Saturday, 18 January 2014
AA BS-busting #3: 'wear your recovery like a loose garment'
Favourites along the same line are:
'I wish you a long, slow recovery.'
'I'm letting the Steps work me.'
'I have been sober a few days.'
When trying to communicate the AA programme or share your experience, be clear. Do not use cryptic imagery or modes of expression. All you are doing is winking at the other adepts in the room who have had the saying explained and deliberately leaving most other people in the dark. These sayings are not about helping people. They are about raising yourself onto a spiritual pedestal in the eyes of other people: look at me; I am so spiritual that my wisdom is accessible only to the initiated!
Wearing your recovery like a loose garment could mean all sorts of things. I have heard it many times over the last two decades, and I am still not entirely sure of its significance. I think it may mean relaxing about the rate at which you are recovering, by leaving that to God, although I would add that this does not mean one should let up on the action or discipline of the programme. These are good ideas. But say it simply!
Wishing someone a long, slow, recovery once invited the response at a meeting in NYC, witnessed by a friend of mine, 'I wish you would burn in hell.' I think this may not be the socially appropriate response per Miss Manners. I am in utter sympathy with this response, though.
The saying purports to say: 'I hope you remain in pain and dysfunction for a very long time.' The real meaning is 'I hope you stay sober for ever. Do be aware that incorporating the programme will take time, so stick with it.' Unfortunately, unless you have had this one decoded, you will be mystified.
'I'm letting the Steps work me' may mean that, although the Steps require action, a lot of recovery will take place with the alcoholic the subject of a bigger process that is happening TO him. This is true. You make amends, and all sorts of magical things happen as a result that you did not personally actuate or effect. Unless this is explained, all this means to a newcomer is: "do nothing. You will get well anyway." This is crap.
The least significant but perhaps most annoying of these is 'I have been sober a few days.'
What this is supposed to mean is 'I have been sober many years but do not take the credit, so I am playing it down.'
There are numerous problems with this. Firstly, the obfuscation is fear-based, coming from the concern that others will think you vain. This is not a good start. Ironically, the fear itself is the vanity. Secondly, it betrays the belief that you think you are staying sober through your own merit rather than the grace of God, or else why would you believe others may think you vain? Thirdly, unless a listener is initiated, he will take this at face value, which makes the ensuing wisdom seem oddly misplaced. Lastly, it is concealing, in more than one way, the great truth of AA: God can keep you sober forever.
When communicating with newcomers, let's be clear and direct.