Just heard someone on the NPR propaganda machine confidently and aggressively assert that the most important, golden rule of recovery is never to reveal publicly if you are “in recovery.” She likened doing so to some sort of mortal sin, saying it is “100% inappropriate” and everybody knows it.
Working with other addicts and alcoholics?
Serving and helping our loved ones?
Improving our conscious contact with God through prayer and meditation?
Writing inventory to continuously cleanse the poison within?
Now let’s take the “going public” issue, one I’ve been bashed for countless times. Trolls often cite the 12 traditions, despite the fact that the 12 Steps take precedent over any traditions, especially since they ARE the very program of Alcoholics Anonymous. In other words, if no one gets better – if no one recovers spiritually and mentally – there is no point to anything else.
The Twelfth Step reads as follows:
“Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.” – Alcoholics Anonymous, p.60
So wait, how exactly am I supposed to carry this message without being able to carry this message? How am I supposed to carry anything without sharing my experience? The very point of the Steps is to crack wide open our closed, narrow, hidden world and become transparent. We are to become an honest, open book. Sharing my story and my experience as an addict is absolutely necessary to not only carry a message but to effect change or hope or inspiration in others.
But still, Charlie, why do you have to do it publicly?
Is it not a good idea to carry this message to as many people as possible? Today we have a miraculous way to reach others in the internet. Furthermore, how do you define public? Am I not supposed to speak at a hospital, sober house, support group or convention? Am I not supposed to then post the speech or share an article about its content on the web? Am I not allowed to write my memoir just because it includes the specifics of the process of my recovery? Sorry, I am a writer. That’s what writers do.
There are many recovery speeches and personal accounts publicized over the internet, on sites, blogs and YouTube. This allows for greater exposure to the spiritual solution. So this ridiculous idea to never reveal that you are in recovery can only come from those who have never helped anybody, and if an addict/alcoholic has never helped anybody, then there is no recovery to speak of. The very purpose of the Twelve Steps is to recover sufficiently that we become equipped to go serve. We are called on to become strong and go out to help others and serve God.
Going “public” with my story, my experience and with the spiritual solution has enabled me to reach many. More importantly, guess who reads my blog the most? Mothers and spouses. Many of them have written me with gratitude for shining a light on the nature of addiction and recovery. Many of them have been relieved of the guilt they carried around for years, falsely blaming and judging themselves for the addiction of a loved one. That alone justifies going public, whatever public means.
Finally, why is it that we should hoard the powerful, mystical and potentially miraculous tools contained within the Steps? Why hoard a solution that is given to us by God? Tools such as written resentment, fear and sex inventory could bring relief to millions of families, spouses and codependents alike. Should they not experience the relief that we recovered have been so blessed with? Quite frankly, it is they who deserve it the most.
So when we grasp onto some ritual or rule from which to channel our anger, we need to re-examine our own recovery, especially when it makes so little sense as to sound rather stupid. Yes, I know what the kumbaya, self-help crowd will say – that I am angry and rigid – too angry to help. If you really read through the blog and examine my shared experience deeply, you will find that it is quite the opposite. I am not angry. I am trying to help. I want others to have the life-changing spiritual experience that I was so fortunate to have, and more importantly to feel this relief, freedom and peace.
And yes… I am also willing to be wrong. Remaining educable is priceless, and I have reassessed and changed my positions on this or that many times over the years. In fact, I look forward to learning new things. Perhaps the anti-public crowd should also be willing to learn new things.