I’m just finishing Undrunk – A Skeptic’s Guide to AA, by A. J. Adams (Hazelden, 2009). Undrunk may be the most lucid explanation of what AA is (and is not), how it functions and “how it works” that I’ve ever read, including all of the AA-Approved literature. It is at once a primer for the reader who just isn’t quite sure, an explanation for newcomers, and a great narrative of a personal journey, written with eloquence and wit. Along with being funny (at least to those of us who have been there), it’s almost never boring.
Still, as impressed as I am by the book’s content, style and presentation, I have to worry about the writer just a little. Why? Because when he wrote the book, published this year, he was just one year sober.
I know a little bit about writing, and about the research, proofreading, editing, re-writing and so forth that’s involved in birthing a book of any kind. I know that producing a good book — and this is a good book — can pretty much consume a person. I also know, from personal and painful experience, how analyzing AA and becoming a self-made guru can mess with a person’s own development in early recovery. I’m not accusing A. J. of this; I’m just sayin’.
These three things: research, analysis and immersion, create a two-edged sword. On one hand, you have the potential of creating a know-it-all attitude that can seriously hamper your ability to listen, learn, and apply the collective wisdom of the fellowship to your own life. On the other, by immersing in the pool of experience and tradition that is the essence of a 12-step group, there is the potential for deeper understanding and application to self, if approached with a major dose of good ol’ humility.
I like the book. I really, really like it. But I hope things work out better for the writer than they did in this scribe’s early recovery. I’m sure that much of Undrunk’s appeal is due to the enthusiasm of the newcomer who did such a fine job of writing it.
I just hope he’ll be OK.