God is at the Meeting: Spirituality and the Twelve Steps
      by Maurice C.

Simply put, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) saved my life. It can do the same for you. Like many others addicted to alcohol, I was on the road to slowly killing myself while unwittingly hurting those around me, especially my family. Through a number of circumstances and help from people I didn't even know, I found myself at the doors of my first AA meeting in 1985. Thank God, I have never left. We will talk more about the process of AA meetings and what you can expect in a later chapter, but suffice it to say that when I first went, I had little knowledge of AA or of its practices. As time went by, I learned to do what was suggested to me; go to meetings, read the literature, get a sponsor, learn and work the Twelve Steps. I laugh now when I remember thinking that AA would teach me how to either slow down or better handle my drinking. My life was going downhill fast and I was desperate to do something, anything, to stop the slide. I had reached my moment of clarity and asked for help. I went to my first AA meeting thinking that if these people could show me how not to drink by some form of self-denial or discipline, I would go for it. As with most alcoholics, I believed the answer to my problem lay in me - what I had to do, what I would deny myself or what discipline I could undertake. I was ready for a course in how not to drink, and was greatly surprised that that was not the case at all. By watching others in the program and coming to believe in the process and truly listening to my fellows at meetings, aided by the grace of God, I did stop drinking. I thought that would be impossible, but it worked, it really did. I didn't think I could live without alcohol until I saw the program work for others. As I learned the Steps, I had another pleasant shock — they made sense! Actually, a lot of common sense! The twelfth Step, however, caught me off guard. While I had believed that AA would be self-denial, tough discipline and long days of "just saying no", the words of the twelfth Step brought great relief. The twelfth Step says, "Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principals in all our affairs." The idea of a spiritual solution took a great weight off my shoulders — I didn't have to do this by myself and it wasn't going to be painful. I found that AA is not a program of discipline and self-denial; rather, it is a roadmap to a full life based on practical and proven spiritual facts. What I thought would be a "non-drinking" group, rather turned out to be a wonderful, spiritually motivated group seeking sobriety by living a better life. A life where drinking and drugging are not necessary, and where service to God and fellow man, especially other alcoholics, can be fun. In this AA crowd, a bunch of rummies, liars, thieves and worse, I found a calling to a spiritual way of life. So, how do we in AA define a "spiritual" way of life? The word spirituality is used so much today that it is hard to grasp its meaning. A good friend of mine recently told me that they don't even like the word, as it has lost its meaning. It has become too Hollywoodish with many in the celebrity universe saying that they are spiritual or seeking a spiritual path. They never define their path in a way that I can understand, but it would be my observation that if you have to go somewhere, or get into a plane or train to find spirituality, you are probably traveling too far. People have also learned to say that they are not "religious", they are "spiritual"; meaning I suppose, that they don't need a religion to know God or live a spiritual life. My friend believes they are just too lazy to figure out what they really believe. These folks learn about God in other settings, rather than in a religious setting. I went to an internet search engine and to Webster's to find current definitions of spirituality. I think the founders of AA would be laughing out loud if they read what is reported, especially some of the politically correct explanations on the internet. There is the concept of secular spirituality and even a concept of "green" spirituality, but I think that neither is what the AA founders were talking about. The spirituality of AA is based on Judeo-Christian thought, but rather than getting involved in the debating society, let's agree that the spirituality embodied in AA works for alcoholics and addicts — period. That is the operative principle; it works, it really does. Spirituality, as found in the AA literature and traditions, is simple to define and it is alive in the Twelve Steps of AA. For me, AA spirituality is simply the effort to seek out and follow God's will rather than my own. The principles of AA move us from a self-serving life to a spiritual life of serving God and man. We learn to do this as we move through the Twelve Steps with the help of our sponsor and inspiration from our Higher Power. The concept of Higher Power may be new to many and may cause some confusion as to what is meant by Higher Power. In its most simple form, the authors of the AA literature used the concept of Higher Power to mean simply a power greater than oneself. Rather than put a roadblock in someone's mind, Higher Power is never defined as God, but it is always used with capital letters. My Higher Power is God. If you are reading this book, it is probable that you are battling alcoholism or addiction or know someone who is. You, like most of us, have probably tried beating your addiction on your own through your own power. Without help, the battle will continue for the rest of your life. It is like watching someone digging a ditch — they are digging their way into the depths of alcohol and drug addiction. You can watch them day by day struggling and digging deeper and getting further away from sunlight. When an offer to help is presented, it is almost always rejected with, "I don't need your help, I don't want your help, I can do this on my own." They dig deeper and deeper, rejecting every opportunity for help. They eventually realize they can dig no further or they keep digging until they die. Until they realize they need help and are willing to accept it, they are hopeless. If you are the one watching someone you love digging deeper and deeper, know that there is nothing you can do to magically cure them. When I was digging my hole with all my might, my wife tried to reach me. My response to her was, "Get off my back." All you can do is pray that they will reach out to the Power who can and will help them. Most of us in recovery had a loved one, parent, spouse or child praying for us. Through AA you will learn to become dependent upon a Power greater than yourself. God will do for you what you cannot do for yourself and you will find that phrase used over and over in the AA literature. Ninety-nine percent of us have not had the power within us to bring ourselves out of our addiction. Most of us tried to quit drinking or using only to find ourselves back at the bottle, needle or pill. Once we find our Higher Power, a Power outside of ourselves, we learn to rely on that power. The AA literature doesn't define Higher Power. That is up to each individual, but most of us come to believe that Higher Power is God and that His Power can and will relieve our addiction problems when we are willing to have Him work in our lives.