Last week’s “Here’s To Your Health”, was the beginning of a series of articles taken from a South Bend professor’s book, titled The Higher Power of the Twelve Step Program, and it’s written for believers and non-believers. At the turn of last century a Swiss psychiatrist discovered if he put people with a common problem in a room together and let them talk, they seemed to mysteriously identify and solve their problem with little of his input; the following words from a South Bend professor seem to verify this finding:
“In substance abuse treatment, an attempt is often made to involve the alcoholic or drug addict in one of the twelve step programs, either Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous, Over Eaters Anonymous etc. I’m going to talk mostly about AA, because that’s what I know mostly about-also it’s the original twelve-step program, with sixty-seven years experience behind it. The first step is: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol (or our addiction)-that our lives had become unmanageable.
It’s hard enough to get some people even to that point! But then comes what for some people seems like an even bigger problem, steps two and three: Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity and made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him. The problem is this: at least 95 percent of practicing alcoholics are totally hostile to organized religion in all forms. Many of them are out right atheists: “There is no God, and the whole notion is a piece of absurd superstition, a crutch for the weak and ignorant.” Others are agnostics: “Well maybe there’s a God, but I dunno”.
Of the few who are positively disposed towards religion, some think AA is a revivalist cult, and talk them selves into the kind of hyped-up emotional conversion experience they’ve seen conducted by flamboyant televangelists. Most of these people go to a few AA meetings, but then disappear, back to drinking themselves to death.
Dr. B has done a study in our area-South Bend, Mishawka, Elkhart, and Goshen-going back to when the AA program first started there in 1943. He’s listened to the tapes and sometimes found the writings of the old timers and talked with others still living, and he’s done a kind of phenomenological study of what actually happens when people start going to AA meetings, and eventually find a Higher Power which makes sense to them, and to whose care they can abandon themselves wholeheartedly.
In looking at the way people came into the program of AA during that period of more than sixty years, and actually developed a workable understanding of a Higher Power, Dr. B noticed some important things, which I would like to sum up with twelve basic headings. To be continued….