The program outlined by Alcoholics Anonymous that has inspired countless other fellowships, in a nutshell, describes that our great dilemma arises from a lack of power to solve our alcohol/addiction problem. Therefore, the stated goal of the program is to help us find a “Power greater than ourselves” in order to solve this problem.
For many of us, the first introduction of this higher power/God concept used by the fellowship immediately makes us uneasy. The fact is, many of us enter the rooms with preconceived notions of organized religion that in turn cause us to shut down before investigating further. Luckily, however, the fellowship encourages individual spirituality as opposed to any single organized religion.
“There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which cannot fail to a keep a man in everlasting ignorance – that principle is contempt prior to investigation.”
-Herbert Spencer, Alcoholics Anonymous, pg 568
To combat this stigma, the founders of AA encouraged the use of the higher power concept. Rather than name a specific God, the higher power concept allows each person to determine their own conception of what a power greater than them constitutes. For some, this may, in fact, be the God in which they were raised believing in. For the agnostic or atheist, this concept becomes complex. Some chose the actual program itself as their higher power. In this concept, the belief is that a room full of alcoholics/addicts trying to recover is a power greater than the individual addict/alcoholic.
This has even led to using the word God that appears in the literature as an acronym instead, such as Good Orderly Direction or Group Of Drunks. It is also important to note that the concept of a higher power is meant to be fluid, and grow over time. Therefore, it is not essential for the newcomer to have a firm belief in a specific higher power. He or she need only believe that there exists a power greater than them.
Another concept that the newcomer typically may find difficult to rationalize is the concept of a “spiritual awakening”, aka “spiritual experience” that appears throughout the text. So important is the concept that the 12th step explicitly states, “having had a spiritual experience as the result of these steps”. The basic text of Alcoholics Anonymous devotes an appendix (from which the opening quotation is borrowed from) to this concept and the difficulty it may present a newcomer apprehensive to such ideas.
It states that while some people may, in fact, experience a so-called “white light” experience as they go through the steps, the far greater majority of people simply experience a profound change in the way they think over an extended period of time. This profound change in the way of thinking of the newcomer, in fact, constitutes a spiritual awakening/experience.
The spiritual principles that underline the program can certainly make some perspective newcomers apprehensive to recovery.
The Herbert Spencer quote that begins this article makes a crucial point, however. For those apprehensive to these principles, it is vital to at least investigate them before outright condemning them before trying. For countless of men and women have been able to obtain long-term sobriety through the application of the twelve steps and the spiritual principles the program promotes.
This article is intended for those considering a new way of life, free of the pain of drug and alcohol addiction. For more information on recovery and anyone seeking help with addiction and substance abuse problems, please call True Recovery at (844) 744-8783.