Sunday, March 28, 2010

I Am My Own Higher Power When I Am Sober

I did what anyone including you can do--I found truth and new ideas in old ideas.

Neither John Locke nor Emile Rousseau wrote about "individual sovereignty", and yet Jefferson and his friends were able to extrapolate from the writings of Locke and Rousseau on the subject of "popular sovereignty" the individualistic aspect. "Popular" sovereignty gains its "consent of the governed" because the sovereign individual consents; no one can do what they have no power to do, and therefore the power resides first in the individual, secondly in the republic.

By the same method, I extrapolated from Paul, in Romans VII, that I have the will power to be my own "higher power" so long as I do the "next right thing". [Note for the uninitiated: "next right thing" is a 12 Step phrase that means instead of not doing what we know we ought not to, we instead do what we see that we ought to do, even if it is painful to do. It means we do not ignore the "right thing" when we see it.]

In Romans 7, beginning with Verse 15, Paul said (with some editing to fit the context of how I came to my extrapolation),
15I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is [alcoholism] living in me. 18I know that nothing good [is possible] in me [so long as I continue drinking], that is, in my sinful nature.[c] For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19For what I do [in my alcoholic state] is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is [not the sober] I who do it, but it is [the insanity of alcoholism] living in me that does it.[Thank you to the New International Version for your online publication.]
 And so I am able to state, contrary to the Alcoholics Anonymous "Big Book", that I am my own "higher power" when I stay sober. It is when I do not drink, and when I have stayed away from alcohol long enough to recover some of my ability to see more clearly those things that alcohol robs me of the power to see, that I can do the "next right thing" time and time again. 

It is when we are actively using alcohol that we are unable to prevent ourselves in most cases from doing the right thing. We drink, then we drive, argue with the bartender, become aggressive when someone else pays attention to our significant other, we puke from the effects of alcohol on our systems, piss on the floor, pass out on someone's couch, and accomplish many other things in which we find our shame the next day.

It is when we are not drinking, when we are sober and actively working to remain a non-drinker, that we are able to begin doing the right things more often than we did the wrong things. "We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness," Bill W. wrote in the Big Book. "Our whole attitude and outlook on life will change." [Chapter Six, "Into Action"]

Paul was saying that it is "sin" in his body that causes him to do wrong, and sin in his body that prevents him doing right, even when he sees the right and the wrong. "Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!"

We atheists, and some agnostics, do not see sin as a substance capable of controlling our bodies, and we certainly do not see God as the way out of our misery.

But if we take that First Step and admit that we engage in wrong behavior when we drink, and that only when we are sober can we rationally analyze these two sides of our behavior and their causes, then we are implicitly admitting that we are "powerless" when we drink. By the same token, we have a higher power to be rational when we do not drink. So we explicitly take the First Step, admitting we are powerless over our own actions when we consume alcohol.

Since the power of reason is within my own mind--it is not something in the ether, or something in the water, or something in the act of accepting the supernatural--that I begin to diminish the insanity of irrationality by staying sober.

I am my own lowest power when I drink--not the devil, not "sin in my body", not supernatural demons who possess me, but me.

Reason is power. Irrationality makes me powerless to do the next right thing. I always want to do the next right thing, just like Paul. Paul admitted he was powerless over evil without God and Jesus by his side. 

I admit I am powerless over doing what I know is right, and powerless sometimes to keep from doing what I know is wrong, when I do not have the higher power of reason on my side instead of a bottle in my hand.

Alcoholics can get sober without god, since there is none.
Bill Wilson was wrong about self-will; but we must direct our will toward what keeps us sober. A higher power (HP) is no power at all if it doesn't help us. But as you will read in the page titled Higher Power, Part 2, that HP does not necessarily need to be outside yourself. ©

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