Thursday, November 26, 2009

AA - Inside Job and Up the revolution!

I have been a liberal and proponent of "progress" all my life. In one small pocket of my world I had this place where I liked that things didn't change. It was an AA meeting and when those who wanted to change the outside world instead of changing themselves insisted for a whole group of justifications and rationalizations to change that world, I became a conservative voice arguing for no change. It's taught me so much about me and my life and my parents and the conservatives the world over.

The revolutionaries had made their first attack on the traditional meeting with shouting, and threats of violence. When that didn't work they continued to gossip, agitate and criticize. AA's untreated are the greatest bunch of critics. The Big Book even speaks about this.

But the revolutionaries chased off many members. And they claimed that things would be better after the revolution as all revolutionaries do who set out to destroy what is with the alcoholic promises of something better. Of course they claimed that what had brought them and all those who were before them this far was no longer as good as what they had in store.

I didn't understand why I wanted no change. It seemed a rather arbitrary position that I took because I hadn't liked the process of change more than anything else. I didn't think from the beginning that the problem was with the meeting but rather with the individuals in the group who were not working the Steps and couldn't see that the problem was with themselves. But then I'm always thinking that the problem is me. I've a sticker looking at me that says "you're looking at the problem." It's on the dash of my truck waiting to get to my mirror.

It was an AA meeting and the essence of the AA message was that the change that was needed was an "inside job" . Yet here was this concerted effort to change the "outside". The reasons weren't relevant. The thing was a perfectly functional working group that had served for decades but suddenly individuals wanted to change literally everthing about the group. The same individuals seemed to do the least about changing themselves but that was my judgement call and I couldn't help thinking that the first call to change had come from women who'd come to the group and not liked that it was a men's group.

I had personally stopped going to meetings dominated by young women because the men were always wanting to please them and the girls were always critical with the guys stumbling over each other to do their will. I did go to meetings where there were older women and older men and liked those most but this men's meeting had been unique and offered something other meetings and even other men's meetings didn't offer.

I facilitated the changes, assisting the revolutionaries in all their demands but one. I'd wanted no change but accepted change after change. Mostly the changes were 'homogenizing' too. I was conciliatory. I was compromising. I assisted the process and found myself if not alone in the extreme minority with no one seeming to notice or even appreciate all the change I'd made where others insisted the no change people change everything and we did.

Soon we had more changes than there'd been in 20 or more years and I helped facilitate this. I didn't feel good about that either. Especially as the revolutionaries saw that the no change people were assenting to their demands across the board and now wanted a thorough and total rout demanding more and more of less and less. There really wasn't any more of the old left by then. When time was up and a gluttony of changes had been made with still more and newer demands being made by the revolutionaries who would not be satisfied without the total annihilation of all that was sacred to me, ie no change, I asked that we end there.

That was when I was personally attacked, character assasinated in one demeaning ad hominem after another. All I wanted to do was leave. And I understood in all the talks through all the years how one side had to get up and walk away from these so called diplomatic tables or fight and I don't want to fight. War is easy. Diplomacy, that's a different question. And politics, the bastard brother is even something else. Yet only when I stood up and began to walk away did the personal attack end. Only really because another conservative said, "Look guys it's Christmas".

The question I've asked is how to have the most people be happy whereas others have the question what will make me happiest. I find myself thinking about group and community and see individuals thinking about them. Over and over I had to ask 'could we hear from someone who hasn't spoken yet?" while those who wanted their way insisted that I wasn't giving them a chance yet the very same faction of change had got all they wanted and yet wanted more.

It sounded like the voice of addiction over and over again and all I wanted was peace really. Yet peace at what price. Al Anon came to mind again and again as I watched the methods being used to self serve especially as they escallated in an orgiastic frenzy as the time went and people who had no respect for time or order increased their demands when normally a winding down time, easing off time would occur.

In the end "it's Christmas", the traditional call for peace on earth, reigned and even the revolutionaries were willing to let the meeting come to a close despite their dissatisfaction with their orgy of change and looking as unhappy after all the pacman excesses they'd had outside which would not satisfy the "inside job' that was neeeded. It was a macrocosm of the microcosm. And I saw my own part in it. More I saw my life as a mirror of this process.

Politics and peace and diplomacy are as hard as compromise, compassion and forgiveness. I returned to the table and stayed. It was Christmas and I was amused to see that the once angriest man was calling for peace on earth showing how much change can occur in AA.

The revolutionaries weren't happy. Revolutionaries are never happy. They want it all and they want it now. And when they've got it they want more. It's part of the addiction. And I wasn't happy having presided over the loss of all that 'no change' stood for. But then that's part of the addiction too.

The status quo was gone and here where I'd found safety and grace I heard the beast laughing with that insane pride I'd once known well myself. I could hear the baby cry.

The inside job was mine. That's the nature of AA. I learned alot about revolutionaries and realized how often wiser men than me had watched me unable to change myself demand that the world change for me. Karma and retribution. It doesn't matter. Just another drama of self discovery but it's a bitch being a conservative. It's a bitch trying to hold onto anything precious in a world of theives, bullies and babies. That's why we talk of surrender and letting go and acceptance in AA. We're the most blaming of people and least accepting too.

I failed in the end not because of the change/no change equation but I found myself caring again. I'd let myself get involved. It's the story of attachment. Desire is the root of all suffering and letting go we receive. I'm learning about letting go as living is just a preparation for dying.

Dr. Bob always told Bill to "keep it simple" , "don't mess this thing up, " he'd say. And that's what I wanted to say as more rules and more rules and more changes and more individual demands were being thrown into the pot as everyone's dissatisfaction with their own recovery was thrown at the very group that had saved their asses in the first place. People who need outside walls are out of control themselves.

But it's just a smaller part of a bigger part of a world I'm seeing where people are looking for solutions in the rules and laws and not in the heart of human kindness. There's a lack of faith in God's will and in the love of human kind. So there's all these man made things going up everywhere.

An old timer told me later that this group had been safe because it didn't have rules beyond the two another old timer had shared that night. And a lot of new comers had come to this meeting and had stayed because the members "kept it simple" and stayed focussed on "carrying the message" and the "newcomer."

What hurt was that I'd let myself care and now felt vulnerable and exposed. I was criticized and thanked but typically heard only the critics and hearing myself listening only to them felt how all my life I'd played to the lowest common denominator.

I've always worried less about pleasing God than I have about offending the devil. I know God loves me but the devil is just so fascinating.

The man of service who the revolutionaries had first savaged months before came to say that our old friend of service had died. There was to be a memorial service. It was a fitting announcement.

With that a member of the old group took a 6 year cake. It was something beautiful to see and hear. A dozen years later I've watched almost weekly as one after another a person adds years to that wonderful life of recovery so many had begun in these old rooms. I hoped that with all the changes as many cakes as have been taken these 50 years will be taken again. Maybe with progress there will be perfection. Up the revolution!

As for me I'm still learning acceptance I guess. I'm just a baby too. It's an inside job. I wish I did life better. But there are no dress rehearsals. And I need more time in Al Anon to learn more compassion and detachment with love. Thy will be done not mine.

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