On A.A. Slogans: Why they send the wrong message to newcomers.

Certain A.A. sayings and slogans in Alcoholics Anonymous have been spoken in rooms and meetings for decades.

Sometimes old timers or newcomers will say things like, “Just don’t drink” or “put the plug in the jug” or “if you don’t drink you don’t get drunk.”

Many family members of alcoholics and addicts want nothing more than this, for their sons or daughters to stop drinking. After all, this should stop all of their problems.

However, common phrases like these undermine what many alcohol treatment centers want to see in their clients.

Don’t get us wrong. We want our clients to stop drinking and using drugs, too.

But that’s not all we want to see our clients do. There’s an entire life worth living on the other side of not drinking and not doing drugs.

We want our clients to be recovered, not merely avoiding drinking or mind altering substances. There’s a world of difference in those two mindsets.

First of all, have you ever been around an alcoholic or addict who says their solution is that they are going to just not drink or use?

Perhaps they can string some time together. But what kind of person are they usually while they are dry?

Have you ever been around an alcoholic who still refuses to look at themselves honestly? Or a dry alcoholic who refuses to work on the shortcomings in his or her character?

Untreated alcoholism causes all sorts of problems with our character. We manipulate, conceal and are not honest with our true motives or character.

Saying “just don’t drink” seems to diminish the true work that needs to be done so the alcoholic and addict can have a true mind altering experience.

That’s what it takes to be sober and stay sober and be recovered. As the Big Book says it takes a complete psychic change, an attitude adjustment or a spiritual awakening.

Altering the mind is the solution, not just avoiding alcohol.

Also if there is a dual diagnostic problem — a problem of untreated alcoholism coupled with a mental disorder like bipolar or depression — then just not drinking won’t do much for your loved one.

Clinical help and therapy is often needed regardless.

Things We Hear

Often we hear in meetings stories of newcomers who ask how to do a step, and one of these slogans will be offered as the response.

For example, someone might ask, “How do you do step three? How do you turn it over to God?”

For your reference, Step 3 is: “Made a decision to turn our will and our life over to the care of God as we understand him.”

Someone in an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting might say, “Just turn it over.” Someone else might even say, “Just  keep coming back, meeting makers make it.”

We take our clients to meetings. We hold meetings at our treatment centers. We think they build an important community and give our members opportunities to meet with their sponsors and be of service to others in the community.

But when a slogan is used like this, it diminishes the real work that is needed to be done in the program. The solution begins to seem like it is something else other than what is written in the Big Book.

If someone asked that question and a group of people said, “Just keep coming back,” then the action required to get the psychic change might be missed. If a chronic relapser hears this, or someone on the verge of relapse, it could be detrimental.

Slogans Miss the Point

Other sayings that are common in Alcoholics Anonymous seem to miss the entire point that is written in the Big Book.

For example, on page 30 in More About Alcoholism, the book has a stern warning about the inability to control drinking: “The idea that somehow, someday he will control and enjoy his drinking is the great obsession of every abnormal drinker.”

If you are a true alcoholic, you cannot stop drinking. You probably have sworn and promised and even believed that you were finished.

But if you have not taken the proper steps to alter how your thinking apparatus operates, then you will have very little success.

Sayings like these miss how dire an alcoholic and addict’s situation actually is:

  • Just don’t drink/use
  • Put the plug in the jug
  • Think, think, think
  • I choose to not use/drink
  • If you don’t drink, you can’t get drunk

Our Suggestion

Let’s have a conversation about what is in the book of Alcoholics Anonymous. How do you take the action and suggestions in the book?

How do you turn it over to God?

By going to meetings?

No way.

By doing the work and taking the action that is outlined in the book.

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