Parable of the Sower: The Challenges of Sponsorship

Carrying our message to the addict who still suffers

And he (Jesus) told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.” — The Gospel of Matthew (Ch. 13, verses 3-9)

On page 562 of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous (4th Ed.) Tradition Five says:

Each group has but one primary purpose, to carry its message to the alcoholic who still suffers.

What is our message? What message do we carry to alcoholics addicts who still suffer? On page 17 of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous it says:

The feeling of having shared in a common peril is one element in the powerful cement which binds us. But that in itself would never have held us together as we are now joined. The tremendous fact for every one of us is that we have discovered a common solution (twelve steps). We have a way out on which we can absolutely agree, and upon which we can join in brotherly and harmonious action. This is the great news this book (Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous) carries to those who suffer from alcoholism (addiction).

On page 60 of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous our 12th Step says:

Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics (addicts), and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Today, one walks into the rooms of A.A. where nary a Big Book is to be found. You will hear the 12 steps of recovery read aloud as part of the preamble, but then you are greeted with a speaker’s drunk-a-log message, or you get to read from the 12 and 12 (Remember, A.A. was named after the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous — the 12 and 12 fellowship is NOT A.A.). Worst yet, you may get an open discussion (open-disgusting) meeting where anyone can share their feelings and issues, endlessly whining about their day and thinking that this message of morbid, self-absorbed reflection will somehow help them and others.

Big Book Sponsors who try to carry our common solution to the alcoholic addict who still suffers are criticized by the very fellowship who claims to embrace the solution. We are called “Step Nazis”, “Big Book Thumpers”, “Mucker-Fuckers”? We are told our point-of-view, that is our adherence to the common solution as outlined in the Big Book is intolerant, out-of-date, and NOT the A.A. way?

At times it may seem like a hopeless task. Why bother with all this controversy on how to carry the message and continue to fight an uphill battle against the “meeting-makers”, treatment centers, therapists, etc. Perhaps it is better that we all just try to “get along”.

The Parable of the Sower Explained

“Hear then the parable of the sower: When anyone hears the word of the God and does not understand it, the temptation comes and snatches away what has been sown in one’s heart. This is what was sown along the path.

The Gospel of Matthew (Ch. 13, verses 18-19)

When our message of recovery gets lost in the chorus of treatment center rhetoric and the opinions of dry and untreated alcoholic addicts are taken as the message; when our simple kit of spiritual tools fails to take hold in the hearts and minds of these individuals, this is the “hard ground” that Jesus speaks about — the seeds (our common solution/message) that have fallen on the “hard” path (unwilling and close-minded) and devoured by the birds (consumed by their temptations and relapse).

As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away.

The Gospel of Matthew (Ch. 13, verses 20-21)

There are some individuals in the program who hear our message, our common solution, but their spirit is shallow, they seek an “easier and softer way”, or they are dissuaded by others to “just stop drinking (using) and go to meetings”. Our common solution does not take hold, it withers leaving these alcoholic addicts without defense against their temptations and inevitable relapse.

As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.

The Gospel of Matthew (Ch. 13, verse 22)

These alcoholic addict individuals hear the message we carry from the Big Book, they attempt to work their program, but they are distracted by their desires for money, sex, things, etc. They become restless, irritable and discontented and succumb once again to their temptations and relapse.

To see a fellowship grow up about you!

As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

The Gospel of Matthew (Ch. 13, verse 23)

On page 58 of our Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous it says:

Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path.

On page 89 of our Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous it says:

Practical experience shows that nothing will so much insure immunity from drinking as intensive work with other alcoholics. It works when other activities fail. This is our twelfth suggestion: Carry this message to other alcoholics! You can help when no one else can. You can secure their confidence when others fail. Remember they are very ill.

Life will take on new meaning. To watch people recover, to see them help others, to watch loneliness vanish, to see a fellowship grow up about you, to have a host of friends — this is an experience you must not miss. We know you will not want to miss it. Frequent contact with newcomers and with each other is the bright spot of our lives.

25 thoughts on “Parable of the Sower: The Challenges of Sponsorship

  1. First of all, to the author (and I think I know who that is) I say you are right on the mark! As far as giving up, and getting along…not a chance! We who have found salvation from our fatal illness owe it to the very fellowship and program, that brought us ot ouf our living hell, not to give up. As a patriot and an American citizen, I will never give up my freedoms just to get along with those who want me to live their way. I will fight to the death to stay free! I will also fight whatever battle I have to to bring the original message of AA to the alcoholic who still suffers.

    Your quotes from Mathew are beautiful. Since coming back in AA, I have gotten into the original Big Book (The Bible) and the parallels to our program are very obvious. Keep up the fight, and God Bless this site and all who contribute.

  2. Hi guys. As a 25yr old responsible member of AA, I want to applaud your efforts in trying to spread a clear message of recovery outlined in the first 164. I do feel at times that I am an outcast in my own fellowship, but I realize it comes down to good sponsorship. If another recovered alcoholic didn’t sit down with me and explain the truth about my condition, and what’s really in this book, God couldn’t have relieved me of this malady. Thanks for trying to spread message!

  3. It’s disturbing to see such a judgmental perspective (e.g.’open disgusting’?) It’s hard for me to see how this is "sobriety" and not just being "dry" and close-minded. It’s also hard to see how this judgmental perspective is one that others might be attracted to seek. It’s equally disturbing that you see it as a "fight" (e.g. Why bother with all this controversy on how to carry the message and continue to fight an uphill battle against the "meeting-makers", treatment centers, therapists, etc.") The problem is that if one wants to live by the book, one needs to live by the entire book, and not merely to pick & choose those elements of the book that endorse one’s opinions. Doesn’t the book say also: "Besides, we have stopped fighting anybody or anything. We have to!"

    It may be worth also looking at the "12 steps & 12 traditions" as a source of additional inspiration. This was written, of course, 15 years or so after the big book… after the few of the more than one hundred men and women that were able to keep sober had a little more experience under their belts. Or is that not OK? Is that piece of literature off limits?

    Lastly, the ‘common solution’ you refer to, or at least in your interpretation of it, may be "an easier softer way" in disguise. True, it would be nice if sobriety was the easy result of such a rote formula. But experience suggests otherwise — not that the steps are difficult; no, they are easy — but the self-honesty and trust and willingness necessary to do the steps completely and thoroughly are difficult. Unfortunately, the book says little about how to achieve or develop those characteristics except to underline that they are necessary.

  4. I think that it can be helpful to attend religious services and I respect that most people in AA do, but I am always concerned when I see AA married to Christianity like in this article. What I find most refreshing about AA is that it does not matter what you believe, you can recover as long as you do believe. In fact you only need be WILLING TO BELIEVE to make a start on the AA program.

    I interpret this like so: AA leads people to God within, and God is a better teacher than most humans.

    My path in AA has lead me away from the church and Christianity, and I am as certain today about God’s will for me as I have ever been in my life. It is true that most people in AA go the opposite way as they recover. I respect any and all beliefs and interpretations about God and I am sure that AA is better because it does also. Again, God is a better teacher than man and his Church.

    I also am disheartened when I see and hear otherwise good AAs degrade those who are really following the program. I am fortunate to live in an area where even though we are a minority doing things like Back to Basics and Back to The Book, we can go to meetings any night of the week and not run into any Whiners Anonymous meetings. You must plan carefully, but you can do it.

    We have had enough success here in South Florida over the years of doing AWOL, Big Book Seminars, Clarence Snyder/Dr. Bob, Back to Basics and Back to The Book that there is no longer any need to whine and complain about what other AAs and AA Groups are doing. I hope and pray that this will happen for you to. It is so much nicer to live and let live. I figure that one of these days the people on the page will outnumber those that are not. If we don’t then we must not be right. If that is the case then we look kind of silly complaining about them.

  5. I am what is known as a mucker in the fellowship of A.A. and C.A. We muck up our big books by circling key words, phrases and making notes in our books. It is a form of big book sponsorship that generates very positive results in those who still suffer. However, I have been told on occasion that it is not the A.A. way. I have had people in the fellowship physically threaten me. I remember one individual a dry-drunk with 13 years sobriety stand up while I was the guest speaker and scream at me for several minutes because he didn’t like the Big Book message. I have been told to shut up at "open-disgusting" meetings where every one is permitted cry about their day but to talk about our common solution – that is not well received. At times I do feel like just saying "FUCK IT" and not bother. But the Parable of the Sower helps to remind me of the realities to carrying the message to individuals who suffer. I remember what my sponsor told me – no crusading, no missions, we cannot save them all – just one at a time.

  6. Gosh, Cameron, I seem to recall at least one meeting where it was you doing the judgmental tirade. :-)

    The problem is that one can’t just take the part of the book that serves their point-of-view. It’s all or nothing. I don’t think you can say that you’re a mucker in the fellowships of AA and CA. Your perspective is inconsistent with those fellowships — which is not to say that it’s necessarily "wrong". Those fellowships have a wide set of literature and practices, including your so-called "open disgusting" meetings (how does that term serve you or your purpose?) If you are part of those fellowships then you participate in their view. If you do not participate than you are of something else (which you are certainly entitled to do).

    The problem I have is trying to identify the humility in all this. Certainly that is a requirement for "spiritual fitness"? But where is the humility is labeling something "open disgusting"? Where is the "seeking" that AA founders practiced?

  7. I am not sure if this is supposed to be a Web Forum, so I won’t be offended if you don’t allow this to post. I don’t understand Kurt’s point of view here at all. I am a member of Alcoholics Anonymous. I happen to think that the program of Alcoholics Anonymous, as instructed by our text, is to help a new person understand what alcoholism is and whether or not they have it. We should tell them the truth that AA’s solution is a spiritual awakening, but they can choose whatever concept of God makes sense to them. If they concede these two points then it is time to decide whether they are going to whole heartedly give themselves to the rest of the program – Steps 4 through 12. Then get to it. A day, a week, a month — I don’t think it matters, but get to it NOW.

    I think what others here are referring to as "open disgusting meetings" is this do it your own way crowd that thinks that whatever you do to get and stay sober is just fine. The problem with that is that new people are hearing Joel’s program and how he did it instead of hearing someone who followed the AA program (see paragraph one). If you put enough of these together in a group, have a bunch of these groups in a club, then what you have is a new person who goes to AA for a solution, and finds anything but AA.

    I can hear you already, "But Tradition Four says…" Tradition Four didn’t give the AA group carte blanch to make up their own program that gets less than 5% success and replace the one that gets better than 50%! That is absolutely absurd! So, for the record, I am a member of AA and I state emphatically that the majority of AA doesn’t know a thing about AA and what they are really doing is killing people who trusted us to have the answer. As a member I can say these things. I am not on the side lines pissing and moaning like some old-timers (am I an old-timer now at 20 years sobriety?). I am in the trenches taking 3 to 5 people through the steps per month as part of a group that is doing it with 15 to 25 people per month – 75% of which stay sober by the way. Sure some will lose their way eventually, mostly because they stop making amends, or working 10, 11, & 12, but at the end of the day we are getting better than 50%.

    When main stream AA, with all their open disgusting meetings, and "there, there, don’t worry about those steps right now" type groups, begin to have half the success we enjoy, then I will "seek" what they have. For now what I see is them killing the very people I want to help because they can’t get out of their own damn way and follow simple instructions!

    I am not boasting about success "I" am having. It has nothing to do with me! It is the book called Alcoholics Anonymous. The success we have is the Book’s success. The less we add to the Book’s message the more effective it is.

  8. After reading some of the other posts, I wish to adress several issues.

    The first one is the uncomfortably level that was raised in someone because the author is referring to Christianity. I am personally a Jew. However I am not blind. Our whole fellowship was derived from Christian beliefs and teachings. I read the Bible each morning, and AA obviously is right of the Book. I don’t get uptight because the word of God is the word of God. Good clean living; being loving, forgiving, honest…etc., is what God wants, and what the program outlines. It’s a shame just because Jesus preached this that people are turned off by it. Second: "Let’s just live and let live." If you don’t like the meeting your at, go to another one, after all I can always go to my Back to Basics meeting and get all the good stuff.

    Well those Back to Basic meetings wouldn’t be there if guys like Wally P didn’t take it upon themselves to get the word out. We owe it to the next dying alcoholic, addict, to be as emphatic as we can that AA has changed, and that the solution is hardly ever discussed. Sometimes guys like Cam will stir the pot just enough to get people pissed off. Good! As long as we keep this topic alive there will be hope. We need to bring the recovery rate back to where it was way back when. I was sober for ten years and relapsed. For twelve years I was in and out. The reason I relapsed is that the message of the Big Book and God didn’t come through strong enough. I did hear it from time to time, but it was drowned out by a lot of other rhetoric. I was sick, and needed to hear the message louder, and more often. I finally did hear it from a guy like Cam, and I am alive and well today because of it. The problem for me was it took ten years to relapse. Over those ten years I told endless amounts of people how to stay sober my way! God help them, I hope they found out I was wrong, and chose God’s way.

  9. Again, my experience is that success is proportional to sticking with the book. Including: "…you had better use everyday language to describe spiritual principles." and "Don’t raise such issues, no matter what your own convictions are."

    I am also quick to see where religious people are right and I make use of what they offer. The point is that AA has borrowed much from religion, but it is not in fact a Christian Fellowship in the traditional sense.

    I think this is conflated by articles like this one and leads to confusion. Pardon me, if I want to share this view so that someone of the following persuasion can enter AA: — I could go for such conceptions as Creative Intelligence, Universal Mind or Spirit of Nature but I resisted the thought of a Czar of the Heavens, however loving His sway might be. I want this person to be able to enter AA knowing he does not have to accept Jesus Christ as his personal savior to get sober. After all, it is the followers of Jesus that have a history of insisting that theirs is the only way. If not for this history, I would not feel the need to explain.

    There is as much evidence that Christianity is a myth, like Greek Mythology as there is evidence of historical fact. I don’t want to promote either point of view.

  10. I’m not surprised to be misunderstood. You said: I happen to think that the program of Alcoholics Anonymous, as instructed by our text, is to help a new person understand what alcoholism is and whether or not they have it. But which text is that? Is it the Big Book? Is it the 12 x 12? Is it some of the other approved literature? The program of AA includes all of those? You might say "no, it’s precisely as described in the Big Book." I’m OK with that but it’s also described in the 12 x 12 with 15 years more experience under the author’s belt when he wrote it. Should that be discounted? Or should we go back and reinstate the Alcoholic Squad — you know the ones with the really high percentage of recovery? Where do you stop this thing? The first "100" (approximately) didn’t use the 12 steps any more than Bill and Bob did. Yet they recovered. What about the people in NA? They don’t use the Big Book, but they seem to get recovery too. So it would seem that the magic isn’t necessary is the precision of the BB formula. It would seem to suggest that God or Jesus or whoever your choice of HP is, is willing to work through different means, different formulas, and different manifestations. And that some of them are NOT straight out of the book? And why not? What happened to that "we know but a little" stuff? That doesn’t count? We should take the program precisely as it’s written in the book, but some of that other stuff, well, we don’t have to be as precise about that…

    My principal point is that the AA program has a full range of literature, has a full array of different meeting formats, has traditions, etc. etc. And all of that is part of the program and fellowship of AA. Now, if someone wants to reject some of that as too disgusting or whatever, they are free to do that, but then the result is not the AA program or fellowship of AA; it’s something else… perhaps a sect or something.

    For myself, I find that the biggest characteristic of the alcoholic/addict is the need to be "special." I know that when I am chasing my "specialness" I am compromising my spiritual fitness. To say "we have the absolute answer" to say "we do it the RIGHT way" to say "you are doing it the wrong way" is to say "we are special and apart." Which is fine with me – be special and apart if you must. But that isn’t AA. My recovery depends on being just another slob on the bus like all the rest. I don’t have to ensure that people know I am a "REAL" addict, or a "BACK TO BASICS" addict or that I know more AA history than you do or whatever; I’m just another slob on the bus of recovery.

    From what I’ve read, there were a number of Oxford Group curmudgeons that didn’t much care for the alcholic squad boys. I imagine that they complained bitterly of the deviant direction Bob and Bill were taking. That doesn’t seem to be any different than the way things are today. But then, of course, there are the creationists and intelligent design folks too. It only makes sense that we should have their equivalents in 12-step evolution.

  11. Bruce Z, it might be a surprise to you to find that your concept of God isn’t shared by some other people. The "word of God" as you see it, might be "the word of a prophet" to some and "the word of the infidel" to others. Do you imagine that God is confined to speak only through one means? God either is, or He isn’t (page 53). If He is – do you imagine that He must operate within the confines of our small thinking?

    What I hear from you is that you relapsed because of "others" — the message didn’t come through loud enough. The message was drowned out by other rhetoric. Sounds a lot like: "Admitting he may be somewhat at fault, he is sure that other people are more to blame." (page 61).(So maybe you weren’t listening so attentively?) What’s your part?

    You had 10 years of sobriety before you relapsed. You had that sobriety in spite of your being a "real" alcoholic. Do you imagine that God didn’t figure in that some way? You did what ever you did and you got sober – during that time you told whoever you told how you did it. It’s pretty simple to me — you didn’t "relapse" because you did the first 10 years wrong. You relapsed because you stopped doing it or because your experience of sobriety wasn’t enough to take you further than 10 years. Because you stopped seeking the solution. "This requires action on our part" (page 72)It doesn’t say "action on their part." Don’t be blaming others when it was you that let your sobriety go. Do you imagine that God took it away to punish you for not doing the book "precisely"? Do you imagine that somebody stole sobriety from you?

    Did you put those people you told how to get sober on your harms inventory? Did you go make amends to them all? Doesn’t sound like you did, if you "hope" they found out you were wrong. Wouldn’t an amend be in order to make it right? C’mon now, the program is, or it isn’t! Doesn’t that suggest to you that it isn’t about being back-to-basics or as AA does it now, but rather whether the alcoholic does what the program suggests? If you’re not doing it, don’t be telling me or anyone else how it should be done.

  12. There are so many things about your post above that are wrong I am not even going to address it. I will simply post what I already prepared.

    Kurt, I am glad you asked that question as it is part of the confusion. There are a great many Big Book thumpers who really do not like the Twelve and Twelve. Although, I am not one of them, I do understand why the Twelve and Twelve gets a bad rap.

    From an AA history prospective the Twelve and Twelve was published at a time when most people in AA were on the same page as the only set of directions for recovery were in the Big Book. There were many places in AA in the 1950s where a beginners meeting was a meeting where new people worked the steps of the program much the way Wally outlines in his book Back to Basics. In fact, AA headquarters used to print a Secretaries Guide that the Group Handbook later replaced. In it there were three suggested meeting formats and one was the beginners meetings similar to how Wally describes.

    Along comes the Twelve and Twelve and most of these meetings thought Great, finally a book that spells out the Steps, one at a time. This will be great. In a short time all of these groups that were DOING the steps, became groups of people who were TALKING ABOUT the steps.

    I am sure these seemed refreshing at first. People shared in AA about what they thought and felt about certain spiritual principles and how they applied them to their life. All the while the newcomer is now left to pick one of these people as a sponsor so they can go through the Steps. But control of the message was left to sponsor and this is where the change occurred. Sometimes the sponsor is a great talker, but not a great doer. Maybe they don’t know how to work the steps. Maybe they never have.

    The Twelve and Twelve does not show you how to work the steps. In its own forward it says that the Big Book became the basic text of our fellowship and still is. The Twelve and Twelve proposes to deepen and widen the understanding of the twelve Steps as first written in the earlier work (this is a near quote, but not exact).

    To this end it is a great book. It is better still for all of us Big Book Thumpers because it shows real insight into the character of a man (or woman). Two treasured things about the book are the explanation and insight into column three of the Fourth Step in the Big Book as well as the use of the Prayer of Saint Francis as an Eleventh Step Meditation. It is great additional information that does indeed live up to its purpose — help understand the Twelve Steps first written in the Big Book.

    You look at AA and think that everything under that umbrella is fabulous and holistic and it grows and this is great. I look at it and say that the only thing that matters is results. The Second Edition claims a better than 75% success rate. We follow that program to the best of our ability and get close to the same results.

    Go ahead, do AA however you like, but have enough humility to be accountable for your results. I am trying to get to 75% and I am not there. I believe it is possible, and I am aware of some things currently that seem to be in our way. I don’t belong to the that is up to God club. I think God instilled in each one of us the ability to achieve great things. The trouble with AA today is that it settles for mediocrity. I won’t settle. If it is to be it is up to me. When anyone, anywhere, reaches out for help, I want the hand of A.A. always to be there. And for that: I am responsible.

    I just hope they are lucky enough to find my group and not yours, Kurt. I mean that is humbly and lovingly as I can be. Out of my sheer passion for wanting to help other Alcoholics, I pray that they find me before they find you.

  13. Hey Guys I’m glad to see all this fuss about the message being carried or not carried. What I don’t understand is when a fellow like Kurt who condemns someone’s experience in the trenches of alcoholism and addiction. Sorry my friend everyone one has their own experience with the fellowship. I just love these guys who attempt to intellectually minimize someone else’s experience. Lets look at the word judgment Kurt, correct me if I am wrong, but is it not contempt prior to investigation? And forgive us if our experience has shown us that hundreds of "REAL Alcoholics Addicts" have needlessly had to sit through intellectually self-sufficient babble, when they could have left the meeting with a real feeling of hope as outline in the big book of AA. I was blessed by the real message from a person who cared to tell me the truth about my condition and not give me their opinion. You talk of intolerance while being intolerant yourself.

  14. Well when people disagree, I guess it’s only a matter of intellectually self-sufficient babble to decide which one is being intolerant and judgmental and which one isn’t, and, of course, it gets determined by whichever one launches that claim first. It’s certainly true that all of us that have recovered from our "real" alcoholism have our own experience in the trenches. I’ve been taken through the book, and I’ve done steel on steel, and I was blessed to have a sponsor that cared to tell me the truth about my condition and gave me their experience strength and hope and not just their opinion — so I fail to see where the contempt prior to investigation is. For that matter I fail to see where the contempt is, unless "contempt" means "we disagree."

    Let’s talk about the "accountability" concept of which we want to be so humble to accept. It’s always been my understanding that our "real" alcoholic was beyond human aid (page 24) yet you tell me that YOU are trying to get 75%. For myself, I guess I believe in a bigger God. My God decides when someone is ready to get clean and sober and by what instrument that will be achieved. According to my God, neither YOU or I gets to decide how that’s going to happen. On the other hand, both you and I occasionally get to be of use to that Higher Power. And why would I complain if my God says this person should find durable sobriety through a book thumper? I won’t complain – in fact I’ll celebrate! But would you then complain that someone – such as myself – who has found durable sobriety through some other method has settled for mediocrity? Would you argue instead that your God is different? or that you are the true agent of God whereas people that carry the message differently are somehow false agents? If so, that would seem a tad grandiose. But "we insisted that we had been possessed of nothing but a high and legitimate ambition to win the battle of life."

    I can respect that hundreds of "real" alcoholic addicts have sat through needless "self sufficient babble" when they could have left with a real feeling of hope, but I can certify that hundreds of "real" alcoholics have left back to basics meetings without a real feeling of hope also. But so what? Isn’t this up to God and to the alcoholic on the receiving end? Or do you somehow feel that you are a special form of human aid that will make the difference?

    Still seems like it gets back to wanting to be "special." I’m sober, you’re sober. I’m content, you’re content. We both reached for the hand of recovery that was there. Doesn’t that make us the same?

  15. Kurt, Today i shall practice restraint of tonge and pen. I wish you peace and love. Jesus loves you also. By the way I did mention that I was a Jew?

  16. WOW! Lots of interesting conversation. I think it is really funny that you can speak openly about any religious tradition in 12 step groups except the Christian tradition. When you do watch out come the God of your own understanding arrows. The parable of the sower is a great teaching story no matter what your belief so really open your mind to all points of view.

    Also if you do not agree with the approaches that this website takes then you are certainly welcome to go complain about it in any meeting. Even better how about just "live and let live".

    The problem is most people do not read the book or any literature at all. I often wonder if Dr. Bob would have been alive the 12 and 12 would have made it out of the gate. I sure it certainly made Bill some money.

    The truth is the program of AA is what saves live not the fellowship. Hell if I just needed people to hang out with to stay sober and to discuss high minded moral ideas I would not probably be an alcoholic.

  17. Although I totally agree with the direction this web site is going in, I think the Twelve and Twelve has some very good insights. Whether Bill made money or not doesn’t concern me.

  18. Not entirely sure what the "…watch out come the God of your own understanding arrows" means. But I do know that the book suggests "Let him see that you are not there to instruct him in religion" (page 93)

    I don’t have any particular problem with the Christian traditions one way or the other… well, other than in my own experience that a lot of people talk it, but few walk it. (Jesus, I pray that you protect me from your followers!)

    Who’s complaining? I’m asking questions! I’m simply trying to reconcile your experience of the "program" with my experience of the "program." Isn’t that how all this works? Isn’t that why the book was written? "Show him, from your personal experience…" (page 92) I’d suggest to you, that just because you might feel defensive about all this doesn’t mean someone is on the offensive with you. I’m certainly not. What I know is that some people get sober in the specific manner advocated here. And I know that others get sober in variations of that specific manner. I personally know people that have achieved durable long-term sobriety through both. What I’m trying to understand is the rancor that’s expressed by either view toward the other (You did suggest "live and let live" did you not?) What would prompt that? It’s hard for me to imagine how using perjorative terms like "open-disgusting" and "self-sufficient babble" speak to walking the talk of live and let live. The big thing I’d like to understand is how we can buy completely into the specifics of one part of the book, but discount another part. That I don’t get. Help me with that, please.

    Like you, I understand the many people don’t really get into the literature (of which the book is part). I also know, and I’m sure you’ll agree that many people never find the honesty or willingness or open-mindedness or basic comprehension of the words, to absorb the literature even if they read it. Not much we can do about that.

    I guess I don’t really understand why you would make the comment you did about Bill making some money off the 12 &12. You seem to suggest that he was corrupt or unethical in some way or something although I can’t tell because it’s difficult to ascertain your tone just by reading the type. Perhaps you can explain why you said that? (I am familiar with the frequent disagreements between Bob and Bill, however.)

    I can certainly agree that simply rubbing elbows with a bunch of alcoholics isn’t the thing that got me clean and sober. Personally, I find the references in the book somewhat ambiguous on that score – i.e. they talk about the fellowship almost synonymously with the "program". I like to think of it as the Fellowship of the Spirit — which definitely does have an impact on my sobriety. I’ve always viewed the steps as the ways to get there. But then, that’s just me.


  19. Simply put I mean that all spiritual paths seem acceptable in present day 12 Step Groups except Christianity. I was taught by my sponsor to never mess with anyone’s connection with their God. However it does seem acceptable to take pot shots at Christians. Remember no one who follows any spiritual path adheres to it perfectly; not just Christians.

    Here is an excerpt from pg. 159-60 that talks about the early fellowship:

    A year and six months later these three had succeeded with seven more. Seeing much of each other, scarce an evening passed that someone’s home did not shelter a little gathering of men and women, happy in their release, and constantly thinking how they might present their discovery to some newcomer. In addition to these casual get-togethers, it became customary to set apart one night a week for a meeting to be attended by anyone or everyone interested in a spiritual way of life. Aside from fellowship and sociability, the prime object was to provide a time and place where new people might bring their problems.

    So basically most of the fellowship consisted of coming up with ways to carry the message. ONE night a week was for newcomers to bring their problems.

    As for my own personal experience I was ready and willing for 9 years to do anything but was told to not drink and come to meetings, or take your time to work the steps you have your whole life.

    So if I am passionate about this please pardon me as it saved my life.

    I could white knuckle it for 18 months or 2 years before I would relapse and everyone would ask me when are you going to get it?

    To be honest I thought I was fundamentally flawed. Then I heard a message that had depth and weight. I found a person with a real answer. Someone who was more interested in carrying the message of recovery than just sounding cool at meetings and then going home.

    From further down on page 160:

    Many a man, yet dazed from his hospital experience, has stepped over the threshold of that home into freedom. Many an alcoholic who entered there came away with an answer. He succumbed to that gay crowd inside, who laughed at their own misfortunes and understood his. Impressed by those who visited him at the hospital, he capitulated entirely when, later, in an upper room of this house, he heard the story of some man whose experience closely tallied with his own. The expression on the faces of the women, that indefinable something in the eyes of the men, the stimulating and electric atmosphere of the place, conspired to let him know that here was haven at last. The very practical approach to his problems, the absence of intolerance of any kind, the informality, the genuine democracy, the uncanny understanding which these people had were irresistible.

    Now honestly tell me how many times you have walked into a meeting and found that?

    And yes I am on the offensive I think the book says, "Spearheads of God’s ever advancing Creation".

    I hold no enmity toward anyone for their opinions, its all good discussion.

  20. The discussion is good. I agree. I like the snips from 159 and 160. The thing we have to keep in mind however, is that they are relating to experience when they were the Alcoholic Squad of the Oxford Group. AA, CA, etc. is not trying to duplicate the Oxford Group or we would be discussing Soul Surgery and Buchanan instead of the Big Book. The other thing to keep in mind is that in those days, people were found in institutions and were low-bottom cases. Today’s mix is quite different. The book talks about that as a problem they wanted to solve. Of course, all that applies to throwing around "statistics" like 50-75% or 75-93% or any of the other urban legends about early sobriety success rates.

    My experience with meetings is mixed — some I have found were exactly as described in page 160 (note: btw the ‘absence of intolerance of any kind’) and others were pretty much useless. For my part, if I came on a useless meeting, I kept looking until I found one that wasn’t. I always seemed to be able to do that.

    I sure don’t mind your passion, Jason, why would I? As you say, it saved your life. My passion for the experience of the program I found, did the same thing. It saved my life, too.

    For myself, I’m very careful when I talk about the difficulties I had finding sobriety through my early efforts in meetings and doing steps. First I was so soft-brained at the time, I couldn’t tell you what I was told — I know what I heard and I strongly suspect there was a big difference between the two. I heard what I wanted to hear.

    The problem I see is this: the issue isn’t about how someone gets the steps or whether they also go to "open disgusting meetings" (that must be the absence of intolerance we read about) – the problem is whether, how, and where people find the capacity to be honest, open-minded and willing. Unfortunately, this is not something the book spends a lot of time elaborating on. And, of course, in those days, they didn’t have to… when people came in, there were in such pain that those traits were more evident. They also used say that if someone hadn’t already lost their family, job and home, there wasn’t much point in talking to ’em. Still true today, it seems like.

    Now, about that "spearheads" stuff — personally I would focus more on the "ever-advancing" part of that quotation rather than on the implied offensive nature of the word — ever-advancing means that we’re still developing. The spearhead just means we’re on the front lines. :-)


  21. I want to chime back in here. And this is the problem I have with some people of religion because you seem to abdicate your responsibility to some being in the sky whom is going to perform magic in your life if you only ask him to do so sincerely enough. BULL! You are probably the type that asks God in the morning to keep you sober, and thank him at night. I don’t read any of this in my Big Book. Not even in the Big Big Book does it tell me to do that.

    Jesus didn’t pray and then wait around for God to turn the water into wine, or heal the sick. He knew he could do it, he was determined to make a difference and he did it. I am not saying I believe the whole story about Jesus, but I certainly dont disregard it. I don’t pretend to know the truth, but I seem to take different lessons from it than many others.

    I am not leaving recovery for alcoholics up to some being in the sky with a long grey beard, a big walking stick, and a white flowing robe with a big letter G embroidered on it. I have all the information I need about how to treat alcoholics, and indeed I believe God has already spoken. What I am talking about is getting off of my lazy ass, and doing what God has already shown me I can do. I am going to take that POWER that God has given me and do HIS (HER, Its) work.

    It couldn’t be clearer what Gods will is for me. I boil it down to this: Every day I Inventory, Confess, Repent, and make Amends. Each morning I use prayer and meditation to support these efforts and invite God into my will and life for that day. Each day I do what I can for the next guy.

    I dont tell em go to a meeting and let God decide if he finds recovery. NO. I take responsibility for helping him with the power and information God has already bestowed upon me. I am not powerless! I am not powerless! I am not powerless! Thank you Chris R. for being so bold and clear. God has restored my sanity and he has shown me how to help others find him. What is more important than showing others EXACTLY how I did that? EXACTLY how Alcoholics Anonymous does that! It isn’t me, it is in the book. It isn’t my message, but how my message is one of millions that have followed the simple directions, and so can you.

    One last thing – just because many of the first 100 didnt stay sober permanently, does not mean that the success rate is urban legend. And it is the exact thing that groups like mine have to be careful of. If we stop doing the things God showed us to do, we will stop getting the results. I am not recovered because of the work I have done, but because of the work I am doing. If I forget that and relapse don’t take my number out of the statistic for AA’s success. I am a success today, but I can stop doing what God asks tomorrow. Don’t knock AA for that. Better than 75% was what they recorded responded to the message, but half of them didn’t stay sober for the same reasons they don’t today. We get to full of ourselves and think that we are cured, or that we don’t have to work with the newcomer. We abdicate our responsibility by saying Oh, if God wants her to get sober she will be sober. Or I put my time in, it is someone elses time to do all that. I am recovered because of what I AM DOING, not because of what I HAVE DONE.

    Every day is a day when we must carry the vision of God’s will into all of our activities. "How can I best serve Thee – Thy will (not mine) be done." These are thoughts which must go with us constantly. We can exercise our will power along this line all we wish. It is the proper use of the will.

  22. I have found that I don’t get people sober (or get anyone to follow the script I write each day) It took along time to get that, and with the help of much (experience trying to make it happen.) I am glad today to know that this Power — will guide me — once I step out of the way.

    The steps are an afternoon deal (as Dr. Bob) has explained; then off they need to deal with the pro’s. The students that I had the chance to share (the) message with have fried ourselves pretty well out there; so (therapy) step working was out of the question.

    I believe we do a great injustice when we criticize the ‘pros’ at any given ‘need’ for one is is suffering a complex illness

    My life is primo today because I let all persons in all field to be demonstrations of Gods work. There should be more awareness then blame. But for all that I need and all resources I as a (Recovered) alcoholic/addict. Know where to look in the Big-Book-text-of-AA for the path to all needed resources.

    One, Gerard

  23. So if I understand what you’re saying, it’s that as long as someone got sober for a while, it counts in the AA sobriety statistics, is that it? The fact that they stopped doing the "do things" doesn’t count? You’re kidding, right?

    Well, for myself, I never had any trouble ‘getting sober’ — I ran out of consciousness, money, or was incarcerated. My trouble was always not starting again. It was the obsession. What you’re suggesting is that the obsession doesn’t get removed. Sorry, that’s not the way it worked with me.

    And BH, there’s a fine line between taking ‘responsibility’ and playing God. You can be responsible for offering your experience to another, but you remain powerless over whether someone can accept it; that’s in God’s hands, not yours. (Thank YOU Chris R for that important distinction!)

  24. You may well be responsible — when someone reaches out — but until they do, BH, you remain powerless. You think that it’s something you do that will make the difference between someone getting recovery or not. God’s bigger than that and certainly bigger than you. You don’t get anyone sober. You’re an agent in someone’s recovery if, and only if, God chooses. Might be appropriate to take an attitude of humility unless you really think you’re calling the shots.

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