I found an interesting take on AA today on CNN’s religion blog. Click here to see it — it’s entitled My Faithlessness: The atheist way through AA.
The author talks about the difficulty of being an atheist in a room full of Jesus. She acknowledges the reputation AA has for being kind of a cult in and of itself. Towards the end she states:
“I believe that the most important spiritual principle of AA is humility. The recognition that we are flawed, that we can and must change and that our purpose not only in sobriety but in life is to be of service to others.”
So she has found a way to spiritually connect in the end — through humility and service and a recognition of flawed nature. I’m glad for her.
I’m not sure this will work for many Pagan alcoholics. My Pagan clients are especially annoyed with the emphasis on surrender of power. They tend to think that they need to take back personal power and personal responsibility in order to rebuild themselves. They feel oppressed by the assumptions of one male deity. They DON’T want a nonspiritual alternative.
There are a number of alternative 12- and 13-step Pagan programs. Here is one such system I like which was created by Circle Sanctuary priestess Selena Fox as part of her counseling master’s degree thesis at University of Wisconsin-Madison entitled “When Goddess is God: Pagans, Recovery, and Alcoholics Anonymous”(1995):
PAGAN TWELVE STEPS
1. We recognize that we have given away personal power by addiction to substances, that this has resulted in dysfunctional living, that it’s time to reclaim our power and restore balance to ourselves and our lives.
2. Came to acknowledge that the Divine Power within can bring about healing change and harmony.
3. Chose to allow the Divine within of our own personal path to be the central guiding force in ourselves and our lives.
4. Examined ourselves deeply and honestly on all dimensions, physical, mental, behavioral, emotional, and spiritual.
5. Acknowledged to the Divine, to our egos, and to at least one ally, what is
unhealthy and unbalanced in our bodies, thoughts, emotions, behaviors & souls.
6. Were ready for the Divine within to work transformation to restore balance to ourselves and our lives.
7. Sincerely invited the Divine within to dispel barriers to change, and to facilitate transformation.
8. Made a lists of all beings we have harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
9. Made direct amends to such beings as much as possible, except when to do so would cause harm to them or others or make a difficult situation worse.
10. Continued our process of self-examination, acknowledging our strengths as well as our problems, promptly acknowledging our mistake & successes when they occurred.
11. Sought through spiritual activities such as rituals, meditations, chanting, dancing,
rhythm making, invocations, prayers, vigils, nature walks, journal writing, and other practices, to strengthen our relationship with the Divine within and to allow this dimension of ourselves to be the guiding force in our lives.
12 . Having had a spiritual rebirth as a result of this process of healing transformation, we continue to work with these principles and are willing to share our story with those who come to us in need.
There actually used to be a Pagan AA meeting in office space I rented on Saturdays before the local Pagan shop Mystickal Voyage shut-down. I’d love to know if they managed to relocate somewhere nearby.
I will comment that vanilla AA is often effective. I’m frequently glad it exists. I think most of the problems are as much a result of local failings and local members as of the AA system itself. Few groups run perfectly as intended.
My occasional objections to it are along the lines of AA as its own religion, the 12-Steps and the program being inviolate and those questioning are “in denial”, and of course the emphasis on surrender to higher power. Again — much of this depends upon how the local meeting is run.
Here are a few of the other variants I hear from my clients (Pagan or not):
1) Frequent complaints by high IQ clients that it seems simplistic and not open to intelligent challenge.
2) Frequent complaints of hypocritical/relapsing sponsors.
I’m not sure there is a summary point to this posting — I guess maybe that some flexibility is needed in finding a path to sobriety and to the Divine. Also that such flexibility is being created by Pagans and atheists and others who need the help while stuck in our mainstream culture.