our attraction in A.A.? Think of
all the things to which people are
attracted–some good and some bad.
They are attracted by the millions
to sports events, airlines, theme
parks, cars and bikes, diets, fitness
and nutrition programs, movies,
TV, videos, Costco, and their personal
computers. For many, the attraction
is simply "to be entertained."
For some, avoiding boredom and loneliness.
For some, to feel better.
that’s not A.A. as it was intended
to be. For sure, many today do come
to A.A. to be "entertained"
by relationships, meetings, roundups,
huge conferences, dances, camp-outs,
and the like. I’ve certainly enjoyed
most of these myself. For sure,
some–often called "rim-runners"
by old-timers–come in because they’re
lonely, bored, or want a cup of
java. Some are "attracted"
only by the orders of a judge or
a probation officer or the comfort
of a treatment center van. Those
were not what the early A.A. fellowship,
its Big Book, or its Steps were
really about. A.A. offered a
spiritual recovery program.
lots of us saddled up in A.A. after
its "simple kit of spiritual
tools" seems to have become
far less important to many than
were its other attractions. Early
A.A. had astonishing success rates.
It had acceptable growth rates–some
quite remarkable in places like
Cleveland. Finally, A.A. in America
hit the million mark. About a million
"members." About two million
in the world. About ten million
"text books." Perhaps
even millions of "repeaters"
who just never clicked with the
though it was solidly underlined
in the Big Book.
A.A. relied on the power of God
Almighty. Bill Wilson correctly
called Him our "Creator,"
our "Maker," and "God"–all
words that were capitalized because
Bill knew of Whom he was speaking.
He wasn’t talking about just "any"
god. He wasn’t telling people that
A.A. was about "not" god.
Dr. Bob kept it real simple and
told AAs: "Your Heavenly Father
will never let you down!" (Big
Book, 3rd ed., p. 181).
And I’ve never seen it recorded
that Bill Wilson or Dr. Bob Smith
told people our God–the "Creator"–was,
or could be, a radiator. But that’s
become a standard part of today’s
publication and meeting jargon.
They tell us in all sincerity: "Your
(not necessarily ‘my’) ‘higher power’
can be anything you want ‘it’ to
be." Then we frequently hear
or are told that "our"
"higher power" can be
a lightbulb, a chair, a table, an
"It," Gertrude, or, yes,
even a radiator (Want to see the
news article that quotes the radiator
bit?). I’ve documented these "absurd
names for God" (as Rev. Sam
Shoemaker called them) many many
times in my sixteen published books
(See Dick B., titles, http://www.dickb.com/titles.shtml).
the attraction? Do you find any
"attraction" in a radiator?
Who wants to rely on Gertrude to
beat alcoholism? Who would invite
a group to pray to a lightbulb?
Who would advocate that you turn
your will and life over to the care
of a chair or an "it?"
Yet for at least thirty years–perhaps
even since 1950–the revisionist
writers, therapists, treatment people,
and even many AAs themselves have
"created" a new god. A
"god" from whom no intelligent
person would seek "guidance,"
to whom no desperate alcoholic would
go for healing, and through whom
no one would expect to receive forgiveness,
deliverance, or a solution to the
myriad problems we face as we enter
in A.A. sent me an email yesterday
saying he didn’t think many AAs
had any significant interest in
A.A. history. The 125,000 visits
on my website don’t bear that out.
But I said to him: If AAs
don’t have an interest in their
history, it’s because they’ve seen
so little of it. Their meetings
focus on "sharing," whining,
fear, gratitude, or discussions
either of the Big Book or the Twelve
and Twelve. None of which provide
history in any informative way.
People inside and outside of A.A.
today are calling it a "self-help"
movement. Some in the religious
community label A.A. a "spiritual"
program, but not a religious one,
hoping perhaps to bring people to
the church and religion. Others
use the same language to make A.A.
"inclusive, not exclusive."
Some think A.A. is so religious
that it is offensive to atheists,
agnostics, scientists, and those
who believe in other religions or
none at all. What’s the attraction
in that situation?
answer is that the attraction is
lessening. A.A. has stopped
growing. A.A.’s success rate is
far from astonishing today. But
the most regrettable fact concerns
the large numbers who are leaving
A.A., avoiding A.A., or rejecting
it in favor of "secular"
or "rational" recovery
or for "Christian" groups
or for religiously supported Twelve
Step Groups. I’ve not yet seen statistics
that convince me that any of these
splinter activities is growing in
geometric proportions or achieving
the astonishing success rates that
were produced by pioneer A.A.. In
fact, our government agencies seem
to be putting billions into drug
wars and drug czars and scientific
research of "substance abuse"
for the precise reason that they
don’t think any solution
has been found. The relapse rates
seem to confirm their views. Regrettably,
however, most of these agencies
haven’t a clue that A.A. doesn’t
lend itself very well to scientific
research. It’s "anonymous."
It’s one-on-one assistance. Success
is often measured "one to a
customer," as the venerable
Geraldine Delaney often said (See
Dick B., Hope!: The Story of
Geraldine Owen Delaney,
Alina Lodge, and Recovery)
And, as A.A. said in one of its
earlier articles in the Grapevine:
"The AAs’ medicine is God and
God alone" (Volume II, Best
of the Grapevine, pp. 202-03).
me, that’s the attraction. You can
read more in my title By the
Power of God and find that title
and other references on my website
Meanwhile, there’ll be another article
following that tells you how the
revisionists ignored history and
converted "as we understood
Him," "power greater than
ourselves," and "higher
power" into new, unintended,
"any" gods, "expedient"
gods, "not gods," and
radiators. They seem to have "lost"
God our Creator–the One A.A.’s Big
Book urged us all to find. Now!
That’s the One mentioned on the
dollar bill, our other currency,
and our coins. They all say: "In
God we trust." Why not be attracted
to that when nothing else works.