Simplicity and Complexity

Simplicity and Complexity

In the journey towards sobriety, there are two sides to the AA coin. On one side is the elegant simplicity of abstinence from alcohol. Conversely, the other side reveals the complex tapestry of our lives, each one unique in its approach to sobriety.

This dichotomy lends an endlessly fascinating aspect to the AA program. Once you make the choice to abstain from drink (and other mind-altering chemicals) or express a desire to do so, the scope for discussion with a sponsor, fellow AA, or within an AA meeting is virtually limitless. Topics encompassing relationships, work, emotions, and beliefs regularly surface under this AA umbrella. And rightly so, as harmonizing these diverse aspects of life is crucial to living a fulfilling and happy life.

Practical advice gleaned from real-world experiences is a treasure in this journey. Isn’t it wonderful when such advice can be adapted to one’s life situation, helping to maintain sobriety while enhancing effectiveness and satisfaction?

The Challenge: Simplifying Complexity

Despite the “keep it simple” mindset, cataloging a varied menu of problems and solutions proves challenging. We often simplify issues to a list of “top 3 things,” but these oversimplifications often raise more questions than they provide answers.

Consider the common advice for success in AA:

  1. Get a Sponsor.
  2. Read the Book.
  3. Go to Meetings.

While this guidance holds true for most, it begs deeper questions such as, how do you choose a sponsor? When is the right time to do so? How do you engage with them? How do you know you’ve made the right choice? Similar questions can be raised for each point.

In my decades of attending AA, I have continuously pondered ways to simplify the AA message, especially now that simple reminders are increasingly valuable due to a less sharp memory.

My Program Acronym: ACE

To aid in this simplification, I’ve created an acronym encapsulating the irrefutable elements of a good AA program: ACE.

ACE stands for:

A – Abstinence C – Conscientiousness E – Empathy

Each word signifies clear, substantial concepts aligning with the core values of Alcoholics Anonymous. These concepts are applicable in various situations, leading to something accountable and concrete. You’re either practicing each one, or you’re not.

Moreover, this simple, memorable acronym has proven more beneficial than the overly complicated “Twelve Principles behind the Steps” or the often-quoted “trust God, clean house.” As popular as these may be, they have not been as useful to me as ACE.

Understanding the Vocabulary of Sobriety

When I got sober, I often heard old-timers advising new members to “use a dictionary because it’s important to know what the words that can save your life mean!” Keeping that in mind, here are the definitions of the words that compose ACE:

  • Abstinence – Restraining oneself from indulging in something, typically alcohol. Some common synonyms include self-control, self-denial, self-restraint, sobriety, and temperance.
  • Conscientiousness – Wishing to do one’s work or duty well and thoroughly. Common synonyms are honest, honorable, just, ethical, and upright. These all imply an active moral sense governing actions and painstaking efforts to follow one’s conscience.
  • Empathy – The ability to understand and share the feelings of another without necessarily sharing them. Positive emotions like empathy or gratitude are linked to a more positive continual state. People experiencing these emotions are more likely to help others.

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