Attack of the Clones
It had been a year without alcohol, and in recent months I had just found a way of living sober. My sponsor had taken me through the Steps and I was eagerly trying to practice the principles. Thrown into the middle of AA I was now the secretary of my Home Group. The meeting had just ended and I was packing away the Service Handbook when I noticed a menacing figure approaching. Clearly unhappy, he preceded with his ritual intimidation. The only thing different on this occasion was that he pulled out a knife and held it to my stomach. I had clearly upset him in some terrible way. Another time shortly afterwards I was clearing away the ashtrays when somebody offered me out for a fight. A couple of years later, whilst visiting a neighbouring group, I saw my ex-sponsor. Happy to see him, I put out my hand and said "Hello" only to be told to "F— Off”.
Why have I become so unpopular? What's happened? What's changed?
In my early days, before all of this, I attended a lot of meetings and listened to a lot of people, some of them had been without a drink for many years. I heard things like "You don't need to take the Steps,” and people seemed proud of the fact that they never had a sponsor or had not read the Big Book. Amongst one of these large meetings was a minority of “AA Storm troopers” who always said the opposite. These were the ones that I had been warned about!! They made it very clear that what worked for them was taking the Twelve Steps with the help of a sponsor and the Basic text.
“At long last I saw, I felt, I believed.“
I got myself a sponsor and did precisely what he asked. I started to read the Big Book, asked God to help me stay sober, and began a gratitude list. As a result of taking these actions my outlook changed, life seemed to brighten up and I could see a place in the world for me sober. I was at last able to be considerate of others and not be so obsessed with my own selfish desires. AA took on new meaning and I had a purpose and direction which was never there before.
So why are people becoming so hostile?
Over the years I've been labelled “a Step Nazi”, “a Gorgan”, “a Fanatic”, “a Controller”, “a Robot”, part of a “Cult”, "the Magic Circle", "the Magnificent Seven"; and last but not least "a Clone", because having taken the Steps I now sound like all the others. This attitude has towards me has continued over the years. In more recent times my home group has been accused of “only being good for newcomers", of being “part of the world and not the spirit”. As the group sarcastically referred to as “Wayne’s World” gets bigger, the accusations of “trying to take over” get louder, and I begin to wonder if there isn't just a hint of envy involved.
My Home Group is an AA Boot Camp and that's the way I like it. I feel at home amongst so many imperfect people, all trying and often failing to place spiritual values first. The group is disciplined and active; an hour before the meeting you'll see thirty people already in line, waiting to do business. To the occasional visitor it looks like a military operation – with people setting out chairs and greeters stood by the doors trying to make everybody feel welcome. It's the place in AA where I feel most comfortable. I am with people on the same road as myself. It's a place were aggressive behaviour is not tolerated, it's my AA Sanctuary.
Several years after first hearing them, I still see the AA activists, those people enthusiastic about Alcoholics Anonymous. They're still saying the same things. And there are still people who tell newcomers to avoid sponsorship and not to take the Steps – their faces are different but they all sound the same as well. Ultimately it all comes down to how we want to live. I can become a happy “clone” carrying the message of Alcoholics Anonymous, or remain a miserable one, telling everybody else they've got it wrong. Just for today I live comfortably on the “firing line”, safe in the knowledge that there’s room here in AA for us all.
WP – Road to Recovery – Plymouth 30/3/05