Focused on the Solution AND the Problem?

Can I focus on what I will do to deal with my problems without first admitting I have problems? What does “rigorous honesty” mean, if not to open up to others about my defects? How did I first identify with others in SA and feel that I belonged, other than to hear about the mess others had put themselves through? Why do we read in meetings first about “The Problem” before sharing “The Solution”?

Before I walked into the meeting rooms, I knew I was alone in the world. But in that first meeting, those notions of isolation dissipated as others shared about their issues — my issues. These people understood my struggle. I’d finally found a place where I belonged. It was a common bond built on common experience with problems, not solutions. The solution part would come (had to come) after.

One of the most beautiful things in SA is the giving of a “First Step” by a relative newcomer. In that First Step, the member removes the mask. They expose their “ugliness” to the group. They open themselves up to the criticism and ridicule they’ve always expected if the truth about them were known. What they receive instead is understanding at depth; plus, hope that the problems that have been the bane of their existence could actually be the bedrock upon which a purposeful life can be built.

My particular effectiveness in talking with another SA member is not based on how complete I was when I drafted my 4th Step; how much time I spent in prayer and meditation; nor even how many sponsees I’ve taken through the Steps. What makes me uniquely qualified to help another SA is my history of problems, my first-hand knowledge of the absolute depths to which this addiction can drive a person.

Focus on the solution? Sure, but not to the exclusion of the problems. To get another addict to follow my lead in working the Steps, I must first show them that those Steps have been the solution to my problems. I share freely of my problems, both past and present. I never was and I am not now a perfect person. What I am is a person just like any other with defects and problems; some of my own making, some not. If you identify with those problems and are seeking a solution, I am happy to share my “secret” to a better life. The 12 Steps are the solution which I use to deal with my problems: problems I share with rigorous honesty so that you may know I am a brother living IN this world, with you, dealing with worldly issues.

No matter how long I work the Steps, I will never be someone to whom the rules of life do not apply. May I never seem as such to those who seek my help. For if I do, I will have lost my effectiveness as an advocate for the 12-Step solution. My 12-Step program includes both problems and a solution. I will not work the latter without admitting the former. And so both are my focus.

Note: I guess this is why I cringe when I hear experienced members say that meeting shares and phone call check-ins should be focused on the solution, that any discussion of problems is just dumping on the group.

Brent S., Virginia, USA

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