by the Rev Séamus Doyle, member of the Addiction Recovery Ministry; permanent supply priest for St. John’s, Kenner, and St. Timothy’s, LaPlace
In 1936, in his book, Toward the Future, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin wrote: “The day will come when, after harnessing the ether, the winds, the tides, gravitation, we shall harness for God the energies of love. And, on that day, for the second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.” We can only wonder if de Chardin was aware that in the previous year a force had been tapped into that would change the twentieth century and centuries to come.
The fire that was ignited was that of two men discussing a common problem over a cup of coffee (and cigarettes). The fire was the desire to help other alcoholics find a way to live which, up till then, did not exist. True, there was prohibition; the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association and numerous other ways to attempt to attain sobriety with little success.
The fire ignited was a love for living which was ignited by a Spiritual Awakening to see the world in a new way, through “a new pair of glasses” as it were. “This man spoke my language,” said Dr. Bob. In other words, the Bible which he knew so well and taught did not speak the language he needed to hear. The medical profession of which he was a part, did not speak his language. It was Carl Jung’s concept that, what was needed, was a Spiritual Awakening, that created the spark which ignited a chain of events culminating in Bill and Bob becoming the co-founders of this simple program “…which is suggested as a program for sobriety.”
There had to be a fire burning in the hearts of these men as they met with opposition in various forms. After all, where did they go to learn about addiction other than their own devastating experiencing? This same heart that cried out for help; this heart that wanted to be better, that could not find a way out of the bottle, was finally released in an image described as “. . . I became acutely conscious of a presence that seemed like a veritable sea of living spirit. I lay on the shores of a new world. ‘This,’ I thought, ‘must be the great reality. The God of the preachers.’ . . . ”
A third man joined, then a fourth, and more. What were they to do but share their experience, strength, and hope as they had little to no other programs from which to draw upon? Rising from the death-grip of addiction, these men wanted to breathe, they wanted to live. These men were on fire due to the love they experienced in their new life the likes of which they had not imagined prior to this. The fire, ignited by Carl Jung with Roland H. who carried that torch to Ebby T and, from there the fire was further ignited through input from Sam Shoemaker, Fr John Ford, Bishop Fulton Sheen, etc.
Today, millions of men, women, and teens, attend meetings that use the twelve-step spiritual program to help them live one day at a time. Some, initially, were put off by the fire of loving concern for one another. “Some of us held onto our old ways…” Sooner or later, that fire which we had experienced drew us back like a moth to a flame. We wanted what those others wanted. We might not have been consciously aware of that (I certainly wasn’t as it took me four and a half years of a dry drunk to get the point).
These past eighteen months have been a pain for so many of us and yet, these past eighteen months have been exciting as people reported being at meetings in Ireland, Australia, England, Germany, etc. The whole wide world (www) of Alcoholics Anonymous was and remains connected by zoom. Newcomers have arrived in a little square box, asked for a virtual chip, and received a virtual hug and they stayed. They stayed because they caught the fire that was burning through the screens of phones and computers, giving support, hope, laughter, compassion, and more.
I have no doubt that if de Chardin were here today he would acknowledge that, in Alcoholics Anonymous (and affiliated twelve-step groups), the fire of love has been harnessed and witnessed as millions of men and women are now living sober and serene lives, are experiencing the love and respect they craved, are now loving and caring wounded healers.