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October 1994

Your Move

Keeping It Simple

Responses from young readers on the topic of singleness of purpose

My name is Terry, and I'm an alcoholic. I came into Alcoholics Anonymous at the age of twenty-two. After going to meetings for thirty days I took my last drink on August 5, 1988. Although I didn't realize it till now, AA's singleness of purpose has meant a lot to me.

When I showed up at your door, you kept it very simple for me. You said, "Don't drink, go to meetings, get a sponsor, and keep coming back." You said that if I did this it would get better. You didn't tell me when, but I believed you just the same. There was no evaluation process, no fees to pay, no people I needed to see, or appointments that I needed to make. I just showed up at meetings and you loved me. I was an alcoholic who wanted a new way of life, and that was all you cared about. I believe it's the simplicity of AA, based on our singleness of purpose, that makes AA not only easily accessible to every alcoholic, but a program that really works.

From conversations I've had with people who have come to AA via treatment centers, I can understand why our singleness of purpose is getting lost. Treatment centers as such have no singleness of purpose or Traditions, so their clients are counseled on everything from drugs and alcohol, to co-dependency, child abuse, incest, wife beating, anger, control problems, dysfunctional families--the list goes on and on. It's no wonder that by the time these people get to AA they see themselves as "alcoholic and a. . ." It also follows that when in an AA meeting many people continue to discuss all these issues.

On the surface I don't believe that this is a real threat to AA. Most of the people I see who maintain this mentality that "I'm addicted to everything" usually don't stick around too long. I for one don't blame them. If you had told me in the beginning what I was going to have to do, I never would have come back.

I was at a meeting one night when a man got his five-year chip and said, "I didn't come into Alcoholics Anonymous to get a beautiful wife, a nice home, and a new car; to be blessed with two wonderful children, or a host of new friends. I came to AA to get sober, and in staying sober I received all that and so much more." This to me really sums up what I'm trying to say. If I stay focused on sobriety and my disease of alcoholism, the multitude of other problems I possess will eventually work their way to the surface. Then with the tools I have learned in AA, they can be dealt with, one at a time. As the Big Book says, first we straighten out spiritually, then mentally and emotionally.

One last thing. I think that it's wonderful when people find the courage to seek help outside AA when necessary. But I believe it's a mistake to bring these things into an AA meeting. A newer member or somebody not listening closely may interpret what you say as a part of our recovery program when really it isn't. This only serves to dilute the AA message and maybe lead someone from our tried, tested, and proven Twelve Steps.

My sobriety, and the sobriety of those to come, depends on the simplicity of AA and on our singleness of purpose.

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