Slogans and One-liners in the Rooms

“For me, context is the key – from that comes the understanding of everything.” Kenneth Noland

In one of my many failed attempts at sobriety in Philadelphia in 2003 I came across a clubhouse I began to frequent. Clubhouses, like groups, tend to follow trends. The “group think” mentality often applies. This particular clubhouse loved the term “Don’t leave before the miracle happens.” Everyone there would say it, daily. It felt as if they were making a dollar per appropriately placing it into a conversation. Being that I heard that more than “Get a sponsor and work the steps.” I went without a sponsor and eventually, my addiction caught back up to me, and the obsession got me again. I’m not blaming them. I could have done more. But the group didn’t see my pain and confusion, take me by the hand and lead me into the program either.

I remember sitting in those meetings, which were ninety minutes with a smoke break in between, and just falling apart internally. People did see my newcomer tells; sometimes they would listen to me vent and respond with, “Don’t leave before the miracle happens.” And then walk away. They said it so often I began to fear walking into the bathroom on the off chance I would come out zipping my fly only to look up and see them all shiny-eyed and transformed, struck sober if you will. I was sure at that moment they would all look at me in dismay and say in unison, “Damn, you missed the miracle.”

Slogans Commonly Used

I’m neither for or against one-liners or slogans. I believe they are neutral and most likely using them has the best of intentions. I’m disregarding the person that throws a “Keep coming back” as an insult the way a “Christian” would throw in a “Bless you” when they mean something else. The problem arises when they are misapplied, and a few are downright dangerous.

90 Meetings in 90 days or Meeting Makers make it:

Yes, they do. Meeting makers make it to meetings. This slogan has nothing to do with the program though. Going to meetings all day won’t help if they’re not accompanied by step work, we get worse when we stop drinking and using regardless of meeting attendance. If you sit in a garage for 90 days, you will never become a car. It is also true that people who do well attend meetings regularly, and more often in the beginning of their recovery, hence the 90 days.

Don’t Pick up, no Matter what

Downright dangerous. This slogan implies that will power can trump the disease. It runs contradictory to every 12 step literature on the first step and the concept of powerlessness. There is no “choice” to not use for the newcomer when the obsession hits. The rule is “No matter what you will pick up (minus a spiritual experience).”

Easy Does It

Easy does it is applied to the families, not the step work. Now that we are attempting to live on a spiritual basis and learning about resentments, we should not be attempting to use this to point out our loved one’s faults or attempt to get them to change. When “easy does it” is applied to taking the steps it’s counterproductive.

Don’t Leave Before the Miracle Happens

What miracle? I never knew what they were talking about in that clubhouse. It turns out the miracle is on page 85 concerning the 10th step promises. The “problem” (obsession) has been removed, “That is the miracle of it.” This result is promised as a direct result of working steps 1 through 10, and I’ve never seen it fail. If someone is waiting around for a miracle related to not drinking or using missing that information they could be significantly disadvantaged.

One Day at a Time

Everything is done “one day at a time” who has ever eaten tomorrow’s lunch today without it becoming today’s meal. No one knows more about living one day at a time than a using addict. We try to reserve some of our stash for the morning and may even hide it from ourselves. We seem always to find and use the “wake up bag” telling ourselves, “I’ll deal with getting more tomorrow.” That is the very one day at a time. In a spiritual context, it means to stay in the present. Don’t allow the fear of tomorrow or the resentment of the past to rob you of the present day. When someone says, “I have 10 years sober, and I did it one day at a time” the oversimplification of one day at a time can be very confusing.

It all comes down to context. If you’re unsure, ask questions. Bill Wilson, the founder of AA, said: “Our chief responsibility to the newcomer is an adequate presentation of the program.” Our primary purpose is to reach out the hand of A.A when someone needs it. That is all.

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