If you have read any of my previous blogs you will know that I am a firm believer of the 12 Steps. If it were not for the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous I would not have lost my obsession over alcohol and had a spiritual awakening that allows me to carry the message to those who still suffer from the disease of addiction. I was able to complete the 12 Steps (and continue to practice them in all of my affairs) by following the directions that were clearly laid out in the book Alcoholics Anonymous (AKA: The Big Book) and through the guidance of those who went before me. Having said that I disagree with a lot of “Big Book Thumpers” who often say, from the front of the rooms, that everything else you hear in meetings is crap.
I had the privilege of attending an Alcoholics Anonymous Conference this past weekend. One of the speakers started off by saying that the conversations attendees were having over lunch (i.e. – sharing stories and identifying with one another) were a lot of bullshit. He went on to criticise advice, one often hears at meetings, including: get to a lot of meetings; stay around until the miracle happens; don’t date in the first year; hang around sober people; etc.
Another speaker at the conference was one of those of guys who use the phrase, “if it’s not in the book…..” For example, the speaker said that he didn’t dress up to speak because nowhere in the Big Book does it say to dress up to speak. Well nowhere in the Big Book does it tell me not to shit on the floor but I’m pretty sure those who wrote the basic text of Alcoholics Anonymous would agree that I shouldn’t. I was taught to dress up when chairing or speaking at a meeting as it shows a respect to the meeting attendees and to Alcoholics Anonymous as a whole.
The text itself states, “upon therapy for the alcoholic we surely have no monopoly”. This statement tells me that I can learn from experience of other recovered alcoholics. Many recovered alcoholics, who had worked the 12 Steps, have taught me a lot of great lessons in my 10-and-a-bit years in recovery. Those lessons were not all written in the Big Book. When I was new and admitted during a meeting that I was hanging around a lady who was still drinking rationalizing my behaviour as 12 Step work I was given shit by those who went before me. I didn’t mock them by saying, “screw you – I don’t need to hear that as it’s not in the Big Book”. I respected these guys and they were able to make me see through my alcoholic thinking and realize that what I was doing was putting my sobriety in jeopardy by given in to my character defect of lust.
The same individuals who I am talking about often mock people who advise newcomers to go to 90 meetings in 90 days. The reasoning behind such advice is that one who immerses oneself in the Fellowship is much more likely to continue in AA and get someone to take them through the Steps. Better a person go to 90 meetings in 90 days then walk away never to return. When I went to my first meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous I was under the impression that it was a once a week thing. I came out of that meeting realizing that I needed a Big Book. A fellow alcoholic told me he’d get me one if I came a meeting the next day. I got my Big Book at that meeting and someone else invited me to a meeting the next day. I continued to go to meetings on a daily basis. By attending lots of meetings (I must have gone to 600 meetings in 165 days, never mind 90 in 90) I learned by listening to those who came before me that I better get these steps done and I better find someone to guide me through them.
The Big Book doesn’t tell me to show up early to meetings and stay afterwards to talk to people but I did that and it was integral to my recovery. One of the speakers I heard this weekend mocked people who tell newcomers to come early and stay afterward to talk.
The Steps taught me to keep an open mind practice tolerance and love of my fellow human beings. I was not taught to mock people trying to help others. Don’t get me wrong I advise newcomers to make sure they get a sponsor (also not in the Big Book) who has completed the 12 Steps as the Steps are the program of recovery. Without the Steps one will not find the freedom the Big Book promises. One will not become happy, joyous and free. However, as I was being guided through the Steps, and up to this day, I continue to find joy in coming early to a meeting. I seek out sober individuals to hang with and talk to newcomers at meetings encouraging them to attend as many meetings as possible.
The Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous carried me on their shoulders as I worked myself towards a spiritual awakening. The Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous is with me if I call upon them. The Responsibility Clause is not in the Big Book but I believe in it fully.
So those who stand at the front of the rooms at a conference or a regular meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous be careful what you say as you might just cause someone to get resentment and leave the Fellowship before they learn how to deal with it.