In April of 1939, the first edition of the “Big Book” of Alcoholics Anonymous was printed. In writing this book, the original members of the fellowship intended to show others how the program of recovery worked for them.
The complete and clear set of instructions A.A. suggested brought much relief to those who suffered from the disease of alcoholism. The good news spread to many and, over time, changed the public sentiment as well.
The spiritual solution the book presented veered from the norm, especially to those who were only familiar with a religious experience.
The book did, indeed, talk about God, but not the more common religious God of that era.
The “God-idea” seemed like a drastic proposal, but phrases like ‘Higher Power’ and ‘God, as we understood Him’ allowed many to stretch their closed-minded ideas about God.
Initially some came to A.A. with the concept of a God they had previously rejected. Others felt rejected by God. A few even refused to acknowledge the existence of God at all.
However, Alcoholics Anonymous embraced both the atheist and agnostic. In fact, all were encouraged and allowed to choose their own concept of God.
This open-minded approach left no room for controversy or argument. With no dogma to uphold, the door flung open for those who felt unsure. For it became clear that living life on a spiritual basis was the cornerstone to a contented, sober life.
A.A. welcomed members from all denominations of faiths and no faiths. Each person’s religious views, if any, were his own affair. Church affiliation, if any,-also left to individual choice.
So although some newcomers to this first 12 step program tried to avoid the issue of God all together, they soon realized sobriety involved more than not drinking. And the willingness to believe in a Power greater than oneself held the key to long term sobriety.
W. Clement Stone’s expression, “Big doors swing on little hinges,” certainly applies in this case. Proven innumerable times by the millions of members in A.A then and now, a life of sobriety swings wide open with a little willingness to believe in a Power greater than Oneself.
Fortunately, the idea of a Higher Power is as individual as we each are. And faith in some kind of God appears to be a part of each person’s inherent nature.
This full liberty of belief is what made and continues to make Alcoholic’s Anonymous unique.