Sunday, 18 November 2012


"Next he can be assured that you do not intend to lecture, moralize, or condemn; that if this was done formerly, it was because of misunderstanding." (Alcoholics Anonymous, 142:1)

Lecture: to address with some severity, or at some length, on the subject of conduct, behaviour, or the like; to admonish, rebuke, reprimand. (OED)
Moralise: to reflect on or express opinions about something in terms of right and wrong, especially in a self-righteous or tiresome way. (
Condemn: To pronounce an adverse judgement on; to express strong disapproval of, censure, blame. (OED)

"He should concentrate on his own spiritual demonstration. Argument and fault-finding are to be avoided like the plague." (Alcoholics Anonymous, 48:3)

The Big Book sets out a programme that is a package deal. When I first started to adopt the Big Book as the package-deal design for living it was written to present, I found it to work magically in a way that no other combination of AA suggestions had ever achieved before. It was like finally locating the instruction manual for a device I had only ever operated using titbits of good advice and a great deal of common sense and intuition.

Suddenly discovering how to take the hand-brake off my own spiritual development came with an unexpected sting in the tail, however. I became acutely aware of how everyone else, so I thought, was getting it wrong. And now, so I thought, I had God on my side. Others, with their second-rate programme, were killing newcomers, and had damn-near killed me, with their watered-down rubbish, so I said. I had the sense, most of the time, to convey these ideas subtly or covertly, but convey them I did.

One way or another, I lectured, moralised, and condemned. Naturally, I was attacked back (you can't fool alcoholics), and I developed a tiny but perfectly formed martyr complex, replete with justifications for my self-righteousness, defensiveness, and counter-attack.

As with every other problem I have ever had, I reached a point at which I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. Spiritually sick. And tired of my own resentment. Sick and tired of using the Big Book to separate myself from the herd, to mark myself apart as being superior, the kid with the good gear, the purveyor of the true message, sorrowfully shaking my head at the hordes going straight to hell unless they get my 'brand of spirituality while there is yet time' (128:1).

I had been granted entry to the realm of the spirit but I had not begun to understand what that realm was all about. George Carlin said, 'Trying to be happy by accumulating possessions is like trying to satisfy hunger by taping sandwiches all over your body.' I was trying to be spiritual by peppering my thoughts and words with quotations from the Big Book without having fully absorbed or implemented its real substance and spirit:

Love and tolerance of all.

The Big Book does indeed contain all the answers I need, or at least points in the direction thereof. But I do need all of it, especially the uncomfortable, inconvenient parts.

What the above quotations mean for me is that:
·         I need to talk about me, not you.
·         When I'm talking about me, I need to make sure I really am talking about me, not talking about me as a covert way of talking about you.
·         I must examine my motives for saying what I am saying—Step Ten in the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions (paragraph 21) talks of 'this perverse wish to hide a bad motive underneath a good one'.

This is hard. My ego is constantly trying to find ways of separating me and setting me apart as superior in some way. The simplicity of telling my story just to be helpful is an ideal, not something I have already fully attained. The irony is, it seems impossible to even talk about this subject without, oneself, moralising. Fortunately, all we are doing is trying to grow along spiritual lines. We are not saints, the Big Book reminds us, in a moment of spectacular understatement.

The reason I need and want to apply all of the programme as it is set out in the Big Book is two-fold. If I am going to be helpful to people, I need to demonstrate a life that people might like for themselves. And, delicious as being right can be from the inside, it is perfectly objectionable from the outside.

The other reason is quite selfish. Today, I like being at peace more than I like the buzz of whatever my ego has to offer. This means I have to live and let live, or perhaps let live and then live: first of all detach from all of my opinions and judgements, and then get on with my life.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow, thank you so much. Very well stated. I remember when, after many years sober, I was finally taken through the steps out of the Big Book, and became 'enlightened.'

I was immediately very resentful that people weren't "getting it," I swung the pendulum the other way, my ego kicked in, and for awhile I was, along with those around me, in an "us versus them" mentality - the poor, unenlightened, ignorant masses that I, in my new-found wisdom was going to correct, fix and save by smacking them all in the head with "The Book."

Luckily, that period only lasted a short while for me, the pendulum swung back toward the middle, and I am much more at peace.

Ahh, growth, painful and wonderful! Well, I'd hate to become perfect too quickly, else what would I have to work on? And how boring would that be?

Thanks again for this post.