Bill Wilson stated that “Sobriety, freedom from alcohol from the teaching and practice of the 12 steps is the SOLE purpose of an AA group. Groups have repeatedly tried other activities and they have ALWAYS failed. If we don’t stick to these principles will shall almost surely collapse. And if we collapse, we cannot help anyone”. (1958 Grapevine article)
In this single paragraph Bill defines sobriety, singleness of purpose, and our responsibilities as sponsors and as members of a home group. He also prophetically warns what will most likely take place if we divert from these clearly defined activities. In speaking of singleness of purpose Bill’s point is that we use the 12 Steps to find and develop a relationship with a higher power that will relieve our alcoholism and NOTHING else. We do not not become counselors or therapists or confessors, nor do we allow AA meetings to devolve into group therapy.
That AA has remained stagnant as far as membership (around two million) for over thirty years and now can only claim a 5% or less recovery rate speaks to Bill’s prophecy. We have failed because many influential and selfish members have vehemently and with great resentment defended some ill-informed imagined right that AA can and should be anything that any member decides that it be. These are almost always AA members who have never even attempted to overcome their own self-centered views by actually taking and teaching the 12 steps.
This is done repeatedly by insisting that the 12 steps and a higher power are not necessary, important or even wanted as a means to recovery. Driven by fear, these same members attempt to and often succeed in spreading fear of the only suggested program of recovery that AA has to offer. With arrogant smugness many of these dry drunks insist that since they were able to avoid the comfortable and contented sobriety found by actually taking the 12 steps, and they stayed sober, no one should take the steps or seek a spiritual solution to their alcoholism.
Out of this self-centered fear, most alcoholics who come to AA are never presented with the one solution that could save their lives, and are ignorantly told to shut up, don’t drink, and go to meetings. For what? To listen to these same folks say the same thing ad nauseum. Don’t drink, go to meetings, don’t drink, go to meetings, don’t drink, go to meetings. As a result AA has a 5% recovery rate that once was 75%. A program that was once hailed as a “miracle of the twentieth century” is now a near failure.
The sad irony of this is that if most alcoholics had actually taken the steps then they would have led others through the steps, and all of this self-centered behavior would have been greatly diminished, and AA would not be the near failure that it is today.
Remember that the Big Book states that “selfishness, self-centeredness, that we think is the root of our troubles” and further on “we must be rid of ALL manifestations of self-centeredness”.
Taking and teaching the 12 steps is an incredibly simple, straightforward and amazingly effective way of relieving oneself of the self-centered character traits that would otherwise lead to a life of grim sobriety and usually drinking again. Taking and teaching the 12 steps is the primary and most important role that any AA member who calls themselves a sponsor can do.
In a few short hours the 12 steps can be taken and a new way of life, free of the bondage of self can begin, and then each member of AA will have the knowledge and the tools to actually help another alcoholic. This is a far cry from “shut up, don’t drink, and go to meetings!”
If you are in AA PLEASE take the steps as they are presented in The Big Book, in one sitting, with a qualified sponsor.
If you are new to AA PLEASE take the steps as they are presented in The Big Book, in one sitting, with a qualified sponsor.