The People Principle – Grapevine Article June 1987 by M.R.

We’re all human–why pretend to be perfect?

I’m tired of all the goody, goody stories about AA and how simply great and wonderful everybody is. Let’s be real for a minute. In our drinking we all did our share of running away from reality and pretending things weren’t really “that bad.” They tell us in AA we should get honest with ourselves. Nothing in this world is perfect and I think we in AA tend to imply that everything is going to be absolutely wonderful if we just get sober. I’ve been around AA over ten years and have had many experiences with imperfection; some of you may know them as slips.

My first encounter with AA was one of awe and wonder. You might refer to this feeling as “a pink cloud.” I suppose we get this way because of the tremendous relief from the effects alcohol itself had on us, but I think it is also caused by the good impressions we in AA try to give new people. Of course we are anxious for them to stick around and find the peace that some of us have, but is it beneficial to them to present as unreal a world of sobriety as their drinking world was?

One of my slips was actually triggered by the realization that the people in AA were not perfect, and I was terribly hurt and disappointed. I found that AA was not the wonderful, marvelous end-all I thought it was. Of course I got a huge resentment and became quite hopeless (again) to think that AA was not going to work for me.

I’ve seen door greeters turn away from someone because he was dirty and looked unkempt. I’ve seen a drunk thrown out of a meeting for using bad language. I’ve had people ignore me when I’ve tried to share some troublesome problem with them. I’ve had people ask “how you doin’?” and rush off before I could even answer. I’ve had people tell me they were too busy to talk to me. I’ve gone to sit with people at a meeting only to have them move when I sat down. People will tell you that “we in AA care about you.” How come I get the feeling sometimes that you don’t care? I’ve seen new people standing in a corner alone, where I used to stand, and no one talks to them.

They say at my group that “friendships made in AA are lasting ones.” This is not something I need to hear to stay sober. Over the years I’ve made friends, but they come and go just like in “the real world.” In my drinking I was possessive of people and got terribly upset when I lost them. People die, they move away, you lose touch. Some stop going to meetings, for one reason or another. Nothing in this world is lasting. People and circumstances will always change.

The thought I am trying to convey is that the principles of AA may be perfect, but we the people will fail. Let’s not give the newcomer false ideals, that we alcoholics in AA are different from our fellow human beings, that there is something special about us because we are sober in AA. Let’s not mislead them into thinking we are perfect and miss helping them because eventually they will realize, as I did, that we are not. Nothing turns this alcoholic off more than a phony. I once said when speaking at a meeting that I didn’t think AA was so great. Everybody laughed, and they laughed because they identified.

I think we should really say how we feel, even if it is negative. Let’s not be afraid we won’t impress newcomers; they will be impressed with our honesty. My opinion is that people who get up and tell the same old story over and over again are not sharing how they feel. Who feels the same way all the time? I believe we have an emotional illness, and how are we going to move forward if we don’t share those emotions? Sharing to me is telling how you feel, not telling a pat story because that’s what makes you comfortable.

It took some effort to complete this article, and I felt inspired by my Higher Power to do so. I hope it will give someone something to think about. And if you have some negative feelings about AA, I hope you will share them with someone. May God bless you and keep you in his care.

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