Every long-standing institution, at some point in its longevity, needs to decide whether it’s going to hold steadfast to its traditions or if it’s willing to evolve with the generations. Alcoholics Anonymous is no different. With its beginnings rooted in 1930’s ideology, it seems as though it must naturally go through its own evolution of sorts to “get with the times.”
One piece of evidence of its evolution is the establishment of women-only meetings. The 70’s and 80’s saw droves of women coming into program, to a point where women equal or outnumber the men.
I regularly attend a women’s meeting and think of it as a safe, friendly and warm place to share and listen. This past week, one woman attended for her first time. She’s been in program for 25 years and is an “AA purist.” She’s told people over the years that she doesn’t believe there should be women-only meetings.
We’ve gently altered the readings, scrubbing gender references to use more neutral language. This enraged our purist. She grandly stood and proclaimed to the world that we should all be ashamed of ourselves and she wished us fitful sleeps. For reals.
For whatever reason, she decided to return to the meeting after dramatically storming out. She remained (relatively) civil for the remainder of the meeting until afterwards when one woman attempted to apologize for the “offensive” readings. The purist’s response was: “I hope you don’t die today for what you’ve done.”
It’s sparked a conversation among some of us about whether or not AA needs to evolve. Arguments can be made on both sides. I believe it needs to evolve to integrate aspects of the 21st century that the founders never could have considered (technology and social media, the loosening bond between church and state, etc.). Others believe the program is a complete package that works because of its traditions and should not be tinkered with.
I know I’m not the first to come into program, believing I can “make it even better” but I do want to be part of the evolution. There isn’t an agnostic meeting in my city and I want to explore the possibility of starting one this year. A lot of leg work will need to go into researching the local appetite for such a meeting and seeking out the right location (the traditional church basement doesn’t seem appropriate), but it could end up being a worthwhile project for me this year.
I wonder how the AA purist will react to an agnostic meeting? Is it wrong to secretly hope it causes her some anxiety? Yeah, I know… it’s wrong!
(My apologies if the shocked Daschie above is distracting as you’re reading, but he’s just so perfect for the reaction to “I hope you don’t die today”!)