God Is… or isn’t.

June 25, 2020


It’s one of several lines in the Big Book you balked at. There aren’t many mind you. But this one feels religious, not spiritual. God didn’t make this claim. He, She or It wouldn’t. A person did. Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. Almost every idea, if not word, in Step 2 belies the absolutism of God is or He isn’t.

God, like truth and love, are big ideas – the biggest. But they are still only concepts and therefore open to interpretation and gradation. We must tell people the truth “unless it would injure them or others.” Truth could be parsed. Contradictory statements may both be true. Homicide might be murder or manslaughter, voluntary or involuntary. Which is truer becomes a matter of opinion. Conditional love is still love, is it not? Maybe not pure love but better than no love at all.

The ultimate leap of faith, God remains unprovable. “Coming to believe in a power greater than yourself” is a process, not an outcome. Many people have gotten sober without subscribing to an all or nothing God, including you. Scores have achieved long-term sobriety without God at all.

There is a devout atheist at your gym. You know this because he always wears tee shirts proclaiming his atheism. You’ve counted three different shirts so far. It’s weird. Unsettling. You would feel the same way about someone wearing a worshipful tee shirt. Promoting such a personal belief strikes you as, if not wrong, off putting. That said, one of the atheist’s tee shirts makes you laugh: In the beginning man created God and then all the problems started. Is it funny because it’s true? Maybe. Yet wearing the joke on his sleeve seems inappropriate. Even to you.



June 22, 2020


Remove the Christian gravy from AA and it’s just a program of substitutions, a replacement strategy for better living. Replacing barrooms with fellowship, selfishness with service. Honesty replaces duplicity. And so on. First and foremost, however, one had to replace the booze. Here Bill Wilson made a crucial decision: the surrogate for alcohol would be God, later amended to a Higher Power, as you understand him. The amending was due to the polarizing nature of God. Bill understood (correctly) most drunks; “self-serving in the extreme” would be put off “turning their wills over” to a deity, especially one from their neighborhood church. The amendment was added to make the program easy to swallow, like booze. To this day the God thing remains the biggest obstacle for people entering the program. Certainly, it was for you. To get there you had to concede that the bottle had become your higher power, literally bringing you to your knees. That was the easy part. You were powerless over alcohol. Duh. Replacing this Godhead, however, would not be so easy. It required serious magic from a talented magician… God. Even if you didn’t believe in Him, Her or It, the grandness of the plan made sense. How could it be otherwise and work?


You’re hardly the first person to feel this way. Many fortunate people receive the blessings of The Great Outdoors. So many recovering alcoholics call nature their Higher Power. Good for them. They’re lucky and probably right. If God exists he’s out here. He made this. He created the Garden of Eden. Before we fucked it up. Long before you, indigenous people tread these very trails. They knew it, too: The Great Spirit. Too many people only experience nature once a year on vacation, on mandatory field trips taken from school, or worse, just in movies. No wonder its magic wore off. Maybe they weren’t paying attention – too busy looking at a screen instead of the sky. Still, you’re glad they’re not here. The trails are often deserted. Blessedly. It makes no difference to you. What others think. What they do. People no longer matter. Out here you feel no shame. Out here you is stoned immaculate.

To be continued…

The Flicker Inside (6)

March 26, 2020


You look at the clock. Only ten minutes left in your share. And you still haven’t gotten to what it’s like now, the good part. Even so your lead was not absent of hope. That flicker of awareness… that distant horizon. Your drunkalog now, like your drinking then, could not hide it completely. It was in your eyes.

Bill Wilson wrote, “Few people will sincerely try to practice the AA program unless they have truly hit bottom.” If you were not what he called a “last gasper” you most certainly had plumbed the dregs.

Portion redacted…

Having thoroughly qualified your seat in AA, you say what you always say, what you never want to forget. “Needing this program is never enough. You have to want it.” Aping a grade school teacher, you wag your finger. “Your boss, your priest, your doctor, your wife; all these people said you needed to quit drinking. So maybe you did to ride out the storm. But as soon as that court card was signed you were right back out there, ripping and running.”

The group nods.

You apologize for using the pronoun you. In AA, the arrow only points in one direction. But it was intentional, demonstrating the futility of receiving a lecture. Those never worked, you say. You always knew you needed to stop drinking. For years and years…

To be continued…

The Flicker Inside (5)

March 23, 2020



It was the tiny burning ember that never died out, no matter how much booze you poured on it. Lord knows you tried.

Then came the big jobs, fancy homes, a wife and baby. And you: the functioning alcoholic. Holed up in your den, full of vodka and opiates, bluntly staring at the computer screen, the white-blue of it, the useless words you had written. Even then you knew it was there: the flicker inside.

God given or not, you kept having this thought: Your purpose had to be more than just seeking oblivion. You knew what you were doing was wrong. Yet, you kept doing it. Later, you would call this Step Zero. You worked it for years.