Spiritual Experience

The book Alcoholics Anonymous, aka The Big Book, is the basic text for the AA program of sobriety. "Alcoholics Anonymous" Copyright 2012 AAWS, Inc. All Rights, Reserved. Short excerpts used by permission of AAWS

Spiritual Experience

Postby veralex » Tue Dec 20, 2005 12:56 am

The terms "spiritual experience" and "spiritual awakening" are used many times in this book which, upon careful reading, shows that the personality change sufficient to bring about recovery from alcoholism has manifested itself among us in many different forms.

Yet it is true that our first printing gave many readers the impression that these personality changes, or religious experiences, must be in the nature of sudden and spectacular upheavals. Happily for everyone, this conclusion is erroneous.

In the first few chapters a number of sudden revolutionary changes are described. Though it was not our intention to create such an impression, many alcoholics have nevertheless concluded that in order to recover they must acquire an immediate and overwhelming "God-consciousness" followed at once by a vast change in feeling and outlook.

Among our rapidly growing membership of thousands of alcoholics such transformations, though frequent, are by no means the rule. Most of our experiences are what the psychologist William James calls the "educational variety" because they develop slowly over a period of time. Quite often friends of the newcomer are aware of the difference long before he is himself. He finally realizes that he has undergone a profound alteration in his reaction to life; that such a change could hardly have
been brought about by himself alone. What often takes place in a few months could hardly be accomplished by years of self-discipline. With few exceptions our members find that they have tapped an unsuspected inner resource which they presently identify with their own conception of a Power greater than themselves.

Most of us think this awareness of a Power greater than ourselves is the essence of spiritual experience. Our more
religious members call it "God-consciousness."

Most emphatically we wish to say that any alcoholic capable of honestly facing his problems in the light of our experience can recover, provided he does not close his mind to all spiritual principles. He can only be defeated by an attitude of intolerance or belligerent denial.

We find that no one need have difficulty with the spirituality of the program. WILLINGNESS, HONESTY AND OPEN MINDEDNESS ARE THE ESSENTIALS OF RECOVERY. BUT THESE ARE INDISPENSABLE.

"There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance-- that principle is contempt prior to investigation."


Copyright © Alcoholics Anonymous, pages 569-570.

I would love to hear how other have experienced this spiritual awakening or this spiritual experience.

I'm done drinking
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Re: Spiritual Experience

Postby stephbridget » Tue Dec 20, 2005 1:38 am

I did not have the spiritual awakening overnight. In working my steps, I came to believe in my HP that I call GOD. There was no amazing overwhelming sensation. It just happened and I trust it today. I do not analyze but accept that it keeps me sober. It is not about religion, but rather something that lets me not drink for TODAY and I choose to call that GOD that I opened up to on Step 3.
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Re: Spiritual Experience

Postby Blue Moon » Tue Dec 20, 2005 9:53 am

Although I struggled to understand Herbert Spencer's quote at the end, I took much comfort from Appendix II when I came in. I'd had a spiritual experience, but I certainly didn't want the God stuff of my childhood back.

It took time and work on myself and with others to come to realise I didn't have to have it in order to remain sober and become free of the mental shackles of alcoholism.

One guy I know who's over 30 years sober always chooses Appendix II to read out when he's asked to choose a passage to read.
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Re: Spiritual Experience

Postby curtis s » Wed Dec 21, 2005 8:55 pm

I'd have to say that my spiritual experiences have been hard to quantify. Also I often did not recognize them at the time.

I've had a bunch of little ones, realizations about things. Like the stuff I posted a few weeks ago about asking for serenity and being given gratitude.
I've also discovered that spiritualy I can go back to sleep pretty easily.

Can't say that I have had the big flash bang spiritual experience that transformed me. I've known people who said they had and often they became apocalyptic fundamentalists in some form of organized religion. Like the folks who used to say "get high on Jesus not drugs" It took me a long time to realize that God does not work the way drinking or taking drugs does-He does not seem to instantly remove my fears and cares and transform me. Rather He gives me the support I need to face reality.

I had a thought the other day. God created us with fears. Fears of things like dying. Yet it is God's will that we all die someday. So God created us with a fear of His plan. No doubt He had good reasons for this. I'm tempted to think that maybe He could have come up with a better idea but then I have to ask just how many universes have I created....I can't even get my kids to clean their rooms and I am thinking that God might have thought this whole reality thing through a little better............... The answer is faith that it's okay to be the way I was allowed to be by God which is imperfect. Or as some folks say, perfect in my imperfection.

Don't want to ram God down anyones throat here and I am using the term as shorthand for the Creator without any reference to any particular conception of the Creator.

"What a long strange trip it's been."
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Re: Spiritual Experience

Postby ann2 » Fri Dec 23, 2005 1:04 am

My first spiritual experience was simply the realization that it's ok for life to be tough, I can still survive, and it's better to do it sober. That was a big one that held me close for over 15 years. Along the way I got plenty of help from my higher power but I didn't dare acknowledge it as such. God reached out and helped me in numerous ways . . . incredibly obvious ways when I look back, ways that would have been impossible had I been drinking. I still never typed them as spiritual, I just opened my eyes and said, wow, okay, that's nice, and went on. I think my higher power was having a little fun with dense Ann.

At 17 years away from the drink I took my first 7th step. It was the answer to a very deep and heartrending 4th, 5th and 6th step process. And, I had the flash of light experience. Don't think it was as strong as Bill W.'s, but it will do, it will do :)

17 years is a long time away from the drink without awaiting confirmation from some spiritual entity that I was doing the right thing, lol. But I could have gone longer I'm sure, just from that first realization, that life can be hard (later, especially after my first 7th step, I realized it didn't *have* to be) but I can get through it without drinking anyway.

The 7th step experience was pretty cool, though. Made having defects worthwhile :) and now I enjoy hunting them down and packing them up and asking my higher power to please please relieve me.


"If I don't take twenty walks, Billy Beane send me to Mexico" -- Miguel Tejada
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Re: Spiritual Experience

Postby tracy » Fri Dec 23, 2005 2:05 pm

Thanks for the great posts. One of my favorite lines in there is "contempt prior to investigation". It took me a while to have "some understanding of that phrase and I'm sure it will continue to grow. What that means to me today is that if I say ...
"I don't like that meeting" - yet I've never been there
"I have nothing in common with that person" - yet I've never talked with him/her.
"I don't like that speaker" - yet never met or heard that person.
"This will never work" - yet I never tried it

I can no longer say certain things or act a specific way based on a thought. I must ask God to help me open my mind enough so that God can place me where I need to be. I can no longer prejudge people, places, and things. There is a line early in the book that states "the realm of the Spirit is broad, roomy, and all inclusive, never exclusive or forbidding to those who earnestly seek." I take that to mean I must be all inclusive. I can't be exclusive anymore otherwise I diminish my chance of hearing, seeing, feeling God work in my life. When I'm going through a hard time it's those thing that I hold onto. If I continue to exclude, I will exclude myself all the way back into a room, alone, with my bottle. "Contempt prior to investigation" is my first checkpoint for truth in my life.

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Re: Spiritual Experience

Postby SteveC » Sun Dec 25, 2005 3:13 pm

Hi Tracy!

That's a great defination! Really! I don't think I've ever heard it put better or simpler. Can't say no if I haven't tried it.

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But peace within the storm.
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Re: Spiritual Experience

Postby Carl » Tue Feb 21, 2006 1:23 am

I am really going to have to open myself up a bit on this one. And nobody better laugh.chuckle

I have always pictured myself on a ledge, near a waterfall in some forest, listening to the water, and thinking perfect ways on how to deal with lifes issues. Then being able to deal with all angrey feelings by rechanneling into the fellowship diagram.

The ability to walk with the masses without judgeing, and accepting people as they are.

Being able to appreciate what I have, and not lust for what I desire.

Being able to care for others before myself.


Isant that also working the program?

Isant spirutality really mean that your fulfilling your basic instict for survival, and at the same time, providing for others comfort?
and as a result, you find comfort in their happiness?

That is my idea of spirtuality.

I have a deep resentment for formalized religions.
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Re: Spiritual Experience

Postby keithd » Tue Feb 21, 2006 8:50 pm

For me it was in a AA meeting and i realized i had not even thought of a drink in a few days. Something was doing for me what i could not do for myslef. From that point on i was not alone anymore.
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Re: Spiritual Experience

Postby Steve D » Thu Mar 02, 2006 8:54 pm

Before I had my profound spiritual experience I was a sober, in and out of the rooms kind of alcoholic. There was something different about this sot.

I was arrogant I knew everything, I was always right, and I wouldn’t listen to anyone. What did they know? I was strong willed and self reliant. I didn’t need support and no one else really mattered ‘cept me. I was SUPER DUDE!

However I was also very isolated and dishonest. This SUPER DUDE would never accept his true and current situation, i.e. SUPER DUDE was a common alcoholic drinking his way into an early grave. I also had a great many problems I remembered once I was sober. So I drank the magic elixir of alcohol and egotism to morph back into SUPER DUDE. Regardless, drunk or sober I could never shake the feeling of the omni-present sense of impending doom.

But my irrational belief in my own made of titanium will power would coast me through all of life’s tragedies. Bring ‘em on I say!

Then one day the unimaginable happened. Without warning I too was forced along with my fairy tale macho superiority to journey down that raw and bitter channel all alcoholics pass through on their way to truth.. I fell out of my imaginary cottony comfortable make believe world.

- Falling. I was plunging away from the light into total darkness.

- Helpless. I scrambled and gyrated for anything to grab on to, to check my downward spiral. Where the hell was my titanium will power now! The sinking feeling of falling continued.

- Isolation. Finally totally alone, powerless, with out any hope of any future or safe haven I pitifully mumbled “O my God, help me. In effect I honestly said God I’ve failed. I am not special. I surrender. I want to live with your help.

When I asked for God’s intervention in an instant I was fully aware of two things. First without a doubt I would get help and my worries were over. Second it would I mean a profound fundamental change in my life style that must be focused in the spiritual. In the next instant I promised my Higher Power and myself I would never take another drink. I’ve said it before but never as an honest vow to my God. I really honestly meant it.

Then came the following cascade:

I knew once I had my self mentally strait and true, the circumstances of the outside world would fall into place. My problems would be manageable.

I knew I wanted the good life (what they had) but I could only have it after I surrendered and profoundly accepted my true condition (Step One of Twelve). I had to accept myself as an alcoholic and that I was no different (better) than those other alcoholics attending AA meetings.

Accepting my condition was spiritual because it was the right thing to do. It is not that I must be empirically “right” so much so that someone else can come along and verify my right actions provable.

To me spiritual acts are acts that I inherently know are acts that are “right“. For me “rightness” is based on my own fundamental moral code. My ethical code of beliefs and values are those that I have arrived at through life’s experiences and a lot of mediation and prayer with my God. Listening to His messages and advice so that I may better carry out his will for me.

Spirit power comes from communication with God in prayer and times of quite meditation.” - “This is a matter directly between me and God. Those who seek it through the medium of the church do not always get the joy and wonder of spirit communication with God.” - “Many people do not realize the power that can come to them from direct spirit-communication.*

- When I am able to act spiritually in my every day life I am happy and content. My problems are fewer and those that remain are workable and solvable. I am not isolated and I can successfully socialize better. My family life is again first rate. The sense of impending doom has been replaced with an optimistic view of the future.

In a sense I am am not different I fit in and I am serene.

* From Twenty Four Hours A Day, Hazelden Foundation

<small>[ 03-04-2006, 10:42 AM: Message edited by: Steve D. ]</small>
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Spiritual Experience

Postby Tomki » Tue Jan 16, 2007 6:01 pm

I went through the step 1 - 9 and received a spiritual experience. I did the work and was granted it on a daily basis. I gave up trying to become enlightened and went to work with suffering brothers and sisters and as a result became enlightened into a new way of life by "growing in effectiveness and understanding" through steps 10-11-12 then back too 1

Step one underpins everything in the simplicity of its message. If I begin to find the work objectionable that is really because I have stopped believing Alcohol will kill me I will eventually become my own higher power and the spiral will begin to gather speed. My answer is to reconnect with God - take inventory - make restitution and re-grow in effectiveness and undestanding and fulfill the primary purpose. I only have a reprieve for that reason, to do the work - and hell I love it.
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Postby Yvon P. » Sun Jan 28, 2007 6:07 pm

Of course, I must agree with Tomki! The spiritual wakening does come as a result of the first 9 Steps. We find the Promises there, in the Big Book, between Steps 9 and 10. Those Promises are the best "description" of that personality change sufficient to bring about recovery that I have seen. This is how I break it down;

Steps 1 & 2 are not Steps we do. They are "facts" we become convinced of!

Steps 3 through 9 bring us into the present.

Steps 10, 11 & 12 keep us here.

Once we have experienced that "Spiritual Awakening" we continue to (Step 10)Clean House, (Step 11)Trust God and (Step 12)Help Others.

As a result, a recovered alcoholic can go anywhere free people can go. The "Spiritual Awakening" levels the playing field with the "rest" of the world. We are now like every other human being in every respect except where alcohol is concerned. We integrate into society as productive, happy
members of our communities. We do not live deep within the depths of the AA Fellowship because we now have the AA Program and this is what enables us to experience the goodness of a Higher Power in a wonderful world.
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"Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program".
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Postby Tomki » Mon Jan 29, 2007 12:08 pm

I have to copy this across from one of my comments in another debate as it fits here much better
Hi Yvon I think we are on the same page All I need is to reach the point talked about in the first paragraph of Chapter four and the following two lads reached that point very quickly: they conceded to their inner most selves that they were alcoholic any booze will kill them.
I am very proud to sponsor the first lad he is twenty four and on fire he has gone through his steps and now at nearly five months sober he has just taken his first serious sponsee through 4 - 8 this weekend and the new lad has already started his direct amends having worked out ways and means to make restitution to those he has harmed –

This is the same lad who walked into a BBS meeting on Doctor’s Opinion three and a half weeks ago. Next week that lad will get his 28 day chip at our home group. Some say the age of miracles are dead I see them happen every week when the message is took from the book

Hell he was discussing his spiritual experience with a new lass to night
Tolerance is the no mans land that lies between Resentment and Acceptance!
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Postby Yvon P. » Mon Jan 29, 2007 12:29 pm

Your posts are always a "breath of fresh air" Tomki!! Keep on carrying the Message!!

Kind Regards,

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"Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program".
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Postby Tomki » Mon Jan 29, 2007 1:35 pm

8) I thank you for those kind words. but I am very selfish I nearly left AA just after my 21st sober aniversary however shortly after that day one of my sponsee's pushed me into starting another BBSG but getting back to BB AA unfortunately the last two BB Meeting had gone over to dark tunnel meetings.

our first new BBSG meeting was on 9/4/2006 and on the 10/01/2007 we started our second BBSG meeting using a study guide from Dallas PPG and in a short time we number 15 HG members and if we can get these numbers up to 20+ we will start another but this time it will be a BBSG Foundation meeting for the new lads and lasses. we are already saving up our money to finance it. But we want to start it in a detox or salvation army hostel so we carry the mesage to the brothers and sisters as opposed to waiting till they find us as is the common theme here. The first lad I metioned is Public information rep for one group and treasurer for the second and we will have his sponsee up on the front line pretty soon doing the work. It is so exciting to watch them take the battle to our brothers and sisters. Hell last night they were carrtying in a woman down the stairs in wheel chair without pausing for breath "what you need to read is page ..... etc its magic to see 8)

On Saturday we travel 120 miles down country to meet up with some guys who have similar BBSG meetings just to meet fellow travellers in the through the Big Book and share ESH and coffee NOW THAT HAS TO BE SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCE !
Tolerance is the no mans land that lies between Resentment and Acceptance!
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