Monday, May 10, 2004

Principle Before Personality?

Radley Balko of The Agitator has a great post looking at a new book about Alcoholics Anonymous founder Bill Wilson. After quoting a passage from the book, about Bill's final days, he writes:
So did your blood run cold? Were you shocked that Bill Wilson would ask for alcohol on his deathbed, but relieved to learn he didn't get it? I'd guess that a healthy majority of the people who read the article felt the same way.

That's because they've been brainwashed. I found it rather abhorrent that Bill Wilson couldn't get a taste of the one thing that may have made him feel a bit better on his deathbed. That allegiance to some stupid code of an earthly recovery group made one man's descent into death much more difficult than it needed to be.

I'm not horrified that Bill Wilson asked for alcohol as he was dying. I'm horrified that he didn't get it.
I wasn't especially surprised, nor did I find it heretical as some did. AAs have always had a tendency to forget the dictum from the Big Book to place principle before personality, moreso when it comes to Bill and Doctor Bob, AA's founders. It's easy to want the man to conform to our needed vision of him, rather than accept the messy and conflicting realities. There are also, as Balko notes, too many AAs who turn the Program into a psuedo-religion to assuage emotional problems they still haven't faced using the Twelve Steps. That's not healthy for the recovering alcoholic, nor the people around them.

On the other hand, we're not really given enough information to have a really informed opinion. If Bill was on powerful painkillers, alcohol would have been dangerous to him. So denying him was the right course. Did Bill, while still in his "right mind" before the final, pain-filled, days, specifically tell those around him to help him keep from drinking? Then they were honoring his request and acting as any good friend would. Without more background, we just can't know.

Read the Whole Thing, especially the comments. It's tough stuff, but a good corrective as well. It's always too easy to let AA turn into a psuedo-cultish evangelism in which you're a disciple and your whole life revolves around the Program. I've seen a lot of that and don't think it's healthy. Folks who treat their recovery and the Program more like a treatment regemin, say the way diabetics treat their insulin injections and their dietary changes, tend to be healthier overall. But that's just my opinion.

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