If you want what we have 4 of 4
- Part 4 of 4
Sponsors may need sponsees more then sponsees need a sponsor.
Sponsors need to be honest, open minded and willing.
But the weak-cup-of-coffee practice had even more serious flaws built into
it. The relatively superficial life change, which it produces, is
sufficient to get some alcoholics sober. It is not adequate--it is not
effective--it simply doesn't work--for a very large number of others. This
is particularly evident with the "hard" cases--the alcoholics who have been
badly beat up physically and mentally before they arrive at their 1st A.A.
meeting; the people whose alcoholism is complicated with drug abuse,
perversion, criminal or psychotic tendencies, or a streak of
psychopathology; and the "slippers," those who have developed a pattern of
hanging around A.A., staying sober for periods, but relapsing repeatedly
into drinking. (Generally, the slippers are alcoholics with psychopathic
tendencies who keep coming back to A.A. but are unwilling or unable to work
with root principles, notably rigorous honesty.) Weak A.A. does not touch
most of these people. They cannot stay sober that way.
Yet if these hard cases find their way into an environment where strong
A.A., and nothing but strong A.A., is being practiced, many of them are
able to achieve lasting sobriety. The East Ridge Community in upstate New
York has worked with hundreds of these tough drunks over the past 12 years.
Strong A.A. is the standard fare at East Ridge, and they have a recovery
rate of over 70% with these so-called A.A. failures. No success turns to
success for the lion's share of them when weak A.A. is replaced with strong
There is another, more insidious, danger built into weak A.A. In many cases
the "recovery" produced by watered-down approaches to the 12 Steps fails to
hold up over the long haul. What looked in the beginning like an easier,
softer way to maintain happy sobriety yields progressively less and less
contentment, finally ending in a complete reversal of momentum and a
relapse into serious personal misery. The end result may be a return to
active alcoholism; or, short of that total disaster, it may be a sinking
out into a life of discontented abstinence, marred by some combination of
tension, resentment, depression, compulsive sick sex, and an overall sense
of meaninglessness. Either way, it is a final failure to reap the benefits
of the A.A. Program; it is, in the last analysis, a failure to recover.
Two disturbing tendencies are noticeable in contemporary A.A. One is toward
a lower recovery rate overall. For the 1st 20 years, the standard A.A.
recovery estimate was 75%. An experience was that 50% of the alcoholics who
came to A.A. got sober right away and stayed sober. Another 25% had trouble
for a while but eventually got sober for good, and the remaining 25% never
made a recovery. Then there was a period of some years when A.A.
headquarters stopped making the 75% recovery claim in their official
literature. In 1968, A.A.'s General Service Organization published a survey
indicating an overall recovery rate of about 67%. The net of all this seems
to be that as A.A. has gotten bigger and older, its effectiveness has
dropped from about 3 in 4 to about 2 in 3. (Note: 2 in 3 was in 1976--our
data shows numbers much less in 1997--1 in 15).
The 2nd unhealthy trend movement-wise is not backed by figures, but it is
clear enough to any careful observer of the A.A. scene. As the fellowship
grows older in time, its class of old-timers, alcoholics sober 10 years and
longer, grows. And the question of the staying power of an A.A. recovery
looms even larger. It is an unhappy fact that growing numbers of these
old-timers find the joy going out of their sobriety, that many of them
search around frantically for ways to recapture the old zest for booze-free
living, often ending up in such blind alleys as lunatic religions,
dangerous pop psychological fads, or chemical alternatives like acid, pot,
tranquilizers, and mood elevators. And far too many end up either back
drinking or, what is almost as sad, sunk in despondency, hostility, bizarre
acting-out patterns of one sort or another, or just plain, devastating
All of this is unnecessary. The gradually shrinking recovery rate and the
old-timer blues do not require a complex or an innovative solution. The
answer lies in a return to original, strong A.A. The men who wrote the Big
Book were, as it turns out, right after all. There is no easier, softer
way. The extra work and commitment required by the full Program approach
pay enormous dividends. They make sobriety fun because they do not make
sobriety an end in itself. Mere non-drinking is a very negative kind of
life goal. Even the power of a world-scale society of non-drinkers can be
in and of itself only a temporary and limited deterrent for most alcoholics.
The majority of those who become addicted are people with a mystical
streak, an appetite for inexhaustible bliss. We sought in bottles what can
only be found in spiritual experience. A.A. worked in the 1st place because
its 12 Steps were a workable set of guidelines to spiritual experience.
Growth of the movement made possible for a time a kind of parasitism in
which partial practitioners and non-practitioners of the spiritual
principles were able to feed off the strength of those who had undergone
real spiritual experiences. But at this point in time, (1976) the parasites
have already drained the host organism of a considerable portion of its
It is late in the day to be sounding a call for a return to the original
way, the way of faithful practice of the full Program. Still, a great deal
of life is left in the fellowship, and a major revival is possible if
enough of us see our dangerous situation, personally and as a fellowship,
in time. What we need to do is clear enough. It is spelled out in the 1st 7
Chapters of the Big Book. What it all boils down to--especially for us
old-timers--is a willingness to continue practicing all the principles in
all our affairs today, rather than resting on our laurels, taking our stand
on what we did way back when, in our 1st weeks and months of sobriety.
But we must not fail to face squarely the need for change, the need for
re-dedication. Complacency, smugness in our record of success, is our
greatest enemy. If we, as a recovered-alcoholic society, are unwilling to
reverse our present course, the outlook is clear enough. We stand to
recapitulate in less than a century what the Christian church has spent the
last 2,000 years demonstrating: that even the best of human institutions
tend to deteriorate in time; and that size in spiritual organizations is
all too often achieved at the expense of compromise of basic principles and
the progressive abandonment of original goals and practices.
Love and myGgwy Ian S..
Get Real, Get Now
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