Category Archives: Helpful Suggestions

BIG BOOK THEOLOGY: “We Agnostics” and William James (By James R.)


Some thoughts on theology and 12 Step Programs

Originally posted on

It is common knowledge that AA (and therefore the entire Twelve Step movement) had its birth within and evangelical Christian movement known as the Oxford Group. AA separated itself from the Oxford Group prior to the publication of the Big Book. The Big Book contains some religious language, but only mentions Jesus once, and then only in passing. This has left historians and AA members divided over some important questions. Just how Christian was early AA? Who is the God of the Big Book? Is this the Christian God, or can we really take this to mean a God of our own understanding?

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Bring Your Wheel Barrow and Shovel


“We have problems in Alano,

and many are praying and waiting for God to do something.
I just wonder if maybe our God isn’t waiting for us to do something.
And while no one is capable of doing everything;

Everyone is capable of doing something.”
Paraphrased from Ronald Reagan.

Two Wolves


Two Wolves

Once a brave when to his elder, to speak of his anger toward a friend who had done him an injustice.  The Elder listened, then replied:

            “At times I too have felt great fury at those who have taken so much with no sorrow for what they do.  But hate destroys you and does not harm your enemy.  I struggled with these feelings many times.”

            The Elder continued, “It is as if there are two wolves inside me; one is good and does no harm.  He lives in harmony with all around him, and does not take offense when no offense was intended.  He will only fight when it is right to do so, and then he fights in the right way.

            “But…the other wolf…Ah!  The littlest thing will send him into a fit of temper.  He is vengeful, angry, and violent.

            “It is hard to live with these two wolves inside me, for both try to dominate my spirit.  The same fight goes on inside you, and inside every other human as well.”

            The Brave paused in deep reflection, then asked, “Grandfather, which wolf will win the fight?”

            The Elder replied, “The wolf that you feed”.


Cognitive Distortions (Stinking Thinking)


Cognitive Distortions

(Stinking Thinking)


1.      All or nothing thinking—

a.      Everything is black or white

b.      The basis of perfectionism

c.       Feelings of rejection, disappointment, depression

2.      Over-generalization—

a.      Arbitrarily conclude that a single negative event will occur again and again.

3.      Selective negative focus—

a.      Pick out a negative detail, dwell on it, exaggerate it, everything becomes negative.

4.      Disqualifying the positive—

a.      Disregarding compliments

b.      Swallowing negative

5.      Arbitrary interference—

a.      Mind reading – drawing negative conclusion

b.      Negative predictions

6.      Magnification or minimization—

a.      Tendency to exaggerate weak points about self and to minimize good points.

7.      Emotional reasoning—

a.      Take emotions as evidence for truth

                                                                                      i.      Feel guilty so must have done something wrong

                                                                                    ii.      Feel hopeless so the problem is impossible

8.      Should Statements

a.      Feel guilty about what we “should” be doing of have done.

9.      Labeling and mislabeling—

a.      Creating completely negative image based on focus on negative.

b.      Exaggerated thoughts create exaggerated emotions then exaggerated actions, etc.

c.       “One error does not a failure make”

10.  Personalization—

a.      The mother of guilt

                                                                                      i.      “Where did I go wrong?”

                                                                                    ii.      Feel rejecting of self.

Lessons From the Geese

Lessons From The Geese

This fall, when you see geese heading south for the winter flying along in a ‘V” formation, you might consider what science has discovered as to why they fly that way.

FACT:  As each bird flaps its wings, it creates “uplift” for the bird immediately following.  By flying in a “V” formation, the whole flock has at least 71% greater flying range than if each bird flew on its own.
LESSON:  People who share a common direction and sense of community can get where they are going more quickly and easily because they are traveling on the thrust of one another.
FACT:  When a goose flies out of formation, it suddenly feels drag and resistance of trying to go it alone.  It quickly gets back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird in front of it.
LESSON:  If we have as much commons sense as a goose, we stay in formation with those heading where we want to go.  We are willing to accept their help and give our help to others.  It is harder to do something alone than together.
FACT:  When the lead goose gets tired, it rotates back into the formation, and another goose flies to the point position.
LESSON:  It is sensible to take turns doing the hard and demanding tasks and sharing leadership.  As with geese, people are interdependent of each other’s skills, capabilities, and unique arrangements of gifts, talents, or resources.
FACT:  The geese flying in formation honk from behind to encourage those up front to keep up their speed.
LESSON:  We need to make sure our honking is encouraging.  In groups where there is encouragement, the production is much greater.  The power of encouragement (to stand by one’s heart or core values and encourage the heart and care of others)is the quality of honking we seek.  We need to make sure our honking is encouraging and not discouraging.
FACT:  When a goose gets sick, wounded, or shot down, two other geese will drop out of formation with that goose and follow it down to lend help and protection.  They stay with the fallen goose until it dies or is able to fly again.  Then, they launch out on their own, or with another formation to catch up with their flock.
LESSON:  If we have the sense of a goose, we will stand by our colleagues and each other in difficult times as well as in good.



       The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life.  Attitude, to me, is more important than facts.  It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think, say, or do.  It is more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill.  It will make or break a company, a church, a home.  The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day.  We cannot change our past – we cannot change the fact people will act in a certain way.  We cannot change the inevitable.  The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude – I’m convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.



Can be attained if you. . . . .

  • · Care more than others think is wise.
  • · Risk more than others think is safe.
  • · Dream more than others think is practical.
  • · Expect more than others think is possible.

Giving the Group Your Best

Giving the Group Your Best

12 Step Programs center on the all-volunteer self-help group.  In all cases, a  group works best for its members with help from its members.  To get the most out of your group, you should be prepared to put things into it.  Consider the following suggestions:

  • •    Remain committed to recovery.  This group cannot do its real job for you if your attitude is shaky.  Keep your commitment strong.
  • •    Attend the meetings.  Your absence takes from the group – your presence gives to it.  As with so many things in life, just being where you know you should be can be half the battle.
  • •    Be open and honest with yourself and others.  This group can be the right place to take risks, to stumble, and to learn to succeed and to be your true self.
  • •    Get to know each member and be available to each other.  The problems and progress of others in the group affect you.  We need each other.
  • •    Create friendship.  Reach out and take chances.  Others here might even become good, close friends.
  • •    Bring good cheer and optimism to the meetings.  We need good feelings, and we all have the power to create them and not just wait for them.
  • •    Ask for what you need.  If you want your issues addressed, speak up, Make the meetings work for you.
  • •    Learn through the group wisdom.  Through the group, solutions to many problems are available to you.  Pay attention to what others have to say, and you may hear many important things you did not even think about before.
  • •    Be prepared to act when you see a member going astray.  Confront him or her in a respectful and honest way.  If you need support to do this, get it.
  • •    Offer a good word when someone does well.  We know how tough it can be.  Sincere approval is precious.
  • •    Honor the group rules.  The rules express the needs of a recovering group.  Just as you should not cheat in recovery, do not disregard the rules in the recovery group.
  • •    Make your contributions count.  Think, get to the point, and be practical.  Do not show off or hog the time.
  • •    Help get things done.  If something needs doing – do it.  After all, it is a self-help group.
  • •    Be trustworthy.  Honor confidentiality and do what you say you will do for others.
  • •    Strive to be a person of your word.
  • •    Share the group with your partners in recovery.  Bring them to meetings when appropriate and encourage them to know this part of your life.
  • •    Give back to others.  You will have valuable insights and experiences.  Please share them so that others can learn from you and so you will not forget.

Definition of a Mature Person

Three Founders

Definition of a Mature Person

The mature person has developed attitudes in relationship to him/herself and to the environment, which has lifted him/her above “childishness” in thought and behavior.

  1. Accept criticism gratefully, being honestly glad for an opportunity to improve yourself
  2. Do not indulge in self-pity.  Begin to feel the laws of compensation operating in all facets of your life.
  3. Do not expect special consideration from anyone.Control your temper.
  4. Meet emergencies with poise.
  5. Does not have feelings easily hurt.
  6. Accept responsibility for your own actions.
  7. Outgrow the ‘all or nothing’ stage.
  8. Learn to recognize that no person or situation is wholly good or bad, and begin to appreciate the Golden Mean.
  9. Be patient at reasonable delays.  Learn that you are not the arbitrator of the universe and that you must often adjust yourself to the other people and their convenience.
  10. Be a good loser.  Endure defeat and disappointment without whining or complaining to others or yourself.
  11. Do not worry about things you cannot help.
  12. Do not give yourself to boasting or ‘showing off’ in socially unacceptable, vile, annoying, or unwelcome ways.
  13. Be honestly glad when others enjoy success or good fortune.  It is time to outgrow envy and jealousy.
  14. Listen thoughtfully to the opinion of others.  Be open minded.  Do not become argumentative when your views are opposed.
  15. Do not be a chronic ‘fault finder’.
  16. Plan things in advance rather than trusting to the inspiration of the moment.

The Lesson of the Coffee Bean

The Lesson of the Coffee Bean

     A daughter complained to her father about how hard things were for her.

     “As soon as I solve one problem,” she said, “another one comes up.  I’m tired of struggling.”

     Her father, a chef, took her to the kitchen where he filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire.  Soon the post came to a boil.  In one, he placed carrots, in the second, eggs, and in the last, ground coffee beans.  He let the sit and bo8il, without saying a word.

     The daughter impatiently waited, wondering what he was doing.  After a while, he went over and turned off the burners.  He fished out the carrots and placed them in a bowl.  He pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl.  He poured the coffee into a bowl.  Turning to her he asked, “Darling, what do you see?”

     “Carrots, eggs, and coffee,” she replied.

     He brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots.  She did and noted that they were soft.  He then asked her to take an egg and break it.  After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg.  Finally, he asked her to sip the coffee.  She smiled, as she tasted its rich flavor.
     She asked, “What does it mean, Father?”

     He explained that each of them had faces the same adversity – boiling water – but each reacted differently.  The carrot went in strong, hard and unrelenting, but after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak.

      The egg was fragile.  Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior, but after sitting through the boiling water, its inside hardened.

     The ground coffee beans were unique, however.  By being in the boiling water, they changed the water.

     He asked his daughter, “When adversity knocks on you door, which are you?”

Author Unknown


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