When you consider who wrote the book "Alcoholics Anonymous" (AA's Big Book), given the era (1930's), the dominant culture and religion in the American Midwest (Akron, Ohio) at that time, and the homogeny of race and background present in the original group, AA is a wonderfully, amazingly, miraculously open and open-minded thing.
Fundamentally AA suggests that a spiritual experience, be it gradual or sudden, is needed to address active alcoholism in a person. You can want to stop very badly, you can have deep and compelling reasons not to drink, but those things alone do not seem to be enough to prevent an alcoholic from drinking. Some sort of Power greater than yourself, a connection to some sort of spiritual force, is required. You don't need to understand that Power, or define it, for it to work for you -- you just need to seek it.
In practical terms you can let an AA group be that Higher Power as you get and stay sober. But eventually as you move through the 12 Steps of AA and the days turn into months, and the months to years, the who and the what of a Higher Power are questions that continue to arise. Who am I praying to? How can I continue to deepen my connection to some sort of Higher Power? How can I utilize that connection to alleviate the torture of an alcoholic mind, to address my character defects, to maintain a sense of peace and purpose in a world which seems to place little real value on things like humility, service and serenity? Yes the basic answer is always "service" -- but there is more.
If you give me a blank piece of paper and ask me to draw you a tree I can draw you a tree, and I can be interesting and original and creative. But if you give me a blank piece of paper and say, "Oh, just draw anything you like" sometimes I sit and stare at the blank page, it's very anything-ness stopping me in my tracks. There have been times, as I sought a connection with a Higher Power, that the "choose your own conception of God" element in AA was like that blank page -- it gave me great freedom, and without it I don't think I could have made AA work for me, but it's very anything-ness has occasionally left me a little lost. Over the years I return again and again to: "What is my conception of God?" even though naturally, as I have changed my conception has changed. I change so I seek and because I seek I continue to change.
And that's how I found Hafiz. And Rumi. And the rest.
Modern translations of ancient mystics can sometimes get a little twee. But Daniel Ladinsky's translations of these ancient writings are very helpful to me. His scholarship is impeccable and his own journey is a fascinating one to learn about, though I will not attempt to share it with you here, for fear I will not do him justice.
When I need a different voice from some of my Western "mystics" -- Thomas Merton, Emmet Fox, Rabbi Harold Kushner, Kathleen Norris, Anne Lamott, C.S. Lewis, Elie Wiesel, Bill Wilson, St. John of the Cross, St. Francis of Assisi, to name a few (and a few might be surprised or even irritated to be called a "mystic") -- I turn to Hafiz, Rumi, Tukaram, Kabir, Rabia... for me their writings are often playful, yet in no way frivolous, and sometimes break through the "hard work" I can make of seeking a connection to a Higher Power.
This poem/prayer came to my hand when I needed it most. I share it here with you in the hopes that it might be as helpful to you as it was to me.
That all you do is sacred.
Now, why not consider
A lasting truce with yourself and God.
Now is the time to understand
That all your ideas of right and wrong
Were just a child’s training wheels
To be laid aside
When you can finally live
My dear, please tell me,
Why do you still
Throw sticks at your heart
What is it in that sweet voice inside
That incites you to fear?
Now is the time to know
That every thought and action is sacred.
This is the time
For you to deeply compute the impossibility
That there is anything
Now is the season to know
That everything you do
--Hafiz, from "The Gift" translated by Daniel Ladinsky