They differ in one respect. When the doctor has shown the alcoholic the underlying difficulties and has prescribed a program of readjustment, he says to him, "Now that you understand what is required for recovery, you should no longer depend on me. You must depend on yourself. You go do it."
Clearly, then, the objective of the doctor is to make the patient self-sufficient and largely, if not wholly, dependent upon himself.
Religion does not attempt this. It says that faith in self is not enough, even for a non-alcoholic. The clergyman says that we shall have to find and depend upon a Higher Power - God. He advises prayer and frankly recommends an attitude of unwavering reliance upon Him who presides over all. By this means we discover strength much beyond our own resources.
So, the main difference seems to add up to this: Medicine says, know yourself, be strong and you will be able to face life. Religion says, know thyself, ask God for power, and you will become truly free.
In Alcoholics Anonymous the new person may try either method. He sometimes eliminates "the spiritual angle" from the Twelve Steps to recovery and wholly relies upon honesty, tolerance and working with others. But it is interesting to note that faith always comes to those who try this simple approach with an open mind - and in the meantime they stay sober.
If, however, the spiritual content of the Twelve Steps is actively denied, they can seldom remain dry. That is our A.A. experience. We stress the spiritual simply because thousands of us have found we can't do without it. (N.Y. State 3. Med., Vol. 44, Aug. 15, 1944)