Tuesday, 6 September 2011

When they said, "all our affairs", I think they meant it ...

If the teaching and practice of the Twelve Steps is the function of AA meetings (see Bill W.'s essay on the matter in Language of the Heart), and the primary purpose of a group is to carry the AA message, which, according to the Third Edition of the Big Book, is the contents of the first 164 pages of said book, then, presumably, a discussion of the application of the Steps in practice is a fair discussion topic at meetings.

Agreed? OK. Great. Presumably, we can therefore discuss Step Twelve at meetings. We can discuss a spiritual awakening. We can discuss how we work with others. We can discuss how we apply the Steps to our work life, home life, etc., as, presumably, since part of the Twelfth Step is to practise these principles in all our affairs, and these are our affairs, discussing the application in these areas forms part of our primary purpose.

But here we have a dilemma. Sex is one of the affairs we have. So is sex addiction. Eating is part of our affairs. So are eating disorders. But the Traditions formalists insist that such matters are "outside issues" and not fit for discussion. We can therefore discuss the application of the Steps in all our affairs ... except sex, gambling, food, drugs, or anything else to which the Steps are apparently applied with laudable success.

There is an inherent contradiction here.

One argument is that "not everyone will identify." However, I have never heard the suggestion that one should not discuss the application of the Steps to one's work life on the grounds that people who are not in employment will fail to identify. A large proportion of the stories I hear about drinking I don't identify with from my experience, and I'm a bone fide alcoholic. But I don't begrudge people sharing drinking experiences I don't happen to have had.

There is a profound inconsistency here, as well.

The result is that there is a hush in AA about sex, gambling, food, pills, etc., precisely in the parts of AA where there is actually a solution available in the form of the establishment and maintenance of a spiritual experience, because these are likely to be the places where the Traditions enforcers come down hardest on "outside issues".

And so people do not get to hear about how members who DO have a solution to these problems have been healed in these areas too by practising the Twelfth Step of Alcoholics Anonymous. So we push them off to other fellowships, where the experience of recovery can be, shall we say, mixed.

We are now in the perverse position of allowing people to discuss the practising of the AA principles in every single affair of theirs except the ones which are actually killing them.

And people in AA are finding their lives ripped apart, left right and centre, by the silence, within AA, on these very topics. How many people do we know with double-digit sobriety with sex addiction, love addiction, untreated Al-Anonism on the rampage, anorexia, bulimia, gambling and other addictions to risk-taking behaviour, etc. ad nauseam? How many people do we know who cover this up? Why might they be doing that? Are our problems of our own making here too? Are we fuelling these addictions by denying such people openness within AA?

The hounding of people who discuss these matters in AA into other fellowships under cover of darkness (lest they compromise the primary purpose) actually confounds the primary purpose because we are insisting that people's various other addictions or problems are so separate that they need separate treatment.

I would continue to insist that one be an alcoholic to attend AA. However, I would also suggest that we be permitted to discuss the practice of the principles in all our affairs. NB I wasn't the one who wrote the word "all" in Step Twelve. That is down to our founders. It appears that the word "all" is inconvenient to the Tradition Five police.

Page 45 of the Big Book insists that we have a single problem. Go look it up. Just one.

Conscious separation is the problem; conscious contact is the solution; unity is our method.

Unless each of us can bring all of himself or herself to the source, there is a risk that true healing will never take place.


CaptnK said...

You have described my sponsor Tim. And while I can not attest to every single issue in his life, one or more of his other ism's took his life. What you wrote is like you knew him.
And while I have consistently referred to "not relating", as you say, even within other alcoholics stories, it is only my prejudiced thinking that is incorrect if I try to exclude anyone that is suffering from other ism's. One day for some reason it could be me. Cunning, Baffling, Powerful covers a lot of ground actually.

Anonymous said...

I thought we keep the discussion to alcohol so we don't go the way of the Washingtonians.