Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, television, and films.
Not That Kind of Attraction
by John S
As a sex addict, I am apt to misunderstand the suggestion to rely on "attraction" as a public relations tool. Does that mean we ought to seduce people into recovery? But that's not on my plan! I better leave the public relations work to someone else! But after some reflection I am able to remember that "attraction" does not have to mean sexually or physically attracting others; "attraction" does not even have to be an action I take. I think what is meant by attraction in Tradition Eleven is not an action someone takes but rather the effect that someone has when they are successfully working their recovery. I know that I was drawn—attracted—to my sponsor because I heard a confidence in his voice a saw a peacefulness in his eyes that I wanted so badly for myself. My sponsor wasn't looking for me as a sponsee. He drew me to ask for his help by virtue of the qualities that he possessed in sobriety. How different this kind of attraction is from the desperate measures I used to take to get some kind of attention and validation!
But why exactly are we advised to rely on "attraction" rather than "promotion" in public relations? Certainly promotional public relations campaigns can be effective, and beneficial. I remember the television commercials that asked me to Keep America Beautiful (the crying Indian Chief) and to Kick the Habit (ex-smokers leaping into the air); they had a lasting impact on me. Why shouldn't SCA launch an aggressive PR campaign, urging all active addicts to…what? Do you have a suggestion for a slogan? Of course you do! So do I! Dozens of them!! And when it comes time for us to decide on which on slogan we're going to use in our campaign, I'll do all I can to make sure that my slogan (obviously the wittiest/catchiest/most 'with-it') is the winner! And if my slogan isn't the winner, then I'll just have to nurse a big resentment about it, and demean the whole PR campaign as mismanaged and misguided. I'll grouse about it in meetings, or maybe even stop going altogether. That'll show 'em!
It's not that promotional campaigns don't work. It's that I can't be the one to work them. AA's Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions says this about Tradition Eleven: "By temperament, nearly every one of us had been an irrepressible self-promoter, and the prospect of a society composed almost entirely of promoters was frightening. Considering this explosive factor, we had to exercise self-restraint".
I could not be involved in promotional work without my ego and self-will struggling to gain control of the situation. Former actor that I am, I would desperately want to "stage manage" the project. AA's Big Book expands on the theatrical metaphor on pages 60–62; my problems begin when I try to "run the whole show", and end when I "quit playing God". The temptation to play God in the context of promotional work would be too great for me, and would jeopardize my sobriety. My primary purpose as a recovering addict is to stay sexually sober, which I achieve by turning my will over to the God of my understanding. Unfortunately, I'm less practiced at "turning it over" than I am at "running the show". So, to avoid temptation, I'll leave the promotional work to a friendly non-addict, and spread the message of recovery in quieter ways.
The second half of Tradition Eleven emphasized the need to maintain anonymity when dealing with the media. Anonymity as the foundation of our traditions is the concern of Tradition Twelve; but as far as anonymity and the media goes. AA's Twelve and Twelve states that "People who symbolize causes and ideas fill a deep human need…but we do have to face the fact that being in the public eye is hazardous, especially for us." To be put in the position of "representing" SCA to the public would almost certainly trigger my character defects of grandiosity and neediness. I might confuse the importance of the message with my importance as the messenger. My sobriety would be jeopardized; it isn't worth it.
There is also the danger of the public confusing the message with the messenger, concentrating more on the personality than the principle involved. I think of whatever children's aid campaign that was (it's telling that I don't even remember its name) that hired a former sitcom actress as its spokesperson. Rather than being concerned for the children's welfare, I was preoccupied with thinking how the actress had really let herself go since the 70s, and how annoying her voice was to me now. I was diverted from the important theme of the commercial by my preoccupation with trivia.
There is also the matter of the risk involved in associating the program as a whole with one individual. Addicts sometimes have slips, and it has been clearly demonstrated lately that imperfection in public figures attracts a lot of negative attention by the media.
Finally, I think there is a fundamental inaccuracy involved in having any individual represent our program of recovery. SCA, like all twelve-step programs, is grounded in the concept that we are unable to recover alone. Our ability to recover is contingent on our willingness to ask for help. For help, we go to meetings, (wherever two or more addicts come together to share their experience, strength, and hope), or we meet with our sponsors, or make phone calls. Ultimately, of course, we develop a relationship with God as we understand God. Personally, I feel that my connection with the God of my understanding is strongest when I am in contact with another person in recovery. No single person can embody the meaning of recovery, because recovery happens between and among us, between us and our Higher Powers.
My Higher Power is mysterious, indefinable, and doesn't do public appearances. So I choose to stay off camera, and when the opportunity arises to tell someone who looks like they could benefit from it about recovery, I will say, "Come to a meeting!"