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Recovery Gifts - Diabolic Alcoholic



Alcoholics and Addicts – Helping Them the Old School Way

With God’s Power: Compassionate, Sustained, Personal Action


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The challenge of diversity for the sake of growth: A.A. is not a forum for rock-throwing. A.A. is not a forum for intolerant outbursts. A.A. is not a forum for suppressing religious freedom. A.A. is not a forum for quashing freedom of speech. A.A. is not a forum for quoting some illusory index of forbidden books. A.A. is not a forum for forcing someone’s opinions down someone else’s throat. A.A. is not a forum for airing resentments. A.A. is not a forum for idolizing fear. A.A. is not a forum for promoting idolatry. A.A. is not a forum for excusing relapses. A.A. is not a forum of “us against them.” All these unfortunate detours do exist. But they shouldn’t.


He who loudly asserts that A.A. is not a Christian fellowship today is 100% correct. He who says that A.A. today includes people of all races, colors, creeds, and nationalities is probably close to correct. He who says that A.A. today includes blacks, native Americans, Caucasians, folks from the mid-east, Chinese, Japanese, Hispanics, South Americans, Europeans, Southeast Asians, Australians, and immigrants from many other places is probably close to correct. He who says that today’s A.A. contains atheists, agnostics, humanists, gays, lesbians, Roman Catholics, Jews, Protestants, Hindus, Buddhists, Moslems, irreligious, non-religious, unbelievers, and Hottentots is also close to accuracy.


But one might pause to observe a few additional, likely facts. There are probably more Christians in A.A. today than people of any other faith or religion. There are probably more people in A.A. who believe in God, have heard of the Bible, and have been to a Christian church than people in other categories. Preliminarily, I would again declare emphatically that A.A. is no longer, and is not a Christian Fellowship today. And he who claims that some AA is out of line for speaking of his Christian beliefs, speaking of the early Christian Fellowship, and mentioning the Bible is trying to “return” A.A. to Christianity or “cram” the Bible down people’s throats is spitting in the wind.


Most of the many Christian AAs that I know are scared to death to talk about their faith, scared to mention God or Jesus Christ or the Bible, and tend to believe the canard that to do so might scare a newcomer out of the rooms. The real issue, however, is not what you say, but where you say it, to whom you say it, how you say it, and what purpose you have in saying it at all. I haven’t found many Christian AAs who devote themselves to looking for scraps. Some may. But most are more likely to turn tail and run, rather than stand, resist the adversary, and call on Almighty God for help, guidance, and strength when and if verbally chastised by a loud mouth, angry talker.


Today’s A.A. is diverse. A.A. will remain diverse. And the diversity is not going to lessen. By the same token, America is diverse; Rotary Clubs are diverse; the YMCA is diverse, bird-watchers are diverse; soldiers and sailors are diverse; mushroom hunters are diverse; cowboys are diverse; and Congressmen are diverse. Hopefully, however, they can and often do unite for a purpose. And AAs are avowedly united in their purpose to help the newcomer overcome the ravages of alcoholism.


Diversity need not divide if the common and clearly stated purpose is understood and accepted.


“When the wicked are multiplied, transgression increaseth: but the righteous shall see their fall” (Proverbs 19:16).


The curse of secularism and universalism What does a Christian, or a Twelve Step fellowship itself, do with scientists, academics, treatment professionals, clergy, physicians, psychologists, historians, and Twelve Steppers who openly eschew mention of God, the Bible, and Jesus Christ? By every form of self-deception, phony labeling, and outright advocacy, so-called scholars and recovery workers invent deities that aren’t deities at all. As Bill Wilson might say, “There’s a poser.” I can’t answer for anyone but myself as to how you handle the revisionists. But I’m reminded of a state flag that read: “Don’t tread on me.”


Finally within A.A. itself, I emerged from my brain-damaged bewilderment and awakened to the fact that my sponsor and his sponsor were really opposed to Bible study, mention of God, and mention of Jesus Christ in “their” precious fellowship. One of them had never read the Bible and said so. That man blamed “God’s will” for his girl friend’s serious pain problems. Both men spoke almost exclusively of their “higher power.” And as my actions and words became more in line with those of early AAs, both men felt that my bringing people to my Bible fellowship was going to get them and me drunk. With all that baggage accumulating, I knew it was time for a change. I gave them a hug and got a new sponsor and hence a new grand-sponsor. Earlier, I had simply been grateful for their help, but very gullible as to the supposed validity of their self-centered, dangerous, and hostile ideas. I am no longer. And the more I write about early A.A., the more I hear from all over the world about the hunger for the facts, the willingness to listen and study, and the need to speak freely.


A.A. is a religion, and that rankles those who have accepted the nonsense of outside influences that A.A. is spiritual, but not religious. Too many today want to argue the vague and undefined point that A.A. is not “religious” but is somehow “spiritual.” Many want to perpetuate the misleading contention that A.A. is “spiritual, but not religious”—whatever they think that conundrum means. Furthermore, A.A. is not “secular.” Just look at the court decisions which review the evidence and the records and conclude otherwise. To argue for a secular finding would require the abandonment of the Big Book, the Twelve Steps, the founders’ words and writings, and the history of A.A.


Some in, and some who influence, A.A., seem determined to grow the fellowship into “universality” of viewpoint. But the real question is whether, right now, its doors are open to all, its “love and service” are freely dispensed, and its autonomous and espoused freedom of belief and expression are really made available to all.


Universalism produces for me an offensive smell and taste of destructive compromises that include: Surrender of any remark or idea that might offend anyone except those who decide what is or isn’t offensive. Give the power to decide to someone in a remote office or publication committee, who may not even be an AA or an alcoholic. Ignore the failures clearly evidenced by the current dismal and downward plummeting size, plummeting growth rate, and plummeting success rate. Attempt a firm and balanced stand—“firm” on the “sinking sands” of compromise, rather than upon a rock of truth.


Both Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob declared that Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount contained the underlying philosophy of A.A. And if it did, that sermon clearly assured that provision would be made for those who first ought the Kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33). The words of Jesus proclaimed there would be little hope for those who did not do the will of Jesus’ Father who was in heaven. Those who did the Father’s will, he taught, were likened to those who built on a rock. Those who didn’t were likened to those who built on sand and saw their foundations moving away (Matthew 7:21-26).


Secularism didn’t get early AAs cured. A couple of them in New York achieved dry drunk status. Thus Hank Parkhurst (Bill’s partner in the Works Publishing Company corporate venture) wanted “God” out of the Big Book. He was rewarded in his efforts with early drunkenness. Hank’s alleged supporter Jim Burwell was denouncing God in meetings and stayed drunk for five years until he saw his fellow AAs praying and then, in a dismal hotel room, reached out for and read a Gideon Bible and never drank again. A New Jersey psychiatrist was said to have made a great contribution to the Big Book. According to A.A.’s Pass It On, Dr. Howard read the Big Book manuscript and then said Bill was “making a damn big mistake. . . You have to change the whole damn thing. . . You have to take out the God—the complete God” (p. 204). And then there was Richard Peabody, author of The Common Sense of Drinking, who was a lay therapist, seemed to be the producer of Bill’s “no cure” insertions, and yet died drunk [A.A. publications don’t say that, but Bill’s own recorded notation on a portion of Peabody’s book that Peabody had proved his contention that there was no cure, by dying drunk]. Peabody had written nothing about reliance on God. Such was the early record of secularism. And it had little to commend it.


“For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water” (Jeremiah 2:13).


Universalism: Nor did universalism have anything to commend it. It certainly didn’t get the early AAs cured. It has spawned hundreds, perhaps thousands, of open-to-anybody treatment programs that are falling like flies in a trap. Its outspoken and perhaps first champion was Lois Wilson—the non-alcoholic wife of co-founder Bill. It was she who wrote in her memoirs that it was “agreed” that A.A. should be a universal program because not all drunks were Christians. She cites no evidence for, or source of, the “agreement” though later history seems to reinforce her contention. But there is no persuasive evidence today that putting the stamp of approval on powers that are rocks and rills will do much for the AA who chooses a higher power that is a rock, rill, or light bulb, rather than our Creator, and nonetheless “comes to believe” he or she is establishing a “power” relationship that is solid, meaningful, or helpful.


“Wherefore should the heathen say, Where is now their God? But our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatever he hath pleased. Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands. They have mouths, but they speak not: eyes have they, but they see not: noses have they, but they smell not: They have hands, but they handle not: neither speak they through their throat. They that make them are like unto them: so is every one that trusteth in them” (Psalm 115: 2-8).


What Might Be The Best Help Today?


As one scholarly A.A. critic put it: “Would you sign up for a treatment that had a 75% failure rate?” To which I would answer, “I might if I were really desperate and there was no other option.” But I would ask her admirers, “Would you sign up for a treatment that had a 75% success rate among seemingly hopeless, medically incurable, patients who really tried?” And somewhere between the two alternatives, I think, lies an appealing choice for those who want to learn their history and apply it today—and without abandoning the ship. So let’s take a solid and detailed look at what is available today and which, with God’s help, might serve and glorify Him and help the afflicted.


Reflections on Approaching the Newcomer Today


Where might you meet a newcomer?  Times they are a changin.’ Granted, there are A.A. offices all over the United States. Some have answering services. Some have volunteers. Some have managers or staff that answer telephones. There appear to be few Twelfth Step referrals which means that most callers will be routed to a meeting instead of being helped by an alcoholic squad, as they often used to be.


So where might you meet a newcomer today? (1) At a meeting of A.A. or any other Twelve Step Fellowship. (2) At a meeting of some recovery-related organization like Alcoholics Victorious, Overcomers Outreach, Overcomers, Celebrate Recovery, Alcoholics for Christ, Teen Challenge, YWAM, Anonymous fellowships of all sorts, and church or religious recovery meetings. (3) In a treatment program, whether as a fellow-patient, or at an alumni or after-care or renewal meeting. (4) In your church or Bible fellowship or religious gathering. (5) Through a friendship, job, class, school, family relationship, professional organization, labor union, government agency, clergyman, physician, volunteer group, or non-profit agency. (6) While seated in a waiting room, terminal, transportation facility, or sports event. (7) At a golf game, skating rink, volley ball court, dance group, theatre, restaurant, store, or warehouse. (8) While standing in a line at the post office, at Costco, at a movie, at a flea market, at a swap-meet, at a garage sale, or in a hospital, clinic, unemployment office, driver’s license facility. (9) Jail, prison, detention facility, parole office, probation office, or courtroom. (10) A homeless shelter, transitional housing facility, half-way house, rescue mission, Salvation Army ARC, or rehabilitation center.


In other words, it’s the need that calls for the action, not the place nor the relationship. Most drunks and addicts don’t initially really want to be “found” or “helped.” And that situation is where Alcoholics Anonymous has the distinct edge—the effectiveness of one drunk sharing with another. Drunks and addicts are everywhere. Everyone seems to have a relative or friend or acquaintance that has the problem. And the great question is not whether that person needs help, but rather whether you really want to go to any lengths to provide help to those that need it. Whether you and the prospect want to help and be helped, are willing to do whatever it takes to get it, and will act on professed willingness.


How do you greet the newcomer? Different strokes for different folks. But the starting question is whether you have first asked our Heavenly Father where to go, who to see, and what to say. He knows the heart of any prospect. He knows where you might fit in. He knows where the need lies. And He is capable of providing the guidance. You can also ask Him in which way, area, group, and setting you can love and serve Him best. That said, there are conventional approaches that used to work and should, with God’s help, still work in melting the ice: (1) Look for the shaky, uncomfortable, fidgety, hesitant soul. (2) March up to that person and extend your hand and card, if you have one. (3) Give the newcomer your name and ask for his or hers. (4) Ask that person if he or she is new. (5) Welcome the person to the meeting. (6) Ask where they live. (7) Ask how they happened to come to the particular meeting or place. (8) Ask if they have been to any other meetings and whether they have wheels. (9) Ask if they have any pressing problems – health, court, family, taxes, criminal, insurance, license issues. (10) Ask what they do for a living when working. (11) Ask if they believe they have a serious problem with alcohol or drugs; and, if they say yes, tell them they have come to the right place. There is an old saw: “Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” The greeting is the starting shot.


Qualifying the newcomer. Most newcomers are guilty, fearful, ashamed, confused, hesitant, and shy. They will appreciate your interest and kindness. Now’s the time for action: (1) Ask if they’d like a cup of coffee or tea; and then either get them one or take them to the coffee table. (2) Ask if they’d like to sit with you during the meeting. (3) Ask if they have a copy of the Big Book and of a meeting schedule. (4) Ask them if they plan to go to a meeting the next day. (5) Ask them which one, and/or suggest one. (6) At the close of the meeting, introduce them to other members who care; ask them if they need a ride home, and get them one. (7) Ask them if they’d like to talk for a bit and then take them to a corner of the room, to your car, to your home, or to a common after-the-meeting food or coffee place where members congregate. (8) When you have them alone, ask them to tell you their story and, where appropriate, share yours. (9) Ask them if they really believe they have a problem with alcohol or drugs and, where appropriate, share your details. (10 Ask them if they really want to get well permanently and right now and, if appropriate, tell them you’d like to help them. (11) Ask them if they believe in God and, if appropriate, what their religious background has been. (12) Ask them if they are willing the pray, study the Bible, and learn about Jesus Christ, our Heavenly Father, and what God made possible through the accomplishments of His son Jesus Christ. (13) If appropriate, tell them what God has done for you. (14) Ask them if they will go to any lengths—do whatever it takes—to abstain permanently. (15) Assure them they can get well with God’s help, but point out that it takes a decision, determination, discipline, and hard work. (16) Tell them a little about (a) early A.A., its program, and its successes. (b) the difference between the fellowship and the program of recovery. (c) the purpose of the Big Book. (d) the necessity for “taking the steps” with someone who is experienced and knows how to lead. (17) Ask them if they would like to work with you—using the word “sponsor” if you choose. (18) Assure them that you also would like to work with them and help them get well if they will follow directions. Do not be concerned with responses. If the newcomer is unwilling or reluctant, you have planted a seed that may grow later or elsewhere. At best, you have acquired a newcomer that you can sponsor and help.


Practical directions for your newcomer: (1) Tell the newcomer that A.A.’s primary purpose is to help others recover. (2) Tell them it is never too soon to ask God for help, to ask someone else for help, to use the telephone, to go to meetings, to ask questions, to say I’m sorry, to make amends, to help another drunk, and to practice the basic principles of love and service—amplified by the principles of the Bible. (3) Emphasize their need for total support—staying away from slippery places and slippery people; avoiding drinking and drugging completely; going to a physician or a detox facility for help at any signs of shaking or other forms of withdrawal; reading the Bible; praying; asking God for guidance and deliverance; going to church or Bible fellowship; calling you as sponsor every single day; befriending and calling other fellowship members frequently; hanging out in sober places—whether sober clubs, church, recovery groups, meetings, or the homes of sober friends. (4) Encourage Bible study, a Bible fellowship or study, and a knowledgeable teacher. (5) Offer prayer techniques that square with God’s Word. (6) Suggest particular attention to James, the Sermon and 1 Corinthians 13. (7) Tell them to ignore those who tell them they shouldn’t read the Bible or religious literature and merely insist that their first focus must be on not drinking and going to meetings. Such selfish and short-sighted advice is, I believe, a perpetual guarantee of failure, relapse, or non-growth. (8) Start reading the Big Book with them or taking them to a good Big Book seminar. (9) See that they engage in wholesome recreation, whether sports, games, movies, concerts, amusement activities, reading, singing, playing musical instruments, or chatting with friends and family. (10) Tell them that A.A. is not a dumping ground—that they are not go to meetings and whine or criticize or develop resentments or waste their time recounting their drinking and drugging episodes and sobriety difficulties. (11) Tell them to listen for those speakers who talk about God, about establishing a relationship with God, about what God has done for them; about the Big Book and the Steps; about A.A. history; and, yes, about the Bible and Christ in their lives. (12) Miss no opportunity to encourage participation in sober events like birthday parties, retreats, dances, outings, ball games, watching sports as a group, attending religious functions as a group, going to 12 Step Conferences, seminars, and meetings, and participating in A.A. campouts . (13) Tell them to “participate” in their own recovery by service at meetings—making coffee, greeting, setting up, closing down, sharing when asked, serving when asked, and announcing when asked. (14) Take them through the 12 Steps as soon and as quickly and as thoroughly as possible, following Big Book instructions and using a good guide as a workbook. There’s an old saw: “Come with us; go where we go; do what we do; and you’ll get what we’ve got.” A.A. newcomers need direction and leadership from the winners.


“Emotional Sobriety” Versus Abundant and Everlasting Life


In later years, some A.A. speakers began developing a growth “detour.” When I first heard it, I suppose it offered me a guilt trip. However, it actually confused me because I hadn’t seen it in the Big Book or heard it in meetings. I still don’t claim to understand it. Therefore I don’t want to expound on it and recommend it. There is a good reason: it is simply a senses-knowledge phrase that should be ranked with “higher powers,” “spirituality,” universalism, and revisionism. In other words, why settle for some psychological, second-best proposal when the Good Book and A.A.’s own pioneer experiences established a first rate result based on God’s power and Word.


The Right and Privilege to Be Born Again and Cured


Here’s a group of statements that will really challenge those who are scared to death to look at, or believe A.A.’s own early literature and history. And here they are: I am a cured alcoholic. I am a recovered alcoholic. I am a reformed alcoholic. I am an ex-problem drinker. And those are precisely the words early AAs used. Furthermore, I am not a sinner. I am a saint. That’s what knowledgeable born-again Christians can say. But the real question is whether or not I have been changed and have changed. Changed because of what the sacrifice of Jesus Christ made available (John 3:16).


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