Just back from my first al-anon meeting. Mostly women, mostly 40+. One woman, whom I liked especially, let it be know that her husband was in the next room with 37 years of sobriety. How depressing. They’ve been going to AA meeting for 37 years, and that is why they are still married?
What bugs me most about the whole AA/Al-anon program is the god stuff. Every single person who spoke today talked about god. One woman said that the only way she could get through each day was by praying, to god. Who, she then said, has everything planned out, and therefore all she needs to do is trust in “HIM” and things will be fine.
What a philosophy!!! To believe there is a “higher power,” a being, a MALE being, who has set it all up exactly as we find things, and who loves us, and that is why we are all suffering so much. More unbelievable is the notion that one has only to trust in this god, and “let go” and all will be well. In other words, one has absolutely no other responsibility for one’s existence and that of one’s children and loved ones but to thank god endlessly for being there. The utterly illogical assertion that this god has also allowed things to go absolutely haywire intentionally–the wars in the Congo, where children are raped and forced to murder daily; child sex trafficking in Pittsburgh and other fine cities in the U.S.,; wars from which our young people return irrevocably damaged by trauma; the Holocaust; the genocide of the Armenians; the persecution of women who dare to think for themselves in countless countries across the globe; the devastation of the environment and wildlife; the slaughter of elephants for their tusks and wolves for sheer greed and bloodlust–all of this has been preordained and meant to be…and we humans should simply sit back and thank god and feel grateful for all that “HE” has done for us.
There is absolutely no evidence for a creator of any kind, and the concept of a god, or gods plural, is mythological. So I find it exceedingly taxing to sit among a group of credulous human beings who tell me that all my problems and worries will be taken care of if only I have faith in what I could never possibly believe in.
I tried to open my heart and mind and listen to these people. When they mentioned “god” I consciously attempted to make the leap between my notion of breath, or ruha, or life-spirit that abides in the universe, being, with their concept of god. I found many of their comments moving, especially when they referred specifically to their individual worries. They did not share much in this vein. Most of the discussion tonight appealed to me quite a bit, since it concerned their thoughts about what the phrase, “one day at a time,” means, and nearly everyone spoke about their efforts to stay in the present and to be happy with what they could be happy about, in spite of all their cares. I was moved to tears on more than one occasion.
I could not join in with them, not even on this abstract heart-open to open-heart space level, with them, when they recited the Lord’s Prayer at the end. I know this prayer by heart, as they say, and can speak it without thinking, as I did when I was five. But now that I am in my fifties, I’ve had a long time to think about it. Aside from all the “thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory,” business, which is perfect hogwash, there is also the particularly disturbing line, “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive those…”, which is often translated as “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” The language is financial, having to do emotional and social/spiritual obligations that have, since the very earliest Church fathers, such as Augustine, been construed in terms of money, property, exchange. The ancient idea is that god, this mythical deity, allowed humans to live in exchange for their perpetual bond to him (this deity having been imagined as masculine, since the culture that produced this myth was patriarchal), which would only be paid off, redeemed, as the term went, when the human fulfilled his or her duties sufficiently to be reunited with the father, had paid off the original debt, which came about at birth. It’s a fairly bizarre way to understand the relationship between humanity and a creator, but the concept has been with us for a long time. It comes from our history of enslaving one another, and selling girls or women to men as “concubines” or “women” (there is actually no word for wife or marriage in the early scriptures). Not a pretty history.
I’ve written extensively about this in my unpublished manuscript, not that that makes any difference right now. The point is, all of my intellect rebels against the mythological beliefs that underlay al-anon. Believing in a creator god who has benevolently dispensed all that has come to past, including my son’s tremendous lostness, forlornness, and profound pain, psychological distress…this is not going to help me. This DOES NOT HELP ME FIGURE OUT HOW TO HELP MY SON OR MYSELF.
Still, I’m not giving up. There are no secular groups in Pittsburgh. I need to talk to other parents who have gone through what I’m going through. I need help. My partner doesn’t want to talk about it. He doesn’t want to talk about anything “dark,” as though by refusing to countenance grief and sorrow these emotions will simply never occur. I’m profoundly lonely.