It's been my experience that seeking the truth is what keeps me sober, so I think you definitely can. :-) The part of the book you describe is exactly the core of sobriety in my view... the so-called (and accurately so, once you understand the 80 year old phrasing that sounds a little weird to the modern reader) entire psychic change. Before, even though I came to absolutely hate being addicted to alcohol, my whole life was devoted to drinking. Thinking about doing it, thinking about not doing it, thinking about maybe doing it tomorrow, thinking about buying alcohol, whether or not I would open the bottle now or later, how much I would drink, how much I actually drank, and of course just plain ol' being drunk.
Then, in the early days of sobriety, my whole life was devoted to not-drinking. And it kind of sucked, and I wondered if being obsessed with not consuming alcohol while kind of wanting to would be my whole life forever. But of course, I was trying to shed an obsession with an addictive substance, so it was a phase I needed to go through, sort of a counter-obsession. But I was afraid it was going to be like that forever.
Now, my whole life is devoted to the things I like to do, want to do, or need to do. Sobriety is a condition that I do a few things to maintain because it is a good way to be for me. It's like a healthy person not eating too many treats and going to the gym once in a while... not an obsession, just a damn good idea and one that makes more sense the longer I do it. Once it stopped being a counter-obsession and simply the way I live a life I enjoy, I stopped worrying about whether or not the beliefs of the majority of my fellow AAs were essential. I'm sober and happy, so I'm guessing I have the essential part. The 'entire psychic change'. The big change of mind and mental habits, of 'spirit', from being a drunk to being a sober human with a real life. I think that part of the book you're talking about is the real deal.
And, probably not too much of a coincidence, my sponsor is a vague deist as well. He has a few other sponsees that I'm aware of and they run the gamut from christian through buddhist to myself. Deists tend to be pretty flexible so far as spiritual tolerance goes, pretty live-and-let-live. If my sponsor thinks my atheism is a phase, he's certainly never said so. The only direct question he asked me about my higher power was early on when I started working with him, and it was 'whatever it is you believe in, is it bigger than you?' And that's another biggie... I may not believe in a deity of any sort, but as an active alcoholic I thought like some kind of tinpot godling. I got pissed off when it rained and I didn't want it to be raining, I got pissed off when people didn't pay me the attention and adulation I thought I deserved. Very old testament mindset. And who the hell can live a decent life acting like an old testament god? Ugh, nasty thought. But there it is.
Anyhow. That was a big ol' book of a response. Glad you're sober and thanks for a great reply. :-)
You too, thanks for taking the time to write about it. I never thought of it as a counter-obsession, but I know what you mean. I am just now really coming out of it, I think, and learning to live life for its own sake. I still feel guilty for not sponsoring anyone right now (not that they've asked), not being at every meeting, not "doing enough." I keep having to consciously remind myself that no one is watching me. I think the anthropomorphic god talk really did a number on me, even though I don't know if I ever thoroughly believed in it.
It was cool, I was just at a meeting and the topic sort of went toward living life to the fullest, and people were talking about how they got sober so they could live their lives (and not just living life to be sober, is what I mentally added). It's nice to get something out of a meeting, and appreciate that without having to think that someone out there arranged it just so I would hear what I needed to hear.
Again, it helps to hear this because I have to admit I'm a little scared that my sobriety is somehow in danger because I'm not praying, professing belief in a personal god, and seeking someone else's will for my life. Not that I believe a God is out there, but I am just told over and over by people in meetings that these things are necessary for sobriety. However, I think if I could just get over the guilt and doubt I would have some time free to enjoy my life more, as I do have a really good life overall.
I think the phrase "tinpot godling" is funny and I'm going to remember that. AA has actually helped me mature a great deal over the past few years, ironically to the point where I became a rationalist nonbeliever.
The praying thing... yeah, a lot of folks put a lot of stock in it, and sometimes it really is hard to hear everyone talking about it without thinking 'gee, maybe I should too'. Same for the god's will over my life thing.
But I don't have to be thankful to a deity to be thankful. Prayer is essentially an expression of being thankful for what is good in one's life, and a self-reminder of what one needs to work on.
You certainly don't need to be talking to a deity to say out loud to yourself, 'I'm thankful to be sober today' and 'Let me remember to do what I need to maintain my sobriety today'. A little reminder to myself of what is important to me. And much like a 4th/5th step, it's helpful to say it to another person once in a while too. Which is what I'm doing right here today by responding. No deities involved, just me and another human being. :-)
As for the seeking someone else's will part, what religious AAs call 'giving my will over to god'... it's nothing but remembering what your will is good for. What AA calls 'the proper use of the will'. When I want to work in the garden and it's raining its butt off out there, I can either get resentful and unhappy, or I can let go of my own will in the matter. My will that I work in the garden isn't something I have to hand off to 'god' like a baton. It doesn't have to go anywhere, it doesn't have to be lifted by some sentient power any more than a river has to be sentient to take a boat downstream.
I let go of my resentment that it's raining, and let go of my will that I work in the garden today. It doesn't have to go anywhere, because it doesn't literally exist. It's a thought and an emotion I have, and I can examine it, understand that it is irrational, and in that understanding it simply dissolves. Then I am free to do something else. Like respond to someone here.
Now, if you (or anyone else) can make any sense out of that, I release my will over it and await your response if you wish to respond. :-D
It does make sense. I know that psychologically prayer makes a big difference in some people's day-to-day lives (although I can't say I ever felt much more than guilt at not doing it right or doing it enough). I never really knew of a secular alternative. I got uncomfortable at a meeting last week when the topic (from some cheesy non-AA meditation book) was prayer, and everyone was going on and on about how great and important was. I kind of danced around the issue, but I admitted that I'm not really doing it, and that seemed to worry people. I thought I saw pity in their eyes (but could be my perception).
I also don't want to be "willful" in the sense that I do whatever I feel like and damn the consequences (which was the drunk modus operandi). So I will try to imagine it dissolving, going away. I have never heard anyone say anything like that. I guess that my acceptance of reality is enough submission to keep me sober.
Thanks again for a thoughtful response. This is a quite interesting take on these things. I feel like it's been so long since I heard anything genuinely new or revolutionary (to me) in a meeting.