Sunday, 2 January 2011

'The answers aren't all in the Book!' Really?

'The answers aren't all in the Book!' is a refrain that can sometimes be heard in AA.

That depends what the question or problem is, the answers to which are at issue.

The Big Book ('Alcoholics Anonymous') certainly does answer the following questions:

(1) What are the defining features of a 'real' alcoholic?

(2) Is alcoholism of this type a progressive, hopeless, fatal condition?

(3) Can ordinary psychology plus religion—or any other combination of human measures—help such people?

(4) Can—and does—God?

(5) How can God be reached? What do I have to do?

The real subtext of the opening statement is, "I have problems that the Big Book does not address—do not hope for too much."

This is in direct contradiction to the following statement: "Quite as important was the discovery that spiritual principles would solve all my problems." (42:3)

This is, indeed, a bold statement.

Clearly this is not talking about plumbing or dry-cleaning. If I have a plumbing or dry-cleaning problem, I go to a plumber or a dry-cleaner.

What this is talking about is the living problem, what is summed up on 51:0:

"Once confused and baffled by the seeming futility of existence, they show the underlying reasons why they were making heavy going of life. Leaving aside the drink question, they tell why living was so unsatisfactory."

It is THESE problems we are really concerned with, and this is the focus of the question: does the Big Book really have the answers?

I agree totally with those who say it does not, but perhaps not for the same reason.

The Big Book contains all of the instructions, not all of the answers. Where the answers are found is suggested here:

"We finally saw that faith in some kind of God was a part of our makeup, just as much as the feeling we have for a friend. Sometimes we had to search fearlessly, but He was there. He was as much a fact as we were. We found the Great Reality deep down within us. In the last analysis it is only there that He can be found. It was so with us.
We can only clear the ground a bit. If our testimony helps sweep away prejudice, enables you to think honestly, encourages you to search diligently within yourself, then, if you wish, you can join us on the Broad Highway. With this attitude you cannot fail. The consciousness of your belief is sure to come to you." (55:3–4)

Capitalisation typically denotes God, in some way, in the Big Book . . .

And has God—whom I have found deep within me, after the actions of the programme enabled the blockages of fear, resentment, and guilt and shame to be removed—solved my problem (alcoholism) and ALL my problems (with life)?

Emphatically, 'yes'. But before I come back to that, some additional points:

Sometimes outside help is needed and the Book points to the outside world: 28:3 suggests membership of religious bodies, for those so inclined. 133:2 advises against belittling good doctors or psychiatrists and indicates their services, at times, to be indispensible. 87:2 suggests seeking spiritual guidance from outside AA.

Provided I avail myself of these resources where necessary, I can find all other answers within myself and within AA.

Where is forgiveness—the answer to resentment—found? Within, by identifying with the 'culprit' as a co-sufferer of spiritual disconnection and, by identifying, understanding and, ultimately, loving—extending to him the love and forgiveness that has been extended by God to me through you (pp. 66, 67).

Where is courage backed by faith—the answer to fear—to be found? Within, by relinquishing reliance on my own will-power and fulfilment of ANY plans and designs contrived out of fear or grasping, instead placing reliance on God for guidance and strength to do His will, which is hard-coded beneath 'self-will' as my inner purpose (p. 68).

Where is atonement—the answer to guilt and shame—to be found? Within, by identifying those I have harmed and asking God for the willingness to approach them to make things right (p. 76 et sqq.) At one with them, I am at one with myself and at one with God (28:3).

The rest of the programme—staying close to God and performing His work well—relies on looking inwards to God's voice for two things: direction and power.

I'm quite willing to concede that there may be people for whom this programme will not work, for whom happiness, freedom, and joy are not attainable despite giving themselves ENTIRELY to its suggestions.

However, I've never seen this happen.

Some questions if I feel that that programme has not worked or is not currently working.

(1) Do I undertake a regular Step Four moral inventory and share it with others (note the regularity and the plural Step Five partners—64:1, 94:2)?

(2) Have I made every amend for every harm in my consciousness, writing letters were I cannot see the person in question?

(3) Step Ten: "Every day is a day when we must carry the vision of God's will into all of our activities. 'How can I best serve TheeThy will (not mine) be done.' These are the thoughts which must go with us constantly." Do they?

(4) Step Eleven: do I follow the instructions on pp. 86–88, daily?

(5) Do I spend much of my spare time (19:1) engaged in carrying the message set out in the Book?

(6) Do I engage in fellowship on a regular basis with people who have the same addiction and are living THIS solution (cf. page 17)?

(7) "Our real purpose is to fit ourselves to be of maximum service to God and the people about us." (77:1) Is this my purpose?

There are many other such questions that can be asked, to identify gaps.

For fifteen years in AA, I would give the Big Book its fair dues, but be quick to tell people its limitations.

For fifteen years in AA, my answers to the seven questions set out above would have been 'no'.

For a couple of years, my answers to the seven questions set out above have, increasingly, been 'yes'.

For a couple of years, I have been quick to tell people that this Book has no limitations in the transformations following its instructions can have in a person's life. Specifically mine.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks Tim