is almost the only one!
This painful past may be of infinite value to other families still struggling with their problem. We think each family which has been relieved owes something to those who have not, and when the occasion requires, each member of it should be only too willing to bring former mistakes, no matter how grievous, out of their hiding places. Showing others who suffer how we were given help is the very thing which makes life seem so worth while to us now. Cling to the thought that, in God's hands, the dark past is the greatest possession you have - the key to life and happiness for others. With it you can avert death and misery for them.
It is possible to dig up past misdeeds so they become a blight, a veritable plague. For example, we know of situations in which the alcoholic or his wife have had love affairs. In the first flush of spiritual experience they forgave each other and drew closer together. The miracle of reconciliation was at hand. Then, under one provocation or another, the aggrieved one would unearth the old affair and angrily cast its ashes about. A few of us have had these growing pains and that future happiness can be based only upon forgetfulness of the past. We think that such a view is self-centered and in direct conflict with the new way of living.
Henry Ford once made a wise remark to the effect that experience is the thing of supreme value is life. That is true only if one is willing to turn the past to good account. We grow by our willingness to face and rectify errors and convert them into assets. The alcoholic's past thus becomes the principal asset of the family and frequently it is almost the only one!
This painful past may be of infinite value to other families still struggling with their problem. We think each family which has been relieved owes something to those who have not, and when the occasion requires, each member of it should be only too willing to bring former mistakes, no matter how grievous, out of their hiding places. Showing others who suffer how we were given help is the very thing which makes life seem so worth while to us now. Cling to the thought that, in God's hands, the dark past is the greatest possession you have - the key to life and happiness for others. With it you can avert death and misery for them.
It is possible to dig up past misdeeds so they become a blight, a veritable plague. For example, we know of situations in which the alcoholic or his wife have had love affairs. In the first flush of spiritual experience they forgave each other and drew closer together. The miracle of reconciliation was at hand. Then, under one provocation or another, the aggrieved one would unearth the old affair and angrily cast its ashes about. A few of us have had these growing pains and or he may be so enthralled by his new life that he talks or thinks of little else. In either case certain family problems will arise. With these we have had experience galore.
We think it dangerous if he rushes headlong at his economic problem. The family will be affected also, pleasantly at first, as they feel their money troubles are about to be solved, then not so pleasantly as they find themselves neglected. Dad may be tired at night and preoccupied by day. He may take small interest in the children and may show irritation when reproved for his delinquencies. If not irritable, he may seem dull and boring, not gay and affectionate as the family would like him to be. Mother may complain of inattention. They are all disappointed, and often let him feel it. Beginning with such complaints, a barrier arises. He is straining every nerve to make up for lost time. He is striving to recover fortune and reputation and feels he is doing very well.
Sometimes mother and children don't think so. Having been neglected and misused in the past, they think father owes them more than they are getting. They want him to make a fuss over them. They expect him to give them the nice times they used to have before he drank so much, and to show his contrition for what they suffered. But dad doesn't give freely of himself. Resentment grows. He becomes still less communicative. Sometimes he explodes over a trifle. The family is mystified. They criticize, pointing out how he is falling down on his spiritual program.
This sort of thing can be avoided. Both father and the family are mistaken, though each side may have some justification. It is of little use to argue and only makes the impasse worse. The family must realize that dad, though marvelously improved, is still convalescing. They should be thankful he is sober and able to be of this world once more. Let them praise his progress. Let them remember that his drinking wrought all kinds of damage that may take long to repair. If they sense these things, they will not take so seriously his periods of crankiness, depression, or apathy, which will disappear when there is tolerance, love, and spiritual understanding.
The head of the house ought to remember that he is mainly to blame for what befell his home. He can scarcely square the account in his lifetime. But he must see the danger of over concentration on financial success. Although financial recovery is on the way for many of us, we found we could not place money first. For us, material well-being always followed spiritual progress; it never preceded.
Since the home has suffered more than anything else, it is well that a man exert himself there. He is not likely to get far in any direction if he fails to show unselfishness and love under his own roof. We know there are difficult wives and families, but the man who is getting over alcoholism must remember he did much to make them so.
As each member of a resentful family begins to see his shortcomings and admits them to the others, he lays a basis for helpful discussion. These family talks will be constructive if they can be carried on without heated argument, self pity, self justification or resentful criticism. Little by little, mother and children will see they ask too much, and father will see he gives too little. Giving, rather than getting, will become the guiding principle.
Assume on the other hand that father has, at the outset, a stirring spiritual experience. Overnight, as it were, he is a different man. He becomes a religious enthusiast. He is unable to focus on anything else. As soon as his sobriety begins to be taken as a matter of course, the family may look at their strange new dad with apprehension, then with irritation. There is talk about spiritual matters morning, noon and night. He may demand that the family find God in a hurry, or exhibit amazing indifference to them and say he is above worldly considerations. He may tell mother, who has been religious all her life, that she doesn't know what it's all about, and that she had better get his brand of spirituality while there is yet time.
When father takes this tack, the family may react unfavorably. The may be jealous of a God who has stolen dad's affections. While grateful that he drinks no more, they may not like the idea that God has accomplished the miracle where they failed. They often forget father was beyond human aid. They may not see why their love and devotion did not straighten him out. Dad is not so spiritual after all, they say. If he means to right his past wrongs, why all this concern for everyone in the world but his family? What about his talk that God will take care of them? They suspect father is a bit balmy!
He is not so unbalanced as they might think. Many of us have experienced dad's elation. We have indulged in spiritual intoxication. Like a gaunt prospector, belt drawn in over the ounce of food, our pick struck gold. 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.
If the family cooperates, dad will soon see that he is suffering from a distortion of values. He will perceive that his spiritual growth is lopsided, that for an average man like himself, a spiritual life which does not include his family obligations may not be so perfect after all. If the family will appreciated that dad's current behavior is but a phase of his development, all will be well. In the midst of an understanding and sympathetic family, these vagaries of dad's spiritual infancy will quickly disappear. The opposite may happen should the family condemn and criticize. Dad may feel that for years his drinking has placed him on the wrong side of every argument, but that now he has become a superior person with God on his side. If the family persists in criticism, this fallacy may take a still greater hold on father. Instead of treating the family as he should, he may retreat further into himself and feel he has spiritual justification for so doing.
Though the family does not fully agree with dad's spiritual activities, they should let him have his head. Even if he displays a certain amount of neglect and irresponsibility towards the family, it is well to let him go as far as he like in helping other alcoholics. During those first days of convalescence, this will do more to insure his sobriety than anything else. Though some of his manifestations are alarming and disagreeable, we think dad will be on a firmer foundation than the man who is placing business or professional success ahead of spiritual development. He will be less likely to drink again, and anything is preferable to that.
Those of us who have spent much time in the world of spiritual make believe have eventually seen the childishness of it. This dream world has been replaced by a great sense of purpose, accompanied by a growing consciousness of the power of God in our lives. We have come to believe He would like us to keep our heads in the clouds with Him, but that our feet ought to be firmly planted on earth. That is where our fellow travelers are and that is where are our work must be done. These are the realities for us. We have found nothing incompatible between a powerful spiritual experience and a life of sane and happy usefulness.
One more suggestion: Whether the family has spiritual convictions or not, they may do well to examine the principles by which the alcoholic member is trying to live. They can hardly fail to approve these simple principles, though the head of the house still fails somewhat in practicing them. Nothing will help the man who is off on a spiritual tangent so much as the wife who adopts a sane spiritual program, making a better practical use of it.
There will be other profound changes in the household. Liquor incapacitated father for so many years that mother became head of the house. She met these responsibilities gallantly. By force of circumstances, she was often obliged to treat father as a sick or wayward child. Even when he wanted to assert himself he could not, for his drinking placed him constantly in the wrong. Mother made all the plans and gave the directions. When sober, father usually obeyed. Thus mother, through no fault of her own, became accustomed to wearing the family trousers. Father, coming suddenly to life again, often begins to assert himself. This means trouble, unless the family watches for these tendencies in each other and comes to a friendly agreement about them.
Drinking isolates most homes from the outside world. Father may have laid aside for years all normal activities clubs, civic duties, sports. When he renews interest in such things, a feeling of jealousy may arise. The family may feel they hold a mortgage on dad, so big that no equity should be left for outsiders. Instead of developing new channels of activity for themselves, mother and children demand that he stay home and make up the deficiency.
At the very beginning, the couple ought to frankly face the fact that each will have to yield here and there if the family is going to play an effective part in the new life. Father will necessarily spend much time with other alcoholics, but this activity should be balanced. New acquaintances who know nothing of alcoholism might be made and thoughtful considerations given their needs. The problems of the community might engage attention. Though the family has no religious connections, they may wish to make contact with or take membership in a religious body.
Alcoholics who have derided religious people will be helped by such contacts. Being possessed of a spiritual experience, the alcoholic will find he has much in common with these people, though he may differ with them on many matters. If he does not argue about religion, he will make new friends and is sure to find new avenues of usefulness and pleasure. He and his family can be a bright spot in such congregations. He may bring new hope and new courage to many a priest, minister, or rabbi, who gives his all to minister to our troubled world. We intend the foregoing as a helpful suggestion only. So far as we are concerned, there is nothing obligatory about it. As non-denominational people, we cannot make up others' minds for them. Each individual should consult his own conscience.
We have been speaking to you of serious, sometimes tragic things. We have been dealing with alcohol in its worst aspect. But we aren't a glum lot. If newcomers could see no joy or fun in our existence, they wouldn't want it. We absolutely insist on enjoying life. We try not to indulge in cynicism over the state of the nations, nor do we carry the world's troubles on our shoulders. When we see a man sinking into the mire that is alcoholism, we give him first aid and place what we have at his disposal. For his sake, we do recount and almost relive the horrors of our past. But those of us who have tried to shoulder the entire burden and trouble of others find we are soon overcome by them.
So we think cheerfulness and laughter make for usefulness. Outsiders are sometimes shocked when we burst into merriment over a seemingly tragic experience out of the past. But why shouldn't we laugh? We have recovered, and have been given the power to help others.
Everybody knows that those in bad health, and those who seldom play, do not laugh much. So let each family play together or separately as much as their circumstances warrant. We are sure God wants us to be happy, joyous, and free. We cannot subscribe to the belief that his 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 didn't do it. Avoid then, the deliberate manufacture of misery, but if trouble comes, cheerfully capitalize it as an opportunity to demonstrate His omnipotence.
Now about health: A body badly burned by alcohol does not often recover overnight nor do twisted thinking and depression vanish in a twinkling. We are convinced that a spiritual mode of living is a most powerful health restorative. We, who have recovered from serious drinking, are miracles of mental health. But we have seen remarkable transformations in our bodies. Hardly one of our crowd now shows any dissipation.
But this does not mean that we disregard human health measures. God has abundantly supplied this world with fine doctors, psychologists, and practitioners of various kinds. Do not hesitated to take your health problems to such persons. Most of them give freely of themselves, that their fellows may enjoy sound minds and bodies. Try to remember that though God has wrought miracles among us, we should never belittle a good doctor or psychiatrist. Their services are often indispensable in treating a newcomer and in following his case afterward.
One of the many doctors who had the opportunity of reading this book in manuscript form told us that the use of sweets was often helpful, of course depending upon a doctor's advice. He thought all alcoholics should constantly have chocolate available for its quick energy value at times of fatigue. He added that occasionally in the night a vague craving arose which would be satisfied by candy. Many of us have noticed a tendency to eat sweets and have found this practice beneficial.
A word about sex relations. Alcohol is so sexually stimulating to some men that they have over-indulged. Couples are occasionally dismayed to find that when drinking is stopped the man tends to be impotent. Unless the reason is understood, there may be an emotional upset. Some of us had this experience, only to enjoy, in a few months, a finer intimacy than ever. There should be no hesitancy in consulting a doctor or psychologist if the condition persists. We do not know of many cases where this difficulty lasted long.
The alcoholic may find it hard to re-establish friendly relations with his children. Their young minds were impressionable while he was drinking. Without saying so, they may cordially hate him for what he has done to them and to their mother. The children are sometimes dominated by a pathetic hardness and cynicism. They cannot seem to forgive and forget. This may hang on for months, long after their mother has accepted dad's new way of living and thinking.
In time they will see that he is a new man and in their own way they will let him know it. When this happens, they can be invited to join in morning meditation and then they can take part in the daily discussion without rancor or bias. From that point on, progress will be rapid. Marvelous results often follow such a reunion.
Whether the family goes on a spiritual basis or not, the alcoholic member has to if he would recover. The others must be convinced of his new status beyond the shadow of a doubt. Seeing is believing to most families who have lived with a drinker.
Here is a case in point: One of our friends is a heavy smoker and coffee drinker. There was no doubt he over indulged. Seeing this, and meaning to be helpful, his wife commenced to admonish him about it. He admitted he was overdoing these things, but frankly said that he was not ready to stop. His wife is one of those persons who really feels there is something rather sinful about these commodities, so she nagged, and her intolerance finally threw him into a fit of anger. He got drunk.
Of course our friend was wrong - dead wrong. He had to painfully admit that and mend his spiritual fences. Though he is now a most effective member of Alcoholics Anonymous, he still smokes and drinks coffee, but neither his wife nor anyone else stands in judgment. She sees she was wrong to make a burning issue out of such a matter when his more serious ailments were being rapidly cured. We have three little mottoes which are apropos. Here they are:First Things FirstLive and Let LiveEasy Does It.
Among many employers nowadays, we think of one member who has spent much of his life in the world of big business. He has hired and fired hundreds of men. He knows the alcoholic as the employer sees him. His present views ought to prove exceptionally useful to business men everywhere. But let him tell you:
I was at one time assistant manager of a corporation department employing sixty six hundred men. One day my secretary came in saying Mr.B-- insisted on speaking with me. I told her to say that I was not interested. I had warned him several times that he had but one more chance. Not long afterward he had called me from Hartford on two successive days, so drunk he could hardly speak. I told him he was through finally and forever.
My secretary returned to say that it was not Mr. B-- on the phone; it was Mr. B--'s brother, and he wished to give me a message. I still expected a plea for clemency, but these words came through the receiver: "I just wanted to tell you Paul jumped from a hotel window in Hartford last Saturday. He left us a note saying you were the best boss he ever had, and that you were not to blame in any way."
Another time, as I opened a letter which lay on my desk, a newspaper clipping fell out. It was the obituary of one of the best salesmen I ever had. After two weeks of drinking, he had placed his toe on the trigger of a loaded shotgun- the barrel was in his mouth. I had discharged him for drinking six weeks before.
Still another experience: A woman's voice came faintly over long distance from Virginia. She wanted to know if her husband's company insurance was still in force. Four days before he had hanged himself in his woodshed. I had been obliged to discharge him for drinking, though he was brilliant, alert, and one of the best organizers I have ever known.
Here were three exceptional men lost to this world because I did not understand alcoholism as I do now. What irony - I became an alcoholic myself! And but for the intervention of an understanding person, I might have followed in their footsteps. My downfall cost the business community unknown thousands of dollars, for it takes real money to train a man for an executive position. This kind of waste goes on unabated. We think the business fabric is shot through with a situation which might be helped by better understanding all around.
Nearly every modern employer feels a moral responsibility for the well being of his help, and he tries to meet these responsibilities. That he has not always done so for the alcoholic is easily understood. To him the alcoholic has often seemed a fool of the first magnitude. Because of the employee's special ability, or of his own strong personal attachment to him, the employer has sometimes kept such a man at work long beyond a reasonable period. Some employers have tried every known remedy. In only a few instances has there been a lack of patience and tolerance. And we, who have imposed on the best of employers, can scarcely blame them if they have been short with us.
Here, for instance, is a typical example: An officer of one of the largest banking institutions in America knows I no longer drink. One day he told me about an executive of the same bank who, from his description, was undoubtedly alcoholic. This seemed to me like an opportunity to be helpful, so I spent two hours talking about alcoholism, the malady, and described the symptoms and results as well as I could. His comment was, "Very interesting. But I'm sure this man is done drinking. He has just returned from a three months' leave of absence, has taken a cure, looks fine, and to clinch the matter, the board of directors told him this was his last chance."
The only answer I could make was that if the man followed the usual pattern, he would go on a bigger bust than ever. I felt this was inevitable and wondered if the bank was doing the man an injustice. Why not bring him into contact with some of our alcoholic crowd? He might have a chance. I pointed out that I had had nothing to drink whatever for three years, and this in the face of difficulties that would have made nine out of ten men drink their heads off. Why not at least afford him an opportunity to hear my story? "Oh no," said my friend, "this chap is either through with liquor, or he is minus a job. If he has your will power and guts, he will make the grade."
I wanted to throw up my hands in discouragement, for I saw that I had failed to help my banker friend understand. He simply could not believe that his brother executive suffered from a serious illness. There was nothing to do but wait.
Presently the man did slip and was fired. Following his discharge, we contacted him. Without much ado, he accepted the principles and procedure that had helped us. To me, this incident illustrates lack of understanding as to what really ails the alcoholic, and lack of knowledge as to what part employers might profitably take in salvaging their sick employees.
If you desire to help it might be well to disregard your own drinking, or lack of it. Whether you are a hard drinker, a moderate drinker or a teetotaler, you may have some pretty strong opinions, perhaps prejudices. Those who drink moderately may be more annoyed with an alcoholic than a total abstainer would be. Drinking occasionally, and understanding your own reactions, it is possible for you to become quite sure of many things which, so far as the alcoholic is concerned, are not always so. As a moderate drinker, you can take your liquor or leave it alone. Whenever you want to, you control your drinking. Of an evening, you can go on a mild bender, get up in the morning, shake your head and go to business. To you, liquor is no real problem. You cannot see why it should be to anyone else, save the spineless and stupid.
When dealing with an alcoholic, there may be a natural annoyance that a man could be so weak, stupid and irresponsible. Even when you understand the malady better, you may feel this feeling rising.
A look at the alcoholic in your organization is many times illuminating. Is he not usually brilliant, fast thinking, imaginative and likeable? When sober, does he not work hard and have a knack of getting things done? If he had these qualities and did not drink would he be worth retaining? Should he have the same consideration as other ailing employees? Is he worth salvaging? If your decision is yes, whether the reason be humanitarian or business or both, then the following suggestions may be helpful.
Can you discard the feeling that you are dealing only with habit, with stubbornness, or a weak will? If this presents difficulty, re-reading chapters two and three, where alcoholic sickness is discussed at length might be worth while. You, as a business man, want to know the necessities before considering the result. If you concede that your employee is ill, can he be forgiven for what he has done in the past? Can his past absurdities be forgotten? Can it be appreciated that he has been a victim of crooked thinking, directly caused by the action of alcohol on his brain?
I well remember the shock I received when a prominent doctor in Chicago told me of cases where pressure of the spinal fluid actually ruptured the brain. No wonder an alcoholic is strangely irrational. Who wouldn't be, with such a fevered brain? Normal drinkers are not so affected, nor can they understand the aberrations of the alcoholic.
Your man has probably been trying to conceal a number of scrapes, perhaps pretty messy ones. They may be disgusting. You may be at a loss to understand how such a seemingly above board chap could be so involved. But these scrapes can generally be charged, no matter how bad, to the abnormal action of alcohol on his mind. When drinking, or getting over a bout, an alcoholic, sometimes the model of honesty when normal, will do incredible things. Afterward, his revulsion will be terrible. Nearly always, these antics indicate nothing more than temporary conditions.
This is not to say that all alcoholics are honest and upright when not drinking. Of course that isn't so, and such people may often impose on you. Seeing your attempt to understand and help, some men will try to take advantage of your kindness. If you are sure your man does not want to stop, he may as well be discharged, the sooner the better. You are not doing him a favor by keeping him on. Firing such an individual may prove a blessing to him. It may be just the jolt he needs. I know, in my own particular case, that nothing my company could have done would have stopped me for, so long as I was able to hold my position, I could not possibly realize how serious my situation was. Had they fired me first, and had they then taken steps to see that I was presented with the solution contained in this book, I might have returned to them six months later, a well man.
But there are many men who want to stop, and with them you can go far. Your understanding treatment of their cases will pay dividends.
Perhaps you have such a man in mind. He wants to quit drinking and you want to help him, even if it be only a matter of good business. You now know more about alcoholism. You can see that he is mentally and physically sick. You are willing to overlook his past performances. Suppose an approach is made something like this:
State that you know about his drinking, and that it must stop. You might say you appreciate his abilities, would like to keep him, but cannot if he continues to drink. A firm attitude at this point has helped many of us.
Next he can be assured that you do not intend to lecture, moralize, or condemn; that if this was done formerly, it was because of misunderstanding. If possible express a lack of hard feeling toward him. At this point, it might be well to explain alcoholism, the illness. Say that you believe he is a gravely ill person, with this qualification - being perhaps fatally ill, does he want to get well? You ask, because many alcoholics, being warped and drugged, do not want to quit. But does he? Will he take every necessary step, submit to anything to get well, to stop drinking forever?
If he says yes, does he really mean it, or down inside does he think he is fooling you, and that after rest and treatment he will be able to get away with a few drinks now and then? We believe a man should be thoroughly probed on these points. Be satisfied he is not deceiving himself or you.
Whether you mention this book is a matter for your discretion. If he temporizes and still thinks he can ever drink again, even beer, he might as well be discharged after the next bender which, if an alcoholic, he is almost certain to have. He should understand that emphatically. Either you are dealing with a man who can and will get well or you are not. If not, why waste time with him? This may seem severe, but it is usually the best course.
After satisfying yourself that your man wants to recover and that he will go to any extreme to do so, you may suggest a definite course of action. For most alcoholics who are drinking, or who are just getting over a spree, a certain amount of physical treatment is desirable, even imperative. The matter of physical treatment should, of course, be referred to your own doctor. Whatever the method, its object is to thoroughly clear mind and body of the effects of alcohol. In competent hands, this seldom takes long nor is it very expensive. Your man will fare better if placed in such physical condition that he can think straight and no longer craves liquor. If you propose such a procedure to him, it may be necessary to advance the cost of the treatment, but we believe it should be made plain that any expense will later be deducted from his pay. It is better for him to feel fully responsible.
If your man accepts your offer, it should be pointed out that physical treatment is but a small part of the picture. Though you are providing him with the best possible medical attention, he should understand that he must undergo a change of heart. To get over drinking will require a transformation of thought and attitude. We all had to place recovery above everything, for without recovery we would have lost both home and business.
Can you have every confidence in his ability to recover? While on the subject of confidence, can you adopt the attitude that so far as you are concerned this will be a strictly personal matter, that his alcoholic derelictions, the treatment about to be undertaken, will never be discussed without his consent? It might be well to have a long chat with him on his return.
To return to the subject matter of this book: It contains full suggestions by which the employee may solve his problem. To you, some of the ideas which it contains are novel. Perhaps you are not quite in sympathy with the approach we suggest. By no means do we offer it as the last word on this subject, but so far as we are concerned, it has worked with us. After all, are you not looking for results rather than methods? Whether your employee likes it or not, he will learn the grim truth about alcoholism. That won't hurt him a bit, even though he does not go for this remedy.
We suggest you draw the book to the attention of the doctor who is to attend your patient during treatment. If the book is read the moment the patient is able, while acutely depressed, realization of his condition may come to him.
We hope the doctor will tell the patient the truth about his condition, whatever that happens to be. When the man is presented with this volume it is best that no one tell him he must abide by its suggestions. The man must decide for himself.
You are betting, or course, that your changed attitude plus the contents of this book will turn the trick. In some cases it will, and in others it may not. But we think that if you persevere, the percentage of successes will gratify you. As our work spreads and our numbers increase, we hope your employees may be put in personal contact with some of us. Meanwhile, we are sure a great deal can be accomplished by the use of the book alone.
On your employee's return, talk with him. Ask him if he thinks he has the answer. If he feels free to discuss his problems with you, if he knows you understand
and will not be upset by anything he wishes to say, he will probably be off to a fast start.
In this connection, can you remain undisturbed if the man proceeds to tell you shocking things? He may, for example, reveal that he has padded his expense account or that he has planned to take your best customers away from you. In fact, he may say almost anything if he has accepted our solution which, as you know, demands rigorous honesty. Can you charge this off as you would a bad account and start fresh with him? If he owes you money you may wish to make terms.
If he speaks of his home situation, you can undoubtedly make helpful suggestions. Can he talk frankly with you so long as he does not bear business tales or criticize his associate? With this kind of employee such an attitude will command undying loyalty.
The greatest enemies of us alcoholics are resentment, jealousy, envy, frustration, and fear. Wherever men are gathered together in business there will be rivalries and, arising out of these, a certain amount of office politics. Sometimes we alcoholics have an idea that people are trying to pull us down. Often this is not so at all. But sometimes our drinking will be used politically.
One instance comes to mind in which a malicious individual was always making friendly little jokes about an alcoholic's drinking exploits. In this way he was slyly carrying tales. In another case, an alcoholic was sent to a hospital for treatment. Only a few knew of it at first but, within a short time, it was billboarded throughout the entire company. Naturally this sort of thing decreased the man's chance of recovery. The employer can many times protect the victim from this kind of talk. The employer cannot play favorites, but he can always defend a man from needless provocation and unfair criticism.
As a class, alcoholics are energetic people. They work hard and they play hard. Your man should be on his mettle to make good. Being somewhat weakened, and faced with physical and mental readjustment to a life which knows no alcohol, he may overdo. You may have to curb his desire to work sixteen hours a day. You may need to encourage him to play once in a while. He may wish to do a lot for other alcoholics and something of the sort may come up during business hours. A reasonable amount of latitude will be helpful. This work is necessary to maintain his sobriety.
After your man has gone along without drinking for a few months, you may be able to make use of his services with other employees who are giving you the alcoholic run-around - provided, of course, they are willing to have a third party in the picture. An alcoholic who has recovered, but holds a relatively unimportant job, can talk to a man with a better position. Being on a radically different basis of life, he will never take advantage of the situation.
Your man may be trusted. Long experience with alcoholic excuses naturally arouses suspicion. When his wife next calls saying he is sick, you may jump to the conclusion he is drunk. If he is, and is still trying to recover, he will tell you about it even if it means the loss of his job. For he knows he must be honest if he would live at all. He will appreciate knowing you are not bothering your head about him, that you are not suspicious nor are you trying to run his life so he will be shielded from temptation to drink. If he is conscientiously following the program of recovery he can go anywhere your business may call him.
In case he does stumble, even once, you will have to decide whether to let him go. If you are sure he doesn't mean business, there is not doubt you should discharge him. If, on the contrary, you are sure he is doing his utmost, you may wish to give him another chance. But you should feel under no obligation to keep him on, for your obligation has been well discharged already.
There is another thing you might wish to do. If your organization is a large one, your junior executives might be provided with this book. You might let them know you have no quarrel with alcoholics of your organization. These juniors are often in a difficult position. Men under them are frequently their friends. So, for one reason or another, they cover these men, hoping matters will take a turn for the better. They often jeopardize their own positions by trying to help serious drinkers who should have been fired long ago, or else given an opportunity to get well.
After reading this book, a junior executive can go to such a man and say approximately this, "Look here, Ed. Do you want to stop drinking or not? You put me on the spot every time you get drunk. It isn't fair to me or the firm. I have been learning something about alcoholism. If you are an alcoholic, you are a mighty sick man. You act like one. The firm wants to help you get over it, and if you are interested, there is a way out. If you take it, your past will be forgotten and the fact that you went away for treatment will not be mentioned. But if you cannot or will not stop drinking, I think you ought to resign."
Your junior executive may not agree with the contents of our book. He need not, and often should not show it to his alcoholic prospect. But at least he will understand the problem and will no longer be misled by ordinary promises. He will be able to take a position with such a man which is eminently fair and square. He will have no further reason for covering up an alcoholic employee.
It boils right down to this: No man should be fired just because he is alcoholic. If he wants to stop, he should be afforded a real chance. If he cannot or does not want to stop, he should be discharged. The exceptions are few.
We think this method of approach will accomplish several things. It will permit the rehabilitation of good men. At the same time you will feel no reluctance to rid yourself of those who cannot or will not stop. Alcoholism may be causing your organization considerable damage in its waste of time, men and reputation. We hope our suggestions will help you plug up this sometimes serious leak. We think we are sensible when we urge that you stop this waste and give your worthwhile man a chance.
The other day an approach was made to the vice president of a large industrial concern. He remarked: "I'm glad you fellows got over your drinking. But the policy of this company is not to interfere with the habits of our employees. If a man drinks so much that his job suffers, we fire him. I don't see how you can be of any help to us for, as you see, we don't have any alcoholic problem." This same company spends millions for research every year. Their cost of production is figured to a fine decimal point. They have recreational facilities. There is company insurance. There is a real interest, both humanitarian and business, in the well being of employees. But alcoholism - well, they just don't believe they have it.
Perhaps this is a typical attitude. We, who have collectively seen a great deal of business life, at least from the alcoholic angle, had to smile at this gentleman's sincere opinion. He might be shocked if he knew how much alcoholism is costing his organization a year. That company may harbor many actual or potential alcoholics. We believe that managers of large enterprises often have little idea how prevalent this problem is. Even if you feel your organization has no alcoholic problem, it may pay to take another look down the line. You may make some interesting discoveries.
Of course, this chapter refers to alcoholics, sick people, deranged men. What our friend, the vice president, had in mind was the habitual or whoopee drinker. As to them, his policy is undoubtedly sound, but he did not distinguish between such people and the alcoholic.
It is not to be expected that an alcoholic employee will receive a disproportionate amount of time and attention. He should not be made a favorite. The right kind of man, the kind who recovers, will not want this sort of thing. He will not impose. Far from it. He will work like the devil and thank you to his dying day.
Today I own a little company. There are two alcoholic employees, who produce as much as five normal salesmen. But why not? They have a new attitude, and they have been saved from a living death. I have enjoyed every moment spent in getting them straightened out. *
*See Appendix VI - We shall be happy to hear from you if we can be of help.