Following from the success of AA, the sister organisations - Al-Anon, for people affected by the alcoholism of another person, and Alateen, for teenage relatives and friends of alcoholics - were also established and adopted the same 12 steps and 12 traditions.
Here is a photo of the AA international convention being held right now in San Antonio. 50,000 sober, recovering alcoholics who said the Lord’s Prayer and sang ‘Amazing Grace’ Note that in accordance with the AA tradition of anonymity no one in the photo can be identified.
|San Antonio 2010 by Mary Christine on Being Sober|
If you look on the sidebar of my blog you will see that a number of AA related links have appeared.
Why? And why am I writing about this?
Because until recently I knew nothing about AA or Al-Anon and then, I believe through the work of the Holy Spirit in my life, I discovered them. I was amazed. I had no idea it was all about the spiritual life. The story of its founding and development is a wonderful account of the work of God.
It is a perfect fit with my interest in rules of life and prayer. While remaining a Christian I had become somewhat distanced from any church affiliation, being disenchanted with the organisational and authority structures of the mainstream denominational churches, and their lack of inclusiveness in matters of gender and sexuality.
I was fascinated by the fact that although AA had its origins in Christianity, the founders soon discovered that in order to reach out to the maximum number of alcoholics they had to find a way of retaining the spiritual without being aligned with any particular religious code. Hence steps 2 & 3:
2 Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
3 Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him
Then, they found out that to best achieve their purpose and preserve their unity they needed certain codes of conduct. Hence the 12 Traditions.
Since 1935 many other groups have adopted and adapted the 12 steps of AA. This is in keeping with the wishes of the founders. In the foreword to the book 12 Steps and 12 Traditions it says that the author hopes they might ‘arouse interest and application outside AA itself’. That the steps can help with other difficulties of life and provide a way for happy and effective living, ‘alcoholic or not’. I believe this to be true. I have found it to be so in my own life.
I believe it is a perfect fit with the current interest in spirituality, monastic lifestyles and rules of life generally.
There is already a Christian version: Celebrate Recovery This though is still focused on overcoming specific disorders, while my focus is on a way of life and a way of organising church for all.
The 12 traditions of AA are the principles by which AA organises its affairs. Here again I believe they can offer a model for church organisation and mission. Looking at the problems faced by the mainstream denominations they seem rooted in issues of authority, control, power, prestige, money and inappropriate professionalism, aka 'clericalism'. The 12 traditions are designed explicitly with the purpose of avoiding these traps.
Few of us are free from the effects of the diseases of pride, greed, arrogance, lust, selfishness, anger, sloth, envy, despair, to name but a few. Many of us are addicted to self destructive, repetitive thought and behaviour patterns if not to substances. The 12 steps and 12 traditions offer us individually and collectively a path to healing and liberation.
It is a way of living. The early Christians were called followers of The Way. Christianity was a distinctive way of life, not just a set of religious beliefs and practices.
The Promises, that are read in many A.A. Meetings can be found on page 83-84, of the Big Book, Alcoholics Anonymous.
THE A.A. PROMISES
If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others. That feeling of uselessness and selfpity will disappear. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.
Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us—sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them.
I believe these promises have universal application and are the promises of God to all of us.
I commend the principles and literature of AA, Al-Anon and Alateen to you if you are looking to improve your life, spiritually and emotionally.
I commend AA, Al-Anon and Alateen to you if your life is or has been affected by the disease of alcoholism. Do not be frightened or ashamed. You will meet people just like you who will understand you, befriend you and share with you the tools of recovery.
Many AA and Al-Anon meetings are open to anyone interested. So if you want to find out what happens at a meeting, how they are conducted, just visit. I can guarantee that it will be an immensely moving, enriching and humbling experience.
I am going to continue exploring the application of the steps and traditions to the Christian life on this blog.
The opinions expressed in this blog are my own and are not affiliated to, approved by or endorsed by AA, Al-Anon, or Alateen.