Alcoholics Anonymous: A Testament to Faith
by Fr.Gus Carter
Most of us have heard of Alcoholics Anonymous. In the past I have spoken of the organization so often that some people thought I was a member. I am not. However, my experience with alcoholics over the years has made me a great admirer of AA principles. The official book of AA is titled "Alcoholics Anonymous. " AA members call it the "Blue Book. " Today's Gospel is about the power of God and human faith. In the incident of today Jesus' disciples learned that they could, indeed, trust in God, the basic element of faith.
I have mentioned before the work of Erik Erickson, the founder of the Psychology of Human Development. One of Erickson's primary principles was that for any human to live a happy and productive life, that person must have a basic trust, the belief that the essential processes of life work for the benefit of all. Without basic trust a person's life becomes destructive of others and of oneself .
The alcoholics "Blue Book" speaks only to alcoholics, but I think its principles apply to all. This morning I will quote freely from that book. Those who wrote the book together speak from experience. They maintain, and I quote, "Selfishness - self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles. Driven by a hundred forms of fear, self-delusion, self-seeking, we step on the toes of our fellows, and they retaliate. " The ex-alcoholics state, "Alcoholism is an extreme example of self-will run riot. " A few sentences later they say, "There often seems no way of entirely getting rid of self without God's aid. We have to stop playing God. It didn't work. Next we decided that hereafter in this drama of life God was going to be our Director. " Still later in the book we read, "Most good ideas are simple and this concept was the keystone of the new and triumphant arch through which we passed to freedom. "
As those trying to overcome alcoholism thought about what they had learned, they speak of their initial determination. "The first step consists of admitting we were powerless over alcohol - that our lives had become unmanageable. We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity" In their desperation the founders of AA made a tremendous act of faith. They had realized that "any life run on self-will can hardly be a success. If life has to be our way, we are almost always in collision with something or somebody even when our motives are good. "
This led to a major principle of AA. It is called step three. "We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him. " Again their experience speaks as they wrote, "We cannot follow these principles completely. The point is that we are willing to grow along spiritual lines. We claim spiritual progress rather than spiritual perfection. "
Further quotations from the book state, "As we felt new power flow in, as we enjoyed peace of mind, as we became conscious of God's presence, we began to lose our fear of today, tomorrow or hereafter. " They offer this payer to those who want to overcome self-centeredness: "God, I offer myself to Thee - to build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self that I may better do Thy will. Take away my difficulties that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy power, Thy love and Thy way oflife. May I do Thy will always. "
We live in a time when the harshest criticism of religion comes from ridicule. "Do you believe in that stuff," others say. The atheistic existentialist, who see no signs of God in the world, give the only other answer. They say life is absurd. All you can do is be brave and shape life the way it pleases you. We are left with the self-will that alcoholics find so devastating in their lives and in the lives of those they love.
Research has shown that the happiest and most productive persons live for a cause higher than themselves. Relying only on oneself is a scary project. Desperation does make individuals look for God. There are many answers we do not have by ourselves.
Alcoholics Anonymous members discovered that part of rebuilding their lives was to help others reach sobriety. In helping others they help themselves. The result of self-centeredness is self-seeking and self-delusion. Part of the AA program involves being as realistic as possible in life. They must face life by being as truthful as possible. They found that relying only on themselves made them blame others for the bad things in their lives. The only response they found helpful was to ask themselves, "What can I do to solve this problem. " They take full responsibility before God for their lives.