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Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Use of Will Power and a Higher Power

An alcoholic addict who has progressed beyond a certain point in his or her addiction loses all will-power and cannot, it seems, stop and remain abstinent on their own. This loss of the power of the unaided will - which may remain effective with respect to other areas of his or her life, but is wholly non-existent when it comes to drinking and drugging - is the essence of alcoholic addiction.

The 'Big Book" of Alcoholics Anonymous states this plainly in the following paragraph (which is italicized in the 'Big Book' in order to emphasize its importance):
"The fact is that most alcoholics, for reasons yet obscure, have lost the power of choice in drink. Our so-called will power becomes practically nonexistent. We are unable at certain times, to bring into our consciousness with sufficient force the memory of the suffering and humiliation of even a week or a month ago. We are without defense against the first drink.
[Alcoholics Anonymous, page 24.]
Our being "without defense" against that first drink or hit of a drug, means that we cannot safely rely upon our ordinary will power, nor on all that we have learned in Alcoholics Anonymous (or any of its sister organizations). At such times, we need to be able to effect and maintain a conscious contact with "a Power greater than ourselves" in order not to act on the self-will that tells us it is okay to start the party rolling again. We must be able to attain to the higher part of our consciousness (what the more religious members of A.A. call "God-consciousness), and make our decisions about what to do from that level of consciousness, where the stressors and thoughts that lead us to want to drink and/or drug are absent. Without such conscious contact, we are "without defense," and we may well drink and/or drug again.

To admit just how powerless and defenseless we remain over alcohol initially goes against all we are taught.

Advertising makes it clear that we should: "Be an army of one! Take a licking and keep on ticking! Just do it!" Poor Charlie Brown tells himself, yet again, "You can do anything, as long as your grit your teeth!" Yet inevitably, time after time, Lucy pulls the football away just as he is about to kick it.

Thus, at page 22 in the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, we read:
"When first challenged to admit defeat, most of us revolted. We had approached A.A. expecting to be taught self-confidence. Then we had been told that so far as alcohol was concerned, self-confidence was no good whatever; in fact, it was a total liability. There was no such thing as personal conquest of the alcoholic compulsion by the unaided will."
So where, then, do we turn for someone or something to 'aid' our will power in order that we have a defense against the first drink or impulse to drug? The answer is that we turn to a Power greater than our unaided 'self,' to the "God of our own understanding," or to "the Great Reality deep down within us," which is discussed on page 55 of the 'Big Book.'

It is not that our will power is no good whatsoever. Quite the contrary. Rather, it is when we rely solely on the will power summoned by our ordinary egoic 'self'-consciousness that we are vulnerable. When we rely on the power of a will that has effectively been turned over to the care of a Power greater than our 'selves,' we become invested with a defense, and are no longer 'powerless' in the way we were when we were all on our own. Thus, in the Step Three essay in The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, we read:
"It is when we try to make our will conform with God's that we begin to use it rightly. To all of us, this was a most wonderful revelation. Our whole trouble had been the misuse of will power. We had tried to bombard our problem with it instead of attempting to bring it into agreement with God's intention for us. To make this increasingly possible is the purpose of A.A.'s Twelve Steps."
It is not that our will power is, per se, defective and thereby of no use in avoiding picking up a drink or taking a hit off of a crack pipe etc. It is trusting and acting only on the power of will that is based on our egoic, self-centered, self-consciousness thinking which provides us with "no defense." When we utilize our will power based upon and grounded in our higher, God-centered consciousness, we have an effective defense.

Therefore, just as alcoholism and addiction is progressive and fatal, so too we must seek - on a daily basis, and through meditation and prayer - to "improve our conscious contact with God." The secret to attaining and maintaining recovery from alcoholic addiction is, thus, a matter of changing (one day at a time) the ordinary state of our consciousness and being.

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