by Robert S.   

The Big Book implies a vital spiritual experience is necessary for alcoholics to face and be rid of the obsession to drink (p. 27). Yet paradoxically we are told that belief was not necessary to accomplish this miracle—we need only become willing to believe (p. 46). I found it wasn’t necessary to define God before doing the 12 Steps, but I began to see the result of my willingness to believe several months afterward. I experienced a release from the deadly mental obsession that had plagued me for nearly 30 years. My willingness to believe came before doing the steps, but my belief came afterward. 

Pouring whiskey into milk

I had been released. I had experienced the personality change sufficient to recover from alcoholism. It took about a year before the release took place for me. Program language explains I had a spiritual awakening (slowly) rather than a spiritual experience (suddenly) as mentioned in Appendix II (p. 567). 

The Big Book does not say I must understand God, but it speaks of God as we understood Him in Steps 3 and 11. This idea simply means we each may entertain different views of a higher power. Although I may not understand completely, I can see results—we have over two million sober alcoholics in A.A. Many of us claim to be saved from the pit. Sam Shoemaker, Bill Wilson’s Oxford Group mentor, thought Step 2 was not theological but evidential. The evidence of our willingness is in the meetings. 

photo captions available upon request to [email protected]

Not theological but evidential

As I studied the Big Book I realized the authors used certain words in a unique way. One of these is “sanity.” Sanity, in Big Book-speak, is when an alcoholic can see and act on the truth concerning the matter of drink. Alcoholic insanity is when they cannot.

Here are two examples. Alcoholic insanity: Jim pouring whiskey into milk was “plain insanity” (p. 37). Alcoholic sanity: Fitz Mayo “couldn’t drink even if he would” (p. 57). I believe I am—as are we all—endowed with a powerful truth that can override the false ego which tells us to drink. We just have to be willing to listen to it. The Big Book tags it as “The Great Reality deep within” (p. 55). Some call this spirit, soul, overself or God Self. The true self has the ability to encompass and overcome the false ego-driven self. However, this blessing is manifested only so long as we remain in fit spiritual condition (p.85). 

No longer in my emotional vocabulary

It has become A.A. cliché that an alcoholic cannot drink on the truth—only on a lie. My false self usually believes what it wants to believe in spite of anything standing in the way of a drink. It has the unique capacity to believe a lie, even when it knows it’s a lie. For me, alcoholic insanity resulted in 24 unsuccessful years of “quitting” forever.

Today, drinking is no longer in my emotional vocabulary. Seemingly gone, as the Tenth Step promises, “the problem has been removed” (p. 85). Someone wrote, “The better I understand God, the less I know God.” Came to believe is a decision of the heart, requiring willingness, rather than of a conclusion of the mind.

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