Thursday, 12 November 2015

What matters?

You can do all the inventories you like. You can go around making amends dramatically to everyone you have ever harmed. You can sponsor scores of people. You can go to a thousand AA meetings. You can pray and meditate for hours a week and go on fancy retreats. You can do important service in all sorts of ways.

None of this matters, however, if you're not treating the people around you kindly and if you're placing your own wishes ahead of their welfare.

Let's not louse this up.

Progress not perfection

People often say they are striving for progress not perfection.

This represents a misunderstanding of the AA programme.

We aim for perfection. This is our ideal. This idea is echoed throughout the Big Book and throughout Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions. There is a sense of absolute letting go and envisioning how God would have us be. This does not include envisioning the character defects God would like us to have, or the thousand ways we will fall short. No, the ideal towards which we are working is perfection.

However, if you aim for perfection all you will get is progress. The notion of 'progress not perfection' suggests acceptance of partial results based on wholehearted action and dissuades the individual from becoming disheartened or from chiding himself for his continued shortcomings.

It is vital that this line not be used, as it almost invariably is, to justify laziness, ineptitude, selfishness, or apathy about one's half-hearted implementation of the AA programme.

Friday, 6 November 2015

Which fellowship?

‘Do I belong in AA or Al-Anon?’ is a vexed question that troubles many people. With the use of this simple diagnostic tool (courtesy of Stephen Sondheim), a solution is at hand.

Ask yourself, which of these two do I identify with?

(a)

The sun comes up
I think about you
The coffee cup
I think about you
The morning ends
I think about you
I talk to friends
I think about you
And do they know
It's like I'm losing my mind
All afternoon doing every little chore 
The thought of you stays bright
Sometimes I stand in the middle of the floor
Not going left 
Not going right
I dim the lights
And think about you
Spend sleepless nights 
To think about you

(b)

The sun comes up
I think about me
The coffee cup
I think about me
The morning ends
I think about me
I talk to friends
I think about me
And do they know
It's like I'm losing my mind
All afternoon doing every little chore 
The thought of me stays bright
Sometimes I stand in the middle of the floor
Not going left 
Not going right
I dim the lights
And think about me
Spend sleepless nights 
To think about me

* * * * * 

If you identify with (a), go to Al-Anon. If you identify with (b), go to AA. If you identify with both, go to both.

Having a bad day? Do something about it.

If you're having a bad day, don't be a whiny victim. The AA programme offers some solutions:

  • Once you've had a good cry(!), do an inventory, specifically to identify where you have gone wrong.
  • Produce a list of corrective measures, the attitudes and behaviour you are going to foster as the antidote. Mine AA and spiritual literature for guidance.
  • Once an hour or more often if necessary spend time with God, asking for your thinking to be redirected and rewired.
  • Once an hour or more often if necessary take a helpful piece of spiritual literature that envisions a relationship with God that places you in safety, and the ego as the source of all of your suffering.
  • Share the inventory with three people and ask for guidance. Add that guidance to your corrective measures.
  • Go to a meeting. That does not mean go and moan about how hard things are. It means getting there a little early and speaking to some people. Find out who is there. Find out who needs help.
  • Try to share at the meeting, and, when you do, present adequately and succinctly your understanding of what alcoholism is and joyfully present the solution, perhaps citing the tools you have applied today.
  • Ask God to give you people to help afterwards. Make sure your number is given to newcomers or other people struggling or in need and arrange with them when you will speak to them or see them.
Try this consistently. Try this for a decade or so. Then see if you still have a problem.