June 9, 2020
This has been a tough, tough week in America. The death of George Floyd has evoked emotion in us all. The best of us are horrified and actively working on calling for change.
But, as a sober community, we have a program that is based on equality, communication, fellowship, and a goal that offers us all one common purpose. It is the teaching tool we need more than ever.
Our country is NOT racially sober. In this blog, I’ll discuss that and how Alcoholics Anonymous teaches about unification and equality.
Tradition One of Alcoholics Anonymous states, “Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends on AA unity.” Stop for a second and think about that one sentence, because it’s a WOW. Now, go back, read the sentence, and swap the word AA for American. Of the twelve traditions, the first calls for unity. The other 11 traditions cannot be upheld without that unity. That is the lesson for all of us now. We must stand together in a diverse crowd, filled with every language and color of the world’s people, and demand that racial injustice end.
As addicts and alcoholics, we need recovery to heal, become responsible members of society, and the best versions of ourselves.
Right now, our country needs recovery, too. We need healing. We need more responsible members of society, and we need to be the best version of America possible. This can and must happen. It will take hard work, introspection, standing up, telling difficult truths, and making amends…and, that sounds very much like step work to me.
Alcoholics Anonymous also teaches equality in the preamble which states, “The only requirement for membership is the desire to stop drinking.” Because the preamble is read at the beginning of every meeting around the world, the words become so familiar we may not understand their meaning. So, let me explain it the way my sponsor has explained it to me.
Our members do not need to be sober. Anyone can come to a meeting drunk or high. They are asked to listen. If they act out, a sober group member is supposed to take them outside and talk to them about hope and recovery. They are not asked to leave. Because, the preamble says all we need is the desire to stop drinking – and walking into a meeting under the influence does not negate the desire to get sober. We do not get to gauge one another’s level of desire. The smallest desire is equal to the greatest desire.
The AA preamble and Tradition One are completely inclusive. Race, Creed, religion, sexual orientation are of no matter. All are welcome and all are equal because we are ALL alcoholics and that is the fact that unites us. As people in recovery. we have heard wisdom from people of every color, nationality, and social status. That’s a powerful lesson in peace, understanding, and equality.
We stand together as human beings. Our similarities are what connect us, and we heal together because we know that every member’s voice counts and should be heard
Our AA principles teach us how to live in the world around us. When we reenter society or the workforce as recovering citizens, the lessons from AA change our thinking. We view non-alcoholics as equals, too – remembering that what unites us is our common bond (which is our HUMANNESS). We learn to love everyone equally.
These principles are our guide. But they do NOT negate the pain of the world when we see the horror of racial injustice. The principles do not soften the pain we feel when we see violence, intolerance, and moral and ethical societal failures.
BEING SOBER MEANS FEELING PAIN. BUT WE HAVE THE TOOLS TO FACE IT.
Right now, injustice and division are running rampant. Many of us are enraged – and, rightfully so. The horror of what happened to George Floyd and countless others is overwhelming. AA also helps teach us what to do right now.
Step 12 of Alcoholics Anonymous says we must carry the message of recovery to the next alcoholic. If we apply that step to current events, the solution is clear. We must carry the message of racial equality to all.
We must ALL do this, just as we must all work Step 12. Because for change to occur, we must do what we do at the end of every meeting – stand together in a circle and recite the same message.
The other thing we MUST do is have difficult conversations with people who do not understand us, our experience, or our pain. We do this in meetings, too. We don’t always agree with a fellow AA member but we try to talk through it. Sometimes we open someone’s mind; sometimes we don’t. But civil discourse is part of every AA group. It flows from the World Office down to every individual group; it’s also the American way. This week, I had a very difficult conversation with someone on Facebook who referred to rioters and protestors as animals.
I am not a person of color; but I used my personal experience as a Jewish person to try and help the person I was speaking to understand how dangerous and offensive language that reduces humans to animals is. I have faced personal discrimination based on my religion in every area of my life – in the workplace, among friends, in the media. As a result, I have a small taste of what discrimination and stereotyping feels like. And, because I grew up around Holocaust survivors with numbers tattooed on their arms like cattle, I used that experience to explain what referring to a human being as an animal really means.
At the end of the day, I didn’t change the person’s mind. But I spoke my truth. and tried my best to explain to someone who has never felt discrimination or racial inequality how harmful, divisive, and DANGEROUS that kind of thinking is.
So, if you must have a difficult conversation, DO IT. If we are silent about the injustices of racial inequality, we are just as guilty as those who promote it. We have a duty to carry the message of equality. And, in some cases, we will make a difference.
In unity, there is hope. It’s what pulls us together as a sober community. It’s also what can pull us together as a country and world.
This week, my best friend went to a peaceful protest in her town. She is a dark-skinned woman in a mostly light-skinned town. She didn’t think many people would attend. But she got there and found the protest was organized by a young white woman. And, she sent me the most incredible photo of people of all colors raising their fists high in the air demanding that racial injustice end. Her photo is the one at the top of this post!
The media has shown photos that seem to indicate that only people of color are protesting. But, my Facebook friends – many of whom have protested this week – have photos that tell a different story. The photos remind me of those from an AA World Convention. Every nationality is represented, people of all colors are in the photos are standing together, all united under one primary purpose. Equality is a human right.
There is a lot of work to do before America changes. And, just as there is a lot of work we all must do to recover from addiction, there is a lot of work we must do to call for change and justice.
This is a WE program. Let’s infuse the world with that basic message. Because together, WE can change ourselves, our lives, and the society we share. And, as my sponsor has told me fourteen trillion times, we must not lose hope.
We cannot give up five minutes before the miracle. Instead, let’s work together and strive towards that miracle.
Please, talk with one another. Talk about your feelings, talk to people who understand your pain, and talk to people who do not. Use the principles of AA as your guide. The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous is often called a design for living – because that’s what it is. Use it as a guide to lead you forward into the call for change.
Find ways to express your pain through journaling, calling your sponsor, and sharing about your fears and pain in meetings. I don’t think the pain will be diffused – it’s too great. I do think it will help you feel heard, and may offer you hope when someone whose mind you think is shut to racial equality opens because they hear your story.
This post is in honor of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and the countless others who have been denied justice or dehumanized based on racial discrimination.