Tradition 5: Carrying Is Not Bludgeoning

by Joshua Hoe

who are you worried about your ego or your sponsee's recovery meme by Joshua Hoe

At a meeting I attend we listen to CD’s of presentations from national conventions periodically.

This week we listened to a CD that made me almost lose my mind.

It was about the third and fifth traditions.

I agreed with the speaker entirely about his interpretation of the Third Tradition. We can not choose who joins or attends meetings, the only requirement for membership is a desire to stay sober.

What drove me nuts was the speakers interpretation of the Fifth Tradition.

Pleading The Fifth

This speaker, after finishing up the third tradition, started in on the fifth tradition.

In case you are not as familiar with the traditions, here it is:

“Each group has but one primary purpose – to carry it’s message to the alcoholic who still suffers.”

He spoke of there being a natural tension between the third and fifth tradition we should embrace.

He suggested that the message is “YOU SHOULD STAY SOBER”

He spoke of how we should expect our sponsees and the members we know to remain sober, and when they do not remain sober – we should not act as if it is okay.

He said sponsees fire sponsors by not remaining sober – and how sponsors are just doing the right thing by leaving sponsees who relapse alone.

He made an analogy between punishing a child for bad behavior and how you should treat an errant sponsee.

I wanted to vomit.

Why I Vociferously Disagree

What we carry is our experience, strength, and hope – not shame or judgement.

Some reasons that I disagree with a more aggressive definition of T5:

1. The biggest triggers for most addicts are Shame and Isolation/Abandonment

2. NO experts know why people quit – NO studies no why people quit – YOU don’t know why people quit (I don’t know why people quit)

3. Addiction (and relapse) is NOT a moral failing. We want sobriety for ourselves and for the people we sponsor, but we don’t punish or shame people for relapse.

4. Our message is that there is HOPE

When people do something immoral or that puts people at risk when they act out, they should face the consequences of their actions. However, relapse is a part of recovery.

I humbly suggest that the frustration we feel when we face someone who has struggled for years to remain sober is more about us than it is about them.

I humbly suggest that we should not try to CONTROL others with machiavellian schemes. To me, this is the essence of compulsive obsessive disorder and co-dependence.

We are a tool, a resource, maybe even a model – NOT a disciplinary device.

It might make us feel better to act like people choose relapse and to disobey us, but the truth is, they want to quit too.

It took me decades of relapse and an arrest to get sober.

Pretty sure I would not have found Jesus by being abandoned by my sponsor of group.

Recovery is a message of hope for a sane and happy future, not a club to wield against those that do not recover “quickly enough” for us.

The 5th step says carry our message, not use our message to bludgeon other addicts.

What do you think of the 5th step? What does it mean to you? I would love to hear your opinions, leave a comment!


3 thoughts on “Tradition 5: Carrying Is Not Bludgeoning

  1. I agree with you here. Carrying, not bludgening sums it up nicely. Sponsees are ‘pigeons’ not mideval warriors. Carrying the message is all we can do. We are vessals of hope. Beyond that, we turn into a religious body, or a collective trying to persuade the drunk masses of something. All we can do is outlined in the 164 pages of the big book. If someone relapses and come back, we go back to the book and our experience. That is all. In my opinion.


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