Sunday, 16 November 2014

Just because I'm sober, do I have to be dumb?

Evidence of cogent, elaborate, or extended thought is regularly criticised in AA, as expressed by slogans and sayings such as 'keep it simple, stupid!' and 'you can't be too stupid to get sober, but you can be too clever'. The suggestion is that the use of the intellect is inappropriate in AA and actively detrimental to sobriety. The fact that one cannot think oneself sober is taken by some to mean that thinking has no place in AA. It is also socially acceptable within AA to criticise people merely for expressing thoughts that extend beyond the most basic. The belief is this: the intellect is incompatible with recovery and AA, and if you have a mind, you had better keep it to yourself.

Let's see what the Big Book has to say on the matter.

The limits of intellect are clear:

'But the actual or potential alcoholic, with hardly an expectation, will be absolutely unable to stop drinking on the basis of self-knowledge.'

'If a mere code of morals or a better philosophy of life were sufficient to overcome alcoholism, many of us would have recovered long ago. But we found that such codes and philosophies did not save us, no matter how much we tried.'

'Yes, we had been faithful, abjectly faithful to the God of Reason. … Were nothing left but pure reason, it wouldn't be life. … Hence, we saw that reason isn't everything. Neither is reason, as most of us use it, entirely dependable, though it emanate from our best minds.'

On the other hand, the Big Book does not advocate the retirement of the intellect but a balance between intellect and reliance on God:

'Logic is great stuff. We liked it. We still like it. It is not by chance we were given the power to reason, to examine the evidence of our senses, and to draw conclusions. That is one of man's magnificent attributes. We agnostically inclined would not feel satisfied with a proposal which does not lend itself to reasonable approach and interpretation.'

'Our next function is to grow in understanding and effectiveness.'

'Instead of regarding ourselves as intelligent agents, spearheads of God's ever advancing Creation, we agnostics and atheists choose to believe that our human intelligence was the last word, the alpha and the omega, the beginning and end of all.'

The balance is well summed-up in the Step Two chapter of Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions:

'By their example they showed us that humility and intellect could be compatible, provided we placed humility first.'

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