Rules versus Principles

by Anonymous

I don’t like being told what I can or cannot do. If I had walked in through the doors of Alcoholics Anonymous and heard, “You must stop drinking” or “You need to give us money” or any other command, rule or regulation, I would have walked right back out those doors never to return. Fortunately, I was never given any orders. I wasn’t forced to donate money and to my great surprise, I wasn’t told that I had to stop drinking. Instead, I was told the only requirement to be a member is a desire to stop drinking, and a spiritual way of life might solve my drinking problem.

I wasn’t sure that I was an alcoholic. I loved getting wasted and drinking people under the table, but did that mean I was an alcoholic? My first sponsor explained that alcoholism can be classified as an allergy of the body and an obsession of the mind. That made sense but I wasn’t sure I had those problems.

She told me to go try some controlled drinking

Then she did something totally unexpected. She told me to go try some controlled drinking. I could not believe that this woman who had given her time and energy to help me stay sober was telling me that I could go drink. If she had forbidden it, I would have gotten drunk. Instead, I imagined what controlled drinking would feel like, and realized that it would be absolutely miserable! I accepted the fact that I was an alcoholic, followed my sponsor’s suggestions, and began to recover.

After being sober for a few years and adopting A.A.’s way of life, I discovered something about myself that surprised me. While I hate being told what to do, I love having structure in my life. Somehow, Bill, Bob and the founding members of A.A. created a way for our fellowship to be self-sufficient, financially sound and non-controversial, while helping us avoid fights over money, property or prestige. There are no laws and no punishments in A.A., only a set of spiritual traditions that guide the way we operate. As I incorporate these principles into my daily life, the world becomes more manageable.

principles unite our vibrant members

There are no laws and no punishments in A.A.

I continue to marvel at the principles and traditions that unite our vibrant and headstrong members. What worked for alcoholics over 80 years ago still works for us today. Each member of A.A. is considered a guardian of our spiritual principles and traditions. When a feisty newcomer, ready to fight about the rules, walks through our doors I smile and tell them I once felt the same way. When they are unsure if they are an alcoholic, I happily suggest some controlled drinking. The look of confusion and wonder on their faces brings me endless joy. When they tell me they are willing to work the program of Alcoholics Anonymous, I offer a few suggestions that just might change their life.

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