Thursday, August 27, 2009

Tradition Eleven.

"Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, TV and films. We need guard with special care the anonymity of all AA members."

I'm grateful to have learned fairly early on in my program journey, not to use quibbles about semantics as an avoidance mechanism. I recall a member at one meeting I'd occasionally attend, when I lived in the city - she would zero in on some small point, and belabor it; trying to follow her reasoning was like sitting on the beach watching a thick fog roll in.

I was reminded of this today, when typing this Tradition. I recalled her twenty-minute exposition on: "Why did the people who wrote the Traditions capitalise "TV?" The larger idea encapsulated by this Tradition escaped her entirely, she was completely hung up on that tiny detail. She almost always did this, regardless of the topic. She'd attend the meetings: when it was her turn to share, talk about the way a Step/Tradition/reading was worded: or if the topic was "trust," talk about what trust wasn't. The wisdom of program never seemed to touch her. When I was new to Al-Anon, I used to wonder - what could I learn from someone like that? In my arrogance, I'd have said: nothing.

My Higher Power has a sense of humour, he likes to show me the extremes of human behavior, and then grant me the ability to see myself in that person. There came a time when I was arguing a point with my sponsor, and suddenly could hear that I was doing the self-same thing as the woman at that meeting - completely losing sight of the bigger picture in my furious, protesting, focus upon minutia. It was a good lesson in humility and acceptance; I've never forgotten it.

I believe this Tradition makes it possible for Al-Anon never to be associated with any one spokesperson, and thereby avoid being associated with their politics, their behavior, their life choices... I believe we need to attract rather than promote, because when we promote, there is no way to keep our egos out of the picture. When we attempt to convert another to our way of thinking, it's common for the listener to feel resistance; if they seek us out under their own power, there isn't that mountain of resistance to climb before the message can be heard. If we as individuals were to become associated with Al-Anon in the public mind through promotion, what if some found us irritating or distasteful? If we just "rubbed them the wrong way?" Then Al-Anon itself would take on the taint of their dislike for us. This is to be avoided at all costs.

The second half of this Tradition is still vitally important - there may no longer be quite the social stigma attached to alcoholism that there was when AA was born, but it does still exist; for this reason, we protect the anonymity of the alcoholic.

1 comment:

  1. I was just reading an article in which a well-known person divulged their affiliation with AA. I wonder at those who do this and whether the motive is good or not.