Unfortunately there is still wide misunderstanding about the 12 step programs - including people who claim it is a cult. I received a hate e-mail last week (October 2008) from someone who said I should be taken out and shot for misleading people - and included a link to a site that claims Alcoholics Anonymous is cult. It is sad that someone has been so wounded in their experience of AA that they would send this kind of profanity laced threat. Unfortunately the way the 12 steps are practiced in AA - and sometimes in other 12 step programs - can manifest in ways that are not aligned with the Spiritual Principles that are the True foundation the 12 step process.
"The underlining dynamic of codependency is black and white thinking. Drinking or not drinking is a black and white issue. Thus many recovering alcoholics can stop drinking while still empowering the black and white thinking of codependency. Many recovering alcoholics are rigid in their perspective and don't ever do the emotional healing of their childhood wounds because they tell themselves it is not necessary to sobriety - and they are scared to death of their own emotions on a subconscious level. Some of the most wounded codependents I know have 30 or 40 years sober and have never addressed their emotional issues - while justifying their rigidity as doing AA the "right" way.
According to this "old time" AA perspective, "outside issues" should not be discussed in AA meetings. There are many suffering codependents in AA who are not open minded enough to realize that Bill Wilson - one of the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous - would have loved to have had the tools we have available to us today. He would have run to an Adult Children of Alcoholics or Co-Dependents Anonymous meeting where he could have found the roots of the depression which tormented him. The suffering codependents in AA are terrified that if they don't follow a rigid formula - the "right" way - in their recovery, they will end up drinking again."
There are also people who don't understand the concepts of powerlessness and surrender - which in the 12 step process are applied in a way that helps people align with Metaphysical Law.
"Twelve step recovery is a program of empowerment. Many people erroneously assume that the fact that first step involves admitting powerlessness means that 12 step recovery disempowers people. The Truth is exactly the opposite.
It was only when I admitted that I was powerless to control my drinking that I gained the power to stop drinking. As long as I was trying to control my drinking out of ego and will power, I was powerless to stop drinking alcoholically. It was when I opened up to getting help from a power greater than myself that I gained the power to transform my life. . . .
. . . . If I had been told in January 1984, at the beginning of my recovery from alcoholism, that the only way I could quit killing myself with alcohol was to accept the standard version of "God" - I would never have gotten sober. I would have been dead long ago. But what I was told, was that I needed to find a concept of a Higher Power that worked for me - a Higher Power of my own understanding. That was what saved my life - the revolutionary concept that I could develop my own idea of a Higher Power, and develop a personal relationship with that Higher Power that did not have to conform to what anyone else believed."
As I state so often in my writing and in my book, in order to change our relationship with anything, we need to change our perspective of it.
The perspective I was taught of God growing up was abusive and punishing. The idea that I could find a concept of a Higher Power that was Loving was incredibly liberating.
"The thing that made it possible for me to start getting honest with myself and to start being willing to surrender was the possibility that there might be a Loving Higher Power. When I first came to the program I would not even use the word God - and thought that these people must be a bunch of religious fanatics. I wanted nothing to do with God because I had been Spiritually, emotionally, and mentally abused in childhood with a concept of God that was vengeful and punishing. I had my sexuality abused by a shame based religion that taught me that God would send me to burn in hell forever for even thinking about sex.
Is it any wonder that I didn't want to surrender to God as I understood 'him.' "
I count my conscious codependency recovery as starting on the day that I realized that my relationship with myself and life was still being dictated subconsciously by the image of God as I had been led to understand 'him' in childhood - even though I had personally discarded that concept consciously in my late teens. The religion I was subjected to in childhood taught me that life was about sin and punishment - and I was a sinner who deserved to be punished. (The Story of "Joy to You & Me") That day (June 3rd, 1986) was the day that I really got on a gut level something that I had heard and known intellectually - that the Law that governs life is cause and effect, not sin and punishment. That was the day that I made a conscious decision to do whatever it took to change the subconscious and emotional programming that had caused me to live life in a really painful, unloving way.
Given the freedom to search for a concept of a Higher Power that was Loving and on my side - instead of lurking in the shadows waiting to punish me for being human - started me on a quest to find out how there could possibly be a Loving Higher Power in the Universe."