Love and Tolerance

A year ago, just after we arrived back in San Diego, I was asked to lead the noontime meeting near my home. During the meeting a newcomer raised his hand to share. He said that his main problem was drugs. He asked if it was OK if he shared. I paused for a moment waiting for the meeting secretary to intercede, but when she didn’t, I said, “Sure.” After we said the closing prayer, the meeting’s self-appointed sheriff came up to me and said I shouldn’t have allowed him to share. He said the group had taken a group conscience about the issue that stipulated only alcoholics could share at the meeting. His criticism stung. This incident caused me to consider this issue at length. I concluded that, if the same scenario occurred today, I would respond in the same way. I believe love and tolerance takes precedence over the group conscience, but I must also love and tolerate those who hold opposing views. I think this is the way Bill W. would see it if he were around today. 

Years ago in China, before NA meetings were firmly established, a newly sober man asked me to work with him. I declined because he introduced himself in our AA meetings as a drug addict. I told him I thought drug addiction and alcoholism to be two separate diseases. I pointed out that, while we both had mental obsessions over our drugs of choice, I had a physical allergy to alcohol that he didn’t have. Besides, the literature is different, the meetings are different, even the wording of the Steps is different. He still didn’t fully understand why I wouldn’t try to help him. Today I don’t understand either. I regret not agreeing to work with this man. I got  caught up in our differences and lost sight of our similarities: the hopelessness we felt, the never-ending fear, the self-hate. I do feel that drug addicts are best sponsored by drug addicts, but if God ever drops another drug addict on my doorstep, I’ll gladly take him in. God doesn’t give to one and withhold from another. Why should I?

In my view, AA is growing and changing, becoming a ever more solid force for good in the world. I have a choice. I can either go along or resist these changes. I’m learning that anytime I resist change I suffer. It’s hard for me to identify with young people who have completely screwed up their lives in five years -- a job that took me thirty, yet, it seems that is exactly what I’m called upon to do.