I lopped off the corner of my finger with a chef’s knife last night, so this post is gonna be a little clumsy. Typing is hard, but unpacking moving boxes is harder (I bashed my finger one too many times). I’ve been meaning to write about this for a couple of days, anyway… So, sorry about any half-formed thoughts and unedited messes to follow:

Aside from the appalling absurdity of the fact that the addictions treatment industry in this country has been co-opted by a juggernaut of quackery – by a program of spiritual awakening, for which sobriety is only a perk (or evidence that one has achieved enlightenment) – and is treated with all seriousness by conventional wisdom, which would never in a hojillion years put up with this kind of crap from any other branch of medicine, there is also the utter lunacy that it fosters among AA members and 12-Steppers, generated by the nebulous standard of transcendence called “Getting It.”

The 12-Steps are not a recipe for sobriety. They are a recipe for opening up a direct line to God, to whom you have turned over your will, so that you may now do his. But, as one poster over a SoberRecovery asked, How do you know what God’s will actually is? This is the essential question that newcomers to AA must ask themselves, because their recovery depends upon knowing the difference between one’s base desires and God’s will.

God’s will must be knowable, otherwise no one could claim to know that the program works. If sobriety is not the point, but turning one’s will over to God and doing God’s will is, then you can’t very well claim to “get it” if you can’t tell difference between God’s will and your own.

For some reason, only certain people are given credence when they claim that God appeared to them in a burning bush or in a white light. God presents himself and speaks directly to only a chosen few. The rest of us have to just pick up on subtleties. I mean, I have a feeling that if I asserted that God drops in on me every morning with a bagel and a latte so that we can go over my agenda for the day, people would think I was making a mockery. I wonder why?

The responses to the original poster’s question remind me of a bitchy little trick kids used to play in gradeschool:

“Hey, don’t you love that band Garbage Can Lid?”

“Yeah! I love them!”

“Oh yeah? Name a song.”

“Uh… you know the one…. um…I do know them!”

“You can’t, because I just made it up! Face!”

These poor AAs are now compelled to prove that they’re tuned in to God’s own private broadcast, and most of the responses are variations on “I can’t tell you how I know, but I just do.” (And if you “got it” you would too.) Some will say that if something feels right, then it’s God’s will. Or if you are living the 12 Steps then you are living God’s will (which is another one of those infinite loops that will short out your brain). There are a few voices of reason in there who point out that God’s will isn’t knowable, but the majority insist that God directs them personally.

Here are some of my favorites:

  • When I am unsure of God’s will in a certain situation I just wait. More will be revealed later Think. Think. Think. First things First. (But how will you know when it’s revealed? How do you know when the revealing is complete? Do you think or wait? How do you know which thing is first? Is waiting first?)
  • So how do I know what’s God’s will and what’s my own? I don’t. It’s not my job to know. It’s my job to seek knowledge of his will. I seek and the knowledge is given. (But how do you know when it’s been given? How do you know it’s from God and not your own common sense?)
  • When I am faced with a lesson, sometimes I just know what to do. Other times I don’t and I pause and ask God what he would have me do. Sometimes the answer is instant. I feel a surge of heat through my body, it really is overwhelming and takes my breath away. I feel a tremendous sense of Power. (I think it is God’s will for me to make a crack about hormone therapy…) As I just know that God is with me, I know that I must follow his will. If he told me to take off all my clothes and walk out into the street right now naked, I would do it. Because I just know that I would be safe. (So, if you had a hot flash, and a sudden desire to strip naked…)
  • Well, i look at it like this. On the day I came to AA, it wasn’t my intention to go to AA. Whose was it? I went to an AA meeting, got a sponsor, started working the steps, and haven’t found it necessary to take a drink since. Where did I get the desire to get sober?? Wasn’t my idea. When I pray to do God’s will, like in the 3rd step prayer, I’m asking for God to take care of me. I never did that before when I was drinking. Why am I praying for God to take care of me? The other day I heard something that made perfect sense to me. What is spirituality? Spirituality is “living in the Spirit!” Living in the spirit of what/who?? Living in the spirit of AA, and the Spirit of God. If I’m living in the spirit of AA and the Spirit of God, how can I not be doing God’s will?

I would like to know why, say, someone’s claim to know God’s will because God assumes the form of a talking cat and tells them, such an assertion would be considered a mockery or cause to get a net, compared to the utter screaming bullshit that these people are unloading on each other.

But mostly, I would like to know how this happened. How did it happen that addictions treatment in this country distills down to addicts’ doing the impossible (turning over their will) and knowing the unknowable.

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UPDATED to add this afterthought: That our addictions treatment industry has been taken over by faith healing seems is an enormously shocking development, and I wish that the subject got more attention among the skeptic community. They are mostly about the important business of defending science in public education against the encroachment of Creationism and Intelligent Design, and have their own full-time crackpots and quacks to deal with. But what happened to addiction treatment should be more on the radar, because it is a stellar case in point for what kind of backass standards result, what a fucking mess is made, when the fundies get a foothold. I wish I understood why AA seems to be the redheaded stepchild of the skeptic community. I think it must be a lot more fun to argue with the Rapture Ready crowd, but it also seems that the treatment industry would be a thing to point to for an example.