Be the Messenger

The 11th tradition is based on a faith in our program and a Power greater than ourselves which guides alcoholics to our program.

~ 12 Step literature

Thank goodness we don’t have to go out and recruit members. Can you imagine the carnage on that one? I am pretty sure we would get the boot if we showed up at the local bars and taps to recruit their customers. The cold reception would be something else. I firmly believe, the still suffering alcoholics out there will seek out our solution to their alcoholic problem if they want what we have. No sooner and no later than that. Some folks say we are the message. I strongly disagree. HP is the message; we are merely messengers. It is said that we may be the only Big Book that a person ever sees. That is pretty heady. I sure hope I am at my best when the time comes; if that is the case.

The newcomer is told to seek out someone who has what you want: spiritual, physical and mental balance and health. When I am asked to sponsor, I ask the person to write on what they expect from me as a sponsor. The next time we meet, I have my own list of expectations. If things jive, then I suggest that we keep working together until he/she outgrows me. That helps both of us recognize that human help is not what we should rely on solely. It gives both parties permission to let go when the growing stagnates. No one person is AA. We all have a limit to what we can do for the group and AA as a whole. We can only give what we can give and no more. Once we embrace this fact, the weight of the whole world seems lifted. Be of service and be the messenger; but beyond that, know when to let HP take over.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Safe Haven

AA has no opinion on outside issues; hence the AA name ought never be drawn into public controversy. ~ AA literature

We had a discussion or study of tradition #10 yesterday. Each person had their own definition of what it meant for them: safe haven…safe place to land….no politics…primary purpose….self expression….no opinions….no pressure….a calming group. We each benefit from what we bring to the tables of AA. If we bring in strife, anger, bigotry, and judgmentalism; that is what we will experience. One gal said, she tries to consider how what she has to offer will benefit the group as a whole, not necessarily her own personal wants. I maintain that I am a work in progress. I have hope that some day, I can have pure intentions and be able to think before I speak. For the most part, I can “act as if” around AA people.

An interesting thing happened last night. About 5 years ago, I left an AA group due to someone else’s outside issues with me. I found other meetings to attend, and went on with my life. I just worked around that particular meeting in my schedule lest I run into that guy again. Last night, I returned. Guess what? Not one face in there had been there five years ago. The meeting had completely changed. There were no outside issues brought up or nurtured. I felt safe. I felt I could share without someone arguing with me. The program is alive and well. I am not sure what happened to that guy. I wish him well. Now, I know that that building and that meeting is open to everyone no matter who they are or what they believe. That is Tradition #10 in action. What has been your experience?

Outside Issues

As AA members, we are free to believe in and work for any cause we choose. We are just asked to leave it at the door when we are in a meeting. ~ Anon

If there is one thing I have learned in AA, is that recovery, much like the dis-ease is an equal opportunity. No one is barred from AA or recovery that wants to stay sober regardless of gender, age, religion, beliefs or none, race, nationality, etc. We focus on what we have in common; not what separates us. This is huge, since most of us were raised in an insular environment. I know I was. My hometown was 95% German and Catholic. I did not meet someone of minority status or a different culture until I was in my teens. I really thought that was “normal”. Even those of us who were raised in cities, it is my guess that most hung out with people who looked and acted like they did; insulated from any challenge to their ethics and beliefs.

It is a great big beautiful world out there. I know AA catapulted me into a life I never imagined. I have had the opportunity to travel, meet all sorts of people, and explored all sorts of social and ethical topics that my small town life would have never allowed for me. AA taught me to focus on what we have in common, not our differences. Tradition #10 suggests that we keep our differences out of the meetings, and to focus on our primary purpose: staying sober and helping others to achieve and maintain sobriety. That keeps AA a healthy and safe place for everyone who comes through our doors. We want AA to remain healthy and strong for the next generations. Goodness knows, they will need us some day. So, explore your options and enjoy the journey, but leave all of that at the door. There is a chair for everyone at the tables.

The Spirit of Traditions

Never since it has began, has Alcoholics Anonymous been divided by a major controversial issue. ~ AA 12 X 12.

Admittedly, I am one of those who would groan audibly whenever there was a traditions study at my home meeting. Oh my gosh, can we just get into the steps? What on earth is this for? Why do we have to keep talking about this stuff? OH MY GOSH!! I can laugh at myself now. I was an angry, stubborn young girl. The traditions represented the rules, the adults in the room, and the restrictions on my personal sharing. Heaven forbid, I be confronted with any such thing. It took the loving confrontation and gentle persuasion of others to teach me the benefits of following the traditions.

What I have come to appreciate is that the traditions kept me from being kicked out of AA.  The spirit of the traditions led the old timers to respect me and my feelings, but kept the traditions alive in the off chance that I would finally get what they were trying to teach me. I sure appreciate that they did what they did. Ironically, I am now one of those old timers that insist that the traditions be followed. What goes around, comes around.

Here are a couple more questions on Tradtion #10 to consider: 

6. Do I breach this or any of its supporting Traditions in subtle, perhaps unconscious,
ways?
7. How can I manifest the spirit of this Tradition in my personal life outside AA? Inside AA? Let me know what you discover.

Being A Part Of

Our real purpose is to fit ourselves to be of maximum service to G.O.D.

and the people about us. ~ Big Book

Being a part of something greater than myself (not apart from) is the essence of this thing called fellowship. I was asked just yesterday by my only “normy” friend why I go to AA if I have been sober for over 31 years. I said that this is a life long commitment. Beyond that, I do not think anyone who is not involved in this program would understand why we keep coming back, why we call ourselves alcoholic when we no longer drink, or what we do in our our meetings. I have to remember that AA is for those who want it, not those who need it.  If it were the prior, there would not be enough chairs in the building to occupy.

So, why do we old timers keep coming back? We give back freely what was freely given to us. Our appearance and sharing at meetings is a form of service. It is our primary purpose to be of service to HP and others.

G.O.D. does not call those who qualify; but does qualify those who are called. Sometimes, I do not know when I will be called, but I do know in my heart of hearts that the skills and words will be furnished. Sometimes, I just open my mouth and the words fall out. There are other times (like funerals) where I ask that the right words be given. It all works when we work it. And, we are worth it. Keep coming back, you just never know who will be there that needs to hear what you have to say.

The Message

Those of us who live this program do not simply live this message,

we are the message. ~ Anon 

This is a program of attraction, not promotion. We cannot go into every bar in town and drag people out of there and into AA meetings. That doesn’t work so well. That is what boxers call, “leading with your chin”. I do take up the argument, that we are not the message, but rather G.O.D. is the message, we are merely the messengers. The question is: what message do we want to convey? I have to remember what attracted me in the first place: unconditional love, compassion, humor, understanding and an open door policy.

Most folks in AA will tell you that you may be the only Big Book that someone will ever see in their lives. If that is so, then it would make sense that we crack the book open every day, and learn what it says. I admit to being a Big Book thumper, but I cannot quote chapter and verse, and I never could. There are some handy dandy Big Book reference cards that one can use. That way, when a certain issue and emotion troubles us or our sponsees, we can refer them to a chapter that addresses such a thing.  The nice thing about AA is that there have been millions who have already recovered, so all we have to do is learn from their experiences. There is no need to recreate the wheel. Just jump in and enjoy the ride. As one old timer used to say, “Just shut up and get in the bus!”

Lock Step Agreement

For whatever reason this phrase was on my mind as I awoke today. The Big Book says, we do not necessarily “have to be in lock step agreement”. Anyone who has ever been oppressed, abused, confined, or lived under an authoritarian rule can tell you how our the hair on the back of our necks stands up, we rebel, and we will overreact when someone tells us what we must do in order to work this program. We will consistently be the dissenting votes when our meeting or intergroup takes a vote on something, even if we agree to the basic premise of the proposal. What makes us tick?

I can only speak for myself. I have decided to remember that each time I disagree with someone or something, does not make me wrong, nor does it make the other person(s) wrong. We can agree to disagree. This is a program of freedom and choice. We get to choose how to work the steps, who we work with, what meetings we go to, etc. The paths to recovery are as myriad as the many different people who are sitting at those tables. We need to remember that our primary purpose is what is of essence: to remain sober, and to helps others find sobriety. All differences are respected. Recovery is a great big hoop that anyone can jump through. Let’s focus one why we are here and respect all voices, as ours was respected when we came in.