We Can’t Save the World

Tradition 5
Each group has but one primary purpose-to carry its message to the alcoholic who still suffers.

Our co-founder Bill said that it is better to do one thing well than many things bad.

The thing that AA does is one alcoholic helps another. That’s it. In the old days, people thought AA did so well with helping alcoholics, maybe it will become a new world religion. Today the drunks, tomorrow the world!

But no, “shoemaker, stick to thy last.”

We can’t save the world. We have one primary purpose, to carry the message to the alcoholic who still suffers.

Today, it means that when I’m in a meeting, I can’t fix someone’s depression, marital problems, financial problems, ect. I can only do one thing well, talk about my experience with alcoholism and what I have done to maintain my recovery.

I heard Old timers talk about this in several of their open talks and it really freaked me out……which led to me making some big changes in how I spoke at tables, how I worked with newcomers, and how I practiced “my” program.

They stressed, over and over, “to carry IT’S MESSAGE…” What’s the message you’re carrying?” The message is, of course, the AA program of recovery – the 12 steps – the promise of a spiritual awakening if they’re followed, recovery from alcoholism, and all the cool 5th / 11th / 12th step promises plus all the others that are sprinkled throughout the book.

They really got me when they suggested that if someone new walks in the door and they’re getting beaten-up by alcoholism, isn’t it safe to say they were led here for AA’s proven program of recovery? That being true… who do I think I am to show them “my” version or to show them some alternate program of recovery? Was I willing to risk their life upon “my program?” Anyway……I kinda freaked out a bit when I realized the error in my ways… which got me back into the book with some renewed motivation. I made the decision that I was now willing to put someone’s life on the line with nothing other than “the program”. To be fair, I still tell them what I do…

AA-in-the-book-stuff or not but I’m careful to let people know it’s just what I DO and what works FOR ME.

Another thing this tradition reminds me is that it doesn’t say just it’s for the newcomer who’s suffering. Sometimes, the alcoholic who’s suffering is the old-timer, mid-timer, or the guy with a year or two sitting across the chair from me. This tradition asks me just how much courage do I have….do I have the courage and the humility (yep, both…..at the same time) to carry a message to the guy with 2, 5, or 10 times the time since his last drink as me? Can I do it in a way that’s attractive and doesn’t come off as egotistical? –For that one, I’ve found I need a LOT of divine intervention because, for whatever reason, anyone who’s got substantially more time than me intimidates me… I get somewhat nervous about trying to carry a message to them.
Finally, this tradition reminds me that I’m not the problem solver, God is. This is part of the “carry it’s message” deal mentioned above but it’s really important so I say it again

I can only do so much through my experience. My willingness is the key and understanding of the joint tradition with step 12 work. On the telephone, over coffee, articles and at meetings through my shares to the floor. My ego wants to think I have all the answers, wants to give advice and shout out Recovery but also my self-centred fear stops me because “why would anyone want to hear from me”. I’m torn!

I won’t grow spiritually if I stop myself short because of a fear.

This is a constant reminder that God works through me, to help the alcoholic who is suffering. God is where the real juice is…that’s where the real serenity comes from…not from me. I carry Gods message through the teachings and practices of the 12 steps.

Matthew W, Road to Recovery, Plymouth.
January 2021