I want to try to clarify the heart of the question I asked in “Just Quit?”, because it’s not simply “What’s wrong with just quitting?” I’m not talking about white-knuckling. As I said, I’m talking about what you AAs mean by “Just Quit.” If one is suffering from addiction, telling them to just stop it, isn’t realistic. And we’ve never done that. So, the question is more like: “When you dismiss anything but AA as “Just Quit,” what, exactly, do you mean by that, and – keeping in mind what you mean when you use that phrase, “What is the practical difference between that and AA?”
If you read through the “What Then, If Not AA?” post, you can see pretty plainly that I don’t suggest that recovering from addiction is as easy as just waking up one day and deciding to knock it the hell off. I throw down with a lot of options for tackling one’s alcohol addiction, ways of empowering one’s self, and improving one’s overall quality of life. I include everything from seeking support and counseling, to engaging in activities that give your life meaning. Granted, it all requires a certain sense of personal responsibility; but, as the AAs here point out, so does AA.
However, if you read through the “What Then” comments, you’ll notice that all of this is dismissed out of hand as “nothing.” So, “something” must be a very specific thing for those who deny that there was any practical substance there.
When I consider that both AAs and we here at ST accept that whatever one chooses to do, a measure of personal responsibility and accountability is necessary, the only element that I can see that’s missing from my “Just Quit” program, is a spiritual conversion. And not just any spiritual conversion, but a very specific conversion.
It might be obvious from what I wrote in the “Just Quit” post, that God as I understand God, isn’t about to accept any turning over of my will. I don’t want to unload my personal spiritual beliefs here, but I will say that according to my own spiritual beliefs, doing something like this would be akin to trying to give back your mother’s love. You can reject it or disdain it or ignore it, but it’s not something you can hand over. And you can’t do any of that without being an ungrateful whelp. So, for me, steps 2, 3, 6, 7 and 11 just don’t jibe.
One reason I appreciate sparring with the Big Book AAs is that we don’t have to beat around the bush about what things mean. God is God: We all know that when we say Higher Power, we’re not talking about someone’s Kitchen Witch. We’re talking about the Sky Daddy. And when we say “Spiritual Conversion,” we’re not talking about Gaia or tree spirits.
What we’re talking about here is a religious conversion to a specific God. This cannot, ultimately, be “God as you understand God,” because, in order to follow the steps, you must understand God to be the God who will graciously accept your life and will. A God who will guide you. You must understand God to judge your actions to be wrong, and to be inclined to preside over your confession. And you must understand God to have the inclination to remove your character defects, and further, to believe that He didn’t, perhaps, saddle you with defects for some good reason that might have something to do with you not trying to weasel out of your obligations here . This is a pretty specific understanding of God.
Perhaps, in order to get going on the steps, “God as you understand God” is just a fine placeholder. But, realistically, in order to make the steps work, your personal understanding of God must necessarily become God as you had better understand God – which is just exactly as AA understands God. And, to my mind, this translates into a full-on religious conversion – not simply a spiritual conversion (which I understand to mean an awakening to something or anything outside one’s physical and self-involved point of reference).
If you started your Step Work, using Ganesha, say, as your “Higher Power,” you might still be calling your HP “Ganesha” till your dying day, but if you’ve worked the steps successfully, “Ganesha” will have, necessarily, become a pod god – a home for the parasitic spirit of the AA God, who will operate according to AA’s understanding of God.
In other words, Ganesha will suddenly have some interest in accepting the life and will you have turned over; that Gahesha will honor that; that he will find that wrongs must be confessed to him, and will have the same understanding of “wrong” as your sponsor does; he will be open to your request for relief from character defects; will actually understand what you mean by Character Defects; and might even remove them for you… if you ask humbly enough… At this point, it doesn’t matter what you call God, does it? As long as God does what he’s supposed to do – according to the 12-Steps.
In laying out the similarities in “Just Quit” (which as far as I can gather, just means anything that’s not AA) and AA, and exploring what – according to the people who would insist that AA really is not the only way, but just one way – makes something valid and something else just ridiculous, I can discern a couple of differences:
The most obvious one is the Religious Conversion requirement. This is not just a spiritual conversion , as I detailed above, but a conversion to a bona fide belief system, a very specific religious cosmology.
Second, considering that both my “Just Quit” program and AA focus on improving one’s quality of life (as opposed to just white-knuckling an impulse to get drunk until you die – which we all agree is misery), the other difference I see is that none of the options I offer require (or even accommodate) any evangelical or missionary work, because there is no “how to quit” religion to perpetuate – no religion whose survival as an institution is more important than its individual members. That’s not to say that someone who follows my “nothing/figure it out for yourself” program couldn’t find a touchstone for their sobriety in their religious faith. In the “nothing” that I offer, the focus is on genuinely getting well and living well. Sharing your path with others is entirely contingent on the choices you make for yourself. If honoring your religious faith gives you a foundation for sobriety and gives your life meaning, then you honor it. If sharing that gives your life meaning, then have at it.
The focus of AA, however, is the exact inverse. Sobriety is a trickle-down perk; it’s a gift, or benefit, you receive, for doing your part to ensure the survival of AA as an institution. It is, itself, a multi-layered, infinite loop of self-involvement, which is, of course, absolutely antithetical to what it proposes for its members. It reminds me of the old joke: “How rude of me to talk about myself. Let’s talk about you now: So… what do you think of me?”
I want to take apart Cuda’s bottom line, when he says that sobriety is as simple as (and, yes, for fucksake and for good and all, I know the difference between simple and easy): “quitting, turning to God and cleaning up the past,”
- Quitting drinking is not one of the steps. (Seriously, is “Just Quitting” a requirement for working the steps?)
- The Steps lead to a spiritual conversion, which in turn, generates sobriety.
- So sobriety is a thing that happens, a benefit that is contingent upon “turning to God and cleaning up the past.”
- Turning to God does not mean turning to just any God. It means turning to the one God that will accommodate The Steps. You know, not all Divine Entities put up with all this silly Spiritually Co-dependent Pee-pants. You have to know who to talk to, and, lo! AA has your connection right here.
Then, of course, there’s the catch-all caveat (which Cuda didn’t mention, but which spews forth from AAs every day): that none of this will work for you if you’re not a “real alcoholic.” If you are sober without AA, then you’re not a blue-blooded alcoholic; you’re a sociopath; you’re a dry drunk; You Can’t HANDLE The Truth; or you’ll be back. Does anyone else catch that nasty primeval backass stank of Predestination there? It can’t be just me? I can’t be the only one who hears echoes of, “If she drowns, then she’s not a witch” in that, can I?
Now then! There’s not a lot of wiggle room here: AA is a religion. I don’t believe that the BB AAs around here will disagree. At least they can’t both object and make sense at the same time, I don’t think. And in light of that, I can see how anything that doesn’t offer conversion to a specific belief system, with a focus on perpetuating that belief system, would seem like nothing at all.