from the San Diego AA Coordinator, February, 2020

Regarding this month’s topic, “Only a suggestion…” can we look to our literature for guidance? Certainly, two prominent references appear in the Big Book. On page 59 the very familiar, “Here are the steps we took which are suggested as a program of recovery.”  Some 80+ years later one might say that Bill was being modest when he wrote those words. Today, with millions having been granted a reprieve from an alcoholic death sentence as a result of these steps and this program, there is no doubt as to their effectiveness. But we should cut Bill some slack. Recall that when the book was written there were fewer than one hundred in the Fellowship, some no doubt sober only a few months and none longer than five years. They really couldn’t be sure this thing would work on a larger scale.

Were the Steps and the Big Book written today would there be justification for the use of a word stronger than “suggested” in these phrases? Let’s study this. We alcoholics tend to be somewhat obstinate individuals. One need only attend a group’s business meeting or steering committee to see evidence of that. No doubt throughout our lifetime many well-meaning family members and friends have suggested that we change our behavior, to no avail. As we progressed in our disease, groups with greater authority – law enforcement, judges, etc., made suggestions with more teeth (court orders, etc.) which at times we chose to ignore.

The word “suggestion” seems to indicate that we have a choice. Many situations arise where choosing not to behave in the indicated manner can have unpleasant or even disastrous results. “Turn around and put your hands behind your back.” Ignoring this suggestion might lead to a charge of resisting arrest being added to your DUI. How about, “Severe tire damage may result from backing up.” Haven’t tested that one, yet. Or when you are approaching an intersection and the light changes from yellow to red. Sure, you could just power through it but society and one’s own personal safety would indicate that stopping is the best decision.

Not taking the Steps in A.A. can and does have disastrous results. Should we not use stronger terms than “suggested” to convey our message?

I have always been somewhat taken aback when I see one of our members addressing a newcomer, or a group of newcomers, and saying with great emphasis, Get a Book! Read it! Get a sponsor and work the Steps! Get down on your knees and pray to a Higher Power! Etc. Now I am not denying that these actions are extremely important if one is to achieve and maintain sobriety, however I would suggest that the obstinate newcomer being addressed in this fashion may not be able to swallow all of this at once. That was certainly true for this obstinate newcomer when I entered the rooms for the first time. I was given one suggestion that I could swallow, “Keep coming back”. And following that suggestion eventually led to following all the others.

Bill got it right. A.A. is suggested as a program of recovery. And, it works!

Blaine H.