The Unmanageable Life? Definitely. God to the rescue? Definitely.
You to A.A. or a 12 Step Fellowship?
By Dick B.
Copyright 2012 Anonymous. All rights reserved
A Little Chunk of History For Openers
Some of us get all wrapped up in difficult words when we enter A.A.
or another 12 Step Fellowship. We wonder what in the heck it means to be
"powerless over alcohol." We wonder if our life has truly become "unmanageable."
But a little bit of history might show us how much more simple the early AAs
kept these issues.
Bill Wilson didn't say in his story that he was powerless over
alcohol and that his life had become unmanageable. No sir. He said, "I was
licked." And I could sure relate to that. Then, a bit later when Bill was
writing about what he said were the six word-of-mouth ideas that were involved
in the A.A. program, he said: "We got honest with ourselves." Now that's a
tougher concept to apply or see or accept. But think about it: How often did I
really take an honest look at my drinking to excess. How often did I look at the
shambles my life had become. How often did I even try to link up the drink with
the disaster. The real story involved drink-drunk-disaster. But I didn't see it
that way. I thought drinking was the answer to all my problems.
But drinking wasn't the answer. It was the problem. I came to A.A.
because of problems - not a drinking problem. I was licked, and I knew it. I
soon took an honest look at my life, and I began to see it as an imponderable
mess. AAs though just kept pushing the idea that everything would get better if
I just didn't take the first drink. And that was a tall one! But some of us
began to realize at least that the seemingly unmanageable mess would never get
any better if we continued to souse ourselves with an alcohol remedy. Finally, a
very few of us learned some history of early A.A.
Early AAs often used a simple prayer that was used in its predecessor
the Oxford Group. They would say: "God manage me because I can't manage myself."
In other words, they didn't quibble over the problems. They just came to believe
that they could be solved if resort were had to the Almighty. Well that's enough
Now let's look at denial, dishonesty, and
What Unmanageable Events Did We
I don't claim that things were the same for all us newcomers. In fact
we were peppered with stories that didn't seem to mesh with ours. "I'm not like
that guy," was a common response. "I never got that bad," was another. "Maybe
I'm just a loser, and my real problem isn't drinking at all," could be a
supposed way out of any discipline or treatment.
Yet I think most AAs and members of other fellowships would concede
that many or most of the following tangles had become part of our
Things weren't going well with the family. Sure they were all
to blame, but how is it that problems with wives, kids, siblings, aunts and
uncles - girlfriends or boyfriends - were getting larger and large; their
warnings and concerns were getting louder and louder; and their actual
assistance in getting us out of messes was really getting smaller and
Things weren't going well with the job. Sure we hadn't
necessarily been fired or lost our customers or clients. But somehow the
patience of any or all had been strained and evidently less and less with each
missed appointment, with each fouled up activity, with each angry outburst, with
each fearful approach to the person or the job itself.
Then there was the dishonesty. Instead of bragging about how
much we drank, it seemed better to cover it up. To buy at different stores. To
drink at different bars. To eat at different restaurants. To hang out with
different people - the ones who drank too much. Maybe there was even the hiding
of the evidence - hiding the extra bottles, placing the excessive evidence at
the bottom of the garbage can, denying the amount we had to drink, hiding the
facts about the people, places, and things that were becoming a new part of
What about the legal problems? The bills that were not being
paid, with the dun-notices that were piling up. The traffic tickets that really
didn't need to be dealt with. The diminishing number of business and customers
leading to debt and thoughts of bankruptcy. The very real considerations of
divorce, loss of child custody, and restraining orders. The pile-up of tax
returns, and the delays in payment of taxes, followed by IRS activity. Then the
real criminal stuff. Drunk driving. Driving without insurance. Driving without a
license. Driving without proper registration. Driving with open containers.
Driving under the influence. Possession. Surely they weren't just the result of
drinking too much, but the events piled up.
What about ethical problems? The doctor who commits
malpractice. The lawyer who misses court or misrepresents his clients. The
fiduciary who embezzles or falsifies reports. The person who takes bribes. The
person who regularly lies to family, friends, employers, authorities, courts,
doctors, therapists, and businesses.
What about the criminal problems? Were we embezzling funds,
dipping into trust accounts, breaching fiduciary obligations, cheating people,
lying to clients and customers, padding expense accounts, cheating on tax
returns, filing false insurance applications and reports? Oh, those couldn't be
due to alcohol. But isn't it interesting how many of us found ourselves in just
such circumstances. Then the biggies for some: Robbing. Breaking and entering.
Larceny. Assault. Battery. Domestic violence. Manslaughter and homicide. Messing
with under-age children. And just about anything else that is covered in the
penal codes-local, state, and federal
What about health problems? The liver disorders. The heart
troubles. The falls and fractures. The injuries in fights or accidents or
job-related problems. The vague aches and pains. The "hangovers." The blackouts
- can't find the keys or the car or the house; and can't remember what was said
or done. The confusion and forgetfulness - not thinking too clearly from time to
time. And the ones the doctor warns about - tremors and physical
What about the loneliness, the guilt, the shame, the anger, the
fear, the despair? Long before the judge or the doctor or the clergyman or
the family begins to get the point across, we feel distant, abandoned, ashamed,
sometimes angry, often guilty, filled with fear, and without friends. If the
problems get bad enough, enter despair—thoughts of suicide.
What about the mental conditions? Depression, melancholy
moods, sleep disorders, manic episodes, brain damage, and more. How many are
seen by the psychiatrist, the psychologist, the counselor, and the family doctor
before finally being sent to or seeking a mental ward or
What about the religious consequences? Most of the scum bag
things alcoholics finally do are squarely violative of Biblical principles,
Christian teaching, and even the Ten Commandments. In short, they are sin!
Excessive drinking is a sin. Adultery is a sin. Lying is a sin. And on and on
from there. Sin may be commonplace, but it's still sin - large, small, hidden,
open, productive of harm, or temptingly pleasant and
What about the trips to the Emergency Room? To Juvvie? To court?
To jail? To prison? To the Probation or Parole Officer? To the therapist? Do
these have anything to do with drinking?
Are These Unmanageable Events Tied To
Drinking Too Much
I won't try to claim that every unmanageable event I've mentioned is
the special private property of an alcoholic or addict. I'm not an expert. And
there are plenty of surveys and scholarly papers that deal with each and every
one of the items.
I do know that most of us can sit in an A.A. meeting, hear the
drunkalogs, laugh at the episodes, cry at the disasters, and wonder if we ever
were or could be or are like that. But sooner or later, you begin to feel at
home - if for no other reason than your conclusion that you either did most of
those things, came close to doing them, would be terrified if you did them, or
actually harbor some secret memories of wanting to be in exactly those spots -
without the adverse consequences.
I've sponsored more than 100 men in their recovery. I've done a Fifth
Step with my first sponsor, listened to his shortcomings, and shared mine. And I
saw far more similarities than differences in conduct - even though we were
poles apart in education, vocation, age, family background, religious beliefs,
and so on. Then when I did the Fifth Steps with the men I sponsored—many of
whom were 40 years younger than I - I concluded that their traits, their
adventures, their troubles, their disasters, and their stories were really quite
similar to mine in the most important area—they were drinking or drugging
related. I saw that in Fifth Steps. I heard that in drunkalogs. I read that in
the Big Book and its stories. I discussed it with hundreds of AAs. I studied it
in the classic books by alcoholics. I saw it in the movies about alcoholism. I
heard it in the treatment center. I heard it in the VA Psych Ward in San
Francisco. I heard it in the State Prison at Vacaville. And I hear about it by
phone, by letter, and by email almost every day today.
You Can't Change The Alcoholic. But
The Alcoholic Can. And God Can
I've found nothing in the Bible that suggests that living outside the
law, outside the Bible, outside the teachings of Christ, and in the devil's
workshop of sin produces anything consistent with God’s will or with the
prosperous and healthy life He clearly wants us to have. I've found lots to
suggest that those who don't become born again of God's spirit can expect a hot
time on the return of Jesus Christ. I've found lots to prove that those who
obeyed God received His forgiveness, His healings, His deliverance, His comfort
and love, His kindness, His consolation, and His everlasting promise of spending
eternity with Him and His son, as well as utilizing His power and guidance to
live an abundant life right here and now.
There's nothing in my A.A. experience to suggest that hammering an
alcoholic with evidence of his drinking or preaching to him about the extent of
his sins or calling his attention to the self-destructive hole he has dug for
himself will cause him to do an about face and change. There's substantial
evidence, however, that you can bring him to examine his drinking, his sins, and
his disasters and mismanagement when you share your own and show you understand
the relevance of drinking and overcame seemingly insurmountable problems,
including excessive drinking, by turning to our Creator for help.
Alcoholics used to listen to their brothers during their early
hospitalization and received daily visits by the pioneers. Alcoholics used to
listen to Dr. Bob when he spent hours at the hospital talking to them.
We now know from the long missing interview with Dr. Bob in 1939 that Bob read the Bible with the newcomer while he was hospitalized. Alcoholics knew they were among people who had shared their misery,
mismanagement, and despair and come out ahead of the game. Just don't drink,
they were told. Stay away from temptation, they were warned. Surrender your life
to God's care and direction and trust Him, they were advised. Love and service! Those were the challenging instructions. And get out there
in the trenches and bring to others the message of how much God loves us and
will take care of us when we seek first the Kingdom of God and His
righteousness. I've seen it work, and it's worked for me.
The Unmanageable Life Pointed Me To
A.A. And God
The Bible recounts over and over that when "the poor man cried, the
Lord (YAHWEH) heard him and delivered him from all his troubles." That's what I
wanted. I wasn't thinking about drinking. And I didn't drink. But I sure was
thinking of getting out of the mess I had made of my life, and I never harbored
the idea that quitting drinking and going to A.A. meetings would do the job.
Before long, I knew I needed God's help for all of it. I sought it, and I
received it! So can you.
Richard G. Burns holds a Doctor of Jurisprudence degree from Stanford University where he was Case Editor of the Stanford Law Review. He was a Phi Beta Kappa in his Junior Year at UC Berkeley. There he received an A.A. degree in economics with Honorable Mention. He was an Information and Education Specialist in the United States Army where he held the rank of Sgt. He attended the information-education school at Washington & Lee University. He practiced law in California from 1951 to 1986. He was president of the Corte Madera Chamber of Commerce, Corte Madera Center Merchants Council, Mill Valley Community Church, Redwoods Retirement Center, and Almonte District Improvemen Club. Also elected Director of the Almonte Sanitary District. He is a writer, historian, retired attorney, Bible student, CDAAC, and active recovered member of the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous with continuous sobriety beginning April 21, 1986.
He writes under the pen name Dick B. He has devoted 24 years to researching the history and successes of the early A.A. Christian Fellowship in Akron; and published 46 titles, more than 1450 articles, and materials on Facebook, Twitter, MauiHistorian.Blogspot.com, Alcoholics Anonymous History.com, In the Rooms, Linked-in, Tumbler, MauiHistorian.Word Press.com, Aa Historian WordPress.com, AA History with Dick B. on cyber recovery social, Dick B. YouTube Channel, Articles Base, GoArticles.com, SearchWarp, Self Growth Experts, Social network forums on International Christian Recovery Coalition Forums, Recovery Internet Fellowship, Cyber Recovery, Daily Recovery, Christian Recovery Ministries, radio, TV, and over 70 audio blogs on the history subject. He regularly conducts radio interviews of Christian Recovery Leaders and Workers on www.ChristianRecoveryRadio.com.
He is Executive Director of the International Christian Recovery Coalition and of Freedom Ranch Maui Incorporated. He is an Advisor to God's Way Ministry, a Christian Church and is also a consultant to Wyoming Pacific Oil Company. Listed in Marquis Who's Who in the World, Who's Who in America, Who's Who in Law, Who's Who in Finance, and Gale's Contemporary Authors