“There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments, and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance—that principle is contempt prior to investigation.”
Even though there is debate over to whom this quote should be attributed, the quote above plays a large role in my recovery. People say things poorly and leave important context out of the written word with stunning regularity – and I am most definitely not immune (though there is a reason my posts are so long), and we haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of politics, in which the entire game is as rigged as a Las Vegas slot machine. Speaking of politics, the post you are about to read was written and edited in seething anger over the news that a California family is attempting to sue the sponsors of a man and woman who hooked up within AA, fell in “love” moved in together and relapsed together, after being warned not to begin the relationship in the first place… The end result was that the boyfriend/fiancé, who was ordered by the court to attend AA meetings, murdered the girl (it is my understanding that he received several decades in prison for the murder). The best account I’ve read so far is here. You will see, I hope, why I was angry at the lawsuit against the sponsors but if you don’t get it, here’s the problem: The doors of AA are open to all who want to recover from alcoholism, without prejudice. All. Add to the normal people who decide to walk in the door, the court ordered people (I was one myself – the State of Michigan, the whole State, wanted me to sober up) sentenced to attend, whether they want to or not, and I am put in a position, with absolutely no authority, of making moral judgments on people that professionals who make a living doing so are unable to make reliably. I have seen murderers recover and transform into happy, decent members of society. Who am I to deny them the help that I can offer for fear they might do something bad? We’ve all, everyone who has walked through the doors of AA, done something bad. When we walk through those doors the first time, are sick.
There is another, darker side to this though. Women are vulnerable to the predators amongst our ranks. While there are just as many female predators who are looking for a sugar daddy, the ramifications of getting into a relationship too early with a still sick, newly sober person, as the linked case shows, are far worse for women. I have known of only one of these predators in all of my years and he was never an abuser (always just looking for the next good lay) and he never frequents my normal meetings anymore because we abuse him (and warn off the targets of his attempts). We do (or in his case, did) call them out on this behavior, as was done repeatedly in the case above. In the end though, because we have no authority and will help anyone who is willing to receive it, our hands are tied. We do not have access to databases, to court records, to prior conviction records, to police records… The only thing we get to rely on is observation. So, I will continue to do my very best to ensure that both new men and women understand when they walk in the door, new relationships are to be avoided at all costs for the first year (or more) in recovery because we are simply too sick mentally to make sound decisions in matters of the heart. In the end, that’s about all I can do. With that, my post:
You send us the dregs of society, you send us the troubled ones, the guttered ones and you beg, please fix my son. Fix my daughter. My wife. My husband. My father. My mother. My criminal. Fix them so they can find happiness and I may know peace.
And we do our best to help them mend, help to make them whole and productive and wonderful again, to the best of our limited ability. We give them all of the knowledge we have, all of the support we can. We do this free of charge, without a fancy degree. Armed only with decades of knowledge, a book and the experience of going from being one of the dregs to a productive member of society.
I help others do what I did by offering only my experience, strength and hope (and a breakfast, lunch or dinner now and again). I do what you are unwilling or unable to do and I do so without desire of praise or compensation. I help others because someone helped me.
This thankless job requires that I be part priest, part pacifist, part warrior, part psychologist, part gentleman, part friend and part mentor and believe me, if it were easy you would already be doing it. I do get something in return for my effort, though not material. I get a daily reprieve from being like those you send me for help, for it is by helping another to recover from a hopeless state of being that I may continue to live the happy, free and productive life that I have grown to love.
This doesn’t require your participation or even that you believe in what we do or why we do it. Certainly, we aren’t for everyone. The truth is though, what we do works. We are millions strong yet we are quiet and respectful of the second (often, third, fourth or fifth) chance we’ve been given.
Now, this free service also comes with a cost to you, the masses, who wish happiness for the drunk in your life and peace in yours…
You will let me do my work without regulation, without governance, without leaders. This is how we do what we do and there is no bargaining this away. You will not bully us into uselessness with silly lawsuits. You will not sit from on high and dictate who I will or will not help. You will not craft legislation with the goal of forcing us to desist in our one purpose: to help others recover from alcoholism, you would have better luck outlawing coffee makers and friendship. You will not turn us into your unpaid police force or your snitches. You will accept, from time to time, that unseemly things will happen within our rabble and you will accept that we cannot fix someone who is unwilling to fix themselves, no matter how much you want us to. You will accept that attendance does not equate to progress because it most certainly does not (though it doesn’t hurt). Above all, you will accept that we are not your son’s, daughter’s, husband’s, wife’s, father’s, mother’s, grandfather’s or grandmother’s babysitter. It is not our fault they come to us wrecked, it’s the nature of the disease.
This will be a bitter pill to swallow, admittedly. However if you think you can do better, free of charge, there is nothing between you and getting it done but air and opportunity. Here’s an easy way to look at this; when you get that pompous, egotistical idea that forcing us to follow a few silly rules will mean we should be able to cease all bad things happening the other 23 hours of the day, when you wonder “Why couldn’t they stop “x” from happening, where were they?” Before you ask that question, ask where were you. Where were you when your piece of shit son got the bright idea, “if you can’t fuck it, kill it”? Where were you when your daughter learned she could fuck to get what she wanted materially without working for it? Where was the legal system that is equipped and has the authority to handle these problems? Where were the shrinks and doctors? Oh, you’ll let me shovel your kid’s shit but that does not give you the ground to provide instructions on how I do it or to tell me where I may bury it.
Ladies and gentlemen, I’ve been turning shit into sunshine for more than two decades. You think you want to sue a sponsor simply because he tried to help a bad apple? Sue me. You can have every dime I’ve ever made from the service of trying to make this world a better place, one recovering drunk at a time. You owe me about $10,000. Better yet, donate it. I don’t want your filthy money.