Tolerance and Celebration

humility by arimoore

There’s a lot of discussion online about multiple pathways to recovery within and outside of 12 step groups. It’s prompted me to reread this great paper by Ernie Kurtz and Bill White. I tend to think that the prevalence of one-wayism is overstated by critics of twelve-step groups and treatment. This paper makes it very clear that it’s outside the tradition the spearhead of the 12 step movement.

Take the time to read the whole thing, but here are a few jewels:

AA’s elevation of humility as an aspirational value is perhaps best exemplified through it’s rejection of absolutes—a position that led to its early split from the Oxford Group—and through what in AA folklore became reified as Rule No. 62: “Don’t take yourself too damned seriously” (Kurtz, 1979; Alcoholics Anonymous, 1957, p. 104).
It is an historical fact that practically all groupings of men and women tend to become more dogmatic; their beliefs and practices harden and sometimes freeze. This is a natural and almost inevitable process…. But dogma also has its liabilities. Simply because we have convictions that work well for us, it becomes very easy to assume that we have all the truth….This isn’t good dogma; it’s very bad dogma. It could be especially destructive for us of AA to indulge in this sort of thing. (Wilson, 1965/1988, p. 333)

In no circumstances should members feel that Alcoholics Anonymous is the know-all and do-all of alcoholism. (Wilson, 1965/1988, p. 332)

The question of alternative pathways of recovery came up early in the history of AA. The September 1944 issue of the AA Grapevine included an article by noted author Philip Wylie, who described his solo recovery from alcoholism (without the help of AA). Anticipating some potential resistance among AA readers, the Grapevine editor asked Bill Wilson to offer comment on Wylie’s story. Bill declared that Wylie’s article should “endear” Wylie to every AA member.

No AA should be disturbed if he cannot fully agree with all of Mr. Wiley’s truly stimulating discourse. Rather shall we reflect that the roads to recovery are many; that any story or theory of recovery from one who has trod the highway is bound to contain much truth. (Wilson, 1944/1988, p. 98)