Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Any lengths?

The book 'Alcoholics Anonymous' asks if we are willing to go to any lengths. What does that mean? The good news is that this is not a blank cheque: it can be defined. The bad news is that it may mean a lot of work. There are several approaches: (1) 'Do what I do': under this approach, anything the sponsor does, the sponsee gets to do; (2) 'Anything in the first 164 pages': under this approach, if it's in the first 164 pages, the sponsee gets to do it; (3) 'Anything consistent with the first 164 pages': under this approach if it is in or is consistent with the contents of the first 164 pages, the sponsee gets to do it.

I was a hard nut to crack: I needed not only the precise contents of the first 164 pages, but also a lot of actions consistent therewith: there were no national sub-committees for public information in 1939, so there is no instruction 'serve on a national sub-committee for public information', yet serve I do; there was no national network of meetings, so there was no instruction 'go to 90 meetings in 90 days', yet that was precisely what I needed to do on more than one occasion; the term 'sponsor' was not used in 1939, so there is no reference in the book, yet there are plenty of suggestions about helping others, so I sponsor pretty much anyone who asks, provided they are willing to follow suggestions.

The book also suggests, for instance on page 87, that we consult useful books etc., and I make no apology for suggesting all sorts of spiritual readings and exercises not in the Big Book, in accordance with this instruction. The founders of AA, incidentally, did precisely that. The idea that anything not literally written in the Big Book is unnecessary and heretical is relatively new and wrong-headed (and probably stems from a certain US American tradition of literalism in relation to the Bible). The main reason why I, as a sponsor, reserve the right to 'prescribe' spiritual readings, exercises, or practices not contained in the Big Book is because I have been asked by someone to sponsor them on the basis that they want what I have. To get what I have they may have to do what I did. It would be dishonest to suggest someone will get the results I have got by following only part of the prescription. Furthermore, no one is being forced. If you don't want what I have or don't want to do what I do or have done, I won't bother you, and you are free to ask any of the many thousands of other people in AA to help you. Go in peace!

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