Sunday, 7 October 2012

Tradition 1

There are lots of things I cannot do on my own. When I was new in AA, I was inconsistent with meeting attendance and found myself inexplicably drunk. I could stay sober when I wanted to stay sober; however, as soon as I did not want to stay sober, I got drunk, and my mind would flip unpredictably back and forth between wanting to stay sober and not wanting to stay sober, even though the evidence base for the decision remained the same (the consistent experience of alcohol affording pockets of relief but expanses of catastrophe). I could not bring sense to bear on my problem. However, when I stayed close to the group, I stayed sober, at least for a while.

Staying close to the group does not just mean placing myself physically in AA meetings, though. Sitting in a church would not make a Christian; taping sausages to my legs would not satisfy hunger. Over time, my mere physical presence in AA did not guarantee consistent sobriety, and even going to lots of meetings was failing to prevent the return of a desire to drink.

I needed to join AA and become part of a group. To do this, physical presence was necessary but not sufficient. I needed unity with my AA group and with AA as a whole. Unity is attained when the blocks to unity are removed. The chief block, from which all others flow, is self.

Part of my mind is a wanting machine. Its job is to create wants. It does not matter how much I have or do not have. It creates wants nonetheless. It wants sex, money, power, prestige, comfort, thrills, and appearance; it wants respect, admiration, and validation. Whatever you give it, it wants more—nothing is ever enough. Wants generate resentment, because even the most perfectly constructed and controlled life would not be able to satisfy every want, and, as with the princess and the pea, even the most trifling frustration can fill my consciousness with gloom. Wants also generate fear: the experience of wants not being satisfied in the past becomes the fear of such wants not being satisfied in the future. Furthermore, when I live on this basis, I will harm others—I will control, disregard, and punish, and ride roughshod over your needs to satisfy my wants. This produces guilt and shame.

Live a few years—or decades—in this manner and I become utterly blocked to everyone and everything, including in the AA meetings that are saving my life. In short, to survive, I need unity with my AA group, for the spiritual life-blood that keeps me sane enough to want to stay sober under all conditions and circumstances to flow through me. It is the three sides of the AA triangle that achieve this unity. The Steps remove the blocks and establish clear channels between me and others; the fellowship of AA places me in contact with others; and service provides the life-blood of God's love to flow through those channels, back and forth, between me and others. Sanity—wholeness, within myself, and with you—is thus restored, and drinking alcohol would no more occur to me than would drinking bleach.

If I need AA to survive, I need to be particularly alert to my own thinking and actions as they foster or impair unity.

To foster unity, I must be turned outwards to serve the needs of everyone in the room and I must contribute practically to the running of the group.

To preserve unity—where I might otherwise damage it—I must avoid the following: hogging sharing during meetings; dominating business or group conscience meetings; divisiveness in how I talk to or about others; attack of any sort; intolerance of any sort (as unity does not require uniformity).

In short I need to listen to and identify with others far more than I myself share or compare, for when I look for the similarities rather than the differences I realise that, appearances notwithstanding, I am you and you are me. And therein lies the unity of AA.

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