DRINKING ALCOHOL TAUGHT ME HOW TO FLY
THEN IT TOOK AWAY THE SKY

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A STORY: AA TRADITION ELEVEN

"Neither we teacher nor student be".
Simply, we're writing renditions.
Come here, you--sit with me...
While we ponder these Traditions.

TRADITION ELEVEN

Caveat: Understand please, the following is my own experience with Tradition Eleven, and what I learned very early in AA. It was not an 'easy' lesson, but an unforgettable one. This is not a "teaching" blog, only a discussion, albeit a "tad" one-sided, at that -grin!

SYD and I are writing in tandem, exercises on the Twelve Traditions. Please visit, if you have not yet, Syd's blog for an Alanon perspective of Tradition ELEVEN.

Tradition Eleven states: "Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio and films. "

A Short story: (When did steveroni EVER make a story "short"?)

Thirty-five years ago, a newspaper reporter in our village of 7,000 souls--Naples, FL (USA)--arrived at our home to take photos and do a piece on our family. Two beautiful children, a multi-talented (artist, writer, poet, decorator) wife, and me, a symphony musician-violin-playing-bartender, would-be hermit. Evidently, an editor thought we could be of some "human interest" for that week.

The reporter wanted a beer, and I--being one week sober--told her I had stopped drinking, and our house was, ahhhh...alcohol-free. (Realize that every fiber of my body was crying out for relief, for a quart of vodka!) Of course--just like today--I knew nothing about Alcoholics Anonymous--I had been to one meeting--except that today, I KNOW that I know nothing -grin!

Well, the two-full-page spread, photos (not of me!) and stories (of me) appeared in a thousand residences and the small library, beauty-barber shop, city hall (a real "hall"!) and all three churches in Naples.
Subtitle of article was something like "VIOLINIST-BARTENDER STEVE QUIT CINCINNATI SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA AND QUIT DRINKING"

My wife, children and I thought it was a great article, honest, forthright. Friends called with congratulatory phrases all day. The rest of my family was mortified! My mother had told me one week before, "We're so happy for you to attend AA meetings...but let's not TELL anyone. OK?"

The 100 or so people of the AA community were aghast at the article, saying that I had left Tradition Eleven in shambles! I was ostracized! Thank God I had already a sponsor--a long timer--who set ME straight. He told me to ignore all the AA critics, the judges, the jury, the "AA Police" (as he described them). He said I had well-earned my seat in AA, and NOBODY could deny me. AND...since I had not mentioned "Alcoholics Anonymous" or any link to our fellowship, there had been absolutely NO breach of any tradition.

I can tell you now, all this was SOME introduction into AA for ME. Somehow we all weathered that tornado, and I never took a drink. Don't think I didn't WANT one! -grin!

Next Part:

Through the years I have been allowed to speak to groups about AA in a college, a university, several schools, and churches. In each instance I have announced my affiliation with Alcoholics Anonymous--with as much humility as God would grant me. Occasionally, the question would arise, "You cannot tell them you're in AA, that's breaking the tradition". However, I have the confidence now--because I learned 35 years ago--to say to them, "Go to hell!" -BIG grin NO! I DID not, nor DO not say that. (But I sometimes wish. HEHEHE!)

But I CAN tell them that our tradition states: "Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio and films. " Important words: "...AT THE LEVEL OF..." and in these times is implied "television" and Internet" as being public forums equal to "press, radio, and films". "AT the level of..." lets me know I may break my anonymity in front of groups BENEATH the level of "press, radio, films, Internet, and TV....right?

I may invite you also to a line written by Bill W in the Grapevine October 1948 issue, as reprinted in LANGUAGE OF THE HEART, p 90:
"...no member ought to describe himself in full view of the general public as an AA, even for the most worthy purpose, lest a perilous precedent be set which would tempt others to do likewise for purposes not so worthy."

There are some few yet even today--self-claimed AA celebrities--who seem to totter precariously on the brink of breaking Tradition Eleven. But I must remember always, to "Judge Not. Lest I Be Judged", and also "Live and Let Live".

And....No Matter What (NMW!) I love you all this mid-week day, and wish for all of us God's Peace. Let's all stay sober today--NMW! OK?

Steve E.

Photo Credit: Steve E. "DAUGHTER KATHY'S BACK YARD"

15 comments:

Mary Christine said...

Thanks for writing about this tradition so well. I am so glad that you are willing to do this.

mile191 said...

I MUST come back and READ everything here. I have missed you. Thanks for the support and help everywhere I am. hope...mile 191...on my journey

vicariousrising said...

This is an interesting tradition because I personally don't see any harm to AA by me saying I go to AA meetings if asked or recommending that anyone struggling with alcohol try AA. It's another thing entirely to promote myself as a representative of AA, however. I think cloaking the organization in too much secrecy does it a disservice and is responsible for some of the cult reputation AA gets stuck with. We want people to feel safe and anonymous in the rooms, but we also can't attract people who need help without awareness of AA. Many people are afraid to even walk through the doors.

Queenneenee said...

I am so glad you are going thru these for us-I know I need to learn a LOT and you are helping myself and others do just that. Thank u Steveroni.

clean and crazy said...

wow do I have some catching up to do!! Step eleven, really wow. You know that is so funny about the "level of" because so many people in NA worry about that on the other levels, you know we are not anonymous amongst ourselves. And yet they will also break personal anonymity or "dope fiend" the concept of what they hear in a meeting and take it where it doesn't belong. My sponsor tells me "it's none of your business what other people think of you" so that makes it easy to be so candid in my sharing. And i have heard of people with two sponsors I just don't think it would be appropriate to have that many. I could easily manipulate the situation in a bad space and just go to the one I had the illusion of control over. How was your weekend?

mile191 said...

okay. i came back. tired, but so invigorated by your writing. thanks, steve, for EVERYTHING. I do have great hope in healing, and in making it. Another three months. I CAN do it.

Rhi said...

First of all, why is it they don't want people mentioning AA?
Second of all, you are horrible at emailing back.

Hope you've had a good week and had a Happy Valentine's Day. Hope to hear from you soon. =)

Shadow said...

i've learnt a lot from you (and syd) over the past weeks. thank you!

Syd said...

Great story Steve. I think that it's important to maintain anonymity. And the reason I've always heard is that one can say "I'm AA" and announce it to the world and the next week be falling down drunk. Not very good for the fellowship. And another reason is for insurance purposes--announcing alcoholism doesn't do too much for one's business, insurance, etc. Lots of reasons to have anonymity.

Jess Mistress of Mischief said...

I'm still having some trouble in the blogger department. Progress progress....

It's hard to think of all the implications of this tradition... A friend said recently, "I wouldn't do that" and the committee began to talk, cause i respect her and the way she represents AA. But, I also feel drawn at Gut level to this process, this blogging, so I guess I'll just have to do my best, and trust that God will put people in my path to tell me the Truth if I get out of (his) Hand.

:) Thanks for always being there!

Banana Girl said...

From the Traditions Checklist:

"Tradition Eleven
Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, and films.

Do I sometimes promote AA so fanatically that I make it seem unattractive?
Am I always careful to keep the confidences reposed in me as an AA member?
Am I careful about throwing AA names around-even within the Fellowship?
Am I ashamed of being a recovered, or recovering, alcoholic?
What would AA be like if we were not guided by the ideas in Tradition Eleven? Where would I be?
Is my AA sobriety attractive enough that a sick drunk would want such a quality for himself?"

I always find a good anchor for the traditions in the checklist. You are so spot on with your discussion. Thanks for this massive undertaking. J

Findon said...

I thought you meant Naples in Italy. Here's me dreaming up this jet set life for you, travelling to meetings in US, living in Italy. Seriously, I think this is a most important tradition. Can you imagine the damage I may do when I become famous !!!

Zanejabbers said...

Kudos, Steveroni, Kudos.

Gledwood said...

That's an amazing photograph BTW...
Yeah I never fully understood that tradition before...

mile191 said...

hey...stopping by. had a rough night and needed some inspiring. nice post. i did read IT ALL. Thanks, and for the support everywhere. Thanks.