I’ve been thinking this week about the way that we sometimes talk about the founders and early AA members as if they are gods or celebrities. Those who have read some of AA’s own history or who read the “non-conference approved” stuff like Susan Cheever’s book on Bill Wilson or the biography of Marty Mann have learned about the very real, very human lives of early members before and after their recovery.
Bill took a lot of drugs. He was still seeking a way to “cure” alcoholism with LSD years after he wrote that there is no cure, “only a daily reprieve.” Today I can smile at that contradiction and realize that he too was impatient with recovery; he too still wanted the “fix” even if it was himself he wanted fixed.
Here’s another favorite heresy: I heard early on, and still hear, “I learned never to say no to any request in AA”. Well, after some time in recovery what I have really learned is to say “no” any time the answer for me is, “No”. Recovery is about recovering my true intentions, my true needs and some good intuition. Alcohol, drugs and food addictions taught me to override my own feelings and preferences. Recovery taught me to sense, value and trust my own truth. So if I’m asked to do something in AA and I really don’t want to do it I know that the healthy thing to say is, “No”.
Another thing we often hear in the rooms is that “Fear and faith cannot occupy the same space”. I liked the sound of that and it did send me to prayer many times. But today I think it’s wrong. Fear and faith are always in the same space. They are two sides of a coin; fear can even be the path to faith, and faith can be the tool that let’s us invite more fear into our lives so that more old gunk will be surfaced so that even more healing can occur.
That brings me to what may be the biggest piece of AA heresy: I remember being told over and over in meetings: Old timers would say it first: “All you need to know about God is that you’re not it”. Then others would parrot, “All I need to know about God is that I’m not Him.” I get it; many of us need a bit of our narcissism scraped away. But today I think it might go something like this, “All I need to know about God is that He is me. Or at least: He is in me. If God works through other people, as we say he does, and if sometimes I am one of the people he is working through then he must be in me. And If God made me and loves me then I am part of Him. I don’t need to diminish me to love God.