As the fellowship began to grow and become established, the many paradoxes that are found throughout the program were not lost on early members. In 1949, a young professor named John P joined the fellowship, and ultimately his story was included in the second edition of Alcoholics Anonymous. In his story, John P identified four key paradoxes that define our fellowship, and continue to be discussed today.
“Says he, ‘We A.A.’s surrender to win; we give away to keep; we suffer to get well, and we die to live’”
-Alcoholics Anonymous, 2nd edition, page 336
We surrender to win
This paradox ties in immediately with the first step. In order to begin recovery (and win), we must admit defeat to our alcoholism. An analogy often told in the rooms is that of a boxer who is going up against an opponent who consistently keeps beating him. Once it is clear he has no shot of beating the other boxer (alcoholism in this analogy), he is better off simply admitting defeat and taking off his gloves!
We must give away what we have in order to keep it
This paradox addresses the twelfth step, which deals with helping another alcoholic once we have had a spiritual awakening as a result of the steps. It provides a warning to those who have been through the twelve steps. Just completing them does not give us long-term sobriety, continuing to go through them does! This is what keeps the fellowship alive- once we have been freed from the bondage of our addiction; we continue to freely give the message to newcomers, just as was done for us.
We suffer to get well
Everybody’s bottom is different. Some of us get sober before we have serious consequences, others must lose everything before they finally surrender. In all cases, however, we suffer from our alcoholism/addiction before we get to recovery. Otherwise, the willingness to completely change our way of thinking and living simply would not exist.
We die to live
This paradox highlights how we must completely change our ideas and attitudes to conquer our alcohol and addiction problems so we can live free of them. While we do not literally die, we are born again in the sense of following a new code of conduct and principles taught to us from recovery.
This article is intended for those considering a new way of life, free of the pain of drug and alcohol addiction. For more information on recovery and anyone seeking help with addiction and substance abuse problems, please call True Recovery at (844) 744-8783 or visit us online.