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March 1976

They Don't Understand

And does it really matter to us that they don't?

WHEN I WAS drinking, they didn't understand why I had to live the way I did. When I came to AA and started to get sober, they didn't understand why I couldn't have done it on my own, or why I had to go to meetings, or why this and why that. So I complained to myself and whoever else would listen, "They don't understand."

When I had two years of sobriety or thereabouts, I was invited to a party, where I was offered a drink. I said, "No, thank you. Not today." Later, I explained to the hostess that I no longer drank and that I was in AA. About six months later, I was invited back for a dinner party. Drinks were served before dinner. The same girl, to whom I had confided my secret six months before, asked me if I wanted a drink. I said "No, thank you. Not today." Later, at home, I said to myself, "They don't remember. They don't understand."

Then the day dawned for me--the day I realized that it's not important for them to understand. Why should they understand? Why should they be expected to know what an alcoholic feels like? Many times in the past, well-meaning friends have said, "Roger, we know how you feel," only to hear me answer, "No, you don't." Why should they?

I don't know how it feels to have a heart attack, so I'm not about to say to a cardiac case, "I know how you feel." I don't know what it's like to be blind or deaf or crippled. I shouldn't be expected to know. So why should a nonalcoholic understand me, or even remember that I am an alcoholic? Can I remember all my friends' illnesses? Hell, no!

So it unfolded to me. And I repeat: It's not important that they know, unless I am doing Twelfth Step work or Step Nine.

My close friends know and remember; through them, I have been privileged to do a Twelfth Step or two. But do I ask them to understand me? Not any more!

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