The Slogan Slingers



JULY 1986

Some of the slogans people try to add to those provided by direct quotes from our book Alcoholics Anonymous make me uneasy–and annoyed. I am not conservative, afraid to deviate one inch from the beaten path; I don’t look upon the Big Book as holy writ, not to be questioned. But some of the catch phrases that seem to gather on our members’ tongues like barnacles to be spat out profoundly as additions to AA lore strike me as directly counter to the main thrust of our literature.

One of these admonitions is “Stick with the winners.” In the first place I don’t like the categorizing of human beings in such terms. As a matter of fact, most of us did not “win” sobriety; it was thrust upon us, often against our will. I don’t think people were passing that phrase around so often twenty years ago when I joined AA. At least I don’t remember hearing it as I listened to find out first what an alcoholic was, then how to become sober, and finally what I had to do to stay that way.

As I earnestly read pamphlets and the “Twelve and Twelve,” and listened to old-timers, somehow I got the impression that huddling confidentially with the stalwarts who “had it made,” talking with bravado about our psyches and our souls was not the method suggested for becoming and remaining sober.

On the contrary, I picked up the notion that I must turn sharply away from my previously self-absorbed, self-indulgent, and self-promoting ways and bravely approach those who “still suffered” from alcohol; i.e., those “losers” some people refer to. Furthermore I was not to expect any social, material, or career benefits from doing so. If I was lucky I might get another day free of alcohol out of it.

One reason I find this “winner-loser” terminology distasteful is that the single individual toward whom I feel the most gratitude is the man who saw me drunk one night and came the next day to ask if I wanted to go to an AA meeting. That he finally died without achieving steady sobriety for himself makes him what the sloganeers would call a “loser.”

Loser or not, I stuck with this man; he and his wife were close friends of my husband and me. He was a lapsed AA member; but after he took me to my first meeting he started attending again. And he tried. Why he and others we all know of never could stop, I do not understand. But I know that the action this man took in introducing me to AA and the support I was able to give him in finding a few days and even weeks of sobriety for himself afterward contributed greatly toward keeping me from drinking that first year.

I vividly remember women whom I sponsored in the first two or three years of my sobriety. At least three of them were “losers” in that they never found sobriety in spite of the time, energy, and even money I spent on them in my enthusiasm. But I really stuck with them. And I believe that I was better off for trying to be their friend than I would have been if I had devoted the same amount of time currying favor from the stalwart winners. What I needed then (and still need today) was to turn my attention off me and onto someone else who needed attention more than I did.

Another catch phrase I often hear is: Before I came to AA I had no choice; I had to drink. But now I have a choice.

Indeed! What choice?

My interpretation of the First and Third Steps is that in number One I realized my helplessness where alcohol was concerned, and in number Three the first thing I turned over was my consumption of alcohol. All I had to do was totally accept the fact that I could not drink. From then on I didn’t have to bother with choices, decisions, resolves.

Not that I didn’t have an occasional temper tantrum that made me want to defy reality by “showing them” that I’d just get drunk right in front of them if they didn’t behave themselves. A few times I was assailed by an unexpected, unexplainable, irrational urge to take a drink for no reason at all. The last time that happened, against my own wish and my own will, I felt forced to give the Fellowship enough respect to telephone one of its members and tell her that I intended to take a drink. I fully meant to take the drink, but after no more than ten minutes of calm and relaxed conversation I could not believe I had a martini all poured and ready. The desire for it had vanished.

So much for “choice.” If something in me had not insisted, “Be fair; give AA a chance. You’re supposed to get in touch with somebody before you take the first drink,” I would have had one more dreary, unrewarding little slip to depress me.

I’m glad I gave in; for I haven’t had that kind of compulsion since. Apparently when you say “I can’t,” with no high-handed choice-making involved, whatever is possible will be done for you; and it will be right.


“The Slogan Slingers”.  04 June 2021