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We are all children of AA. Coming into the Fellowship broken, we are reborn through the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. After recognising our powerlessness over alcohol, we make a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God, as we understand Him. We proceed to remove the things that block us from our Higher Power, making a commitment in Step Seven to let our God have all of us—good and bad. We go out into the world, encased in God’s love and protection, making amends for the harms we have done; continuing to watch for selfishness and self-centredness—our number one enemy, even greater than alcohol itself—and we begin to develop and deeper our relationship with our new Higher Power, while sharing our experience, strength and hope with other alcoholics. Crucially, it is during this process of transformation that a profound spiritual experience occurs—our roots begin to grasp at a new soil; we abandon old ideas and embrace new and revolutionary attitudes and outlooks. We are reborn.
And we are reborn thanks to AA; inside of AA. As we continue to develop inside AA, we are guided by the hand of AA. It is very much like a parent. Our conception might have occurred in the depths of alcoholic despair, but the process of labour—the process of birth—occurs within the Fellowship.
While I am suggesting a metaphor for AA; for me this metaphor has a profound reality because I came into the Programme as a child and I have, quite literally, grown-up in AA.
I was nineteen-years old when I went to my first meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous. Downing a few cans for ‘Dutch courage’, I entered a small AA meeting somewhere in Kentish Town, London. My world had collapsed around me.
I didn’t realise at the time but, in stepping through those doors of AA, I had already begun Steps One and Two. I recognised that I was powerless over alcohol and that I needed a power greater than me, (the rooms of AA, although I didn’t know what they were about), to restore me to sanity. I have not had a drink since – some eight years ago.
Drinking throughout my teenage years, I suffered from arrested development—I was still a 12-year-old child when I got sober. I didn’t know how to deal with life; I was prone to tantrums, stamping my feet when I didn’t get my own way. Relationships, work, good behaviour—these were totally alien; I was still the 12-year-old prior to my heavy teenage drinking.
Committing to AA, I was raised in AA. I went through my first sober relationship in AA; I went through university in AA; I went through my first job in AA; I went through disappointments in AA; I went through happiness in AA—I was not only reborn inside AA, I quite literally grew-up in AA. The Programme has acted as my moral and spiritual guardian—it provides me with a template for good living; it is there when I fall short; it offers unconditional love.
While externally I have grown into an adult within the Fellowship, I still remain a child. But not the confused and anxious kid that turned to drink and drugs to alleviate my inner torments. No, today, I recognise that I am both a child of God and a child in the face of spiritual power. Trying to practice humility, I recognise that I do not want to be an adult spiritual giant (they don’t exist anyway); rather, I am like a curious child amazed at the wonder of my Higher Power. I don’t understand it—but I don’t need to, I know it works.
And, of course, like any parent-child relationship, I have rebelled in AA, I have been resentful towards AA and I have kept secrets from AA. But, in the end, I am the one who suffers and I come back to the rooms, tail between my legs and beaten into a state of reasonableness.
My AA parent exists in three forms: it is a physical presence, in the form of the rooms and friendships forged; it is a guide, presenting a map for useful and sober living in the form of the Twelve Steps; and it is a spiritual guardian pointing me to a Higher Power—my ultimate protection.
In the end, we are all children of AA, reborn in the rooms. We have a constant guardian who will offer support and love. Like all good parents, AA knows when to let go too. It has no monopoly on God, happy for us to develop our spirituality elsewhere, and it is designed to enable us to live dependently with God, no one or nothing else.