Step 1 of AA – A Christian Standpoint

Alcoholics Anonymous’ Step 1 is about desperation. How desperate a person must be depends upon the individual. Some have to sink quite low; others “get it” without going so far down.

Step 1 states, “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.” (Alcoholics Anonymous Page 59)

Two things are going on at the same time. We are powerless over alcohol: No matter how much willpower we exert, we are not able to stop drinking. Our lives had become unmanageable: No matter how much it wrecks our lives, we are not able to control our drinking or stop.

Why don’t you just quit? If willpower alone would do it, there would be no alcoholics. We’d just quit. Some people can be quite heavy drinkers and not be actual alcoholics. Alcoholism is actually a threefold disease. It is a disease of the mind and of the body. It is also a disease of the spirit, though some people do not believe in spirits.

Why don’t you just read your Bible, pray and Jesus will remove your alcoholism? If that were so, then then AA would never have had to been formed – the alcoholic would just go to church and that would be that. In the 1930s when AA was being born, people were going to church and reading their Bibles even if they didn’t really believe in what they were doing. Remember “Otis” the town drunk on The Andy Griffith Show? Even he went to church. Sure, Jesus could just cure you by a miracle, but that would not be getting to the core of the problem.

It is a disease of the body. It is an allergic (abnormal) reaction to alcohol. The reaction is not sneezing like hay fever, or not hives like an allergy to strawberries. The allergic reaction to alcohol is to immediately want another drink. Non-alcoholics to not experience this reaction. A non-alcoholic will want to stop drinking after a while. The alcoholic will want a drink worse after the 5th drink than he did after the first.

It is a disease of the mind. In AA lingo, it is called the obsession of the mind. The alcoholic’s mind wants a drink. The alcoholic cannot stop thinking about a drink for any appreciable amount of time. This is a very compelling desire, and can go on for months or even years (in my case, a little over two years. Dr. Bob, co-founder of AA obsessed for 2-1/2 years. I thought I was going to match or beat his record. I got close! But by the grace of God, it finally went away after 25-1/2 months). An obsession is described as an idea that overpowers all ideas to the contrary. The result is: at first the alcoholic may have made a solemn promise to himself never to drink again (And he really means it!) only to find himself sitting at the bar just a few hours later wondering how it happened.

It is a disease of the spirit. Sometimes called a soul-sickness. Alcoholics can be filled with resentment: Churning over and over in their minds bad things that other people have done to them. Alcoholism brings fear. Fear of just about everything. Whether the fears are founded or not, they are very real. One of the first things that happens in your mind is that alcohol lowers a person’s inhibitions. People will do things while drinking that they would not do sober. This is why men try to ply women with drink. Doing things that you would not do otherwise will cause you to have a guilty conscience. Spending money on drinking that, for instance, should be spent buying your children shoes can lead to a guilty conscience. Some people become violent when drinking. People drink to drown their sorrows. You lose all self-respect. One great AA speaker said, “I became everything I detested in a human being.”

A person really arrives at step one when still drinking. Some people will call the trip to step 1, step zero. You have come to the end of your rope. You can’t live with it and you can’t live without it. You realize that you have to have help. You are powerless over alcohol.

Step one is not just admitting — “saying” — you are an alcoholic. People used to call me an alcoholic all the time, and I’d say, “Heck, yeah! Bring me another beer!”
Admitting you are powerless is an entirely different process: a process of helplessness. A feeling of desperation.

2 Comments

  • By Richard G. Burns, J.D., CDAAC, March 2, 2012 @ 1:23 am

    A First Century Christian Fellowship

    Major Sources for Observing Early A.A.’s Apostolic Principles, Practices, and Resemblance to First Century Christianity at Work

    By Dick B.
    © 2012 Anonymous. All rights reserved

    A Common Observation about “Old-School” Alcoholics Anonymous

    Alcoholics Anonymous History: A.A. cofounder Dr. Bob called the first A.A. group (known as “Akron Number One”)—founded on July 4, 1935—“a Christian fellowship.” [DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers (New York, NY: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., 1980), 118]

    Of the five Rockefeller people—including John D. Rockefeller, Jr—who met the early AAs, listened to Dr. William Silkworth, and read the report that Frank Amos had given to them in February 1938, all said something to the effect, “Why this is First Century Christianity at work. What can we do to help?” And they did help.

    But long before that, Christian evangelists were telling New Englanders and many in other parts of the world how the Apostles not only found salvation, but taught and lived Christianity—healing drunks, addicts, and derelicts along the way.

    And then there was the Oxford Group and that American sparkplug of its early period, Rev. Samuel M. Shoemaker, Jr. Bill Wilson called Shoemaker a “cofounder” of A.A. Bill discussed the proposed Big Book and Step contents with Shoemaker. He even asked Sam to write the 12 Steps, but Sam humbly declined. Yet the very language of the 12 Steps paralleled Sam’s teachings—teaching founded on basic ideas in the Bible that Dr. Bob said were the foundations for the Steps.

    Shoemaker and many other early Oxford Group people called their life-changing group and groups “A First Century Christian Fellowship” and defined what that phrase meant to them and their groups.

    “A First Century Christian Fellowship”

    At the times Bill W. (1934-1937) and Dr. Bob (1933 until at least 1939) were involved with the Oxford Group, it was actively using the name “A First Century Christian Fellowship.” And here are some of the ways people described the personal work with others of members of that important A.A. predecessor, the Oxford Group.

    In his popular book, Life Changers, Harold Begbie (who had written Twice Born Men and much more about General William Booth and the Salvation Army) described the Group this way:

    Above all, the Group was a Fellowship—a first-Century Christian Fellowship controlled by the Holy Spirit. [Dick B., The Oxford Group & Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 31]

    We discuss and cite precise sources for the following statements:

    . . . Frank Buchman’s formation of what he and his friends called “A First Century Christian Fellowship.” Buchman had said, “It is an attempt to get back to the beliefs and methods of the Apostles.” He said, “We not only accept their beliefs, but also decided to practice their methods” [Dick B., The Oxford Group & Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 286]

    In Life Changers, author Begbie also wrote:

    Since those words were written he has paid a visit to the United States in company with F. B, . . .

    —-

    In his last letter written from America he tells me that he is entering with others into “A First Century Christian Fellowship,” explaining that they wish to get back to the type of Christianity which was maintained by the apostles—“We not only accept their beliefs, but are also decided to practice their methods.”

    He announces in detail the elemental beliefs of a First Century Christianity. He believes in:

    The possibility of immediate and continued fellowship with the Holy Spirit—guidance.
    The proclamation of a redemptive gospel—personal, social, and national salvation.
    The possession of fullness of life—rebirth, and an ever-increasing power and wisdom.
    The propagation of their life by individuals to individuals—personal religion.

    Out of these beliefs proceeds the method of propagation:

    Love for the sinner.
    Hatred of the sin.
    Fearless dealing with sin.
    The presentation of Christ as the cure for sin.
    The sharing and giving of self, with and for others.

    “We are more concerned,” he writes, “with testifying to real experiences, explicable only on the hypothesis that God’s power has brought them to pass, through Christ, than with teaching an abstract ethical doctrine.”

    Rev. Samuel Shoemaker spoke of the Group as “A First Century Christian Fellowship” as follows:

    The Spirit can communicate His truth to a spiritual fellowship of believers in ways He cannot communicate to individuals: it is another phase of Christ’s meaning when He said that “where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. He is wherever a believer is; but He is present in heightened reality in the fellowship. [Dick B., The Oxford Group & Alcoholics Anonymous, 293]

    In his first significant book, Realizing Religion, Shoemaker had the following to say about the days “when the Church had martyrs in it.” Shoemaker wrote at page 67:

    I believe that originally this was the spiritual impulse, entirely apart from considerations of ecclesiastical order or the founding of a brotherhood by Jesus, which welded Christians together in the days when the Church had martyrs in it. The value of united prayer and worship, of inspiring and instructing a group bent on one object, the constant impact of the words and the interpretation of Jesus, has often been dwelt upon. . .

    The Acts of the Apostles

    In Acts chapters 1 to 6, there are a number of descriptions of what the First Century Christians did, what they had received, and how they fellowshipped together. Here we will just quote two segments.

    The first from Acts 2:38-43, 46-47:

    Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
    For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.
    And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation.
    Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.
    And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.
    And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. . . .

    And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart.
    Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.

    The second segment from Acts 4:29-32:

    And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word.
    By stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus.
    And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness. And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul. . . . And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all.

    The Keys to Applying First Century Christianity in Recovery Programs Today

    Our latest title is:

    How to Conduct “Old School” 12-Step Recovery Meetings Using Conference-Approved Literature: A Dick B. Guide for Christian Leaders and Workers in the Recovery Arena.

    In a small number of pages, this new book—very succinctly and very specifically—covers the ground above and then shows how the successful “Christian fellowship” practices of the First Century and of the early A.A. group in Akron can be applied today and fully supported by Conference-approved literature published by Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc. And how those who join together in Christian fellowship can attain healing and a whole life in the same way the Apostles did and that the old school AAs did.

    Gloria Deo

Other Links to this Post

  1. Step 2 of AA – A Christian Standpoint - ModernChristianIssues.org — November 27, 2010 @ 6:47 pm

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