We found, quite by accident, the cemetery of a closed mental institution near where my daughter now lives. Neglected graves are a problem for closed institutions, and of course as we see here the people were buried without a name, a date, a relationship, or anything besides a number that was given arbitrarily. I can only wonder about #1253. Who was it? How old? Male or female? Many people ended up in institutions due to alcoholism and disabilities resulting from alcoholism. I could have easily been #1253 if I had been born in another time and place.
The speaker at my meeting last night asked the question, “What kind of service are you good at?” He felt he didn’t give a “good” lead, but that there were other aspects of service he was better at and enjoyed more.
I was thinking recently about other methods of recovery from alcoholism, other than AA, and how most of them don’t ask the recovered person to “pass it on.” Lots of recovery aim to get the person better, and maybe to maintain that state of health, but usually they don’t then encourage or require the person who has gotten better to go help other people get better.
I often hear people say that aside from a release from alcohol, one of the best, most important things they’ve gained in AA is an unbelievable community. I also hear that if I don’t participate and work with other alcoholics, I’m in danger of relapse. I’ve also read that other “temperance” (anti-alcohol) movements may have died out because they didn’t reach out.
AA is not a pyramid scheme and no one recruits or gets credit for bringing people in. These days new people usually show up on our doorstep and we do our best to help them. Threats like “if you don’t follow the program you may drink again and if you drink again you may die this time” come from bitter and tragic experience, not an AA manual.
I think it’s safe to say that most of us in AA feel compassion, sympathy toward suffering alcoholics and the desire to share what we’ve found and help them. The admonition to me that I need to do this in order to stay sober is just the kind of kick in the pants I need. Not because I don’t want to help. I do want to help. But because it would be so much easier for me not to help. I’ve gotten my recovery. I’ve got better things to do. Good luck to you.
So I’m trying to view the concept of compassion in a broader sense, to practice this principle in all of my affairs. I am a caretaker, to a large extent. That is natural for me and rewarding for me. But the people and animals I take care of are a select bunch. They are mostly the people and animals that I find appealing to help. I pass by a lot of distress every day that I don’t reach out to touch. I need to grow in compassion, even when the threat of relapse isn’t involved.