A newcomer recently told me that she was having a cigarette outside of an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, waiting for it to start, when an older member of the group approached her to talk. The older member asked the newcomer if she was an alcoholic and my friend replied that indeed she was but that she was seeking recovery from other addictions as well. The older group member began to chastise my friend telling her not to say things like this and inferring that AA may not be the place for her.
Upon hearing this I was dumbfounded. My friend has a desire to stop drinking and as Tradition Three tells us the only requirement for membership in Alcoholics Anonymous is a desire to stop drinking. Like my friend, and I’m sure at least half of the Fellowship today, I also have recovered from addictions other than alcohol. Having said that when I share in a meeting, whether around a discussion table or as a speaker, I refer to anything other than alcohol as outside issues. I don’t dwell on the outside issues but they are a part of my story and I know there are others in the room that need to identify with that.
I understand Alcoholics Anonymous’ singleness of purpose – to help the still suffering alcoholic. That is why I don’t go into detail about my substance issues. I don’t want someone who is strictly alcoholic to leave the rooms because they can’t identify with someone talking about cocaine/crack use. However, this doesn’t stop me from sharing my experience, strength and hope on an individual basis with someone who has also had difficulties with outside issues as those who came before me did with me.
Through the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous I have learned that alcohol (and other issues) is merely a symptom of a bigger problem. I don’t have a drugging or drinking problem I have a thinking problem. Before having had a spiritual awakening I was unable to deal with life on life’s terms and so I turned to self-medicating in order to hide from life. Today I have lost the obsession over alcohol (and outside issues) and am free to live accepting the consequences of my choices.
If in my early days someone had come around and suggested that Alcoholics Anonymous might not be the place for me I’m pretty sure I would not be alive to write this today. My friend is now turned off of that meeting and has been left with a bitter taste in her mouth. When I welcome a newcomer I don’t point out the differences between us I point out the similarities in hopes that he will return again so that I (or someone else) can begin to take him through the Big Book and have them complete the Steps. I am responsible…