Saturday, February 5, 2011
Evolution or Heresy?
We've been bouncing this question of "Does AA need to Change" around in bits and pieces. My take is that some feel change is needed, some feel it's too late, and others feel that AA is fine as it is. I'm making this a separate post 'cause I'm tired of scrolling through a ton of comments to glean some bits of opinion/wisdom/whatever.
Here's my concern. I'm in AA to stay sober and help others achieve sobriety. Simple mission statement, but the "help others achieve sobriety" part is starting to bother me. Specifically, being a sponsor. AA literature, for what it's worth, says that I can deal only with alcoholism and am not qualified to deal with any other problems an alcoholic may have as I have no experience in areas other than alcoholism. Spot on! I'm a kosher alcoholic, never smoked weed or any of that stuff, never abused prescription drugs. None of that stuff. I'm restricted to dealing only with alcoholism.
If I follow those guidelines, I'm not going to sponsor many people. My screening of a sponsee would be to first ask if they have any other problems- other addictions, mental health issues, etc. If the answer is yes, then it's "Sorry, go find someone else. I'm not qualified to be your sponsor." And guess what? 99% of the people I screen will have to be turned down. Or I could have the option, I suppose, to say that I'll deal with the alcoholism, but you need someone else to sponsor you for your prescription drug abuse so go to NA for that, and to GA if you gamble, and so on. And then I'll have to make sure that he's doing all that and successfully recovering from those other addictions or his recovery from alcoholism will never happen.
Technically, I'm not given a choice here. If I think AA is fine, then I guess that's what I'll do. But I'm also a realist and know that the odds of getting a sponsee to do all that shit is slim to none. He'll turn around and walk out the door. So I take the guy on and try as best I can to walk him through the steps and show him how to get sober. But in doing that, I can't ignore his other issues/addictions. Those problems have to be solved concurrently or none, including alcoholism, will ever be. Sure, I won't even try to deal with mental health problems other than insist he get help from those qualified to give it. That's way above my league. But I can keep an eye on him to watch for signs that such issues aren't interfering with his recovery.
Which leads me back to the problem of change. Should AA change? Should it evolve? Are they the same thing? I don't think that AA should ever change in the sense that the program as outlined in the 164 is the reason we've been around for so long and have been so successful. If it works, don't fix it. But how about evolving? How about continuing to do what we have been doing, but do it better? Bill Wilson clearly stated that AA must evolve or it will die. I don't see any evolution here. If anything, I see AA circling the wagons.
AA has to acknowledge that the drunk who walks through the door today probably isn't the same one that walked in 75, or ever 25 years ago. It's time to pull the head out of the sand. At best, most are alcoholics and addicts. At worst, they have a lot of other problems that weren't ever recognized 25 years ago. I mentioned Pathological Gambling in another post and that's just one example of what I'm talking about. AA also has to acknowledge that you can't deal with alcoholism without dealing with these other warts. But I don't have a warm fuzzy that AA is gonna evolve and start addressing these things. We had talked about changing the Big Book or maybe another publication talking about current advances in alcoholism treatment etc. But I don't see that happening either. And given the problems we've already hashed over about with the threat within AA from the rogue groups, we may be screwed.
So what's the answer? Again, I dunno. Lots of questions, not many answers. From all the comments I've gleaned from my last post I've come to accept that there's not a damn thing we can do from the dirty street level to effect any changes. Best we can do is stick to the AA program as it was originally designed and hope for the best. While I do that, however, I'm evolving. Not changing, but evolving. I'm going to take on guys with cross addictions and do what I can to help them, never losing my focus on alcoholism.
Since AA isn't gonna educate me as to how I can best do that, I'll have to educate myself. I'll never stray from my primary purpose of helping another alcoholic achieve sobriety, but how I help them is gonna change. It has to. Dowg brought up the mental health issue in another blog. That's a good start. Some guys have talked about other treatment programs being successful. I wanna learn what's working for these other folks. Move over Ralph. another heretic is joining you. I'm sticking to the 12 steps like white on rice, but I'm also going to look at a lot of other stuff outside the confines of AA. And that makes me a heretic.
So. Am I tilting at windmills here? Are there other answers? What do you guys think? Inquiring minds want to know....