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Not Just Members-Only!
© The A.A.
Grapevine, Inc., September 1987
think we should sometimes take an inventory of AA itself
as well as an inventory of ourselves. We need to take a
close look at what we are doing and thinking as groups,
as well as what we are doing as individual members.
not writing this in order to rewrite the Twelve Steps, nor
the Big Book, but we alcoholics are human beings first,
even before we are alcoholics. Because we are, we tend to
have the same frailties and short-comings that are common
to other humans. Oh, I know that some of us sometimes act
and talk as if we were a separate species, but we aren't.
institutions and organizations tend to become rigid, to
gather rituals and make them permanent after they have served
their original purpose, and even extend them to areas where
they were never meant to fit. When I came into AA over twenty-five
years ago, there were many doctors who thought the answer
to alcoholism was a pill. Usually it was a pill that tended
to be addictive.
times we had to tell people to throw out those durned pills.
And we were right. But over the years doctors have been
moving forward, and we haven't.
few doctors today will lead their alcoholic patients into
addiction if they are properly informed by them. But we
are still handing down the rigid commandment, "Throw
out those durned pills."
man came into the Fellowship here recently. He suffered
from severe depressions. He was told, "Throw out those
durned pills." He did. In short order he went into
a severe depression. He attempted suicide. Thank God it
was a failed attempt.
if he had succeeded? Would the people who handed out the
advice have acknowledged their error? Or would they have
fallen back on the cliche, "He wasn't working the program"?
When alcoholics who are using medication come into AA they
should consult their sponsor and inform their doctor. The
doctor might very well decide to change or curtail the medication
in light of the new situation. In case of doubt the newcomer
needs to get a second medical opinion. But we're not doctors.
Nor are we gods. We shouldn't attempt to play either role.
another example. Over twenty years ago, in counseling a
new man, I formulated a rule of thumb. The problem then
(and it's still one we run into frequently) was that he
was freshly sober and his wife was not pleasing him enough.
So he was ready to divorce her after years of a drunken
marriage and two months of a sober one.
alcoholics after just a few months of sobriety are wanting
to rush into long-term commitments or break other long-standing
ones. New jobs, new marriage partners, moving: we've all
come across these things.
was the rule of thumb I suggested? "Do not get married,
divorced, enlist in the French Foreign Legion, or make or
break any long-term commitments until you have been sober
for one year." In a recent conversation with a lady
in AA, I found that to a brutal wife beater. In the course
of eleven years of marriage he had broken ten of her bones.
The beatings he administered were too numerous to count.
She was told she shouldn't divorce him until she was sober
for one year. What had started out as a rule of thumb had
become a commandment - a commandment in a suggested program.
Fortunately someone with enough sense to recognize when
to ignore rules of thumb told her that it was almost impossible
to get and stay sober unless she brought some sanity into
her life. When I came into Alcoholics Anonymous we opened
the meeting with a moment of silence, followed by the Preamble.
Then someone added a reading from the Hazelden book, Twenty-Four
Hours a Day. Someone else thought it a good idea to add
"How It Works."
spoke at an open meeting last week. In addition to the above,
we had "The Promises of AA," "The Tools of
AA," and one other whose name I forget. It took fifteen
minutes. We then had forty-five minutes for the meeting.
has happened is that our propensity for ritual and habit
has gotten hold of us again. Because one thing helped one
person, one time, in one place, we must all have it forever.
Castor oil did wonders for me once. Should everyone, everywhere
take castor oil forever?
our habit of adding and never subtracting, I fear to see
the day come when we have forty-five minutes of reading
and other rituals, and fifteen minutes of meeting.
all of the above I see a growth of ritual and habit. In
some instances I see worse. I see arrogance and conceit.
I see us drifting away from the principles of the program.
I see us missing the point in such ideas as being friendly
with our friends. What happened to sticking with sobering
up alcoholics as our specialty and allowing others to practice
theirs? Where is the humility and compassion that Bill W.
had when he wrote the Big Book?
compassion and humility exhibited in writing that book when
nobody had even four years' sobriety exceeds what I've gained
in over twenty-five years. It shames me.
E., Merrillville, Indiana
© The A.A.
Grapevine, Inc., September 1987
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