Personal Power and Stumbling Blocks

So I’ve been having a bit of problem with “The Program.” So much so that I’m thinking of not going to any more meetings.

The weird thing is that I don’t want to stop working it. I have no intention of stop working the steps. I just don’t want to go to meetings. And I haven’t run it past my sponsor yet, but I wonder how she’ll react.

I went to my first meeting back in November, and I won’t lie, I had this little voice in the back of my head saying, “It’s a cult.” I’m not sure where I got it from other than my brother who was forced to go to another version of The Program, but honestly, given his DUIs and his refusal to stop drinking, I took it with a really, really big grain of salt.

Now, I’ve seen people for whom it has transformed their lives. People from church. People I’ve watched over a period of months lose fantastic amounts of weight. So, there’s this, “But it works,” thing in my head, too.

At that first meeting, I noticed there was a sort of fanaticism in some of the members’ voices, but not overly much. After having been a few months now, I’ve come to the conclusion that there are people who will always need to cling to something outside of themselves; that it’s possible that they might never want to get to the point of being independent.

Having been there, done that, I think there’s a sort of mental illness involved with that. A deep sense of co-dependence, at any rate.

On the other hand, there are people who have utterly been transformed, and I, too, know the feeling of being so completely grateful for some intervening person or event or thing that has changed my life. I’ve been told that I’m over-enthusiastic when expressing gratitude or compliments, that it doesn’t come off as sincere because it’s just “so much.” But I am sincere, entirely sincere, albeit perhaps a bit overexcited. But I personally know the feeling of gratitude so deep that it can’t help but jump out every time I’m in the vicinity of that which I’m grateful to.

I get that, too.

But my problem really began with the First Step:

We admitted that we were powerless over food–that our lives had become unmanageable.

I struggled with this. The big P word in that dependent clause gave me oh-so-many problems. What about free will? What about personal power? What about God?!

It took me two months, give or take, to come to a personal understanding of this. My definition was “powerless so far.” Powerless because I never learned how to wield a God-given gift. Powerless because, as much as I didn’t want to admit it, my will and His will weren’t as aligned as I wanted to believe they were.

So I was excited. Because I got it. I got that, if I worked on that personal relationship with God, and I turned it all over, it would pretty much take care of itself.

I adore paradoxes, so the whole “giving up power to gain power thing” made perfect sense to me. A huge burden was lifted off my shoulders. I’d do what I was led to do, and God would take care of the rest.

That’s how a spiritual life is supposed to work, right?

But apparently that’s not the way The Program defines “powerless.” One of the main tenets of The Program is that you “keep coming back. It works if you work it.” Any addiction, they say, is an “incurable disease.”

As someone who was addicted to smoking, I realize that one cigarette will put me back in a place I don’t want to be — constantly smoking. I know that, as long as I abstain, I am no longer addicted. I could be, but I am not. I have that potential to be addicted, but, as I am not smoking, I am not addicted.

So, in this case, my addiction is cured. The potential for “disease” exists, but the disease itself is cured.

That’s actually my second problem with the notion of incurable diseases. My first being the un-Godliness of the word “incurable.” It’s an absolute, and by claiming an absolute, someone is attempting to limit God’s power.

And I really, really, really take issue with that.

There are a few instances where I’ve read that I’ve gotten the impression that The Program placed itself on equal footing with God.

And that bothers me. Something that purposely fosters dependence bothers me. Something that encourages people who have been in the Program for 20 years, go to 3 and 4 meetings a week, and still struggle every day with compulsive eating bothers me. Something that tells you over and over how weak you are, how you’ll struggle for the rest of your life, how your condition is incurable bothers me.

And I’m grateful, grateful to this program for the impact that it has had on my life so far. Slowly, step by step, my life is becoming more manageable. Slowly, step by step, I am moving more in line with what I want my life to be about. Working the first three steps so far have worked miracles in my life. Miracles that wouldn’t have occurred without the Program. So I am grateful. Very, very grateful. I am giddy with excitement at the thought of the unknown, what may happen as I progress, and I’m grateful for things that haven’t happened yet.

But, as someone who spent far too much of her life giving away her personal power and either not being aware of it, or being too weak to stop it, I take issue at anyone telling me that I am, and forever will be, powerless against anything, that I need to surrender to the program.

It’s true. I have been powerless for most of my life. But I’m not anymore.

I just realize that it’s my power, not because I created it or can make it, but rather that it was given to me and I’ve finally, finally stepped up to claim it.


2 thoughts on “Personal Power and Stumbling Blocks”

  1. I really like this post.

    I get it.

    A couple of times in my life, I’ve tried going the “counseling” route. You know–for emotional issues. Neither time did the sessions do a lick of good and though the “establishment” encouraged me to continue–I quit. There was nothing to be learned there. I needed tools. Answers. Not a shoulder to cry on.

    Anyway, if you’re truly growing and changing, you are going to outgrow things. That doesn’t diminish their value. It just means that you’ve outgrown them and in order to continue through your path you must let it go.

    It’s like (insert appropriate metaphor here).

    But you already know this.



  2. You rock, Chris. Not sure I’ve said that lately.

    You’re like a really awesome (insert appropriate simile here).


    I have friends who have shoulders. If I’m doing any sort of self-improvement program, the goal of my participation is to actually improve myself in a way that does not make me rely on any other person or group for my success. Or to learn skills that I can take with me, wherever I go.

    Fostering such dependence is NOT a spiritual principle, as far as I’m concerned.


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