“Stick with the winners!” That’s one of those often heard, but little understood suggestions a newcomer hears both in his treatment program and in the recovery rooms of Twelve Step Fellowships. The problem is: Who are the winners! How do I find them! What do they do and say that is recognizable and profitable. And if the newcomer is not prepared to spot them, seek them, and follow them, he can’t reap the benefit of “sticking” with them. We believe the winners will subscribe to the following.
This is a new approach. It’s one that can and should be applied by counselors, treatment programs, speakers, sponsors, and helpful friends. It should occur first thing. It should occur before the newcomer gets pelted with all sorts of puzzling words, phrases, and suggestions as he comes into the recovery rooms–often confused, often brain damaged, often timid, often cautious, and often incredibly frightened.
Here’s a list of things that can prepare him if he is successfully to seek God and rely on God’s help as he moves into sobriety and on to a better way of living.
First, he needs to know the origins and successes of early A.A. He needs to hear that various well-known Christian organizations and people were helping alcoholics, addicts, and derelicts fashion new lives long before A.A. and its Twelve Steps were even thought of. These included the rescue missions, the Salvation Army, the YMCA lay workers, the evangelists, and the Young People’s Christian Endeavor Society. He needs an understanding of their success factors and how they apply today.
Second, he needs to know the tools they used to bring success to their suffering friends. He needs to know that they were mostly lay people–not professionals, nor clergymen. He needs to know that their most effective input came through personal work and outreach–going out as compassionate people who had “found” God and wanted to help others without charge. He needs to know that they uniformly told the newcomer that he could only be helped if he wanted to be helped; that they themselves had an answer; and that it meant believing in God, coming to Him through His Son Jesus Christ, and growing in understanding and action through reliance on the Bible, prayer, seeking guidance, and uninterrupted quiet time with the Creator and His Son. It meant fellowshipping with like-minded believers as was done by the First Century Christians whose actions were described in the Book of Acts–breaking bread together daily, praying together daily, searching the Scriptures daily, gathering in each other’s houses daily, and witnessing to others about the “Way” daily!
Third, he needs to know about the tricks of the Adversary that he will face the very first moment he seeks help. He will be offered every kind of temptation. He will be offered every kind of excuse for continuing his old ways. He will be surrounded by the familiarity and appeal of old places, old friends, old habits, and old “drug dealers” or bars or fellow drunks. He will be confronted with an unimaginable pile of difficulties–domestic and family problems, divorce problems, tax problems, court problems, jail problems, health problems, mental problems, employment problems, loss of friendship problems, and an overwhelming sense of guilt and shame and fear and anxiety. He will be surrounded by a seemingly inescapable loneliness, lack of resources, lack of respect, guilt, fear, and thoughts even of taking his life as an easy escape.
Fourth, he will be tempted to think of himself more highly, more fully equipped to handle his difficulties, and better informed about himself and his plight than those who may try to help him. His pride may be so great that he cannot fathom the need for humbly asking for God’s help, receiving instruction, and following directions.
Fifth, he will find himself in the midst of all sorts of “jail house” law, religion, medicine, home remedies, financial advice, friendship advice, program advice, money-borrowing, pill-swapping, and nonsense gods. The gods may be offered as “higher powers.” Or as a “god of his own conception.” Or as a form of “spirituality, rather than religion.” Or “learned” talk about how neither God, nor Jesus Christ, nor the gift of the Holy Spirit, nor the Bible, nor the church, nor religion has any place in his much-desired victory. Or “half-baked” prayers, doctrines of unending suffering, dogma about how religion has failed, dramatic suggestions that he himself is to blame, that he has selfishly erred in his ways, and that he can only recover by following some ritualistic rules about making amends, owning his faults, and turning his thoughts to others–rather than toward God.
Sixth, he will be upbraided for mentioning church, religion, God, Jesus Christ, Holy Spirit, and Bible. He will be urged to believe he need not believe in God, in prayer, in religion, or the Bible to get well. He will find it is popular for unbelievers and bleeding deacons to condemn those who espouse faith over the Twelve Steps or the Big Book or the A.A. group itself. He will even find many calling their “Big Book” the A.A. “Bible.” Instead of calling the Holy Bible the Bible.
Seventh, he will rarely if ever hear of the original A.A. program, of its astonishing and documented 75% success rate in Akron, and 93% success rate in Cleveland. He may never learn that early A.A. was a Christian Fellowship whose members were required to believe in God, accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, study the Bible daily, and participate in old fashioned prayer meetings. He may never learn that early members were hospitalized because of the grave health problems involved in unsupervised detoxing. He may hear that A.A.’s co-founders were scoundrels, freemasons, spiritualists, money-grabbers, users of drugs, adulterers, and heretical unbelievers. Excluding, of course, that the fellowship itself is loaded with such behavior–to the end that it is to be overcome with God’s help, not used to sow unbelief and despair among members.
Honest. These are the things he will hear and learn before he ever gets to the point of selecting a knowledgeable sponsor, hearing any talk like that above, reading or asking about the Bible, turning to Almighty God for help from his very first day of need, and hanging out with those who know the foregoing facts and will affirm them for him.
Does God have a place in the solution? Of course He does. And, as the Bible points out, “With God, nothing is impossible.”
How do you prepare the newcomer–BEFORE he gives up the option of depending upon God, accepting Jesus Christ, studying the Bible, growing in understanding, learning effective prayer, seeking God’s guidance, and running swiftly for God’s plenteous healing, forgiveness, mercy, and grace?
You tell him–tell him with a sense of urgency. You learn the documented facts yourself. You refrain from the phony talk. You stand tall for God. You stand tall for Jesus Christ. You stand tall for the Bible. You stand tall for accurate history. You recognize that the Adversary will falsify, accuse, intimidate, and use flesh and blood to conceal the real battle. And you support those very clear portions of the Big Book and Twelve Steps that show how much its writers and A.A.’s founders believed in the power of God, how solidly they believed their Heavenly Father would never let them down. And how boldly and consistently they stated that the Lord had cured them of their terrible affliction and that they wanted to talk about it and keep telling people–giving Almighty God the credit.