We Have no Opinion on Outside Issues.
Now, obviously, despite the title of the post, I have opinions on all sorts of issues, many of which I share here. Some of which I don’t. However, I try to make it both obvious and explicit that these are my own opinions, and may not represent the opinions of AA. Indeed, even my opinions about the nature and treatment of alcoholism are my own, and may not reflect the opinion of AA. My opinions on alcohol are informed by AA’s opinion, but may not be exactly the same (and in fact, I am certain there are areas where I diverge somewhat, from AA’s published literature.) as those adhered to by AA world services, whoever they are.
However, AA, as an organization, has no opinion on any issue not directly related to the recovery from alcoholism. And indeed, they have no opinion on some issues that are directly related. For example, AA neither endorses nor opposes treatment centers, medical research, or judicial involvement with regard to the treatment of alcoholism. Even when people are sentenced to attend AA, and must bring slips to prove they’ve attended? No official representative of AA signs the slips. I won’t sign them at all. If a person who attended the meeting chooses to sign the slip, they do so on their own. Not for AA.
AA as an organization has no political agenda. They have never endorsed a candidate. They do not have a policy statement. And I say “they”, rather than “we”, because I personally have no official involvement with AA. I’m a member, that’s all. And the only requirement to be a member is a desire to stop drinking. No dues, no fees. Not even sobriety. Just a desire to stop drinking.
Ok. So now I’ve written a three paragraph introduction so that I can, I hope, talk about last night’s men’s meeting and the interesting thing that happened. One member, K, a guy I tremendously respect, about 56 years old and a pharmacist, sober more than 30 years, shared that his daughter had come out as a being in a relationship with another woman, for five months. He doesn’t know how she self-identifies yet. K didn’t describe his own feelings other than to be obviously a bit unnerved. He talked about wanting to talk with her.
I was struck by the various reactions in the room. this group is a very tight-knit group of men, most with quite a bit of time sober, and between my generation and my parents. A lot of men in their late 50s, early 60s, with 20-30 years sober. Another man, who I greatly respect, said, “That’s a kick in the head.” I turned to him, and furrowed my eyebrows and asked, genuinely interested, “Why? I don’t think it’s any big deal.”. But the meeting went on. And I don’t know how he meant it. It could simply mean that it’s surprising and disorienting. Even the most supportive parents must grieve some for a homosexual child, because they will so often encounter hateful people.
Now, I know there are homophobes around, in any heterogeneous group like an AA meeting. And I know there are racists. But here’s the thing, and it makes AA a special place: I’ve seen people who are total racists, like, personally avowed racists, hug and shake the hand of a person of the race they say they despise when they show up at a meeting. Same with homophobes. I’ve seen people who say vile things about gays embrace and welcome gay people to the meetings. That acceptance doesn’t always make it back with them outside the meetings. But in the meetings, we are all just alcoholics.
Last night, there was no discussion about homosexuality. We are there to support each other. We support each other because having a community of accepting and supportive men helps us not to drink. Keeps us centered. That’s our only agenda. And so, if K had been devastated about having a (possibly) lesbian daughter, we’d support him. My personal means of support would have been to tell him he kinda had his head up his ass, and she’s the same daughter she always was, and suggest he invite her and her girlfriend for coffee.
But K wasn’t devastated. He seemed a little disconcerted. But no differently than he might have if his daughter had told him she were joining the Air Force, or taking a job out of town, or anything that would be a large revelation of uncertain outcome. And the few men who were there, and obviously saw it as some kind of tragedy, as if she’d said she had cancer, all saw me, and several others, take it in stride and wonder what the big deal was.
And of course, I’m not in AA to correct anyone’s opinion about any issue. It is neither the place nor my position to argue about the acceptance of homosexuality, or any other thing. It is a place where people can express themselves free from judgement, and receive support for living their life in a way that allows them to find serenity free from alcohol. I regularly encounter people who I believe are wildly off the mark politically, socially, or simply with regard to common sense. Unless they ask me for my opinion, advice, or guidance, it’s not my business.
It is something that is truly special about AA that we are people “who would not normally mix.” And I think that that mixing, without judgement, has changed a lot of hearts about things like race and orientation. Because what we are all there for is recovery from alcoholism. And while we’re in the rooms, that truly is the only thing that matters. I have never seen racism, or homophobia, or sexism, acted on in a meeting. Before and after, maybe, but not during. And people who behave threateningly, or create an environment that is hostile to recovery, they are dealt with. But AA is not a “safe place”. It was never intended to be. It is a place where drunks and reprobates come to improve themselves. And everyone, without exception, is welcome, if they have a desire to stop drinking.
I’m not sure, after all this run up, that I have a point to make. Except to be greatful to have found a place that truly understands tolerance in a real way. All are welcome. Everyone is allowed to believe what they believe, and ask for support through any difficulty. And I am ready to give support, even to someone who might believe things I think are utterly wrong, if it helps that person stay sober. Because we all grow. I’ve held beliefs in my life which were utterly wrong. And through counsel, love, acceptance, argument, and engagement, I’ve changed.