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A few days back I wrote the following article on my blog and thought I might post it here as I believe it contains much that helps to explain the disease of alcoholism and also it also includes some of my more controversial views of 'God's Role' in this business. Please read on and comment...

"An overwhelming majority of the world’s medical experts are now agreed that alcoholism is a disease. This is due in no small part to the widespread scientific medical research in this field which has very clearly identified a number of factors which clearly show that alcoholics do suffer from certain brain ‘abnormalities’ which distinguish them from their fellow drinkers, who do not suffer from such ‘abnormalities’.

As far back as the 1970’s scientists identified a substance called Tetrahydrolsoqulnoline in the brains of alcoholics or THIQ, which hitherto had only been closely related to heroin addicts. Further research clearly established that THIQ is manufactured in the brain and only occurs in the brain of the alcoholic drinker. It does not exist in the brain of the normal social drinker of alcohol. THIQ has been found to be highly addictive. In experiments it was found to be a pretty good pain killer but it couldn't be used as such because it turned out to be even more addictive than morphine.

The alcoholic's body, like normal drinkers, changes the alcohol into acetaldehyde and then it changes most of it into carbon dioxide and water, which in the end kicks out through the kidneys and lungs. However, the alcoholic's bodies won't kick all these chemicals out. The alcoholic's brain holds a few bits back and transforms them into THIQ. As THIQ is accumulated in the brain of an alcoholic, at some point, maybe sooner, maybe later, the alcoholic will cross over a shadowy line into a whole new way of living.

It is still not known where this line is or how much THIQ an individual brain will pile up before one crosses this line. Some predisposed people cross the line while they're teenagers, or earlier. Others cross in their 30's or 40's and others after retirement. But once this happens, the alcoholic will be as hooked on alcohol, as he would have been hooked on heroin if he'd been shooting that instead. With the loss of control, the complex symptoms have become chronic. All aspects of physiology have become progressive and incurable. Now it is clearly a disease.

All alcoholics suffer from cognitive dysfunction as a result of drinking massive quantities of alcohol over an extended period. The extent of this dysfunction will vary from individual to individual and will depend on many factors, including age, and the length of time the person has been drinking. When talking about cognitive function, I am referring to:

1. Distractibility

2. Mild confusion

3. Irritability

4. Attention and concentration

5. Reaction time

6. Verbal learning ability

7. Verbal abstract reasoning

8. Verbal short term memory

9. Non-verbal abstract reasoning

10. Mental flexibility

11. Non-verbal short term memory

12.Visuospatial ability

Research has now established after 2 months of abstinence, items 1-3 above will usually have shown significant recovery, but items 4-8 can take anything from 2 months to 5 years to show improvement and items 9 -11 can take up to 7 years, with item 12, maybe never showing signs of recovery.

The brains of long term, heavy drinkers shrink, but they return to almost full normal size after a long period of abstinence or moderate drinking. Long-term, heavy drinking kills some white brain cells and some of the grey cells which are responsible for spatial processing; however, it does not kill any other grey cells. In particular, the grey cells which are responsible for thinking, decision making, and other cognitive processes remain intact even in long-term, heavy drinkers. Unless there is permanent brain damage which is due to thiamine deficiency or liver failure, nearly all brain functions of alcohol dependent drinkers can be returned to normal with a long period of abstinence or moderate drinking. Cognitive functioning tends to return to normal when brain size returns to normal.

All this is assuming that the alcoholic is not suffering from a condition known as ‘wet brain’ or Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome, which is a form of brain damage, which is characterized by severe amnesia, confabulation (inventing events to fill in the black-out gaps in memory), and sometimes dementia.

In general terms, most medical practitioners who are concerned with the treatment of recovering alcoholics, will agree that the first year of abstinence is crucial and that during that period great care must be taken with the alcoholic’s lifestyle to ensure that he/she is kept away from temptation as much as possible and that during this critical period when the cognitive functions are slowly improving, that not too much pressure or expectations can be put on him/her. I personally have met literally dozens of long-term sober alcoholics who have impressed upon me how important that very first year is for a recovering alcoholic. They are all agreed that life changing decisions during this early period should be avoided, whenever possible.

Alcoholism is a disease. The sufferer has THIQ in his brain and it will never go away, and for him alcohol is a dangerous and potentially deadly chemical to which he has a lifelong addiction. Over time, the alcoholic can train himself to resist the temptation to take what he desires more than anything and he can become an almost normal, sober member of society, but he will never be completely cured.

Can God cure Cancer? Or heart disease? Some may claim that he can, but they are in the extreme minority – a religious fringe element, most would conclude. For most of us, the only cure for cancer is medical treatment – surgery, chemo-therapy etcetera and as far as I am aware, although I have never consulted with any cancer specialists, God has no part in this process.

So why does God suddenly have this miraculous ability to relieve alcoholics of their disease, as so many recovering members of AA believe? I think we might find the answer in the nature of the disease – the fact that alcoholics – to one extent or another – are suffering from some degree of mental impairment. They are unable to think clearly and rationally and their powers of logical reasoning are severely compromised.

Medical science has already established that it can take years, if at all, for a sober alcoholic to recover all of his cognitive functions, so isn’t it fairly obvious that such people would be vulnerable to the heady and attractive ideas propounded by AA religious zealots? Then, if we add into the mix the fact that most, if not all alcoholics are also social misfits in one way or another, with many suffering from such diseases as manic depression, agoraphobia, OCD and so on.

I can confirm that from first-hand experience, I too was taken in by the ‘spiritual teachings’ of AA and to this day I still accept that the exploring of your own spirituality can be a powerful weapon in the arsenal of an alcoholic in his fight to stay sober. But as for the notion that there is a God out there who knows all about me, and will help me personally if I seek his help, if I do his bidding, work the 12 steps and try to lead an exemplary life? I’m sorry; it is a very praiseworthy ethos, but for me, it is a bridge too far.

This doesn’t mean that I dismiss the power and proven ability of AA to bring countless thousands of alcoholics to a life of sobriety. And if the only way these people can remain sober is to embrace a personal God in their life, then it is no bad thing. Indeed, if an alcoholic asked me for help today, I would have no hesitation in taking him to the next AA meeting and if, as a consequence, he embraced the conception of a Higher Power and by doing this and working the 12 steps, he found his way to sobriety, then I would be absolutely delighted for him.

There are a great many psychiatrists and psychologists who have years of experience in this field; from the eminent Carl Jung, right up to the Belgian therapist who worked with me last year, who all acknowledge that spirituality has a huge part to play in the recovery of most alcoholics. Quite why this is, nobody really knows, but we do know that the brain still contains many unsolved mysteries. Maybe the effect of THIQ on the brain lays bare that so-called God Spot that neurologists claim to have discovered.

There are many documented cases of patients with a certain type of brain tumour who suddenly become very religious, amidst claims that God is talking to them. Then, when their tumour is removed, so are their religious convictions. I am sure that amongst all this - still to be researched ‘brain science’ - that one day we will find the answers to these unexplained mysteries and I doubt that the answer will be that 'alkies' have a direct line to God."

Edited by Mobi
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I think its the faith in God that helps the alcoholic recover.

If it was just down to God, then he would do it for us, or not, regardless of ourselves.

He took enough care of us when we were drinking, despite our own stupidity, but he will only do for us what we cannot do for ourselves; first, we have to do our bit...

Parable

A woman prayed to God "Oh Lord, let me win the lottery"

"Oh Lord, this week, let me win the Lottery"

"Oh Lord, I've been three weeks with no money, let me win the Lottery"

And the Lord spoke to her

"You're going to have to work with me on this one. Please, buy a ticket."

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Excellent writing about the nature of the disease, which you are very knowledgeable about.

When you stopped drinking, did you still have the disease(the powerlessness over alcohol)?

You say that God has 'a miraculous ability to relieve alcoholics of their disease'. I disagree with this. This is the physical aspect of the 'disease of alcoholism' which most alcoholics have done many times by themselves. If my only problem is that when I drink, terrible things happen then I don't have much of a problem - all I have to do is stop.

I'm an alcoholic and the problem with me is when I'm sober, not when I'm drinking like most people think. OK, my life was totally unmanageable for years when drinking and terrible, crazy things happened.

So sobriety is my major problem. Alcohol fixed my problem with sobriety. Focusing on the problems caused when I drank alcohol doesn't really help me, apart from the reminder.

It was when I was sober, brain working well that the insanity of taking that first, devastating drink, fully aware of the consequences of loss of family/job/jail/hospital etc, happened.

If my main alcoholic problem is not a physical one, then what is it - spiritual, mental, psychological, emotional?

You mention God curing heart disease or cancer - can you see the difference? These are physical.

I used to try to be intellectual in my early days of sobriety. Yes, but...

I think it's dangerous because what I was really trying to do was figure out a way I could drink again. Maybe my brain releases natural opiate when alcohol is added. Maybe that's why an opoid antagonist is used in the treatment of alcoholics. Maybe I know better than these AA people.

The program of AA is a spiritual one.

But as for the notion that there is a God out there who knows all about me, and will help me personally if I seek his help, if I do his bidding, work the 12 steps and try to lead an exemplary life? I’m sorry; it is a very praiseworthy ethos, but for me, it is a bridge too far.

There either is a God or there isn't. When I tried the above suggestion, I found the answer.

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15 years ago I went to a psychiatrist for a problem, not alcoholism. It was a business problem and I had great insurance so I got hooked up with one of the most expensive and well thought of psychiatrists assisting business leaders and corporations ($500 per hour). He had written books and had a great educational background including degrees in pharmacology in addition to his MD's and other degrees.

After to talking to me he suggested I may have a problem with alcohol and his advice was for me to stop drinking for three days so he could put me on medication.

Even with all of his education and experience he suggested I go to AA to stop drinking for a while.

AA convinced me not to take the first drink. I had problems with the higher power thing as I am an atheist. But it is not a big problem. If I pray to a God or have Buddha statues in my living room so what. Do I believe in God or an afterlife? No. Do I pray every day? Yes. Is that logical? No. Is life logical? No. I don't drink. Who cares how or why or what happens. I don't drink and I don't take the first drink. Not drinking is very difficult unless you follow a couple of rules. 1. Don't drink. And, 2. go to meetings. You want to stop drinking? Don't drink and go to meetings. Thinking is not necessary. 12 steps are great. But all you really have to do is don't drink and go to meetings.

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Excellent post kerryk.

I had a similar experence which got me to eliminate alcohol so that I might have a shot at my underlying issues I needed to resolve. The great thing about substances is that they work!.....for awhile....but then you need more and more because in addition to the problems you had when you started now you have many, many, many new problems. Because we have developed a pattern of medicating the problems away we loose our power to make good judgements and loose our power to choose.

A higher power can be anything a person chooses. It is the belief that it can restore you to sanity that is the critical component.

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Thank you for your comments Johnniey, unfortunately you seem to have mis-construed much of what what I was trying to say.

I will try to respond to your questions and points.

When you stopped drinking, did you still have the disease?

Yes, it never goes away, as has now been scientifically proven by studying the brains of alcoholics. But you just learn to deal with it - day by day.

You say that God has 'a miraculous ability to relieve alcoholics of their disease'.

I did not intend to say that that all and I apologise for my misleading statement. What I was trying to say was that many alcoholics, who belong to AA, CLAIM that "God has 'a miraculous ability to relieve alcoholics of their disease" I do not personally believe this and I was trying to explain why it is that so many alcoholics believe this to be true.

If my main alcoholic problem is not a physical one, then what is it - spiritual, mental, psychological, emotional?

It is all of those, but we now know that alcoholics have a highly addictive substance call THIQ in their brains which non alcoholics do not have. This is the core of their addiction and to that extent it is a physical disease, in the same way that other brain disorders will cause sufferers to behave in different, abnormal ways. It is the success, or otherwise, of fighting this addiction which will determine whether an alcoholic can achieve long term sobriety. In general terms, this is no different to a person fighting a heroin or cocaine addiction. Some can and some cannot. Many alcoholics seem to derive huge benefit in this battle by embracing spirituality. Of this there is no doubt, but why this is so is yet to be satisfactorily explained to this non- believer.(Me)

You mention God curing heart disease or cancer - can you see the difference? These are physical.

Again, I regret, you have misunderstood what I was saying. Of course God Cannot cure heart disease or cancer. This was the point I was trying to make. If God cannot cure cancer, why should he be able to cure heart disease? They are both diseases of the body. so why one and not the other? It is simply not credible.

There either is a God or there isn't. When I tried the above suggestion, I found the answer.

To me there is absolutely no conflict between the idea that there may be some higher being out there somewhere who somehow brought this universe in which we live into being and the notion that if there is such a 'being', he has absolutely no interest in me as a person (or any other living entity in this universe for that matter ) and that if I behave in a certain way he will reward me by relieving my addiction to alcohol.

To me it is laughable and arrogant that anyone could possibly believe such notions, especially if you study all the evil that had been perpetrated in this world, and how many good people die for no good reason, including untold millions from sickness and accident yet many evil people get away Scott free. So this 'All seeing, all merciful, all loving God', lets millions of good people suffer and die needless deaths; yet he cares about my alcoholism and will help me personally if I accept him and work the 12 steps? It is tosh - plain tosh of the highest order.

In point of fact, if you study the origins of the universe and read up on the advances in gene code research into species that lived millions of years ago, you will be left in little doubt that God played little part in the origin of human life, which mainly developed by genetic 'accidents'. We now know that Darwin's Theory of Evolution was more accurate than even he could have imagined. Genetic research confirms just about everything that he propounded and the scientists have yet to find any evidence of a 'higher Power' at work in this 'ad hoc' development of man kind over the past 500 million years.

Edited by Mobi
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Good posts from SC kerryk and trisailor.

At the end of the day, the AA has had considerable success in helping hopeless alcoholics, where no other organisation was able to make any progress.

I like to discuss some of the 'God concepts' in these forums but I will never knock AA and what they have achieved. As I said in my original post, whenever I am asked for advice from an alcoholic, my one and only suggestion is get to an AA meeting.

If nothing else, AA is the cheapest form of group therapy in the world and wherever you are in the world you will never be too far from an AA meeting. There are 3 meetings every day in Pattaya alone. They even provide 'one to one' support and mentoring and have helped countless thousands through the pains of detox - all at no charge.

To those who are even a just a little concerned about your drinking, try a meeting or two - you have nothing to lose. No pressure will be put upon you to do anything you don't want to do. You can just go and sit and listen and say nothing.

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I have listened to a lot of discussion about the God thing. I have listened to a lot of discussion about each of the 12 steps.

But they are counterproductive for most people with a drinking problem.

People who come to AA meetings ask if they have a drinking problem all the time. The answer is simple. If you are at an AA meeting you have a drinking problem. If you are thinking about going to an AA meeting you have a drinking problem. If you posting about alcohol in a forum called, “I drink too much” you have a drinking problem.

AA helps people stop drinking. You don't have to worry about God, or if you have a drinking problem or any other stuff. They have people to take care of that.

Is alcoholism a disease or not? Who cares? It simply is not important. I have known hundreds of people who have ruined their lives and the lives of many others by excessive drinking. What is important is for those people to stop drinking. Can I convince them to stop drinking? No. But if they want to stop and ask me how to do that, I can tell them. Don't drink and go to meetings.

At what stage is it appropriate for an alcoholic to discuss the God issue? IMHO, after 20 or 30 years of sobriety with another alcoholic who has been sober for 20 or 30 years. The reason? The God thing clouds the basic issue which is not drinking. Best keep it simple for the first 20 years of sobriety.

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15 years ago I went to a psychiatrist for a problem, not alcoholism. It was a business problem and I had great insurance so I got hooked up with one of the most expensive and well thought of psychiatrists assisting business leaders and corporations ($500 per hour). He had written books and had a great educational background including degrees in pharmacology in addition to his MD's and other degrees.

After to talking to me he suggested I may have a problem with alcohol and his advice was for me to stop drinking for three days so he could put me on medication.

Even with all of his education and experience he suggested I go to AA to stop drinking for a while.

AA convinced me not to take the first drink. I had problems with the higher power thing as I am an atheist. But it is not a big problem. If I pray to a God or have Buddha statues in my living room so what. Do I believe in God or an afterlife? No. Do I pray every day? Yes. Is that logical? No. Is life logical? No. I don't drink. Who cares how or why or what happens. I don't drink and I don't take the first drink. Not drinking is very difficult unless you follow a couple of rules. 1. Don't drink. And, 2. go to meetings. You want to stop drinking? Don't drink and go to meetings. Thinking is not necessary. 12 steps are great. But all you really have to do is don't drink and go to meetings.

$500 an hour :o, NOW l need therapy, where did l go wrong. :)

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kerryk, while I have much sympathy and respect for what you are saying, my experience of AA meetings is that what you are suggesting is simply not possible.

I can only assume that you have not attended many meetings nor read the AA literature and the twelve step programme, for if you had you would know that this is so.

Remember, that I am a supporter of AA even though I reject 99% of what the AA has to say about a Higher Power yet I, like you, would tell anyone who had a problem to go to meetings and take from those meetings anything they can to achieve personal sobriety.

But the fact is that in virtually every AA meeting, you will be assailed by the 'God thing' and it is simply not possible to ignore 'The God Thing' until you have 20 years of sobriety.

The very essence of the AA programme is acceptance of the God Thing; the Big Book, AA Literature and the format of every AA meeting is completely enmeshed in its members having a belief in a Higher power who will relieve them of their disease. The so called God Thing or belief in a Higher Power is at the very core - the essence if you like - of what AA is all about. Just one reading of any chapter of the Big Book will leave you in no doubt about this.

The AA 12 step programme is steeped in the God thing and you really cannot begin to work this programme properly without acknowledging the existence of the 'God Thing' issue within each of its steps and considering where you personally stand in relation to it.

Almost every person who 'shares' at an AA meeting s will make reference to The God Thing and how their belief in a Higher Power has relieved them of their desire to take a drink.

I have met some members of AA who are avowed atheists yet they still manage to get what they need from AA - as I hope this non -believer (me) does. But I have heard them at meetings tell us that they reject much of what AA teaches - they do not ignore it - they have thought it through and rejected it.

But To suggest that you do not concern yourself with the 'God Thing' until you have been sober for 20 years, is, IMHO, simply not possible. You will be confronted with the God Thing on your very first meeting and you have to consider what is being said in meetings generally and to you specifically and then decide what you can personally accept or reject. But to ignore it is not possible - at least not at any AA meetings that I have been to.

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Great post Op, thanks for that, very interesting.

I also dont buy the God thing when it is mixed with the issue of recovering from alcoholism. Actually, I myself would have once considered going to a meeting had i not heard about the god thing being such a majour part of the AA process.

The perpetuation of this re-occuring theme of "I could'nt have done it on my own.." is also pretty counterproductive thinking IMO.

Isnt it this line of thought which leads to addictive behaviours in the first place?...The insinuation that you can't do it alone, your hopeless, you NEED a group, or you need someone or something OUTSIDE of you in order to function normally as a human being.

I figure if there is perfect God or entity of the like, then such a perfect entity would be as easily accessible as looking within yourself. It seems some of the religious gurus claim that god is within each and every one of us and everything is constantly intertwining in a bigger brilliant picture.

If this is so, then you have everything you need already.

Why be conned into thinking you are weak and need to be reliant on others or something outside of yourself? Are they any better at healing you than you?

I believe if you REALLY want to give up something then you have the power within, just a matter of believing it.

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Thanks for starting this thread Mobi, I have found it very interesting and you certainly know what you are talking about.

As far as the "God" thing goes, you really cannot avoid it at aa meetings .

In fact as soon as any meeting starts the serenity prayer is said "GOD" is the first word of that prayer, so in your very first meeting you will be asked to say "GOD" although the person taking the meeting will say that you can choose a "God of your understanding" before it commences,but no more explanation than that is forthcoming, but most newcomers don't have any type of God or Higher Power which is why so many people attend one aa meeting and leave never to return bewildered by the fact that God has to be involved in their recovery process. Their common logic tells them that this is not what they thought it was going to be, they are just desperate for help to get sober.

I am very aware that aa is the most effective of all the different types of self-help suppot groups available around the world and I too would recommend it to anyone who felt they needed to stop drinking, its success rate is about 10% which is really pretty high compared to alternatives. But are the 9 out of 10 that don't stay leave, many of them because they just cannot connect with this Higher Power? I don't know but its a big ask for an athiest to be told that in order to recover you need to find a "God of your understanding" Many people just can't buy into the whole 12 step regime no matter how sick they are, but what's the alternative? Even if you go to a detox centre most of them will send you out to aa meetings as part of their programme.

So it seems to me that aa does work for a few people , but for the majority who try it it does not, having said that if self-will and self-control does not work for you , nor the medication that a physician will prescribe you,there are no other options but to eventually die from alcoholism or a problem that stems from alcohol abuse.

Having said all of this, I know full well that there are many people who come on this forum and say that not only has aa got them sober, but it has changed their lives in unimaginable ways and all for the good. That is fantastic, and it does happen, but unfortunatley not for the vast majority of people who go to an aa meeting , or maybe hundreds of meetings. I am very happy for people that have recovered by using the aa programme, and I would say that if you have a drinking problem the BEST place to start is by going to aa meetings and take what you like away with you and leave what you don't in the rooms.

If you hang around long enough and if you are atheist they tell you to use the GOD word as anythything you want "Group Of Drunks" = GOD, nothing wrong with that, and if it keeps you coming back then why not? It really depends on how much you want sobriety and what lengths you are prepared to go to to to achieve it.

I know I am yet again repeating myself ,but if you really want sobriety there is no better starting point than attending aa meetings, with a "Very open mind" those that fail tend to close off their minds to the endless possibiliies of how to make a recovery. I have a very good freind , 16 years sober who is adamant that God does NOT exsist , but he stil attends aa regularly , and runs a meeting.

He has found a Higher Power of HIS understanding, and if this was made clearer to newcomers right from the get-go then I think that more people would get sober using the aa recovery method,

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I went to Church at school long enough without believing in God, I can surely manage a few AA meetings.

Assuming God does not exist, what harm is there in joining in the prayers? It might even help reinforce in your own mind what it is that you want to achieve.

Given that he does not exist,one should not let him prevent you going to AA meetings - I have rarely been tempted to take a drink during a meeting, so that is a step in the right direction, and one should be able to sit beside people regardless of what they believe.

The ability to kow tow and go along with a group is probably also a skill that a lot of alcoholics would benefit from developing.

SC

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kerryk, while I have much sympathy and respect for what you are saying, my experience of AA meetings is that what you are suggesting is simply not possible.

I can only assume that you have not attended many meetings nor read the AA literature and the twelve step programme, for if you had you would know that this is so.

Remember, that I am a supporter of AA even though I reject 99% of what the AA has to say about a Higher Power yet I, like you, would tell anyone who had a problem to go to meetings and take from those meetings anything they can to achieve personal sobriety.

But the fact is that in virtually every AA meeting, you will be assailed by the 'God thing' and it is simply not possible to ignore 'The God Thing' until you have 20 years of sobriety.

The very essence of the AA programme is acceptance of the God Thing; the Big Book, AA Literature and the format of every AA meeting is completely enmeshed in its members having a belief in a Higher power who will relieve them of their disease. The so called God Thing or belief in a Higher Power is at the very core - the essence if you like - of what AA is all about. Just one reading of any chapter of the Big Book will leave you in no doubt about this.

The AA 12 step programme is steeped in the God thing and you really cannot begin to work this programme properly without acknowledging the existence of the 'God Thing' issue within each of its steps and considering where you personally stand in relation to it.

Almost every person who 'shares' at an AA meeting s will make reference to The God Thing and how their belief in a Higher Power has relieved them of their desire to take a drink.

I have met some members of AA who are avowed atheists yet they still manage to get what they need from AA - as I hope this non -believer (me) does. But I have heard them at meetings tell us that they reject much of what AA teaches - they do not ignore it - they have thought it through and rejected it.

But To suggest that you do not concern yourself with the 'God Thing' until you have been sober for 20 years, is, IMHO, simply not possible. You will be confronted with the God Thing on your very first meeting and you have to consider what is being said in meetings generally and to you specifically and then decide what you can personally accept or reject. But to ignore it is not possible - at least not at any AA meetings that I have been to.

I don't know how many AA meetings I have been to. A couple of thousand in three different countries would be my guess. In some respects this thread is like a meeting and that's cool. I have been to meetings I liked and meetings I didn't like.

Just for me and not necessarily for anyone else. You have to trust someone. At some point in your life you have to say, I don't know all the answers.

My first sponsor was an Egyptian atheist.

You see I had a lot of concerns about God having been hung out to dry by my Irish Catholic upbringing like so many other AA members in Thailand.

I really trusted my shrink partly because I paid him so much money and the fact that he gave me some brilliant business advice not connected to alcohol but having to do with deal making psychology. And the shrink told me to go to AA so I made a commitment to go.

But I was having problems with the God thing at meetings. The guys at the meeting told me to keep my mouth shut for the first year and just listen.

I didn't find my first sponsor, the Egyptian atheist he found me. Maybe it was obvious I was uncomfortable. My first sponsor told me one thing that made a difference. Since I didn't like the meetings I asked him how many I would have to go to. I was going to meetings daily and sometimes twice a day. He told me I would have to keep going to meetings till I liked them and then I could stop going.

So to re cap I made two commitments. 1. To join AA and 2. To go to meetings till I liked them.

I asked my sponsor what to do about the God thing and he said ignore it. Ignoring things was not new to me. I had teachers, parents, wives, preachers and bosses that I had successfully ignored for years.

Sorry I feel that my post is a sadly inadequate answer to your question but it's the best I can do on short notice.

Yes I have been to a lot of meetings and I just ignore the God thing. After the meeting, meetings are very important too and I also ignore the God thing at the after the meeting, meetings. I learned not to debate things in AA and only share my experiences. So, that's what I am doing now. I am not telling you what is right or wrong simply what I did and what happened.

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What is your Higher Power ?? Decide that for your self.

What may work for me may not work for you.

I went to AA meetings for the first 4-5 months, then quit attending.

Only you yourself can quit drinking - it is all up to you.

If a strong belief - or a weak belief - in God does it for you, have at it.

I took AA as a guide to start the journey of not drinking. Once on the path, I found my own way to do it.

Doing it this way made it MY sobriety.

Working since January 1994 - so far anyway.

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Excellent, excellent post ThaiPauly.

AA was the best thing that ever happened to me because it taught me how to feel. I still become emotional when I think about my own transformation from a isolated, unfeeling individual who needed substances to feel anything at all, to a fully functioning, emotional, empathic, compassionate human. I still can't read the preamble without being overcome with emotion. I feel it writing this now.

There is so much truth to your GOD being group of drunks. I didn't know it at the time but I realize that the transformational power came from hearing others stories and beginning to feel empathy for them. That was the gateway to learning how to feel empathy for myself. I almost collapsed in a heap with overpowering emotion the first time I stood at the end of a meeting holding hands and saying the lords prayer. I had never held the hand of a stranger and felt the power of the human connection that it held. For some reason I could never feel that compassion for myself, but I learned how to by small bits of feeling it for others. Now, after years of cultivating empathy and compassion I know no other way.

Tolstoy said the kingdom of god in within each of us and I believe that is true. What is required is to turn that part of our brains that brought us to the place of powerlessness and learn about a new power. The power that started out as a small spark generated by others but came back to me and energized my life to make it manageable again. I think we're all born with it, it is human and it dosen't matter one wit to me how someone else wants to characterize it.

BTW I set a goal to eliminate substances for a year. I stopped for two. I then gave myself permission to use again with limits that if I could not keep I would return to AA. I kept the limits fairly well, but I continued my journey. The more I learned to like myself the stronger I became and the less I wanted substances. Today I can use what I want but I find little interest in it because the buzz I get from being a fully feeling human is enough.

Edited by trisailer
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Great post Op, thanks for that, very interesting.

I also dont buy the God thing when it is mixed with the issue of recovering from alcoholism. Actually, I myself would have once considered going to a meeting had i not heard about the god thing being such a majour part of the AA process.

The perpetuation of this re-occuring theme of "I could'nt have done it on my own.." is also pretty counterproductive thinking IMO.

Isnt it this line of thought which leads to addictive behaviours in the first place?...The insinuation that you can't do it alone, your hopeless, you NEED a group, or you need someone or something OUTSIDE of you in order to function normally as a human being.

I figure if there is perfect God or entity of the like, then such a perfect entity would be as easily accessible as looking within yourself. It seems some of the religious gurus claim that god is within each and every one of us and everything is constantly intertwining in a bigger brilliant picture.

If this is so, then you have everything you need already.

Why be conned into thinking you are weak and need to be reliant on others or something outside of yourself? Are they any better at healing you than you?

I believe if you REALLY want to give up something then you have the power within, just a matter of believing it.

The primary purpose of AA meetings is to stop drinking. I don't think one ever recovers from being an alcoholic. (just my opinion) So I never went to AA meetings to recover from being an alcoholic. I was not looking for a cure. I simply wanted to stop drinking. I have listened to a lot of people introduce themselves as a grateful recovering alcoholics. That's OK for them. Me, I am just an alcoholic and will always be one. I know if I have one drink I am off to the races again like I never stopped drinking for 15 years. In one night I know I can go from sobriety to drunk and it only takes one beer.

Besides the primary purpose of AA meetings there are hundreds of secondary purposes. A lot of them are social. Some are charitable. But if you call me up in the middle of the night, wake me out of a sound sleep and tell me you are having a problem not drinking; I'll go have a cup of coffee with you.

AA meetings are a support group. Not a money support group but a mental support group to stop drinking.

It would be an error to say all AA meetings are the same. There are thousands of different kinds of meetings. It is simple, take what you need and ignore the rest. AA is a self centered program in that respect.

Ozzie, if you ran into me at an AA meeting and asked me about the God thing I would laugh and tell you not to worry about it. I would advise you to hang out and listen to the stories. The stories in the meetings are worth going to hear alone. They are humorous, tragic, profound, every emotion in the book. (Thailand AA meetings) A lightweight Irish professional boxer, A Russian midget in the circus, a giant of a Swede who the doctors told had only a week to live from a brain tumor, A Canadian millionaire who came to Thailand and lost it all then made it back again. Maybe the stories are true and maybe not but it is high drama, good theater if nothing else.

Besides the serious purpose of AA, the meetings are entertainment.

I went to one meeting a day for a year and did not say anything. No one bothered me. I listened to what the members said for an hour and then went home. No one threw holy water on me or wanted me to do anything religious except say the serenity prayer and lords prayer and they would not have kicked me out had I refused.

The initial prescription is 90 meetings in 90 days.

How would Buddha handle an AA meeting? Substitute Karma, or good life for God in the serenity prayer.

I used the God thing as an excuse not to go to AA meetings before I went.

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I went to Church at school long enough without believing in God, I can surely manage a few AA meetings.

Assuming God does not exist, what harm is there in joining in the prayers? It might even help reinforce in your own mind what it is that you want to achieve.

Given that he does not exist,one should not let him prevent you going to AA meetings - I have rarely been tempted to take a drink during a meeting, so that is a step in the right direction, and one should be able to sit beside people regardless of what they believe.

The ability to kow tow and go along with a group is probably also a skill that a lot of alcoholics would benefit from developing.

SC

Boy is that true. Realizing that you are not alone or unique. Realizing there are millions of others who have the same problems. One one hand it is comforting to know you are not alone and on the other hand ego deflating to realize you are not unique. Listen to the stories of a thousand people tell you how they tried to stop drinking and manage their lives alone.

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Excellent posts from everyone and especially TP who has elucidated far better than I about the Higher power aspects when I wrote my rambling post, late last night.

Kerryk, my apologies for misjudging your knowledge of and experience in AA meetings. I guess what you are really saying is that even though you are confronted with the God Thing, if it doesn't sit well with you, then do not concern yourself with it too much. Just carry on regardless, taking from AA what you can. In this I completely agree.

BTW, I think you were very lucky to have found a sponsor who is an atheist and advised you in the way that he did - that has not been my experience and must be quite rare. Ditto TP's meeting where the Chair was an atheist. IMO, these are the exceptions rather than the norm, but if you can find them, then great.

In my blog, I am regularly assailed by a member of AA who writes very long comments trying to convince me that the only way to stay sober is to embrace AA in its entirety and to embrace my Higher Power and to work the 12 steps. He insists that you simply cannot just take what you choose from the AA programme and leave the rest, as we have been discussing in this thread - he says it will never work. This man is a good guy and he genuinely wants to help me but he is convinced that even though I now have 4 months of sobriety under my belt, and even if I continue to attend AA meetings (which, incidentally, I don't any more), then sooner or later I will lapse because I haven't embraced my Higher Power and worked the steps.

If I referred this man to this thread, he would make a very long post telling us that all our ideas of attending AA but ignoring God etc will never work. (Maybe I should so that we can see how these AA people think, in the interests of a balanced debate).

It will be an interesting test for me to see if I can truly remain sober for the rest of my life. I am reasonably confident, but not so arrogant as to believe that I am home and dry. There is no doubt that without AA I would never have been able to be the sober person I am today. I drifted in and out of AA for several years and in the early days I was in such a mess that I actually started to become persuaded by the God Thing, even though I had previously been a devout atheist. I met some wonderful people in AA who cared about me and helped me enormously, if through no other reason than by their personal example.

But as time went on and I slowly started to turn my life around - sometimes sober - sometimes not - I feel that I regained my common sense and powers of reasoning and started to realise that the God Thing in AA was basically a salve to sick minds who were desperate to grab at anything in their desire to get and stay sober. Some, (the 10% that TP refers to), having become sober and having recalled with horror their lost, painful alcoholic years, are afraid to let go of the God Thing for fear that this will precipitate a lapse.

This is my take on AA and God, and I accept that it may not be everyone's.

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I think I understand where your coming from mobi. I read a little of your blog and I sure can relate. I commend you for your insight and your desire to be a "better" person. I think that as we age we should be getting closer to the person we may have thought we were but were never.

I was in and out of AA for years because I never quite got the "powerlessness thing" How could I be powerless when I was a success in my career and a hard driving risk taker. I also was the "life of the party" everyone loved my stories of daring and people used to tell me I should write a book about my adventures.

The only problem with all that is that they never saw me when things were not going so well. They were not with me alone in the dark with myself and my fears and my insecurity. Substances were keeping my demons at bay, but not by much.

I'm a bootstrap guy. I quit school at 14 and ran away to be a lumberjack like my 5th grade teacher's husband. I kept running away and they kept bringing me back. Somehow I eventually got through college on the GI bill and began a career that took off like a rocket. Powerlessness was not in my vocabulary. There was nothing I could not overcome with the right amount of effort. "Master of my fate, captain of my soul." I said it so many times that even I believed it. The truth was that I wasn't any of it and I didn't even know it. I was not what I (and many others) thought I was. I was in crisis; the harder I fought to regain control the deeper I sank. My behavior reflected just how out of control I was and cumulated with my assaulting my beautiful girlfriend and tearing up a bar before taking on a squad of local cops (I lost) and winding up in jail with 2 broken ribs and some pretty nasty black eyes.

This was my bottom. It was what it took for me to admit powerlessness and commit to the program competely. I asked a friend of mine who was in the program and a total rageaholic prick to be my sponser and I committed to do whatever he told me to do for a year. That's what it took for me. During that year I went to meetings almost every day, read the book and worked the program to the best of my ability. In hindsight I know I needed that time away from substances because it forced me to face some things straight on. No more self medicating. I was also doing a number of other things at the time to try to figure out what the hell was wrong with me. I made a committment to one year, but I went two without substances. When I went back to using it wasn't the same.

There are two types of people in the world, those with a life wish and those with a death wish. I'm pretty sure I had a death wish, but I was afraid of dying. Now I have a life wish and I'm not afraid of dying. You gotta love life's irony.

I say do what works for you and do it in your own time. You already know where to go if you need it.

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My first AA meeting. I was frightened to go alone. My wife told me she would go with me and then backed out at the last minute. I was terrified telling a room full of people that I was an alcoholic.

There I was all alone in a speaker meeting with hundreds of people. The meeting was so big I didn't have to publicly introduce myself. They had a couple of speakers, it was an interesting experience.

My second AA meeting was a hot dog meeting (500 people). Free hot dogs after the meeting. It was derelict city. A lot of recently released convicts, bikers and criminals of all types, most there on court ordered meetings. I just stared in wonder. The speakers were like a Hollywood B movie.

Then I went to a beach meeting and a sunrise meeting and a sunset meeting. I was like an AA meeting tourist. I went to picnic meetings. I wasn't getting much out of it but I didn't drink.

Somewhere along the line I lost my fear of meetings. After sampling a whole lot of different meetings I found one I liked.

I really don't know what works for anyone else.

I'll be honest with you I like the stories at the meetings and going out to eat with members after the meetings. Some times we talk about AA things after the meetings sometimes not.

I chaired a meeting in Thailand for a while a few years ago. A well known person about things Thai began attending the meeting. He spoke magnificent Thai. He talked a lot for a new guy. From his first meeting he told everyone he was not a “step person.” He talked at least 10 minutes every meeting about his reasons for not doing the steps and God was a big part of his rejection of the steps.

I should have taken him aside and talked to him but I'm not a very forward guy. I should have told him to shut up. I was afraid it I told him to shut up for a year he might think I didn't want him coming to meetings and that wasn't the case. He just didn't know enough about the program to to get into the discussion stage. He wanted to talk about the God thing at every meeting and the steps and for the group to tailor a Godless, stepless meeting experience for him. Not going to happen in my lifetime in AA I don't think. I don't know what happened to him but he stopped coming to meetings.

I am not a good AA person. I don't make a good sponsor. I really don't like chairing meetings. I realize it is a personal fault. I should go to the hospital to see people who are sick. I should go to more meetings. I should do a lot of things I don't do because AA has given me a lot.

I am sure everyone who knows anything about AA knows it is chocked full of clichés. “Meeting makers make it” is one of the clichés and I think it is true.

Some people get AA like some people get born again. It is a stage a lot of people go through. Normally they get over it after a while, not all but most. There are all sorts of stages, the terrible two's (two years sober), the dreaded five year mark and so on. It serves no purpose to debate these people. They know they are right and want to tell you about God and AA and salvation.

In my experience if you go to enough AA meetings you will find everything you need. You don't have to talk or think, just show up. I would never be so bold to tell another person how to get or stay sober. I have had a hundred people tell me how to stay sober. I listen. I nod. I eventually found people I could trust. They seemed to have at least 20 years of sobriety but again that's just me.

I first went to AA meetings to sober up. Now I go to AA meetings because someone has to go. What if you were a struggling alcoholic on the verge of death or doing something unspeakable and no one showed up at the meeting. AA is not perfect but it is better than anything else so far. What if no one went to meetings? So it is a double edged sword. AA helped me get sober so I figure I owe AA, Karma.

Edited by kerryk
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Thank you for your comments Johnniey, unfortunately you seem to have mis-construed much of what what I was trying to say.

I will try to respond to your questions and points.

There either is a God or there isn't. When I tried the above suggestion, I found the answer.

To me there is absolutely no conflict between the idea that there may be some higher being out there somewhere who somehow brought this universe in which we live into being and the notion that if there is such a 'being', he has absolutely no interest in me as a person (or any other living entity in this universe for that matter ) and that if I behave in a certain way he will reward me by relieving my addiction to alcohol.

To me it is laughable and arrogant that anyone could possibly believe such notions, especially if you study all the evil that had been perpetrated in this world, and how many good people die for no good reason, including untold millions from sickness and accident yet many evil people get away Scott free. So this 'All seeing, all merciful, all loving God', lets millions of good people suffer and die needless deaths; yet he cares about my alcoholism and will help me personally if I accept him and work the 12 steps? It is tosh - plain tosh of the highest order.

In point of fact, if you study the origins of the universe and read up on the advances in gene code research into species that lived millions of years ago, you will be left in little doubt that God played little part in the origin of human life, which mainly developed by genetic 'accidents'. We now know that Darwin's Theory of Evolution was more accurate than even he could have imagined. Genetic research confirms just about everything that he propounded and the scientists have yet to find any evidence of a 'higher Power' at work in this 'ad hoc' development of man kind over the past 500 million years.

Ok, you don't believe in(or understand) God. Laughing at and calling those who do arrogant is rather childish. Be happy with your non-belief and 'live and let live'.

I find it very strange that many alcoholics drive themselves crazy and get very angry over something(God) that they don't even believe exists. :lol: I used to do the same thing when I was young. I never knew I was sleeping until I woke up. A turning point was when I read a book called, 'a new pair of glasses' by Chuck C.

You can listen to the guy talking here - http://xa-speakers.org/pafiledb.php

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My two cents worth:

Quiting (forever) any addiction, smoking, drinking, drugs, sex, etc, requires a great deal of inner strength and self discipline.

The fact that many people have done it and continue to do it, means that it is possible.

Some people get that inner strength from their faith in God or Bhudda; some people get that inner strength from friends, family, and others

experiencing they same issues; and some get that inner strength just from their own pigheadiness.

Since AA started in a Christian country, it follows that belief in God would become a part of the AA doctrine. For Bhuddists the 5th precept is not to

take any intoxicants. The entire Muslim religion forbids alcohol. Not to sure where the Hindus stand.

If spirtual faith helps you as an individual to quit your addition, good for you.

For the non-believers, if AA helps you quit, you should be able to tolerate the religious aspects of their treatment with grace and respect, because after all, your goal is what is most important, not the theological discussions.

Once your addiction is under control, and you are sober, then can you really begin a serious spirtual quest and start working on any other issues you might have.

Just my thoughts.

I wish everyone well.

RickThai

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Ok, you don't believe in(or understand) God. Laughing at and calling those who do arrogant is rather childish. Be happy with your non-belief and 'live and let live'.

I find it very strange that many alcoholics drive themselves crazy and get very angry over something(God) that they don't even believe exists. :lol: I used to do the same thing when I was young. I never knew I was sleeping until I woke up. A turning point was when I read a book called, 'a new pair of glasses' by Chuck C.

You can listen to the guy talking here - http://xa-speakers.org/pafiledb.php

Sorry if I have upset you, it wasn't my intention as I certainly respect anyone who has a spiritul belief, of whatever nature as long as it is genuinely held. Anger just doesn't come into it and I am not laughing at anyone. It seems you are a little over-sensitive.

This is a cool, calm debate - I hope...

The 'arrogance' to which I referred, is the 'religious arrogance' of someone who believes that he or she is so important in this universe that there is a God out there who actually cares about him or her as an individual. Maybe the choice of word is injudicious, but to me it expresses how I see these people. It is not meant as an insult, but merely as a state of mind, in the same way as one can talk about someone having 'intellectual arrogance', without the accused considering the term an insult.

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Rick Thai, excellent post and I agree with every word you have said.

It seems almost inconceivable that we can have such an intelligent, well reasoned debate on such a controversial subject without the participants resorting to inflamatory comments and personal abuse.

Amazing! - Maybe God is at work here :D

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Ok, you don't believe in(or understand) God. Laughing at and calling those who do arrogant is rather childish. Be happy with your non-belief and 'live and let live'.

I find it very strange that many alcoholics drive themselves crazy and get very angry over something(God) that they don't even believe exists. :lol: I used to do the same thing when I was young. I never knew I was sleeping until I woke up. A turning point was when I read a book called, 'a new pair of glasses' by Chuck C.

You can listen to the guy talking here - http://xa-speakers.org/pafiledb.php

Sorry if I have upset you, it wasn't my intention as I certainly respect anyone who has a spiritul belief, of whatever nature as long as it is genuinely held. Anger just doesn't come into it and I am not laughing at anyone. It seems you are a little over-sensitive.

This is a cool, calm debate - I hope...

The 'arrogance' to which I referred, is the 'religious arrogance' of someone who believes that he or she is so important in this universe that there is a God out there who actually cares about him or her as an individual. Maybe the choice of word is injudicious, but to me it expresses how I see these people. It is not meant as an insult, but merely as a state of mind, in the same way as one can talk about someone having 'intellectual arrogance', without the accused considering the term an insult.

Mobi - you haven't upset me. Yes, I am sensitive, but that is irrelevant :D However, I don't appreciate some of your writings. Basically what you're saying is that people in AA who have a faith in God are somehow still 'sick' or inferior to yourself who has 'common sense and reasoning'. You say you respect 'these people' but do you really?

Since AA started in a Christian country, it follows that belief in God would become a part of the AA doctrine. For Bhuddists the 5th precept is not to

take any intoxicants.

Interestingly, I have met hundreds of Thai alcoholics who couldn't get sober by practicing the 5th precept or ordaining as a monk. However, as soon as they started believing in a 'higher power' and surrendering to that power, they were able to stay sober - many for years now.

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Ok, you don't believe in(or understand) God. Laughing at and calling those who do arrogant is rather childish. Be happy with your non-belief and 'live and let live'.

I find it very strange that many alcoholics drive themselves crazy and get very angry over something(God) that they don't even believe exists. :lol: I used to do the same thing when I was young. I never knew I was sleeping until I woke up. A turning point was when I read a book called, 'a new pair of glasses' by Chuck C.

You can listen to the guy talking here - http://xa-speakers.org/pafiledb.php

Sorry if I have upset you, it wasn't my intention as I certainly respect anyone who has a spiritul belief, of whatever nature as long as it is genuinely held. Anger just doesn't come into it and I am not laughing at anyone. It seems you are a little over-sensitive.

This is a cool, calm debate - I hope...

The 'arrogance' to which I referred, is the 'religious arrogance' of someone who believes that he or she is so important in this universe that there is a God out there who actually cares about him or her as an individual. Maybe the choice of word is injudicious, but to me it expresses how I see these people. It is not meant as an insult, but merely as a state of mind, in the same way as one can talk about someone having 'intellectual arrogance', without the accused considering the term an insult.

Mobi - you haven't upset me. Yes, I am sensitive, but that is irrelevant :D However, I don't appreciate some of your writings. Basically what you're saying is that people in AA who have a faith in God are somehow still 'sick' or inferior to yourself who has 'common sense and reasoning'. You say you respect 'these people' but do you really?

Since AA started in a Christian country, it follows that belief in God would become a part of the AA doctrine. For Bhuddists the 5th precept is not to

take any intoxicants.

Interestingly, I have met hundreds of Thai alcoholics who couldn't get sober by practicing the 5th precept or ordaining as a monk. However, as soon as they started believing in a 'higher power' and surrendering to that power, they were able to stay sober - many for years now.

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Rick Thai, excellent post and I agree with every word you have said.

It seems almost inconceivable that we can have such an intelligent, well reasoned debate on such a controversial subject without the participants resorting to inflamatory comments and personal abuse.

Amazing! - Maybe God is at work here :D

I haven't started yet!!!

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Rick Thai, excellent post and I agree with every word you have said.

It seems almost inconceivable that we can have such an intelligent, well reasoned debate on such a controversial subject without the participants resorting to inflamatory comments and personal abuse.

Amazing! - Maybe God is at work here :D

I haven't started yet!!!

Addiction therapy often cites a spiritual awakening as a prerequisite to curing any harmful addictive behaviours.

Whether that spirituality is via Christianity, Buddhism, Islam or any other spiritual path it is still a necessary step in tackling addictive behaviours according to many experts in this area.

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Sorry, I meant that as a joke to Mobi who I have been in contact with for years.

I admire and respect Mobi through reading about the ups and downs in his life and am amazed that he has managed to stay sober (again) for so long. And I hope he carries on...

A couple of years ago I also played with the idea of AA. I read up about it and talked about it with friends etc.

Here, in Geneva, they have English language meetings all over town. They even have a ladies only one. I felt, and still feel, that AA was and is not for me. I balk at any sort of "brain washing" situation. Be it in a work, relationship etc. situation.

But, by talking with friends in a similar situation, we have managed to concoct our own little AA meet ups. We feel relaxed and know each other well enough to shout and swear whenever we want.

Yes, we still drink. But I have noticed that we drink less. Myself, I used to get up, have a coffee and then some wine and then some more wine and on and on and on until vodka time. Now, I get up drink coffee,coffee, coffee. At 11.30 am I have my aperitif. One glass of wine does me till 1 pm. Then I potter around doing my thang and do not have any more alcohol until about five. And even then it may be only a couple of glasses.

My friends (who I have known for 20 odd years) bring more help to me than a bunch of strangers at an AA meeting would. It's because we know each other and we know each others histories and life styles.

Good luck everyone!!

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