Written By: Fiona Stockard
The Big Book Broken Down – Part Four
Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who help each other to recover from alcohol and drug addiction. It was founded in June of 1935, just celebrated its seventy-ninth anniversary, and boasts over two million members.
AA’s central text is the Big Book. With a sponsor and a Big Book, AA members work the twelve steps, and “recover from a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body” (title page).
Today, I’ll be breaking down chapter four, We Agnostics.
This chapter is all about how to build a relationship with God – with a God of our own understanding! Before we even consider God though, we need to be convinced we need God.
We Agnostics lays out some problems we experience as a result of active alcoholism. It states, “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…” (52).
S**t! That described me perfectly. In other words, I was a mess who couldn’t live life! My friends (my REAL friends) and family weren’t shy about telling me the help a Higher Power could offer.
Guess what? This chapter addresses that, too! “…how frequently did we all say, ‘I wish I had what that man has. I’m sure it would work if I could only believe as he believes. But I cannot accept as surely true the many articles of faith which are so plain to him’” (47).
Did the Big Book read my mind? Aside from using male pronouns, that passage sums up all the issues I had with God. Another frequent issue people have with spirituality is that they confuse it with religion. “To others, the word ‘God’ brought up a particular idea of Him with which someone had tried to impress them during childhood” (45).
I certainly relate to that. Everyone has memories of religion being pushed on them as a child. The chapter goes on to say, “Do not let any prejudice you may have against spiritual terms deter you from honestly asking yourself what they mean to you” (47).
Okay, so I need to let go of my judgment and intolerance. That’s much easier said than done. Once again, AA seemed to read my mind. This chapter reads, “To be doomed to an alcoholic death or to live on a spiritual basis are not always easy alternatives to face” (44).
Addicts and alcoholics are the only people I know who weigh that choice! Who else says to themselves, “now, what exactly do you mean by alcoholic death? How bad is it, really?” I’ve been guilty of asking that question once or twice!
So, how do I let go of intolerance and grow? The only way I know is through experiencing enough pain! I’m a bit hardheaded like that! We Agnostics has an answer for people like me, “Faced with alcoholic destruction, we soon became as open minded on spiritual matters as we had tried to be on other questions. In this respect alcohol was a great persuader. It finally beat us into a state of reasonableness” (48).
Hmmm. Sounds true to me! I had to get beaten up pretty badly before I was willing to consider God as an answer. Luckily, when I was ready to consider God, AA made things very simple. I was told “We needed to ask ourselves but one short question. ‘Do I now believe, or am I even willing to believe, that there is a Power greater than myself?’” (47).
That seemed fair to me. I was willing to believe that maybe, just maybe, spirituality could help me. I wasn’t willing to believe in some all-mighty white guy in the clouds though! Once again, We Agnostics has me covered. “Much to our relief, we discovered we did not need to consider another’s conception of God. Our own conception, however inadequate, was sufficient to make the approach and to effect a contact…” (46).
Wait a minute, you mean not only can I believe in a God of my own understanding, but it doesn’t matter how crummy that understanding is? Sign me up! Now, it was made clear very early on that I couldn’t make a doorknob or a light bulb my Higher Power. That wasn’t going to work. After all, a doorknob isn’t going to keep me sober! I didn’t have to believe in anyone else’s idea of God though. I was free to meet God on my own terms.
I started working my butt off and doing the twelve-steps. Guess what I found? Well, I found a ton of stuff, but most mind-blowing was the idea that I’d actually had faith all along. Seems hard to believe, I know.
This chapter states, “Without knowing it, had we not been brought to where we stood by a certain kind of faith?” (53). My faith in AA, and my sponsor, brought me to the point where I had faith in a Higher Power. Mind = blown!
We Agnostics goes on to state, “Had we not variously worshipped people, sentiment, things, money, and ourselves?” and “In one form or another we had been living by faith and little else” (54).
You mean all along I’d had faith? I believed drugs and alcohol would solve my problems (and they did, until they stopped working!). I believed people would solve my problems (and they did, until they stopped bailing me out!). I believed AA would solve my problems. It did and it hasn’t stopped working.
Huh, I guess I really did have faith all along!