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When I was a kid, not more than five or six, a stranger in a park walked up to me with a Bible and started talking to me about Jesus. (This was this Deep South. It happened.) My immediate reply was, “I’m an atheist. Leave me alone.”
Just like I’ve probably been an overeater all my life, I’m a lifelong atheist. Not an agnostic, not spiritual. An atheist. I know there is no god. So when my addiction became apparent, and I realized I needed help, my reaction to OA was the same: . . .
Kudos for the fabulous articles in February’s NoVAtions for describing all the various ways that people can relate to a “Higher Power” or “God.” As a follow-up, I am giving a big shout out to AA’s first self-proclaimed atheist, Jim B. As a member of the early NY Group of AA with Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob in 1938, Jim was responsible for those four words in Steps 3 and 11 “as we understand Him.” In the original Step 2, “God” was replaced by “a Power greater than ourselves,” and “on our knees” was cut from Step 7. The 3rd Tradition, “The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking” was an influence from Jim, too. Bill Wilson paid tribute to Jim and his friend Hank for their atheist and agnostic contributions: “...they had widened our gateway so that all who suffer might pass through, regardless of their belief or lack of belief” (Alcoholics Anonymous. Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age. New York: Alcoholics Anonymous World Service Inc., 1957).
For me, recognizing the history behind our Steps and Traditions is valuable in sponsoring. The research and experiences of all the women and men before us hold so much value and so much wisdom. My goal is to begin with a sponsee where she is to understand what are her ideas of a higher power and spirituality. In our (Jewish) OA founder Rozanne's 1999 World Conference Founder Address, she stated, . . .
When I came to OA in 1983 I couldn’t bear to hear the word “God.” I had huge resentments toward Him. I had asked to be thin, and He never zapped me thin. I had asked to have a different family, and that didn’t happen. I asked to be rich, and that didn’t happen.
By the time I stepped into the rooms, I had tried every diet and weight-loss plan and read many of the books on “changing your eating patterns.” I had tried therapy. I tried crystals and various positive affirmations. What I hadn’t tried was . . .
This is a powerfully important issue for me and caused me to leave OA for more than a year. I cried and was so deeply saddened. We are reminded at each meeting that there should be no cross talk. However, often when the subject of HP comes up, some people have tried to define HP for me. A few people have told me to think of an HP as a big daddy. Why not a big mama? Actually, neither of those is good for me. This happened to me not only at meetings, but with a sponsor. My sponsor talked so much about his own HP . . .
I came into OA an angry atheist and have morphed into a happy agnostic. I grew up internalizing an angry, vindictive god who tried to trick children into sin to test them. (I'm sure this was not what was taught, but it was what I heard.)
It took a while for me to share about HP in meetings or with my sponsor. As I began working the steps, I used the group as my HP or G.O.D. (good orderly direction). This worked fine. I got abstinent and lost 70 pounds. The steps work if you work them. Over time I began defining HP by what it was not: . . .
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The opinions expressed in NoVAtions are those of the individual contributors and do not necessarily reflect OA as a whole.
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