“When a drunk shows up among us and says that he doesn’t like the AA principles, people, or service management, when he declares that he can do better elsewhere – we are not worried. We simply say, ‘Maybe your case really is different. Why don’t you try something else?’ To those who wish to secede from AA altogether, we extend a cheerful invitation to do just that. If they can do better by other means, we are glad” (AA Twelve Concepts, 73).
“If he thinks he can do the job in some other way, or prefers some other spiritual approach, encourage him to follow his own conscience. We have no monopoly on God; we merely have an approach that worked with us” (Alcoholics Anonymous, 95)
This week’s blog seeks to make it clear that we believe AA is not the only way to get and stay sober, nor does it guarantee a person quality sobriety. It does however, when practiced by “real” alcoholics, provide us with a “design for living” that works but does not come naturally to us.
First off, what is a “real” alcoholic you ask? As defined by the Big Book, it is “Selfishness – self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles. Driven by a hundred forms of fear, self-delusion, self-seeking, and self-pity, we step on the toes of our fellows and they retaliate…our troubles, we think, are basically of our own making. They arise out of ourselves, and the alcoholic is an extreme example of self-will run riot, though he usually doesn’t think so”(62). Basically, we “real” alcoholics are not exactly people with very desirable characteristics. We usually struggled mightily in social settings long before we ever even picked our first drink. We’re not really people you would look at and say, “hey, I’d love to be that guy’s best friend.” This is why we find it necessary to practice the principles of AA – so we become more disciplined and ultimately more likeable people who work to become better family members, friends, and members of society.
So when I hear of someone getting and staying sober without AA and living an upstanding and joyful life, I think ‘hey, that person was probably more a heavy drinker than an alcoholic,’ as AA defines one, at least. That person probably had many great qualities long before picking up a drink and now that booze is out of their lives, they have simply picked up or intensified those same qualities again and have adjusted to life without booze minus much trouble. But not so for us “real” alcoholics. The Twelve Steps, Traditions and Concepts all help me to learn how to live more joyfully and usefully – they contain principles that are foreign to my nature for the most part. When I stop drinking, I get nuts, angry, dangerous, and obnoxious, but with the support of AA to help me live, I find a peace within me and a desire to be useful to those about me. So before you think I am patting myself on the back and looking down my nose at people who don’t use a Twelve Step program to get and stay sober, please think again and consider the following which I believe to be true: “we alcoholics can consider ourselves fortunate indeed. Each of us has had his own near-fatal encounter with the juggernaut of self-will, and has suffered enough under its weight to be willing to look for something better. So it is by circumstance rather than by any real virtue that we have been driven to AA, have admitted defeat, have acquired the rudiments of faith, and now want to make a decision to turn our will and our lives over to a Higher Power” (Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, 37-8).
Let me explain it this way: I am one of those runners who has had every injury known to the running world – a combination of poor running form and stubbornness when it comes to taking easy days easy. So I’ve had to turn to the principles of Chi Running and “Natural Running” to help me work on pre-existing flaws in my make-up, both external and internal. Other runners out there come by good running form naturally and they can hold themselves back when necessary without too much trouble or ego-deflation. Do I see myself as “better than” as a result of my reliance on the running guidance I seek? On the contrary, I see my limitations and know that I need extra help to achieve my potential and if I can help other runners who have a long history of injury, then all the better for the both of us – they get to learn from my mistakes and I get to pass on some valuable lessons for free and for fun. And maybe, just maybe, I get the chance to use my running for a higher purpose someday. Maybe I get to raise money for a great cause or inspire people in my life to take up the sport in earnest. Here is what makes AA special too: though I am severely flawed and inadequate in many ways, I can use my story and the principles of AA to help others. I can give freely of what I have and can take delight in seeing others recover from this disease.
It’s been a bumpy road in running and in coming to terms with life on life’s terms – but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. The next time I limp down the stairs to an AA meeting or after a long run, I hope I remember to give thanks.
AA Grapevine “At Wit’s End” Joke of the Week
Q: How can you find the guy who drank a case of Coors Light?
A: He’s the one dancing like an asshole!
New to the Site This Week
1. Long Time Running Documentary: Nothing to do with running (and yet has so many parallels), but oh so inspiring and Canadian baby!
2. XA Speakers: Mary P. from Orlando FL, Mary T. from Santa Fe, NM, Mary-Ann W, from Corpus Christie, TX, Matt J. from Santa Barbara, CA