I have been in the program for 41 years and have often been conflicted between what is happening outside the rooms and what happens inside. Chaos outside, rioting in the streets, anger, racial conflict, political hatred, gun violence and too much "stuff” happening not to mention it in the rooms at a meeting.
But we don't. We practice the fifth tradition; our primary purpose remains carrying the message to the alcoholic who still suffers.
Can you remember your first several meetings, sitting in the rooms in physical and emotional pain, wondering what these people were doing? What a different experience it would have been if folks were making political speeches to each other about the current presidential candidates or the latest liberal or conservative hot button issue?
In the great wisdom of the program, we heard people speak of the importance of honesty, of the unmanageability of their lives, of working the steps and the importance of having a sponsor. We heard men and women speak of ravages alcohol had done to their personal lives, how we destroyed the trust of our spouses and children, of our professional colleagues and siblings, and destroyed our own sense of self-respect and integrity.
What I needed when I came into my first few meetings was what I couldn’t get from a newspaper or NPR: I needed a place where I could face my shame and guilt; a place where people would laugh about things I cried about; a people who would love me when I hated myself; care for me when I loathed who I was; a program that addressed the corners of my life which I wanted to hide; and offer me the light of hope in my life of darkness. By their talking about things they had done, the secrets of my own life had a new light shone on them and I had to own and takes responsibility of my life.
AA dropped a life-line to me while the rest of the world was busy with other things…important things but extraneous to what was my greatest problem. While I was busy talking about political solutions to the world’s problems, my alcoholism was destroying my home, my health and my professional standing in the community.
What I needed was someone to help me separate the important from the busy. Of course what is happening in the streets is important but that wasn’t my greatest need and problem. I needed help to see what I could do something about and what I had to leave alone and let others solve. I thought I had to solve everything. The Serenity Prayer became an important part of those first few days, weeks and months. It still is.
The traditions are a part of AA as much as the Steps and it is critical we practice them in times of social unrest. Talk about other issues over coffee…talk about the program in meetings.