Sposorship and religion (or lack thereof)

Most of us who recovered with AA's program did so with the help of a "sponsor". But what is sponsorship? How do I get one? Who can be a sponsor? What makes a good sponsor?
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grumpypathdoc
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Sposorship and religion (or lack thereof)

Post by grumpypathdoc »

I recently joined this forum and have posted under the newcomer section in regards to religion. I'm well into my fifth month of sobriety, have been attending F2F meetings on a regular basis and have been studying the BB and AA literature,as well as delving into other modalities ( I see a therapist, three actually, and read extensively about addiction and addiction therapies in general).

I have yet to commit to a sponsor though I've spoken at length about it to several of the people "with experience" at the meetings I attend.

My "problem" is that I'm a confirmed hard agnostic/atheist. I've been using the members of AA as my "higher power" and it has worked so far.

I'm posting here as I am sure others have faced my dilemma and I would like some advice on how they approach this situation. I know that there must be some groups (hopefully in my area) that may have a more "liberal" approach to this situation. So if someone else out there lives in the Buffalo/Niagara Falls area, I would certainly like to hear from them.
"Jeder nach seinen Fähigkeiten, jedem nach seinen Bedürfnissen!" oder "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need"

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Todd M
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Re: Sposorship and religion (or lack thereof)

Post by Todd M »

faced my dilemma and I would like some advice on how they approach this situation.
The way I Faced the Dilemma "One Day At a Time", Get a Sponsor, Do the Steps.
My approach is "be honest, be open-minded, be willinging to try
I asked my self, Do I want to Get Better, Feel Better, Heal and live sober?
When I was ready to go to any length, and stop creating excusses,
I had a chance... And it works, One Day at a Time

the other options are, Get drunk and my miserys will be returned

I have to Give it a Chance, everyday, and remain teachable
This Program will work for anyone who does the recovery program (Steps)
Becomes a Member (Unity)
gets a Home Group and helps out with the stuff that keeps the doors open. (service)
There is Hope, Todd M
Keep it Simple

The e-AA Group's 7th Tradition link:
http://www.e-aa.org/group_seventh.php

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PaigeB
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Re: Sposorship and religion (or lack thereof)

Post by PaigeB »

I am an atheist too... been sober going on 4 years now. I have a sponsor, do service work & work the Steps and stay in constant contact with my HP which I call AA. I am the one that had the problem... thinking because I was an atheist I was different. but I am not different. Therefore sponsorship isn't really any different.

My guess is that if you pick a good old timer with a good program, you will be surprised to find that they adhere to the Traditions of AA. "The only requirement is the desire to stop drinking" You can do the Steps without a entity to assist you. They are so many people who are willing to help.

As for the terms that are frequently used in AA, just apply semantics. Pick a sponsor - any sponsor. We are all just another chum on the bus, no training required. Honest, Open, Willing.

See you on the broad highway!
Cling to the thought that, in God's hands, the dark past is the greatest possession you have - the key to life and happiness for others. With it you can avert death and misery for them. page 124 BB

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Re: Sposorship and religion (or lack thereof)

Post by JohnZ »

This is just one person's opinion, so don't take it as a lofty philosophy, but it seems to me that most people who call themselves "atheist" are acknowledging the fact that there is no empirical proof of God's existence. In a sense, I feel more camaraderie with atheists than I do with religionists who insist that there IS empirical proof. They insist that you can see God in nature, under a microscope or through a telescope, or through some intricate gyration of logic, when in fact they wouldn't be seeing God at all if they didn't already believe in Him.

As a 12-step practicing member of AA, my Higher Power has presented itself to me as an existential reality as opposed to an empirical one. Is that Higher Power a creation of my human imagination? Does it exist only in my mind, or in the universe at large, or does it manifest itself as a combination of the two?

This is the chicken/egg questioning that the Big Book refers to, and the advice it has on the matter is quite clear: LET IT GO. Set your doubt aside and try working the steps as they are. Prove to yourself whether they work or not.

Give up seeking intellectual knowledge, and embrace the experiment of existential knowledge, and you gradually move from seeker to seer.

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Re: Sposorship and religion (or lack thereof)

Post by coachdonsul »

Hi Grumpy,

I used to call myself that but I think "curmudgeon" more accurately describes my personality.

I've been an atheist for at least 60 yrs and sober for nearly 30. I'd say "good luck" trying to find an atheist friendly group in your part of the country, or anywhere else for that matter. That, however, isn't really that important unless you get off arguing with the "believers" a practice I have eschewed for some time. It's easier to convert conservatives to liberals than to argue with a believer.

I've attended litterally thousands of AA meetings all over this country and enjoyed most of them. Their are those who say that they get something out of every meeting they attended. My rejoinder to those members is that if that is their position, then they haven't been to enough meetings.

I'd say that you should stick to your guns, and not be a bit abashed about your non-believer status. Chances are, you might run into a few like minded members in the program or in the meetings you do attend.

As others have mentioned, you don't need a god or a higher power to get and stay sober. It does help to hang around with sober people who are trying to live a sober life. Besides you can meet some interesting people.

Getting sober, as I tell those select few persons who ask me, is just a matter of not drinking and then changing almost everything in your life including most of your beliefs.

Hang in there.

Don

Wisdom from the Alanon side:
"You should say what you mean,
Mean what you say,
but you don't have to be mean about it." :D

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Re: Sposorship and religion (or lack thereof)

Post by MitchellK »

It was written - "My guess is that if you pick a good old timer with a good program, you will be surprised to find that they adhere to the Traditions of AA. "The only requirement is the desire to stop drinking""

When people quote the Traditions, many people have a lack of understanding of them. AA's 3rd Tradition states that the only requirement for membership is the desire to stop drinking. The 3rd Tradition long form states that no one may be denied membership if they have the desire to recover. Leaving out "membership" totally changes the Tradition.

The only requirement to get on a commercial airliner is to purchase a ticket (to keep it simple for an example). However, once on the plane (membership) there are other things one is called upon to do (seat belts, listening to the crew, no smoking etc). Anyone can board a plane or say they are a member of Alcoholics Anonymous.

In AA, no one is required to work the Steps or get a sponsor or believe in a specific Higher Power. In fact, no one is required to stop drinking; only to have a desire to stop. Some in AA call the group conscience their Higher Power. Some call it a "Group Of Drunks." The addition of "as we understand" came about because of early atheist/agnostic members.

AA's spirituality has nothing to do with religion. Of course there are religious members who choose to call their Higher Power by a specific name or identification - that is their choice. Of course AA's roots come from religious writing and beliefs of the day when AA was founded. However, like anything, the origins are not mandates and that is why for the addition of as we understand.

When someone says they don't rely on any sort of faith I ask them what happens when they step on the brake pedal of their car when they want to stop? Do they act on faith that the car will stop? When you hear the weather reporter on the news that is is going to rain do you leave your house with an umbrella? Are you acting on faith that their science is correct? When you walk into a dark room and flick the light switch, you have faith that the science will illuminate the room. Sometimes the light bulb blows and the room remains dark. Does that mean that the science is a failure or doesn't work? Many areas of our lives are based upon faith.

The requirement for membership get you in the door. Everything else keeps you sober.

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Re: Sposorship and religion (or lack thereof)

Post by PaigeB »

"The only requirement is the desire to stop drinking"
Sloppy of me to misquote the Tradition and leave out " for membership".

Still ringing in my ears though is that I earned this chair in AA and no one gets to tells me to leave. I am a member if I say I am a member. It is not at all based on ANY conformity. Some sponsors will require conformity on all fronts. Mine did not, she allowed me to do the Steps to her satisfaction and left me the inner work necessary to keep me from drinking today.
Cling to the thought that, in God's hands, the dark past is the greatest possession you have - the key to life and happiness for others. With it you can avert death and misery for them. page 124 BB

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Re: Sposorship and religion (or lack thereof)

Post by Service »

Don't worry, the religious outside system they will find you before you find them as they believe it has to be administered to you, even after if your already here (Religious or what) - Remember it's an inside job? If you don't have personal willingness to take the steps religion tactics are here to assist you (For your own good remember) -but if you have the PERSONAL WILLINGNESS to take the the steps, they work great . Good luck hope you don't isolate yourself from the fellowship and become a religious control freak like most of the sponsored people do !!
Only in A.A can a career criminal be a sponsor who praises them-self for making it out of a burning building they burnt down them-self - LOL

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Re: Sposorship and religion (or lack thereof)

Post by Service »

I'm a Political atheist no longer a agnostic - God was bestowed on me by religious people instead of seeking with personal willingness.
Your 51% on your way since you are already here.

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grumpypathdoc
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Re: Sposorship and religion (or lack thereof)

Post by grumpypathdoc »

Thanks to everyone for their responses. I committed myself to the AA program before I left rehab. I follow order very well (except when it comes to religion). I have done the "90 in 90". I attend 5 to 7 meetings a week and participate in everyone. I've never done the "I'm just listening so I'll pass". I know I get a lot out of listening to others and hope what I say gives something back. I participate in another online group besides this one. I lurk here more than I share but this group will be hearing more from me from now on.

By the way coachdonsul, I am a "curmudgeon" at times, but I thought it might might make to long a handle.
"curmudgeonlypathdoc" seemed a bit to unwieldy.
"Jeder nach seinen Fähigkeiten, jedem nach seinen Bedürfnissen!" oder "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need"

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Tosh
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Re: Sposorship and religion (or lack thereof)

Post by Tosh »

grumpypathdoc wrote: My "problem" is that I'm a confirmed hard agnostic/atheist. I've been using the members of AA as my "higher power" and it has worked so far.
If it works, work it.

I can't force a belief in a religious deity - and I have tried 'faking it till I made it' - but it didn't work. It caused me further questions and confusion, so in the end I just put it to one side. I couldn't just believe in a religious type of god because He's written about in some book because if I go to another book I'll read alternative and conflicting information. Books as authorities aren't much cop; even the Big Book (which I love btw). Blind faith just doesn't work for me, but I can cultivate a faith based on, "This thing from A.A. works, so maybe this other thing from A.A. will work...".
Come, come, whoever you are. Wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving. It doesn't matter. Ours is not a caravan of despair. Come, even if you have broken your vows a thousand times. Come, yet again, come, come.” Rumi (No sniggering from the sex addicts)

Service
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Re: Sposorship and religion (or lack thereof)

Post by Service »

grumpypathdoc wrote:My "problem" is that I'm a confirmed hard agnostic/atheist. I've been using the members of AA as my "higher power" and it has worked so far.
Your in LUCK Sponsors are for people who cannot rely on God that’s why it’s an outside system superstition works sponsors work as there are many substitutions for faith here
I have yet found a substitution for God maybe for you a sponsor can be that many are of the outside GovernMental type around A.A. though A.A. is more spiritual than just having an artificial relationship with a stranger.

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Re: Sposorship and religion (or lack thereof)

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I can't force a belief in a religious deity - and I have tried 'faking it till I made it' - but it didn't work. It caused me further questions and confusion, so in the end I just put it to one side. I couldn't just believe in a religious type of god because He's written about in some book because if I go to another book I'll read alternative and conflicting information. Books as authorities aren't much cop; even the Big Book (which I love btw). Blind faith just doesn't work for me, but I can cultivate a faith based on, "This thing from A.A. works, so maybe this other thing from A.A. will work...".
Your post gave me some hope for myself.

The place of religion and belief in a god in AA becomes increasingly prominent as younger, more secular members from different cultural backgrounds join AA.

For the women and men who came to AA 40-50 years ago and were totally broken with nowhere else to go (literally), the idea of accepting a personal higher power to have a relationship with must not have been all that difficult considering the alternative. For those of us who haven't lost as much as the early members but still seek recovery, it can be harder to let go of strongly-held convictions (such as atheism or other beliefs).

The bottom line here is that, to get sober, a person has to really believe in something that they learn to love more than the booze. For creative people, it's often their creative outlet. For others, it's fishing. For others, it's just being in nature. For many, it's just the process of becoming more conscious through stepwork, meditation, or other 12-step activities. But I think that to stay sober, you have to find things you like to do and that make you feel good. Otherwise, why not drink?

It's important to note that a higher power doesn't have to be a god (and it doesn't have to be "divine universal order" or anything even vaguely omnipotent and/or god-like). Bill Wilson may have disagreed with that and claimed that atheists were just kidding themselves out of a relationship with God Almighty, but I know people who have 20+ years of sobriety without believing in any sort of deity, god, or higher power. Those people generally just find pursuits that they love that are unrelated to alcohol.

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Re: Sposorship and religion (or lack thereof)

Post by Brock »

Abe Lincoln wrote a good post, and I don't want to poke holes in it, just to be augmentative, but there are two things I feel differently about. Firstly, while it is true that many of the early members, had hit a bottom lower than many of those who come in today, I still see many come in who are pretty well at rock bottom, and I am sure that this will vary by area. I attend a couple of meetings hosted in what is considered affluent areas, here many newcomers are quite well off, but in the rough part of town, where I have to keep an eye on my car, you still get many who have lost everything; perhaps they didn't have that much to begin with; but to loose all hope is sad.

Secondly, I disagree that anyone can recover by finding pursuits that they love more than alcohol, this is something that has baffled many of my sober friends, and bought joy to my alcoholic friends. Some didn't see the need for the bottle of rum in the fishing kit, or vodka instead of water, in the bottle attached to my golf cart, and as much as I loved these activities, I would never have given up drinking for them. The twelfth step clearly speaks of a spiritual awakening, and no one ever had one by catching a three hundred pound marlin, or hitting a hole in one. The word spiritual means not tangible or material, therefore not a fish or a golf ball.

God bless all who contribute.
Brock.
"Good morning, this is your Higher Power speaking. I will not be needing your help today."

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Re: Sposorship and religion (or lack thereof)

Post by Abraham Lincoln »

Hey Brock, great post! Absolutely, there are still a lot of low-bottom drunks. I agree, too, that there are probably many people who would not find recovery by finding a pursuit they love that's not alcohol.

I can only talk about my path. If anything is my higher power, it's music. Through music, I've been able to connect to something greater than me. I should've spoken about it in more personal terms! I'm just writing for anyone who might connect to what I say. I don't mean to tread on the toes of people who don't.

The 12th step refers to a spiritual awakening as the result of working the steps. The 2nd step can be widely interpreted, and it is one part of the process of working all the steps and having a spiritual awakening. My 2nd step had more to do with being around sober musicians, being in nature, and making art while sober than it had to do with belief in a god. I'm still an atheist, but I feel a strong spiritual connection in these pursuits. Through them I connect to some nameless greater thing than myself. That's been my 2nd step. For some people, landing a huge fish may in fact be a part of the path to a spiritual awakening. Playing a great gig sober may be a part of it. Learning to work at new pursuits without the use of alcohol has been a big part of my journey through the steps.

I agree that no one ever had a spiritual awakening by catching a 300 lb marlin (which would rock) or hitting a hole in one, but in my own experience, there are a lot of small moments that paint a larger picture of recovery. There have even been some really big moments, like the most recent 5th step I did, or the amends to my mom. But the small moments, like when I used to play gigs with my sponsor and another sober friend or when I've gone hiking in the woods without alcohol or drugs have been just as important to my spiritual awakening in their own smaller ways. There has been no singular moment that was the defining point of my time in recovery. Thank goodness for that, too!

So I guess what I'm saying is that I respect that what I spoke about has not been a part of everyone's path. It has been a part of mine, and it may be a part of some others', too.

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