Like most people, I had very little notion of what the Twelve Steps were until I needed them to help me stay alive. A relative had once invited me to an open AA meeting when I was a teenager. I appreciate her doing that because, years later I needed what recovery like those meetings offered.
In the many years since, I seldom meetings that seem identical. Some are very informal, with almost no clearly visible plan or structure. Others are highly organized and they feature clear roles, responsibilities, schedules, and topics.
When I turned my attention to the 4th tradition, I realized that such diversity among groups was encouraged. The tradition reads, “Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or AA as a whole.” Those last few words remind groups to be considerate of how their decisions could affect others.
The definition: “Affect – To lay hold of or attack (as a disease does)”
The parentheses around the final four words appear in the dictionary. I’m not yet sure why the editors of Websters sometimes used them. Still, I was startled to see that the primary definition was to lay hold of or attack. Does this tradition mean that individual AA groups should not “attack” others? If so, what type of attack would that be?
I think a clue lies inside those parentheses: “(as a disease does)”. If the writers of the traditions were carefully choosing their words, they chose a word that did not refer to an angry or hostile attack. Rather, this form of attack is not intentional. Disease tends to spread largely by random chance. People get careless about cleanliness, giving germs and viruses an opportunity to spread. I believe the 5th tradition is warning against carelessness—rather than cruelty—which might cause one group to harm another.
For a drawing, I tried to imagine people who love each other somehow harming each other without meaning to. Since the dictionary referred to disease, it seemed sensible to portray the misfortune of illness affecting everyone in a household. This drawing is not complicated, conceptually. Two miserable-looking people are show at home. Their matching bathrobes hint that they are a married couple. Each of them are showing symptoms of an unspecified illness. Chances are, one caught it from the other.
Most relevant to the 4th tradition, these two did not intentionally hurt each other. But they were not as careful as they could have been and we can see the consequences. I appreciate the thought put into the choice of words found in the Twelve Traditions
As an aside: Not many of my drawings seem funny, even though humor is one of my better qualities. I consider recovery from a deadly addiction to be extremely serious. Still, I noticed that Joe and Charlie often told humorous stories if it made an important point (refer to “The Big Book Comes Alive” recordings). So, I accept that this drawing has a somewhat comical tone. Often, comedy does include seeing people handle difficult or uncomfortable situations. That’s why I chose to use this drawing as-is.
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