Thursday, July 09, 2009

Books I've Read(or am reading)- Twenty-One: "Steps of Transformation" by Father Meletios Webber



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One reason I've hesitated to get on with this series of "Books I've Read or am Reading" is because I knew this one was approaching and I felt a real reluctance to post on it as it is very personal to me.

I guess I might as well publicly announce on this blog that I have intimate knowledge with Alcoholics Anonymous as of this writing I have been without a drink or drug for a little over 9 years now, my anniversary being June 20, 2000 in that fellowship. I can honestly say that God used AA to literally save my life and that without this intervention, I'm not too sure I would be here right now. It had gotten really bad for me. Perhaps one day I will do a more in depth autobiography and explain much about how I ended up there.

I have not been an active member of the fellowship now since November of 2007 and my reasons are varied and lengthy. But to make it clear, I have many people I love and hold dear and whom I call "friend" today through my time there. Leaving was difficult for me and for those I sponsored and to this day I have people check up on me to see if I'm OK.

Which brings me to the book. It is very well written and has a lot of very good information. On a surface level, I could even say I endorse it. Actually, an excellent book.

However, I have some problems with Father Meletios' worldview in relation to AA and the Church and to explain them, I would need to go into my own reasons for leaving Alcoholics Anonymous. Bound up with my decision to leave are the reasons why I would have to be critical of the approach Father Meletios takes here in this book.

In my course of being in AA, as per my own peculiar make-up, I got into the guts of the program with the full force of my entire being. This is all to the good, I must say, but only because I had the back drop of the Church by which to measure and check myself.

I became associated with a group here in Las Vegas in which I devoted my life. I spent hours upon hours with the people(usually men) who asked for me to sponsor them and my method of sponsorship was to focus around a set time and place with each other around the reading of the "Big Book", the name given to the basic text of Alcoholics Anonymous in which the path to "the spiritual awakening", or "vital spiritual experience" outlined in the Twelve Steps of the Fellowship.

I would stress to those I worked with that recovery does not take place with a mere acquiescence with the intellectual principles stated by the Steps. Recovery is the taking of the actions of the Steps within the context of the Fellowship.

As a quick aside, this "living of the Steps within the Fellowship" has provided some rich thoughts for me about the Church and how everything is to be related and made sense of within the context of the Church as hospital.

As I've stated already, the purpose of AA is to provide the sufferer with that spiritual experience which releases the sufferer from the bondage of active alcoholism. Now without going into too much depth, I would like the reader to know that alcoholism as AA understands it has a very specific meaning and "cure"(cure- i.e., to not be actively drinking- not that once coming to AA one can drink in a fashion that is no longer harmful).

As with the spiritual awakening experienced by the taking of the Twelve Steps provided within the context of AA the fellowship formed by those who have recovered from a "seemingly hopeless state of mind and body"(i.e. active alcoholism), so the Church as Hospital in this Fallen World provides theosis to those who live Her Life, that is Christ Himself.

Orthodoxy, correct belief or correct glory, is inextricably linked and cannot be separated from orthopraxy, that is, correct practice, without Orthodoxy being reduced to a mere theoretical belief and system.

Returning to my sponsorship, I would say that I repeated this process many times, spending hours with the guys in the text of the Big Book and explaining it and relating historical anecdotes about the founders of AA and other historical things of significance.

Now in conjunction with this, I chaired a meeting I built on Saturday evenings and titled the meeting "The Psychic Change" Meeting. "Psychic Change" is also interchangeable with "spiritual awakening" and "spiritual experience" which I have related above is the necessary component to bring about recovery from active alcoholism.

Note that I have repeatedly said "active" alcoholism for a reason. In the fellowship of AA, much gets put under the umbrella of alcoholism even in the state of not actively drinking. Bad habits and/or thought patterns that persist are often diagnosed as stemming from the conditions which brought about active alcoholism and hence a lot of emphasis is placed on inventorying ones' past and working on eliminating those defects of character with the help of God(or as it is commonly spoken of in AA, "a Power greater than oneself", a "Higher Power").

I chaired this meeting for about 5 years and the meeting itself was used to speak about how to go about getting the spiritual experience to bring about recovery from alcoholism. I approached the meeting in a very systematic way and started at the beginning of the Big Book and we worked our way through it each week a little at a time and kept the topic presented in the reading as the subject matter of the meeting.

The basic text of the Big Book is 164 pages long. Using select passages from the book, to go through one "cycle" on one night of the week, reading a little at a time, took about 1 and 1/2 years. I did this "cycle" three times.

Here is the format I created and used through which I attempted to outline in brief form what AA was all about:

F. ALCOHOLISM ADDRESSED: “ Alcoholics Anonymous began on June 10th, 1935 through a long chain of improbable events which brought together Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith. Both men were alcoholics of the ‘hopeless variety’. This means they both belonged to a class of drinkers who had a very definite and adverse reaction to alcohol. Both men found intense pleasure in the effect drinking created in them and would often return to the drink in hopes of firing their inward being. They would seek this ease and comfort to the exclusion of the normal demands of life. In other words, they fled from life and would withdraw within themselves, surrounded by the vaporous illusions alcohol gave them.
“Both men at some point gained an awareness of the destruction they were inflicting upon themselves and
upon all who loved them. They resolved to give up alcohol. Both men discovered they could not. They absolutely were unable to not pick up that first drink no matter how many times they swore they would never get drunk again. The peculiar obsession with alcohol had become ingrained into the fiber of their souls.(Their psyche had become scarred). Inevitably, against their own will and against their own judgment, they would take that first drink and for a time they would find that peace alcohol could always be counted on to bring them. And having taken that first drink, all was well, they felt alive, they could get by OK , but desperately they clung to the hope that reality would not come crashing in on them.
“Both men, no matter how drunk they became, could not escape the knowledge somewhere deep down inside that they were just not right, that something was terribly wrong with them and that pouring all the alcohol they could on top of this feeling they could, would not drown it. So they drank to oblivion to escape that gnawing guilt. Then they would wake up to face their close companions: Terror, Bewilderment, Apologies, Regrets, Remorse, Frustration, and Despair.
“Again and again the promises went out to those around them they would stop, but as if on cue, the first drink came and they repeated the whole cycle. They were doomed men, alcoholics of the hopeless variety. Doctors with the desire to see these men put down the drink once and for all threw their hands up in despair, unable to use moral psychology of that day to rearrange their thoughts, emotions, and feelings so they would not find it necessary to take that 1st drink. Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith were only 2 men of a vast class of people with this kind of reaction to alcohol.
“Both men recovered completely from this condition. They had experienced a change in their soul, their personalities, a psychic change. Both men reached the place of utter despair in their own lives in their own
very individual ways and undertook a program of action that if followed closely, to the best of their own individual abilities, insured them for that one day that they would not pick up that first drink.
“The two friends commenced taking this program of action to others afflicted with the same symptoms and hallmarks of the doomed alcoholic. With much hard work a fellowship of men and women who had discovered a sure path out of alcoholism sprung up and the Twelve Steps were formally accepted. In the year 1939 the book ‘Alcoholics Anonymous’ was written to bear record, without distortion, of the experience of these first 100 people who practiced a way of life that produced a psychic change, the change somewhere deep down, of their personalities.
“These people emphasize again and again that the power to change
did not originate from within their own old selves, but came from a Power ‘greater than themselves‘. They discovered, each in their own way, that self could not change self. And having discovered this Power they made a decision to begin trusting Him in the care and direction of their unmanageable lives. With this trust and willingness they began to examine their own selves and many for the first time ever saw their extreme self-centeredness. They began to see how afraid they were and became open and vulnerable with someone else. Someone knew them and understood them! They were no longer so utterly alone. Those that heard their stories helped them to see their defects and helped them to offer these shortcomings to God in the hope that He would remove these things in His own time. Of course, much hurt had been produced in the effort to live their lives without regard for anyone or anything else. Many relationships had been severely or permanently damaged. In an effort to be square with life and to be of more use to God and their fellows, they set out to acknowledge those they had hurt and sought to make right the wrong. They did not go to justify themselves.
“And having done all these things, they continued a daily practice of taking stock of themselves and setting right any new wrongs as they became apparent. They continued to seek more intimacy with God as each understood Him through prayer and meditation. Others, they knew, wanted to be free of this dreadful cycle of alcoholism so they presented this program to them in the hope they too would change from within.”



I later revised the "Alcoholism Addressed" section to the following(because it was so long and those who attended week after week had to hear it over and over):

Saturday Night MOM Group-Psychic Change Meeting
(to be used on every Saturday except each first Saturday of the month)

This meeting is based on what is to be found in the Big Book in the “Dr’s Opinion” on page Roman numeral xxviii where we read:



“” Men and women drink essentially because they like the effect produced by alcohol. The sensation is so elusive that, while they admit it is injurious, they cannot after a time differentiate the true from the false. To them, their alcoholic life seems the only normal one. They are restless, irritable and discontented, unless they can again experience the sense of ease and comfort which comes at once by taking a few drinks—drinks which they see others taking with impunity. After they have succumbed to the desire again, as so many do, and the phenomenon of craving develops, they pass through the well-known stages of a spree, emerging remorseful, with a firm resolution not to drink again. This is repeated over and over, and unless this person can experience an entire psychic change there is very little hope of his recovery.
On the other hand—and strange as this may seem to those who do not understand—once a psychic change has occurred, the very same person who seemed doomed, who had so many problems he despaired of ever solving them, suddenly finds himself easily able to control his desire for alcohol, the only effort necessary being that required to follow a few simple rules. “

Through bitter experience with this alcoholic cycle as described in the “Dr.’s Opinion“, we have come to believe in the necessity of experiencing this psychic change to overcome this grim and fatal malady which once it has gotten a hold of the sufferer refuses to loose its grip until the alcoholic inevitably visits jails, institutions or the grave receives him into its bosom.

We have come to believe in the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous taken in the context of the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous as the means to take us to the solution, a spiritual awakening. The Spiritual Awakening sufficient to bring about recovery from alcoholism as Alcoholics Anonymous understands it is obtained through the taking of the 12 Steps, a series of actions spiritual in nature.
Step 12 reads: “Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principals in all our affairs”.

This meeting is dedicated to focusing on the psychic change as experienced by the first 100 people and the countless others who followed their example throughout these many years.

I have given the foregoing information to let the reader know that I am very familiar with AA and hold no grudge towards it or its members.

But, from the very beginning of my attendance, I can honestly say that something just didn't jive somewhere deep down. There was a disconnect of some kind between what its spirituality is and that of Christ.(At the beginning of my time in AA, I had not yet returned to the Church and was still somewhat an Evangelical Protestant in my thinking about Christianity). I had learned to strive to judge all things according to Christ and when I returned to the Church's embrace, the disconnect only became more pronounced and difficult to bear and ignore.

One major reason for me to leave was that one can have a very powerful spiritual experience, a real one in which one's world view is forever changed without Christ. This always made me queasy but I managed to rationalize my disquiet away for a time.

I should quickly explain that a "spiritual awakening/spiritual experience/psychic change" does not necessarily denote always a sudden upheaval of previously held notions and beliefs and their uprooting to replace them with a whole new set instantaneously. More often than not, members of AA acquire the "spiritual awakening/spiritual experience/psychic change" in what AA terms of an educational variety, meaning it happens slowly over time.

There are many other reasons I left which I will not go into here and which related to my reading of "Steps of Transformation". One major one is that all spiritual beliefs are held on an equal plane. Also, even as Father Meletios mentions in the book, AA is seen as "spiritual" and "religion" is down a notch or two from the spirituality of AA. He's right, actually, in his assesment of spirituality vs. religion when understood correctly. Even in the Church one may be "religious" and never penetrate into the inner Life of the Church. However, this is no different than the many members who attend the Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous and never penetrate and "get it", the much needed spiritual experience needed for recovery even though in many cases they may attend meetings and be associated with AA and its life for a long time. Moreover, there is a tendency within AA to always assume that to be "religious" one cannot therefore be "spiritual".

If anyone wishes to inquire, I will gladly give more of those reasons.

But one more I wish to mention of why I left is not to be laid at the feet of AA at all. It is this. The very real threat of Modernity is felt in all places, not only within the Church but I encountered it within AA and noticed that even though AA is only 74 years old right now, yet many who called themselves members did not understand the Tradition of Alcholics Anonymous(yes, Tradition with a capital "T") and there was a battle, though not often recognized and/or voiced, between those who understood AA accoriding to its essence and the new "psychologized" approach to AA.

I bring this up as a reason for leaving because seeing this in AA and within the Church, I realized that I did not wish to fight this War against Modernity on these two fronts and decided to draw the line in the Church which I would defend to the upmost of my ability and strength.

There is a lot of rich information I would like in the future to write on this subject matter and compare/contrast with the Church but will leave it at what I have written for now.

READ THE PREVIOUS POST IN THIS SERIES:

13 comments:

James the Thickheaded said...

I've read Fr. Mel's book as well as "Bread & Water, Wine & Oil". I'm not an alcoholic... but wonder about a family member and read the book to learn more. I found it a tough read in that regard. So I suffer as an outsider of sorts in my understanding... and found myself quite curious as to your views.

"I have some problems with Father Meletios' worldview in relation to AA and the Church and to explain them, I would need to go into my own reasons for leaving Alcoholics Anonymous. Bound up with my decision to leave are the reasons why I would have to be critical of the approach Father Meletios takes here in this book."

Maybe I've missed it - and if I did, I apologize... but I don't think you came back to your criticism of the book so much as finished with your dissatisfaction with AA.. and it's tendency to embrace "modernity" and psychological analysis? I'm guessing a bit here... but wish you'd close that loop in a little more detail... or point me to where I missed it.

Sophocles said...

James,

Thanks for stopping by. Sorry it took some time to get back to this comment. I was mulling over how best to answer you.

You're right. I did not close the loop by fully spelling out what problems I find inherent in AA and by extension the book which endorses AA by Father Meletios. And that's just it.

When one comes to AA, one wittingly or unwittingly adopts a worldview. In fact, in my experience and in my observation of others' experiences, the success one has in actually overcoming their addiction often depends on them fully adopting said worldview.

I need a lot more space to even begin fleshing out much that I would need to in order to make this a little more clear but the following may illustrate it adequately.

I , in my time there, returned to the Church. I knew I was home, that I had arrived at the End All Be All. When one's conviction is thus, naturally it will spill out into one's everyday affairs, attitudes, aspirations, hopes for others, etc.

Well, I began sharing Christ again and several men of which a couple I personally sponsored. I became godfather to 3 men I met from AA; meaning they saw in Christ's Church something which drew them in and they became Baptized and Chrismated Orthodox Christians.

Please allow this tangental thought. When one takes seriously the Faith one will hope for those who enter in under their care that they will stick. And one quickly realizes how powerless one is to actually effect this sticking. It must necessarily come from within oneself to stay put int the Church and struggle to acquire Her Mind and Ethos.

I sensed before these men asked me to be their Godfather but more especially after I became their Godfather, that the temptation from within AA is to make AA the primary worldview with its spirituality one adopts over and above whatever "religion" one may belong to. In other words, AA comes first. It is the default worldview one has.

Now tied into this is the fact that God in AA must necessarily stay anonymous as to not prejudice those who either have no belief or whose belief is different or who hate what one's beliefs are.

AA is a community and this, I feel is one of its greatest assets in that it provides community for so many who have come from no real sense of community or who have become the dregs of the community they came from. This lack of community, I believe, is a factor that contributes to active alcoholism.

Now, as for my remarks about Modernity, this was merely an observation that Modernity is present everywhere and that for me alone, I did not wish to put up a fight both within AA(where I was able to apprehend its presence and effects in much the same way I see it in the Church and the world at large) and in the Church. In other words, if I am to fight, I am going to fight from within where I believe it matters most.

If you wish to discuss more, feel free dear brother. What you may find useful in your own understanding of your alcoholic family member is some of the mechanics of alcoholism that AA identifies and has been able to integrate into its ability to actually provide the goods. One can overcome destructive drinking and/or drug addiction in AA.

My problems lie not in this fact but rather to its necessary subsuming within itself anything outside of itself and making sense of it thus. To me, I stand within the Church and make sense of everything. I bring "everything" there and let "everything" takes its proper shape and perspective in my life.

So, my criticism of Father Meletios is that he does not address this at all. He gives AA a blind approval. In his talks, he frequently mentions AA and his association with it.

There's of course a lot more that I could say but will leave it at that. Feel free to inquire more.

In Christ,

James the Thickheaded said...

Thank you for responding... and you were in fact quite quick!!! so no need to apologize. Your objection is interesting... I rather thought that Fr. Mel mentioned that AA members were encouraged to become active in a religious community of their choosing, and can say that my pre-Orthodox parish sponsored a chapter, didn't do much more than offer space, and yet found a lot of our more active and dedicated members from the group.

Before I read the book, I had the impression that many Orthodox were against AA per se, and I think Fr. Mel was dealing with that... and trying to make space for its acceptance but maybe I read it differently. Maybe there is more that needs to be done... but certainly given that it can work where much else fails, maybe he's afraid to publicize the negatives? but aware of them all the same?

Sophocles said...

James,


Good points. And I'm torn by what I would/will do if someone in destructive behavior comes across my path. Will I carte blanche point them toward AA? I'm unsure of this right now.


Here's another line of thought I entertained as well while in AA and *comparing* it with the Church: Was there no answer for alcoholism prior to AA? Meaning, if the Church IS the Church, does She not have an adequate solution for one who lives Her Life?

Another thing which may not be overtly apparent is that yes, even in the Big Book, which sets down the original 100 members' experience of acquiring the "vital spiritual experience" sufficient to bring about recovery from alcoholism", it is in the text that members of AA are encouraged to belong to religious bodies of their choosing.

For me, however, with my own return to the Church, I began to understand gnosticism as syncretic in its essence and upon understanding syncretism the natural connection to and of AA became apparent to me. I asked questions such as, "Would Saint Paul direct his spiritual children to a belief structure such as AA with an intact spirituality of its own, there?" "What would the Holy Fathers say"?

And again, I deliberated about these matters for years and tried to ignore them or somehow make them all fit under one big spiritual umbrella where yes, the Church IS the Church but yes, there is also a place for AA.

I leave the possibility open to myself that I may yet be wrong. Lord knows.

I have visited St. John of Shanghai Monastery several times but not yet since Archimandrite Meletios became Abbott there. I would love to have some great conversation with him on this subject, but only if he's open. I certainly do not wish to force my view upon him.

Sophocles said...

In any case, if I can be of any assistance to you in what is most always a very difficult situation, please feel free to let me know, whether here or private e-mail which you can access on my page under "View my complete profile".

I am not as open as I used to be about my past(this blog post an exception)but I have told those(such as my priest) that to be of help to someone I will gladly fully divulge myself.

James the Thickheaded said...

Sophocles:
Thank you. Will email in the next day or two. Not surprisingly, I understand discretion.

Sophocles said...

James,

Good. I look forward to hearing from you.

After reviewing your comments and re-reading the piece, I realize I made it a bit too ambiguous in spots as to what I meant so I have edited a little more material to make it more clear.

Andrea Elizabeth said...

Sophocles,

Now that I've read this, our choppy reception phone conversation makes more sense, and I see that I agree with you.

I wont say that there is no place for outside support groups, but I would rather find it in the Church. I do not know what healthy "interdependence" is as opposed to co-dependence or aloof independence, but I think the cure is in the grace found in the prescriptions and Sacraments of the Church. That is where I'm looking to find health. Also it is helpful to hear of other people's struggles and what they've learned along the way.

Thanks for sharing.

sobojo said...

I am an Orthodox Christian. I am a recovering alcoholic. I could not find an answer within the Church. In fact, my priest (much to my Disappointment) directed to me to AA. Through it I have found the practical - non mystical application of faith in God. Specifically, I have been able to confront the sin of 'self-will' vs. submission to God's will. Self-centeredness vs. God centeredness. Learning to rely on God's grace and strength to walk free from the bondage of self.

I have viewed this journey as a path by which God is restoring sanity in an insane life that was sinful, slef-consumed, unmanageable, destructive and certainly doomed for certain death. Or said another way, God is now restoring sobriety of thought, feeling and action as I in freedom put on Christ. My continual prayer is that God's Will be done in and though me for His glory and the good of others.

With that said, these were all things that I practically could not get to 'In' the Church. Perhaps that is why God through my Priest directed me 'outside' what is considered to be the Church - to a place where His voice has been heard by desperate people who both outside the Church and inside the Church (me) could not find an answer. OR anyone who even understood the issue.

But like you, daily, hourly - I would like to have my worlds reconciled. I would like to know the Churches answer for 'addictions' or those trapped and ensnared in sinful 'passions'. I would like to understand if or where AA fits alongside or within the Church. God has given me freedom from alcohol through AA. It has been a tool. in my case, AA may not be any more than Balaam's ass.

This I believe. God freed me yesterday and so far today from alcohol. That same God, is the God that I came to know within the Church. That same God, worked 'outside' of the 'Church' to provide an active solution. The means of obtaining that solution - its principles, processes, fellowship and sponsorship are all things that would be meaningful and healthy practices of the Church - helping men and women put off the 'old self' and it's passions and put on the 'new self' and fruits. Perhaps that is called discipleship.

I am rambling. Suffice it to say - I feel alone on this journey. So few understand both worlds. I would welcome both your insights as well as a possible dialog by email or phone conversation.

Floyd F said...

It seems that the author of the blog has a problem with certian elements in AA, and I cannot disagree with him on my own dissapointmet with the trend towards psygollygising AA. The real risk is to the newcomer in AA, who may miss the point of spiritual growth as being the critical factor of recovery.

However, I would like to see the author post more clearly his thoughs as to why he believes Fr. W. has a "world view" regarding AA. I am not really an expert on philosophy, religion or AA, so for it to be simple and clear would be helpful to this student.

In addition,I have a few thoughts that may be relevent to the authors comments about AA.

First of all, AA is not intended to be all things to all people. Nor is it intended to be a final stopping place for peoples spiritual growth. In it's own basic text it states that there are some people who should be going back to their church. The author is apparently one of them.

Secondly, AA is not a church, and most people in AA would say the same. Because AA is not a church, it cannot give what the Church can give through its offices. Again, it is not intended to replace church, nor does it want to. By its own preamble, its primary purpose to to help alcholics. (Even to get back to church, if that is their desire.)There are some AA members who need the extra grace that going to church gives them. For these people, they should be going to a church and not trying to make AA fit all of their spiritual needs. I am one of these kind. I go to AA to save my a.., and to to Church to save my soul. And I try not to confuse the two.

Thirdly, the Church generally fails in helping alcoholics not because it lacks the basic tools of spiritual recovery. I see the 12 Steps of AA every time I go to Church, especially during this Lenten season. What the Church lacks is an understanding of the disease concept of addiction, and related to this, the it lacks the necessary support which alcoholics give each other in early recovery. But the Church was not intended to be an AA meeting. Just as I go to a dentist when I have toothache, and not to the priest, I go to AA to treat my alcoholism. The blessing is that the Church adds to my esperience from AA, as AA adds salt to what I learn at the Church.

To sum up, AA is a "God Thing". He is in charge of it, and I am sure that he will lead it into and through whatever changes it needs to go through as it adjusts to this modern society. (By the way, our Orthodox Church is changing as well. But only the small t's, thank God.)Will the heart and spiritual message of AA be changed into something less than is necessary for recovery because of "modernism", or "psychology"? I doubt it, as AA has changed the thinking of psychologists far more than psychology will ever change AA. And AA has changed American culture far more than the culture will change AA. The Steps are the same as they were 70 years ago, but the medical, judical, educational systems of America are forever changed by the effectiveness of AA. I guess if we counted the movies and television programs that use "recovery" jargon started in AA, I would also suggest that AA has also changed the American culture.

When I go the my next meeting, I will go to give something, and thereby will take something. Mostly what I give I get back, doubled. But I will not be dissapointed if AA is not being something that it was not intended to be, that is, a church or a religion.

Cyril

Sophocles said...

Cyril,

Thank you so much for you comment.

I was also told who you were and the work you are doing in Romania. I have read many OCMC issues and recognized you from there.

Before answering your questions and speaking more directly to your thoughts concerning my post, I would like to know if you also read the previous comments on here between myself and James the Thickheaded? I think if you have not, some of what you are addressing is answered there.

With that said, my aims with this post are perhaps a little difficult to explain. To fully to do justice with what I intended with this writing, I need to set down a lot more material that at I cannot at present. However, I think we could have a good conversation but I would like to know what your own understanding of syncretism and gnosticism is at present to better engage the issues you raise.

I look forward to your response, Cyril.

And I wish you a Blessed Pascha!

In Christ,

Sophocles

Anonymous said...

Hi I was in AA before I became Orthodox, in fact I would say that it was AA and recovery and a spiritual awakening that allowed me to become open to returning to Christianity having lost all faith in the years of drinking.
For me it was made clear to me that as recovery progressed it would be good to find further depth of spiritual engagement through an organised religious activity. I tried to reconcile with my cradle faith of Roman Catholicism and that led to further questioning, as opposed to outright rebellion which characterised my earlier rejection of the RC faith. I did not find the answers to my ( by now) sober questions and problems with Roman Catholicism...I did find the answers in Orthodoxy, a process which was quietly happening to me a long time before I got sober, but I was unaware of it...( for example when in my atheistic drinking wasteland I nevertheless found myself being drawn to Icons as an 'art form' etc ). I would like to believe that the Holy Spirit was guiding me, and I believe that the Holy Spirit guided me to AA because all I ever did in my despair was to call out to 'God' to relieve me of my alcoholism...I believe that AA is an instruments of Gods Mercy and in no way contradicts Orthodox Christianity...in fact I would say that had I NOT encountered AA I think it would have been most unlikely that I would have encountered Orthodox Christianity, since I would either be dead, my soul lost, or still wandering around in the darkness and despair of active alcoholism, which in my case would not have been a likely starting point for a journey to Orthodoxy...I am enormously grateful to AA since it opened my mind to the need for a spiritual growth and rebirth. I remember being 3 weeks sober and talking with a guy who was 25 years sober, I said ' can you tell me about the AA program without all the God stuff' he said 'yes I can but that will take me about 15 seconds...if however I keep in 'the God stuff' we can have a conversation which will never end'.

Sophocles said...

Anonymous,

Thank you for your thoughtful comment. As well, my apologies for taking so long to respond.

I really can find nothing to disagree with what you wrote. My intention for the post addressed other issues yet your thoughts definitely bare thoughtful consideration.

My thinking on this matter continues to "settle". God and His Mother be with you my friend.