“Well,” says the newcomer, “I know you’re telling me thetruth. It’s no doubt a fact that A.A. is full of people whoonce believed as I do. But just how, in these circumstances,does a fellow ‘take it easy’? That’s what I want to know.”“That,” agrees the sponsor, “is a very good question in-deed. I think I can tell you exactly how to relax. You won’thave to work at it very hard, either. Listen, if you will, tothese three statements. First, Alcoholics Anonymous doesnot demand that you believe anything. All of its TwelveSteps are but suggestions.
Those are some of the most important words written in the AA literature about AA, I do believe. Critics will say that individuals at meetings may disagree, and say that if you don’t believe as they do, you will drink, and die. And a few individuals may say that, but this (to me) is the official AA line.
I hope newcomers or chronic relapsers (like I was) can take heart there, and continue on just that, if they need to. I came to AA and I left AA (by drinking) and came back and repeated and repeated and repeated. They did not demand I believe anything.
The group is surely a higher power. Any group of people is a power greater than me, because I’m only one. Any group of AA people was a power greater than me when they were able to stop drinking alcoholically and I was not able to. People who try to skip parts of the program or skimp and parts will be warned, as they should. I will warn them, if I can, because skipping and skimping meant I couldn’t achieve sobriety, and drinking meant I risked my life and the life of countless innocent others.
I hear that some people achieve sobriety with groups modeled after AA but minus the higher power concept. That’s great. I don’t know any of those people, but then I hang out in AA meetings, so I wouldn’t. If those groups really are successful, they will flourish, and I’ll be glad. So far they’re not catching on very well. I also hear there are psychological therapies and medical interventions that succeed, and again, I’m glad. Maybe the person next to me at work is the product of such a success, but I don’t think so. Those things are expensive if nothing else, so not readily available.
AA does not demand you believe anything, or do anything, or say anything, or be anything. AA’s will tell you what worked for them, and if you’re very fortunate, it will work for you as well.