12 STEP PROGRAMMES…TWELVE STEPS TO HEAVEN??

January 5, 2009 – Monday
TWELVE STEP PROGRAMS……

TWELVE STEP PROGRAMS…12 STEPS TO HEAVEN?….

I am treading on sacred ground here, because for millions, the 12 step programs of A.A., N.A, Al-Anon, Al-Ateen, Adult Children of Alcoholics, Co-dependents Anonymous etc etc have been life savers, life-changers, life-belts to drowning men and women and launching pads for awesome self-discovery and self-expression……..

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I include myself…I first got serious with sobriety, mental, physical, and spiritual, on Saint Patrick’s Day March 17th 2008 in an idyllic wholistic treatment centre in the Sierra Mountains near Granada in Spain. I chose a momentous day in the Irish calendar because I suspected it would be momentous in my life and wanted to mark it. ‘Paddy’s Day’, certainly in Ireland has been over-shadowed by alcohol and for many is a huge drinking session lasting days, with only swaying salute paid to passing parades viewed from just outside the pub…. ….

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Demi Moore gave I think it was Oprah a profoundly moving interview, and in talking about her mother, she said, “My mother was one of those souls who came into this world fully intending to be happy, but somehow never quite achieved that….”….

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My mother thus far falls sadly in the same category….she is 75 with a manageable but distressing form of leukaemia; she got 20 years not drinking through AA, but relapsed two years ago, and is slowly self-destructing having discovered to her horror that leukaemia was not going to be gracious and take her life in a glorious fashion…I have not entirely given up on her…where there is life there is hope…but she is far far down the road and the grace and miracle working power of God is definitely called for in a Cornelius fashion for ’ household’ salvation and healing…..

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I am not breaching confidentiality in sharing parts of her story…like many in recovery, she ‘came out’, expressing herself in a book of poetry, with public acknowledgement of the program. I am still profoundly connected to her, sadly in sharing the disease of alcoholism, and joyously in seeing into each others souls as only people bonded by love and suffering can… I do not speak to her or see her at the moment because in the depths of her disease she threatens the newness of my sobriety, and the bitterness of her soul twisted by alcoholic thinking is a pill too hard for me to swallow just now…but I love her, oh how I love her and salute her and admire her and pity her…….

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She flew out to ….California…. in 1986 to be with me in my confinement as I gave birth to my first-born. Her motives were sweet and motherly, especially as I was a stranger in a strange land giving birth to an ‘unplanned’ baby with an unsupportive and disconnected father. I had been too proud to go back to ..Ireland.. pregnant, I had emigrated to ..America.. from ….Ireland…. to dream a new life into existence and stayed 5 years before I finally admitted temporary defeat on the dream front and returned home. My daughter was a dream too, and one I happily prioritised over my own silly ambitions of fame and fortune…..

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Despite Mum’s good intentions, she got drunk twice a day leading up to the birth of my daughter. A friend at work in ….Sausalito…. told me she had ten days clean and sober through this wonderful program. I told my mother she was either going back to ….Ireland…. or to A.A. because a drunk mother was a liability despite her best intentions. She chose A.A., my work colleague collected her, and she launched into four months of two and three meetings a day, collected and driven and loved and supported by members all over ….Marin.. ..County………

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Towards the end of her stay, Mum invited me to her first ‘chair’, a telling of her life story and what brought her to where she was…my drinking was in abeyance at the time and my alcoholism unacknowledged, and I went to the meeting hoping to hear validation of my childhood pain as the child of an alcoholic and maybe even apologies…..

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I was horrified to not even get a mention. I can forgive her for being in the first flush of ecstatic sobriety and rather self-obsessed in a healthy way…but in the following 20 years of not drinking she never made a single amend within our shattered, damaged and dysfunctional family. I guess she never fully worked the program, following the steps, acknowledging her own short-comings and responsibility in the tragedy that had been her life, and apologising to those who had been wounded in the wreck…I guess that’s why she slipped…it’s her journey…not my job to judge her…just pray for her. She achieved much in her dry 20 years – went to college aged 53 and got her diploma in European community studies, acted like the town mayor; went back to school aged 65 and did a two year computer course…published poetry and journalistic articles under my bi-line as I was a union member; travelled extensively and touched many many lives around the fellowship where they regarded her as a saint…she just never stepped up to the plate of being a loving matriarch in her own family…perhaps that mantel will fall on me. I think the thorough and fearless working of the steps was a ‘missing’ for her, and she never found the courage to leave a dead and loveless marriage…that mantel definitely fell on me cos I ran to freedom seven years ago. I salute her journey as far as it went and pray believing it ain’t over til the fat lady sings…she used to play piano and sing opera divinely but that creativity and gift is long silent except for lip service in the local church in rural ….Ireland………

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I flirted with the program in the form of Coda and N.A during my stay in Marin…I learned some good stuff about co-dependency, read some good books and applied some lessons to my business where I needed to put time-boundaries in place and be more assertive. I went to N.A. or similar to try and quit smoking, which was so frowned upon in California where even drinking coffee is regarded as an issue worthy of therapy…I remember when I first visited California from Europe where smoking was common place and saying ‘do you mind if I smoke’ was just a courtesy…I was so shocked when Californians replied, ’Well, yes I do…you could go out on the deck?’…Much laughter as I regaled those stories back home. But I never got far in the quitting smoking thing, the programs work if you work them and I wasn;t willing to let go of that addiction at that time…..

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So last March I finally surrendered and put myself in treatment for two blocks of three weeks, which was the best I could manage logistically with two more young children I was raising alone. I had married when my daughter was 7, an Englishman in East Anglia, a terrible mistake made from an alcoholic mind in a Las Vegas kinda way like I will marry you on condition we do it in 3 weeks time…he did, we did, and my sons are the blessing or silver lining…their Dad loves them as much as I do, so I thank God at least for that…..

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Let me just back track without waxing lyrically. Let me give credit where credit is due in acknowledging my ‘Higher Power’ who is definitely not a chipmunk a mountain or ‘the rooms’…20 years ago in Sausalito, living in a cute little rented house on the bay with my precious daughter, I heard a clear audible voice in my bedroom at 3.30 in the morning say ALCOHOLIC. I had not been drinking, there was nobody but my two year old daughter in the house, and I never indulged in mind-altering drugs. It was so clear and real, I got up and searched every room. calling out unusually fearlessly ‘Who’s there?’. Like Samuel of old, I finally realised it must be the voice of God. Still in denial, and not particularly alarmed by my regular but not excessive in my opinion drinking, I accepted the warning and quit alcohol. I sought no help or structure however in bedding the sobriety in, nor did I particularly want to live an eternally sober life at that time, so three months later I considered it safe and sociable to lift the glass again…and went on to drink another 20 years…..

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I am fascinated by end-times prophecy and teaching and am a biblical scholar and born-again Christian. My love of God and His for me had not proved enough for me to get sober or even think I wanted to….no short coming on God’s part…the lack is always ours…..

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Since September of 2006 I had thought my drinking might be becoming a problem, I was becoming reclusive, I was alienating people with my unsolicited gift of brutal honesty and insight into everyone’s problems but my own…I had resigned myself to another five years lone parenting before I could live again and put myself first…the gift parenting had given me was to discover the rare joy of loving someone else more than myself….but I knew despite my obsessively perfectionistic devotion to my children I was not modelling JOY for them, nor a healthy loving committed relationship with a partner…..

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I started watching christain telly and re connected with Jack and Rexella Van Impe. Billy Graham lauded Jack Van Impe as being the greatest living scholar of the Bible…..

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I ordered a dvd called DECEMBER 21ST 2012….and boom. I had my lightbulb moment that catapulted me into sobriety. The consensus of opinion, validated not only through Biblical prophccy but through the Hopi Indians, the Celestine prophecies, Nostradamus, Sir Isaac Newton etc etc was that we only have a handful of years left in this age before the Christians are raptured for seven years and World War 111 breaks out down here…leading to Armageddon and the clock running our in terms of choosing our eternal destinations…….

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It is not my talent or chosen career to be an expert in that field but my spirit picked up on universal truth in it and even the very possibility that time could be that short gave me a revelation like people experience from near-death. I decided to live my life like it was true…I decided to resurrect the five year plan with such an urgency that I would act like that was all there was left…we will live again a thousand years on earth with Jesus with no pain suffering sickness or death, but it will be too late then for my life to make a difference to others and blissful nirvana was never my sole desire in life…..

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So I googled treatment centres in Spain and after a couple false starts I was on a plane, a bottle of wine and 3 beers inside me, full of hope once again for my future….willing to believe Jeremiah 29:11 I KNOW THE PLANS I HAVE FOR YOU SAYS THE LORD, PLANS TO PROSPER YOU AND NOT TO HARM YOU, PLANS FOR A HOPE AND A FUTURE…..’….

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Rehab in Spain was not perfect and I almost got thrown out for telling them the whole of AA was going to hell for not acknowledging Higher Power as who He is…I read on in the Big Book though, and understood the thinking behind let people come to their own understanding at their own pace…and don’t be exclusive and elitist and dogmatic and judgemental….all of which I could be at times in bucket loads…….

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I got a great tan, two swimming pools, great music on a mixed bunch of peoples’ I pods, I cried and made others cry, I laughed and made others laugh…I was astounded at the strength and courage of the human spirit…I was heart broken for the ones that didn’t make it…I experienced all the magic people talk about around the program…and I got sober, also off anti-depressants which I had been taking for five years…I now take no mood altering substances whatsoever…well, except caffeine nicotine and the occasional panadol!! But no xanex no sleepers no anti depressants and never took blood pressure pills or cholesterol pills or aspirin or whatever we humans take these days to stay alive…I take inhalers for supposed asthma but if I’m honest I was healed of that years ago and only need inhalers cos of my smoking……..

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And I came home and started going to meetings…two a week to start with…now more like four or five. I go to two step meetings a week, I have a sponsor, I read the Big Book and the step book…I did Secretary for a while, I have done a couple chairs and it’s all good…….

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But the rebel and the pioneer in me has to say this too……..

This movement was founded by highly intelligent persistent and inspired men who were interested in finding new solutions that did not yet exist…….

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In that same spirit I have to say it is time the programs went to the next level. The clue I got that it was dated and limited, although wonderful for its time, was the part in the Big Book that says you could not expect to ever be completely cured no more than you could expect to grow a new limb…well, I know of people who have indeed grown new limbs, new eyeballs, new livers and kidneys and lungs and even been raised from the dead by the miraculous power of God….the healing revival at Lakeland Florida in 2008 documented many, and I had come across similar first hand in my 20 something years of Christianity…….

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I do believe I absolutely was an alcoholic since the first drink I took aged 14…I blacked out for nine hours…and I do believe absolutely I was healed of alcoholism at approximately 3pm at Malaga airport in April 2008. I go to A.A. not because I need to but because I choose to…it is a structure for action, a forum for honesty, a place like church should be, where for the most part all men and women are equal and no one is judged…its principles are all scriptural and they work…serving others, honesty, the inability to fix oneself, the daily walking out of our healing and salvation with fear and trembling….reverent fear and respect not human fear….

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I take issue with the fear factor around the program…I’m only a drink away from disaster…if I don’t go to my meetings I am doomed…I can never drink again and must follow every recommendation and avoid pubs parties people places and things that remind or tempt me…I NEED the program and without it I WILL DIE…….

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Like faith in God and walking with Jesus, it is a CHOICE not a formula. There is freedom in experiencing the love of God both in and out of the program, and it is from that place of love and healing that we are changed, and not by self will or slavish adherence to formulii, even admirable ones like those recommended in the program…..

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I slipped or ‘dived’ as I prefer to call it in August 2008. I went out bought a half bottle of whisky, drank it alone in Irish coffees, passed out, woke up, forgave myself and went back to my meetings the next day. I have not drunk since. I may drink again, but for now, one day at a time, I prefer the sober me to the drinking me. I have been through a court-case supporting my niece in a child abuse case that divided and polarised my family, I have been bereaved of my favourite uncle and fell out with his offspring in the process because I disapproved of them putting him in a nursing home for his final days….still have to work on minding my own business and delivering honesty without brutality! I have felt suicidal a few times, BUT I HAVEN’T CHOSEN TO DRINK…and I thank God for that…..

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I am not recommending anarchy in the program, well maybe I am, but the health warning is DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME…until you capture the essence of what I am saying which is GOD is the Higher Power, SPIRIT is the guide and comforter and around the program especially JESUS IS THE MISSING LINK!!! ….

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The program is awesome and I am eternally grateful, but to go to the next level, to see even more millions set free, to choose to work the program rather than be enslaved by it, it is time for a QUANTUM LEAP IN NOBILITY…in faith and understanding and perception…a paradigm shift. There is new freedom to be found and millions more to be reached…….

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I will gladly speak at conferences share at meetings whisper in fear and trembling and speak until I am stoned…(no I think not, I’m not brave enough to be a martyr!!) but I also must fulfil my God-given destiny and be the best me I can be in the very short time we have left so I can make a difference with this thing called my life, and hear the words, ‘Well done’ when I reach the pearly gates…….

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My gift is to write and act and dance and produce a movie…everyone has a dream in them and it should not be stifled in the rooms of twelve step programs but shared in the outside world where people are suffering and searching…we all have the potential to live our best lives and with the support of the programs to venture OUTSIDE……..

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If I am arrogant and naïve, if old-timers are nodding sagely at my folly, if I disrespect something which has given me back my life and health and creativity and dreams…forgive me…but just for today I believe what I say and see…and in the depths of my born again soul I believe there is much more available to each and every one of us, the discovery of which would be saluted and cheered from Heaven by both Bill W. and Doctor Bob…..

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And if Billy Graham and Jack van Impe and Sir Isaac Newton et al are all on the right track about the timescale of this age….we have a responsibility to WAKE UP and smell the coffee (which we will certainly consider quitting really soon!!) to help ourselves and our fellow men live our dreams and make our peace with God before judgement is upon us and our loved ones for eternity…….

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This article is dedicated to all who have died prematurely, and to those they have left behind…..

ANGELA POWER-DISNEY………………………JANUARY 2009….

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