A while ago I stumbled across this blog:
They're sometimes funny, often angry, and very passionate in their commitment to "debunking" the 12 Step Industry. (Though right off the bat I think "industry" is a bit of a stretch.)
But I like 'em. I have some powerful disagreements with many of their interpretations of what AA suggests, but I've always been a sucker for the scrappy nose-thumbers of the world. Maybe much to their chagrin and certainly to my amusement, what we most likely have in common is the quality of defiance.
Certainly, while they said a few kind things about Mr. SponsorPants in one post, on the whole they gave me a sound spanking for the answer I gave to someone who wrote in -- and in retrospect I think they may well be right -- or at least, more than half right, even though I don't think I was as totally "off the beam" as they seem to.
23 years of regular AA attendance, 21 years clean and sober, hundreds of sponsees and thousands of meetings under my belt, I believe anything that provokes a good hard look at what AA is and what it says and what members of the fellowship do (and do not do) is an important and vital thing.
They do not advocate against being sober, they take the position that AA gets some important things wrong. Obviously I disagree with them, but it helps me to hear them out. And some of what they say is actually very worthy of consideration.
In particular, this most recent piece, entitled "12 Rights for Newcomers to AA/12 Step" is excellent. They even submitted it to AA's Grapevine (for the new kids, the Grapevine is AA's official newsletter, and it has stories and information about both AA the fellowship and AA the organization, in addition to articles and essays of note about the 12 Steps and staying sober). Apparently the Grapevine sent them a nice rejection letter, and chose not to publish it, which, as good muckrakers are wont to do, set them to muttering darkly, but I'm not certain I see anything shady in the rejection. I know nothing of the Grapevine's editorial policy, though, so <shrug> who knows?
I will include the link so it can be seen at the source (that seems like the proper protocol for this sort of thing) but I will also for convenience (and without their permission, I should add, so if they want me to yank it they have but to ask) copy and paste it here:
The following has not been written, edited or endorsed by Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, AA’s General Service Office, nor AA’s Board of Directors. It is simply my humble offering to a fellowship whose sole purpose (as per its own ‘Preamble’) is “to stay sober and help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety.”
I fully intend to forward these ’suggestions’ to AAWS for their review.
The following “12 Rights For New-Comers To AA/12-Step” are merely suggestions, and should not be considered the province of ‘new-comers’ only. Even if “personal recovery depends on AA unity” (Tradition 1), AA is nothing without the individual ‘person’.
As a new-comer, you are sure to hear the phrase, “It’s a selfish program” within your first 90 days. With that in mind, let’s enumerate the rights you have as an individual within AA or any similar 12-step program:
1 – You have the right to trust yourself and place your own emotional, physical, & spiritual well-being above all things; although you may truly believe that it is, indeed, ‘insanity’ (or the ‘insanity’ of your alcoholism, drug addiction, etc.) that brought you to the 12-Step community, and you may truly believe that only an external ‘higher power’ can save you — you must know that within you an inherent spark of goodness and rationality resides; you trusted your decision to turn to 12-Step — now trust that there is goodness within you & you can draw upon it.
2 – You have the right to protect your own emotional, physical, & spiritual well-being at any and all costs; in the course of your own recovery always remember: “Primum non nocere” — first, do no harm, least of all to yourself.
3 – You have the right to look with a critical eye & ear toward your own discourse, the discourse of the program in which you are involved, and the discourse of the groups you attend; it’s written & often noted aloud, “It’s a program of suggestions” — suggestions you can take or leave according to your own better judgment; truth is found only after long deliberation & it often changes with the passage of time.
4 – You have the right to believe or disbelieve anything you want; again, “It’s a program of suggestions” — only you will know what is ‘true’ for you … at any time or in any situation.
5 – You have the right to use discretion when speaking aloud — whether privately or in a meeting; you may be “as sick as your secrets” but you’re also as vulnerable as you allow yourself to be; choose your words & the venue in which you speak them aloud advisedly.
6 – You have the right to go at your own pace; it’s “A day at a time” right? nothing and no one can ‘make’ you ‘entirely ready’ to do anything; trust & have faith in yourself — any loving ‘higher power’ would grant you that gift first & foremost.
7 – You have the right to acknowledge & honor your own strengths — even while ‘asking for the removal of your shortcomings’; the simple act of asking for the ‘removal of your shortcomings’ takes more than simple humility; it takes great inner reserve & courage.
8 – You have the right to put yourself right at the top of the list of people you may have harmed & are willing to make amends to; the word ‘amend’ is a verb which means “to put things right”; get right with yourself first & getting right with others will be of far less effort.
9 – You have the right to trust yourself & your better judgment when it comes to ‘making amends’; sometimes the best way to make things right is to simply leave things as they are; sometimes a wish for someone’s health, happiness, & prosperity is far more appropriate than an overwrought, unwelcome letter of apology.
10 – You have the right not to be a doormat; there’s no better advice than, “Check your own damned self!”; still, your life & your actions are things to approach with joy & creativity; express sorrow & apology only when you feel that it’s the right thing to do — not for every tiny, unexpected blunder; you’re human for higher power’s sake! you’re going to f**k up sometimes & that’s just part of the human condition; chin up, smile, move on.
11 – You have the right embrace & practice your faith as you see fit, as well as the right not to do so; these days, even hard science is acknowledging the benefits of ‘mindful meditation’ … but I ain’t the boss of you and neither is your sponsor, your group, or the Big Book; if you’re staying sober and bringing good things to yourself and the people around you, then you’re doing the right thing … period.
12 – You have the right to share or withhold your experience, strength, & hope; helping people when they’re down (alcoholic, drug addict, what the hell ever) is just the right thing to do — when you’re strong enough & best able to do so; ‘carrying a message’ isn’t nearly the act of courage and compassion that the act of simply listening is; if you know that someone is hurting themselves then let them know that you know it; if you strongly suspect someone is seriously on the verge of taking their own life (through inadvertent or explicit actions) then it’s your legal duty to alert the authorities; don’t let anyone tell you that “You can’t keep a drunk/drug addict from killing themselves. Only God can do that.”; you are your brothers’ keeper … deal with it.
I’m not holding my breath for the printing & distribution of a third ‘lampshade’. But the above was written with sincerity, humility, and an earnest wish to offer strength and ease to any AA ‘new-comer’ … or any AA/12-Step member for that matter. Acknowledge the divinity within yourself and you will be free.
As I said, I think the above is wonderful -- well written and makes some great suggestions. I don't see anything in it that contradicts what AA suggests, either (except that "selfish" thing in the opening, which I address at the bottom of this post) ... nor does it fly in the face of what I ever imagine any of my sponsors saying to me along the way, nor do I myself personally disagree with what it says.
I wish the "Stinkin' Thinkers" well, and as many of the commentors on their site have suggested, it's great that they found a way to be sober that worked for them, and they're doing a great service by sharing that with others who may be struggling with alcoholism.
I believe there are many paths to the top of the same mountain -- I give them a jaunty wave over there on theirs as I keep trudging along on mine.
p.s. -- and they call "H.P." Hocus Pocus -- LOL I love that ... I am totally going to use that, even though I fear they might get mad at me for borrowing that, too.
p.p.s. -- some of the pro-AA commentors on their site are less than diplomatic, or downright argumentative. I believe it is possible to state with passion your side of an argument without giving in to some of our lower impulses. If any pro-12 Steppers visit the site and feel the need to comment I hope that it is done in the spirit which AA suggests we approach all such things: With love and tolerance for others. That, after all, is our code.
p.p.p.s. -- And a personal note to speedy0314: It is a selfless program, not a selfish program -- I think that gets turned around a lot by people in an effort to suggest to someone new that making their sobriety a priority will help them stay sober, but in my experience in no way is AA a "selfish" program.