Dave’s Page: Responsibility

One of the goals of the twelve step program is for its practitioners to “return to a normal way of life”. Over the years I have heard this phrase debated in meetings and in discussions outside the meeting halls. What does this mean? What is a normal way of life?

The unfortunate fact is that many of us upon entering a Twelve Step program have no experience with “normal”. Our life experience has left us with a sort of “social retardation” where we have never learned even the most elemental rules and behaviors that most people take for granted. It is as if all of our growth and development stopped at the age we were when we picked up up our first drink or drug. I often say that fifteen was a tough age. I know that because I was fifteen for twenty years.

I was recently asked to address my home group’s Newcomer’s Meeting and talk about appropriate behavior at meetings. It occurred to me that with all the years that the many treatment centers in the area have been using our meetings for their evening activity that they would provide at least a minimal introduction to “normal” behavior at meetings. Upon further thought however I realized that it was the responsibility of those of us who have been around the program a while to teach these things to newcomers. God knows that I needed a lot of work when it came to manners inside and outside of meetings. Thank God the teachers were there for me. Why should we pass our responsibility as members of AA off to those who run treatment centers?

Over the last year I have spent more time living and working with what we sometimes call “earth people” or “normies”. It amazes me how skillfully they are able to get to work on time, balance checkbooks, buy cars and homes, and essentially take responsibility for their own lives.

In the early days of AA the founders, in their wisdom, appointed non-alcoholics to its board of directors. I have always thought that this was because they didn’t trust themselves with the money. Maybe they just needed someone to show them how to behave at those Board of Directors meetings.

Being a recovering alcoholic/addict is not an excuse for bad behavior. The program is about taking responsibility for our attitudes, actions and behaviors. The key word is responsibility. I guess there can be no argument with the concept that “normal behavior” follows the Golden Rule which simply states “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” We can learn this lesson in meetings, in treatment centers, halfway houses, churches and in the laboratory of life. Perhaps “normal” simply means taking responsibility for ourselves. What a concept!!

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