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"Each group has but one primary purpose - to carry
it's message to the alcoholic who still suffers."
"Shoemaker, stick to thy last!" ... better do
one thing supremely well than many badly. That is the central
theme of this Tradition. Around it our Society gathers in
unity. The very life of our Fellowship requires the preservation
of this principle.
Anonymous can be likened to a group of physicians who might
find a cure for cancer, and upon whose concerted work would
depend the answer for sufferers of this disease. True, each
physician in such a group might have his own specialty.
Every doctor concerned would at times wish he could devote
himself to his chosen field rather than work only with the
group. But once these men had hit upon c cure, once it became
apparent that only by their united effort could this be
accomplished, then all of them would feel bound to devote
themselves solely to the relief of cancer. In the radiance
of such a miraculous discovery, any doctor would set his
other ambitions aside, at whatever personal cost.
as firmly bound by obligation are the members of Alcoholics
Anonymous, who have demonstrated that they can help problem
drinkers as others seldom can. The unique ability of each
A.A. to identify himself with, and bring recovery to, the
newcomer in no way depends upon his learning, eloquence,
or on any special individual skills. the only thing that
matters is that he is an alcoholic who has found a key to
sobriety. These legacies of suffering and of recovery are
easily passed among alcoholics, one to the other. This is
our gift from god, and its bestowal upon others like us
is the one aim that today animates A.A.'s all around the
is another reason for this singleness of purpose. It is
the great paradox of A.A. that we know we can seldom keep
the precious gift of sobriety unless we give it away. If
a group of doctors possessed a cancer cure, they might be
conscience-stricken if they failed their mission through
self-seeking. Yet such a failure wouldn't jeopardize their
personal survival. for us, if we neglect those who are still
sick, there is unremitting danger to our own lives and sanity.
Under these compulsions of self-preservation, duty, and
love, it is not strange that our Society has concluded that
it has but one high mission - to carry the A.A. message
to those who don't know there is a way out.
the wisdom of A.A.'s single purpose, a member tells this
one day, I felt I'd better do some Twelfth Step work. Maybe
I should take out some insurance against a slip. But first
I'd have to find a drunk to work on.
I hopped the subway to Towns Hospital, where I asked Dr.
Silkworth if he had a prospect. `Nothing too promising,'
the little doc said. `There's just one chap on the third
floor who might be a possibility. But he's an awfully tough
Irishman. I never saw a man so obstinate. He shouts that
if his partner would treat him better, and his wife would
leave him alone, he'd soon solve his alcohol problem. He's
had a bad case of D.T.'s, he's pretty foggy, and he's very
suspicious of everybody. Doesn't sound too good, does it?
But working with him may do something for you, so why don't
you have a go at it?'
was soon sitting beside a big hulk of a man. Decidedly unfriendly,
he stared at me out of eyes which were slits in his red
and swollen face. I had to agree with the doctor - he certainly
didn't look god. But I told him my own story. I explained
what a wonderful Fellowship we had, how well we understood
each other. I bore down hard on the hopelessness of the
drunk's dilemma. I insisted that few drunks could ever get
well on their own steam, but that in our groups we could
do together what we could not do separately. He interrupted
to scoff at this and asserted he'd fix his wife, his partner,
and his alcoholism by himself. Sarcastically he asked, `How
much does your scheme cost?'
was thankful I could tell him, `Nothing at all.'
next question: `What are you getting out of it?' "Of
course, my answer was `My own sobriety and a mighty happy
dubious, he demanded, `Do you really mean the only reason
you are here is to try and help me and to help yourself?'
I said. `That's absolutely all there is to it. There's no
hesitantly, I ventured to talk about the spiritual side
of our program. What a freeze that drunk gave me! I'd no
sooner got the word `spiritual' out of my mouth than he
pounced. `Oh!' he said. `Now I get it! You're proselytizing
for some damn religious sect or other. Where do you get
that "no angle" stuff? I belong to a great church
that means everything to me. You've got a nerve to come
in here talking religion!"
heaven I came up with the right answer for that one. It
was based foursquare on the single purpose of A.A. `You
have faith,' I said. `Perhaps far deeper faith than mine.
No doubt you're better taught in religious matters than
I. So I can't tell you anything about religion. I don't
even want to try. I'll bet, too, that you could give me
a letter-perfect definition of humility. But from what you've
told me about yourself and your problems and how you propose
to lock them, I think I know what's wrong.'
he said. `Give me the business.'
I said, `I think you're just a conceited Irishman who thinks
he can run the whole show.'
really rocked him. But as he calmed down, he began to listen
while I tried to show him that humility was the main key
to sobriety. Finally, he saw that I wasn't attempting to
change his religious views, that I wanted him to find the
grace in his own religion that would aid his recovery. From
there on we got along fine.
concludes the old timer, "suppose I'd been obliged
to talk to this man on religious grounds? Suppose my answer
had to be that A.A. needed a lot of money; that A.A. went
in for education, hospital, and rehabilitation? Suppose
I'd suggested that I'd take a hand in his domestic and business
affairs? Where would we have wound up? No place, of course."
later, this tough Irish customer liked to say, "my
sponsor sold me one idea, and that was sobriety. At the
time, I couldn't have bought anything else."
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