Atheist – denies the existence of God
Agnostic – does not rely on or know if there is a God that will work in personal life
“If a mere code of morals or a better philosophy of life were sufficient to overcome alcoholism, many of us would have recovered long ago. But we found that such codes and philosophies did not save us, no matter how much we tried. We could wish to be moral, we could wish to be philosophically comforted, in fact, we could will these things with all our might, but the needed power wasn’t there. Our human resources, as marshalled by the will, were not sufficient; they failed utterly. Lack of power, that was our dilemma. We had to find a power by which we could live, and it had to be a Power greater than ourselves. Obviously. But where and how were we to find this Power? Well, that’s exactly what this book is about. Its main object is to enable you to find a Power greater than yourself which will solve your problem.” – BB, p. 44-45, We Agnostics
I must see my own powerlessness and insanity before I can buy Step 2. “If I have difficulty with the HP concept or a belief in some kind of God in step 2, it may be because I am still clinging to the idea that I have power…I might need to go back to Step 1 and make sure I haven’t overlooked something critical.
Some of our alcoholic readers may think they can do without spiritual help. Let us tell you the rest of the conversation our friend had with his doctor. – BB, p. 27
Whether such a person can quit upon a nonspiritual basis depends upon the extent to which he has already lost the power to choose whether he will drink or not. – BB, p. 34
by Mike L., West Orange, NJ
We often hear people say something like, “I have a three-fold disease: body, mind, and spirit.”
“an allergy of the body and an obsession of the mind” – that once I put any alcohol in my system whatsoever it sets off a craving for more alcohol.
It is agreed that the “mental obsession” is the part of our “disease” which leads to the first drink; and it’s the first drink that triggers the “phenomenon of craving.”
But, what about the part of my “disease” that triggers the mental obsession in the first place?
Why is it that people who have remained abstinent from drinking in Alcoholics Anonymous for 1 year… 2 years… 5 years… 10 years… and in some cases even 20 years or more, go back to drinking?
We know the physical craving does not cause these people to drink because it’s been medically proven that after a few days of not drinking the alcohol is processed out of the body. And, if you’ve been in the AA Fellowship for a while, for most people, the mental obsession dissipates. So why is it that after a long period of sobriety many people in our fellowship return to drinking – EVEN WHEN THEY DON’T WANT TO? What is the third fold of our illness that triggers the mental obsession – WHEN NOT DRINKING – HAVING BEEN SEPARATED FROM ALCOHOL FOR A LONG PERIOD OF TIME?
Through closely examining our Big Book, along with much experience and practice with our Twelve Steps, as well as vigorous work with other alcoholics, the “missing piece” of Step 1 appears to be what is referred to on page 64 as the “spiritual malady.”
Now, let me attempt to discuss the second half of Step 1: ” – that our lives had become unmanageable.”
For a long time I thought my life was unmanageable because of all the crazy insane things I did while drinking – like the car accidents, hurting people when I didn’t mean to, failed relationships, loss of jobs, family dysfunction, jails, asylums, etc.
Finally, someone explained to me that those things are not the insanity that the Big Book talks about; nor are those things why the alcoholic’s life becomes unmanageable.
Of course those things can be classified as “unmanageability” – but they are external unmanageability. The unmanageability that the 1st Step is pointing to is the INWARD unmanageability of our lives – the restlessness, irritability, and discontentment that most alcoholics have even BEFORE they ever picked up their first drink. There are many names for this “inward unmanageability”. Some refer to it as “untreated alcoholism.” Others use the term “bedevilments”, which comes from page 52 of the Big Book (which I’ll be discussing in a moment). Page 64 simply refers to this “inward unmanageability” as “the spiritual malady.”
Our book promises us that “When the spiritual malady is overcome, we straighten out mentally and physically.” The mental and physical factors of alcoholism are put into remission AFTER the “spiritual malady” is overcome – which means I’m still in danger of drinking until I have a spiritual awakening – whether I think so or not.
Two key points I’d like to focus on from this point forward:
What really is this “spiritual malady” and how, if left untreated, can it drive an alcoholic back to drinking?
(By the way, our Big Book answers both of those questions in masterly detail in Chapters 4 – 11.) What is this “spiritual malady” we alcoholics suffer from and how can “untreated alcoholism” cause an alcoholic to return to drinking – EVEN WHEN HE/SHE DOESN’T WANT TO?
Imagine three layers. The first layer is our bodily reaction to alcohol when we ingest it – the physical craving. Under that is the second layer: the insanity of the mind just before the first drink – the mental obsession. Under that is the third layer: the inward condition that triggers the second layer, which in turn triggers the first – the “spiritual malady.” Symptoms of this “third layer” as described in the Big Book include:
What is the remedy for it?
Page 25 tells us, “There is a solution. Almost none of us liked the self-searching, the leveling of our pride, the confession of shortcomings, which the process requires for its successful consummation. But we saw that it really worked in others, and we had come to believe in the hopelessness and futility of life as we had been living it. When, therefore, we were approached by those in whom the problem had been solved, there was nothing left for us but to pick up the simple kit of spiritual tools laid at out feet. We have found much of heaven and we have been rocketed into a fourth dimension of existence of which we had not even dreamed.”
This “fourth dimension”, which we find out in the 10th Step is the “world of the Spirit”, takes us beyond the physically, mental, and emotional dimensions of life – and eliminates the selfishness (ego) of the “spiritual malady.” The term “spiritual malady” does not mean that our “spirit” is sick. It simply means we are spiritually blocked off from the Power of God, which enables us to remain sober, happy, joyous, and free.
To conclude, it’s not my body – my allergic reaction to alcohol – that’s going to take me back to drinking. It’s really not my mind – the mental obsession – that is the underlying root of what will take me back to drinking. It’s the “spiritual malady”, as manifested by my EGO (selfishness-self-centeredness), that can eventually lead me back to drinking or sometimes even suicide.
On pages 14 and 15 Bill W. writes, “For if an alcoholic failed to perfect and enlarge his spiritual life through work and self-sacrifice for others, he could not survive the certain trials and low spots ahead. If he did not work, he would surely drink again, and if he drank, he would surely die. Then faith would be dead indeed. With us it is just like that.”
Thankfully, the “spiritual malady” is no longer a “missing piece” of Step One for me. It is a reality of my powerlessness and unmanageability and enables me to see why I so desperately need to seek a Power Greater than myself. And unless this malady is recognized, and a course of action (the Twelve Steps) is taken to enable God to remove it, the root of our alcoholic illness can lie dormant and burn us when we least expect it.
being restless, irritable, and discontented (page xxvi),
having trouble with personal relationships,
not being able to control our emotional natures,
being a prey to (or suffering from) misery and depression,
not being able to make a living (or a happy and successful life),
having feelings of uselessness,
being full of fear,
inability to be of real help to other people (page 52),
being like "the actor who wants to run the whole show" (pages 60-61),
being "driven by a hundred forms of fear, self-delusion, self-seeking, and self-pity" (page 62),
self-will run riot (page 62),
leading a double life (page 73),
living like a tornado running through the lives of others (page 82), and
exhibiting selfish and inconsiderate habits.
Questions for Journal/Working step 2
Starting with page 44 – 1. What does living life on a spiritual basis look like to you today? How has it changed from before you were sober and how has it changed while you have been sober? p.45&46
Look at areas you might not be comfortable admitting (agnosticism).
2. Do you have any honest doubts and prejudices about God or spiritual terms?
3. Do you have a particular idea of God that was impressed upon you in childhood? Did it help or hinder your belief system? Do you apply it today in your relationship with God, or did you have to abandon the idea for a new one?
p.47 – 4. What is your conception of God today? Is this different from where you started out when you got sober? Were there old ideas or prejudices you had to lay aside?
5. Have you been handicapped by obstinacy, sensitiveness, or unreasoning prejudice when it comes to God?
p.51 – 6. Has your spiritual beliefs been fettered (hindered/held back) by superstition, tradition, or fixed ideas? (Now or in the past).
p.52 – 7. Have you relied on self sufficiency to solve your problems in the past? How did that work? How does it work relying on God to solve your problems? Are there any problems you still try to solve on your own? Are there any problems in your life you feel God cannot solve?
p.53 – 8. God either is or He isn’t. What is your choice?
p.55 – 9. How has your relationship or access to God been limited by calamity (chaos), pomp (ego), and worship of other things?
p. 55 The consciousness of your belief is sure to come to you & p. 57 He has come to all who have honestly sought Him
10. How has God revealed himself to you and how have you honestly sought him? (What is your step 2 experience)
What if God is nothing?
What if that voice in the back of your head that tells you there is no God is right? The only thing you will ever have to help you through life is whatever power, knowledge, experience, will, etc. that you can muster up on your own. No God. No AA. No power to move you beyond where you are right now except you.
What if God is everything?
What if God is everything and you miss an opportunity to tap in to an immense power that will help you with everything in your life?
In the 1930’s, NAPOLEON HILL wrote a book called THINK AND GROW RICH. In it, he talks about something he calls the sixth sense and he says:
“Understanding of the sixth sense comes only by meditation through mind development from within. The sixth sense probably is the medium of contact between the finite mind of man and Infinite Intelligence, and for this reason, it is a mixture of both the mental and the spiritual. It is believed to be the point at which the mind of man contacts the Universal Mind.
Through the aid of the sixth sense, you will be warned of impending dangers in time to avoid them, and notified of opportunities in time to embrace them. There comes to your aid, and to do your bidding, with the development of the sixth sense, a “guardian angel” who will open to you at all times the door to the Temple of Wisdom.
Whether or not this is a statement of truth, you will never know, except by following the instructions described in the pages of this book, or some similar method of procedure. [Whoopeeparty suggests the Big Book of AA’s 12 steps!]
This much the author does know-that there is a power, or a First Cause, or an Intelligence, which permeates every atom of matter, and embraces every unit of energy perceptible to man-that this Infinite Intelligence converts acorns into oak trees, causes water to flow down hill in response to the law of gravity, follows night with day, and winter with summer, each maintaining its proper place and relationship to the other. This Intelligence may, through the principles of this philosophy, be induced to aid in transmuting DESIRES into concrete, or material form. The author has this knowledge, because he has experimented with it- and has EXPERIENCED IT.”
I had to stop fighting, step off the cliff into the unknown and CHOOSE to believe there was a God. Every time a little fear came into my head and said, there won’t be enough, you won’t make it through, you will die alone, etc…I pushed it out of my mind and said something like, “I choose to believe that God is everything.”
This was like what you hear in meetings “Fake it ’til you make it.” I really felt like I was having to fake a belief that God is everything until eventually I really believed God was everything!
If I can tell you who and what God is, then it is not big enough to help me. I like the description given in a book called The Shack. Like a mother would do her child, God wants to get down on the floor and color in the coloring book with me as I babble nonsense. God wants to experience life with me. God nods and says “Yes! Very Good!” every now and then to build me up and encourage the relationship.
Three parts of step 3
p. 26 First, AA does not demand that you believe anything. All of its 12 steps are but suggestions.
Second, to get sober and to stay sober, you don’t have to swallow all of step 2 right now. Looking back, I find that I took it piecemeal myself.
Third, all you really need is a truly open mind.