Friday, 5 October 2012

Why We Were Chosen

“Don't criticize what you can't understand.”
Bob Dylan

Alcoholics Anonymous believes that one alcoholic working with another is the best form of recovery.  Only an alcoholic that has hit rock bottom can understand how another alcoholic thinks and feels because they have been through the same or similar dilemma. This is the reasoning behind “why we were chosen” - to be a candle of light burning in the darkness of another alcoholic’s hell.

An often seen piece of AA literature is a small pamphlet called "Why We Were Chosen". The source of this pamphlet is a speech given by Judge John T. on the 4th Anniversary of the Chicago Group in 1943.   
This is part of the transcript from the meeting mentioned above. Judge John suggests to the members of the group what God might have said if he had been at the meeting that day.
God in His wisdom has selected a group of men to be the purveyors of His goodness. In selecting them through whom to bring about this phenomenon He went not to the proud, the mighty, the famous or the brilliant. He went to the humble, to the sick, to the unfortunate — he went to the drunkard, the so-called weakling of the world. Well might He have said to us:
Into your weak and feeble hands I have entrusted a Power beyond estimate. To you has been given that which has been denied the most learned of your fellows. Not to scientists or statesmen, not to wives or mothers, not even to my priests and ministers have I given this gift of healing other alcoholics, which I entrust to you. It must be used unselfishly. It carries with it grave responsibility. No day can be too long, no demands upon your time can be too urgent, no case too pitiable, no task too hard, no effort too great. It must be used with Tolerance for I have restricted its application to no race, no creed and no denomination. Personal criticism you must expect, lack of appreciation will be common, ridicule will be your lot, your motives will be misjudged. Success will not always attend your efforts in your work with other alcoholics. You must be prepared for adversity, for what men call adversity is the ladder you must use to ascend the rungs toward Spiritual perfection, and remember in the exercise of this power I shall not exact of you beyond your capabilities.
You are not selected because of exceptional talents and be careful always if success attends your efforts, not to ascribe to personal superiority,  that to which you can lay claim only by virtue of My gift. If I had wanted learned men to accomplish this mission the power would have been entrusted to the physician and scientist. If I had wanted eloquent men there would have been many anxious for the assignment, for talk is the easiest used of all talents with which I have endowed mankind. If I had wanted scholarly men, the world is filled with better qualified than you who would have been available. You were selected because you have been the outcasts of the world and your long experience as a drunkard has made, or should make you humbly alert to the cries of distress that comes from the lonely hearts of alcoholics everywhere. Keep ever in mind the admission that you made on the day of your profession into A.A., namely that you are powerless and that it was only with your willingness to turn your life and will into My keeping, that relief came to you.
Think not, that because that you have been dry for one year or two years, or ten years, that it is the result of your unaided efforts. The help which has kept you normal will keep you so just as long as you live this program, which I have mapped out for you. Beware of the pride which comes from growth, the power of numbers and of invidious comparisons between yourselves; or of your organization with other organizations whose success depends upon members power, money and position. These material things are no part of your creed. The success of material organizations arises out of the strength of their individual members; the success of yours from a common helplessness. The power of material organizations comes from the pooling of joint assets; yours from the union of mutual liabilities. Appeal for membership in material organizations is based upon a boastful recital of their accomplishments; yours upon the humble admission of weakness; the motto of the successful commercial enterprise is: "He profits most who serves best"; yours: "He serves best who seeks no profit."  The wealth of material organizations when they take their inventory is measured by what they have left; yours when you take moral inventory by what you have given”.

This speech led to much criticism by non-alcoholics. Dr Arthur H. Cain wrote an article in a 1963 Harpers Magazine called "Alcoholics Can be Cured — Despite A.A."  One of his complaints was the arrogant "We Were Chosen By God To Save The World" attitude of some of the A.A. members.
AA gives you the choice of the “God of your own understanding”. It is a more spiritual program today since the writing of the Big Book and the subsequent 12 step program. If the word “God” had been replaced with “A Higher Power” or “The Universe”, would their attitudes have changed? 
I know for certain that I would not be in recovery without some kind of Divine Intervention. I also know that to follow the path of recovery, you need to learn tolerance, humility, unconditional love and most of all acceptance of the things you cannot change – that includes others attitudes and opinions.

“You can't let praise or criticism get to you.
It's a weakness to get caught up in either one.”
John Wooden


  1. Was given this at 12 step workshop recently. It is so, true, sometimes the best messenger is the lowest among us. That as we watch each other rise above our past and step into an amzing future. Thanks for Sharing

    1. I think the words are too beautiful even though thy are rather religion orientated - we know how to choose that as the God of our own understanding. Thanks for commenting Mark - had a quick glance at your ebook - looks good xxx

  2. Great post, tugged at the heart strings, I have never been a big drinker, but was married for 23 year to an alcoholic who refuses to take any action and address the problem, so I am moving forward on my own. Plenty of demons being fought but so worth it :)

    1. Must have been tough for you - I have been asked to write a blog post on that - how to treat alkies in recovery though. Thanks for commenting - much appreciated xxx

  3. I love the John Wooden quote. It's so true - ignoring criticism is important - but not getting caught up too much in compliments and praise can sometimes take your eye off the future you are shaping for yourself. The only opinion that truly matters is your own!

    1. The ego can cause great emotional trauma - blog post coming up on that. Thanks for commenting - I really appreciate it xxx

  4. Yes, some great words and some words of wisdom. I have never really been a drinker, a glass of wine here and there, so I absolutely do not presume to know how this feels, but I have friends who are affected by alcoholism.

    You say this is an opinion piece and ask for an opinion. Do you mind if I indulge in a little critical analysis and act as devils advocate for a minute?

    From your quotes above I assume that one alcoholic has been chosen to help another. If I am an alcoholic and you help me, were you chosen to be an alcoholic for that purpose? Or did you and I become alcoholics without any divine intervention, then I went to AA and found you, and you were chosen to help me?

    In my mind, this raises a great many questions.

    1. Okay will answer with my understanding of your questions. If I had not had that first drink, I would not have become addicted - but because of trauma in my younger years leading to emotional instability, I became a substance abuser to escape from the reality of life. For some reason this led to addiction which only happens to certain people - in other words I got to the point where there was no control anymore.

      During my worst years of alcoholism. I had been hospitalised and treated by psychologists etc but they could not help me. Only when I did the steps through AA with a sponsor, did I overcome the urge to drink. In other words, one alcoholic helping another for me is the best treatment for alcoholism.

      Obviously if there are other mental health problems such as severe depression then medical help is most certainly necessary.

      Hope that helps xxx