Is AA a selfish program?
In meetings I often hear people say that "this is a selfish program" or something like that. Can you tell me where that comes from and if AA is a selfish program?
No, A.A. is not
a program that calls for selfishness. We don't know where, why or how the catch phrase got started.
It is sometimes said that one's sobriety must come before others because without sobriety the alcoholic would be worse than useless to the people and things in their life. While sobriety may have to come first it would be a gross misinterpretation to say that A.A. encourages selfishness. We do need to put sobriety first to be of any use to anyone but recovery is not an excuse for behavior typically regarded as "selfish."
In 1966 Bill W. wrote a letter on this subject and as quoted in page 81 of As Bill Sees It
I can see why you are disturbed to hear some A.A. speakers say, "A.A. is a selfish program." The word "selfish" ordinarily implies that one is acquisitive, demanding, and thoughtless of the welfare of others. Of course, the A.A. way of life does not at all imply such undesirable traits.
What do these speakers mean? Well, any theologian will tell you that the salvation of his own soul is the highest vocation that a man can have. Without salvation -- however we may define this -- he will have little or nothing. For us if A.A., there is even more urgency.
If we cannot or will not achieve sobriety, then we become truly lost, right in the here and now. We are of no value to anyone, including ourselves, until we find salvation from alcohol. Therefore, our own recovery and spiritual growth have to come first-- a right and necessary kind of self-concern.
Here is what the Big Book has to say on the subject of regular day-to-day selfishness:
Page 82, paragraph 3: "Selfish and inconsiderate habits have kept the home in turmoil. We feel a man is unthinking when he says that sobriety is enough."
Page 69, paragraph 3: "We subjected each relation to this test--was it selfish or not?"
Page 86, paragraph 3: "Before we begin, we ask God to direct our thinking, especially asking that it be divorced from self-pity, dishonest, or self-seeking motives. . . . Our thought-life will be placed on a much higher plane when our thinking is cleared of wrong motives."
page 87, paragraph 2: "We are careful never to pray for our own selfish ends. Many of us have wasted a lot of time doing that and it doesn't work."
Page 20, paragraph 1: "Our very lives, as ex-problem drinkers depend upon our constant thought of others and how we may help meet their needs."
Page 97, paragraph 2: "Helping others is the foundation stone of your recovery. A kindly act once in a while isn't enough. You have to act the Good Samaritan every day, if need be. It may mean the loss of many nights' sleep, great interference with your pleasures, interruptions to your business. It may mean sharing your money and your home, counseling frantic wives and relatives, innumerable trips to police courts, sanitariums, hospitals, jails and asylums. Your telephone may jangle at any time of the day or night."
Page 14-15: "For if an alcoholic failed to perfect and enlarge his spiritual life through work and self-sacrifice for others, he could not survive the certain trials and low spots ahead."
Page 62, paragraph 2: "Selfishness, self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles"
Page 62, paragraph 3: "So our troubles, we think, are basically of our own making. They arise out of ourselves, and the alcoholic is an extreme example of self-will run riot, though he usually doesn't think so. Above everything, we alcoholics must be rid of this selfishness. We must, or it