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Thursday, June 2, 2011

"Frothy Emotional Appeal Seldom Suffices"

How often do we sit in a meeting and hear it deteriorate into a testimonial of all the good things that have happened to people that have sobered up? "Keep Coming Back!," we are cheerily advised. "Go to 90 meetings in 90 days, and if it doesn't work, we'll refund your misery!," is often glibly added.

While such comments are undoubtedly well-intended, and are of some limited benefit to the new member who is beginning to work the 12 Steps, they do little, if anything, for the still-suffering alcoholic - be they newcomers wondering how they can possibly stay clean and sober, or old-timers who are going through one of the curve balls life throws.

"Frothy emotional appeal seldom suffices," we read in the introductory "Doctor's Opinion" section of the 'Big Book' of Alcoholics Anonymous. "The message which can interest and hold these alcoholic people must have substance and weight. In nearly all cases," we read, "their ideals must be grounded in a power greater than themselves, if they are to re-create their lives."

While identification with a fellow suffer is crucial, the suffering (or still-suffering) alcoholic addict does not need an assurance that life gets better or easier in recovery, he or she needs concrete advice and illustrations of what he or she needs to do and how to do it. If he or she does nothing but go to 90 meetings in 90 days, be assured that you will not need to refund their suffering, they will be suffering tremendously, if they make it at all.

Bill W. once observed that there was nothing original in the program of Alcoholics Anonymous - i.e., in the Twelve Steps themselves - and that the only thing that was unique to A.A. was the ability of one alcoholic to relate to another alcoholic and his or her experience in depth.

Let's face it, there is quite often a great sense of relief when the alcoholic addict cleans up and sobers up. If he or she has not hit a low bottom, life rapidly becomes "better" almost solely because one is no longer drinking and/or drugging. Initial sobriety, itself, can therefore seem to be recovery itself. (This initial relief is sometimes referred to as a "pink cloud.") But, "the problem of the alcoholic centers in his mind," and the still-suffering (or yet-again suffering) alcoholic needs (a) identification with his or her state of mind, (b) assurance that others have experienced and lived through the mental crisis he or she is facing, and (c) precise directions as to how others have recovered from the same mental distress he or she finds themself in.

"Frothy emotional appeal seldom suffices." Identify with the sufferer, and his or her trials and tribulations. Share your experience with the same challenges he or she faces. Tell the still suffering alky precisely what you did to overcome your difficulties. Offer your help. Help guide the sufferer to the 12 Steps, or back to the 12 Steps. Take him or her through the 'Big Book' and you may save a life. Telling him or her merely to "put the plug in the jug," and that everything will be great in 90 days of 90 meetings, is not helpful and may do irreparable harm.

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