Sunday, 19 June 2011

Suggestions and musts

If your solution to your drinking problem is "don't take the first drink" and you have the willpower to follow that instruction under all circumstances, you are strictly not powerless over alcohol in all senses and do not, therefore, need the twelve-step programme of Alcoholics Anonymous to stay sober, whose purpose is to enable you to access power you do not ordinarily have.

The programme may help you to live more comfortably, sober, but that is up to you, and the Steps are largely optional, with timing dependent chiefly on how quickly you want to stop hurting.

I didn't stop relapsing until I treated every instruction I was given as a "must", as it indeed was, because, when I was following only those parts of the programme that struck me as convenient or appealing, I kept relapsing.

Not all of us are the same in AA. Many people can stay sober without fully giving themselves to recovery, fellowship, and service. Everyone with a desire to stop drinking is welcome, though. I cannot say that you "must" do anything in AA, because I cannot know whether you are an alcoholic of my type or whether you innately have the power, based on self-knowledge, to not drink no matter what.

Furthermore, I can't give you a "must": the responsibility for the action and the consequences must lie with you, not me. Hence "suggestions".

The same principle rubs both ways, though: you can say that there are no "musts" for you, but it is perhaps unwise to tell a newcomer that there are no musts for him. He may be powerless over alcohol and unable, without God, the Steps, fellowship, service, and sponsorship to access the power necessary to follow that instruction. Newcomers should be aware that, for some, the suggestions are indeed "musts" if they do not want to drink and, ultimately, die.

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