This week’s HTYH is a continuation of a medical doctor’s story: Whenever I sponsor somebody, I strongly suggest that they join a group that studies the book, “Alcoholics Anonymous.” I attend five AA meetings a week and one of them is a Big Book Study Group. Three years ago, I expanded my AA work inside the Prison system. I work with those men four days a week setting up meetings and teaching inmates how to run meetings, especially Big Book study meetings so they can learn about AA’s design for living. Alcoholism is the only illness that I know of that’s named after a symptom—alcoholism is but a symptom of a greater malady and if its left untreated, it is fatal one hundred percent of the time. It ends either by being locked up, covered up, or sobered up. It starts when we use alcohol to relieve our feelings of insecurity and inadequacy but eventually transforms into a grinding obsession for alcohol that overcomes all other ideas.

At the beginning of our malady we use alcohol for a remedy because it gives us relief from feelings of restlessness, irritability, discontent–it gives us a false sense of ease and comfort. Over a period of time, we developed an ever, higher tolerance for alcohol–until it turned on us and stopped working altogether. At a point of total hopelessness, depression and spiritual darkness we were forced to find another remedy, or die an alcoholic’s death. We, the fortunate few, found a simple solution to our problem in the book, “Alcoholics Anonymous.” It’s called, “A design for living.” This marvelous plan of action is outlined in the book, “Alcoholics Anonymous.” It’s a design for living that only requires a willingness to do a few simple daily actions, study the Big Book, attend AA meetings, work the 12 steps with a sponsor and help others. It’s called “Into Action” not “into thinking,” and if we were ever going to solve our problem with alcohol it had to come through “action,” not thinking. Most of us tried to solve our alcohol problem by reading self-help books, or listening to barroom philosophers, but those solutions availed us nothing–they didn’t work.

When Bill Wilson wrote the book Alcoholics Anonymous there were a number of reasons why he wrote it. Some reasons are more obvious than others but in the fine print, he said that he wrote it so that the “message” would not become garbled. What message was he referring to? Many of the people attending AA meetings today believe our problem is people talking about drugs or, this or, that, add infinity, but I think not. I believe our main problem is that too many self-righteous drunks are garbling the message at AA meetings. That’s not my opinion–that’s my experience. I’ve sat in meetings where they spent their time talking about grandiose drunk-a-logs while not one word was said about AA’s design for living, or somebody shares a marital problem and other members start giving marital advice. The people who came there hoping to learn how to get and stay sober are instead hearing a useless pile of dubious advice. Then somebody stands up and says, “By God that’s an outside issue,” and somebody else points out that the real root of our problems are self-centered fear, resentment, and etc. Saving marriages, or giving advice about anything other than alcoholism is definitely “Not” our primary purpose. Our primary purpose is to find a design for living that will solve our alcoholism problem and to carry “that message,” to those who still suffer. AA’s Tradition Five clearly states: “Shoemaker stick to thy last!”

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