The following has not been written, edited or endorsed by Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, AA’s General Service Office, nor AA’s Board of Directors. It is simply my humble offering to a fellowship whose sole purpose (as per its own ‘Preamble’) is “to stay sober and help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety.”
I fully intend to forward these ‘suggestions’ to AAWS for their review.
The following “12 Rights For New-Comers To AA/12-Step” are merely suggestions, and should not be considered the province of ‘new-comers’ only. Even if “personal recovery depends on AA unity” (Tradition 1), AA is nothing without the individual ‘person’.
As a new-comer, you are sure to hear the phrase, “It’s a selfish program” within your first 90 days. With that in mind, let’s enumerate the rights you have as an individual within AA or any similar 12-step program:
1 – You have the right to trust yourself and place your own emotional, physical, & spiritual well-being above all things; although you may truly believe that it is, indeed, ‘insanity’ (or the ‘insanity’ of your alcoholism, drug addiction, etc.) that brought you to the 12-Step community, and you may truly believe that only an external ‘higher power’ can save you — you must know that within you an inherent spark of goodness and rationality resides; you trusted your decision to turn to 12-Step — now trust that there is goodness within you & you can draw upon it.
2 – You have the right to protect your own emotional, physical, & spiritual well-being at any and all costs; in the course of your own recovery always remember: “Primum non nocere” — first, do no harm, least of all to yourself.
3 – You have the right to look with a critical eye & ear toward your own discourse, the discourse of the program in which you are involved, and the discourse of the groups you attend; it’s written & often noted aloud, “It’s a program of suggestions” — suggestions you can take or leave according to your own better judgment; truth is found only after long deliberation & it often changes with the passage of time.
4 – You have the right to believe or disbelieve anything you want; again, “It’s a program of suggestions” — only you will know what is ‘true’ for you … at any time or in any situation.
5 – You have the right to use discretion when speaking aloud — whether privately or in a meeting; you may be “as sick as your secrets” but you’re also as vulnerable as you allow yourself to be; choose your words & the venue in which you speak them aloud advisedly.
6 – You have the right to go at your own pace; it’s “A day at a time” right? nothing and no one can ‘make’ you ‘entirely ready’ to do anything; trust & have faith in yourself — any loving ‘higher power’ would grant you that gift first & foremost.
7 – You have the right to acknowledge & honor your own strengths — even while ‘asking for the removal of your shortcomings’; the simple act of asking for the ‘removal of your shortcomings’ takes more than simple humility; it takes great inner reserve & courage.
8 – You have the right to put yourself right at the top of the list of people you may have harmed & are willing to make amends to; the word ‘amend’ is a verb which means “to put things right”; get right with yourself first & getting right with others will be of far less effort.
9 – You have the right to trust yourself & your better judgment when it comes to ‘making amends’; sometimes the best way to make things right is to simply leave things as they are; sometimes a wish for someone’s health, happiness, & prosperity is far more appropriate than an overwrought, unwelcome letter of apology.
10 – You have the right not to be a doormat; there’s no better advice than, “Check your own damned self!”; still, your life & your actions are things to approach with joy & creativity; express sorrow & apology only when you feel that it’s the right thing to do — not for every tiny, unexpected blunder; you’re human for higher power’s sake! you’re going to f**k up sometimes & that’s just part of the human condition; chin up, smile, move on.
11 – You have the right embrace & practice your faith as you see fit, as well as the right not to do so; these days, even hard science is acknowledging the benefits of ‘mindful meditation’ … but I ain’t the boss of you and neither is your sponsor, your group, or the Big Book; if you’re staying sober and bringing good things to yourself and the people around you, then you’re doing the right thing … period.
12 – You have the right to share or withhold your experience, strength, & hope; helping people when they’re down (alcoholic, drug addict, what the hell ever) is just the right thing to do — when you’re strong enough & best able to do so; ‘carrying a message’ isn’t nearly the act of courage and compassion that the act of simply listening is; if you know that someone is hurting themselves then let them know that you know it; if you strongly suspect someone is seriously on the verge of taking their own life (through inadvertent or explicit actions) then it’s your legal duty to alert the authorities; don’t let anyone tell you that “You can’t keep a drunk/drug addict from killing themselves. Only God can do that.”; you are your brothers’ keeper … deal with it.
I’m not holding my breath for the printing & distribution of a third ‘lampshade’. But the above was written with sincerity, humility, and an earnest wish to offer strength and ease to any AA ‘new-comer’ … or any AA/12-Step member for that matter. Acknowledge the divinity within yourself and you will be free.