Saturday, March 16, 2013

The People vs. The Program of AA

A few months ago, a friend and I were talking with another friend who was struggling with the people in AA.  Our friend felt she wasn't "getting anything out of AA anymore" because she couldn't count on the friends she had thought she'd made.  I wanted to go off.  Luckily, I had to leave.

My first thought was: make some better friends in AA.  After all she was sitting with two good ones.  But she is 28 and we are 44 and 54.  And while we are the young, hip version of our ages, we are, technically older (NO! It cannot be!).  She spoke of peers.  That's just a dicey age, 28, particularly when people are getting sober and pulling their lives together and going off to finish school, or get involved in healthy relationships, or really start their career.  I remember 27 and single.  While I would have denied it at the time, the steady pressure to couple up with someone, get married and start a family is there.

My next thoughts had to do with the quality of her program, and her people-picker, and other non-kind,
judging thoughts.  I'm sure you can imagine.  While I do not pretend to always wander around in a state of loving kindness I do try.

Luckily, Mr. Sponsorpants was responding to an email on his blog from someone who was very upset with Mr. Sponsorpants and felt that AA was to blame because the people in AA weren't living up to the principles of AA.  Here's what he said-underline and color are mine because I just love this analogy:

In my humble opinion, to use the foibles and failures of others in sobriety as a means to quarrel with AA is not too far from wondering if a vial of antibiotics is no good because the doctor who prescribed them committed Medicare fraud.
AA's 12 Steps embody a plan of acting on spiritual principles which have worked in many ways for many people and cultures since perhaps man first became self aware.  Owning and admitting a problem, asking for help, being willing to follow direction, looking within, identifying one's own part in problems, working on improving the elements in one's nature which do not serve, admitting wrong doing and making restitution, seeking an elevated mind through elevated thought and meditation... AA didn't invent -- and never claimed to invent -- any of this.  As you know, what Bill and Dr. Bob did (you've got me on Joe Hawk, I have no clue who he is, though he's got a hella cooler name than I do) is practically (or Divinely) luck into laying out a plan of action along those spiritual lines which spoke to alcoholics in a way other methods previously perhaps did not.  The immediate result of which was the ability to refrain from drinking and the larger result of which was a spiritual experience -- or, if you prefer, a profound internal (often gradual) transformation.
Your issues -- the "usual issues" -- with AA -- or perhaps it is more accurate to say with the people in AA -- though I understand them, I do not embrace them.  I respect them, and your hurt and your anger, but the 12 Steps are not vulnerable to what may or may not be happening in Meetings.  They are deceptively simple but pretty bullet proof (if almost a hundred years of addicts can't break 'em I think we're good).  Nor are they a fragile, ephemeral plan for spiritual awakening, as their principles and suggested actions can even be viewed through a completely non-spiritual lens and still offer practical healing and help.  (I was moved to write this once in response to that line of discussion.)***
The crux is people are messy and they are all doing the best they can with the tools they've got.  Their tools might suck, but it's the best they can do right then.  Confusing getting something out of AA with the people in AA tells me our friend was looking for a relationship with a higher power in other people.  And other people will always fail her, guaranteed.  No one is ever going to be there for us 100%, not our mothers, our best friends, our lovers.  Sometimes people just shit on us for their own reasons and have every right to do so.  People die and people leave.  That's why we crave God.

My experience tells me that the quickest way to lose the life AA gives you is by living the life AA gave you, but forgetting how you got there.  When I started thinking that my life was going well because I deserved it for good behavior and being sober, I had moved away from gratitude to righteousness.  And "I'm not getting anything out of AA" smacks of self-righteousness to me.  AA doesn't owe me jack shit, while I owe the life I have today to AA and the way of living it brought me to. 

I'm not saying that the day doesn't come when we roll our eyes because the same person is sharing at every meeting, or someone spouts off about outside issues, or crosstalks or etc., etc., etc.  We've heard it all before and being in meetings isn't giving us the fix it used to.   When that day comes we shift from being in the meeting to figure out how to stay sober to being in a meeting to help someone else stay sober.

In other words, out of self and into service.  Cause that's some bulletproof shit.

***Here is the whole post. If you want to see it in context-or it will get you to Mr.Sponsorpants website in general if you want to check it out.


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