About Me

My photo
I have recovered from the disease of Alcoholism. I believe there is only one person really,.. everybody. And that peace of mind is everything. -So treat your neighbor as you would treat yourself, because your neighbor IS yourself. I think most of recovery is what I would call common sense, but that learning to be ordinary is a true gift very few people acquire. My ambition is to accept everything unflinchingly, with compassion, and therefore be intrinsically comfortable in my own skin, no matter what. I am comfortable being uncomfortable and am willing to go to any lengths to improve my life. I believe the Big Book was divinely inspired, and is extraordinarily powerful. Unfortunately AA's best kept secret a lot of the time. (In my opinion). I just try to do what works, no matter what it is.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

AA is not a social club: Friendship in AA is a bonus, not a given.

Firstly let me say I DO know people in AA that are real friends and whose friendship I do value. What I mean here is that I do not use AA as a social club.
I do not go there to 'take', I go to 'give' and therefore "perfect and enlarge his spiritual life through work and self-sacrifice for others" (p14, AA Big Book)
Why?
Because I want to 'survive the certain trials and low spots ahead" (p15, AA Big Book)
Why?
Because the big book tells me it is "imperative to work with others as he had worked with me. Faith without works was dead" (p14, AA Big Book)
So yeah. Meetings are for doing SERVICE.
Everything else is secondary.

So
12 step meetings are for doing service. Not for making friends. As such. Would you look to make friends from people in a psychiatric ward? We are here because we have a VERY serious mental illness, of which one of the symptoms is a devastating recurring blind spot that conveniently forgets "the suffering and humiliation" (p24, AA Big Book) of past drinking. Amongst other things.

"We are unable, at certain times, to bring into our consciousness with sufficient force the memory of the suffering and humiliation of even a week or a month ago. We are without defense against the first drink." (p24, AA Big Book)
Even though we "vaguely sense I was not being any too smart," (p36, AA Big Book)
We have the "curious mental phenomenon that parallel with our sound reasoning there inevitably ran some insanely trivial excuse for taking the first drink." (p37, AA Big Book)
So basically we are a pretty !! mad bunch. In SIGNIFICANT ways. Not minor ones.
Our blind spots are life threatening, until we rid ourselves of this "curious mental phenomenon" (p37, AA Big Book) by completing the first nine steps with the help of a competent sponsor. And keeping it in remission with steps 10 11 and 12.

Most are preoccupied with self. Few seriously think of others. We are all different. It takes ages to teach people how to think of others. 12 step progs can provide a great excuse to become terribly self absorbed whilst deluding oneself that one is a spiritual giant. Easy to do!

I look for friends outside AA mostly, and if friendship occurs in AA I see it as a bonus. Sponsees are good friends as they understand me better than most regardless of how little I see them or speak to them. (more like ex Sponsees at the moment as I am waaay to busy to sponsor at the mo)

I have found face to face is not necessary for friendship and support, but yes we are social animals and we tend to perform worse without the pressures and conflicts social interaction provide. Without these rough spots, we never grow tolerance patience or acceptance.
I find I need time spent being sociable with friends less and less, as I feel connected to them all the time anyway. But yes I need social stimulation to function well.

So I like being around others because I learn from them and am supported by them. But friendship and support comes from absent friends too. People who are not 'in the building'. Books can be friends. Books can be teachers.
Active imagination can feel as real to me as people are. Sometimes feels more real than physical presence. So I can get support without the other needing to be in the building. So to speak.

As regards general friendship. It is the norm that whomever instigates social functions inevitably deals with reluctance and flakiness from those they invite and organize for.
If you are naturally thoughtful of others, be grateful for this natural orientation of the mind that you possess, but do not expect to find it often in others. Do not think people feel and think the same as you and get surprised when you find out they are not. That would be a great recipe for disillusionment. You would be falling prey to Idealism.

My home group was very ? Girl guide aa. Meaning we did it by the book. Were very morally/ethically restrained. In the same way you might expect a paid professional to be. Restraint of tongue and pen. Etc. (Step 10 12x12) a basic ethics principle of 'do onto others as you would.."

10th step 12x12
“Our first objective will be the development of self-restraint. This carries a top priority rating. When we speak or act hastily or rashly, the ability to be fair-minded and tolerant evaporates on the spot. One unkind tirade or one willful snap judgment can ruin our relation with another person for a whole day, or maybe a whole year. Nothing pays off like restraint of tongue and pen.”

Most meetings do not work from a basic ethics principle of "Helping others IS the foundation of your recovery". (p97, AA Big Book) or "constant thought of others and how we can help meet their needs" (p20, AA Big Book)
so yeah, people can be very flaky and unreliable.
In the main, my home group members could be relied upon absolutely as they were expected to be in 'service mode' ! constantly. It just went with the territory. Service, service and !!! more service!!!!
"the absolute necessity of demonstrating these principles* in all my affairs" (p14, AA Big Book)
*The principle here refers to: "to perfect and enlarge his spiritual life through work and self-sacrifice for others" (p14, AA Big Book) and "constant thought of others and how we can help meet their needs" (p20, AA Big Book)

So. For finding people who are capable of being good friends in AA, it is always a good idea to find the MOST SERVICE ORIENTATED members and meetings in your area that you can find, as they tend by and large to be more reliable and considerate than others. Stick with the winners as best you can. Principles before personalities*. Just go to where there is most recovery, and don't get sidetracked by other social trends such as similar background or other considerations.

*(Tradition 12: "ever reminding us to place principles BEFORE personalities.")

So if you want friends that better meet your needs I suggest:
Ask your HP to guide you to the people, places and things that support your spiritual growth the MOST.
And ask for the KNOWLEDGE and POWER to carry out that journey. No matter WHERE it takes you.

"praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out." Step 11. (p59, AA Big Book)
Then do the footwork. You paddle. God steers.

Cool huh? Scary as well. But that's what growing up is about. We never know where we will end up..
TRUE open mindedness is not for the faint hearted!

Hey gotta go. Have a great Tuesday!!

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hello Irish!

I just finished reading your detailed blog for this day, which probably responded to Syd. I find what I need in both fellowships, and am grateful that I qualify for Al-Anon through my spouse's admitted alcoholism (I have his permission to declare this). Needless to say, many people, especially newcomers do not understand why I mention gratitude for a loved one's alcoholism - - - I simply say that I had tried everything else to recover my own defunct spirit, and the Al-Anon program had what I needed, and still need. A very wise therapist encouraged me to try Al-Anon, after 2 years of intense therapy for a breakdown. I also avail myself of AA 'open' meetings to learn.

I just wanted to say a special thank-you for your reply to Syd's blog.

By the way, you are a great example of 'attraction rather than promotion.' I am grateful.

Respectfully,
Anonymous #1

An Irish Friend of Bill said...

Thanks Anon. very kind.
I am glad you have found a home in al anon that's helping you. I hope it continues to pay dividends for years to come :)
I feel grateful too as it happens for being a candidate for AA. I feel very lucky.
And thanks for the attraction not promotion thing as I confess I am completely !! turned off by attention grabbing pursuits. Ie 'promotion'. It always looks very transparent to me. I understand some like attention but I do not find the tendency ! attractive so I am glad you think I have managed to avoid promotion. Whew!
Yeah Syd's post got me thinking (as they usually do) and I ended up with a really ! long post. No change there then! Heheh.

Syd said...

Thanks Irish. I appreciate your thoughtful comment on my blog and here.

I haven't looked to Al-Anon as a social club. In fact, there is little social interaction in most of the meetings that I attend. Maybe there is a part of me that longs for a bit of that. I find that if people don't show up for a while, there are few people who call to check on them. In fact, there are few calls that I receive from members. I hear from one person in my home group.

What I've concluded is that I like to reach out and keep in contact with others. I like to know that those I care about are okay.

Perhaps I could be satisfied with going to meetings, listening, sharing and then letting things go until the next meeting. If keeping the focus on myself though, means that I isolate or only think of self, then I'm not willing to just do that. I think that I'm struggling with the concept of isolation versus integration regarding your post.

As always, your insight is appreciated.

An Irish Friend of Bill said...

Well to be honest I didn't think you did think of Al anon as a social club. :) Its a facet of city meetings round here that's all. I vaguely recall complaining to my sponsor about not having enough friends in aa and she would quip "AA is not a social club". ..Always make me laugh when I think about it. I have no complaints about my old sponsor. She was extraordinarily patient!!

The interaction you describe ( when you say "I like to know that those I care about are okay.) is what I would call service as its primary motivation Is to assist another or look out for another.
In the city meetings round here, people go to meetings to hob nob, or get a date, get a job, watch celebrities and all sorts of weird and pointless reasons. Or perhaps they just want to hang out or meet a wider range of social group than they meet in their day to day life. Gawd knows. I have met quite a few guys who admit to coming to certain meetings because of the eye candy, or amount of woman that attend. Dating other AA's is commonplace and I hear more than my fair share of horror stories about how they unravel. Thankfully I've avoided dating another AA, and now I just cannot imagine ever actually wanting to go out with one. I know them too !! well.
So what you describe hardly falls into that category!

Yeah I know few people check up on new and vulnerable people here too. I think its like that everywhere. There are just so many people slowly falling apart that it is difficult to keep up. And it doesn't help that not nearly enough regular AA's do not look out for the troubled newcomer who misses a meeting. A tragic suicide occurred recently in a member who looked very troubled right from the off, that unfortunately was not willing or able to take many of the suggestions on board. I saw this as a great risk but was powerless to force her to take direction, so she got much worse and finally took her life. So yes I see people fall apart and get ignored all the time. More than I can remember.

I spend time talking with alkys quite a lot. We nearly always go for coffee after meetings. Sometimes for hours. But that's just me staying in good shape by talking to other alcoholics and looking out for stuff I can pass on to to others. So I count that as service.
Pointless chat chat or bitching about a meeting or trying to pick up a guy would not count. So perhaps I didn't make that distinction clear. Hehe.
I love the fellowship (meaning the collective social interaction of the group) but I make sure I am doing it for the right reasons, that's all. Not an abuse of trust or manipulation.
In the last 7 days I spent about 5-6hrs coffee bar and phone time with other aa's after meetings. So I do spend time with people, and it is fun, but my motivation is service. I would get bored to if people did not go for coffee after. I purposely attend meetings that do coffee after for that reason. So on the face of it I look like a social animal, but really it is all an opportunity to take care of others, even though it feels very joyful. Its a laugh. I wouldn't be able to sustain that level of interest if it wasn't. But I met an aa buddy from waay back this week and that's why the hours are high. Normally they'd be 2-4hours.

I don't encourage time alone unless it benefits the person doing it. If you require social stimulation there is nothing amiss with hanging out after meetings. Its just when there is a dodgy !! motive that it goes a bit peculiar! And I really ! don't think you have a dodgy motive at all, so that wouldn't apply to you. But there's not much you can do if none of the others want to do the same. But perhaps if you badger em long enough some will be persuaded to coffee after. Either that or open aa meetings, as they love any excuse to talk about themselves after the meeting!
My brain is a little dizzy today as I am wading !! through chunky complicated text books, So I hope that makes sense :)

Texaco said...

"whomever instigates social functions inevitably deals with reluctance and flakiness from those they invite and organize for"

Which totally explains how I got stood up on my birthday. I can't imagine what made me think that it would have worked out any differently.

Darren said...

Have you considered that being a friend might be the service that someone needs?

-d

http://the12stepbuddhist.com

indistinct said...

Reading all the comments and replies was just as interesting as your blog entry.

Thanks for taking your time for sharing that post. Lots of food for thought I'll need to reread.

Gabriella Moonlight said...

I am from a larger area and moved to rural appalachia (the pop. where I live is appx. 50,000). The AA meetings here are always about the friendships that have developed over the years here and how the best friends that everyone has are in AA; I've always cringed when this is brought up and know I know why, I am not there for friendship, but to be of service and have my hand there if anyone needs it. Not be social. This has perplexed most here as there really is a social club here, but it is okay and I have finally found out that it's okay and I am so grateful for this post it has helped me so much..thank you so much!

G

An Irish Friend of Bill said...

Re Darren:
? Of course. ?

Friendship of itself is neutral. Neither 'good' nor 'bad'.
Context is !!!!! everything.

On one occasion offering friendship might be VERY helpful.
In others it might cause a HUGE set of problems, either immediately, or down the line.
It all depends on the person. And the situation they are in.

Offering friendship to a newcomer (impressionable, vulnerable) man (for instance) would be no less a breach of trust as if a professional therapist were to do the same to a new client.
Where there is a high risk of transference and a weak 'collapsed' individual in dire need of re orientating themselves with the help of the programme, the offer of 'friendship' from a woman they are likely to find attractive, who is in a position to help them will 99 times out of 100 do more harm than good.
Hence the 13th step abuse of trust issues that occur FAR too frequently. But that's another story.

So basically its all context.
Plus it depends !!! ENTIRELY on what your definition of 'friendship' is.

According to my definition (which may not be the same as yours as mine is a somewhat onerously high standard) No. I do not offer friendship as standard.
Perhaps these posts will give you a better idea of what is standard and what is discretionary for me when I sponsor.

What I DO aim to do as 'standard' when I Sponsor

http://anon-recovery-archive.blogspot.com/2007/07/what-i-do-aim-to-do-as-standard-when-i.html

Examples of stuff I do NOT do as ''standard' when I Sponsor

http://anon-recovery-archive.blogspot.com/2007/07/examples-of-stuff-i-do-not-do-as.html

Friendliness as opposed to friendship is another matter and yes that is something that can be offered to every human we come into contact with, but is not to be confused with friendship. This post indicates how rare I think REAL friends are.

TALK IS CHEAP. Who are your REAL friends?

http://anon-recovery-archive.blogspot.com/2006/11/talk-is-cheap-who-are-your-real-friends.html

Hope that answers your question :)
Back to the textbooks.. :(

molly said...

i enjoy all your posts but this one was something i particularly needed today. thank ewe!

Anonymous said...

Hi, Irish!

I am so glad you posted this entry, as I spent some time with my sponsor a couple of weeks ago and she said exactly the same thing,"I go to AA for my sobriety, not to make friends."

I was kind of aghast, because I had been hoping to make more friends. Maybe I had been too worried about making friends and putting my sobriety second.

The timing of you writing this entry and my sponsor saying the same thing two weeks ago is breathtaking to say the least. Thank you for this! I really needed to read it!

Willa

An Irish Friend of Bill said...

Hey Willa!! nice to see you drop by! :) Bless your little cottons! and glad to see you are keepin on keepin on :)
Have a fabuloso Christmas and all that. ..Hopefully an un-hectic, un-neurotic one :)

Kristin H. said...

This is a good post IFOB. What Gabriella Moonlight doesn't mention is that she met me at a meeting (another outsider) and our relationship could be considered one of those "bonuses."

An Irish Friend of Bill said...

awww. thats cute kristin. I like the idea of you blogger posse meeting in real life as well as on the web.:)
i find that things come to me when I stop ? chasing them. meaning that if my sincere desire in aa is to do service, that the friendship side of things sort of takes care of itself. I've made many friends over the years that I've started out trying to help. so its funny how it works really :)
anyway hope you all had a relaxing xmas hols :)

Anonymous said...

I always stay never take a crap in your own backyard - dating in AA is like that. Or shopping at the dented can factory that has a big sale on cans with no labels - no idea what you're getting. Very high risk for people who don't like scraping poo off their shoes or want can of beans and not can of hominy for dinner.