AA’s Open-Ended Design: A Blessing or a Curse?
The structure of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) inherently promotes a certain level of unpredictability. The Twelve Traditions of AA make meetings largely autonomous, and the role of the AA sponsor is even more individualized. Sponsors often adopt personalized interpretations and approaches to the steps, despite having no formal training. Is this diversity a strength or a potential pitfall for newcomers seeking guidance on their sober journey?
Sponsoring the Steps: Diverse Interpretations
In the realm of AA, sponsors apply their own unique spins to the Twelve Steps. This results in a broad array of practices, from writing out the first step to burning the fourth step after the fifth step. While these variations are often justified as “the way I did it,” it raises questions about whether these practices are essential for achieving and maintaining sobriety. Moreover, should these diverse interpretations be promoted to newcomers as the fundamental program of Alcoholics Anonymous?
The Danger of AA Fundamentalism
To counteract the potential confusion arising from these varying approaches, some sponsors insist on strictly following the steps as outlined word-for-word in the Big Book. Yet, the Big Book itself isn’t always precise with its explanations of the steps, leading to the importance of sponsor guidance. But surprisingly, the Big Book doesn’t clearly outline the role of sponsorship in recovery.
Despite the advancements in addiction and treatment science, the Big Book hasn’t been updated for over half a century. For some AA members, this is a point of pride, viewing the Big Book as a sacred, divine-inspired text. However, this literal interpretation seems at odds with the intentions of AA co-founders, Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith.
AA Success: So, Why Does It Work?
Despite the potential confusion resulting from diverse interpretations, an archaic text treated as sacred, and no centralized leadership, AA proves to be remarkably effective. There are three main reasons for this:
- A clear, achievable, and sustainable goal of not drinking, one day at a time.
- A flexible approach to the program of recovery that varies for each individual.
- A supportive social environment built on acceptance and encouragement.
Time for a Critical Look at AA?
This blog aims to critically examine AA, seeking to identify what works and what doesn’t. It urges for thoughtful examination of the ideas propagated within AA. As the numbers show, many who come to AA don’t achieve sobriety, suggesting room for improvement.
Critically examining AA isn’t about undermining its value, but about refining its effectiveness and ensuring that the truths shared within the AA community are helpful and accurate. So, let’s pause, reflect, and strive to make the path to sobriety more accessible and effective for all those who seek it.