The founders of AA are likely rolling over in their graves today. Why? Because the God that most people in the rooms of A.A. understand today is more commonly referred to as a tree, stone, radiator, fan and so many other tangible items. This is not the God that Dr. Bob and Bill W. are talking about in Step 3. If you notice that God is spelled with a capital “G” which is referring to God the creator or Yahweh. Not the false god’s that are being referred to in the rooms of A.A. today as mentioned above. Even the “H” in Him is referring to God. This has always been something that stumped me. So, I decided to do a little research of my own. I was referred to the book titled “The James Club and The Original A.A. Programs Absolute Essentials,” – By: Bick B. This book answered all of my questions regarding the original intent of A.A.’s founders.
When Dr. Bob, Anne, and Bill W. first started holding meetings in their homes, they were considered to be a Christian fellowship meeting. Every one of these meetings included a time of prayer, bible reading, meditation and time for the Holy Spirit. According to Frank Amos, “He [the alcoholic] must have devotions every morning – a quiet time of prayer and some reading from the bible and other religious literature.” Amos added: “The A.A. members of the time did not consider meetings necessary to maintain sobriety. They were simply ‘desirable.’” Morning devotion and ‘quiet time’ however, were musts. (Dr. Bob, supra, pp131,136). So, how is this different from today’s meetings you might as? In today’s meetings they open with the A.A. preamble. No bible reading. No devotional, no quiet meditation time, or prayer time. Sure, there is a prayer at the end of every meeting, however I question how authentic people are when saying these prayers.
Bill Wilson wrote in his own history of A.A.: And we could remember Anne as she sat in the corner by the fireplace, reading from the Bible the warning of James that “faith without works is dead.” [James 2:17] (Alcoholics comes of Age. NY: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., 1967, p.7) A.A.s absolute essentials have their roots in the book of James, The Sermon on the Mount, and 1 Corinthians. According to Dick B., the book of James was a favorite with early A.A.’s. so much so that “The James Club” was favored by some as a name for the fellowship. In fact, the book of James is where many of A.A.’s principles came from. Both Bill W. and Dr. Bob stated many times that Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount contained the underlying philosophy of A.A. Following is a few of the specific ideas A.A. took from the book of James: patience; enduring temptation; being a doer of the word, not a hearer only; keeping all Gods commandments, not just the ones you like; drawing near to God knowing He will draw near to you; avoiding speaking evil of, or judging others; holding on to grudges, and much more. Dick B’s. book, The James Club and The Original A.A. Program’s Essentials, (Kihei, HW, Paradise Research Publications, Inc., 2005), goes into great detail where and how the book of James, The Sermon on The Mount and 1 Corinthians is tied into the Big Book, giving examples of scriptures vs. passages in the Book Big of A.A. He cites the scripture and the passage that corresponds to the scripture as well as the page in the Big Book. One such example is Step 5 - “Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.” This Step is taken directly from James 5:16 – “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”
It is my personal belief that the number one reason for such a high rate of relapse in the recovery arena, rather it is a relapse to the drug of one’s choice, an emotional relapse, overeating or any other addiction, is a result of the false idols or gods that so many choose to call God. These types of gods which are more commonly known as idols have no viable power within them to produce any type of change in anyone. For years I idolized things like money, fancy cars, people, and things, all of which did nothing to fill the hole in my soul. Jeremiah 2:27-28 tells us this – Saying to a tree, “You are my father,” and to a stone, “You gave birth to me.” For they have turned their back to Me, and not their face. But in the time of their trouble they’ll say, “Arise and save us.” But where are your Gods that you have made for yourselves? Let them arise, if they can save in the time of your trouble; For according to the number of your cities are your gods, O Judah.
Even though I was still seeking the God of my understanding, it was the God that I had been questioning for thirty-five plus years that saved me. Not money, things, a tree, a mountain or the ocean. It was the morning that I dropped to me knees and told God I know longer wanted to live the way I was living. I know longer wanted to drink. I wanted to change but I didn’t know how to and couldn’t do it alone. It was at that moment that the obsession to drink or use was lifted from me. It was at that moment that God gave me the courage, strength, and wisdom to work through the pain and shame of my past and the years of harm caused by being abused. No human power, tree, stone, fan, radiator or covetous thing has or ever had that kind of power.
So, the question arises what does the “God as we understood Him” mean? When Dr. Bob and Bill W. refer to God or Him in the steps or the big book, which God or some simulation of Him is used more than four–hundred times in each of the several editions of A.A.’s Big Book. Using a capital “G” and “H” is a reference to God the creator. Remember that either God is everything or God is nothing, there is no in between. For myself, it came down to looking at how I had understood God prior to entering treatment. No one had ever asked me that question before. Because of things that had happened to me growing up in a “Born Again Christian” household, I had a very distorted understanding of God. He molested me, beat me, emotionally and verbally abused me, and if he did exist, he didn’t care about me. That is why I turned to anything and everything, including alcohol and drugs, to try and take away my pain and shame. Everything I had turned to in the past only created temporary peace, but ultimately led me down a path of destruction. I had nothing to lose by looking at God through a new pair of glasses.
Alcoholics Anonymous allowed me the time to seek out the answers I was looking for in God. My therapist who gave me great insight into who God is also played a great role in allowing me to find the God of my understanding. I questioned why God allowed many different things in my life to happen to me, to which she would always answer “it’s none of your business.” Remember either God is everything or God is nothing. It was Greg my spiritual counselor at The Betty Ford Center who really made the transition of my thinking easy. We did an exercise where he had us write out who God would be to us if we could create him. We filled up a white board with words like; kind, loving, caring, compassionate, understanding, forgiving, fun, and so on. As Greg was walking out the door he stopped, turned to us and said, there’s your new God.
Today God is all those things we wrote on that white board and so much more. However, it still took me some time to fully trust that God was all of that and more. What I learned and came to understand and accept, is that God gives man free will. In doing so it is easy to blame God for the things that happen to us. The reality is, God never molested or beat me. He never emotionally or verbally abused me; man did. Then why did he allow it to happen me? I didn’t know then, but I know today and that’s a topic I’ll leave for another time.