Recovery–The Sacred Art, a Review

062 005In the decades since the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous were penned, scores of people on every continent–including lowly me–have embraced the steps as an alternative to battling addiction.

The power of the 12 steps is undeniable.  In more than two decades of personal immersion as well as observing their transformative power in others, I realize that I have a love-hate relationship with the 12 Steps.  Most of you probably know what I mean.

But now I know why I both love and hate the steps–because I am obsessed with control and I have a bad habit of impersonating God.

First of all, we had to quit playing God–Bill Wilson

The above statement, located in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, smacked me with deep understanding when I recently read Recovery–The Sacred Art, by Rami Shapiro.  Nestled between the book’s introductory title and the first sentence of the introduction, is Bill Wilson’s quote, which I’ve heard thousands of times.

For some reason, Shapiro’s book snapped my head up from my long-time recovery doze.  Many thanks to his publishing company for the invitation to read the book and offer a bit of commentary.

So back to the God-impersonation thing.  Simply put, even attempting to play God is an illusion.  Rabbi Shapiro explains that beneath the specific addiction that brings you and me to 12-step work, is “the addiction to the delusion and illusion of control.”

He also zooms right past the lightweight idea of letting go of control and screeches to a teeth-rattling halt in front of “the delusion of control must be involuntarily shattered rather than willfully relinquished.” (Italics are mine.)

Then this bombshell:  “God has nothing to do with control.  God, as I understand God, is reality itself, and reality cannot be controlled, for there is nothing outside reality to do the controlling.”

That’s it.  I think I’ve been busted.

Step One:  A deeper meaning of powerlessness

When you read Recovery–The Sacred Art, you’ll come away with an enriched appreciation for the sacred nature of the 12 steps.  This book is no ethereal examination, nor is it a guidebook for “working” the steps.

Shapiro’s book is, however, a self-guided tour through each of the steps accompanied by suggested practices.  Hint: Be ready for a bit of a twist on familiar language.

For example, Step One introduces the idea of being surrendered to God instead of surrendering to God.  Shapiro explains that when we say we are powerless or that we surrender our particular addiction, we still maintain a degree of control.  We’re making decisions about how and why and when we’ll surrender.

But–when life knocks the stuffing out of you and you’re crawling on your hands and knees, completely out of options, ideas or plea bargains, when you sense this time, you’re down for the count, then, and only then, does a power greater than you deliver you to a state of grace.  You are surrendered to God.

Stripped bare, devoid of everything but your breath, control finally leaves you.  You are powerless over life.  You are free.

If you’ve succumbed to this kind of rock bottom, God (and all holy iterations) bless you.  May you never forget the feeling of naked exposure.

But be very careful.  We humans are so enamored with control that even the bliss of new life will probably not keep us from seeking control again.

That’s why Rami Shapiro’s book is so important.  He gets it and he knows you and me.  He knows we’re addicted to control.

It’s time to quit playing God.

Recovery–The Sacred Art is available through SkyLight Paths Publishing

Photo courtesy of butkovicdub

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  1. Recovery–The Sacred Art sounds like a beautiful book with messages that we could all use. I think most of us fall into that category of not wanting to give up complete control. I know I do. It does take that rock bottom hit sometimes to really be able to let go and surrender. Great food for thought, Beth. Thank you!

    • Beth says:

      It is a beautiful, gentle book, Cathy, that respects an individual’s right to move at his or her own pace while never losing sight of the fact that control–thinking we have it–is always our problem. I highly recommend it!

  2. Thanks for the review, Beth. The book sounds great. Damn the control thing, right? We human-types are something else. So we’re at the top of the food-chain in terms of cognitive ability (potential), but it’s that bit of truth that gets us into such trouble. The motivations for control – comfort, security, power, stubbornness, greed, and so many more. When will we ever learn? I have disciplined myself not to use the word. I opt for, say, management. I ask the same of my clients. Thank you for this piece, Beth. You write so well, and your passion is obvious…

  3. Beth says:

    Excellent strategy, Bill, to kill off the word “control.” I’m going to see if I can “manage” that one.

    I do so appreciate your taking time to drop by, give a read and let me know what you think. That really means something in this fast-paced world.

    Have a terrific weekend!

  4. Wow, sounds like one I could really stand to read! For sure, wanting or needing to control is at the heart of most of what we do it seems like it! For further understanding, I will read onward. Thanks for sharing your wisdom on this!

  5. Beth says:

    I think you’d enjoy the book, Leslie. Rabbi Rami really shines a new light on the 12 steps, enriching them in a way I hadn’t seen before. Let me know what you think!

  6. Herby Bell says:

    I’ll be giving a talk at a local addiction treatment center in a couple of days on the topic of, “Surrendering to Win.” NO coincidences that I read this entirely fantastic post right here, right now. YES, the hate-love relationship and how wonderfully you bring me back to how timelessly wise AA’s progenitors and people like Rami Shapiro–and you–are.

    From one, relapsing takin’ it back impersonator to another, thank you Beth for snapping ME back. I needed that. Beautifully written.

  7. Beth says:

    You know, Herby, I guess we read what we need to hear at just the right time. Merely a vessel, my friend. But thank you for your kind words. And let us know how your talk goes . . . I have no doubt your audience will hang on your every word. You know how I know that? You’re the real deal. Authenticity is in!

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