Early in recovery I could not understand why A.A. would approve a tradition like the eleventh one, in which we restrain ourselves from ‘sensational advertising’. I was so happy with my own recovery and what the steps and the fellowship had done for me I just wanted to share this with all those still suffering alcoholics, whether they were still active or not. To me it was such a hidden secret for many years that I wished somehow I was told about this solution earlier in life…..
And that’s exactly the moment when it started making sense to me. I realized very early on that my drinking was different than that of my friends and my peers and that I considered my drinking to be a problem. But ever since this realization I also knew of the existence of A.A. I did not really know what it was about but I had learned that it was a place where those who have a drinking problem could find help. But rather than to look for a solution elsewhere I had chosen to try and control my drinking wanting to rely on my own resources and prove to the world, and mainly to myself, that I was strong and powerful. Advertising would have not made a difference. In my head if I sought help it would only be proof that I was a weakling.
Another aspect of this tradition slowly crept in as I was progressing on the ‘Road of Happy Destiny’ and that is that there is no way to explain recovery in a concise manner. Whenever I am in a group or a meeting I notice that those trying to explain the program are less effective than those who just describe their own experience with it. I myself, whenever I opened up my mouth, used to start with the image in my head that what I was about to say would be the cure-all of shares. That whoever was to pay attention to what I was saying would miraculously ‘see it’! Only to end up with either a very ineffective experience or a long babble that made absolutely no connection.
I was fortunate enough to attend meetings of a group that is located in a touristic area and was attended by many transients, only in town for a week or two at a time. This brought many experiences to the group and what in effect happened to me was that I had picked only those portions that made sense to me on any given day and processed them in my own recovery. My recovery is the accumulation of the experiences of many others which slowly transformed in to my story.
This made me realize that nobody, not one of us, could speak on behalf of A.A. Each of us a members of a group like fingers are members of the body that come together in a hand. The individual finger is of (practically) no use to the body if it was not attached to the hand. And like two hands, attached to arms can be more useful to the body and more hands make the load lighter, the different groups of Alcoholics Anonymous carry the load of carrying the message of recovery to those wishing to hear it. We are nothing without the fellowship of A.A. even if we have achieved sobriety and ridding ourselves of the hellish obsession we are ineffective in bringing the message to the still suffering alcoholic without encouraging the newcomer to get connected with the group and the fellowship rather than just to a limited number.
This brings mind to a very useful allegory which I believe is very effective with our program. We should not strive to be salesmen for Alcoholics Anonymous but should behave as satisfied customers. I think this is at the core or the eleventh tradition. We can be so much more effective in carrying the message to someone who needs it by just being examples of the effectiveness of the program. Also with those who are already in the program it is so useful to myself and to others if I just explain my experience, my strengths and my hope. I can express my fears, resentments, frustrations and also that which was helpful for me in dealing with them. This way I will invite others who may have dealt with the same bottlenecks to say a little bit about how they dealt with them. The newcomer may get just a little curious. This curiosity is the essential beginning of a solid recovery.
“I am nothing special, of this I am sure. I am a common man with common thoughts and I’ve led a common life. There are no monuments dedicated to me and my name will soon be forgotten, but I’ve loved another with all my heart and soul, and to me, this has always been enough..”
― Nicholas Sparks, The Notebook