Beyond Our Primary Purpose
Copyright © The A.A. Grapevine, Inc. – Date unknown
Anyone who has attended a few AA meetings has heard the AA Preamble, but do we all listen to it? Do we listen when we hear “Our primary purpose is to stay sober…”? It does not say “to get sober” but “to stay sober.” And, in my opinion just as important, it states “our primary purpose.”
Those who go by the book, as I try to do, believe that every word is to be taken seriously, that every single verb, noun, or adjective was providentially inspired, and therefore not one of them should be bypassed. It naturally follows, of course, that I don’t agree with those who say, “The only reason I’m in AA is to stay sober.”
If sobriety was the only purpose of AA, I don’t think the word “primary” would have been used. There are AA members who stay physically sober for many years without going any further in the program. I myself don’t know how they do it and still live with themselves.
When I express this opinion, I often get the answer “Okay, so we all know he’s dishonest or a phony or promiscuous, but he’s sober. And that’s what it’s all about – sobriety.”
I think there’s a great deal more than sobriety to be gained from the AA way of living. It goes without saying, of course, that sobriety is first. It’s understandable that the only concern of newcomers is their sobriety. That is the way it should be. However, after they’ve lost the compulsion to drink, most of them begin to work the Steps. Watching the change in them is the most inspiring experience of my life.
By the same token, the few who stay sober for many years and either cannot or will not try to correct their character defects are the most discouraging. Fortunately, such people are in the minority. Whenever I become discouraged, I think of one young man who came to his first AA meeting two or three years ago. He made no attempt to hide or gloss over the fact that he had been a thief and had served time in prison for his crimes. Today, he’s one of the most honest AA members I know. His very presence gladdens my heart, for his is not only cash-register honesty but honesty in every facet of his life. He’s even honest enough to say that he’s not always honest!
I also think of a young woman who, in telling her story, says that during her drinking years she did anything to get a drink. She doesn’t go into unpleasant details. She doesn’t have to. We all know what she means. Even though her life was sordid, her talk is still in good taste. She also says she’s been reborn, and it’s obviously true. Her story of the; miracle wrought in her life through living the AA program is truly beautiful. That she is a real lady, there can be no doubt.
I don’t care in the least what a man or woman alcoholic has done in the past, but I do care if such past behavior continues after a number of years of sobriety. I’ve been told this attitude is intolerant. Maybe it is. But if I’m, to be honest, and I try to be, I cannot imagine myself ever being tolerant, as I understand the word, of dishonesty, malice, and promiscuity in those who have been sober AA members for many years.
B.B., Naples, Fla