Monday, 29 November 2010

You will take the first drink, and you won't be able to go to meetings

"We are equally positive that once he takes any alcohol whatever into his system, something happens, both in the bodily and mental sense, which makes it virtually impossible for him to stop. The experience of any alcoholic will abundantly confirm this." (Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 22:4)
The book Alcoholics Anonymous does not then instruct the reader not to take the first drink.

Instead, the next twenty-one pages or so are concerned with two facts:

"At a certain point in the drinking of every alcoholic, he passes into a state where the most powerful desire to stop drinking is of absolutely no avail. . . We are without defence against the first drink." (24:0, 24:1)

"If that be the case, you may be suffering from an illness which only a spiritual experience will conquer." (44:1)
It is for these reasons I never suggest that anyone in AA 'not take the first drink'.

I, myself, have been ashamed of relapsing when I was new and seen countless people ashamed of relapsing, and have difficulty returning after a slip because of this shame, which derives from a failure to recognise powerlessness, from the belief that they have fallen short because they cannot follow the simple instruction, 'don't drink and go to meetings'.

To give someone an instruction they cannot follow, however much they want to and try to, is misleading and can set up a cycle of shame or guilt.

What I will say instead is this: I could not not take the first drink. I needed God, and I needed God quickly. I needed to ask God to come into my life and guide me, because where I would guide myself would, sooner or later, probably sooner, be straight to the off-licence or pub, regardless of the terror that gripped me when the compulsion arose.

I believe it is far more helpful to prophesy, as do Fred's sponsors on page 41, that your prospect will indeed drink again, at some unforeseeable time in the future, and then to place the Twelve-Step programme of recovery fully at his disposal, with no delay.

If alcoholics could consistently follow the instruction 'don't drink no matter what', the Big Book would stop at the top of page 23.

Going to meetings can certainly act as a channel for God's power in the short term, but, if the individual cannot not drink, actually getting to a meeting may become impossible, because, once the alcohol takes hold, the unmanageability (the inability to form and follow through sound intentions consistently) will mean that making the meeting ain't going to happen.

I believe it is much more useful to disturb alcoholics with the truth of their condition than to offer false hope by suggesting unfulfillable instructions. Yes, this has to be kept simple, but the simplicity is this:

"Buddy, if you're an alcoholic, you will drink again, unless you have a spiritual experience. If you want to have one, let me know, and I'll show you how."

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Praying for a sober day?

When I was new, I used to pray for a sober day. And that's kinda where the praying stopped. This prayer (coupled with a 'thank you' at night) I saw as simply one of many things I did during the day, e.g. calling newcomers or washing cups at a meeting, essentially to keep MYSELF sober so I could get on with the business of living MY life. Like paying my insurance premiums or brushing my teeth. Not really the focus of my day, but necessary at some low level. Or perhaps like a talisman or a superstition.

This relegates God to a box that needs to be ticked, and His role to that of 'little helper'.

I am sober ALREADY because of God. The conversation I imagine going something like this:

Me: "God, please keep me sober."

God: "Erm . . . I got you sober without your knowledge or even consent or permission, just to see if you would make a better hash of things sober than you did drunk, because I've got this amazing mission for you, and you're, like, totally missing the mark. There's a YOU-shaped hole in the world, and you need to get out there and fill it, Buddy. Listen, I've got Jennifer on the other line, and she's asking for some really specific direction. Gotta go to it. Later."

[Sadly, I'm not listening, because, now I've said my prayers, I'm back to MY little plans and designs.]

Me [several hours later]: "God, thank you for keeping me sober."

Me [next morning]: "God, please keep me sober."

God: "You're clearly not listening. Look, I "drew you out of many waters"—do you not even read Psalm 18? Jeez. I wonder why I wrote it, sometimes—and now you're lying on the beach worried about whether or not you're going to tumble back into said waters. Why don't you start asking me what do with the 24 hours a day you've been given back? The whole 'sober' thing's a total given. Got it?"

Me: "God, thank you for keeping me sober."

Me: "God, please keep me sober."

God: "This is getting embarrassing. I guess I'll just have to wait for the tide to come in . . ."

[Tide comes in, I panic, I can feel the waters lap at my ankles, and I check out the top of page 63. Change in tack:]

Me: "God, I'm totally screwed, I have no idea how to live on the beach, here; all of my old plans and designs which seemed to get me through when I was splashing around in the water just don't work now I'm on dry land. I'm going to stay close to you all day; just give me the next indicated action. Show me how I can do YOUR work, because mine is totally sucking."

God: "Now we're in business . . ."

Sunday, 21 November 2010

How To Listen to God—Oxford Group Pamphlet

God will tell you all that you need to know. He will not always tell you all that you want to know. These are a few simple suggestions for people who are willing to make an experiment. You can discover for yourself the most important and practical thing any human being can ever learn—how to be in touch with God. All that is needed is the willingness to try it honestly. Every person who has done this consistently and sincerely has found that it really works.

Before you begin, look over these fundamental points. They are true and are based on the experience of thousands of people.

1. God is alive. He always has been, and He always will be.

2. God knows everything.

3. God can do anything.

4. God can be everywhere—all at the same time. (These are the important differences between God and us human beings.)

5. God is invisible—we cannot see Him or touch Him—but God is here. He is with you now. He is beside you. He surrounds you. He fills the room or the whole place where you are right now. He is in you now. He is in your heart.

6. God cares very much for you. He is interested in you. He has a plan for your life. He has an answer for every need and problem you face.

8. God will help you do anything that He asks you to do.

9. Anyone can be in touch with God, anywhere and at any time, if conditions are obeyed.

These are the conditions:

– To be quiet and still

– To listen

– To be honest about every thought that comes

– To test the thoughts to be sure that they come from God

– To obey.

So, with these basic elements as a background, here are specific suggestions on how to listen to God:

1. Take time

Find some place and time where you can be alone, quiet, and undisturbed. Most people have found that the early morning is the best time. Have with you some paper and a pen or a pencil.

2. Relax

Sit in a comfortable position. Consciously relax all your muscles. Be loose. There is no hurry. There needs to be no strain during these minutes. God cannot get through to us if we are tense and anxious about later responsibilities.

3. Tune in

Open your heart to God. Either silently or aloud, just say to God in a natural way that you would like to find out His plan for your life—you want His answer to the problem or situation that you are facing just now. Be definite and specific in your request.

4. Listen

Just be still, quiet, relaxed, and open. Let your mind go loose. Let God do the talking. Thoughts, ideas, and impressions will begin to come into your mind and heart. Be alert and aware and open to every one.

5. Write!

Here is the important key to the whole process. Write down everything that comes into your mind. Everything. Writing is simply a means of recording so that you can remember later. Do not sort out or edit your thoughts at this point.

Do not say to yourself:

– "This thought is not important!

– This is just an ordinary thought!

– This cannot be guidance!

– This is not nice!

– This cannot be from God!

– This is just me thinking!" (etc.)

Write down everything that passes through your mind.

– Names of people

– Things to do

– Things to say

– Things that are wrong and need to be made right.

Write down everything:

– Good thoughts—bad thoughts

– Comfortable thoughts—uncomfortable thoughts

– Holy thoughts—unholy thoughts

– Sensible thoughts—crazy thoughts.

Be Honest! Write down everything—a thought comes quickly, and it escapes even more quickly unless it is captured and put down.

6. Test

When the flow of thoughts slows down, stop. Take a good look at what you have written. Not every thought we have comes from God, so we need to test our thoughts. Here is where the written record helps us to be able to look at them.

– Are these thoughts completely honest, pure, unselfish, and loving?

– Are these thoughts in line with our duties?

– Are these thoughts in line with our understanding of the teachings found in our spiritual literature?

7. Check

When you are in doubt and when it is important, what does another person who is living two-way prayer think about this thought or action? More light comes in through two windows than one. Someone else who also wants God's plan for our lives may help us to see more clearly.

Talk over together what you have written. Many people do this. They tell each other what guidance has come. This is the secret of unity. There are always three sides to every question—your side, my side, and the right side. Guidance shows us which is the right side—not who is right, but what is right.

8. Obey

Carry out the thoughts that have come. You will only be sure of guidance as you go through with it. A rudder will not guide a boat until the boat is moving. As you obey, very often the results convince you that you are on the right track.

9. Blocks?

What if I do not seem to get any definite thoughts? God's guidance is as freely available as the air we breathe. If I am not receiving thoughts when I listen, the fault is not God's.

Usually it is because there is something I will not do:

– Something wrong in my life that I will not face and make right

– A habit or indulgence I will not give up

– A person I will not forgive

– A wrong relationship in my life I will not give up

– A restitution I will not make

– Something God has already told me to do that I will not obey.

Check these points and be honest. Then try listening again.

10. Mistakes

Suppose I make a mistake and do something in the name of God that is not right? Of course we make mistakes. We are humans with many faults. However, God will always honour our sincerity.

He will work around and through every honest mistake we make. He will help us make it right. But remember this—sometimes when we do obey God, someone else may not like it or agree with it. So when there is opposition, it does not always mean you have made a mistake. It can mean that the other person does not want to know or to do what is right. Suppose I fail to do something that I have been told, and the opportunity to do it passes? There is only one thing to do. Put it right with God. Tell Him you are sorry. Ask Him to forgive you, then accept His forgiveness and begin again. God is our Father—He is not an impersonal calculator. He understands us far better than we do.

11. Results

We never know what swimming is like until we get down into the water and try. We will never know what this is like until we sincerely try it. Every person who has tried this honestly finds that a wisdom, not their own, comes into their minds and that Power greater than human power begins to operate in their lives. It is an endless adventure. There is a way of life, for everyone, everywhere. Anyone can be in touch with the living God, anywhere, anytime, if we fulfil His conditions.

When man listens, God speaks.

When man obeys, God acts.

This is the law of Prayer: God's plan for this world goes forward through the lives of ordinary people who are willing to be governed by Him.

John E. Batterson

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

The supreme sacrifice

The mental obsession. The physical craving that flows from the remotest entertainment of the mental obsession, which triggers its own chemical rush, an excited anticipation so thrilling that the lights of real life temporarily dim.

Here's a good prayer: ask God to show you the truth behind the mental obsession.

I get a vision of a whirlpool, a maelstrom sucking in everything in the known universe until there is nothing left except the breathless vortex. The delusion is that I can drift near enough to the whirlpool to feel the excitement of the tug at my ankles but that, this time, as every other time so far, I will summon the strength or be given the grace to swim away once the terror threatens to overwhelm me, once the current threatens to become too strong.

Another image: peering over the edge of the cliff at the prize somewhere below, not realising that I could lose my footing at any minute.

There is a point at which any addict will give up, and make the supreme sacrifice rather than continue to fight (xxx:1, 'Alcoholics Anonymous'). Any relapse, any yielding could bring about that moment of surrender to the addiction and the willing sacrifice of everything worthwhile in life, and I will not even know I have surrendered to the path to oblivion till it is way too late. If I do not surrender totally and utterly to God, I will discover myself inadvertently surrendered to the addiction, and I will be baffled as I do not understand why, this time, I am unable to stop.

The moment, itself, may be innocuous. The relapse may, to one's relief, be 'mild'. But any relapse can dissolve the glue that holds my mind together, and the sometimes slow disintegration that will then ensue could be inexorable.

"This tragic situation has already arrived in practically every case long before it is suspected." (24:0)

"Then, gathering all his forces, he attempted to stop altogether and found he could not. Every means of solving his problem . . . was at his disposal. Every attempt failed." (32:2)

How could I know which relapse would be the one that places me beyond any aid?

I am absolutely sure of very little. But I am totally sure of this: the absolute, permanent availability of a God who actually cares, personally, about me.

"But there is One who has all power—that One is God. May you find Him now!" (59:0)

"Your Heavenly Father will never let you down!" (181:7)

I have to choose God today, whilst I can, because I cannot be sure that I will have the hope or courage to do so tomorrow.