Saturday, February 12, 2011

More From Jim

AA’s Singleness of Purpose

Recently, I received a call from a newcomer through the “Bridge the Gap” Program that our
district conducts with treatment centers in this area. I met him upon his release from the facility
and took him to a meeting of my home group Monday Night. As newcomers do in my group, he
sat quietly and listened and all was well.

The following Wednesday, he met me for a meeting that we carry to the Spartanburg Detox.
During the meeting, he introduced himself as an addict and proceeded to share a little bit on the
problems he has had with drugs. Following the meeting, as I was giving him a copy of our book,
I decided to have a talk with him regarding his sharing. I asked, “I noticed that you introduced
yourself as an addict and I need to ask, Do you have a problem with alcohol?” He shared, “ No,
I haven’t had a drink in over a year and a half. I don’t like alcohol and never really drank too
much, my problem is with the drugs.” I then asked, “ If you don’t have an alcohol problem, then
why are you coming to AA meetings?” His response was “When I was in the treatment center,
they told me to come to AA because there is more recovery there.”

I explained to him that I was not trying to make him feel unwelcome in AA, but in order to be of
help to him, I had to know where he was coming from. He again stated that he never has had a
problem with alcohol, that drinking does not create the craving that it does in alcoholics of our
type. Knowing that many alcoholics of our type reach their “bottom” through the aid of drugs and
only later come to discover and admit to their alcoholism, I did not decide that he was non-
alcoholic or that AA was not the path of recovery for him. I told him “I will help you to get started
in recovery and we will begin by studying the Doctor’s Opinion in the Big Book and I suggest
you read that as soon as possible. I will help, but I will only help if you attend NA meetings in
addition to your AA meetings. This is because there will come a time and place where you will
have to take suggestions to stay sober that go against your nature- things you don’t want to do-
and if you are not absolutely convinced that the person giving you the suggestions has
overcome the same problem you have, you will not follow the suggestions that may save your

That is where we parted and I did not here from him for a week. I had been thinking that I had
run a newcomer off when I got a call from him. He said, “I just wanted to let you know that I am
all right. I am going to NA and have a home group that I like and am going to pick a sponsor this
week. I just want to thank you for your help and I’ll call once a week to let you know how it’s

Why am I telling this story? I guess I feel that it shows real growth in my AA program. In the
past, I would have been more comfortable to welcome this non-alcoholic addict and attempt to
sponsor him in AA. It makes me feel better to be all-inclusive, to say all are welcome, to play the
good Samaritan to one and all. I would have chosen my comfort over his welfare and the
welfare of AA. My efforts to sponsor non-alcoholics in AA have always failed and I now realize
that the way to be of real help is to help the non-alcoholic find the help he needs from those best
equipped to give this help. Singleness of purpose not only benefits AA as a whole, but those
who seek recovery for whatever problem they have. There are many fine 12 Step programs out
there whose singleness of purpose makes them best equipped to help the non-alcoholic addict,
gambler, co-dependent, etc. My failure to realize this and direct these persons to the program
they need is selfish and ego-rewarding, choosing what feels good to me over what is right for
them. We do not have all the answers for all the problems known to man.

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