Word from our Sponsors April, 2017
Kudos for the fabulous articles in February’s NoVAtions for describing all the various ways that people can relate to a “Higher Power” or “God.” As a follow-up, I am giving a big shout out to AA’s first self-proclaimed atheist, Jim B. As a member of the early NY Group of AA with Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob in 1938, Jim was responsible for those four words in Steps 3 and 11 “as we understand Him.” In the original Step 2, “God” was replaced by “a Power greater than ourselves,” and “on our knees” was cut from Step 7. The 3rd Tradition, “The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking” was an influence from Jim, too. Bill Wilson paid tribute to Jim and his friend Hank for their atheist and agnostic contributions: “...they had widened our gateway so that all who suffer might pass through, regardless of their belief or lack of belief” (Alcoholics Anonymous. Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age. New York: Alcoholics Anonymous World Service Inc., 1957).
For me, recognizing the history behind our Steps and Traditions is valuable in sponsoring. The research and experiences of all the women and men before us hold so much value and so much wisdom. My goal is to begin with a sponsee where she is to understand what are her ideas of a higher power and spirituality. In our (Jewish) OA founder Rozanne's 1999 World Conference Founder Address, she stated, "Each member is the sole judge of his own eating plan, his normal weight, and his conception of a Higher Power. It is extremely important to remember the above at all times."
Most of my sponsees embrace Christianity, which is ironic, as I’m a recovering Catholic. Today I embrace an eclectic Higher Power. I draw predominantly from Nature, Native American and Buddhism. I like the GOD acronym of “Good Orderly Direction” (for some old timers, GOD is “Group of Drunks”—LOL, I can relate). I initially chose to believe in the Group as a power greater than me because together the members were strong and abstinent one day at a time. I learned this is a “we” program. A few cornerstones repeated to me were the values of honesty, open-mindedness, and willingness, as well as the need for constant vigilance against our disease, which is “cunning, baffling and powerful.” I like to practice random acts of kindness and the Golden Rule. Beautifully, the Golden Rule does not require a god of any sort. The practice is to do for others as you would have someone do for you. Probably most importantly for me, a higher power needs to be Love. Love allows us to embrace any and all beliefs and non-beliefs in our spiritual journey of recovery.
Last, here is an excerpt from the May 1968 AA Grapevine, written by AA’s first atheist, Jim B., about his milestones in recovery. For OA, I substitute the refined sugar for John Barleycorn and O.A. for A.A.:
- "The first power I found greater than myself was John Barleycorn.
- The A.A. Fellowship became my Higher Power for the first two years.
- Gradually, I came to believe that God and Good were synonymous and were found in all of us.
- And I found that by meditating and trying to tune in on my better self for guidance and answers, I became more comfortable and steady.”
–Burwell, Jim. “Sober for Thirty Years.” BarefootsWorld.net. http://www.barefootsworld.net/aaburwell30.html (accessed March 9, 2017.)
Thanks for letting me share