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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Ill-Advised, Yet Effective, Advice: "Don't Drink and Go to Meetings"

To "just keep coming back," to go to "ninety meetings in ninety days," or to simply heed the advice "don't drink and go to meetings" is good, in and of itself, but it is no guarantor that the newcomer to A.A. will survive in sobriety, or stay sober at all. Such well-intentioned advice - dangerous as it is on its face - may, however, backhandedly trigger the presumably intended effect: it may prompt the newcomer to hang around and stay sober long enough to actually take the 12 Steps, if for no other reason than so that he or she may truly feel a part of A.A. And taking the 12 Steps, as so many of us can attest, may save his or her life. The danger, however, lies in giving such seemingly harmless advice to someone who may lackadaisically and discontentedly hang around the A.A. fellowship for years, never really working the A.A. program and never really recovering. He or she, in turn, becomes the person who is most likely to dish out the only partially effective advice above. Worse still, such a "white-knuckler" may actively recruit other disaffected newcomers and actually sponsor them.

"There is a widely held belief in A.A.," writes the author of the "Member's Eye View" pamphlet, "that if a newcomer will simply continue to attend meetings, "Something will finally rub off on you." And the implication, of course, is that the something which rubs off will be (the) so-called miracle of A.A. "

"Now there is no doubt, in my mind," he points out, "that many people in A.A. accept this statement quite literally. I have observed them over the years. They faithfully attend meetings faithfully waiting for "something to rub off." The funny part about it is that "something" is rubbing off on them. Death. They sit there - week after week - while mental, spiritual and physical rigor mortis sets in."

"I believe." he notes, "(that) the real "miracle of A.A.," the "something" that will rub off, we hope, is simply the alcoholic's willingness to act."
"In A.A.," our anonymous reporter explains, "the reporting is clear and unmistakable. "Here are the steps we took," say those who have gone before. The newcomer finally sees that he, too, must take these Steps before he is entitled to report on them. And in an atmosphere where the constant subject is "What I did" and "What I think," no neurotic can long resist the temptation to get in on the action. In an organization whose members are always secretly convinced that they are unique, no neurotic is long going to be contented with a report of what others are doing."

"The 12 Steps are so framed and presented," he points out, "that the alcoholic can either ignore them completely, take them cafeteria-style, or embrace them wholeheartedly. In any case, he can report only on what he has done. Till he does, he knows that he is more a guest at A.A. than a member, and this is a situation that is finally intolerable to the alcoholic. He must take at least some of the Steps or go away. In my opinion, this is the answer to what finally rubs off on the waiting, inactive, hostile A.A. member, and also the answer to why it happens."

"Don't leave before the miracle happens," - another trite saying heard around the rooms of A.A. - may be a more fitting way of putting it; the "miracle" being a willingness to work the Steps and therein find much-needed relief and the common solution to our common problem.

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