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Old 12-08-2007, 06:32 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Our Primary Purpose

I was at a meeting last night, and as I listened to the pre-amble being read, something came to me. I've heard this a thousand times and it didn't strike me until last night how inconstitent this statement is with our literature and what we are about:

"Our primary purpose is to stay sober and to carry our message to the alcoholic who still suffers."

I have been able to stay sober. My sponsor told me that he couldn't show me how to stay sober, but that he could, as was wonderfully stated on another thread, "Put my hand in God's hands."

Bill Wilson said that we alcoholics don't stay away from a drink, we grow away from a drink. In meetings I often hear how important it is stay away from the first drink. I have never able on my own power to stay away from a drink because I don't have the choice. I will always drink. I haven't spent the last almost seventeen years staying away from a drink. In the darkness of active alcoholism, seperated from my source, there is no choice but to drink. In the sunlight of the spirit, there is no choice to drink because the problem has been removed.

Doctor Silkworth comments on what he saw. He saw a true fellowship growing up, based on one alcoholic working with another, not on going to meetings. He saw men transformed. He said that there was no profit motive. In other words, staying sober wasn't the motive anymore. That motive was transcended by the happiness they found in giving themselves for others. The doctor also states how the community spirit he saw was inspiring to him. My whole life has been about me getting mine. Community spirit means that I give that motive up and help you get yours. I f I help you get yours, I automatically get mine. As I said, the doctor saw a true fellowship, spiritual in its aim and altruistic in its purpose.

Our traditions make mention of the fact that each AA group ought to be a spiritual entity and that we have a primary spiritual aim. Nowhere in any of our literature does it say that our primary purpose is to stay sober.

My primary spiritual aim is lead an alcoholic to God. If I stick to my primary spiritual aim, staying sober isn't an issue.
Jim
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Old 12-08-2007, 07:47 AM   #2 (permalink)
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If I don't stay sober, what message do I have to carry?
I'm not God, and I'm fallable. Getting caught up in purposes other than staying sober can carry me back to the point where I am willing to believe that lie again. "We can't get you sober, but we can help you learn to live sober." For me, not romancing thoughts of drinking and allowing myself to be carried to far from the simplicity and finality of the first step is the 'keeping my feet on the ground' part of things.
p.s. If I see a pair of legs hanging out of a cloud today, I'll know it's you making your way past.
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Old 12-08-2007, 10:05 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Primary Purpose

"Our primary purpose is to stay sober and to carry our message to the alcoholic who still suffers."

I thought that line read, " Our primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety."

...not much of a difference,...just a fyi

NoelleR
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Old 12-08-2007, 10:38 AM   #4 (permalink)
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If I don't stay sober, what message do I have to carry?
I'm not God, and I'm fallable. Getting caught up in purposes other than staying sober can carry me back to the point where I am willing to believe that lie again. "We can't get you sober, but we can help you learn to live sober." For me, not romancing thoughts of drinking and allowing myself to be carried to far from the simplicity and finality of the first step is the 'keeping my feet on the ground' part of things.
p.s. If I see a pair of legs hanging out of a cloud today, I'll know it's you making your way past.
I thought this might go over some people's heads. That's ok though.


If I stick the primary spiritual aim, romancing the thought of a drink doesn't occur.

Most of the time my feet are on the ground because that is where the work is and that is where my fellow travelers are. Sometimes my head is up my you-know-what and I'm just revolving around myself.
Jim
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Old 12-08-2007, 10:39 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by NoelleR View Post
"Our primary purpose is to stay sober and to carry our message to the alcoholic who still suffers."

I thought that line read, " Our primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety."

...not much of a difference,...just a fyi

NoelleR
Noelle, you are right. my mistake.
Jim
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Old 12-08-2007, 10:44 AM   #6 (permalink)
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I spent eleven years doing the work of Alcoholics Anonymous to stay sober. Like I can do anything to stay sober. What happened was spiritual burn-out, exhaustion, and crash and burn. If I look at this as something I "have to do to stay sober," or as a chore, that is what happens. I hate chores, they make tired. That is why true service work is the result of recovery and not the other around as well.

Now I don't this stay sober, I do it because I am sober. If anything, doing this brings me to a deeper awareness of what got me sober and keeps me sober.
Jim
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Old 12-08-2007, 10:49 AM   #7 (permalink)
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I hear ya Jim. Singleness of purpose, carry the message. See, the problem with sobriety being the primary purpose is the same reason sobriety isn't the most important thing in my life. If I make sobriety the most important thing in my life, then the most important thing in my life is something I have no power to bring about. The most important thing in my life is a concious contact with God. Everything else including sobriety stems from that experience. So, my primary purpose is to bring the newcomer to God. Carry the message. Chris R really hits it home when he talks about the nonsense of one liners like " meeting makers make it". That is not true. Step takers make it because we get access to God. My problem is access to God. The steps clear the way and make access possible.
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Old 12-08-2007, 11:49 AM   #8 (permalink)
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If we define "sober" as staying away from the drink, I do agree that it's inconsistent. But, today, my sobriety is only partly defined by the absence of alcohol in my body. To introduce it would taint the rest -- but, like you said --

Quote:
If I stick to my primary spiritual aim, staying sober isn't an issue.
-- if that's how I'm living, chemical sobriety is one result. The drink problem is solved, so I'd have to be straying from my primary spiritual aim, thus my sobriety, before I introduced a drink.

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Old 12-08-2007, 01:35 PM   #9 (permalink)
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but that he could, as was wonderfully stated on another thread, "Put my hand in God's hands."
Our primary purpose is to stay sober: Can't be an example of sobriety if I'm not staying sober!!

And help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety: I believe showing someone how to put one's hand in the hand of God would fall under that catagory, which again, can't be done if one is drunk.

That old saying comes to mind. It's ok to ask God for help to grow the crops, but I'd better be ready to pick up a hoe. I can ask God all day to keep me sober but if I don't stay away from that first drink by going to meetings, getting a sponsor, and working the steps, I will eventually let go of God's hand.

We can discuss this more, however I have a suggestion. Let's talk about what comes first, the chicken or the egg.

"My primary spiritual aim is lead an alcoholic to God. If I stick to my primary spiritual aim, staying sober isn't an issue."

The above statement says what the preamble says. I have to stay sober in order to carry the message to another drunk.
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Old 12-08-2007, 02:40 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Points are well taken, Music.

Perhaps our are experiences are different, or maybe they are the same, just viewed through different lenses.

All I know is the conscioussness of the Presence of God is the most important fact of my life. I didn't know that until I knew it.

In the beginning, it was about staying sober. It stayed that way for a long time. Of course I don't want to return to drinking. But what I have found out is that my sobriety is a blessed by-product of an experience with God. Now the deal is to grow that experience and keep it alive.

In Chapter Eleven, both Bill and Bob realized that must keep spiritually active if they were to stay sober. Then that motive became transcended by a higher motive, the true happiness that they had found in giving themselves in service to another. That is my experience. If I attend to that, staying away from the first drink is not an issue. Of course, I'm not saying anything that you don't already know.

One last thing, I believe we sell the newcomer short by offering him sobriety, in the sense of not drinking. Sobriety all by itself is an untolerable condition for an alcoholic. That is why I drank- couldn't stand sobriety. What I was offered was more than one-liners, more than a meeting. I was offered away of living that has proven to be at the worst tolerable and at its best, joyous and it has provided me with a deep sense of meaning.
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Old 12-08-2007, 02:52 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Odd, I never thought of the chicken V egg side. I always saw "Our primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety" as the conclusion of "A.A. is not allied with any sect, denomination, politics, organization or institution; does not wish to engage in any controversy; neither endorses nor opposes any causes." Reinforcing that I would never be asked to vote for a particular political candidate, donate to or support other causes (no matter how worthy), or be required to believe in the God of someone else's understanding.
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Old 12-08-2007, 04:03 PM   #12 (permalink)
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The thought of 'staying sober' leads me to think that 'I' am doing something, maybe making a choice each day (or think that I am making a choice).

I was told that God could remove the problems that stand in the way of him, myself and others. That is what is attractive, it is so much more than just not drinking - not drinking was miserable. And when alcohol didn't work any more what was I suppose to do???

When I was approached by AA's from the angle of 'The primary purpose is to stay sober', I would not keep coming back. Sobriety was not an attractive alternative. I come back because of the miracle, most of which I see in other people. I see AA as much more than just not drinking no matter what these days...I don't know when or how that changed but it did.

I have to buy in that sobriety is the by product of an experience that is soo much more.


Anyhoo...nice post Jim.

~A
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Old 12-08-2007, 06:08 PM   #13 (permalink)
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When I first came to AA, I stayed sober 'cause I had nothing to lose. Now I stay sober because I have everything to lose. What happened in between took a number of years of working the steps, talking to my sponsor sometimes daily, going to meetings; in the beginning every day and at some point realizing that I had other responsibilities to my family etc. In the beginning it was about not drinking. Now it's about living sober. God has been there for me since almost day one, when I asked for help to stay sober for the first time. Jerry Murphy, my first sponsor showed me how to go to meetings, how to shake hands and introduce myself to strangers, how to aske God for help, and guided me through the steps for the first time. I didn't know how to do these things and wouldn't have done them, left to my own devices. I needed a man who could set an example for me. When I left Jerry and moved away I cried like a baby. I asked him what I could do to pay him back for all he'd done for me. He said, "just do it for someone else." So, there you have it. Our main purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety. Set the example. Be the example of the power of my Higher Power, just like it says in the 3rd step prayer.

I think we're both saying the same thing here Jim. Like you said, through different lenses. And, that's what makes the program so unique. We both achieve the same end, by the same means but not the same way.
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Old 12-08-2007, 10:54 PM   #14 (permalink)
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God did remove my obsession to drink after
much prayer and finishing my formal Step work.

So that is exactly the experience I share.
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Old 12-09-2007, 07:20 AM   #15 (permalink)
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"Keep it simple". How many times did Dr. Bob have to remind Bill to just keep it simple?

You either believe that our primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety or you do not. Simple. It does not say, stay sober period. It says stay sober and help other Alcoholics achieve sobriety. Where is the disagreement? When I have a toothache, do I argue with the Dentist over the procedure to fix it? Do I relish the pain and fantasize on how I can recreate the moment again and again? Do I debate the Dentist on whether the tooth needs a crown first or the filling last?

Many times to make a point, we each revert to pulling a quote or a thought from the material; Big Book, Twelve and Twelve, AA Comes of Age, As Bill Sees It and using it out of context to support our reasoning, argument or positions. This is not bad, it simply is, we are learning. My old foes, the Christians do much the same; they will belabor a verse and miss the message that came with the story surrounding it. When I look at the promise of a new life, I have to take in the whole panorama and not just one certain area for close dissection without regard for the rest of the view.

I believe that if you experience a psychic change you are free. Simple. To maintain that freedom you must, you must give the experience of a psychic change away. How do you experience a psychic change? There is a litany of ways in Alcoholic Anonymous to get from point A to point B. Some of these are not written in our literature; they came from practical experience by those who went before. Does it make them less effective, less honest and less worthy of our consideration? “Well, if it ain’t in the book”…

How does it work? Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path...

1. Be full of booze
2. Go to meetings
3. Get a Sponsor
4. Purchase a Big Book, Little Red Book, Twelve and Twelve and a Thought for the Day and read them daily
5. Listen to the directions from the Sponsor
6. Work the Steps according to the directions of the Sponsor
7. Get a Home Group
8. Do service work approved by the Sponsor; Coffee, Chairs at the home group
9. Recognize periods of your Sobriety
10. Complete the Steps with the Sponsor
11. Find a new person
12. Start over with the new person

I am reminded of the debates surrounding Baseball today and the impact of the steroid years on the Hall of Fame. Our current dilemmas sound almost like a near recreation of the debate of whether treatment centers placed some dark stain on our fellowship. Maybe we should place an asterisk next to each member’s name that went through treatment; I would obviously have a trail a mile long, or two.

Like starlings on a clothesline…
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Old 12-09-2007, 07:40 AM   #16 (permalink)
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Different points of view are a good thing. I don't see a debate, I see a healthy discussion.

That being said, I do believe this deal is simple, but as I have said, I don't believe it is simplistic. I believe it is ok to question things, especially spiritual matters. After all the book does tell me to honestly ask myself what these spiritual terms mean to me. For me, one of the results of a spiritual awakening is a quickening of the mind, a renewal of sorts. If I stay involved in the process this is not a one-time thing.

I do like the line about starlings on a clothesline, though. That's a good one.
Jim
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Old 12-09-2007, 09:56 AM   #17 (permalink)
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I am your advocate not your detractor...My rant was for the demons not the angels.

I am grateful for your life and hope to shake your hand and hug your neck one day.
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Old 12-09-2007, 11:04 AM   #18 (permalink)
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I am your advocate not your detractor...My rant was for the demons not the angels.

I am grateful for your life and hope to shake your hand and hug your neck one day.

I'm smiling as I read and write this.

I never saw you as a detractor-that goes for about everyone else here.

It would be great if some of us could hook-up f2f for real one day. Maybe 2010 in San Antonio.

Be well my friend.
Jim
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Old 12-09-2007, 12:54 PM   #19 (permalink)
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That would be a blast....I might even bring a pigeon or two...LOL
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Old 12-09-2007, 01:04 PM   #20 (permalink)
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Thumbs up Hey Jim,

I like this discussion; it is a favorite of mine; I completely understand what you are saying; and I agree with you. What we are talking about is the rewriting of the Fifth Tradition in what I believe to be an erroneous preamble.

“Each group has but one primary purpose—to carry its message to the alcoholic who still suffers.”

In doing so, the drink problem is removed. That preamble / blue sheet should read (if it should be read at all): “Our primary purpose is to help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety [so that we may stay sober ourselves].

Another good thread Jim.

:atv
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