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Category Archives: Recovery Dynamics

AA’s sixth and seventh steps can function for us alcoholics as a stripping-away process. This means that while we do spiritual work, God strips away our character defects. That, in turn, helps to restore our true selves. Recovery Dynamics® creator “Joe McQ.” illustrates this in a story about a rocking chair that had been abandoned in a building he bought.

The rocker was “a horrible-looking mess,” as he recalls, so he kept it in the attic. Now and then, someone would toss the chair in the dumpster, but Joe always retrieved it. One day, he stripped away thick black paint from the rocker and discovered beneath the mess that the chair was solid oak. That’s when Joe sought a professional to complete the restoration:

I took it to the upholstery shop. I asked the man there how much it would cost to put a nice white velvet bottom in it. He looked at it and said, ‘I’ll be glad to put it in there, but before I fix it, I’ll offer you three hundred and fifty [$350] for that chair.’ That beautiful, valuable workmanship was always there. It was there all the time! It was simply covered up. That chair has always been beautiful since the day the furniture maker made it. And that’s the way I amand you arewith God’s life inside us. God made us this way—beautiful and valuable.

Like the rocking chair, over a period of years, I covered myself up with all sorts of things and made a big mess. The steps of this program have enabled me to uncover, discover and discard…. It’s not a program of getting anything. It’s a program of getting rid of things: uncovering, discovering and discarding.

The key is persistence. The bigger the mess that we alcoholics create, the longer change may take. Yet the Twenty-third Psalm promises that we can rest assured: God does restore our souls.

Copyright © 2009 by Randall E. Greene

The spiritual aspects of reclaiming ourselves are not limited to AA. In Your Sacred Self, Dr. Wayne W. Dyer admits to having had a substance addiction that was followed by what he describes as a holy instant. With hindsight, Dyer believes his spiritual experience came after he had “given up on all other methods to send that evil monster out of my life.” In fact, God says as much to Dyer before the addiction is removed:

My personal challenge became to rid myself of this addiction. I tried reading my way out of it. But I went back. I tried acupuncture, discussions with experts and herbal cures. But I went back. I was determined that I would no longer play around with this substance. But I went back. Then I had what I call a holy instant, which was for me a divine experience.

At 4:05 on a January morning I was meditating. In the still, quiet of that meditation, the thought of never again using the substance became real. It was my first absolutely direct experience of God. I became ‘openhearted,” as Lao-tzu described….

My entire inner screen of awareness became a bright luminescence as I heard a voice say, ‘You have tried everything else, why not try me.’ I have never in my life known such peace and certainty that God was within me and around me. I felt overwhelmed by the bliss I experienced….

I have never been so certain of anything in my life as I was that morning. It felt like I truly understood the meaning of ‘Being openhearted, you will act royally. Being royal, you will attain the divine.’ I knew that my desire to reach for anything outside of myself would disappear from my life. No substance has ever given me this kind of ‘high.’

I listened to that voice, felt the presence of God and have not since experienced the slightest desire to go back to any substance. This is what I brought back from the inner silence. The ability to free myself from an insidious addiction and the absolute knowing that ‘this mind in you, which was also in Jesus Christ: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God.’ I had attained that mind.

It came to me when I had shut down all dialogue and given up on all other methods to send that evil monster out of my life. This is why I write with conviction that inner peace is not the only thing you will gain from shutting down the inner dialogue. Perhaps more significant is what you bring back from that experience.

AA’s reclaiming or restorative processas popularly practiced in the sixth and seventh stepsmay not be as instantly transformative as Dyer’s experience was. In fact, one famous addiction specialist, “Joe McQ.,” is emphatic. He says that when “we have taken the first five steps, it is at this point that many people make the mistake of turning it over to God and expecting God to apply Steps Six and Seven to their lives.” In fact, the creator of Recovery Dynamics® cautions: “These are our stepsGod doesn’t need to take Steps Six and Seven. We do.”

Even so, elsewhere in the modern classic, Drop the Rock, the core message about the sixth and seventh steps is described as other centeredness, or the opposite of our self centeredness as alcoholics:

We, by the grace of God, care less about ourselves and more about our fellows…. When we pass on our recovery, we keep it. This spiritual paradox becomes an all-determining reality for us: to keep what we have found, we must give it away. Service becomes a way of life.

Thus, whether we work these steps or the steps work on us, change comes. And that transforming change affirms some underlying principles: (1) Spiritual healing does not work on demand. But it works. (2) Spiritual healing removes our self-centered alcoholic obsessions so that we can become useful individuals again. And (3) we alcoholics need radical shifts of focus in order to reclaim our true selves.

Copyright © 2009 by Randall E. Greene

Continuing to discuss what I did not undertand during my first year of sobriety about being debt-poor, alone and slow to heal, and how such circumstances might actually aid me spiritually, here are more examples:

  1. Intercessory prayer became vital to me. Maybe it was the hopelessness of my situation (given my financial ruin, the tax liens against me, etc.), or what people in AA recommended about praying for people who angered or upset us (At the time, that seemed ridiculous)? In any case, I began practicing intercessory prayer anytime I got angry at someone else, or whenever I encountered someone who seemed hurt, harmed or upset. At the root of this increased involvement in prayer was my growing belief that, in 1999-2000, God was carrying me—the way one soldier hefts another who’s been wounded, the way a shepherd cradles an injured sheep, the way my brother-in-law and I carried my cancer-ridden father out of his house and to the car, for Dad’s final trip to the hospital where he would die. Said differently, once I understood how much I truly needed God’s help—just to survive—then I began taking pleasure in praying for other people.
  2. A catharsis. One day in 2000 I disrupted a lunchtime AA meeting at Lexington’s Alano Club. Since my job at the university was second shift, I often went to Alano meetings because I could easily walk from the Oxford House or to U.K. Before I disturbed that meeting, nothing unusual had been said—in fact, nothing unusual was going on in my life. So I have no explanation for why, midway through the open-discussion meeting, I began screaming. It was not a premeditated act. Normally, I’m a quiet man. No, this was a wordless, hysterical, uncontrolled, primal-like scream that left me weeping uncontrollably. I had not done that before, nor since. My outburst ruined that meeting for about thirty people. Years later, I still don’t know why that episode happened or what it meant. At the time, I felt overcome by self-pity, fear and failure—as if nothing I could ever do would change the extreme consequences to which my alcoholism had subjected me. Realizing all of that at once in a public setting, I experienced a catharsis of inexplicable intensity. That’s the only explanation I know.
  3. A step-study group. At the time, I had never tried to work all twelve of AA’s steps. I did go to AA meetings, but I had not subjected myself to the fullness of AA’s principles. I practiced what, earlier, this blog chapter describes as AA-by-mimesis. On the curb at Wayside Christian Mission, however, I did surrender to Jesus my alcoholism, depression and the wreckage of my life—but I stopped way short of working AA’s steps. At the Oxford House, I helped to salvage its finances and to organize its daily operations (which was a type of helpfulness toward others, a twelfth step of sorts), but I continually resisted working all of AA’s spiritual steps. I pursued every medical and psychological approach for recovery that was available at the time to Lexington’s homeless and debt-poor addicts, but I had not worked the twelve steps. So in January 2001, I did what I had rejected for so long: I committed to fifteen men—all of us alcoholics and all earnest about recovery—and we subjected ourselves to a group step study. Our plan involved using Recovery Dynamics® guidebooks, which would lead us through each of the twelve steps. We would meet once a week in a conference room at a counseling service that provided the guidebooks, the coffee and the privacy we needed. And there, we would honestly share the progress (or the problems) that we experienced individually while concentrating on a particular AA step. We further agreed that (a) we would remain 100 percent clean and sober during the entire process; (b) we would actually do what the RD guidebooks and AA texts instructed; and (c) we would resign individually from the group if we failed to keep either of these promises. To this I added a personal, secret commitment: With my DAP counselor’s approval, I stopped taking antidepressants—meaning that my only “medicine” would be AA’s steps. At our group’s first meeting, we shared specific reasons for wanting to participate, and mine had been simple and direct: “This is my last shot, my last hope. There is no other option for me. If twelve steps don’t turn my life around, nothing else can or will.” 

Copyright © 2009 by Randall E. Greene

In 1962, an African-American alcoholic named Joe McQuany checked himself into the Insane Asylum in Benton, Arkansas. The Little Rock resident suffered from hopelessly chronic alcoholism. But at the asylum, Joe met members of Alcoholics Anonymous. That’s where his recovery began. Nine years later, Joe helped to establish Serenity House (now Serenity Park, Inc.), a twelve-step treatment facility in Little Rock.

The following year (1972), Joe began developing Recovery Dynamics®. Originally, he used it as a tool for teaching twelve-step principles to alcoholics being treated at Serenity House. Success there led to other treatment facilities asking to replicate Joe’s program. So in 1977, he copyrighted the first edition of Recovery Dynamics® and, in 1978, the Kelly Foundation was created to help other facilities implement Joe’s recovery model.

From 1971 to the present, Serenity Park has helped over 50,000 clients receive treatment. In addition, since 1978, Kelly Foundation has assisted over 500 facilities across the U.S., plus others in eight foreign countries. Joe’s life in recovery truly made a difference, and it continues to do so, even after his death in 2007.

The foundation, the Little Rock facility and Recovery Dynamics® literature are not affiliated with AA, but their methods are intrinsically linked to the Alcoholics Anonymous text.

In January 2001, I had been sober for about sixteen months—thanks to AA meetings, my two AA sponsors, Oxford Marquis (the halfway house for homeless addicts and alcoholics where I resided) and God’s grace. Yet I was miserable. I clung to sobriety by imitating behavior that I saw in other AA members, even though I had yet to trust the twelve-step program enough to work the steps. As a result, that left me a dry drunk—a spirit-drained member of a fellowship that practices spiritual principles for recovery. And a dry drunk’s desperation is pitiful, so I joined a group of fifteen men in Lexington, Kentucky. We committed to one another, and each week, we worked together on step studies that used a Recovery Dynamics® guidebook, the AA Big Book and Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions.

Previously, each of us had tried to stay sober by various means other than working AA’s steps, and each of us had failed. So this step study group, to the man, pledged ourselves to pursue every effort to unleash the full power of AA’s “medicine” in each of our lives. By that summer, five of us remained in the group, and as a remnant of the original group, each of us had worked AA’s twelve steps to the best of his abilities. That’s when I first truly subjected myself.

My sobriety now dates back to August 1999, but my peace of mind (including freedom from severe clinical depression) can be directly traced to those months in 2001 when I first used the “Joe McQ.” methods to work AA’s steps in realistic, practical ways. There, in the shadows of “Bill W.,” “Joe McQ.,” “Tom P., Jr.” and many, many others, I found God’s grace.

Copyright © 2009 by Randall E. Greene


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