The Alcoholics Anonymous program is open to anyone who has a desire to stop drinking. It makes no difference if you are an atheist, agnostic, Buddhist or a member of one of the vast number of religions in the world. All of us have the same opportunity to get well through the 12 Steps.
That ensures no alcoholic is left out. We embrace everyone who walks through that door. If Step Two had been written to say, “Came to believe that God,” rather than, “a Power greater than ourselves” could restore us to sanity, I wonder if AA would have succeeded in the way that it has—especially when we consider the problems that the Oxford group had with this issue.
I have seen people talking of religion, and others who were irritated with any talk of God. Yet, we still hold hands at the end of the meeting and say a prayer. And everyone leaves the meeting feeling a little better. I personally know priests and ministers in the program, and they seem to adjust to the diversity of the landscape. I wish that it could be simpler for each person, but there are no two people who are identical in this matter.
Speaking for myself, if I wanted to be freed from the deadly obsession of alcoholism and come to terms with a concept of a power greater than myself, I had to trust the guidance of the two books that are suggested and the leadership of the more experienced members of the group. I was like those described in the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions who “think they have tried faith and found it wanting.” (p. 28)
I also read that, “even the militant atheist got through the hoop with room to spare.” I did not believe in the God of the religionist in the same way that I thought they did. But I did not think I was an atheist, either. The Power Greater than myself option was a good start for me.
Something happened to me within minutes after arriving at my first introduction to three people, sitting on a bench in the front yard of a little house in Los Angeles, where they held their AA meetings. The obsession to drink was gone, and I have not had, nor wanted, a drink since then.
You might call that a miracle, and you might be right, depending on your definition of a miracle. But it came to me as a profound Change of Perception brought about by the Love, Understanding and Compassion I sensed as they welcomed me. These experiences were a great way for me to start. But now, what about prayer? Who or what do I pray to?
I heard about doorknobs and icons, the ocean, and other such things but that way of thinking did not set well with me. I did not want to be too glib about such an important matter.
Then I noticed that, in Step Two, it did not say that I had to believe in anything, only that I had to believe that a power greater than myself could restore me to sanity. The collective wisdom of the AA program and the people in it have been the framework for my faith in a higher power.
The experience that I had in that front yard, fifty-one years ago, was all I needed to know to get on with the rest of the program. I pray to God every day to show me what to do and give me the strength to do it. I still do not know for sure who or what God is.
I use the word God only to describe the spiritual influence that AA has had on this drunk. I pray to God as I understand God, and he expresses himself in my consciousness. The only thing left for me to do is to separate the wheat from the chaff.
By Rick R.