AA speaker Dr. Mike presents a Big Book study podcast and thoughts on recovery

Thoughts on Recovery – No. 23 – The Spiritual Axiom – 12 Steps and 12 Traditions P. 90 -Step 10

It is a spiritual axiom that every time I am disturbed there is something wrong with Me. Notice it says every time. Do you think this is true for you?  If you are brand new to AA you may think there are exceptions but if you start working the steps, especially when you have worked step 4 to 9 , you will see the spiritual truth of this statement. This is the essence of trying to live a spiritual life. I can’t blame people or circumstances any more for being disturbed. I think the perfect spiritual life would be to never get disturbed. Unfortunately we are not perfect and the steps are designed to help me get undisturbed. Step 10 is designed to enable us to be undisturbed.

I gave some thoughts on the World of the Spirit. That is where God is and is in the now, the moment. If  I am disturbed what is the problem? The problem is I am disturbed. Why is that a problem? If I am disturbed there is no contact with God and I am on my own. Separated from God. Then I react self centered, my character defects are triggered and I make decisions and take actions that harm myself and others.

Therefore the steps are designed for me to see through a new pair of glasses. When I am disturbed I am seeing things through self centered glasses and I see problems. Then I need to take off those glasses and put God centered glasses on. The result is I then see a situation not a problem. I take the label off of what is happening. So whenever disturbed I turn to God and say with your power and direction help me see it differently so I can utilize the serenity prayer then I can either accept or change. When disturbed I am not spiritually fit and I can never react appropriately.

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  1. John E. on October 10, 2017 at 2:15 am

    Dr. Mike,

    I beg to differ. This is one of the worst statements that Bill Wilson made. It is rigid, totalizing, and dismissive. I am a former resident of Topeka – while I was do doctoral studies at K.U. in history. While at K.U., I taught an upper-level course on 20th century genocides. The historical record is replete with examples that disprove Bill W.’s statement.

    There are two broad areas in which I feel the “axiom” is wrong. First, there is the becoming disturbed that leads to positive change. Jesus Christ was disturbed by the money-lenders in the temple. Few Christian theologians who have studied this passage of the Bible point to the fault lying with Jesus. Martin Luther King, Jr. was disturbed by the systemic racism and violence of the Jim Crow South. I am thankful that he was disturbed and did NOT choose to accept what he had the power to change.

    Second, there are those who have experienced horrific abuse and violence through no fault of their own. Are there any exceptions as you ask above? There most certainly are. Not only have Holocaust survivors had to deal with deeply disturbing recollections throughout their lives afterwards, but I have also had students who survived ethnic cleansing in Bosnia who have faced similar horrors. To suggest that there is some responsibility on their part is abusive and, in my opinion, far removed from sobriety. Finally, perhaps the majority of young women who find their way to A.A. (and more than a few men) have been subjected to childhood and adult sexual molestation and assault. Unless you have experienced these firsthand, it is beyond flip to suggest that people can “get over it”. The scars are not unlike an amputation – – one does not simply grow a new arm.

    I certainly agree that alcoholics tend to turn any small problem or snub into something huge. A scratch on the car or an unrequited flirtation becomes an incident of international proportions. But that is not what Bill Wilson says in the quote above. He says, “Axiom.” He says, “Every time.” And you quote the latter. One of the aspects of my years of alcoholism was my inability to say, “No.” After nearly 30 years of sobriety, I now have that ability. And in this case, I am saying, “No.”

    John E.
    Buffalo, WY

    • Beth on September 8, 2018 at 10:51 am

      It’s the energy behind the reaction – and even the reaction itself that matters here, not the judgment of right and wrong. Of course action is required of us in life but as Mother Theresa said, “I will not participate in a march “against” war – but I will march “for” peace.

      • Dr. Mike on September 8, 2018 at 12:28 pm

        Thank you Beth. Like your thought about the energy. Whose energy am I using to react? Mine or God’s…. Excellent point. Thanks again

    • JimiZee on June 24, 2019 at 12:55 pm

      To John E: After nearly 30 years of sobriety…
      Great start John, keep coming back 🤗

      • Anonymous on June 27, 2019 at 2:43 am


    • Anonymous on June 27, 2019 at 2:46 am

      30 years, huh? Well… as you keep saying in the rooms…. “Do not leave until the miracle happens!”. Blessed be, Johnny. 🕊

    • James on August 10, 2019 at 11:53 pm

      Very well thought out and written comment. It reminds me that there are always exceptions to a rule. I think what the author is asking us to look at is our side of the street. In most cases we will find that there is some underlying manifestation of fear that pressures us to respond. In Jesus’s case I will believe that it was justified anger.

    • kelly on August 23, 2019 at 12:41 am

      Thank you for this!

  2. Patty on October 10, 2017 at 9:29 pm

    In relation to societal issues, you make a good point. I believe that the “axiom” is intended for individuals working the program. It is intended to alleviate the tendency to become disturbed in reaction to day-to-day events in their lives. So often, alcoholics make excuses for their anger and actions by blaming others or circumstances. Anger and actions are choices. Each person is responsible for their own actions and choices regardless of events or actions of others. Seeking the spiritual rather than becoming disturbed is a path to a more positive way of living.

  3. Lyall on October 14, 2017 at 5:34 pm

    I think that acceptance is about admitting to ourselves that we are powerless over the situation. When we can admit our powerlessness to God and seek his will, we can tap into his power and take the needed action to change according to his will. In doing this we aren’t getting over anything, but we are letting go of the burden of it, and letting God carry it. The power that the situation had over us dissapates, and we feel new God power flow in. The past is still part of our story, but it no longer has to rule our future.

  4. Jessica on October 28, 2018 at 4:00 am

    Enough said. Love and tolerance is the way and it comes when we take responsibility for our feelings. Regardless of whatever offenses occur, A.A. brings me to the true knowledge of knowing how I can take care of myself and that’s the power in the axiom’s powerlessness. This is the loving power of altruism that doesn’t require too much thought

    • Dr. Mike on October 28, 2018 at 6:48 pm

      Appreciated your comment! Well said

  5. Anonymous on June 27, 2019 at 2:47 am

    Common sense is oddly enough not common.

    Well said, Patty.

    • Dr. Mike on July 20, 2019 at 5:27 pm

      Thank you Patty

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