Everything’s on the Table
I went to a traditional A.A. meeting today with the topic taken from Daily Reflections, a book that includes a daily quote from A.A. literature followed with commentary by an unnamed A.A. member.
Usually, I find the commentary in the book to be far more religious than most of the comments from people in the meeting as we go around the room. I do my best to interpret and comment on the reading in my own secular way. Sometimes it’s not so easy and I just give up. Today’s reading was taken from As Bill Sees It (page 8)
“If more gifts are to be received, our awakening has to go on.”
I won’t bore you with the details of the flowery commentary from the unknown A.A. member, but there was mention of “hole in the soul”, and a “Higher Power that presents many opportunities for a deeper spiritual awakening”.
The subject brought to mind something I’ve been experiencing and thinking about lately. It seems that ever since shutting my mind to the idea that there is a god, I have steadily become more open minded about almost everything else.
Maybe, I’m thinking more critically or perhaps I’ve become a skeptic, all I know is right now everything is on the table for review. There are no beliefs or ideas in my head that I am not willing to question. I enjoy reading about perspectives that differ from mine and I find myself listening more closely when people share in meetings (though I do filter out the supernatural craziness).
How did I get here?
During today’s meeting, when it came my turn, I said something to the effect, “the only thing that I’m certain of is that I’m powerless over alcohol, everything else is on the table and I’m open to other perspectives”.
However, when I really think about it even my concept of powerlessness and unmanageability is on the table for examination.
I’ve been in A.A. since I was twenty-five years old. I’m fifty-two years old today. Unbelievably, I have spent half my life in A.A. I’ve known people in A.A. longer than I knew my mother, longer than I’ve known anyone outside of my family. I know the books of A.A. better than any other book. Nothing has influenced and impacted my life more than Alcoholics Anonymous.
For most of my time in A.A., I went with the flow, “faking it until making it”. If I ever read any criticism of A.A., I would instantly become defensive. I believed that having a sponsor was good, that most people in A.A. were altruistic, that A.A. was a spiritual not religious program, that admitting powerlessness over alcohol made sense, that working the steps was essential to happiness, that sobriety was more than just not drinking, that working with other alcoholics was essential, and I could go on.
After all this time living a life dominated by A.A. and for the most part one particular A.A. group, I’m now meeting people with ideas that I have never before heard expressed in A.A. and I find it intriguing and exciting. It’s not that I am going to throw out any of my principles on a whim, but I am definitely interested in learning other points of view.
The other day, I came across a blog A.A.R.M.E.D. with Facts that further challenged my perspective. The blog is written by a woman who understandably finds the language of the Big Book to be offensive. I know it’s offensive, but as a man I do not feel the offense, so it’s different. She is primarily blogging about the problem of abuse in A.A., men abusing women. Having gone to an all men’s group since I’ve been sober, I’ve not experienced this, but I know it’s a problem. She points out the need for A.A. groups to have a policy for sexual harassment and abuse, which totally makes sense.
Because I basically grew up in A.A. and went primarily to a men’s group, I rarely ever hear a woman’s perspective. I also never considered the idea of ensuring the safety of everyone in meetings, or the problems associated with violent offenders being required and/or encouraged to attend A.A. meetings.
Had I come across her blog a year ago, I probably wouldn’t have paid it any attention or it may have made me angry, but now I appreciate another point of view, the opportunity to be aware of something that I had never before considered.
I’m also meeting people in the agnostic A.A. movement (I guess I can call it a movement) who are expressing sentiments that I’ve never heard. Some are against sponsorship, some don’t believe working the steps is necessary, others feel that an admission of powerlessness isn’t constructive. I am not agreeing with any of this necessarily, but I am genuinely interested in their point of view. Maybe they are right about some of these things.
Overall, I’m enjoying this time and the diversity of opinion. Maybe it’s just a novelty for me at the moment after spending twenty six years of my life hearing the same message of get a sponsor, go to meetings, read the Big Book, etc. Whatever the case may be, I much prefer the challenge of examining my beliefs and opinions to the alternative of playing it safe and not learning anything.