Sometimes We Pick the Fruit Before It’s Ripe


By Rick R.

I wish I could say that everyone who enters the doors of AA has an equal shot at getting sober and staying that way for the rest of their lives. However, depending on the different reasons why each individual decides to give AA a chance, coupled with the degree of desperation causing the person to delve into what the program has to offer, we get a variety of different results. 

When I arrived at my first meeting, I was desperately looking for what I thought was a solution to an impossible situation. I was defeated and absolutely demoralized. Within minutes of being exposed to the sober members of that group, I was convinced I had found the solution to my hopeless condition. The desire to drink was removed from me on the spot and has never returned. That was on October 15, 1969. I wish every new member could have that type of experience.  Yet we know many of us are not that receptive in the beginning. 

Most of the members of that early group were over forty years old and I was only 28. I was the exception at the time. Meetings were much smaller because there were no rehab facilities intervening in the alcoholics’ drinking escapades. They did not start hitting their bottom until their forties or fifties, or it had something to do with midlife crisis, or it was just a coincidence. 

What I do see that is different from my experience is the blurred line when it comes to the first requirement for AA membership: “A desire to stop drinking.” My employer told me I had to stop drinking. When I consider the relief I got from the bottle, I doubt I would have been as receptive to getting sober. If I had, I am sure I would have relapses as much as any of those who, unfortunately, struggle with staying sober. Apparently many of the AA members of today have seen a high percentage of relapses. They attribute that as an abysmal success ratio in AA.  They assume just because they were sent to AA from a rehab facility they should be lumped in with those, like me, who had a desire to stop drinking and came in looking for answers. These relapses are the natural result of when the desire to drink is stronger than the desire to stay sober.

In the Foreword to the Second Edition of the Big Book it says: “Of alcoholics who came to AA, and really tried, 50% got sober at once and remained that way: 25% sobered up after some relapses.”  I often ask the newcomers what caused them to give AA a visit. Most of them say the main reasons were DUI’s, work-related requirements, and spouses’ ultimatums. 

Occasionally someone says, “I just ran out of ideas, and I needed help.” The latter is usually the one in ten who stays sober without relapse. I also believe if you counted only the ones who came in searching for answers, the same ratio as mentioned in the Foreword to the Big Book would still apply. Seventy five percent is not bad. The good news is many of the members who are here as the result of intervention or other motivations often become what they refer to as the “educational variety”, often getting sober years before they would have had they not been intervened upon. 

We treat these brothers and sisters with empathy, compassion and understanding. The awareness in the community has taken away much of the stigma (not all) of being cursed with the disease of alcoholism. Where we had meetings totaling ten or twelve members, we now have twenty to forty members attending. Sometimes the fruit gets picked before it is ripe, but is never discarded.


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