How To Think About The Traditions, 8

Read This First: How To Think… it’s important to understand that we as a greater society have lost the ability to think critically…

8. Alcoholics Anonymous should remain forever non-professional, but our service centers may employ special workers.
Alcoholics Anonymous should remain forever nonprofessional. We define professionalism as the occupation of counseling alcoholics for fees or hire. But we may employ alcoholics where they are going to perform those services for which we might otherwise have to engage non-alcoholics. Such special services may be well recompensed. But our usual A.A. Twelfth Step work is never to be paid for.

I never hear people go near this subject anymore because so many people in recovery become alcoholism counselors, and now “recovery coaches”. This is absolute bullshit. It is 100% a violation of this Tradition and therefore, the first, fifth, sixth, seventh, nineth, tenth, and eleventh, for us alkies to be working in Treatment.

We are so geared toward “not offending” anyone these days, that we don’t flat out tell our sponsees that they are violating this Tradition when they become counselors, but it is just not right. Not only is it not right, it is going to kill us. AA success has become based upon materialism.

I am going to quote Bernard Smith’s Talk from p. 276 of AA Comes Of Age. The full article is posted, and I provide a link here.

And it struck me, as a nonalcoholic, that A.A. was a way of life for me, too, and for countless others like me who had never sought escape in a bottle or in those other refuges to which men turn from the pressures of a materialistic world. The still-drinking alcoholic, as should be clear to all who observe mankind today, has no monopoly on unhappiness or on the feeling that life lacks purpose and fulfillment.“…

...”I have frequently attempted to define the fellowship of AA., with little success, until one day while in England I listened to a broadcast delivered by Canon C. E. Raven, a noted British religious leader. In the course of this broadcast, Canon Raven set forth the conditions of a true fellowship in these words:
Three conditions are necessary for true fellowship:

  • The possession of a common ideal involving a complete release from selfishness and division.
  • The discharge of a common task big enough to capture the imagination and give expression to loyalty.
  • And the comradeship, the ”togetherness,” thus involved as we find out the joy and power of belonging to an organic society and engaging in a whole-time service.

We can find it at its fullest extent where the ideal is highest and most exacting, where the task extends and integrates every ounce of our strength and every element of our being, where the comradeship is so solid and deep that we respond one to another without conscious effort, realize the unspoken need, and react to it spontaneously and at once.

Under such conditions, all the vitality that we usually waste upon our jealousies and our vanities-upon keeping up appearances and putting other people in their proper place- becomes available for creative use.

These words have meaning for A.A., I believe, not only as a definition of a true fellowship and of our goals and attitudes but as reminders that A.A. is not a static, passive social organism but, in its largest sense, a dynamic, creative force that releases our latent power to live and act constructively.“…

Not long ago I was flying high over the deserts of our great Southwest. Here and there, almost out of nowhere, were tiny patches of lush, green growth, surrounded by great expanses of brown, lifeless desert. My mind turned to the great springs of water lying under this desert expanse which, if tapped, would cause the entire desert to flower. And I thought that God provides the water but we have to dig the wells.

Those green, lush patches I likened to our groups where, with the faith derived from the Twelve Steps, we dug the wells that caused patches in the desert of life to flower. And I reflected how we have learned that we, alone, could not transform the desert in which we lived; we could not dig that well alone. For in A.A. the whole is truly greater than the sum of all its parts. The infusing power of the group, of our fellowship, draws something more out of each of us than any of us by himself can supply. Each of us in turn draws out of the spiritual reservoir of our fellowship the added courage and will which makes each one the stronger and our fellowship the greater.

What we can draw by living according to the tenets of A.A. is something more than what the materialist regards as happiness.

Recently I had occasion to examine the definition of happiness in a new, unabridged dictionary. To my surprise, the first definition listed ”good luck, good fortune, prosperity.” This materialistic definition is a long way from the concept of happiness to be found in A.A. The second definition in that dictionary, however, was directly applicable to the kind of happiness men and women seek and find in A.A., the kind that can be sustained, by living in accordance with the Twelve Steps. This definition reads: ”A state of well-being characterized by relative permanence, by dominantly agreeable emotion, ranging in value from mere content to positive felicity, and by a natural desire for its continuation.”

Measured in terms of this definition I believe that those who live by the principles of A.A. enjoy a greater measure of happiness than any class or group of people to which I have ever been exposed. I gave a great deal of thought to these definitions. I reflected, for example, that dictionary definitions follow current socially accepted usage, and I was disturbed by the fact that the first definition of happiness should be couched in such materialistic terms as ”good luck, good fortune, prosperity.”

So I examined a number of dictionaries published in the 1890’s. I found that the word ”prosperity” appeared in none of these reference works under the definition of ”happiness.” I then happened upon a standard dictionary published in 1927. By this time the definition ”good luck, good fortune, prosperity” had not only appeared but reached second place. And by 1943 it had reached first place, supplanting that definition of happiness by which we in A.A. prefer to be blessed, and a totally material conception of happiness had now been accepted as a definition of the goal of men and women in modern society.

One might say, therefore, that our Twelve Steps, judged by the socially accepted standard of happiness of this age, are steps backward. But they are steps backward into the universal heart of man, back into the true spirit of man. The world will have moved forward when our dictionary definition of happiness is revised backward.

The reason why I quote so much of this article here is because material success seems to have taken over as the goal in AA today, which is why we seem to be ignoring working in treatment by alcoholics as a direct violation of the 8th Tradition and even encourage alcoholics to open half-way houses, treatment centers, and become counselors and recovery coaches. It is because we have lost our way and have fallen for the proxy for freedom and happiness that the materialistic society we live in is offering.

I have known several people who have become counselors and not one of them has been happy, joyous, and free. One of them drank and died, because he stopped going to meetings because his whole life was helping alcoholics that he could not go to meetings on his off-time. One of my friends who has been a counselor for 20 years, has never actually recovered himself because he is constantly battling with what he teaches in Treatment trying not to apply it to himself.

My sponsor said to me about it – “Nothing wrong with wearing 2 hats – only problem is, I ain’t got 2 heads” – and that’s it right there. The 12 steps unifies us into one person under God, and when our work is too close to our Spiritual life, and yet we are under the authority of a “boss” to tell us how to deal with those folks in front of us, it’s just usually too much of a Spiritual strain.

I did it for one day. I worked in a teenage treatment facility where they were hiring AAer’s so they could pay us $10 per hour vs. paying an MSW $30 an hour – at the end of my shift, I was sitting there reading the Alcoholics Anonymous book to those kids, and I quit because I don’t get paid for 12th step work.

You can pretend all day long that you can make it work, but I don’t see how it’s any different than Charlie Townes asking Bill W. to be a lay-therapist, and the group telling him he can’t do it. How is it that Bill W. couldn’t do it, but we can?

The Recovery Coach job is even worse because that’s just a “hired” baby-sitter/sponsor – and yet you have none of the benefits of being a sponsor. There is no way of doing this thing for money and getting away with it.

I have a sponsee who is an alcoholic, but she also has the family disease -since her dad is a drunk. She works as a treatment counselor. She has a really hard time seeing the unmanageability in her own life because she gets paid to spend her days telling other alcoholics how to run their lives. I have literally had to take her through the steps so slowly – so that she can really see this about herself – and see how she is managing everyone else – otherwise what is the point? I wanted her to quit that job, but she is a single-mom. I have to wait for God to take care of that with her – because she still doesn’t really see it – how she is managing everyone’s life around her except her own. She got into that business because she is an artist, and has that temperament and did not know what else to do and no one guided her away from it. Me, personally, I pray to God for the right position, to utilize my skills, but I do not succumb to any temptation that might make me violate any of these Principles.

Even hiring an alcoholic to be the Central Office Manager is cutting it close- we could really hire a non-alcoholic with experience in organizing volunteers and then that person would not end up doing 12-step work for money all day long… but it never happens that way unless the Central Office Manager is a past Delegate who really understands Traditions. That is rare.