10 Feb An Inside Peek at Recovery, Part 2: Find Your Own Higher Power
As you contemplate recovery in Alcoholics Anonymous you may be wondering, “Is this a cult?” And we couldn’t exactly blame you. Yes, some of the practices may seem a little unorthodox. But what those of us who have experienced recovery have learned is that “conventional” wasn’t helping us deal with the drinking problem. Recovery and the approach we must take actually contain a great many paradoxes and some unexplained phenomena. While we can’t always explain it, we know that the program works if you work it. Here are a few more principles of recovery and their explanations.
Why Bill W.? Why first names and not last? Why Alcoholics Anonymous? What does this really have to do with sobriety anyway? As the founders of AA were developing this program of recovery, they were careful to avoid the things that might keep desperate alcoholics from getting the help they needed. They were guided by a desire to eliminate any potential barrier to the program being effective for any and all that desired sobriety and recovery.
If AA membership were a completely public thing, the potential for problems would be infinite. For one thing, a great many people recovering in AA stand to lose quite a lot if their alcoholism were discovered by, say, an employer. Or, what if a celebrity in recovery went public but later had a relapse? This could be damaging for the image of Alcoholics Anonymous.
The absence of last names is also a great leveler. In the rest of society, names, professions and socio-economic status mean something. In Alcoholics Anonymous, we are all just one big bunch of drunks trying to get sober and stay sober. Anyone can become an alcoholic and anyone can get well. This mindset helps to promote solidarity, fellowship and unity of purpose. We come to get sober. That’s our only motivation, and all people of all types are welcomed without question.
Alcoholics Anonymous is a religious group, isn’t it? This is a common misconception. Alcoholics Anonymous is, rather, a spiritual program. What if a person doesn’t have a spiritual connection to any entity when he comes into the program? Can he still recover?
The answer is most certainly “yes.” Many of us didn’t have any sort of connection to a supernatural being and some of us were quite opposed to the very suggestion. What AA tells us is that we must come to know a higher power of our own understanding. We must realize that we cannot help ourselves but that God can. But no need to worry, this is a belief that develops over time. Even if you are skeptical and reticent to believe, you can still get started. Many, for example, see the group as a type of power greater than themselves, and are able to begin recovery on that basis.
Alcoholics Anonymous is not a religious program and has no religious affiliation. Members are encouraged to find and know their higher power on their own terms and in their own way.
Most people are familiar with the role of the meeting in AA life and they are of vital importance. As recovering alcoholics, we need the fellowship of others who are like us, who have lived what we have lived and who are doing what we’re doing. The meeting is the place not only to learn about the program, but to also begin coming out of the isolation that has characterized our years in addiction.
Your schedule of meetings will depend upon your needs, the suggestion of your sponsor and availability in your area. Some attend every week and others every day. Regardless of the frequency of your attendance, your meeting will be a cornerstone of your recovery. It is not only the place to learn about your disease, make friends and be encouraged, it will also provide some of your first opportunities to perform service.
If we can admit that we haven’t known what was best for us much of the time, then we can see why we would need a sponsor. If we had known how to recover, we would have done it—years ago, perhaps. But our history has shown we don’t always know best. Sobriety and recovery are uncharted territory. We need a guide and friend along the way—someone who has more experience than we do and who has walked this path. Many in recovery talk to their sponsors daily and credit this relationship for the strength of their sobriety.
Find a sponsor as soon as you enter the program. Look for someone who has what you want and then ask how it was achieved. Humbly ask if he or she will work with you and help you to recover. And your relationship with a particular sponsor may not be life long. After a period of time you may find you aren’t a good match. That’s OK. We change sponsors at will. The guiding principle is to find someone who has the kind of life in recovery you want for yourself.
Another foundational practice of the program and one that we will continue to practice throughout the rest of our lives in sobriety is service. What we know is that in order to recover, we must get outside of ourselves and focus on others. Our first priority, once we have begun to take hold of recovery, is to begin helping other alcoholics still suffering in the addiction. Doing so is like taking out an insurance plan for our own sobriety.
You may question who you would be capable of helping. If you are still in the addiction, the answer is no one. But in sobriety we find a new sense of purpose and the ability to be useful in the world. These are the promises of recovery.
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