Now, let’s get into it – the annual Prison Issue of Grapevine “Sobriety Behind Bars: Staying Sober on the Inside.”
As I said in Part 1, in which I focused entirely on the fracking cover (jeezusghod!), contortions and manipulations of AA’s Traditions are required in order to justify actively promoting AA within the court system (and the treatment industry). And what I had in mind was to focus entirely on the theme, but it turned out that the whole thing was just so extraordinarily insane, that I couldn’t think straight when I got through it. It’s just amazing to me how utterly unselfconscious they are about what they really believe and how crazy this all is when they’re preaching to the choir.
Let me focus on another contradiction: Belief in God is not a requirement.
Well, if you listen to the typical evangelizing AA, you will learn that there really is nothing to it, and I mean that literally – nothing. The steps are just suggestions; you can take what you want (burnt coffee) and leave the rest (powerlessness, HP). Words don’t really mean what they say; in fact, they mean the opposite, or they mean whatever you want them to mean, or they’re not to be taken as gospel. AA is an empty funhouse mirror room – infinite perspectives on absolutely nothing, an illusion in which nothing looks like something vast.
So, all right then: AA is not a religious organization. You don’t have to believe in God. You know what cracks me up? It cracks me up when AAs say that AA is not a religious organization because it is not affiliated with any honestly established organized religion. It cracks me up because somehow this actually makes sense to them (they don’t realize how little sense they make until they get out of the echo chamber – and even then…). That’s like saying Christianity is not a religion because you don’t have to be a Muslim to join. Then they say, “OK, well, it’s not religious; it’s spiritual,” which is just as nutty, because religion is just the structure, the prescribed way of expressing one’s spiritual faith. You can be very religious without having faith in anything. For instance, you can go to church, say grace, take communion, and still believe in nothing. In other words, “Fake it till you make it.” Fake what? Perform the rituals, work the steps, even if you don’t “get it.”
What I’m saying is that religion is about behavior. The ritualistic aspects of AA – the steps, the traditions, the serenity prayer, the lord’s prayer, the “I’m friendthegirl and I’m an alcoholic,” the service commitments, the evangelizing to the still suffering alcoholic – is religious. And if you don’t have to have faith in a damn thing, but follow the program, then it is not even spiritual, it’s only religious.
Furthermore, the denial that AA is religious because you can believe in the God of your choosing, is flimflam. Your HP is a tool of AA, so it doesn’t matter what you call it. Whether you call it Chia Pet or Mother Mary, once you’re in AA, your HP will perform the same function as everyone else’s HP, and operates only within the boundaries of the program. God does not help you get sober unless you have faith in AA. Similarly, the Christian God does not let you into heaven, unless you believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
I don’t have to unravel the madness to get the point across, though, when every single drunkalog in Grapevine is about God. There are no HPs, no atheists or agnostics. There is only the God of AA. Also, in this issue, we are introduced to the new chair of the General Service Board, The Very Rev. Ward B. Ewing, who is not, nor has ever been, and alcoholic or a member of AA. Grapevine explains, in a sidebar to the article on the Rev., entitled “Why nonalcoholic trustees?” [Emphasis mine.]
Nonalcoholic trustees make up seven of the 20 trustees currently serving on the General Services Board. Since they do not need to maintain anonymity, they are available to appear in public on behalf of AA. The chair of the General Services Board serves for no more than four consecutive years.
Board members make an effort to choose Class A trustees from a variety of professional backgrounds, and the board has included doctors, lawyers, clergy, sociologists, business people, and financial experts among its members. Whatever their backgrounds, the bylaws make one key provision for nonalcoholic trustees: they “shall be persons who are not and have not been afflicted by the disease of alcoholism and who express a profound faith in the recovery program upon with the Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous is founded”
Didya get that? They found a loophole in the anonymity thing, and the loophole has to have a profound faith in AA.
Oh shit… I’ve wandered into the hall of mirrors again. It’s some kind of infinite loop of crazy that I’m not even going to try to tease out.
Here, why don’t you have some fun with this: Every single drunkalog in the prison issue is about God. It publishes the Jailhouse Conversion Drunkalogs a few inmates who finally “got it” when they were in prison, interspersed with a plain old drunkalogs. Without exception, every one of these people believes that their sobriety is due to God’s special interest in them as an AA member, and the prisoners believe that their incarceration was a divine intervention.
George M. says, “I believe that God knew this was the only way to get me off the streets long enough for the AA program to take root inside me.” [He also doesn’t seem to believe that he committed the crime for which he was sentenced, which means that God really took a special interest in his getting it.]
Wendi B. says, about the night before her final court date, “The fear I felt the night before was overwhelming. For months I had prayed for God’s will, but now I was afraid his didn’t match mine. This fear frustrated me and I wanted to know God was watching out for me. God showed me his sense of humor that night. I prayed for a sign that I was going to be okay. I wanted to get oatmeal with cinnamon in it. Those of you who have been in jail know the impossibility of this. I got my oats on the day of court, took a bite and spit them out because there was so much cinnamon in them I couldn’t eat them! I knew whatever my sentence was, I’d be OK.” [Apparently God can’t be bothered to give plain old oatmeal to starving kids in Africa, but got off his ass to add some extra cinnamon to this AA bank robber’s oatmeal.]
Bryan K., another prisoner, says, after informing God that he just didn’t feel like getting out of bed that day at 4 a.m., and finally realizing that the was “rational lies”ing, “Boy, it gets dangerous between my two ears sometimes. That’s why I need my group, the Fellowship, the practical program of action, the Big Book, the catch phrases and a sponsor. That’s why I need the guidance of my Higher Power. Left to myself, I’d soon be in a maelstrom of deep doo-doo.” [Yeah, I’d hate to see horror show of the mind of a guy who doesn’t feel like getting out of bed for a 4 a.m. meeting. And what if God decides to start curing cancer, and leaves this guy to his own devices for a little while? Perhaps he should stay where he is until he can trust himself to get out of bed on his own.]
A. Pauline R. says, “My psychiatrist, going against hospital rules, took me off my tranquilizers for a few days and told me she was sending me to an AA meeting held in the hospital. That brought me out of my stupor and I started yelling and screaming, so I was told later by my psychiatrist. I told her I was too intelligent to be an alcoholic. She had a straightjacket strapped on me, strapped me into a wheel chair, sent an attendant with me and taped my mouth shut so I would not disrupt the meeting. I went to the meeting struggling to escape my restraints. / I believe a miracle happened at that meeting – that God reached down and touched me and healed me. I have not had a drink of alcohol since that first AA meeting.” [One has to wonder what kind of people would not be disturbed by someone sitting next to them in a straightjacket with her mouth taped shut.]
Tony P. says, “I must do the legwork, stay sober and ask God’s help and guidance in living each day.” [These people keep God busy.]
Mathew B. starts his story with the standard drunkalog boilerplate about how he just didn’t need God, didn’t get God, etc., and ends thusly, “I don’t have to face my problems by myself anymore; I’ve got God now. As long as I keep faith in a Higher Power and work an AA program of recovery, I will remain free from the grip of alcohol. / To me, this was a miracle. It was definitely what I’ve heard other AA members refer to as a “God thing.” Nothing like this had ever happened to me before. Less than two months ago, I was prepared to die an alcoholic’s death. Although I’m new to the AA program, I now feel prepared to go to any length to maintain my sobriety and to carry out God’s will instead of my own. / I finally accepted the fact that it really is much easier if I let God drive.” [No wonder the planet is a vicious bloody froth of violence and oppression. God is too busy chauffeuring AA members to their ice cream socials. If only we could find a way to get everyone on earth into a 12-Step program… Hmmm.]
This list is getting long. Every drunkalog – as usual – is a Conversion Narrative. There’s an article called “Rock Bottom” in which the author finds the ocean to be her “God box.” A 30-year old-timer talks about getting up before the birds, reading 15 pages of the Big Book and then praying to God about stuff he wants. Another old-timer talks about other old-timers who know all and whose spirituality is formidable – spirituality “that anyone would envy – not just drunks” (not that he would presume to associate himself with these wise gurus, of course).
If I don’t go completely mad, I’ll be back with more about this issue.