Saturday 19 April 2014

Fair to the Newcomer?

Grapevine October 1945

Since I believe that almost without exception alcoholics are deep-rooted individualists, I deplore a tendency I have noted recently among certain A.A. groups to lay down the law to newcomers. I have in mind specifically the article appearing in the September issue of The Grapevine regarding the procedure followed by the Genesee group of Rochester, N. Y., in the education of what that group terms "novices." The article invites comment--even to the extent of criticism--so I would like to express my (one individual's) entirely personal views on a subject of seeming importance to the future healthy growth of A.A.

I came into A.A. when the membership numbered approximately 2,000 with the distinct understanding that the only requirement was the honest admission on my part that I had a serious drinking problem and that I sincerely wanted to do something about it (i.e., Step No. 1).

Beyond that no one told me what I had to do about anything but it was definitely suggested I attend regular meetings as soon and as often as possible.
These meetings were my course of training and membership was up to me, not my sponsor, nor by approval of the group. Let me add hastily, at this point, that I do believe meetings, conducted by older members, at which newcomers can ask questions and present their problems and at which the 12 Steps are explained, are often most helpful.

Any other course of instruction seems to me to border on self-righteousness on the part of older members, the anathema of any alcoholic.

Mention is also made of the booklet prepared by the Genesee group for the purpose of preparing a "prospective candidate" for his first meeting.
I recently acquired a copy of this booklet which is entitled, "Rudiments of A.A." Again I must take exception to the answer contained therein to a supposed question from a "prospect" or "novice."

"Q. All right--I am an alcoholic and I really want to quit drinking forever. Am I now ready for A.A.?"

"A. Not quite, but you have come a long way. One further step is necessary.
You must have a belief in God and faith in His power to help you."

To answer the question of whether or not this is good medicine for the newcomer, let us consider for a moment the 12 Steps of the A.A. program.

It will be remembered that there is no mention of "God, as we understand Him," until the 3rd Step, although reference is made to a "Power greater than ourselves" in the 2nd Step.

I take it that no A.A. of any experience whatsoever expects the newcomer to accept or to understand the entire program by the time he is ready for his first meeting.

I have never claimed to be agnostic or atheistic but that answer might well have frightened me away from A.A. forever. The spiritual aspect of the program often takes the individual a long time to acquire but faith in a Higher Power eventually comes to us if we continue to have faith in the group and endeavor to the best of our ability to help others.

Finally, although I have been "dry" now some four and one-half years, which is, of course, comparatively unimportant as long as I remain "dry" for the current 24 hours, I am unenlightened and probably a little stupid and have not yet learned what comprise the Four Absolutes.

For me the 12 Steps seem to be sufficiently well thought out to assure permanent sobriety if I remember to work on them all and don't become careless or complacent.

However, "God works in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform" and what keeps me sober may not be the answer for the next guy, so good luck to the members of the Genesee group, even if I don't agree with a few of their ideas.

A. T.

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