People

Chapter 9: To Whom It May Concern

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Preface: The final step on any pathway of transformation is giving up the path that got you there. Like the joyful sadness of finishing a great novel, our victory over alcoholism is bittersweet, almost lonely. It is our victory over the War within Self, however, that begins to bring us into relationship with the world around us. To fully embrace that relationship, we must consider anew a world that did not exist when the Big Book was published in 1939, a world educated by Alanon, Adult Children of Alcoholics, Alateen, Employee Assistance Programs, and an increasingly despotic Addiction Treatment Industry devoted to repeating patients, rather than treating them. We open our hearts to the possibility that the world of non-alcoholics has as much to teach us about our alcoholism as did AA—maybe even more.

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Chapter 8

TO WIVES, p 104

8.1 “With few exceptions, our book thus far has spoken of men. But what we have said applies quite as much to women. Our activities in behalf of women who drink are on the increase. There is every evidence that women regain their health as readily as men if they try our suggestions.”

8.2 “But for every man who drinks others are involved — the wife who trembles in fear of the next debauch; the mother and father who see their son wasting away.”

8.3 “Among us are wives, relatives and friends whose problem has been solved, as well as some who have not yet found a happy solution. We want the wives of Alcoholics Anonymous to address the wives of men who drink too much. What they say will apply to nearly everyone bound by ties of blood or affection to an alcoholic.”

8.4 “As wives of Alcoholics Anonymous, we would like you to feel that we understand as perhaps few can. We want to analyze mistakes we have made. We want to leave you with the feeling that no situation is too difficult and no unhappiness too great to be overcome.”

8.5 “We have traveled a rocky road, there is no mistake about that. We have had long rendezvous with hurt pride, frustration, self-pity, misunderstanding and fear. These are not pleasant companions. We have been…”

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“Conflicts of representation are painful for a variety of reasons. On a practical level, it is painful to have a model of reality that conflicts with those of the people around you. The people around you soon make you aware of that. But why should this conflict worry people, if a model is only a model, a best guess at reality that each of us makes? Because nobody thinks of it that way. If the model is the only reality you can know, then that model is reality; and if there is only one reality, then the possessor of a different model must be wrong.”  William H Calvin

Chapter 9

TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN

To: Wives; Family both Distant & Near; Employers & Co-Workers; Addiction Professionals and Amateurs; Law Enforcement Officers & Court Officials; Teachers & Students; Clergy; Friends & the not-so Friendlies; Acquaintances & Strangers; Innocent Bystanders and Guilty Onlookers, Family Pets—and the Poor, the Tired, & the Huddled Masses:

9.1 Three Chapters in the Big Book—Chapters 8, 9, and 10—take 47 pages to sell the following idea: If Wives, Family Members, and Employers would just understand that the alcoholic is a sick person, then everyone would be nicer to alcoholic, and everyone would be better all around. Over 40 years I have witnessed the rank-and-file in AA move from disinterest in this material to a grudging acceptance of its self-serving worldview.

9.2 “100 Years of Extravagant Promises” will not waste 47 pages feeding you self-serving explanations about alcoholism or alcoholics. We will not be masking our identity to perpetuate the fraud that we understand our situation as no non-alcoholic can. As New Founders we have given ourselves new choices in how to understand our own alcoholism, and we respectfully encourage you to do the same. Whether you consider us sick or sinful, careless or deliberate in the choices we have made regarding alcohol is of no real concern for us. We only ask that you choose a way of understanding that allows us both to move forward in our lives—whether that be together or apart.

© 2019 Michael V. Cossette

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Chapter 9

THE FAMILY AFTERWARD, p 122

9.1 “Our women folk have suggested certain attitudes a wife may take with the husband who is recovering. Perhaps they created the impression that he is to be wrapped in cotton wool and placed on a pedestal. Successful readjustment means the opposite. All members of the family should meet upon the common ground of tolerance, understanding and love. This involves a process of deflation. The alcoholic, his wife, his children, his “in-laws,” each one is likely to have fixed ideas about the family’s attitude towards himself or herself. Each is interested in having his or her wishes respected. We find the more one member of the family demands that the others concede to him, the more resentful they become. This makes for discord and unhappiness.”

9.2 “And why? Is it not because each wants to play the lead? Is not each trying to arrange the family show to his liking? Is he not unconsciously trying to see what he can take from the family life rather than give?
Cessation of drinking is but the first step away from a highly strained, abnormal condition. A doctor said to us, “Years of living with an alcoholic is almost sure to make any wife or child neurotic. The entire family is, to some extent, ill.” Let families realize, as they start their journey, that all will not be fair weather. Each in his turn may be footsore and may straggle…”

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Chapter 9

TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN

9.3 But before you make that choice, it will be useful to look back at how the 12th Step changed between the First and Second Editions of the Big Book.

From the Original 1939 Manuscript:

Step 12: “Having had a spiritual experience as the result of this course of action, we tried to carry this message to others, especially alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”

Since the Second Printing of the First Edition:

Step 12. “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”

9.4 Words matter. A change in phrasing between any two editions of a book needs serious consideration. Wilson in 1939 had big, visionary dreams, bigger than any of his contemporaries. He envisioned a world in which everyone —alcoholic or not—could benefit from Twelve Step praxis. So his first formulation of the 12th Step read “we tried to carry this message to others, especially alcoholics,”; his next formulation over a decade later he omitted “to others” and “especially” to focus just on alcoholics. Still, with a full 47 pages (out of a total of 164) addressed directly to non-alcoholics, editorial changes cannot disguise intent.

© 2019 Michael V. Cossette

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Chapter10

TO EMPLOYERS, p 136

10.1 “Among many employers nowadays, we think of one member who has spent much of his life in the world of big business. He has hired and fired hundreds of men. He knows the alcoholic as the employer sees him. His present views ought to prove exceptionally useful to business men everywhere.”

10.2 “But let him tell you:
I was at one time assistant manager of a corporation department employing sixty-six hundred men. One day my secretary came in saying Mr. B — insisted on speaking with me. I told her to say that I was not interested. I had warned him several times that he had but one more chance. Not long afterward he had called me from Hartford on two successive days, so drunk he could hardly speak. I told him he was through — finally and forever.”

10.3 “My secretary returned to say that it was Mr. B— on the phone; it was Mr. B—’s brother, and he wished to give me a message. I still expected a plea for clemency, but these words came through the receiver: ‘I just wanted to tell you Paul jumped from a hotel window in Hartford last Saturday. He left us a note saying you were the best boss he ever had, and that you were not to blame in any way.’ “

10.4 “Another time, as I opened a letter which lay on my…”

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Chapter 9

TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN

9.5 Chapters 8, 9, and 10 in the Big Book can be usefully seen as an attempt to “carry this message to others”—in this case families, particularly wives, & employers. But what Message? We are now fortunate enough to have Alanon, Adult Children of Alcoholics, and Alateen adopting the Twelve Steps for the family, as well as Employee Assistance Programs protecting everyone in the workplace. The “others” now have their own message, and don’t need anyone fronting for them anymore. It is now the alcoholic’s job to listen to what “they” have learned over the last 80 years.

…transcription to be continued…MVC

© 2019 Michael V. Cossette

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Chapters 8, 9, 10
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Chapters 8, 9, 10
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Chapters 8, 9, 10
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