One of the things about AA that trips people up is the God element. In this day and age, religion is a touchy subject that a lot of people don’t want to get in to. Much like the parts of your body normally covered by pants, religion is something most people want to keep to themselves. Going in to a room filled with strangers who want to talk about GOD was not something that appealed to me very much.
After doing some reading and attending a few meetings, I found out there are atheist who have found AA very helpful. Some of them simply replace God with a cheeky backronym like Group Of Drunks, and even the Steps themselves refer to the Higher Power as a God as we understood him. If you understand God as a waffle your son tossed up onto the ceiling, then that’s your thing. Whatever keeps you sober is something I’ve heard more than once.
Ignoring the theological or sacrilegious implications, I think the higher power is all about suppressing your ego. From what I’ve been able to gather, your ego is your self-worth, but according to Freud its the mediator between your ID (your primitive nature) and your Super-Ego (what you’ve been taught by culture). To distill decades of psychology in to a few words; your ego is your mind, its the voice that’s reading you these words in your head.
Its probably the voice that has told you at some point YOU NEED TO QUIT DRINKING. The unfortunate thing, is that its also the voice that says Eff this, lets get HAMMERED. So the ID is neither a good or bad thing per-se, but its what gets people like myself in to trouble when it comes to alcohol.
When I was first thinking about quitting drinking, a lot of things began running through my head. I analyzed a bunch of different ideas, the pros, cons, and all the rest and I came to a resoundingly pointless conclusion: I should probably quit drinking, but I cant. Putting my brain in charge, the brain that’s supposed to look out of me in times of danger, and gave me nothing usable.
It wasn’t until I had been without alcohol for a few months, that it finally clicked. My ego wouldn’t let me quit, in my mind the pros of drinking, and the unfathomable challenge of quitting made the act of quitting such an absurd idea that it was out of the question.
So either Id A: keep drinking normally and convince myself I didn’t have a problem or B: try to cut back/drink in a way that didn’t ruin my life. Both of these attempts would invariably fail at some point.
This is where Ego Suppression comes in to play: your ego got you into this mess, so you’re going to have to call in some reserves to help you get out. In 1935 when AA was founded, it made perfect sense to say you had to turn in your keys to God and he’d take it from there. In 2010 the same request is similar to asking someone to cure their broken leg through prayer.
Suppressing your ego is as simple as saying I’m a sloppy drunk. Its not as effective as saying I am powerless over alcohol, but its a step in the right direction. Admitting your relationship with alcohol in an honest manner is suppressing your ego.
In admitting this, you are no longer fooling yourself into thinking that you’re as suave as James Bond after 4 martinis. You are no longer fooling yourself into thinking no one notices if you’d had a few at lunch. You are no longer letting your distorted self image of yourself get in the way of the harsh reality.
BOOM! Did I blow your mind?
If you’re still struggling with the ego/higher power thing, maybe my personal experience will help:
When I first started thinking about the higher power, I decided to make the higher power my house plants. My thought was, if I get drunk then Ill neglect to care for them, and they’ll eventually die. I don’t want them to die, and therefore I wont drink. PROBLEM SOLVED. Right?
Wrong. If my houseplants died for other reasons, Id have no reason to continue my abstinence and I could go back to drinking. The nice thing about a biblical god is that he never dies or goes away. Thinking of my houseplants as my higher power was a fallacy, but it eventually opened my eyes to what my higher power REALLY WAS.
It dawned on me that it was about more than just the houseplants, it was also about my relationship with my girlfriend, my finances, my health and my happiness. My life was a metaphorical houseplant, if I kept feeding it booze and letting it spiral out of control itd eventually wither and die. Then I had a weird thought; Someday Ill die, but everything else will keep on going.
My higher power became the world around me.
Once I was able to stop thinking about the world as if I were the centre of the Universe, everything became much easier. No longer the centre of the universe, a great weight was lifted from my shoulders. I realized I didn’t have to defeat alcohol, I just had to abstain from drinking it. I didn’t have to solve all the problems in the world, I just had to STOP USING ALCOHOL AS A WAY TO DEAL WITH THEM.
Letting my ego control me, letting it convince me that I didn’t have a problem, or that I could fix the problem, or that it wasn’t MY problem, it was THEIR problem was the REAL PROBLEM.
When someone says That person has their head up their ass, it has nothing to do with being stupid, or being a bad person. Its about a person having a certain perspective, and having too much ego to realize that it’s full of shit.
If you’re still struggling, with this concept or with alcohol in general, then I suggest meditation. No need to chant, sit in a yoga pose or align your chakras, just spend some quiet time with your ego. Just think and contemplate silently for awhile, let yourself just Be.
I can’t explain this much further without getting Wavy-Gravy or existential, but you’ll eventually get passed the superficial What am I doing? and How do I know when this is working? thoughts and move on to bigger, more important discussions. These discussions will likely lead to challenging conclusions, and that’s when you know you’re suppressing your ego.
Confronting these challenges, and getting back to normal. That’s where the real work begins.