AA, God and Facebook

By Dee Young 01/08/16

My stomach used to flip over when AAers said, “God never gives you more than you can handle.” Uh, hello? Didn’t you see the black and white photos of concentration camp cadavers stacked like cordwood? I think being burned alive was more than they could handle.

AA, God and Facebook

Last week, in my home group, after the speaker talked about the second step, friends of mine—people that I respect—raised their hands and trashed Facebook in their shares from the floor. The speaker had made one small comment about the addictive quality of Facebook and how he’s trying to spend less time on it.

My cranky-pants technophobe pal who I love for making me laugh said, humorlessly and with a dour expression, “I don’t care what people had for breakfast.”

I had a physical reaction, as if someone had insulted me. I love Facebook. It’s where I get help staying sober, land freelance writing gigs, keep up with pop culture and current events. Seeing gobs of adorable puppies is another perk. I felt like raising my hand to shout, “You old fogey! That is the stupidest thing to say. You have no idea what you’re talking about. Facebook is so much more than that.”

Thankfully, although I was born with poor impulse control, being in AA since 1988 has helped me with that so I kept my mouth shut. Another group member I admire was called on and joined in on the social media rant. Her condescending crack was, “I like real people, not the digital ones on Facebook.”

Again, I felt scorching anger burning my neck. “What is wrong with you?” I wanted to scream. “I’ve made so many friends through Facebook and we do all kinds of things in the 3D world. And, there are plenty of you in the room who I know a million times better now than before Facebook.”

For those of us who have full blown anxiety attacks in social situations, the Internet is a savior. When I’m not feeling up to going out, I don’t have to crawl into bed and weep from loneliness. I have a thriving connection to others.

When a third chum expressed disdain for FB’s digital world, I almost stormed out. But I was sitting right next to my sponsor and would’ve been too embarrassed. I’ve learned to avoid saying “I’m sorry,” à la Tenth Step by not doing imbecilic things that I’ll later have to apologize for. It would’ve been too ironic anyway, because it’s been my sponsor who taught me not to exit rooms via tantrum. 

So I sat. And thought. That week alone I’d gotten five freelance jobs through Facebook. I thought about the private groups in which I’m a member. One is with my inner circle where we make politically incorrect and tasteless jokes. It’s like a competition of who can make everyone else laugh the hardest. We even give mock awards to winners of the day. These are five people who all suffer from depression, need to stay away from drugs and other excesses and enjoy keeping each other steady, celebrating our demented sense of humor.

I’m also a member of dog-lover groups. Aside from posting scrumptious canine pics, I’m also invited to an endless stream of animal welfare fundraising events, which I get paid to photograph and write about.

I left the meeting with my hidden resentment and fumed as I walked home. By the time I approached my lobby I heard the voice of my sponsor, which is permanently embedded in my head. She was saying, “Why are you so upset about this? Why does it matter what other people think?”

I thought back on my years of ranting in meetings about the God thing. Just an aside, an AA member visiting from Los Angeles once said something that stuck. “New York City is the only place where people talk about ‘the God thing,’ everywhere else people just say ‘God.’”

The Christian-sounding AA text circa 1935, with its excessive use of the word "God," always infuriated me. When AAers say, “Everything happens for a reason,” I want to smack them. I’m convinced life is full of random chaos and we just have to deal with it. It’s amazing how gentle people have been with me considering how long I raged in the room about people’s cockamamie ideas about a big daddy in the sky running the show.

My stomach used to flip over when AAers said, “God never gives you more than you can handle.” Uh, hello? Didn’t you see the black and white photos of concentration camp cadavers stacked like cordwood? I think being burned alive was more than they could handle.

When three people died in a car accident but I survived, I hated inane comments like, “God was looking out for you.” I knew people meant well but it seemed like they were saying God saved me and whacked the other three.” You know, if he is all powerful. 

The connection I’m making here is that anybody who wants to trash Facebook has every right to. In the same way I’m free to trash God. When people haven’t agreed with me, they didn’t charge over and voice that. They just listened, or tuned me out, and the meeting went on and I continued to recover.

Thinking there’s no God is equal to others feeling that Facebook is ridiculous. I can’t tell you how glad I am that I didn’t cause a ruckus and stomp out of that Facebook-bashing meeting. Instead, I was able to strengthen my spiritual connection to the program which is centered around “wearing the world like a loose garment” and helping others.

My devoutly Atheist upbringing was fine with me. I’m a “Bagel Jew,” a non-practicing Jew who is culturally Jewish but not religious. When anyone asks “What are you?” I say, “Atheist Jew.” There are always a few who cock their head sideways like a dog and say, “What’s that?” But most people get it.

Judaism is a race, ethnicity and culture. I’m culturally Jewish but don’t believe in a deity nor practice any religion. Growing up, the extent of my Jewish studies was my parents asking, “Do you want to go to Hebrew school?” Easy question. I said, “No,” and so did my two older sisters. Holidays were an excuse for a fun party, great food and lots of presents. We had Passover Seders, but also decorated Easter eggs. We celebrated eight nights of Hanukkah but also Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Whenever the subject of God came up, my father said, “Religion was created by rich people that used it to control the masses; poor dumb bastards were manipulated by their own fears.” Although that would be offensive to some, Dad had every right to think it and say it in the privacy of home and it was exciting to watch how animated and passionate my father got during dinner table discussions. 

My mother and grandparents on both sides were also atheist. Without believing in a deity, I do remember plenty of drunken foxhole prayers. “Please let me stop barfing and I promise I’ll never drink again.”

Luckily, despite my personal feelings, my sponsor taught me how to fit into a program where one frequently hears the word God. “The only thing important to know about a higher power is that you’re not it,” she said. “Your best thinking landed you in a rehab.” For 27 years I’ve substituted the word God for G.O.D.— group of drunks. It works for me.

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