Alcoholics Anonymous members have invented many wise, witty and well-meaning expressions over the years. A few of my personal favorites include fake it ‘til you make it, stinking thinking, and take what you need and leave the rest. These are especially helpful for the newcomer to recovery. While guilty of the first two in my early recovery days, the third was especially helpful and was, by far, the easiest to apply.
On the other hand, there were some that sounded like fingernails on the blackboard at the time and will make me cringe at the mere thought of them for all of eternity. The first one that makes me want to track down the originator with a paint ball gun is the moron that came up with this one – Your addiction is doing push-ups in the parking lot. Translation? While every AA member remains safe within the walls of a meeting, his or her addiction is not only hiding in the shadows, but is becoming fitter by the day. This so-called helpful advice is another way of saying, “be careful, little Red Riding Hood, the wolf is just outside the door waiting to devour you. You better lock the door and stay inside with us, where it’s safe, unless you want to become Satan’s next breakfast burrito. I have just one comment for those that spout this slogan – STOP IT!
Why does this well intended, if misguided, bit of recovery advice make me want to toss my cookies? Simple. It’s because that type of message is designed to instill fear into the hearts of people, which is the exact opposite of faith. You know, the same faith that is required to bring about the spiritual healing that removes the desire to drink. The same spiritual healing that Bill W. and the other AA founders wanted to share with other struggling alcoholics. The same spiritual healing that inspired the 12 Steps to be written. The same 12 Steps that both inspire and require faith in the lives of those that choose to apply them. The same faith that leads to a spiritual awakening and assures those of us that have experienced one that we need never fear our addiction again.
For those that have learned to replace fear with faith and were cured of all desire to drink or use, as a result, there IS no disease doing push-ups in the parking lot. But if there were one, it would be walking around in circles looking for his head after my Higher Power ripped him a new one 18 years ago. That’s what a sudden, intense spiritual awakening does to addiction.
Please allow me to don my Captain Obvious outfit for a moment. If you’re living in fear of addiction, especially if you’ve been attending meetings for longer than three months, you’ve got AA’s original program bass ackwards. The original message was, and is, that a spiritual awakening will cure you of addiction. Those that have experienced their own (and there are many) will tell you the same.