Programs, Pamphlets and Power

At a retreat recently a speaker shared something from one of AA’s pamphlets that I either hadn’t heard, forgot about or didn’t sink in when I read it. I loved it when he was saying it and it’s been floating around in my head for a few weeks now. What do you think?

P-41 A Member’s Eye View of Alcoholics Anonymous

Tonight, if I could find one fault with A.A., it would be that we have not yet begun to tap the potential hidden in the last seven words of the Twelfth Step: “practice these principles in all our affairs.”

It occurred to me not long ago that whenever I am sitting in an A.A. meeting, I am never aware that I am sitting next to another white man, another Catholic, another American, or a Frenchman, Mexican, Jew, Moslem, or Hindu, black man or brown. I am aware only that I am sitting next to another alcoholic. And it seemed deeply significant to me that this feeling of common humanity had been purchased by me at the cost of considerable pain and suffering.

Should this hard-won understanding of, and feeling for, others be confined to the meeting halls and members of A.A.? Or does it remain for me to take what I have learned and what I have experienced, not only in A.A., but in every other area and endeavor of my life, to lift up my head, and to assume my rightful place in the family of man? Can I there, in the household of God, know that I am not sitting next to another white man, another Catholic, another American, nor yet a Frenchman, Mexican, Jew, Moslem, Hindu, black man or brown, not even another alcoholic, and can I finally — at long last, please God — come home from all the wars and say in the very depths of my soul, “I am sitting next to another human being”?

-from the pamphlet A Member’s Eye View of Alcoholics Anonymous

There are days when I think about all AA has done for so many very different people and how amazing the transformations of their lives is. This program of action, to change and help others is really the key to what is wrong every where. Imagine a world where the everyone cared not just for themselves and their pocketbooks but for their common man – instead of reaching out their hand for another dollar for their war-chest they’d offer it to the new man and help pull him up and show him a better way.

The program of AA has been borrowed and adapted to many different fellowships – Alanon, NA, CA, SA, OA, GA… the list goes on and on. I know handfuls of people who – normal in every  aspect that I can see – who use our steps and traditions to guide their lives, they too say it’s life changing.

So why aren’t we standing on the rooftops, screaming from the top of our lungs, opening churches and the like?

In the book the Bridge Across Forever, Richard Bach and his wife get stuck traveling into different realities… in one of those realities they find a mystical book, seemingly dropped from the heavens with all the answers to lifes mysteries. Richard and Leslie want to take that book with them to share with everyone that here is finally the answer, here is something we can all agree upon. But the other Richard from that alternate-reality shows them what would happen if they did. Suddenly we’d have the War of the Book as people who interpreted it one way disagreed with anthers interpretation of it and people would die to see their way was followed.  Like the crusades of our reality the truth would be forced upon people or they’d be killed for not believing.

That’s what comes to mind when I think about an AA church or of forcing this upon others, it’s not how were supposed to do it. Its about attraction, not promotion… I’ve had many religious folk ask me about prayer, meditation, helping others and resentments – I’m glad I can help, I’m glad someone else helped me to do those very things…. that’s the key, get out of self and help others.


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