2 03, 2023

Neither He nor She

Neither He nor She

By Caroline M

My early religious training as a child in Sunday school used the pronoun He for God. I learned too, that when God was angry because we were all sinners, He sent a mighty flood to wipe out life on earth except for Noah, his family and pairs of every other species who survived on an ark that God instructed Noah to build. The impact of this bible story on my five-year-old’s mind sent me into hysterics when a thunderous rainstorm pelted me and my father while visiting the London zoo. I screamed in terror that we were all going to die because we were sinners and God was going to flood the earth and wipe us all out. My father’s reaction was to remove me from Sunday school and never mention God again. 

Years passed and I won a scholarship to a college track high school for girls which happened to be run by the Church of England. We sang hymns at daily assembly and had regular bible study periods throughout the week. Religion was merely another school subject and I found no application for it in my daily life. As soon as I graduated, it was goodbye to church and I didn’t give God another thought but I still held to the idea that God was a He. That was just a given I didn’t bother to question. 

Decades later, when I was introduced to Al-Anon, a recovery program for families and friends of alcoholics, I struggled with the notion of God and Higher Power and what it all really meant. I was desperate and miserable in my marriage to a violent alcoholic and needed to get myself and my two young children to safety. So I followed the 12 Steps as well as I could, referring to God as He or Him as written in the literature. I have to admit that at that time I never felt a connection from my heart to God or a Higher Power. God was still a he and still out there somewhere. I still prayed to God in the way children make a list for Santa Clause. It was the best I could do at the time. And by the way, my drinking had become a daily habit and I even drove drunk with my children in the car. 

A few years later when alcohol finally brought me to my knees, I crawled through the doors of the Alano Club in San Rafael with a hangover, five days before Christmas 1984. I felt sick to my stomach, the cigarette smoke in the room didn’t help. I hadn’t slept at all, my head pounded and yet I could not deny a feeling of relief that slowed my breathing and helped me sit through that first meeting. And something happened to me. Some shift within me that is hard to describe in words, but when I left that first meeting I felt better and wanted to come back. 

Looking back now I can see how my heart had been touched by something bigger than me, bigger than any one person at that meeting, something mysterious that was invisible yet real. It was a power that touched a part of me that had been dormant for years. This new feeling of connection to a Higher Power did not match the image I had held of an angry punishing old-man-in-the-sky kind of God. This power was neither male nor female. It was simply a healing force, a loving, creative force, pure and good. And I wanted to sit with it, be close to it and be connected. I soon found a sponsor and experienced yet another breakthrough when we got down on our knees to recite the Third Step Prayer. I felt that heart connection again and began spontaneously weeping. The memory of that moment 38 years ago is still vivid.

These days I sometimes use the word God as a convenient way to refer to this power but I cannot bring myself to add a gender. Gender is appropriate for humans and other species but this mysterious power that cannot be experienced through the five human senses and yet is accessible to us, does not need to have a gender as far as I am concerned. It simply is and for me that is sufficient.

2 03, 2023

The Doorknob

The Doorknob

By Cabin Wisdom

Can a doorknob be your Higher Power? Walk into the doors of Alcoholics Anonymous and eventually you hear how “anything can be your Higher Power. Even a doorknob.” Surely folks are still drinking to come up with goofy idea like that, or so I thought. Even so, I “looked and listened” to members who had a working relationship with this Higher Power. I saw their lives change. I saw recovery. There was hope for me. 

One woman said her Higher Power was Mae West—or, at least looked like Mae West—complete with a pink feather boa, lots of money and attitude. Because no lightning bolts struck her for blasphemy, I came to understand the resiliency, the flexibility, of our Program as we wend our way toward a God of our understanding. Maybe it’s a God of our not understanding. Another fellow in the program used to say, “If you can understand God, then your God is too small.” 

At the cabin this morning came the best answer yet. By turning the cabin doorknob, by the simple activity of opening the door, comes relief, fellowship, understanding and love. By turning the doorknob to an AA meeting the process of turning over one’s will and one’s life becomes possible. A simple turn of a doorknob can change a person’s life forever. “Many members have crossed the threshold just this way.” 

Sometimes it takes “all the courage you have,” says our literature. Turning the doorknob to my first A.A. meeting took all the courage I had. As I lingered outside, up came a chorus of inner voices, “Are you really an alcoholic? How would a 7 a.m. meeting solve the drinking problem? Or any other of the myriad I faced?” The monkey mind was in full-force as I crossed the cabin threshold. 

Turning that doorknob opened the gateway to freedom. Freedom from alcohol. Freedom from the monkey mind. We are given spiritual tools to keep us free: Pause when agitated or doubtful. Gratitude. One day at a time. Keep it simple. Today, I give the monkey mind bananas, or mantras like these, and send it on its way—grateful not to be a slave to a line of thinking that always leads to the bottle. Positive thinking for the negative. Speaking of positive thinking and doorknobs comes another memory of carrying the message in and out of jails and institutions. As a participant in Hospitals and Institutions, the feeling of gratitude always arises as the steel door clangs behind me, and the doorknob on my side of the door works! This is freedom too! 

Our Ninth Step promises include “we will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.” When I arrived, the past was locked behind a door with steel caulking and the key thrown away. By working the Steps with a strong sponsor, together we found the key of willingness and unlocked the door that “to all appearances is still closed and locked.” Truth is told when they say, “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. Showing others who suffer how we were given help is the very thing which makes life seem so worthwhile to us now.” 

When the door opened and story upon story of shame and guilt poured out, the best thing my sponsor often said was, “Honey, let me set your hair back for a while.” Then, with great vim and vigor, she’d launch into a similar yet worse story. That sense of loneliness vanished as together we’d laugh ourselves silly over these very same guilt-ridden stories. Freedom came with laughter, dedication to this Program, and by turning the doorknob one day at a time.

2 03, 2023

The Universe is Calling

The Universe is Calling 

By Dee H

All the energy of the universe is calling
I need only receive the fathomless Word
There’s no reason for me to keep falling
Relief is in sight when I’ve simply heard
God is my everything—God is my world

A greater reality is calling you—have you heard?
Let us each practice this gift of receiving
t is easy sometimes to open our hearts
Why is it so hard to believe we are living
In a world where God so loved the world?

An intimate Friend holds us near their bosom
Let us all experience Grace Over Destiny
As we walk the happy road of freedom
A path of infinite loving in endless serenity
Knowing we are together and never alone

2 03, 2023

Say “Hello” to my Higher Power

Say “Hello” to my Higher Power

By John W

As I am sure was true with many, I did not arrive at the rooms of A.A. on the wings of victory. Not long after I crashed and began burning on A.A.’s doorstep I found out that it was also often true that folks like me, who thought they had a vibrant spiritual life, discovered the opposite, which was that it was precisely this aspect of their life that had had become damaged and needed treatment if the drinking problem was to be successfully addressed. This challenge, this need to come to believe was the next skirmish I confronted in my battle with alcoholism. My sponsor had done a great job in preparing me to take the step, but said one plank of it was mine and mine alone. I was the only one who would determine with what I was I coming to believe would restore me to sanity. 

What was my conception of a Higher Power, or if you will as did I, of God? Because I had grown up Catholic, and remain so to this day, I had an early and for me quite pleasant, wonderful and beautiful experience of God. I did not come to see him as a white-haired old man, a pseudo-Santa Claus, sitting in the clouds with a big ledger in his lap, making checks on one side for my naughtiness and on the other side for my niceness. I had seen him as a gentler, kinder figure, much like my father Bob or and my dear uncle John. Each in their own way loved children, welcoming them into their home like my dad or into their machine shop, like my Uncle John. They each used such encounters to “teach” the curious youths like me, as to how to approach dealing with the tasks at hand, in other words how to live life on life’s terms. This could be anything from how to better interact with my three sisters as their then only brother, to how to repair a damaged piece of metal with a lathe and hand file. If, as I had grown up believing, these men, my mom, my sisters and I, that is everyone, had been made in the image and likeness of my God, then I wanted that God to resemble these two men most of all as they were kind, positive and powerful influences in my life. 

That rhapsody with the spiritual side waivered for me after I began drinking and, as a young, single man, got overcome by heartier drinking, mixed with playing rugby, a sport that I loved, chasing girls and working to achieve a professional degree in law. This combination of pursuits did not enhance or otherwise foster my spiritual growth. On the outside I had hung my legal shingle, got engaged to a wonderful Catholic girl from an upbringing which mirrored mine and had the world at my command. On the inside my drinking was getting worse and eating me alive. Overlooked were the legal problems, a wrecked car in a blackout, later DUIs, and stupid antics at social gatherings unbefitting a man of my stature. These shortcomings were all rationalized in one of a hundred different ways, none every being that I had a problem with alcohol. 

Following the exchange of the “I dos”, I began trying to hide my drinking because I quickly realized that my wife was not as keen on my deportment and demeanor after I had had a few. This subterfuge of course only enhanced the marital discord and my lies to cover my transgressions just made everything worse. After over a decade of marriage, with divorce court in the immediate future and business and personal bankruptcies on the looming horizon, I was finally approaching that last house on the block, the one where “those meetings” occurred. The months that passed while I listened but failed to understand the importance of the not drinking part of our Program had at least given me the opportunity to hear how others had ”come to believe.” When I was finally honest with my fellows about my continued drinking and the miracle of the obsession being lifted occurred, my sponsor and I worked the Steps. He helped me to see I had to develop my conception of a God that would restore me to sanity and thus I turned to the faith of my youth again. I asked myself what it was about that conception of God that had so intrigued me in my younger days. While not a complex answer, upon reflection it seemed I arrived at it only by measured steps.

I believe because I had the willingness to search, the door of which we are told we will most assuredly confront, was indeed ajar for me. So it was that the slightest nudge was enough to spring it open and allow me its threshold to cross. It seemed however not that I was in some familiar space or land. Rather, it was as if I had alit from the gangway of an arriving ship and stepped onto a new and wonderful place, a land of serenity. I had the thought that I was meeting an old friend, like a college roommate I had not seen in years. This was my Higher Power greeting me with open arms. I could almost feel his warm hug envelop me, almost hear him say “I’ve missed you.” Since taking that step, the relationship—and yes, I do see it as a relationship—seems to have steadily strengthened as time has passed. 

The moments of indecision seem fewer and farther apart than before. The sense of calm which more often comes upon me, leads me to speculate about what pilots describe as flying through the eye of a hurricane. I wonder whether that which I am experiencing is a personal variant of this phenomenon of mother nature. Like my old friend imagined, I have grown able to tell this new old friend again found everything and anything. I can ask him for help, in the same way I now tell you about that request, and know that he is listening. I have even started to grasp the reality that just because  I know he hears me, does not necessarily mean the answer will come in the manner requested or in the fashion of which I had hoped. But this is a reality I have come to accept completely. 

This is how I describe my God, my Higher Power. Someone to whom you can offer your most heartfelt or anguished “hello” with comfort in the certainty that he will hear it. He will ask you to come join him, to rest a bit in the shade and quiet of a tree’s cool boughs on a warm day and share a draught from a rustling rill trickling by. Best of all, I no longer feel alone. I have come to believe all will be well if I just trust in him. You too should feel free to say “hello” to him (or her). You will be heard, you will not be alone anymore.

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