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We Make Too Much of Anniversaries?
© The A.A.
Grapevine, Inc., May 1949
anniversaries is an old American custom and no one should
be surprised that it is being perpetuated in A.A.
however, anniversaries in A.A., or particularly the emphasis
put on them, can boomerangand often dointo something
far more serious than the harmless birthday fetes held elsewhere.
There's dynamite in AA anniversaries.
begin with, the celebration of anniversaries runs contrary
to several of the fundamentals of A.A. philosophy. One of
these is the idea embodied in "the 24 hour plan"
that we should try to look ahead of the present in measuring
our sobriety. We do not set out to stay sober one year,
three or a lifetime. Our goal is just 24 hoursjust
the presentand if necessary we break the 24 hours
into even smaller units of time.
of the personal anniversary inevitably turns thoughts not
only backwards but ahead to the next anniversary, again
setting up the psychological yardstick which the founders
of A.A. found they did best without.
bit of A.A. philosophy which the personal anniversary contradicts
is expressed in the wise observation that it's not the length
but the "quality of your sobriety that counts."
How often that has been proved! Over and over, again and
again, events have demonstrated, sometimes tragically, or
sometimes happily, that the test of security in sobriety
is not how long in A.A. but how well founded in A.A. Everyone
knows of t hose unfortunate cases of the "oldtimer"
who has been in several years and t hen has a slip. He knows,
too, on the other hand, of "newcomers" who in
a shorter span of time have progressed much farther along
the road of personal recovery.
of anniversaries also tends to build up an "aristocracy
of oldtimers," a kind of class system by which one
is supposed to move up from the ranks of the herd into a
more select group whose prestige depends on the number of
years they have been around. That certainly is inconsistent
with the democracy of A.A. Likewise, the implication that
through this "aging" process one is graduated
from pupil to master does not jibe with the premise that
one does not arrest alcoholism by himself. The whole curative
fundamental of A.A. is that he must get help. So how can
he become master, ever? It doesn't make sense.
of personal anniversaries puts an emphasis on time that
is not justified by A.A. experience. Rare is the new one
in A.A. who does not start counting years for himself when
he attends a meeting at which some member's fourth, fifth
or X anniversary is being celebrated by the group with figurative
trumpets, orchids and fanfare. Rare, too, is the old one
in A.A., who, when he finds himself deferred to and looked
up to as an "oldtimer," does not begin to get
at least a suspicion that maybe he does know more, maybe
he is a little apart from the herd. From that point it's
not a long step to a recurrence of ego-itis, the same old
disease that had a grip on all of us.
good purpose is served by celebrating personal anniversaries?
Does any member who is really participating in the opportunities
of A.A. and enjoying the blessings of sobriety need to have
others bring him bouquets for a thing from which he himself
benefits, first, and which he undertook for himself, first?
We think notnot if there is anything to A.A.'s "unselfish
observation that it's not the years but the "quality
of your sobriety" that counts is solidly founded on
the record of experience.
© The A.A.
Grapevine, Inc., May 1949
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