Saturday, 17 September 2016

What is the AA programme?

Sometimes sponsees have referred to 'my way' of working and taking others through the programme, and I have to explain that this is not 'my way' but how I have been shown to use the Big Book to recover from alcoholism and the spiritual malady that underlies it. Their comment is understandable, because, in AA meetings, one frequently hears the assertion that 'there are many ways to work the AA programme' and, furthermore, that all of these are equally valid.

Sometimes people say 'there are many ways of working the programme', and then go on to elaborate Step Four methods that have nothing at all to do with the instructions on pages 64 et seqq. The Twelve Steps are set out in page 59 of the Big Book, and the Foreword to the Third Edition talks about the Steps that 'summarise' the programme. The programme is therefore the contents of the Big Book up to page 164.

There are indeed many ways of working 'the programme' (thus defined). Grab a dozen Big Book users and you'll discover little differences between how they use the material all the way through; there are different takes on all the Steps, although all of these approaches have a huge amount in common, as all such people aim to apply the instructions contained in the relevant portion of the Big Book to the best of their abilities.

What will not do is to present systems not grounded in or based on the Big Book as a method of working 'the' programme. It may be 'a' programme; it may even work very well for the individual and for those they help; it may even help them to recover from alcoholism; but it is not 'the' programme of Alcoholics Anonymous; it is something else.

The Big Book reminds me that we have no monopoly on recovery; what we do have is a system contained in the Big Book that has worked for us, and, despite minor and usually technical differences, we do have, as the Big Book says, a way out on which we can absolutely agree, and it would be dishonest to suggest that anything at all can be labelled 'the AA programme', just because it is practised by people who attend AA meetings.