Getting on my knees, again!

John M , Isla Vista, CA.

In early sobriety, I was told that I had to get on my knees and pray to God to be relieved of the urge to drink, even if I didn’t believe in God. I did and I seem not to have the urge to drink just for today, some years later.

Then I went and dabbled in the scientific underpinnings of how AA might work. I produced the notion that AA worked by helping me activate my Parasympathetic Nervous System (PSNS) and feeling serene by taking humbling actions instead of living in my eg0-centric Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) and feeling angry, fearful, and disconnected (Mudie ,2021?). An overview of this theory can be found here.

And the key seemed to be the “Fake it until you make it ” approach. If I acted as if I believed in God enough times, eventually I might believe in the existence of God. Much to my surprise there is some scientific evidence (Lanzetta,1976) that this approach works. (Neurons that fire together wire together maybe)

AA talks about this idea in Came to Believe when on page 47 it states “Pray with disbelief; but pray with sincerity; and the belief will come.”

Do you think that if I start getting on my knees again and asking God for help, (a humbling action), I might calm down some more? Will this activate my PSNS some more and help me feel calmer and more peaceful, accepting, and loving and less likely to drink)? Less likely to have to eat added sugar, my current active addiction.

Interesting thought, isn’t it? Just getting on my knees and praying (asking for help) from a God that I don’t think really exists might work and help me stay sober.

Of course, I wouldn’t have done this and would have regarded it as hoo-haa until I became desperate enough to try anything. I had realized I had lost the ability to stop drinking; that when I took the first drink I couldn’t stop and I couldn’t stay stopped.

What it is like now.

On Feb 17, 2021, I first wrote this page and started getting on my knees and praying on my knees on my bed first thing in the morning. I started by murmuring the Third Step Prayer and adding on a request to God (who I don’t believe exists) to remove from me the urge to drink and to eat added sugar. Much to my surprise, on April 28, 2017 , I realized I hadn’t consumed any added sugar (or alcohol) since then

Sadly, there is another aspect of this idea. The Big Book states”. To be doomed to an alcoholic death or to live on a spiritual basis are not always easy alternatives to face.” Alcoholic Anonymous World Services Inc. (2001 p 44). An active alcoholic who is not willing (maybe due to pride) to take any humbling actions will most probably continue to live with an active SNS and relapse often. Believing in a Higher Power is a very useful way for encouraging the Alcoholic to take humbling actions. But there are many other ways of doing humbling actions: Working/Living the 12 Steps, Service, Prayer, Sponsoring etc. As the Big Book says, “To be vital, faith must be accompanied by self-sacrifice and unselfish, constructive action” (Alcoholic Anonymous World Services Inc. 2001.pp 93).
So an alcoholic who is unwilling to take enough humbling actions, even if of the “Fake it until you make it kind ” is likely to have difficulty staying sober.


Alcoholic Anonymous World Services Inc. (2001) Alcoholics Anonymous ,4th edition, New York City, New York

Alcoholics Anonymous World Services Inc. (2002) Came to Believe, 14th Edition, New York City, New York

Lanzetta, J. T., Cartwright-Smith, J., & Eleck, R. E. (1976). Effects of nonverbal dissimulation on emotional experience and autonomic arousal. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 33(3), 354–370.

Mudie J, (2021?) Alcoholics Anonymous and the Autonomic System, in prep.
See for a version. Password is name of co-founder (five letters in lowercase)

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