How Roger Ebert Explained the Most Common Myths about AA
Roger Joseph Ebert was an American film critic, journalist, and screenwriter.
He was a film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times from 1967, until his death in 2013. In 1975, Ebert was the first film critic to win the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism. He also wrote a blog for the Sun-Times called Roger Ebert’s Journal. (Source Wikipedia )
Roger Ebert was also a recovering alcoholic and very open about his involvement with Alcoholics Anonymous.
If you are not familiar with Alcoholics Anonymous, here is a little background information: AA is a fellowship of men and women, who have a common desire to quit drinking and find a new life in sobriety. The basic text, Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How Many Millions of Men and Women Have Recovered from Alcoholism, which is generally known as The Big Book (because of the thickness of the paper used in the first edition) was primarily written by one of the founders of AA, Bill W. It describes how to recover from alcoholism, and it also contains several inspirational recovery stories.
The 12 Steps and the 12 Traditions contain the basic principles, a course of actions, and their application for a happy life in sobriety. The main actions in the 12-steps are to rely on a Higher Power for strength and guidance, clean up the wreckage of the past, deal with shame and guilt, make amends to people that were harmed, and help spread the AA’s message to those still suffering from active alcoholism.
There is no membership to join AA or attend meetings. Each group/meeting is autonomous and supported by the contributions from its attendees. There are various types of AA meetings including Beginners, Big Book Study, Women Only, Young, and LGB. All meetings are also categorized as either Open or Closed. The Open meetings are for anyone with a desire to stop drinking, and the Closed meetings are for people who consider themselves part of the AA fellowship and the discussion is limited to only topics pertaining to alcoholism.
Roger Ebert took his last drink in August 1979, and soon after started attending AA meetings regularly. On August 25, 2009, which was his 30 year soberversary, he wrote a blog post in the Journal, about his struggles with alcohol, and how Alcoholics Anonymous brought him into a life in sobriety.
He describes his relationship with alcohol and the inability of stopping drinking once he got started:
“The problem with making resolutions is that you’re sober when you make the first one, have had a drink when you make the second one, and so on. I’ve also heard, You take the first drink. The second drink takes itself. That was my problem. I found it difficult, once I started, to stop after one or two. If I could, I would continue until I decided I was finished, which was usually some hours later. The next day I paid the price in hangovers.”
His explains the often critiqued use of the word “God” in the AA literature:
“The God word. The critics never quote the words “as we understood God.” Nobody in A.A. cares how you understand him, and would never tell you how you should understand him. I went to a few meetings of “4A” (“Alcoholics and Agnostics in A.A.”), but they spent too much time talking about God. The important thing is not how you define a Higher Power. The important thing is that you don’t consider yourself to be your own Higher Power, because your own best thinking found your bottom for you. One sweet lady said her higher power was a radiator in the Mustard Seed, “because when I see it, I know I’m sober.”
He also shares his famous rebuttal to all the negativity surrounding AA:
“I find on YouTube that there are many videos attacking A.A. for being a cult, a religion, or a delusion. There are very few videos promoting A.A., although the program has many, many times more members than critics. A.A. has a saying: “We grow through attraction, not promotion.” If you want A.A., it is there. That’s how I feel. If you have problems with it, don’t come.”
Roger Ebert died in 2013 with 34 years of sobriety. To read his entire blog post please click on the link below.
My Name is Roger, and I’m an alcoholic
By Roger Ebert on August 25, 2009
In August 1979, I took my last drink. It was about four o’clock on a Saturday afternoon, the hot sun streaming through the windows of my little carriage house on Dickens. I put a glass of scotch and soda down on the living room table, went to bed, and pulled the blankets over my head. I couldn’t take it anymore…
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