To be an alcoholic or a drug addict is not a complicated thing to understand, despite our efforts to complicate just about everything, especially something that seems so mind-boggling. But it’s pretty simple. Junkies want to maintain maximum comfort 24/7, similar to a child. Of course, we’re then faced with the unfortunate (or perhaps fortunate) reality that perpetual comfort is not life. If we can simply become willing to be uncomfortable, we can choose to give up the right we falsely believe we have to drink or use drugs. We can shed the ignorance of childhood and come to understand that life is uncomfortable at times and shouldn’t preclude us from working hard and taking responsibility for ourselves. Recovery, therefore, simply revolves around growing up and the development of one’s conscience.
Why does the mainstream so widely misunderstand AA? One, because AA is defined as attending meetings and the 12 Steps are seen as nothing more than an intellectual element of meetings. There is simply a lack of knowledge of what the Steps really are – that they aren’t a poster on the wall, that service is not reduced to putting chairs away, that sponsorship is not talking on the phone to some pity pot outside a bar. The set of right actions prescribed in the Big Book are daily, lifelong and take place outside of any meeting. They occur in our daily lives and external relationships. Service and character development, for example, are themes that we bring home, to work, to all of our worldly engagement.
So the atrocious statistics of AA’s success rate are based on a sample who I suspect has never engaged in or completed the Steps at all. How many in the sample size have written all four columns of their resentment, fear and sex inventory? How many have then read every word on the page, meditated for an hour and then recited the 7th Step prayer? How many have made a comprehensive amends list and made ALL of them, including living amends where we simply change our behavior and approach to those close to us. How many of them engage in taking others through this Big Book process and get to see others touched by God and restored to sanity? How many of them actually engage in ongoing 10th step written inventory, prayer and meditation?
The very problem with modern, watered-down AA is that it begins and ends with a 1st Step – the simple admission that one has lost power over their drug or alcohol problem (power that can be restored, mind you). This reduction of the program is certainly the result of a radical cultural and attitudinal shift towards addiction – that because we have somehow been involuntarily victimized by addiction and permanently damaged, the best we can hope for is to load up on substitution drugs and hold on by a thread.
Well, that never interested me and I rejected any solution that left me on the edge of a cliff 20 years down the road. In fact, if you see me whining on the edge of a cliff in ten years, please shoot me in the f’ing head. Good thing that has nothing to do with original AA. Good thing that is just the tragic byproduct of how we view addiction today – to placate addicts with the lifetime excuse of the disease beyond their control, entitled to go through life numb and useless, and oh, here are more drugs you can take to spiral deeper into zombieland. We should all reject this cowardly view of our illness. We should all reject the notion that we just have to rip our family’s hearts out forever and ever, and even more disturbing, that doing so is no our fault – so sorry mom, sorry dad, sorry kids, sorry spouse, I can’t help it, the doctor said so.