I shudder, shudder, shudder when I hear someone say AA is a selfish program. Back to the dictionary and the meaning of words. Selfish, the way it’s commonly used, means taking care of oneself only and without regard for others or to the detriment of others. The word selfish is used many times in the Big Book to mean just that, and it is presented as a bad thing. Not a good thing.
It’s in As Bill Sees It and certainly elsewhere that Bill W said AA is a selfish program. He said that it’s selfish in the same way that a person cannot enlighten someone else while the person himself is not enlightened. You can’t make someone believe in something you don’t believe in (or rarely). You can’t give away what you haven’t got.
If an alcoholic is not sober, she is a danger and detriment to herself and everyone else. This alcoholic must first set about achieving sobriety. When a new person comes into the rooms and is told what a commitment AA needs to be in the beginning, sometimes the person protests. People feel they cannot neglect or leave their children or parents or jobs or what have you in order to go to meetings or to rehab. The point is, this person may actually lose all those things and much more if she doesn’t attain sobriety. In that way, sobriety has to come first.
Rarely, but unfortunately sometimes, I hear a newcomer say that his family or friends are actually against his attendance in AA. There are lots of reasons for that. The family or friends may not want to stop drinking, may be dependent on that person and fear a change, or may have a bad opinion of AA. In those cases, the newcomer has to defy the people who don’t want him in AA and attend, and hopefully most of them will come around to realize that is best.
Usually, though, I hear the “selfish” program phrase thrown around when someone is considering giving less than is appropriate to some other area of life. We are not encouraged to neglect our families, careers, or other responsibilities in order to devote time to AA or our other spiritual quests. It is plainly written again and again that we are to rejoin society and serve and contribute, not crawl away into an AA insulated cave where we selfishly look after our own needs and fulfillment.
It’s a pet peeve and a prejudice of mine that I see lots of “therapy” and pop psychology as being too introspective and selfish to do good for anyone besides the therapist or book author. And I’m NOT commenting on all therapy and all books. I know that people have real needs and realize real benefits every day. Still, for many of us, I do believe that the AA program well worked gives us a good balance of introspection and encouragement to take care of our own – our own being this place and all the people here with us at this time.