Archive for 10 June 2011

Why We Were Chosen

Why We Were Chosen Group

Sometime in the 1980s, a meeting chairman in San Francisco gave me a wallet-sized card engraved with a portion of the text from “WHY WE WERE CHOSEN,” an eponymous speech given by Judge John T. on the fourth anniversary of Chicago’s first AA club in 1943. He said that, although GSO Conference had declined to approve the text as AA literature, the San Francisco groups had thought it such an important message that they handed it out to newcomers and visitors.

“WHY WE WERE CHOSEN” talks about drunks as prophets and saints, and places AA as a movement as important as Christianity. It’s both grandiose and inane at the same time and a real Christian might find it offensive, as Dr. Arthur H. Cain did when he called it “idolatry” in his Saturday Evening Post article. You can read both the tract and Cain’s response on Orange’s blog: http://www.orange-papers.org/orange-Why_We_Were_Chosen.html

By the time I first saw the tract, I had already heard all kinds of BS, from an aging hippie explaining that Bill Wilson’s birth was the “dawning of the Age of Aquarius,” to how AA was so “cutting edge that science was trying to catch up with it.” I considered most “Meaning of AA” proclamations as either psychobabble or Godbabble, and I thought it was harmless drivel. But, twenty years later, I got to see harmless drivel in action.

A friend asked me to speak at a “Chicago” Group here in my home state. She explained that Chicago Groups follow the 90 minute format of the groups in that city using a speaker who introduced the topic, and a chairman who “calls up” responses from the group. She didn’t particularly like the group format, because she thought the men used it to exclude women. She had been going simply because her daughter attended, and now she hoped to change the group by bringing in women speakers. She wanted me to be her first speaker, even though she wouldn’t be able to be there that night. I didn’t know what a Chicago Group was, but I liked her and I thought it would be fun. I also wanted to encourage young women.

On the day of the meeting, I got a call from a man who introduced himself as the Powerfully Recovered Alcoholic who would give me the Chicago Group speaking rules. I needed to wear a “modest” dress and make-up, to introduce myself as a “Recovered” Alcoholic, to give both my sobriety date and sponsor’s name, to not use curse words, and to limit quotations either to the first 164 pages of the Big Book or to the “Other” Big Book.

Well, okay.

When I got to the clubhouse, a young woman wearing a flowered Sister Wife dress opened the door. She was in the middle of introducing me to the other similarly dressed Sister Wives when I realized she was the daughter of my friend. Her Andrea Yates thousand-mile stare had been so flat that I hadn’t recognized her. She handed me to a faded young man in a baggy suit, unpressed tie and scuffed shoes, and then she faded into the wall.

The young man was the Powerfully Recovered chairperson. He showed me to my seat, and began to read “WHY WE WERE CHOSEN” from the podium. He was near the end of the tract when I noticed that everyone wore oversized clothes.

I picked an innocuous topic and I told the usual jokes, but I just couldn’t connect with anyone. I was the only person wearing the right size and a smile in the room. I realized that looking like a normal person might very well constitute immodesty in this crowd.

After I spoke, the Powerfully Recovered chairperson began choosing men (not women) from the audience to give short responses. The gloomy men spoke about duty and privilege, and the (nearly) cheerful men talked about their new lives. They inserted “Praise God” an average of once every 90 seconds, and thanked their tireless sponsor, who was the Powerfully Recovered chairperson.

I was glad when the meeting was over and, for the first time in AA, I did not stay and talk to the crowd. I never went back.

My friend later told me that she had gotten her daughter into therapy and that the therapy had caused her daughter to leave the group. The daughter had the divorced her husband, mainly because he lost his job because he was missing work to be at the group. He then left the group and moved back to Iowa to live with his parents. Both of them blamed the group for destroying their marriage.

The Powerfully Recovered chairperson admitted that he has twice been hospitalized for depression, and he has left the group, which shrunk from a club house to a weekly meeting.

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