I was thinking about the revelatory nature of AA and they way we are encouraged and supported and urged to share on the deepest level. There are lots of aspects of this that interest me. I have said and heard so many things over the years, it makes me pause.
On the very deepest level there is probably the fifth step. Where I live now, many people choose to do their fifth step with an anonymous clergy person. There’s a religious organization that supplies such people to listen, and I guess you can look at it as a bit of a tradition here. It’s not anything I heard much about in the other places I’ve lived. I’m sure people did it, but it’s a common experience here.
An anonymous fifth step must certainly be better than no fifth step, and I can understand that sometimes some people feel the only way they can possibly do it is with someone they don’t know and won’t see again. Still, I wouldn’t do that or recommend it unless there truly is no other way.
But THE fifth step is a very small part of the revealing that goes on at AA meetings. I’ve heard people admit to just about every sin except for murder, and I have known at least two people well who did kill someone with a car by driving drunk. I knew someone for some time who lost a baby to fetal alcohol syndrome. I’ve heard people say they have stolen and cheated and lied. People have been unkind to their pets and their children and their parents and their neighbors. People have wasted money and resources and opportunities.
I took this topic from As Bill Sees It, and the section is titled something like “We can’t do it alone.” The chairs pictured are from my home group, and after the picture was taken people sat in the chairs and talked things over together.
I’m an introvert. As I’ve written before, I believe this makes it tough to work AA in a way that someone more extroverted wouldn’t experience. It is by its very nature a very social thing, a self help group. I always hesitate to say that because I know that now and in the past, people in some very extreme situations have stayed sober without other AAs around to help. But in general, when people and meetings are available, it is vital to recovery to go socialize. One of the awesome aspects of the situation is that within the AA program, there are lots of other people who have trouble socializing also. And even the friendly outgoing people are used to being with and helping the loners.
I think the social aspect of it keeps some people out of the program. I read blogs written by people who know they could benefit so much from going to AA, but who don’t go and continue to suffer. Others make up their minds to stop drinking and do so, but they don’t go to meetings and they don’t share with other alcoholics. I don’t count either of those groups of people as being successful at dealing with their drinking problem.
I’ve also seen the culture where the only sharing a person does is with his or her sponsor. I’ll have to write about “back in the day,” but when I started AA, in the late 1970s, it was sort of required at the beginning that a person get phone numbers and call and talk to people in addition to their sponsor. Personally, I’m extremely grateful that this is how I started. I hated it, and I would not have done it had there been another way. I believe I would have stuck with just a sponsor and maybe another friend or two, and that would have been it. Because it was expected I would call and speak to another person every day, because it was required, I did it, and it broke a huge hole through my wall of isolation.
I also imagine that for those lucky extroverts, the socializing and sharing that goes on in AA is of an excellent quality and the content is supreme. Whether we like it or not, every day we have a chance to hear about the very humanness of those around us, and to know we’re not alone. I have no doubt too that all I’ve said and all I’ve heard has made me more tolerant of and patient with the people outside the rooms, in the rest of my life. Almost anything anyone can tell me I have heard already, and I’ve known someone who has gone through it, whatever it may be. I know that the people who seem arrogant and all together are not. I’ve heard their counterparts describe it and explain it many times over.