Category Archives: Lit Study and Meeting Topic Ideas

The Bondage of Self

In the 7th step prayer, I ask God to relieve me of the bondage of self, so that I may better do His will. Over time working the steps, and through study of the 12 and 12 and Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, I have identified many of the parts of self that hang me up and keep me in bondage. The list so far:

Self-centeredness
Self-seeking
Self-pity
Inaccurate self-appraisal
Self-centered fear
Selfishness
Self-deception
Self-delusion
Self-destruction
Self-determined objectives
Self-importance
Self-justification
Self-loathing
Self-propulsion
Self-reliance
Self-righteousness
Self-sufficiency

It helps me to remember that “any life run on self-will can hardly be a success” (BB p. 60), and any review of my life shows me that is the case! I am here to play the hand God dealt me and no amount of wishing it was any other way is going to change that. I am not in charge and I don’t make the rules. I don’t get to decide what is best for anyone else either! “It’s all in Divine Order” my sponsor tells me. So when I get tied up in any of the parts of self listed, I again have to make a choice like I did in Step 2: “…either God is everything or else He is nothing.” (BB p. 53)

God, help me to submit to Your will today!

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How I Worked Step 1

Cover of "Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story...

Cover via Amazon

DISCLAIMER: This is how I was instructed to work Step 1 by my first sponsor. There are several ways to work Step 1, and my opinion is that you DO AS YOUR SPONSOR INSTRUCTS YOU! I have since worked Step 1 using other formats, but I continue to use this format with my sponsees because I found it to be useful to me. If you have found this page and are interested in working Step 1 using this format, take it to your sponsor and discuss it with him or her. Remember, you asked your sponsor to be your sponsor because you want what THEY have, not what I have! (Although I love what I have, but you don’t know me…but I digress….)

“We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.”

Step 1 has two parts:

  1. POWERLESSNESS – Has to do with my attempts to CONTROL my addiction.
  2. UNMANAGEABILITY – Has to do with the CONSEQUENCES of my drinking and/or drug use.

POWERLESSNESS

I was instructed to pray and ask God to show me the TRUTH, then write out the following:

Excuses I made in my head through:

  1. Minimizing – making things smaller than they actually are. Examples are: “I only drink at night, not in the morning.” or “I don’t drink before work.”
  2. Justifying – a good definition I heard in a meeting is “giving a socially acceptable reason for socially unacceptable behavior.” Examples are: “I worked hard all week.” “I deserve a break.” “I can drive stoned.”
  3. Rationalizing – inventing reasonable explanations for actions or opinions that are in reality based on other causes. Examples are: “They are prescription drugs.”

My sponsor told me that a relapse starts long before I pick up a drink. The excuses I wrote down above will be the LAST thoughts in my head before I pick up a drink. The last thoughts will be preceded by a period of time when I am not doing the basic things I have to do to stay sober, which were for me the list at the post entitled First Things First.

UNMANAGEABILITY

I was instructed to pray and ask God to show me the TRUTH, then write out the following:

The consequences of my drinking, which were:

  1. Physical – Examples are: headaches, tired, shaky, over-eating, under-eating, weak, passing out, black-outs (give examples – what was YOUR experience?)
  2. Emotional/Mental – Examples are: suicidal, hopeless, depressed
  3. Spiritual – Examples are: couldn’t feel God’s presence, lost, empty
  4. Financial – Examples are: I spent approximately $________ on the purchase of alcohol and/or drugs since the time I began drinking and/or drugging, I spent money I didn’t have (via credit cards or other) while under the influence of drink or drug, I spent money to hire an attorney to fight my DUI, on DUI school, to post bail, for rehab, on chemicals that would mask my drug use or clean out my system so that I could pass a drug test
  5. In Relationships – How has my disease affected my relationships with myself, God, boyfriend or girlfriend, friends, parents, siblings, co-workers, other family members?

My sponsor explained that the consequences I have written above are my (current) bottom. She explained that the elevator can and will go down further if I drink today and that things that haven’t happened while drinking are things that I should describe as my “yets”.

My first step list was 22 pages. She explained that what was on those pages is the very BEST I can do drinking and running my own life. She told me that what is on those pages is the END and that I should “play the tape through to the end”. Upon further investigation of the Big Book (specifically in “There is A Solution” and “More About Alcoholism”) and the description of the mental obsession, I learned that there may come a time that I will not be able to remember my END.

The fact is that most alcoholics, for reasons yet obscure, have lost the power of choice in drink. Our so-called will power becomes practically nonexistent. We are unable, at certain times, to bring into our consciousness with sufficient force the memory of the suffering and humiliation of even a week or a month ago. We are without defense against the first drink. – BB, page 24

“I saw that will power and self-knowledge would not help me in those strange mental blank spots.”     – BB, page 42

Once more: The alcoholic at certain times has no effective mental defense against the first drink. Except in a few rare cases, neither he nor any other human being can provide such a defense. His defense must come from a Higher Power. – BB, page 43

It is this information that propelled me into Step 2 because I saw that if I were to stay sober, the self-knowledge I gained from my Step 1 exercise would not be a sufficient defense against the first drink!

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, page 45

3 Step 3 Requirements

First Requirement

The first requirement is that we be convinced that any life run on self-will can hardly be a success. – BB, p. 60

Second Requirement

…we had to quit playing God. It didn’t work. – BB, p. 62

Third Requirement

Next, we decided that hereafter in this drama of life, God was going to be our Director. He is the Principal; we are His agents. He is the Father, and we are His children. – BB, p. 62

12 Step Call

Today I went on the first real 12th step call I’ve ever been on, and it was so very sad.  I always wondered what that would be like. It was not glamorous at all.

An alcoholic in his cups is an unlovely creature.
-BB p.16, Bill’s Story

She reeked of alcohol.  There were bottles everywhere.  We threw them away.  One – a vodka bottle – still had vodka in it.  It made me thirsty!  How can I be witnessing such horror and still have a mental pull towards that poison?  (Clearly, the answer is that I am an alcoholic!)

We told her we loved her.  We told her about the solution.  We took her to a hospital.  She almost wouldn’t go with us. I told her I believed her only other choice was to stay here and die an alcoholic death.

To be doomed to an alcoholic death or to live on a spiritual basis are not always easy alternatives to face.
-BB p.44, We Agnostics

She is on suicide watch.  The back story I will not tell here.  But oh, God, how sad I feel.  This disease is so horrible.  What it does to us is so, so very tragic.

I suspect this won’t be the last time I am a witness to the terrible reality of alcoholism if I am to stay sober.  It made me think of all the people I have seen come in and go back out of my home group in the last couple of years.  So many people…where did they go? What will become of them? Are they alive? Why do some people get to stay and others have to continue this battle they will never win?

He begged the doctor to tell him the whole truth, and he got it. In the doctor’s judgment he was utterly hopeless; he could never regain his position in society and he would have to place himself under lock and key or hire a bodyguard if he expected to live long. That was a great physician’s opinion.
-BB p.26, There is a Solution

Please pray for D.

Drunkards “Cured” in 1901

While researching my family tree, I came across an advertisement in the October 15, 1901 Atlanta Constitution that I found fascinating! The ad (pictured below) reads:

Drunkards Easily Cured

Miss Mary Roberts Wants Every Lady Reader of This Paper To Know How She Saved Her Brother.

Used an Odorless and Tasteless Remedy in His Food Quickly Curing Him Without His Knowledge.

Trial Package of the Remedy Mailed Free To Show How Easily It Is To Cure Drunkards.

The terrible evil of drunkenness has at last found a conqueror.  Miss Mary Roberts, of 1033 Golden Gate Avenue, San Francisco, Cal., tells how she saved her brother from ruin and her words burn with a new hope to every woman who would rescue a son, brother or husband from the scourge of drunkenness.  She says:

“Yes, it is true that my brother is now a reformed man.  For years he drank only occasionally but at last he got so bad that to be sober seemed a living death to him.  After a spree he would tremble and shake and act as if he were going insane.  He would then drink sparingly, but in a few days would start off again, and I wouldn’t see him for a week.

I saw a notice in our home paper that there was a remedy called Golden Specific to be given secretly in tea, coffee or soft food and that they would send me a free trial.  I wrote for it and gave it to my brother early one morning in a cup of coffee before he had a chance to go out to get a drink.  The effect was wonderful and seemed to brace him up.  He went out and came back quite sober for him.  In the meantime I had sent for a regular treatment of Golden Specific and after using it my brother was a changed man.  Day after day, I watched and prayed and it all seemed too good to be true.  His whole manner changed.  I said nothing about the remedy I had been giving him secretly and did not talk of his being cured, but I would often tell him how happy I was and what a noble man he was to stop drinking.  He, of course, knows it all now, but his new life, prosperity, new friends and self-respect have long ago forgiven me for the way in which I saved him from a drunkard’s grave.  May every mother, sister or daughter learn from my experience is my devout hope, and in thus making public the story of our private misfortune and subsequent blessings it is my earnest desire that ever woman read in my words the way to happiness not only for herself, but for the man who is struggling with the curse of liquor upon him.  Dr. Haines, who discovered Golden Specific, is deserving of a woman’s homage, and I am glad to know that he will send a free trial remedy to every woman who writes him.

Send your name and address to Dr. J. W. Haines, 1783 Glenn Building, Cincinnati, Ohio, and he will mail the remedy to you in a plain package and thus you can begin the cure at once.  The remedy is odorless and tasteless and you need have no fear of discovery.”

So what became of this Dr. Haines and his remedy? Further research lead me to this website, where he is described thus:

In 1917 the American Medical Association denounced his remedy (by then known as “Haines’ Golden Treatment”) as “a cruel humbug.” On analysing the powders, they found them to comprise “milk sugar, starch, capsicum and a minute amount of ipecac.”

In theory, the ipecac holds promise as a cure – bung it in the guy’s whisky bottle and he might be violently sick whenever he takes a drop, thus he begins to associate drink with sickness.

There wasn’t, however, enough ipecac to make an impression beyond the normal effects of alcohol, and even if there were, the advert advises putting the remedy in the patient’s coffee – so at best it might put him (it’s always a him) off coffee.

There is something particularly sad about the fact that this remedy wasn’t aimed at alcoholics but at their families, who might invest in it a quantity of both hope and money that they could ill afford.

Other interesting links:

Dr. James Wilkins Haines ~ Quaker Physician, Minister, Educator and Spiritualist (1849-1893)

Haine’s Golden Specific

If you’re looking for a quick fix, I’m sorry to report that you can no longer get a sample of Golden Specific.  But if alcohol is your problem, not your solution like it was in my case, you are in luck!  There are still doctors looking to cure your alcohol problem:  DrinkLessNow.com.  If you’ve got a living problem like I do, I think your best bet is to get with the program.

Physicians who are familiar with alcoholism agree there is no such thing as making a normal drinker out of an alcoholic. Science may one day accomplish this, but it hasn’t done so yet.

Despite all we can say, many who are real alcoholics are not going to believe they are in that class. By every form of self-deception and experimentation, they will try to prove themselves exceptions to the rule, therefore nonalcoholic. If anyone who is showing inability to control his drinking can do the right-about-face and drink like a gentleman, our hats are off to him. Heaven knows, we have tried hard enough and long enough to drink like other people!

BB p.31, More About Alcoholism

One last thing:  Does the quote from one of the testimonies on DrinkLessNow.com make any other alcoholic out there laugh?  This sounds like a living hell!:

Alford W.’s Story:

I hadn’t gone into a bar without getting drunk for 10 years. After only three weeks of Sobrexa, I couldn’t finish a second martini… and I wanted to! I haven’t had a problem since.

Perhaps we should keep Alford W. in our prayers.

Now and then a serious drinker, being dry at the moment says, “I don’t miss it at all.  Feel better.  Work better.  Having a better time.”  As ex-problem drinkers, we smile at such a sally.  We know our friend is like a boy whistling in the dark to keep us his spirits.  He fools himself.  Inwardly he would give anything to take half a dozen drinks and get away with them.  He will presently try the old game again for he isn’t happy about his sobriety.  He cannot picture life without alcohol.  Some day he will be unable to imagine life either with alcohol or without it.  Then he will know loneliness such as few do.  He will be at the jumping-off place.  He will wish for the end.

–          BB p.152, A Vision For You

I Need A Miracle Every Day!!

In the early 90’s, I was a budding druggie alcoholic junkie who frequented Grateful Dead shows.  I remember guys, sporting dreadlocks and smelling like patchouli, walking around calling, “I need a miracle!” which apparently was code for “I need a ticket!” although at the time for some reason** I thought it was code for “I need a hit of acid!”

Too much of everything is just enough
One more thing I just got to say

I need a miracle every day,
I need a miracle every day,
I need a miracle every day, (got to be the only way)
I need a miracle

-Grateful Dead, “I Need A Miracle!”

**I thought we were all tripping on LSD and that my life was normal!

“The sensation is so elusive that, while they admit it is injurious, they cannot after a time differentiate the true from the false.” –BB xxviii(xxvi), The Doctor’s Opinion

I was going through the Doctor’s Opinion with a sponsee recently and was reminded of the “I need a miracle” calls when I got to this paragraph:

“We doctors have realized for a long time that some form of moral psychology was of urgent importance to alcoholics, but its application presented difficulties beyond our conception.   What with our ultra-modern standards, our scientific approach to everything, we are perhaps not well equipped to apply the powers of good that lie outside our synthetic knowledge.” -BB xxvii(xxv), The Doctor’s Opinion

I stopped, looked at my sponsee and said, “I think he is saying we need a miracle – what do you think?”  Fresh off the heels of another relapse, she quickly replied, “Yes!”

I listened to a Sandy B. talk recently where he describes the words used in the 9th step promises, such as “disappeared”, “slip away”, “intuitively”, and “materialize” as “magician’s words.”  It is magic I need – and I need it every day.

“What we really have is a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition.”  BB p.85, Into Action

Dr. Silkworth mentions the scientific approach in the passage above.  I’d like to address that by referencing a book I once skimmed through called When Skeptics Ask.  I found the chapter on miracles interesting.  The book says:

“A miracle is divine intervention into, or interruption of, the regular course of the world that produces a purposeful but unusual event that would not have occurred otherwise.  By this definition, then, natural laws are understood to be the normal, regular way the world operates.  But a miracle occurs as an unusual, irregular, and specific act of a God who is beyond the universe.  This does not mean that miracles are violations of natural law or even opposed to them.  As the famous physicist Sir George Stokes has said, ‘It may be that the event which we call a miracle was brought on not by a suspension of the laws in ordinary operation, but by the super addition of something not ordinarily in operation.’  In other words, miracles don’t violate the regular laws of cause and effect, they simply have a cause that transcends nature.”

I read somewhere that the scientific method says something must be observable, testable, repeatable, and falsifiable.  By their very nature, miracles are a one-time, unrepeatable occurrence, and therefore, cannot be proved by the scientific method.  But then again, with the estimate of the number of people recovering in AA from a “seemingly hopeless state of mind and body” being around 2,000,000, maybe miracles can be proved just by looking around the rooms of AA.  Maybe we are witnessing miracles every day.

I am fascinated by the fact that scientists were looking to something other than science to heal alcoholics.  “No human power could have relieved our alcoholism,” says our literature.

If you get a chance, I highly recommend Chapter 24 of Pass It on, which includes a letter from Carl Jung to Bill W.  He writes about his treatment of an alcoholic named Roland H. who would later get sober in AA.

“His craving for alcohol was the equivalent on a low level of the spiritual thirst of our being for wholeness, expressed in medieval language:  the union with God…The only right and legitimate way to such an experience is that it happens to you in reality, and it can only happen to you when you walk on a path which leads you to higher understanding…Alcohol in Latin is spiritus, and you use the same word for the highest religious experience as well as for the most depraving poison.  The helpful formula therefore is:  spiritus contra spiritum.”

“spiritus” = breath, breathing, air, soul, life; also Alcohol, as in spirits

“contra” = against, facing, opposite; weighed against; as against; in resistance/reply to; contrary to, no in conformance with; the reverse of; otherwise than; towards/up to, in direction of; directly over/level with; to detriment of

Whoopee party’s translation:  Spirit against spirits!

To end his book God and the Astronomers, Robert Jastrow, a NASA scientist, astronomer, physicist and cosmologist writes:

“For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream.  He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquest the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.”

How to find your miracle is explained here: 

Triumphant Arch

Hat tip to Friends of Bill W.  for pulling all of this together.  Early on, I became fascinated with the metaphor (I think it’s a metaphor) that runs through the Big Book relating to the construction of an arch.  I looked everywhere for this picture, Friends!  Thank you!  Thought I would share my embellishments on your work!

 

God’s Will

Our real purpose is to fit ourselves to be of maximum service to God and the people about us.

– BB p.77, Into Action

So the difference between “the boys and the men” is the difference between striving for a self-determined objective and for the perfect objective which is of God.

– 12&12 p.68, Step Six

All of the Twelve Steps require sustained and personal exertion to conform to their principles and so, we trust, to God’s will.

– 12&12 p.40, Step Three

Even so, when making specific requests, it will be well to add to each one of them this qualification: “…if it be Thy will.”

– 12&12 p.102, Step Eleven

“God, I offer myself to Thee-to build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy Way of life. May I do Thy will always!”

– Third Step Prayer, BB p.63, How It Works

– BB p.85, Into Action

Agnostic Promises a.k.a. Bedevilments

We were having trouble with personal relationships, we couldn’t control our emotional natures, we were a prey to misery and depression, we couldn’t make a living, we had a feeling of uselessness, we were full of fear, we were unhappy, we couldn’t seem to be of real help to other people…

– BB p.52, We Agnostics