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Fraser Trevor Fraser Trevor Author
Title: AA is crystal clear: a spiritual experience is the only thing that saves us.
Author: Fraser Trevor
Rating 5 of 5 Des:
There are certain issues about recovery and alcoholism that I tend not to bend on. It's my belief there's been far too much bending ...

There are certain issues about recovery and alcoholism that I tend not to bend on. It's my belief there's been far too much bending in AA over the past 50 or so years (but that's a topic for another day). 

The issue of what's required according to AA to recover from alcoholism is one of those topics. AA is crystal clear: a spiritual experience is the only thing that saves us. And the recipe for that spiritual experience is the steps. Yes, they are suggested, just like it's suggested you avoid running with scissors.

And, yes, the newcomer can get by on fellowship and guile and willpower and gimmicks for a period of time. How long? Your mileage may vary. I stayed sober for 11 years without working a single step. When I fell, it was brutal, like a brushfire. Each day brought new violations of personal ethics and standards. I had no explanation.

There are those who would point to my 11 years as some sort of success-- "well, you must have been doing something right." Nonsense. The 11 years were merely abstinence, not recovery. When the dam burst, it took one week to sweep away anything positive about those 11 years. Just ask my family.

There was a time when you had to work the steps to get into an AA meeting-- now, in my experience, you often get eye-rolled if you talk about them. In our well-intentioned effort to make AA accessible and less-frightening, we decided to dial back the urgency and offer more cookies. The steps went from cost-of-entry to optional extra credit, and as AA's numbers grew, the percentage of those staying sober dropped. This is my belief based on the information I've read, my experience, and my own deduction.

So here's the problem with that "interim period" where you're getting by without pursuing that spiritual experience-- many never move beyond it. Most, even. Physical sobriety is tragically misinterpreted as recovery, and, the thought process goes, isn't this good enough? Modern day AA does not celebrate spiritual growth as the barometer of recovery-- it rewards the passage of time. We give medallions not for amends made, but for years without a drink. 

And if you're at all like I was, you hang out on that plateau, somewhere between drunk and recovered. And you preach from it. You tell the new people coming in behind you that this is the pinnacle, this is all you need to do. And maybe it is.

But what if it isn’t?

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