Wednesday, June 27, 2007

As We Understood Him

My sometimes sponsor, Tim, had just gotten finished scolding me last night for not working the Alcoholics Anonymous twelve steps. I have come to the realization that these twelve steps are nebulous at best. A sponsor is supposed to guide you through them. Maybe I should "fire" Tim and seek another. Don't think the thought has not crossed my mind. Tim does more scolding than guiding.

I am still stuck on step three – made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him. I have come to believe in a God, but have yet to come to terms with understanding him. It is hard for a lifelong atheist and agnostic to grapple with such a weighty subject after a lifetime spent ignoring or avoiding such issues. Tim tells me I cannot go forward until I overcome this hurdle which is supposed to be a simple step according to his wisdom. As I have learned in life, nothing is ever simple and I am a complicated man.

I leave Tim to his ruminations as I sit down next to my dear friend Wanda. She smiles and gives me a hug and gets up to go fix me and her another cup of coffee. The meeting starts with a reading of the twelve steps and twelve traditions. There was that step three again as if it were taunting me – as we understood Him echoed through my mind. I spent the rest of that long hour deep in thought as I mulled over what I heard people share.

As I walked home after the meeting, I entertained notions of Gaia or Mother Earth as the God of my understanding. It certainly fit my philosophy of life and humanistic leanings much better than the pretentious claptrap that are most organized religions. My sponsor would howl and scoff at my unorthodox views though. It finally all grew too painful and tiresome to think about and I finished my walk home with thoughts of pickled sausages and Garcia Vega cigars. I decided to leave such weighty subjects for another day. One day at a time as they say in A.A.


coldwind said...

Read "Breaking the Spell" by Daniel Dennett. You might better understand Him (or It, or it)...

Biby Cletus said...

Warm Regards from the Other Side of the Moon.

On a related note perhaps you might find the following link interesting. Its propossing a theory and i'll like to hear your take on the subject via comments. See ya...

Jesus an Essenes ?


Kerala, India

SimplyTim said...


It sounds to me that you are working the steps.

And where in the steps does it say that the "God as you understood him" has to be the same as the "God as your sponsor (or anyone else) has come to understand him?"

Tim (aka SimplyTim)

Sinclair said...

Heya Andrew,

I've stumbled across your blog several times on the occasions I've been surfing around Blogland and have never felt the need to comment on anything I've read until now.

I am only vaguely familiar with the ins and outs of AA, so I decided to take a look at the Steps as a whole. When I did a Google search, the very first result yielded a slightly different 'hit' than I expected. It read The 12 Suggested Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. The emphasis is my own.

I spent years of my life raised in a Christian environment and within the last 8 months have found a more comfortable place in the realm of paganism. If Tim is going to get hung up on the "Christian" side of things, yes you should ditch him and find a new sponsor. If he's going to berate you more than enoucrage you, yes you should ditch him and find another. Perhaps his tactics work well on others, but we all go through things in our own way. You and I both might be in AA for the same basic reasons, but how we deal with things isn't going to be the same. So what works for you won't necessarily work for me.

Now that I've made such a lengthy comment, I think I'll add you to my blog roll so I can find you more easily and follow your progress.

Peace and Light,



Kick Tim to the wall now and not tomorrow.Good you good your dear friend Wanda to give you a sweet sensational smile.Good luck

Rich said...

Sounds like Tim may have issues. If he's so occupied with scolding rather than guiding and advising. There are good sponsors and bad. It also depends on what works well for you and your needs.

I know I couldn't take someone trying to tell me what I should be doing all the time. After all the only requirement for membership is the DESIRE to stop drinking.

justLacey said...

I think Wanda would be a good choice too. Your sponsor is supposed to support and encourage you. I suppose in his own way Tim is a tough love kind of guy and that approach doesn't work with everyone. I love to watch Dr.Phil on t/v, but I would never pick him as my own psychologist because I don't always like his approach. I think making someone feel stupid only works for people who actually are. I think you are working most of the steps, don't get hung up on the one. Some people only work that step and never get around to the rest and I think that is worse.

Ninn said...

I am facing some of the very same issues about God, you aren't alone & even though in my case I have always been a "christian" and my personal issues are not realted at all to AA. I know that one of the most difficult things in life is how we understand God. And about your unorthadox views on this matter, don't let the way other people understand him take away the persoanl way you may understand him or her. jaja

Dana said...

My initial quest to find my spiritual 'truth' began 20 years ago, in a dark damp basement detox unit that smelled of urine and vomit. I could not move on to 'treatment floor' from detox until my counselor felt that I had adequately embraced those first three steps. I struggled very hard, and eventually had a positive treatment experience, even though the concept of "God as I understood him" (HIM????) was as thin as vapor. After completing treatment I embarked on a truly spiritual quest, searching and researching many paths, reading everything I could find, asking hard questions and demanding answers. Paganism was the 'truth' (MY own personal truth) that finally emerged from my seeking. I am very comfortable living in the nature/earth based belief system, and have been openly pagan for over 15 years. It just makes such perfect sense to me. Being in a small conservative midwest community, it was an interesting transition becoming the local out-of-the-broomcloset witch. Interestingly enough, I have not suffered any backlash as a result of being 'different' (eccentric is how most label me these days... ha ha). I have always worked in professional positions in my community, including several years in law enforcement, and have always unashamedly worn my pentacle necklace in plain sight. Anyway, I'm babbling on... Andrew, I hope you find your answers. I didn't find paganism to be totally compatable with AA (not that it didn't work with the program, it didn't work with the old-timers who believe their way is the only way). If you have interest in chatting about it, my yahoo messenger ID is dana1964allen and I'm online usually during weekday daytime hours (while at work). Have a great day, and blessed be! Dana

Cheryl said...

Just a quick comment, my friend. One day at a time. My new mantra. You'll get to step 3 in your own way, then get past it.

Stay cool. I'm off early from work and heading to Border's. I feel the need to treat myself to that today.

fiwa said...

I know you've had trouble finding a sponsor who works for you, and that's a shame. I'm with you on organized religion, it's not for everyone. You just have to work it out in your mind in a way that you feel comfortable with, and there's no rushing that. Keep ploughing ahead though, it's the effort that counts.


Darlin_Jo said...


I have much respect for the fact that you are taking your alcoholism and mental illness head on. You are a courageous man and I wish you the best of luck. The problem I see with AA is that third step. Why do I have to accept God into my heart in order to overcome alcoholism? Perhaps skip that step if you struggling with it so much. You can't force yourself to suddenly believe.

Best of luck to you....I hope all works out well. If it is ok with you I like to add your link to my blog...

Let me know and again teh best of luck to you. I will be watching to see your progress...


KYRIE said...

I dont know wht all of the steps are but I kinda find it weird that these same 12 steps are being maintained for more thn 50 hours (am I right?. For example,many chemical principles and equations that were believed to be true 50 years ago were changed when new discoveries are made. The world changes, and the steps seem so archaic.
Well, even the most the religious man would have trouble understanding Him, it will take one a lifetime, and in my opinion who says otherwise is lying.
Well I have come to tht age too whn I feel really troubled if someone scolds me and treat me like some kid. I get it. I will want people to treat me with respect, as an equal. Why dont let Wanda be ur "kinda" sponsor instead of Tim? It seems to me she is the one who had actually did wht a sponsor was supposed to do for u last week?
I am writing between sneezes. God bless me. Bye.

KYRIE said...

When I said 50 hours, I actually meant to say 50 years up there.
Sorry, I blame it on my sneezing

Natalie said...

Religion is difficult and personal. I believe there is something greater than me, even though I'm not quite sure what that something is. I think the statement "as we understand him" implies that your higher being may be different from mine (or Tim's) and that that is fine. It is as YOU understand it. Not Me. Or Tim.

I happen across your blog often, but have never commented before. Hope I am not speaking up where I shouldn't.

Best wishes---

Tee said...

Andrew, delurking here, I've been reading your blog for a while and only felt like I should comment now. You will NEVER be able to under stand God. This is where faith comes into the picture. How can you understand an awewome God that created the universe, a God that loved you so much he sent his only son to take your sins and an awesome God that gave you your own free will to accept or reject Him. He is an awesome, loving God.

Get another sponsor, perhaps Wanda.

Leann said...

If you like to read I suggest reading some Sylvia Browne books. Just to give you a different perspective. If you're like me, your mind is open and you find things from different teachings that resonate with you.

zen wizard said...

This is a really unique and interesting blog.

I would say that your higher power at this point could be a Native American kachina doll, or a lamp--whatever works. As long as it's not something negative.

I have a bronze statue of the Roman goddess Justitia on my TV to help me get through law school. Does it hold some magic power? The last Roman centurian died 1700 years ago, so it's not a "religion" that too many people believe in.

I would say with Step 3 just use whatever works right now, at long as it isn't something that's THE OPPOSITE of God, like an animal sacrifice or something.

jane said...

i love your blog and your utter honesty never fails to amaze and thrill me.

tim doesn't sound right for you - not open minded enough. i love your concept of gaia and believe similarly. it is "god as we understood him" - tim needs a shot of tolerance ---

take care andrew,

joyous melancholy said...

Hello Andrew. I have been a church goer all my life, even graduated from a bible college, and I have trouble with who God is as I understand Him. There is nothing easy about understanding God, whether you were raised believing in him or not. I hope you can find a more supportive and helpful sponsor than Tim - he is not wise if he thinks that step three should be simple.

mago said...

God is the totaliter aliter. The absolutly other.
We are human. Our tools are human, we can understand, we can recognize an other human being. Not god. We can not recognize in full what we call god nor ever what god is - we would need to become god ourselfes.

Drinking is human. Getting over it too.
I hope you can get all the strength from the humans that offer your support to you.
This is an emotional power-source man!


It's ashame they didn't have a support group that doesn't base addictions on lack of faith...
everyone has a right to believe, or not believe what they choose to.
Hang in there.
and take some pictures of the sausages..(yes, I KNOW,..I LOVE FOOD!!) now I want one!! :)

Eric said...

For me, God is personal, real. He is not what any organized religion says He is. Sure, some of what organized religion spouts fits the God I serve, but then they blur, mar, distort, or contradict who He is. I learned the hard way to stop looking at man to find God.

I could not agree with you more that nothing in life is 'simple'.

IF I understand AA correctly, you are the one making the moves, taking the steps and your sponsor is there to help you make the steps you need to make, in the way you must make them, not in the way he wants you to. Don't get tripped up over this step or this sponsor, I see progress, I think we all do, just keep going.

Patty said...

Organized religon has a way of getting in the way of a person's true and real inner life beliefs which is really all faith is. In talking to people that voice a non-belief in God, one can usually trace the start of that belief back to something a human being in a position of church authority said or did as the root cause.

Maybe if you can trace your beliefs back it will help restore your peace about them?

Your inner faith will also be able to tell you exactly how you need to address the Tim issue. Trust your gut!

kcorner89 said...

keep up the good work, you'll be fine.

GivnN2Temptation said...

Your sponser is an idiot who only wants to hear himself talk and think. He's supposed to be there for you on your journey with being and staying sober. Dump him and find a new sponser. If he takes it personal he possibly shouldn't be one in the first place and maybe needs to start his steps over himself. One Day at a Time, Andrew, and keep your head up.

IVI said...

I like the fact that you have a goddess idea. After a life time of being catholic, I've reach the conclusion that any divinity should be "something" you can find easily in your day by day life. Otherwise it became meaningless.
I wish you luck and happiness

Walter parker said...

Hi Andrew. The Bible claims to be the "Word of God". Therefore if you wish to know God more, it would help to know more about Him.To help you do this try reading His Word for yourself. Don't rtely on others views on the matter. Go to the source yourself.
I know that there is a lot in there difficult to understand with out help, but for now concentrate on what you do understand. If you are interested, try reading John's Gospel, the Book of Acts and the letter to the Romans.
As many of the above comments stress you can't rely on others to think for you and you do need to go with your own Gut instinct sometimes.
I really know nothing about alcoholism or AA but if their system has stood the test of 50 years then there must be something in it , so like many above, I would also encourage you to stick at it, even if it is with a different sponsor. Walter

fanuv24 said...


Stumbled across your blog, and I appreciate your candidness, and certainly wish you the best in overcoming this life-altering thing called alcoholism. One challenge regarding God: if there is no God---as you say you used to believe---then the whole thing is irrelevant, but if there is a God, then we aren't free to imagine Him in our image or to our liking.

Quick illustration: if there were no Michael Jordan, then we would be free to IMAGINE someone like him, dream him up, see him dunking/shooting/tongue-wagging as we'd choose, put him in a Lakers uniform in our imagination, whatever. But since Michael Jordan DOES exist, I'm not free to imagine him as a white guy with wavy hair, wearing #17 for the Timberwolves and riding the bench. Thus I say that, if God DOES exist, then we can't well say that "whatever anyone dreams up" is an accurate description of Him.

So I'd encourage you: investigate! Ask questions! Any faith that is not open to investigation isn't a faith worth having. I follow Jesus Christ, and I'd encourage you to read "Mere Christianity" by a former agnostic, C.S. Lewis. But read what other folks say as well, remembering that if there's a God, finding out the truth about Him is all-important.

Candleman said...

If you don't understand Him, you'll probably want to work on that.