Trouble With 3rd Step

12 Steps: Discussions related to the 12 Steps and using them as a treatment to recover from alcohol and drug addiction.
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Postby Dallas » Tue Jan 15, 2008 1:59 pm

Wow, Paul!! Thanks for that awesome share. I sure got a lot out of it.
Thank you.


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Postby GeoffS » Thu Jan 17, 2008 4:24 pm

Funny, I just listened to Cds of Dr Burns talking about the disease concept of alcoholism and he covers these issues in a really good way. I'll not attempt to paraphrase here, but I would recommend a listen if anyone is interested.

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Just what I needed to read!

Postby RD1angel » Tue Oct 28, 2008 7:24 am

I can relate to this whole post! I was reading through the forum looking for a way to express myself to certain people within the rooms of AA, who are "hell-bent" on quoting from the bible, and referring to the bible as their "big Book" Now, I personally don't have a problem with the christian way of belief; however, I remember coming into the rooms of AA and if I had heard that kind of talk, I would have been convinced that AA was just another kind of religion. And I was not open to having visions of me walking up and down the street with a bible knocking on doors. I don't knock any of that, but I try to remember what it was like when I first came around the rooms. Broken, total demoralization, and scared to death of GOD. I don't want to upset anyone due to their beliefs, it is irritating to have someone referring to "organized religon" in AA meetings.

Maybe I need to work on tolerance? I thought I would throw this out their to see how others handle this situation? (before I say something I will have to make amends for later)


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Postby Tim » Tue Oct 28, 2008 10:27 am

It's helpful for me to remember the reason I'm walking into an AA meeting and the reason I'm walking into church, and to understand the difference. In an AA meeting, we are a group of people who would not ordinarily mix, but we do mix well because of our common alcoholism.

When I go to church it's also a group of people who would not commonly mix, but we do mix well because of our shared belief in a God who reveals himself to us in the Bible.

In AA, we tell our stories in a general way about what it was like, what happened and what it is like now. I want to be honest about who I am, and because of AA's rootedness in spirituality, I can't talk about that without involving my spiritual beliefs. But I can talk about it in a general way, in a way that abides by the tradition of principles not personalities.

The sand shifts on this ground, but I think I have traversed it in AA with some success. I am grateful that AA exists and would not want to create a special interest AA group, Christian AA, even though there are other special-interest groups within AA. In church, on the other hand, few understand alcoholism, so it is not as good a place for me to recover as AA is.

The Bible is quoted in the AA Big Book, and some people's stories in AA make references to it, as they do to other religions and their writings.

When I came into AA the guy who had a doorknob as his higher power had a more helpful higher power than I did. I had to fire my higher power and get a new one--one who had the power to care for me and keep me sober.

I've run into AA's everywhere: at church, at the bookstore, at concerts, at restaurants, at baseball games--everywhere people normally show up and live their lives.

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Postby garden variety » Tue Oct 28, 2008 10:51 am

Hi RD1angel,

"Religion" is a touchy subject although it's not supposed to be. I been finding where you live, the "region", has a very strong influence on AA. Here in the "cradle" of AA in Akron and Cleveland, Sister Ignatia was a very strong influence on the growth of AA. From word of mouth of the men and women that knew her, I consider her a "founder" of AA even though she is not an alcoholic. The point is, in my region, there is a strong "Irish-Catholic" influence on AA. At most meetings, it isn't "pushed", but you know it's there. There are little "buzzwords" like "C.I.A." which stands for "Catholic, Irish, and Alcoholic." My sponsor is a very active Catholic, and he lives by his faith which also means that I have to "tolerate" the "dogma" of his religion if I want the kind of sobriety he has. I've found that moving beyond "tolerance" to having an "open mind", and learning some of his "stuff" has enabled me to grow spiritually even though I'm not the same "religion".

The main thing that applies in a meeting setting, are the traditions. Specifically Tradiion 3 and Tradition 10. Tradition 3 deals with "Singleness of Purpose" - AA can only effectively deal with alcoholism based on the principles in the book - not the "Bible" - but the book titled "Alcoholics Anonymous" which is also called "The Big Book". Also, the pamphlets and literature which are "Conference Approved" apply to issues that come up at AA meetings. If a meeting "invokes" biblical things or church dogma, it really becomes a "watered down AA" meeting - or not an AA meeting at all. I avoid those kind of meetings, and I also discourage sponsees from going to those meetings.

Tradition 10 says that AA has "no opinion" on outside issues which is a "reasonable" position for me to take. Having "no opinion" doesn't discourage a person from choosing a religion or going to church, or even talking about his or her concept of God. By the same token, it doesn't give a speaker or "trusted servant" the right to "endorse" a particular religion or concept of God. Oddly enough, in this region, we have the most problems with "Evangelical" or "Fundamentallist" Christians, or hard-core athiests (you'd think the problem would be "Catholisism" but it's absolutely not). My experience has been that many "hard-core ahtiests" and "Fundamental Christians" in the fellowship around here are extremely opinionated and carry their opinions to meetings and in their sharing, and they are the least "open-minded".

The biggest asset you have that will work for change is your comments. I was taught that if a speaker crosses the line and steers an AA meeting in the direction of "issues other than alcoholism" such as "religion" or drug addiction, then if I don't comment, I'm not being responsible. The most important person at a meeting is the new member, and we all have the responsibility to "give it away" in the same way it was given to us, and the ONLY way that AA was ever "given" to anyone was "by the book", plain and simple. It it ain't in the book, then it's not something I should be "giving away" or use in "carrying the message", unless I very specifically qualify it as "my opinion and not that of AA" or if someone asks me to share one-on-one about another issue. Of course dealling with proteges and sponsees, we'll talk about a whole bunch of non-AA things as they come up which is unavoidable.

So I do commet whenever somebody "goes off the deep end". I've commented about "singleness of purpose" when the message was heavy toward specific drug use, such as "rusty needles" and "crack pipes" and the "adventures" of such drug addicts like stealing TV's to get money, going across town to meet the "dope man", marrying the "dope man" for access to "dope, and so on. I've also commented on religion where the speakers are "born again", and they stress what they think is the necessity to have a "personal savior in Jesus Christ". One guy said it was his job to "spread the Gospel" to alcoholics which really got me a bit "fired up" in the other direction. It's not that these folks are "bad", or that I want them to feel unwelcome, or their experience doesn't matter. It's just that their messages have got too far away from "disclosing in a general way what we were like, what happened, and what we are like today."

The MAIN POINT of sharing at an AA meeting, from what I understand, is to help a new man or woman that is a real alcoholic to be able identify and relate to my experience with alcoholism, not "religion" or "drug addiction", or even "overeating". I had a lady just go off the deep end and tell me I should go to "OA" because apparently I look "overweight" to her, and she automatically assumes I'm somehow "addicted" to over-indulging with food. I'm not "powerless" over food - mind your own business please!

Anyway, if you comment and try to bring the discussion back to AA from "Bible thumping", you might not become the most popular person around. I know I've got a lot of dirty looks and snide remarks in "counter-comments" which we're also suggested to not do. But that's the nature of "sensitive" alcoholics and addicts. Now when I comment, I try to be unemotional, and I don't get "mean" either, I just try my hardest to politely disagree and steer my comment back toward Tradition 3 - why we're all here. The bottom line is that I have a responsibility to "help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety" which can also include trying to help any AA message or sharing to best reach the suffering alcoholic in a way he or she can identify with.

Thanks for bringing up this topic.

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Postby Tim » Tue Oct 28, 2008 11:59 am

Paul--What you write gives me something to think about. I agree that issues other than alcoholism should be avoided like the flu in AA meetings. We have a statement in our meeting opening that asks those who share to relate what they share to alcoholism and to their own recovery.

If you stay around AA long enough, many different situations arise, and each person has his or her own personal shopping list of things that raise their hackles. Personally, I don't think it is appropriate for an AA member to announce "Hi my name's ______, and I'm an alcoholic and an addict." But I let it go, as I do most things these days. Sobriety and age have mellowed me.

What is the difference between a Christian Fundamentalist and an Alcoholics Anonymous Fundamentalist?

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Postby garden variety » Tue Oct 28, 2008 1:11 pm

Tim wrote:What is the difference between a Christian Fundamentalist and an Alcoholics Anonymous Fundamentalist?

Well now that's a good question. Based on the program itself (the 12 steps), we're supposed to be honest, open-minded, and willing. I'm not sure I ever heard of a AA Fundamentalist, but I'm guessing you mean someone they call a "Big Book Thmper"?

I don't know if you ever heard anything by Chris Raimer ("Chris R" from Texas), but he is an interesting fellow because he is an "Alcoholic/Addict", but he's also what I'd consider solid in the Big Book. He's also pretty controversial. He has a good message about singleness of purpose, but he also has the "beware of heavy drinkers" warning which is where a lot of this "watered down AA comes from.

I guess what they mean about the "Big Book Thumpers" - they are not the folks that actually know the book inside and out and can draw it into their recovery "actions" in helping others. I think that term is directed toward folks who know and quote their Big Books, but they don't "walk the walk". In other words they'll be judgemental, critical - well pretty much "phonies". From what I've seen, they really do fall into a similar "kettle" as many folks that claim to be "born again", but their walk is not their talk.

The book says "Love and tolerance for others is our code", but that really isn't telling me there are no boundaries. Look at this on page 83:

"We should be sensible, tactful, considerate, and humble without being servile or scraping. As God's people we stand on our feet; we don't crawl before anyone."

To me that is a "range of sanity" that my actions need to fit within. I think it means that I'm not going to be a slave, but I'm also not going to be constantly irritating my fellows. Because it's put the way it's put, I don't think it suggests that we should avoid a confrontation at all cost. I think there is a difference between a "struggle" and a "confrontation". The "wisdom to know the difference" probably takes time working at "achieving sobriety". I won't get 10 years of sobriety in one year, even if I wish and will it to happen.

When someone does the "alcoholic and addict" introduction, I sometimes suggest they put "two dollars in the basket". :twisted: :D

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Postby Tim » Tue Oct 28, 2008 2:12 pm

Paul--Good suggestion to ask those identifying themselves as both alcoholics and addicts to contribute $2.

I'm not sure I understand what Chris R meant by saying to beware of heavy drinkers who water down AA. Isn't he splitting hairs? Isn't the only requirement for membership a desire to stop drinking? I think that categorizing AA members (Read: hard drinkers vs. "real" alcoholics) is dangerously divisive.

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Postby garden variety » Tue Oct 28, 2008 4:35 pm

I'd say Chris R's "vocal leads" might appear that way, but it goes back to either "following the principles" of AA the way they were intended or by doing the "AA lite" routine - close to what is spoken about in "Greshams Law".

The original author of a good piece is Floyd Henderson and the piece is named: "Beware: Hard Drinkers & Fakers Inside". You can probably "google" it. There are "real alcoholics" in this forum and probably everywhere that have not had success in keeping sober because of so-called "old timers" who probably weren't alcoholics, but were instead "hard drinkers".

When I look at step 3, it's easy for me to "qualify" it to apply to "real alcoholics". "Hard Drinkers" can't be AA members because they can stay sober without the program of AA. I think about it this way: if I have I the "desire to stop drinking", that can only mean that I am not able to stop drinking - otherwise, if I could stop drinking, I wouldn't need "the desire to stop drinking". I could stop. Heavy drinkers can "stop drinking" without having the desire.

Example: A judge can scare the bejesus out of a heavy drinker and send him to AA. The heavy drinker is afraid at first, becomes acclamated with the lingo and practices of AA, follows suggestions, then stays sober. He can stay sober without actually working the steps. He just goes to meetings. But ask him to sponsor you and work the 12 steps and go cover to cover through the book, then he becomes lost. That's because a Heavy Drinker doesn't have to work a program. He can stay sober "one day at a time" and be content just going to meetings.

An alcoholic like me has what Dallas called a "spiritual malady". The same judge says next time I'll get jail, then I start thinking "Well I get three squares, I'm warm, it might not be the greatest thing, but maybe it's better than the mess I'm in right now." A day later, I foget what the judge says and drive my car to a party or a bar, and get drunk.

So the Heavy Drinker that is not an alcoholic doesn't meet the membership requirement of Tradition 3. That would also mean that a Heavy Drinker can't really "carry the message" because the "spiritual malady" was not his problem. Drinking too much was his problem.

The difference between a Heavy Drinker and an alcoholic is this: When a Heavy Drinker quits drinking, his problems eventually disappear. That's because drinking is the heavy drinker's problem. On the other hand, when the alcoholic quits drinking, his problems begin. That's because drinking is the alcoholic's solution to his problems - especially to his problem of alcoholism.
Last edited by garden variety on Thu Oct 30, 2008 8:31 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby Tim » Tue Oct 28, 2008 7:27 pm

Paul--I go with the simple distinction between alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinkers at the beginning of the AA book, Chapter 4: If, when you honestly want to, you find you cannot quit entirely, or if when drinking, you have little control over the amount you take, you are probably alcoholic. I fit that definition. Could I stop drinking on my own? Of course, I did it a thousand times!

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