A newcomer came up to me the other day sharing some advice a speaker, he heard at a 12 Step meeting, told him. The speaker advised the young man to take a year off and live on social services. I cringed upon hearing this. It goes against everything I’ve been taught and shown by other people in long-term recovery from addiction. It also spits in the face of our Seventh Tradition which states, “[we are] self-supporting declining outside contributions”.
Alcoholics Anonymous’ co-founder Bill Wilson penned the Traditions and there was reasoning behind each one. The reason for the Seventh Tradition is simple. Part of an alcohol/addict’s disease is self-centeredness at the extreme. As a result of this malady we take and take and take. From my own experience I would beg, borrow and steal money to feed my addiction not caring who I took advantage of. I was a burden to my family and to society as a whole. As part of our living amends and to show that we have recovered from this spiritual malady we pay for our own way. This means that as a group we collect money from members only to pay for rent, coffee, etc. This means that as a recovered alcoholic/addict I pay for my own in life. In order to do this I get a job, pay my bills, my rent, buy my own food and so on.
I understand that some people, fresh in recovery, need help getting back on their feet financially. I needed that help myself and was fortunate enough to have a loving father to help me. But as soon as I could I got a job and started paying rent to my dad (whom I lived with) as well as paying for other things I needed (including smoking until I quit eight years into recovery). I didn’t’ wait until I got the job I deserved. I took the job I was offered and started there. My Higher Power gives me want I need not what I want. Social Services is there as a helping hand until one gets back on one’s feet. It’s not meant to be a permanent solution. My permanent solution is trusting God, cleaning house and helping others. I’m not much of a help if I continue to suck on the public teat not taking responsibility for myself. I had to take responsibility for my treating my disease of addiction and part of that treatment is standing on my own two feet.
The reason I mentioned smoking is that, in my opinion, someone with a year or more of recovery who continues to bum smokes is clearly not living in recovery. But I digress…
Telling someone to take it easy and go on Social Services for a year is as dangerous as telling someone to stay on Step One for a year. When I’m in Step One I’m still sick. It’s not until I begin the other 11 Steps that I begin to get better. If am able but do not work for a year I’m not only continuing to be burden to society but I’m ensuring that I have a load of time on my hands. In early recovery a lot of time equals a lot of danger. As a member of Alcoholics Anonymous I am accountable to my Higher Power and AA as a whole to practice my principles in all my affairs. All of my affairs includes taking care of myself and in so doing I begin to get back the dignity I lost due to my behaviours when I was active in my addiction.