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2/08/2011

The Book Scares Me


We are at the beginning of the journey into recovery from alcoholism.  Everywhere we look, we find the admonishment that this is a "family disease," and so we are preparing for the certainty that all of us must change in the process of all of us finding healing.  We are so recently come to all of this, that we have very little knowledge of what lies ahead -- of what it is that we ought to expect.  For Tom, the formal treatment program starts this week.   

At this point, though, what we've done, mostly, is read the AA Big Book.  It is an interesting experience.  Written in the 1930s, it remains through four revisions, very much as it was when it first appeared, and it really is full of anachronisms.  For all of that, there is much of value there -- a very great deal that we recognized from our experience and our lives.  For me, a lifelong spiritual backpacker, the unapologetic "god" language is startling and a bit disturbing, but I'm determined not to prejudge.

I am struggling, though, to quiet down the nagging little voice in my head that insists that the "god" of the Big Book would likely not approve of me:

Being convinced, … we decided to turn our will and our life over to God as we understood Him. … We had to have God's help. … We … said to our Maker: "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!" …We trust infinite God rather than our finite selves. … We ask Him to remove our fear and direct our attention to what He would have us be. … we tried to shape a sane and sound ideal for our future sex life. … We asked God to mold our ideals and help us to live up to them. We remembered always that our sex powers were God-given

I know that He is working hard at accommodating that part of all of this; searching for some way to reconcile that "god" language with His own rational skepticism about His mainline protestant, Christian upbringing.  Suddenly, He's pulled out The Bible from its accustomed place on the bookshelf.  He hunted down the gold cross that belonged to His mother, cleaned it up, and is wearing that on a chain around His neck.  Then, He found another that He liked, made by Russell Simmons, the same jewelry designer that created the birthday bracelets that T and I were given, so that too, is adorning His chest.  It feels like a lot to me.  

Honestly, all this overtly Christian religiosity scares me.  I am finding myself transported back in time to my Catholic school childhood...  In those days, I was taught that simply being female made me "the near occasion of sin."  I wore sensible saddle oxfords or Hush Puppies because we all KNEW that patent leather shoes reflected up.  I learned to sit in class with a section of the local newspaper draped over my knees -- so I wouldn't lead some poor innocent boy into temptation...  One think I knew for sure by the time I was twelve or thirteen, the god of my childhood didn't like sex and he, for sure, didn't like girls.

I am very much afraid that it is the establishment of close ties with that same, unfriendly god that is a necessary first step in this recovery process.  Will it come to be the case that, in order for my Love to regain His health and sanity, I will need to give up my place in His life?  Is there any room in the world directed by this "higher power," this "god," for our kind of loving?  I don't find any direct proscription against what it is that we do, but I don't find any ringing endorsement either.  The Big Book scares me.

swan

14 comments:

  1. Good morning Clan!

    A good many years ago, I sat around reading the Big Book myself.

    The fact is, if you get desperate enough to seek a solution and to humble yourself doing it, then you get willing to revisit some things you discarded in an effort to do whatever it takes to stop being miserable.

    Like Tom for a brief time, I tried to see if the Christianity of my childhood was going to work. In my case, it didn't. I am a mystic at heart. Whatever that Great Mystery is, I think it far, far exceeds the narrow viewpoint the Christians have stuck on it and I don't think its remotely possible for anyone to claim knowledge of God's will for a whole population either. I eventually found other solutions to the need to surrender to something loving.

    The BB was written in a time when this language you quote was the language of society. To use any other language would have seemed too radical. It was already radical enough as it was...AA still is pretty darn radical really for most people's taste and that has little to do with the God thing.

    The point is to find some thing to believe in and rely up that feels nourishing...something that is sustaining when life seems pretty grim...something that feels like a soft place to land when life knocks you flat. That's the point. Faith restores hope and helps people keep going even if their ass falls off. That's what it takes to fight the overwhelming urge to drink usually.

    That's what they are trying to teach him...and that's what he needs to seek. The name of it isn't that important really.

    The Big Book is annoying in many ways...You'll like the 12 & 12 better and that's where the meaty stuff is anyway. The whole program is in that book. The stories in the Big Book are there so that if a person can't get to a meeting, he can get one from the book. Simple as that....so take it with a grain of salt. If you can sit in a meeting and see that the speaker hasn't got all his marbles lined up, you can see that in the book too. What that's good for is to see that "this warped thinking could be or actually was a mirror image of my own thinking. How fucked up is that? God help me."

    Blessings....

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  2. Oh dear.
    I had a lengthy comment typed, and before I clicked Post Comment decided to scrap it.
    The point isn't what I think, or really, even what you think. In so many ways, this process is all about Tom. What I know to be true is irrelevant, it is only what Tom knows to be true.

    I'm not convinced he will agree to allow you to "give up your place in his life", but should that be where he is led, it really won't matter what I think.

    But it would greatly surprise me.

    And I guess it is that very lack of control that would scare anyone. The Big Book is the start of a journey that Tom ultimately takes on his own, even though it's a family affair, at a basic level it's not. And you can't control this at all. Not even a little. So yes, it's scary.

    And I find myself passing you a small fork, for chewing just one bite, this one small little bite of today. Let the rest of the elephant go for now, you don't have to eat it right now.

    And sending you a snuggie blanket like the one Elle has - you are loved, and you are encouraged, and you are supported.

    Tapestry
    xoxo

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  3. Anonymous8:47 AM

    Beware trading one addiction for another! I've seen it happen many times.

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  4. sweetsassyT8:50 AM

    Swan,
    I am a lifelong Catholic. Fortunately, I did not experience 'religion' as you did, so I was free to love my God as I needed to for me. I did grow up in a time that girls were not to be smart, and if they were, certainly not in male things like math and business. I fought through that WITH God at my side as my champion. I never once thought He wanted anything less from me than pure excellence He created. Maybe this has come into your life so that you can finally let the people who were guiding religion at the time go so that you, too, can find the God that is. Loving only one spouse, male/female, was something created to secure the species and the villages. I know you know that. I believe God believed in love, He didn't define that further.

    I have posted before, but I'm sure in all of this, you are lucky some days to remember your own name, much less mine! I'll tell you again, that my father's sobriety was something he did many years ago - 24. He did a program through the local hospital. A devote Catholic his entire life, he was never raised to believe you hand things to God. You were in charge, and God supported you when you needed it. Oh, He was present. Opening doors, touching lives in unexpected ways, but in general, we go about the business of living. We do not consult our daily activities with God. ie: Can you bake cookies for the PTA? We say, "yes", not "I'll pray about it and let you know." AA would never had brought him to the road of sobriety. You have to do this each of you in your own way. If it makes sense to Tom, fantastic. If it doesn't to you, there are other ways that will.

    So thrilled you are all on the journey, regardless of which one it is!

    Sending good thoughts and prayers.

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  5. Anonymous10:39 AM

    swan,
    the Big Book is scary. That's ok, most anything new or different is always scary. Giving one's self to something is scary. Life is scary. It's also complicated. All of that is ok.

    I have been told I have no idea how lucky I am to have escaped childhood without the feeling of being judged by religion or fear of it. I have never been able to understand the "human taught" perception of fear that many people associate with any religion. Human's teach humans that; people teach other people their own beliefs (mainstream or individual). People taught you what you thought, plain ordinary people who believed what they taught be it right or wrong for you personally. I don't embrace any one religion or any one god or goddess - I embrace whatever part of ALL religions that happens to work for me. I think (personal opinion) that there is no shame in simply being who we are. Which ever being or higher power you wish to guide you or Tom wishes to guide Him has no judgement of your lifestyle only interest in your well being.

    It is human nature when one discovers something new to dive in headfirst and absorb as much as possible - I have a house full of unfinished knitting or cross stitch or whatever new endeavor I thought I wanted to try. I hold dear to me certain parts of things that bring me comfort or help me make sense of something. Periodically I go through and weed out the parts I no longer find apply to my life and use only the parts I learned that work for me.

    You and T are no different in your love and support of your head of household than Bill's wife was of him. Everyone puts their pants on one leg at a time and everyone is perfectly normal for doing so regardless of what type of household they live in.

    I apologize for being so longwinded!

    If you can do any one thing for 24 hours, you can do anything in 24 hours,
    magdala~

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  6. Anonymous11:45 AM

    Now that Tom is embracing AA, or at least being open to it, would you (and maybe T) consider going to Al-Anon meetings? Al-Anon is specifically for those who love alcoholics but who need help in coping with them. The meetings were not scary at all but quite laid back and I never felt pressured to believe in God. I was terrified at first but slowly realized everyone in there had gone through some form of everything I had gone through with my alcoholic. So I was not a stranger in there at all. They all understood and empathized with my confusion and fears. Also, I am an atheist/agnostic and I had no problem dealing with Al-Anon's easy-going approach to spirituality.

    The AA big book scared the hell out of me too when I flipped through it one day but then, it wasn't written for me, it's written for alcoholics.

    The Al-Anon books "Courage to Change" and "One Day At A Time" are daily readers written by and for family and friends of alcoholics. Both books made a lot of sense to me, especially "Courage to Change" since it's newer. There wasn't much about spirituality and I don't remember ever reading anything about "God" specifically (especially in Courage to Change) but there was a great deal of insightful honest wisdom in those books from people who have walked in your and T's shoes.

    Whenever I needed some guidance, or got scared about the future, I would grab one of the books and flip it open to one page at random. It amazed me how every time I did that, I ended up reading exactly what I needed to hear.

    I hope you try the books out at the very least (they are available for sale online on Amazon and other places, very cheap) and more than that, I hope you try the Al-Anon meetings. I would say they are invaluable for anyone who has an alcoholic in their lives, active or inaactive. I cannot stress enough how much those meetings helped me understand myself and my alcoholic better and gave me so much strength during a dark and scary time.

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  7. Anonymous2:07 PM

    Have you looked into Smart Recovery?

    www.smartrecovery.org

    I'm going, and I like the way they do it.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hello family...

    I can see how that would all be very scary for you swan.. and T and Tom. It is all new.. I'm afraid I can't really help on the AA bit.. as none of the alcoholics in my family dealt with it through AA.. they just died. My three brothers, my bio father and my mom. All of 'em. Dead. Cuz they never 'dealt' with it. And that's pretty scary too.

    I think that 'God' has spoken to us many times and in many voices.. each a crystal of a different color depending on where you were standing in time and space on this planet. The Bahai's teach that God has never left man alone and has sent different divine Teachers from before our recorded history forward. Each sent to the time and place needed. Each a chapter meant to build on another and not exclusive of the others. It has made a lot of sense to me over the years and did change me from a agnostic to a much more spritual person with a strong anchor in kindness and to be aware of how my actions and words affect others.

    But I think of all things.. God, Allah, or The Great Spirit or by whatever Name that Energy goes by, It is about Love....and not hurting each other's hearts as best we can, and helping each other as much as we can, as selflessly as we can. That pure motive to be of assistance to another in whatever capacity we have, and swan dear, you seem to have that in spades!

    If Love is the coin of The Realm, as I suspect it is, then your family has a lot of that, and your constant devotion to each other and the storms you have weathered are proof.

    How the Big Book will impact your lives remains to be seen.. but all of us out here (well most of us anyways) are rootin' for all of you!

    We send you continued good wishes and energy.. and hugs all the way around.
    Mystress

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  9. Oh Honey, the God of the big book loves you and approves of you, it's His people you have to watch out for. They're not nearly so enlightened as He is, and sometimes they're stupid too.

    I completely agree with Mystress, God, however you view that, is about love. Tom is just looking for comfort in what he knows. You all will move past that and make this journey your own. Take the Big Book, read it, learn from it, like any other text book, then make it your own. Keep what is useful, discard what is not.

    God loves people who think for themselves, regardless what the religeous pundits say.

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  10. "I wore sensible saddle oxfords or Hush Puppies because we all KNEW that patent leather shoes reflected up. I learned to sit in class with a section of the local newspaper draped over my knees -- so I wouldn't lead some poor innocent boy into temptation.."

    Ms160 reads with wide eyes. Really truly? These things happened???

    I missed so much growing up in Asia!

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  11. I too, like Ms160, am amazed. My first teacher was a religious man and he taught some weird things, but he was a good, gentle man, and I remember him with affection. Even at the age of seven his religious teachings didn't seem to penetrate me. Water off a ducks' back.

    You have to translate that God stuff, but basically it seems on the mark to me. That God is not a separate person or being, it's inside me somewhere. It's apart of all of us. Speaking to it, I have a sense of speaking to a wise part of myself. A part of myself that I usually don't trust, feel I should but it's too scary.

    I'm very interested to know how Tom manages in the days to come and look forward to your posts.

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  12. Anonymous1:19 AM

    I feel for your pain. I know what is is like when your partner is addicted. Ultimately, whether he gives up alcohol or not is up to him. 12 steps, AA, NA, god or no god, there is no magic bullet. If he does not have the DESIRE to quit, the process is futile. For some, that determination to quit only comes after they have lost everything and hit rock bottom. For some it comes only in death. Through it all, be supportive, but ensure that you take care of yourself, even if that ultimately means leaving. Be supportive but not enabling. My thoughts, and yes prayers are with both of you. MichDomPaul

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  13. Anonymous2:20 PM

    I'd like to address three statements from your post.
    1. "...the 'god' of the big book would likely not approve of me."
    2. "...the god of my childhood didn't like sex and he, for sure, didn't like girls."
    3. "Will it come to be the case that, in order for my love to regain his health and sanity I will need to give up my place in his life?"

    The first two speak volumes of your upbringing in religion. No wonder you've turned away from any organized religion. Whoever gave you these impressions or beliefs is sadly mistaken. The God that I know and love, loves me in return even if He doesn't always love what I do. He loves me in spite of what I do and loved me before I could love Him. And He certainly approves of sex and most definitely likes girls. He created them both!
    The answer to the third statement/question is hopefully no, you won't need to give up your place. Things will change, but if you are both willing to make the changes, there is no reason why the changes can't make things even better than they were before. God doesn't require us to be alone and celibate, that's a manmade requirement of certain religions. God wants to love us, wants us to love Him and others, and wants us to be loved.

    Might seem simplistic, but not everything needs to be difficult. Good luck and God's blessings on you all!

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  14. Throwing my 2 cents in, I had not been reading for a while as I just well, I just had not. But then I read the other night on here for a couple hours catching up. I am so sorry you all have been going through things that are so hard to work through but then again, if it were always easy for people to love each other then our human nature wouldn't want it so badly because where is the challenge in that.

    Anyway, I agree about the whole scary Book thins, and go one step further to say God can be very scary, even for people who profess to have a relationship with Him. But I think "religious" people sometimes miss something. It is my opinion that God is about freedom. Freedom to choose through your own free will what exactly your relationship with Him is like and how you will live your life. I think He wants us to take the words from the Bible and come to our own conclusions as to what He will have us do and what He would have me do may be completely different than what He would have you do. Religion on the other hand is often about rules and ultimatums, not always but often. And that is because human nature is injected into religion and human nature says all things that are good must be hard to get. When in reality, God is easy. He just wants a relationship with us, and he leaves it to us to figure out what that relationship looks like.

    I am not sure what God thinks about a non traditional family, any one who says that they are is probably being arrogant. Way to many places in the Bible mention multiple wives as an example so who am I to even try to assert my human idea on what my God may want for another family? Who is anyone for that matter? What I know is that no matter what your earthly relationships look like, He is most concerned with what your relationship with Him becomes.

    And if releasing an addiction brings a person into relationship with God, or building a relationship with God allows someone to release an addiction then I suspect the last thing God would want would be to add a whole bunch of other rules in the mix that would make that relationship harder to build...

    In my fallible human opinion anyway :)

    tc

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