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Saturday, April 30, 2011

"Providence" and the "Obsession of the Mind"

"It is truly awful to admit," we read in the first paragraph of The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, "that glass in hand, we have warped our minds into such an obsession for destructive drinking that only an act of Providence can remove it from us."

In this, the first paragraph of the 'Twelve and Twelve,' we are dealing already with the obsession of the mind. And it no mere coincidence that we are doing so, for "the main problem of the alcoholic centers in his mind, rather than in his body." (Alcoholics Anonymous, page 23.) But what is "Providence," and just where and how are we to find it?

The answer to where we find "Providence," or "a Power greater than ourselves," is found in the middle paragraphs of page 55 in the 'Big Book' of Alcoholics Anonymous. There, we read:
". . . (D)eep down in every man woman and child is the fundamental idea or God. It may be obscured by calamity, by pomp, by worship of other things, but in some form or other it is there. . . .

"We finally saw that faith in some kind of God was a part of our make-up, just as much as the feeling we have for a friend. Sometimes we had to search fearlessly, but He was there He was as much a fact as we were. We found the Great Reality deep down within us. In the last analysis it is only there that He may be found. It was so with us.
[Emphasis added.]
"Providence," God, or a Power greater than one's self is thus found "deep down within" the individual alcoholic addict, in his or her higher consciousness. Most alcoholic addicts who remain clean and sober will report that at some time before or after they come into A.A. (or one of its sister fellowships) they realized that they were alcoholic or an addict - i.e., that they have a problem with drugs and/or alcohol. This moment of grace - a moment free from all the calamity, pomp and worship of things that fills our ordinary, egoic self-consciousness - is "the act of Providence" that, if followed up with the 12 Steps, can free the alcoholic addict of the obsession for drugs and/or booze.

The 'how-to' of finding and maintaining one's proper relationship with "Providence," or 'a Power greater than one's self,' is thus found in the 12 Steps, and in the continual process of "self-examination, meditation and prayer" which is recommended recommended by Bill W. in his essay on Step 11 in The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions; while the 'where-to' of attaining and maintaining a conscious contact with "Providence" is found deep down within" one's own consciousness, below and separate from the operation of the human ego, beneath that "painful inner dialogue" we are all all-too-familiar with. It is found in a "conscious contact" with God.

In the Spiritual Experience appendix of the 'Big Book,' we read:
"With few  exceptions our members find that they have tapped into an unsuspected inner resource which they presently identify with their own conception of a Power greater than themselves."

"Most of us think this awareness of a Power greater than ourselves is the essence of spiritual experience. Our more religious members call it 'God-consciousness.'"
[Emphasis added.]
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
"All that is from the gods is full of Providence," the great neo-Platonic Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius, wrote in his 'Meditations.'

"That which is from fortune is not separated from nature or without an interweaving and involution with the things which are ordered by Providence. From thence all things flow. . . ."

Friday, April 29, 2011

Spiritual Awakening: "A Fourth Dimension of Existence"

Bill Wilson (1895-1971)
Bill Wilson describes the shift in consciousness which occurred during his sudden spiritual awakening at Townes Hospital (and, indeed, the spiritual awakening of other early A.A.'s) in many different ways. Amongst my favourites, he describes it (at page 8 of the 'Big Book' of Alcoholics Anonymous) as "a fourth dimension of existence." A fourth dimension of existence, in my experience, which has as its essence a timeless, divisionless state of consciousness which unites the individual with all that is - with God, as I understand that concept.

In the "Spiritual Experience" appendix, added to the second edition of the 'Big Book' of Alcoholics Anonymous, we read:
"With few exceptions our members find that they have tapped an unsuspected inner resource they presently identify with their own conception of a Power greater than themselves."

"Most of us think this awareness of a Power greater than ourselves is the essence of spiritual experience. Our more religious members call it 'God-consciousness
William James (1842-1910)
Such expanded - and expansive - consciousness is, for most, a temporary state, fleeting or fading in time. Mystics of all ages and traditions have attested to its reality, however, as outlined in William James' book that proved so valuable to Bill, "The Varieties of Religious Experience." Yet it is available to all of us, alcoholic addict and non-alcoholic alike.

Because of the symptoms of our alcoholic addiction, however - i.e., progressive and fatal intoxication - being able to access this vital "inner resource" is essential if we are not to die of our illness. It is the driving mechanism, recognized or not, which is at the bottom of the "entire psychic change" necessary to relieve our alcoholism.

But yet it is no secret. In the following video clip from the enlightened spiritual teacher and best-selling author, Eckhart Tolle - a non-alcoholic who underwent one of the most radical and lasting experiences of spiritual awakening - he explains that there is nothing more we need to know to have such an experience; although, for us, there is almost invariably a lot of work to be done in order to clear the wreckage in preparation for such an experience.

"There's not much else that you need to know (about spiritual awakening) in the sense of accumulated knowledge," Tolle observes, "it is now a question of living that. And if you don't want to live it, that's fine. It means you have to suffer a bit more until you are ready to make this shift, until the shift begins to happen."

"A human being needs to reach the point of readiness," he notes. A point where they say, "Okay, I've done enough madness, I've suffered enough. I'm ready for the shift. I'm ready to say . . .  this moment is all there ever is."

That we always live in the present moment with access to a Power greater than the egoic self is an ageless truth equally recognized in our slogans, "One Day At A Time" and "Let Go and Let God," as it is in the timeless meditations of the great Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius, in which he observed, "All we ever have to live or lose is this ever-passing present moment."

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Steps 6 & 7: In the 'Big Book' and Beyond

The most obvious difference between the 'Big Book' of Alcoholics Anonymous and the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions are in Steps Six and Seven. First printed in 1939 and 1952, respectively, both were principally authored by AA co-founder Bill Wilson. But while Step Seven in the 'Big Book' consists of a single prayer (on page 76) that can, and should, be often repeated while we continue to re-work the 12 Steps after our initial go-through, there is no equivalent formula for how to re-work Step 6. Yet, we are told, Step Six is "the step that separates the men from the boys."

It is recognized and  recommended by the overwhelming majority in AA that the newcomer is best served by initially going through the 12 Steps as they are laid out in the "Big Book.' And, indeed, if our collective experience is an attestation of their effectiveness, the way the Twelve Steps are laid out in the 'Big Book' is the most effective way for a newcomer to obtain relief from alcoholic addiction and to enter into a conscious relationship with the God of his or her own understanding.

That being said, how then is the 'veteran AA member' living the Steps on a daily basis best able to benefit from Step Six as it is laid out in the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions?

In the Step Six essay in the Twelve and Twelve, Bill reviews how active alcoholism goes against one's natural instincts or 'desires' for self-preservation.
"Defying their instinctive drive for self-preservation, they seem bent upon self-destruction. They work against their own deepest instincts. As they are humbled by the terrific beating administered by alcohol, the grace of God can enter them and expel their obsession. Here their powerful instinct to live can co-operate fully with their Creator's desire to give them new life. For nature and God alike abhor suicide."
[Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, page 64.]
"(God) did not design man to destroy himself by alcohol," Bill notes, "but He did give man instincts to help him to stay alive." Thus, if one reads closely, it quickly becomes clear that Step Six is all about mastering our most basic or primary instincts, desires and drives, so that we can live to higher purpose, and hope to fulfill the much higher drives which may only be recognized and fulfilled when our lower drives are mastered.

Reinhold Niebuhr
In this vein,  the renowned theologist, Reinhold Niebuhr (author of the Serenity Prayer), observed:
"Individual self-hood is expressed in the self's capacity for self-transcendence and not in its rational capacity for conceptual and analytic procedures."
["The Nature and Destiny of Man," preface to vol. 1.]
 Man's innate drive for self-transcendence - the impetus, or driving force, of all spiritual awakenings - is thus a higher order instinctive drive, but one that may be followed only when our more basic drives for food, shelter, sex and security etc. are either first fulfilled or conquered. For until these lower drives are fulfilled or conquered the individual's thinking will tend to be dominated by an egoic, self conscious bent on using all its conceptual and analytic prowess to fulfill these often unquenchable desires.

Bill Wilson
(1895 -1971)
In addressing these lower "desires" or instinctive drives, Bill  observes:
"Since most of us are born with an abundance of natural desires, it isn't strange that we often let these far exceed their intended purpose. When they drive us blindly, or we willfully demand that they supply us with more satisfactions or pleasures than are possible or due to us, that is the point at which we depart from the degree of perfection that God wishes for us here on earth. That is the measure of our character defects, or, if you wish, of our sins."
[Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, page 65; emphasis added.]
Thus it is a failure to address or challenge our lower instinctive drives - be they for sex-relations, security, self-esteem, social relationships, or any other such "needs" recognized in our Step Four inventory - that prevents our spiritual growth. These unquenched lower instinctive drives "(are) the measure," or create the mental 'room,' for our overblown drives/character defects to operate within.

Addressing the ever finer permutations of these lower instincts will result in spiritual progress, and that is what we are encouraged to seek in order to attain and maintain a spiritual awakening, knowing that we will never achieve complete spiritual perfection. It is, thus, in our willingness to strive for ever greater spiritual progress, instead of settling for having only the worst of our character defects addressed, that is the mark of the true spiritual aspirant willing to grow in God.

Or, as Bil so presciently notes:
"Some people, of course, may conclude that they are indeed ready to have all such defects taken from them. But even these people, if they construct a list of still milder defects, will be obliged to admit that they prefer to hang on to some of them. Therefore, it seems plain that few of us can quickly or easily become ready to aim at spiritual perfection; we want to settle for only as much perfection as will get us by in life, according, of course, to our various and sundry ideas of what will get us by. So the difference between "the boys and the men" is the difference between striving for a self-determined objective and for the perfect objective which is of God."
Thus, while Step Six in the 'Big Book' requires that we take a quiet time after completing Step Five to assess how thoroughly we have worked the Steps and to see if we've scrimped or left anything out, in the Twelve and Twelve we are asked to continually look at ever-greater depth to list and weed out the ever milder defects that continue to separate us from spiritual perfection, knowing that such perfection will ever elude us.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Three Delsuions: Control, Normalcy and Manageability

"'Denial,'" I've heard it said, "is a treatment center word, while 'delusion' is what we talk about in Alcoholics Anonymous." The reason for this is quite clear: denial is saying, to one's self or someone else, what one knows not to be true; while 'delusion' means saying that something that is not true is true - and believing, in fact, that it is. In most instances, therefore, the still practicing alcoholic addict is not 'in denial', but is 'delusional.' He or she really believes that he or she is not an alcoholic addict.

I remember that I used to say do the guys I partied with, "For me its recreational, for you it's therapeutic." How wrong I was, and I had no idea! I was clearly delusional when it came to my addiction. And it was only after being in recovery for a number of years, that I began to realize that this was not the only area of my life where I was completely delusional. My whole life, I came to realize, was nothing but an illusion.

There are three delusions (or illusions) that the 'Big Book' of Alcoholics Anonymous specifically addresses. The first two 'delusions' are discussed at the beginning of the "More About Alcoholism," while the third (and all important) 'delusion' is discussed following the description of the alcoholic addict as an "actor," in the "How It Works" chapter of the 'Big Book.'

At the beginning of the "More About Alcoholism" chapter, the first of these 'delusions' is set out in the following way:
"The idea that somehow, someday he will control and enjoy his drinking is the great obsession of every abnormal drinker. The persistence of this illusion is astonishing. Many pursue it into the gates of insanity or death."
In the next paragraph, we read that, "(t)he delusion that we are like other people, or presently may be, has to be smashed." This is the second of the three 'delusions.'

Finally, after the description of the alcoholic as "actor," on pages 60-61 of the 'Big Book,' we are asked:
"What is (the alcoholic's) basic trouble? Is he not a self-seeker even when trying to be kind? Is he not a victim of the delusion that he can wrest satisfaction and happiness out of this world if he only manages well?"
[Emphasis added.]
All of the 'three delusions' speak to Step One of AA's program of recovery. The first 'delusion' speaks to the first part of Step One, where we admit we are "powerless over alcohol," while the second and third 'delusions' speak to life's unmanageability.

Because, both physically and mentally, we are "powerless over alcohol" - because we simply metabolize it differently than does the non-alcoholic -  it is a delusion that one day we will somehow be able to control and enjoy drinking once again (if we ever had any control in the first place), even though we may well believe it to be true. It is a delusion.

Carl Jung
While the second 'delusion - "that we are like other people, or presently may be" - seems on its face to be related to both alcoholism and the first delusion, in essence, it is not. It is much more related to the self-centered, ego-centric, nature of the alcoholic addict's personality.

It is because we are not like other people (or perhaps that we are just like other people, only "way more so') that Carl Jung observed that wholesale psychic changes "in the nature of huge emotional displacements and rearrangements" are necessary for alcoholics to attain and maintain their sobriety.

Commenting on the nature of these "phenomena" that supplied the required psychic change necessary to arrest alcoholism, Jung observed that: "Ideas, emotions and attitudes that were once the guiding forces of the lives of these men are suddenly cast to one side, and a completely new set of conceptions and motives begin to dominate them."
[Alcoholics Anonymous, page 27.]
"Driven by a hundred forms of fear, self-delusion, self-seeking and self-pity," we are not, nor will we one day be just like other people. It is necessary for the alcoholic addict to concede this and set the fears and delusions of the alcoholic mind to one side before he or she can truly recover.
[Alcoholics Anonymous, page 62.]

Which brings us to the third delusion. The basic problem of the problem being egoic, self-centeredness, we claim a right and a necessary imperative to manage life - and manage life all by ourselves. And that is the great delusion, really. Life is inherently unmanageable by the individual, precisely because he or she is an individual - a part of a greater whole.

Life manages itself quite well, irrespective of our input and desires, all of which are driven by what it is we think we (or others) need to be happy and content. And, until we can fully concede that no matter how hard we try we will never be able to "wrest satisfaction and happiness out of this world" simply by managing well, we are not really in a position to believe that "a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity" - and, moreover, we are in no position to "turn our will and our lives over to the care" of such a Power.

And here's the kicker, until we concede that is delusional, in fact, to think we can somehow learn to 'manage life,' we will never be in a position to understand who we are, what we are, and what life is all about. Until we do so, we remain ever vulnerable to drink and drug; and, if long experience is valid, it seems very likely that the person who retains management rights over life will almost invariably do so.

Monday, April 25, 2011

A New Set Of Principles

"A.A's Twelve Steps are a group
of principles, spiritual in nature,
which if practiced as a way of life,
can expel the obsession to drink
and enable the sufferer to become
happily and usefully whole."
Opening "As Bill Sees It," it is no coincidence that the first passage we read says that A.A. is about more than getting over drinking, that it is about something far more difficult, that is, "undergoing a profound personality change."

It's said that an old dog cannot be taught new tricks, but for the alcoholic addict it is essential to learn and adopt a whole new set of selfless principles. For, as Groucho Marx (the man I think we should appoint as A.A.'s 'patron saint') said: "These are my principles, if you don't like them I have others!"

Below, is the first passage from "As Bill Sees It," the little book that may be AA's most helpful "quick reference" guide:
. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Personality Change
"It has often been said of A.A. that we are interested only in alcoholism. That is not true. We have to get over drinking in order to stay alive. But anyone who knows the alcoholic personality by firsthand contact knows that no true alky ever stops drinking permanently without undergoing a profound personality change."
<< << <<    >> >> >>
We thought "conditions" drove us to drink, and when we tried to correct theses conditions and found that we couldn't do so to our entire satisfaction, our drinking went out of hand and we became alcoholics. It never occurred to us that we needed to change ourselves to meet conditions whatever they were.

1. LETTER, 1940

 Groucho Marx: "These are my principles,
If you don't like them, I've got others!
The 'Big Book,' with its description of the alcoholic, its personal stories "before and after" quitting drinking, and its chapter to the agnostic, makes clear that "we are alcoholics, and could not manage our lives." In AA we undergo a "personality change" sufficient to arrest our alcoholism - also known as a "spiritual awakening." We learn a set of timeless principles to guide our lives, starting with the bedrock principles of 'honesty,' 'open-mindedness' and 'willingness.' We do not learn a new set of 'life management' skills. For us, life always was, is, and always will be unmanageable. We do not need to 'manage' life's conditions, we need "to change ourselves to meet conditions whatever they (are)."

These are our principles. If you don't like them, I'm sure you have others!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Life's Inherent Unmanagability: From Fear to Acceptance

"Life is inherently unmanageable," say the Greek Stoics, but this is the antithesis of all we learn, and all we are fed by media advertisers in our modern consumer culture. That "painful inner dialogue" all too often tells us, "With the right investment account, the right shoes, the right hair colouring, the right prescription, you too can enjoy 'the good life!'"

But it is all a fiction. And meanwhile, we live in a manufactured fear that we are not 'winning' in the game of life, that somehow our lives (unlike the lives we see on television, or imagine all around us) are 'unmanageable;' and, worse yet, that there there must be 'something' out there, some product or adventureous 'change', that will magically make our life not only 'manageable,' but somehow flawless, beautiful and majestic - just like the lives that are portrayed to sell such products.

"It is a spiritual axiom," we read at page 99 of the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, "that every time we are disturbed, no matter what the cause, there is something wrong with us." Even if our upset is just a general 'dissatisfaction' with our lives, and a subtle feeling that somehow, some way we should be 'managing' things better, and that better 'things' should be in our life.

This is perhaps the biggest con game that the ego (our self-consciousness) uses against us, and it leads many alcoholic addicts in recovery - and nearly all non-alcoholics - into a state of despair at some point in their lives, even if only at their life's end.

That life is inherently unmanageable is an ageless truth that is addressed in the famous passage on acceptance in the 'Big Book,' and which is also addressed, below, by the best-selling author and spiritual teacher, Eckhart Tolle, a non-alcoholic with profound insights into the addiction we all have to our egoic minds.
“… (A)cceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing, or situation - some fact of my life - unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing, or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment. Nothing, absolutely nothing, happens in [this] world by mistake… . (U)ntil I accept life completely on life’s term, I cannot be happy. I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and my attitudes.”
["Alcoholics Anonymous," 4th ed. page 417.]

We learn in Alcoholics Anonymous (or any one of AA's sister 12 Step recovery groups) that our lives do not become suddenly and magically manageable once we give up our addiction, but rather that life becomes acceptable to us, no matter the gains or losses that life hands to us along its path.

Through Suffering to God-Consciousness

"For us, the process of gaining this new
perspective was unbelievably painful."
When we 'humbly' ask the God of our understanding to remove our defects of character we are, in essence, asking for the ideas, emotions and attitudes that separate us from a wholeness of consciousness and conscience to be removed. By this process, we are seeking a higher consciousness (or God-consciousness) as a replacement for our ordinary egoic consciousness. But, we read in the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, at page 72, that, "(f)or us, the process of gaining this new perspective is unbelievably painful."

While, the alcoholic addict's search for a wider, expansive consciousness is not that different from the non-addict - both are painful - the physical, emotional and mental suffering of the alcoholic before he or she sobers up is extreme. Once sober, however, the emotional suffering that is likely to prompt the sufferer to seek a spiritual awakening is much more universal. Ordinary folks, who are fed up with the ego and are looking for a deeper solution to their existential angst face much the same psychological pain.

Fortunately, we are told that we need not be "bludgeoned and beaten" into the necessary state of humility that will allow us to approach this higher state of consciousness, and thus attain relief. Indeed, we have found that "(i)t could come quite as much from our voluntary reaching for it as it could come from unremitting suffering."
[Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, page 75.]

Paul Brunton (1898-1981)
Paul Brunton, a non-alcoholic acquaintance of Bill W., writes that attaining to this higher state of consciousness - what he call a 'fourth state,' beyond dreamless sleep, the dream state, and ordinary consciousness - is somewhat akin to the way in which one slips effortlessly, without knowing it, from ordinary wakefulness into the dream state.
"The secret of a successful passage into the transcendental state consists in insisting on retaining consciousness but not on retaining self-consciousness," Brunton observes. "For if at the moment when you are about to slip into the fourth state, you suddenly become aware that you are doing so, then you will be hurled back into the ordinary condition. The ego-sense has therefore to subside completely before the pass-over can be effected. So long as the ego knows what is happening to it, so long does the cross-over remain impossible. It must not be allowed to intrude itself at the fateful moment yet neither must consciousness itself be allowed to lapse."
Taking great liberties with the story of Bill's initial awakening at Townes Hospital, Brunton continues:
"What is the magic that hides in sleep? The founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, an organization of redeemed inebriates for helping men master the liquor habit, felt he had reached the end of his tether through drink. The habit was beyond his power to overcome, its results proving too dangerous and disgusting even for him to tolerate anymore. Suicide seemed the only way out. He uttered a last prayer to God to help him and fell into a long deep sleep. He awoke cured!"
["The Notebooks of Paul Brunton," Vol. 13, page 53.]
For those at all familiar with the story of Bill's "wind-on-the-mountain" moment, Brunton's account is obviously a forced metaphor. Yet, on reflection, the 'letting go and letting God" process is analogous to the unaware drifting from waking to sleep. One cannot be sure of the instant that it happens, but the experience of God-consciousness is to ordinary consciousness, just as lucid dreaming is to ordinary self-consciousness. And, as in a lucid dream, if one observes that one has slipped the bonds of the ego and entered into what Bill called "the fourth dimension of existence," just as Brunton says, one immediately falls out of it.

Yet, the important point to take out of Brunton's work, above, is the truth of the availability of a state of consciousness that transcends normal egoic consciousness - a "transcendental state" - that is at the heart of recovery, that is the essence of the vital spiritual experience that Jung identified as the operative phenomena that might relieve alcoholism. And, we can reach for that experience with a voluntary humility, rather than being forced into it by the "painful" and "unremitting suffering" that Bill described so often, and so well.

Friday, April 22, 2011

From "Grave Mental and Emotional Disorders" to "Emotional Sobriety"

One of Bill W.'s most self-revelatory writings, a letter he wrote to a close friend who also suffered from bouts of depression, was published in the January 1958 issue of the Grapevine under the title "Emotional Sobriety: The Next Frontier." It's also published at page 236 in "The Language of the Heart," and is essential reading if you or anyone you know suffers, as I have done, from what Winston Churchill called "the black dog" of periodic depression.

In it, Bill notes that "many oldsters who have put our 'booze cure' to severe but successful tests still find that they often lack emotional sobriety. Perhaps," he suggests, "they will be the spearhead for the next major development in AA - the development of much more real maturity and balance (which is to say humility) in our relations with ourselves, with our fellows, and with God."

He continues:
"Those adolescent urges that so many of us have for top approval, perfect security, and perfect romance - urges quite appropriate to age seventeen - prove to be an impossible way of life when we are at age forty-seven or fifty-seven."

"Since AA began, I've taken immense wallops in all these areas because of my failure to grow up, emotionally and spiritually. God, how painful it is to keep demanding the impossible, and how very painful to discover, finally, that all along we have had the cart before the horse! Then comes the final agony of seeing how awfully wrong we have been, but still finding ourselves unable to get off the emotional merry-go-round."

"How to translate a right mental conviction into a right emotional result, and so into easy, happy, and good living - well, that's not only the neurotic's problem, it's the problem of life itself for all of us who have got to the point of real willingness to hew to the right principles in all our affairs."
"My basic flaw," Bill confesses, "had always been dependence - almost absoulute dependence - on people or circumstances to supply me with prestige, security and the like. Failing to get these things according to my perfectionist dreams and specifications, I had fought for them. And when defeat came, so did my depression."

Our stories, "before and after," we repeatedly hear in the "How It Works" reading, makes clear the idea that "we were alcoholic and could not manage our own lives." I have found that my dependence on being able to manage my life so that I received what I thought I needed as far as security, love and social standing with my fellows turned out, as it did for Bill, to end in crushing disappointments and the very real, grave and life-threatening onset of depression. However, when I have truly surrendered the management of life to the source that already controls it - surrendered life to life itself - I have found that my dependencies and my depression recede, and that I have those precious commodities I need to sustain me, the experience of a loving God-consciousness and the serenity of emotional sobriety.

This is not to say that the alcoholic addict who suffers or suspects he or she may suffer from depression should not see a medical professional. Quite the contrary. AA has "no opinion" on that issue, as is noted in "The A.A, Member and Other Medications," pamphlet. However, it must also be noted that our experience (as set out in the pamphlet) is that if a person requires medication and is not taking that medication, this may prevent him or her from having the spiritual awakening that is necessary to arrest his or her active addiction.

That being said, Bill notes that he found the beginning of a solution to his grave emotional problem with depression in realizing he could not be both dependent on others and reliant upon God to meet his true needs:
"Plainly," he observes, "I could not avail myself of God's love until I was able to offer it back to him by loving others as he would have me. And I couldn't possibly do that so long as I was victimized by false dependencies."

"For my dependency meant demand - a demand for the possession and control of the people and the conditions surrounding me."
In my instance, the problem and the results were the same. With the aid of appropriate medication (carefully prescribed and monitored by my doctor), and the admixture of the "self-examination, meditation and prayer," that was similarly recommended to me, I can truly let go of my dependency for people to conform with my ideas of how life should be 'managed,' and accede to the way that God manages life - all of life - and always has.

Of course, as it is recognized, I first had to be honest and willing to face the reality of how I had I subtly tried to manage life myself. This was the honesty and humility I needed to cope with depresssion - a "grave mental and emotional disorder" which can be overcome if I manifest my God-given capacity to be honest with myself.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Bill W., Spiritual Awakening and Enlightenment

Bill and Lois Wilson
The early 1960's were an especially productive time in Bill Wilson's life. Having divested himself of day-to-day responsibility for 'running' A.A., having completed his last major literary work (the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions) and having cleared his side of the street in acknowledging the crucial role that Carl Jung played in kick-starting A.A., so to speak, Bill had time to reflect on the miracle that had happened not only to him, but to so many others.

In his personal life, Bill was searching widely to deepen his own spiritual experience, and in his public life was reaching out to those in A.A. who had perhaps not had the sudden enlightenment experience that he had experienced at the very beginning of his personal recovery, his so-called 'wind-on-the-mountain' moment.

Richard M. Bucke
Bill was undoubtedly aware of the significance of his own sudden spiritual awakening at Townes Hospital. In the library at Stepping Stones, Bill and Lois Wilson's home just outside New York City, was a copy of Richard M. Bucke's study of the enlightenment experience, "Cosmic Consciousness." In his study of  'enlightenment' and exploration of higher states of consciousness, Bucke sets out a dozen or so common symptoms of the 'enlightenment' experience, most of which criteria would describe Bill's experience at Townes Hospital.

Among the most immediate effects of such an experience, according to Bucke, are an overwhelming presence of light, a diminution of the ego into an expansive state of consciousness in which one feels at one with the world, as well as a moral imperative to share this experience with others. Although Bill does not mention this overwhelming light in the 'Big Book' of Alcoholics Anonymous, he more often than not described it in recounting his experience in other forums.

Bill's reluctance to mention the overwhelming light it in the 'Big Book' may have been a prescient knowledge, born of his early unsuccessful work with drunks prior to meeting Dr. Bob, that his sudden and profound spiritual awakening was more than most people could fathom or would experience. Indeed, the 'Spiritual Experience' appendix was added to the second edition of the 'Big Book' in order to assure others that sudden spiritual awakenings such as Bill's were, perhaps, not the norm, and that true spritual insight and acuity could be gained just as readily by an awakening "of the educational variety."

In the July 1962 Grapevine, Bill tackled this issue directly, writing:
"It is the intention of the Grapevine to carry occasional accounts of spiritual experiences. To this interesting project I would like to say a few introductory words. There is a very natural tendency to set apart those experiences or awakenings which happen to be sudden, spectacular or vision-producing. Therefore, any recital of such cases always produces mixed reactions. Some will say, "I wish I could have an experience like that!" Others, feeling that this whole business is too far out on a mystic limb for them, or maybe hallucinatory after all, will say, "I just can't buy this business. I can't understand what these people are talking about."

"As most AA's have heard, I was the recipient in 1934 of a tremendous mystic experience or "illumination." It was accompanied by a sense of intense white light, by a sudden gift of faith in the goodness of God, and by a profound conviction of his presence. At first it was very natural for me to feel that this experience staked me out for somebody very special."

"But as I now look back upon this tremendous event, I can only feel very specially grateful. It now seems clear that the only special feature of my experience was its electric suddenness and the overwhelming and immediate conviction that it carried to me."

"In all other respects, however, I am sure that my own experience was not in the least different from that received by every AA member who has strenuously practiced our recovery program."
Aldous Huxley
Bill's non-alcoholic friend, the great polymath writer, spiritual seeker and philosopher, Aldous Huxley, observed that, "the metaphysic that recognizes a divine substantial to the world of things and lives and minds; the psychology that finds in the soul something similar to or even identical with divine Reality; the ethic that places man's final end in the knowledge of the immanent and transcendent Ground of all being - the thing is immemorial and universal."

Bill, of course, realized that this "Ground of all being" is, indeed, both immanent and universal. On page 55 of the 'Big Book,' when he explains exactly where we might find a God of our own understanding, he writes: "We found this Great Reality deep down within us. In the last analysis it is only there that it may be found." (Emphasis added.)

Because Bill came to know that his experience was not exceptional (other than perhaps with respect to its sudden intensity), but that it was in fact a universal potential or reality, he could observe, so many years after his initial enlightenment, that, "we should question no one's transformation - whether it be sudden or gradual. Nor should we demand anyone's special type for our ourselves, because our own experience suggests that we are apt to receive whatever may be the most useful for our needs."

Thus, in his essay on Step Two in the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, Bill writes that "A.A.'s tread innumerable paths in their quest for faith. If you don't care for the one I've suggested, you'll be sure to discover one that suits if only you look and listen."

And just so long as we continue to probe the 'deep within' that lies within us all, we too will find "the Great Reality" of our own existence, of our own immanent and transcendental nature.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Stuck 'In a Rut' of Old Ideas, Emotions and Attitudes

Most of us have, at some time or other, been 'in a rut' in our sobriety. Going to meetings reluctantly and critically, not going to meetings, sober and self-satisfied with merely being sober, entertaining old ideas, we can go on day by day spinning our wheels spiritually, and thus digging ourselves a deeper rut.

In various stages of my early and middle sobriety I have been guilty of all of these "half-measures" and have suffered (and inflicted suffering on others, including those I love the most) as a result.

Indeed, looking back, I came very close to both drinking and drugging, as well as dieing, as a result of being in various of these 'ruts.' For as the novelist, Ellen Glasgow observed, "The only difference between a rut and a grave are the dimensions."

At such times, it is essential to remember the first, most important, and ultimate lesson about recovery from an alcoholic addiction, the message that Carl Jung passed on to his one-time patient, a "certain American businessman," named Rolland Hazard:
"Here and there, once in a while, alcoholics have had what are called vital spiritual experiences. To me these occurrences are phenomena. They appear to be in the nature of huge emotional displacements and rearrangements. Ideas emotions and attitudes which were once the guiding force of these men are suddenly cast to one side, and a completely new set of conceptions and motives begin to dominate them."
["Alcoholics Anonymous," page 27. Emphasis added.]
Hazard would pass this message on to Ebby Thatcher, who would come to be the sponsor of a then-drunk named Bill Wilson. Bill, in turn, would have just such a "vital spiritual experience," and would pass the message of his experience on to A.A. co-founder, Dr. Bob, and together they would carry this message to the world.

Thus, the question to ask for the sufferer stuck in his or her 'rut,' is whether their spirtual experience remains "vital" Is it "essential to (their) existing or functioning," "indisspensable" or "paramount" to use just a few simple dictionary definitions of "vital"?  If the sufferer is no longer "full of life or activity" and "lively" - to utilize another definition - the chances are he or she has slipped back into a 'rut' filled with old thoughts, feelings, and ways of thinking, and that he or she has once again picked up the old "ideas, emotions and attitudes," which had once been cast aside.

Remember: the only 'absolute' that is mentioned in the first 164 pages of the 'Big Book' of Alcoholics Anonymous comes in the "How It Works" reading, taken from the fifth chapter of the 'Big Book.' In it, we read: "Some of us have tried to hold on to our old ideas and the result was nil until we let go absolutely."

The initials 'A.A.' have often been said to stand for an "attitude adjustment," and, quite simply, an "attitude" is defined as "a setttled opinion or way of thinking," as well as "behaviour reflecting this." When we become judgmental about what is being said in a meeting, about how others are driving in traffic, about the words and actions of our loved ones or perfect strangers, it is a sure sign that our old "attitudes" or ways of thinking have returned - along with our old "ideas" - and that we are holding on to them.

And the result will be nil - we will be just as "irritable, restless and discontented" as any other alcoholic addict not drinking or drugging - until we again try to let go of such "old ideas."

"It is easy to let up on the spiritual program of action and rest on our laurels," we are warned, and "(w)e are headed for trouble if we do, for alcohol is a subtle foe. We are not cured of alcoholism. What we really have is a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition."
[Alcoholics Anonymous, page 85.]

A large part of that "daily maintenance" - referred to in Step 11 of the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions as "self-examination" - is guarding against letting "old ideas" fester in our consciousness. And let's face it, the longer one is sober, the quicker the ideas we mull over in our mind become "old."

"Old ideas" are like Wrigley's chewing gum. Chew on them for a while, but they quickly lose their taste and appeal, and its then time to spit them out, not swallow them. Prayer and meditation make that possible.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Carl Jung and Our Spiritual Imperative

Carl G. Jung (1875-1961)
(See: Jung and the birth of A.A.)
The alcoholic addict who is a student of the 12 Steps and their history will know that "the taproot" of what would become the whole 12 Step movement was the conversation that the great Swiss psychologist, Carl Jung, had with one of his patients, "a certain American businessman," named Rolland Hazard. In essence, Jung told Hazard that only a "vital spiritual experience" might relieve his alcoholism, and that was what he had been trying to provoke in Hazard.

Jung described the 'mechanics' of such a spiritual awakening in the following terms: "Ideas, emotions and attitudes which were once the guiding forces of the lives of these men are suddenly cast to one side, and a completely new set of conceptions and motives begin to dominate them." (That is old thoughts, their concomitant feelings and our habitual ways of thinking are replaced by new thoughts and drives.)

Hazard, of course, returned to the United States, joined the Oxford Group, and helped sober up Bill W.'s sponsor, Ebby T. Although, Hazard never joined Alcoholics Anonymous, he passed the six principles of the Oxford Group through Ebby to Bill, who further explained and clarified those principles in the 12 Steps. But it was not in the alcoholic alone that Jung detected a certain 'need for wholeness' that could only be brought about, in his view, by what he termed an authentic "religious experience."

In his invaluable little book, "The Undiscovered Self," Jung writes:
"Just as man, as a social being, cannot in the long run exist without a tie to the community, so the individual will never find the real justification for his existence, and his own spiritual and moral autonomy, anywhere except in an extramundane principle capable of relativizing the overpowering influence of external factors."

"The individual who is not anchored in God can offer no resistance on his own resources to the physical and moral blandishments of the world. For this he needs the evidence of the inner, transcendent experience which alone can protect him from the otherwise inevitable in the mass (of humanity)."

"Merely intellectual or even moral insight into the stultification and moral irresponsibility of the mass man is a negative recognition only and amounts to not much more than a wavering on the road to the atomization of the individual. It lacks the driving force of religious conviction, since it is merely rational."
For those who might balk at the terms "religious experience" and "religious conviction," please note that Jung is talking about what William James called "inner religion," and not the "outer religion" of dogma, doctrine, denominations and creeds. What is clear, however, is that in Jung's view all men and women are vulnerable to the temptations of a meaningless life, by the "physical and moral blandishments of the world," and it is not just alcoholics who Jung would see as 'at risk' of a meaningless life.

Of course, the alcoholic addict is particularly at risk since his or her 'blandishment of choice' will ultimately prove fatal due to the progressive nature of alcoholic addiction, but he or she is decidedly not alone in the vulnerability to getting sidetracked by the allure of money, sex, entertainment and so many other 'distractions' that our culture offers.

The essay on Step Three in the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions directly addresses this, when the author (Bill W.) discusses how "ordinary folks" are doing living a life that is driven by their 'self-will.'
"Should his own image in the mirror be too awful to contemplate (and it usually is)," Bill suggests, "he might first take a look at the results normal people are getting from self-sufficiency. Everywhere he sees people filled with anger and fear, society breaking up into warring fragments. Each fragment says to the others, "We are right and you are wrong." Every such pressure group, if it is strong enough, self-righteously imposes its will upon the rest. And everywhere the same thing is being done on an individual basis. The sum of all this mighty effort is less peace and less brotherhood than before. The philosophy of self-sufficiency is not paying off. Plainly enough, it is a bone-crushing juggernaut whose final achievement is ruin."
In his correspondence with Bill W., Carl Jung observed that "the evil principle prevailing in the world, leads the unrecognized spiritual need into perdition, if it is not counteracted either by a real religious insight or by the protective wall of human community."

The alcoholic addict in recovery is, thus, triply blessed. First, being on the short road to death by overindulgence, he or she typically 'wakes up' to his or her spiritual needs earlier than ordinary folks. Second, the 12 Steps provide the alcoholic with a tried and true path to "real religious insight." And, third, the sense of belonging he or she gets through membership in a 12 Step fellowship provides a very real "protective wall of human community." Alcoholic addicts in recovery are, thus, truly blessed, indeed.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

On Attachment and Addiction: What Would Buddha Do?

For some, it may be helpful to understand a little of what Buddhist teachings and an Eastern perspective have to say about addiction, as addiction to thoughts, emotions, people, places, and things, in general, are said to be the "root of suffering" in the Buddha's teaching.

In the attached video, Ram Dass (the former Harvard psychiatrist and spiritual teacher, who is no stranger to addiction himself) examines addiction, and its "root cause," our attachments to our mistaken thoughts about just 'who' we are and 'what' will ultimately make us happy.

Ram Dass
"When you look at addictions," says Dass, "it's not like 'evil,' it is just an attempt to 'get back.' The problem is that most behaviours that get you back. . . . It's like Maharaji (Mahesh Yogi) said about drugs. He said, "It will allow you to be in the presence of Christ, but you can only stay two hours." He said, "It would be better to become Christ than to visit it.". . . . And that's what you find out with most addictive things, that they give you a short rush, but they don't allow you to remain 'at home.' They just allow you the taste of it. And then the minute you get thrown out  . . You go back to heaven, but you can't stay because you didn't come in through the right way."

"You end up feeling like, 'I've done something wrong; I'm bad.' And that starts a reaction of mind. You come down, then you feel guilt. 'I must be bad.' 'I should of done something else.' 'Why didn't I do the practices that would have allowed me to stay there, rather than the thing that's short-term?' Because you see your predicament."

"What happens is that the opportunity for the immediate gratification. . . . In psychology, the choice of the 'little candy bar now,' or the 'big candy bar later' . . .  With little children they'll always grab the 'little candy bar now,' because they want what they can get now. They don't have any delay of gratification. And spiritual practices, compared to having sex, or compared to taking coke or something, is more like delayed gratification, rather than immediate gratification."

"So," he says, "when you start to stand back and see your predicament, and see what you are doing, there is a way from a spiritual perspective in which you begin with that slight bit of awareness to extricate yourself from the 'chain of reactivity' (that feeds one's addictive thought-habits)."

"To the unawakened mind," says the Buddha, "life is dhukka, suffering. The root cause of suffering is our addiction or aversion to what we think will makes us happy." And, says the Buddha, "to end the suffering, one must end the addiction, the craving and clinging to what we think will bring happiness." And to end that addiction, he too, like Ram Dass 2,500 years later, recommends a spritual practice. In the Buddha's instance, forming right views and right understanding; engaging in right speech, right action' right livelihood and right effort; and, practicing right meditation and right contemplation."

And such seems to be the shared experience and lessons garnered by alcoholic addicts in the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous, or its sister programs. In the "We Agnostics" chapter in the 'Big Book' of Alcoholics Anonymous, we read:
"If, when you honestly want to, you find you cannot quit entirely, or if when drinking, you have little control over how much you take, you are probably alcoholic. If that be the case, you may be sufferinfg from an illness which only a spiritual experience will conquer."
["Alcoholics Anonymous," page 44. Emphasis added.]
 Thus, for millenia, the teaching has proven true, that addictions of the mind and the body, may be broken through spiritual practice and the resultant spiritual awakening which comes with practicing spiritual principles.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Surrender Part II: Letting Go & Letting God

"When we became alcoholic, crushed by a self-imposed crisis we could not postpone or evade, we had to fearlessly face the proposition that either God is everything or else He is nothing. God either is or He isn't. What was our choice to be?
["Alcoholics Anonymous," page 53.]
Paris Peace Conference, 1919
The First World War (which was known as "the Great War," because it was assumed to be 'the war to end all wars') ended in an armistice or truce, and not a surrender. Afterwards, the representatives of 29 countries met in Pais and hammered out a number of treaties (the "Paris Peace Treaties") that imposed conditions on the defeated nations, including crippling war reparations, that virtually assured that the peace wouldn't last. It didn't.

During the course of the ensuing Second Word War, the leaders of the main Allied Powers met and decided their would only be one condition for ending the war, that being the "unconditional surrender" of the Axis Powers (principally Germany, Italy and Japan).

Japan's "Unconditional Surrender," 1945
It's been said, that Japan, in particular, as the last combatant to surrender, faced the toughest conditions of all in implementing its "unconditional surrender," Their emperor, considered a living God by the people of Japan, had to go on the radio (in itself unheard of) and admit defeat; all of Japan's weapons were then inventoried and turned over to its former enemies; a new constitution was written for it by the Allied Powers (including a provision that it would never rearm); and those leaders that had led Japan into war (who hadn't killed themselves) were tried and executed.

And what was the result? Aid flowed into Germany and Japan as part of the Marshall Plan, and within scant years, each was amongst the richest and most productive economies in the world, and they in turn became not only functioning democracies, but trusted and crucial allies of their former enemies.

Admitting complete defeat, and the unconditional surrender of the right to manage and care for one's own life, is, of course what is necessary for one to enjoy the full promise that the 12 Steps hold out to the newcomer.

"Who cares to admit complete defeat?"
"Who cares to admit complete defeat?," we read in the opening chapter of the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions. An admission of complete defeat, we read, is necessary because, "We perceive that it is only through utter defeat (that we are) able to take our first steps towards liberation and strength." Like Germany and Japan, we are asked to make an unconditional surrender, in order to access the help that A.A. and its sister programs so gladly offer. ("The war is over," as my first sponsor's sponsor so often said "And the good news is . . . you lost," he always added.)

Then, if we can answer this call for an "unconditional surrender" in the affirmative, we face a number of interrelated questions that are really a subset of that first and all-important questions as to whether we are completely defeated, have "hit bottom," and have admitted that we are "powerless over alcohol" and that "our lives have become unmanageable."
" . . . (F)ew people," we read, " will sincerely try to practice the A.A. Program unless they have hit botton. For practicing A.A.'s remaining eleven Steps means the adoption of attitudes and actions that almost no alcoholic who is still drinking can dream of taking. Who wishes to be honest and tolerant? Who wants to confess his faults to another and make restitution for harm done? Who cares anything about a Higher Power, let alone meditation and prayer? Who wants to sacrifice time and energy in trying to carry A.A.'s message to the next sufferer? No, the average alcoholic, self-centered in the extreme, doesn't care for this prospect - unless he has to do these things in order to stay alive himself."
If we can answer these questions in the affirmative, then we are truly in a position to finally let go of our old ideas and attitudes (our old thoughts and ways of thinking) in order to let that "unsuspected inner resource," which we all have, guide our thoughts and our actions.  (See the Spiritual Experience appendix.)

Yet a lifetime of desperately trying to manage the unmanageable - i.e., trying to manage life - is going to be a hard habit to kick. And, so, Step Three is all about the practice of letting go of our need to act upon the first fear-driven thoughts that pop into our heads, and in relying upon the deeper God-inspired thoughts of our higher consciousness to guide our words and actions.
"It is when we try to make our will conform with God's that we begin to use it rightly," we read in Step Three of the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions. "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 problems with it instead of trying 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, and Step Three opens the door."
The "whole purpose of A.A.'s Twelve Steps" is to get us to exercise our will in conformity with God's will? That is a powerful statement. And, if God is indeed "everything" rather than "nothing," as we read at page 53 in the 'Big Book' of Alcoholics Anonymous, this must mean that we have to bring our will into conformity with the will of the Whole, with the will of "life" itself. That's a tall order. How is it possible?

Thankfully, each of us has a conscience - and are capable of being conscious of that conscience - and, therefore, each time we are about to say something or do something (or refrain from doing or saying something) that will bring us into conflict with the will of the Whole (or the will of God), we are capable of feeling the pangs of conscience. as expressed in our emotions .

In such instances, we will feel wounded pride, greedy, angry, lustful, gluttonous, envious, or tired and slothful, to utilize the range of emotions that go along with the "seven deadly sins" that are discussed later in the Twelve and Twelve. In short, we will again begin to suffer the pangs of "anxious apartness" that arises each time the "self" (or the"ego") feels threatened and seemingly needs to express itself in action or words. And that's where the rest of the "practice" of Step Three kicks in.

At the very end of Step Three in the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, we read that it is, indeed "easy to begin the practice" of Step Three," for it very much a spiritual practice which is every bit as important to our long-term recovery as is our meditation practice, or our practice of taking a daily inventory. It is through this Third Step "practice," that in each time of "emotional disturbance or indecision, we can pause, ask for silence, and in the stillness" recite the Serenity Prayer.

For it is only in the deeper, higher consciousness of the "God of our own understanding" that serenity is to be found. It is only in going to this deeper, higher consciousness, that we become able to display the "courage" to change the only "thing" that we can - that is, the level of our consciousness. And, it is only in knowing that there is within us each the lower, normal self-consciousness of the human ego, and the higher, deeper consciousness of God, that we begin to actually display "wisdom."

In short, it is in making our decisions about what to say or do (or not say or do) based on this higher, deeper God-consciousness that we begin the practice of "letting go" of our egoic, self-consciousness, and "letting (the) God" of our higher consciousness run the show.

Life is, in fact, unmanageable by our lower, egoic "selves;" and, yet, it requires no management when we are attuned in consciousness to the Higher Power of the Whole, the Ground of Being, or just simply, God. "The war is over," then. "And the good news is . . . you lost!"

Thursday, April 14, 2011

One Sufferer to Another

Bill W. once remarked that there was nothing new in the program of Alcoholics Anonymous, that all of our principles and the processes behind the 12 Steps themselves were borrowed from other, older - perhaps ancient - sources. The only thing, in fact, that Bill acknowledged to be unique was the phenomenon of one alcoholic addict talking to another about a solution to their shared problem.

In one of AA's best pamphlets, "A Member's Eye View of Alcoholics Anonymous," the author, delivering an address on A.A. to a class on alcohol counselling, in reviewing the night in Akron, Ohio when Bill first reached out to Dr. Bob, notes that this may have been "the first recorded instance where one alcoholic consciously and deliberately turned to another alcoholic, not to drink with, but to stay sober with."

As the "Member's Eye View" author notes:
Much more important than what was said that evening was who was saying it. Long before the average alcoholic walks through the door of his first A.A. meeting, he has sought help from others or help has been offered to him, in some instances, even forced upon him. But these helpers are always superior beings: spouses, parents, physicians, employers, priests, ministers, rabbis, swamis, judges, policemen, even bartenders. The moral culpability of the alcoholic and the moral superiority of the helper, even though unstated, are always clearly understood. The overtone of parental disapproval and discipline in these authority figures is always present. for the first time (in 1935) an alcoholic suddenly heard a different drummer. Instead of the constant and menacing rat-a-tat-tat of "This is what you should do," he heard an instantly recognizable voice saying, "This is what I did."
 Perhaps it is because I have read Bill's account of their fateful meeting more often than that of Dr. Bob, or perhaps because I have been on many 12th Step calls but have never received one, that I tend to look at the whole initial meeting of Bill and Bob from Bill's point of view. But reading the brief account of their meeting in the "Member's Eye View" pamphlet, I'm struck by how relieved Dr. Bob must have been to find out he was no longer suffering alone.
"I am personally convinced," the pamphleteer writes, "that the basic search of every human being from the cradle to the grave, is to find at least one other human being before whom he can stand completely naked, stripped of all pretense or defense, and trust that person not to hurt him, because the other person has stripped himself naked, too."

Prof. Dr. Carl G. Jung
Indeed, whether knowingly or not, the "Member's Eye View" author echoes what Carl Jung relayed to Bill in his letter of January 30, 1961 (available here), where the great psychologist observed:
"I am strongly convinced that the evil principle prevailing in this world leads the unrecognized spiritual need into perdition, if it is not counteracted either by real religious insight or by the protective wall of human community."
Indeed, perhaps one of the essential miracle-making ingredients of the 12 Step movement, irrespective of whether the alcoholic addict has undergone the much-vaunted "spiritual awakening," is that it brings the sufferer who is typically isolated in society, whether or not he realizes it, back within "the protective wall of human community."

For my part, when I first entered into recovery - and again at the lonely end of a long hiatus from A.A. meetings mid-sobriety - there was a huge relief in just being in the presence of other people who I knew had suffered the same existential pain of separation from everyone and everythin except first the bottle, and later, the alcoholic mind.

My first sponsee used to always say, "Don't leave before the miracle happens." Looking back at the physical and mental/emotional bottoms I have hit (both in getting sober, and in staying that way), it has always been the love and care that I have found in the presence of other A.A. members that first gave me hope that I too would recover from the lonely, frightening and seemingly hopeless depths I had plumbed.

That is why I can say, in all truth, "Whenever anyone, anywhere reaches out for help, I want the hand of A.A. always to be there." And, for that, healing "hand of A.A." being there, I am both grateful and responsible.