Step 1: Upstairs, downstairs people


1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.

Before moving on to Step 2, there is an important point to be made about Step 1. It has to do with the last entry on Friday when I created an imaginary church where the regular crowd was worshiping upstairs while the AA group was meeting downstairs. It’s important to make this point clear because the whole of our study depends on it.

I made the point that we all have addictive personalities — we are all addicted to many things, if only to sin. I then went on to list some of my own addictions as an example of how to think about this, and then I proceeded to set myself apart from the alcoholics downstairs. I stated that because I wasn’t an alcoholic like them, that I could keep my addictions under control. Because I was dead serious about my addictions in the first part of that Catch, some people thought I was also serious about setting myself apart from those downstairs. A few of you with experience in AA felt it was necessary to disagree with me and write about how proud and happy you were to be downstairs. I understand; you should be.

I was serious about the addictions; I was facetious about the cover-up, because I was trying to get you all to think about how the “upstairs” people hide and isolate themselves from their addictions and from each other. The upstairs people are better than the downstairs people. They are not; they just think they are. The point is that the people worshiping upstairs in church are just as addicted to unhealthy things as are the people downstairs at the AA meeting. We’re all powerless to change ourselves and the upstairs worship experience would be so much more real and effective if it could embrace for its people what is going on downstairs. That, in fact, is what we are trying to do here.

If you don’t plan on agreeing that you have a problem with addiction and that your life has become unmanageable and you are powerless to change it, then you might as well take a break from the Catch until March. All the steps hinge on this one. You can’t skip this and go on. Nothing else in this study will make any sense if we don’t all start at the same place.

It’s been said that religion is lived by people who are afraid of hell; spirituality is lived by people who have been through hell. If this is true, then spirituality is more likely to take place downstairs, but then again, I think we can all be happier` in the basement.

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6 Responses to Step 1: Upstairs, downstairs people

  1. Sandie says:

    Luke 18: 9-14 (NLT)
    “Then Jesus told this story to some who had great self-confidence and scorned everyone else:
    ‘Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee and the other was a dishonest tax collector. The proud Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank you God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else, especially like that tax collector over there! For I never cheat, I don’t sin, I don’t commit adultery, I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’
    But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me for I am a sinner.’
    I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For the proud will be humbled, but the humble will be honored.”

    It’s easy to see who thought he deserved to be “upstairs.” While the other man thought he wasn’t good enough to even be “downstairs.”
    Oh, how guilty I am…on all counts!

  2. peter leenheer says:

    How often have I not said, ” ….but at least I don’t do that..”, and so promptly ignore the beam in my own eye. Man does that beam cloud my vision, world’s biggest cataract. ‘One up manship’ is a destructive ‘holier than thou’ approach to life that justifies a multitude of sins we then count as not being sin.

    Thank you John for this Catch. To me it reads like the book of James… shoots straight from the hip and some of those shots are excruciatingly painful. I can safely say that I have been through hell although earlier in life I was just religious and feared hell and ignored salvation.

    When Jesus spoke plainly many left his entourage. It however strengthened his following. In Austin, Texas, Will Davis the pastor of a church there spoke the truth to his congregation and many left. He stated that among the blessings was that they made all their budget requirements that year although they had considerably less membership.
    Keep God’s Truth coming, I love it.

  3. Jesus Aguilar says:

    John, thank you for sharing and posting your thoughts. You touch my heart, I am a follower for the longest time, I do not know why I first read your posts and I wanted to belong, you made me feel welcome and after so many years and other twelve steps that you have embarked, now is this. The people from upstairs. Bless be their hearts and may the hand of God hold them. The people from downstairs. May we humble embrace the Gift of sobriety given to us by the grace of a loving God.
    I agree wholeheartedly, we cannot proceed to step one, not until we have admitted to our innermost selves that we are Powerless over alcohol and our lives are unmanageable. This is the foundation to our recovery and our walk with God. We cannot shortcut this. It must be honest and sincere. By God’s grace I have found a way to ministry people in the rooms of alcoholics anonymous and also practice these principles at different churches, Bible studies and services private and public. I am never shied to confess that I am a sinner, I am an alcoholic, but most of all I am a precious child of God, and if I am a precious child of God, then everyone is a precious child of God, that He love the world and gave his only son. May God richly bless you all.

  4. jwfisch says:

    Thank you, Jesus. Appreciate your comments and your taking part. You are enriching us all with your comments.

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