Sunday, 3 July 2011

Dealing with unwanted advice or open attack

One of the downsides of Alcoholics Anonymous is that it is full of alcoholics. And alcoholics have a habit of doing, and saying, the craziest things. A friend of mine in AA in Paris says, "If you can stay sober in AA, you can stay sober anywhere."

I cannot count how many people in AA have given me terrible advice or told me I am doing it wrong. In fact, I still get told I am doing it wrong on a regular basis.

This is how I process advice:

(1) Is it consistent with what my sponsor says? Here's the catch: I have to have a sponsor to be able to apply this question. And, if I am not sure, I have to run it past my sponsor. It does not matter how long I have been sober, I still need someone who knows me very well, who is as or more active than me in recovery, unity, and service (the Three Legacies), and who demonstrates power, peace, happiness, and a sense of direction in his life (cf. page 50:4).

(2) Is it consistent with the principles set out in the recovery portion of the Big Book? Here's the catch with this one: I have to know what they are. Again, a sponsor comes in very handy with this one.

(3) Did I give spiritual consent to the person offering me advice? Spiritual consent is the consent to give me advice on my spiritual path. A two-way street is not a bad idea with spiritual consent, either. I tell the people I work with that, in return, they get to ask me any question they like.

(4) Is the person speaking from his personal experience? A person's opinion on an experience he has never had is not of any use to me.

If these tests are met, marvellous! If not, here are some passages from AA literature I find helpful:

"We avoid retaliation or argument." (67:1)
"And we have ceased fighting anything or anyone" (84:3)
"It is of little use to argue and only makes the impasse worse." (126:2)

And, from Bill W.'s essays on the Concepts, specifically Concept XII, Warranty Five:

"Almost without exception it can be confidently estimated that our best defence in these situations would be no defence whatever—namely, complete silence at the public level. Unreasonable people are stimulated all the more by opposition. If in good humour we leave them strictly alone, they are apt to subside the more quickly. ... under no conditions should we exhibit anger or any punitive or aggressive intent."

As a friend says, "never miss a marvellous opportunity to say absolutely nothing at all."

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