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Monday, June 16, 2008

Happy 73rd Birthday of Sobriety

From the pen of my friend and brother in Christ.

The personnel department of a head office sent out a letter to all branches requesting a listing of their staff “broken down by age and sex.” One local office replied: “Attached is a list of our staff. We currently have no one broken down by age or sex. However, we do have a few alcoholics.”

Alcoholics Anonymous was seventy-three years old June 10. It got started in Akron, OH, by a stock broker and a proctologist who found out that the best way to keep from drinking was to spend time with other people who wanted to keep from drinking and to talk about it. Through the both of them together with an Episcopal parson, they developed the Twelve Steps and the main traditions of AA — anonymity, confession, and mutual support.

AA is said by some to be the only truly indigenous American religion. It is said by others not to be a religion at all, indeed, to be anything but. If the question ever comes up, and believe me, it does, the notion of what is a religion is about as ambiguous — and tendentious — at an AA meeting as it is in society as a whole. It’s no wonder. The difference is that AA pretty much knows about ambiguity a lot better than does society as a whole. The difference is that AA is about as unorganized an organization, sometimes even disorganized, as you could ever imagine. And that’s surely one reason why, whatever it is, it works.

A while back, I spent a few years as chaplain for a big long-white-coat major-satrap medical center addiction treatment program with more than its share of psychiatrists nosing about. They were mostly psychopharmacologists, whatever that is, doing “research.” Their residents were required to rotate through our service but always, they avoided the group twelve-step meetings like the plague.

Their researchers were working on perfecting a pill you could take so you could drink all you want. Most of us had already tried that and even more. Nobody ever seemed to ask why drinking all you want was so important as to deserve a federal grant. Lewis Thomas, the physician-philosoper, wrote that the only thing worse than calling a scientist’s work anecdotal was to call it trivial. The shrinks in our program openly called the Twelve-Step Program anecdotal. Sometimes, we had to use it on the sly, anonymously.

My name’s Lane, and I’m an alcoholic. AA is just now seventy-three years old. I was twenty-nine about the same time. I got a late start. I’m catching up one day at a time, anecdotally, please.

1 comment:

susankay said...

AA, by the Grace of God, the only functioning anarchy.