Still sober – 2 months, 9 days and counting.
Today I’m going to do something I haven’t done for quite a while; I’m going to publish 2 comments I received today from the same person. And then add my response.
I am doing this because I do feel the matters raised by ‘PholinMobiAA’ are important – not only for me, but for others out there who may be trying to follow a similar path as me, as far as achieving long term sobriety is concerned.
The first thing that will strike you is how long and verbose are his comments. This is not the first time that I have received just long rambling comments from this source and it’s not the first time that he has written two comments, one after the other. This in itself indicates to me that the author must be in a high state of agitation when he put his proverbial pen to paper, otherwise why would he write one comment, post it and then decide to write a second, equally as long, barely a minute or so later?
It seems to me that the author of these long missives is full of ‘missionary zeal’, all of it well meaning, but much of it misplaced in my opinion. Anyway, here it is, in all its glory, and I will place my own comment at the end.
Here are the two comments:
How great it is to know you’re attending AA and taking an interest in the literature. As well I’m ecstatic that you’ve put together over 60 days of sobriety. If I might interject on the subject of the programme and fellowship. As a sober alcoholic of 18 years and student of the Big Book it is a passion of mine.
It’s too bad but in many rooms of the fellowship of AA the programme and it’s history are often miscommunicated and the message of recovery differs from the contents of the first 164 page of the book and 12 and 12 literature.
My wish is only that the program of AA be correctly quoted/summarized in press and otherwise.
Firstly the fellowship of AA is never mentioned to be required for “working the programme” in either the first 164 pages of the Big Book or any of the 12 and 12. It’s a common mistake for people who have not studied the book or have been lucky enough to had help with studying it (like me) to think that the “structure of AA” is the real power and way for staying sober. This idea is not what the programme of AA suggests in any way. The fellowship is great and is the perfect place for newcommers to seek help but that help is in the form of providing guidance in seeking a Higher Power to give sustained and permanent abstinence through doing the 12 steps.
Secondly, Bill W. did have a programme and he did not “save himself.” It was the 6 tenents of the Oxford groups which were communicated to him by a chap by the name Ebby Thatcher. The auspices of the Oxford groups by way of this gentleman are what put Bill W. immediately on a spiritual path and to have the needed spiritual experience (in the Towns Hospital) to give him relief from the disease.(Google search for more on Ebby Thatcher) As is seen below in the book quote, the 12 steps are more or less an elaboration of the Oxford group 6 tenants. This point is easily missed by skipping the preface and 3 forwards and going straight to Bills story.
So, again, Bill W. didn’t do it by himself, he had a programme and a fellowship. He had Ebby Thatcher and the Oxford groupers and the 6 tenants of the Oxford groups which he later adapted into the 12 steps.
The below is quoted from the forward to the 2nd edition, please note towards the end is a correlation/summary of the meat and potatoes of the steps which are adapted from the Oxford group tenants.
–>The spark that was to flare into the first A.A. group
was struck at Akron, Ohio in June 1935, during a talk
between a New York stockbroker and an Akron
physician. Six months earlier, the broker had been
relieved of his drink obsession by a sudden spiritual
experience, following a meeting with an alcoholic
friend who had been in contact with the Oxford
Groups of that day. He had also been greatly helped
by the late Dr. William D. Silkworth, a New York
specialist in alcoholism who is now accounted no less
than a medical saint by A.A. members, and whose
story of the early days of our Society appears in the
next pages. From this doctor, the broker had learned
the grave nature of alcoholism. Though he could not
accept all the tenets of the Oxford Groups, he was
convinced of the need for moral inventory, confession
of personality defects, restitution to those harmed,
helpfulness to others, and the necessity of belief in and
dependence upon God.
original quote which this comment is directed towards:
Pearls of wisdom sometime come from the most unexpected sources and yesterday at the end of the ‘reading’, someone commented that Bill must have been someone ‘special’ as he didn’t have the structure of the AA around him to get him free of alcohol. It’s a cute observation, as AA maintains that there is only one way to remain sober and that is by joining AA and working the programme. Yet Bill didn’t have AA or a programme, but he nevertheless saved himself. Of course, if you read his story, you will see that there were one or two very significant people who showed him the path to sobriety and it was from these people that he was inspired to develop the concept of AA and the 12 step programme. Nevertheless, he did it by himself, albeit with a little help from his friends, but without the auspices of AA, which hadn’t yet come properly into being.
Again let me congratulate you on your 60 days on the wagon.
I feel compelled to mention something else today after reading more of the blog. I’ve learned through careful study of the Big Book of AA (with Joe and Charlie as well as other scholars) and years of observing people in the AA fellowship that those within the fellowship who claim to be alcoholics but stay sober through only meetings or half measures are what us real alcoholics and students of the Big Book know to be only heavy drinkers and not alcoholics. They can take it or leave it. Many of these folks like the meetings for the social aspect and find friends there as AA becomes their sober “Elks Club” and a great place to go and socialize.
Real alcoholics have to watch out who they listen to in meetings, for heavy drinkers who can stay sober through meetings and “putting the plug in the jug”, “just not drinking no matter what”, ” I choose not to drink today” are killing real alcoholics by the thousands miss-communicating the program of AA in the fellowship, watering it down to catch phrases like “meeting makers make it”, “just keep coming back” and “just don’t drink even if your ass falls off” etc.. etc..
None of these ideas are the program of AA. Many real alcoholics die trying these simple non AA ideas or if they manage to survive conclude that AA didn’t work for them and continue drinking until death.
Myself, I know I am a real alcoholic. I could never put together any permanent sobriety until I took the steps. I continue today as an active sponsor of 3 and have recently been invited to speak at several meetings in my area. I believe my “popularity” as of late is because I am connecting with real alcoholics through my knowledge of the program. The truth lies within the book if one is open enough to slowly study and see it.
You mentioned pearls of wisdom come from unexpected places; my take on the “cute observation” is just the opposite. Ideas like Bill W did it by himself without a program are spoken from inflated ego looking to be noticed as smart without regard for the people who really need help. It’s a pity nobody in the meeting actually new it was wholly an inaccurate conclusion.
Do you really think that by writing all the above stuff it is going to convince me that what I have written about AA is wrong or misguided, or are you hoping to attract a wider audience in my blog who may be more receptive to what you have to say?
You claim to be a sober alcoholic of 18 years and that you are a ‘student of the Big Book’ and of this I have absolutely no doubt.
For myself, I can claim to have attended AA meetings in multiple locations over a period of more than 3 years, have read the Big Book from cover to cover several times and have even listened to the whole book on audio tape. Further I have extensively read Bill W’s writings and other AA literature. I have also attended many AA meetings where the group has studied sections of the Big Book, day by day, week by week.
So I openly concede that I am nowhere near your league in terms of number of AA meetings attended, periods of sobriety attained or my knowledge and studentship of the Big Book.
But I like to consider myself a reasonably intelligent, well-read man and I am quite capable of independent thought and to draw my own conclusions from what I have observed, experienced and read and I do not believe that any of these conclusions is in any way unreasonable. Not do they, in any clear thinking and reasonable analysis, stray too far from what AA is all about.
Yesterday I mentioned that Bill W did NOT have the established fellowship of the AA around him when he found sobriety and in spite of everything you have written and quoted, this remains a stark and indisputable fact. In my blog I acknowledged that there were of course, inspired people around him and he obviously drew on these and other available spiritual and professional guidance and help that was available to him at that time.
Nobody is disputing any of the facts that you churned out on this matter, but you seem to have missed the entire point of what I was trying to say. This is because you have your own, very narrow, highly prescribed viewpoint of what the AA is all about and what every alcoholic must do, if he is to attain long term sobriety.
You even go so far as to suggest that people who do not follow the AA programme in every respect and who make ‘heretical’ statements in AA meetings that you – and others like you – take exception to, are not real alcoholics – just problem or heavy drinkers. I personally think it is a scandalous thing to say and denigrates true alcoholics who have previously destroyed their lives, only to successfully find sobriety later in life with the help of the AA, but not all of them have totally immersed themselves in every aspect of the programme. The next time I meet someone who has put together 20 years or more of sobriety, but who thinks more like me than like you, I will tell him that I know someone who believes that he cannot be a REAL alcoholic, and see what he has to say about that.
I reiterate what I said in yesterday’s blog. As far as the AA programme is concerned, it is ‘horses for courses’. Some alcoholics can only achieve long term sobriety by attending daily meetings and constantly and diligently working the 12 step programme. Others may achieve a similar result by a less rigorous dedication to the AA programme, but that doesn’t make them any the less alcoholics. I could go further on what I suspect are some of the differences between the rigorous AA follower and the ‘bouquet’ AA follower, but I think I will leave that for another day.
You are by no means the first AA member who has tried to preach to me in a way that is intended to fill me with full of fear and dread if I do not do as I am told. I had two sponsors, one after the other in the early days who clearly derived a sense of power in trying to control my life. They would tell me to do things that were unreasonable, illogical and unnecessary, just to prove their power over me. There have been others who have tried to control and dictate how I ‘shared’ in meetings and still others who have literally threatened me with damnation if I didn’t accept the existence of and make obeisance to my Higher Power.
Then to top it all I met a guy who tried to ‘sponsor me ‘ over the internet and when I tried to work the steps with him, he continually rubbished everything I tried to do and had massive arguments with me concerning my lists of people I had harmed or those to who I wished to make amends. He was upset because I didn’t set out my list in columns as SUGGESTED in the Big Book, even though I covered all the details as required by the column headings. I mean, how pedantic can you get – especially with someone who is clearly unstable and in danger of destroying their life? I really think that it was this encounter that sent me back out to the bars and to some of the worst binges of my entire life.
The point I am trying to make is that within AA there are self-righteous zealots, so full of their own self-importance that in many instances they drive alcoholics away from the AA, rather than treating each person as an individual and working with him or her in a way which is most likely to achieve results. They are a bit like the Jehovah’s witnesses who insist the universe was created only a few thousand years ago, or those who believe everything written in the Bible should be taken literally. Sometimes they are every bit as unstable as those they are trying to ‘save’.
In conclusion, I think you can see why I am extremely wary of some aspects of AA, but quite frankly, however imperfect it may be, there is no alternative and despite the preponderance of zealots, there are still some genuinely good people there who are sensible, practical and are willing to help us alkies – even stubborn old bastards like Mobi.
That’s enough of that. Now for my “Butt……..