Staying Open to Change – Grapevine Article April 1994 by Ed C.

This AA says we need to feel free to look into “every dark cranny of the past” in order to understand ourselves

I recently heard at a meeting, “If you really work the Third Step fully, like I did, you won’t need any outside help.” The next person added that his sponsor had told him that no outside help would be needed if you worked the Steps right.

These comments came in response to two members who’d spoken previously. One had shared that he’d been diagnosed as having bipolar disorder by a competent doctor knowledgeable about chemical imbalances and alcoholism; he was now on medication. The other member said she’d been going to a program for adult children of alcoholics based on the Twelve Steps of AA. Both people indicated that these actions were essential to maintaining their sobriety, and they were both told the help they sought was wrong. They simply needed to work the Third Step “right.”

I wonder what happened to open-mindedness? How about willingness to listen and trying to understand?

It’s evident that many people come to AA, stop drinking, start working the Steps, and after a period of time arrive at a point where no outside information coming from the field of alcoholism is even considered. We become closed-minded. Again. This happens despite the fact that AA borrowed heavily from religion, medicine, and psychiatry in the beginning. In fact, the Big Book gives us all permission to seek help if we need it: “Our book is meant to be suggestive only. We realize we know only a little. God will constantly disclose more to you and to us.” This allows me and anyone else to use new information coming from hundreds of dedicated professionals who deal with people like us–information which has been coming since AA began. Yet many of us consistently ignore it.

My sponsors told me I didn’t have to worry about my childhood. If I had a problem accepting it, I was told, I could simply pray for forgiveness of all who had harmed me. Yet if prayer in itself was sufficient, we wouldn’t need the other eleven Steps. The Big Book talks about the need to illuminate “every dark cranny of the past.” My sponsors didn’t have to go back. I did.

The chapter called “The Family Afterward” states: “A doctor said to us, ‘Years of living with an alcoholic is almost sure to make any wife or child neurotic. The entire family is, to some extent, ill.'” Having been raised by an alcoholic, I read this statement as pointing to where many of my neurotic behaviors came from before I picked up my first drink. Dealing with my childhood helped me understand my fears and understand why I was so angry.

This chapter on the family also tells me that “now and then the family will be plagued by specters from the past, for the drinking career of almost every alcoholic has been marked by escapades, funny, humiliating, shameful or tragic. The first impulse will be to bury these skeletons in a dark closet and padlock the door. The family may be possessed by the idea that future happiness can be based only upon forgetfulness of the past. We think that such a view is self-centered and in direct conflict with the new way of living.” It continues to say, “We grow by our willingness to face and rectify errors and convert them into assets.” This exemplifies the kind of open-mindedness and self-disclosure that some AA members find so irritating, and unnecessary.

Your experience may be different than mine. We can both be right. Please allow me to have my opinion without trying to convince me yours is the only way. Remember also that “God will constantly disclose more to you and to us.”

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