Let me say at the outset that I am a firm believer in AA, NA and the other 12-step fellowships, just in case no one has noticed. They saved my life, the life of my wife, and of my best friend, his wife, my son-in-law and many of the other people who are most important to me.
It worried me early on, and continues to worry me nearly two decades later, how some people in the rooms seem afraid to allow their knowledge of alcoholism — not their program, but alcoholism — to progress beyond the middle of the last century. It’s as though if they admit that the founders didn’t know every possible thing there was to know, back in the days only a few years after the invention of penicillin, that it somehow calls the entire recovery issue into question.
Now I’ve gotta tell you: if I had a deadly disease (which I do — two, in fact), and if my continued good health and well-being were contingent upon my knowing as much about it as I could find out (which I believe they are), and if I were constantly giving guidance to people with less experience who suffer from the same disease (which I am), I would feel morally obligated (which I do) to find out every single thing that I thought might be useful in educating people about our little problem.
There is no question but that the 12-step model works for a lot of people. (Well, there are non-believers, but I’m not trying to start an argument.) Personally, I know way too many people who have been helped by it to doubt the point. But let’s get back to that word “believers” for a moment.
That’s what I get from a lot of folks in the rooms: that they are True Believers, and that anyone who suggests that the first 167 pages of the Big Book (or whatever) aren’t the be-all and end-all of knowledge about recovery should be treated about the same as an evolutionist at a camp meeting.
As stated above, I’m a believer. But I no more ignore the 70 years that have passed since the first edition of Alcoholics Anonymous than I am likely to ignore the little nuances that the medical community have developed since Sir Alexander Fleming’s heyday. I have a theory about the folks I’m discussing — the same one I have about creationists. They’re afraid to learn anything new, because then they might have to get out of their rut and walk with the rest of the world.
I gotta tell you, I hope none of those folks ever need a liver transplant. We’ll just have to give ‘em a shot of penicillin and leave them to recover on their own.