“To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.” – Henry David Thoreau
In a bizarre synchronicity, after I wrote this blog I went to a local hospital to have some lab work done. A middle-aged couple was sitting next to me. I thought it was odd that the man had a large suitcase with him. After a few moments, he looked at his wife and blurted out, “I want you to promise me that you will shoot me in the head if I ever touch another drop of alcohol. It will save me a trip to the Golden Gate Bridge to end my misery.”
When I got home I Googled the hospital and discovered that they offer a 28-day alcohol/substance abuse recovery program; the cost is $18,000.
John Muir was amazed that people willingly trust their lives to a little glass-covered dial with a simple, wavering magnetic needle and not see that God, Nature and an inner awareness could guide them as well.
For some mysterious reason, early in the evolution of the Biodesign Class, I felt “guided” to attend a local “A-A” meeting. I was probably motivated by the fact that in the mutual process of exploring the deeper levels of our personhood, it was not uncommon for students to share the horrors of living with an alcoholic parent.
It might have been naïve or rude of me, but I did ask a member of the local AA chapter if I could attend. He thought it was a great idea.
It was not without doubt and trepidation that I entered the meeting. The first, and most shocking discovery was the wide range of members in attendance. The year was 1974 and somehow, I had not imagined that medical doctors, lawyers, CPAs, nurses, teachers, school administrators, clergy members, leaders of the community, even a few housewives would be there.
After the meeting began, the intensely high level of honesty and disclosure in their conversations shocked me. After reading about the program later, it became clear that some (if not all) of the members were dealing with a potentially self-destructive disease and allowing vague, deceitful or disingenuous comments could not be tolerated.
I also learned about “Uncle Bill,” who nearly died of alcoholism before he began the self-discovery process that led to the current program known as Alcoholics Anonymous.
I located a copy of the A-A “Big Book” co-authored by Dr. Bob Smith and Bill Wilson. It was immediately clear that the heart of the program involved trying to master the “12-Step-Program.”
- We admitted we were powerless over alcohol, that our lives had become unmanageable.
- Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
- Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
- Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
- Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
- Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
- Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
- Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
- Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
- Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
- Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
- Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
I an absolutely stunning example of what one person can do for the world, as of 9-1-2013, A.A. has a presence in over 170 countries, with an estimated total of 114,070 groups and more than 2 million members. And perhaps most extraordinary, the entire operation is operated by volunteers. These are people who have experienced the horrors of alcoholism and, more importantly, the joy of on-going recovery. This joy is frequently enhanced as they share with and guide others. This is tremendously important because recovery and rehab programs can be overwhelmingly expensive, often costing thousands of dollars per week.
Understandably, a program doing so much good work cannot do so without conflict. Secular-humanist psychologists go to great lengths to discredit AA. They often rail against the possibility that a mythical god could be involved in a person’s recovery. Some have gone so far as to suggest that the alcoholics can cure themselves and that A-A is “cult-like” organization that is dangerous and counter-productive.
In an interesting twist of fate, “step 12” on the AA list is a perfect corollary to John Muir’s life and work:
“Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”
Muir’s daily life typically involved “spiritual awakenings” and he dedicated his life to encouraging others to go to the mountains and be “reborn.”