SCA should remain forever nonprofessional, but our service centers may employ special workers.
No One Paid Me to Write This
by Eric H. (NJ)
I was going to call this essay "I'm Not Qualified to Write This", but after reading about the Eighth Tradition in the Twelve Steps & Twelve Traditions of AA, I realized that this first title was both untrue and beside the point. I am qualified to write this, simply because I belong to the SCA fellowship. And the fact that I need no other credential in order to write it is exactly the point.
When I first heard the Eighth Tradition, it sounded like an admonition: "Don't even think about going professional on us!" That didn't make any sense to me. Why would I want to become a professional Sexual Compulsive? I had enough trouble recovering as a regular, garden-variety Sexual Compulsive. But then I saw that the Twelve & Twelve places the Eighth Tradition firmly in a position of service to the Twelfth Step. It talks about the fact that money and spirituality don't mix, and it makes the bold claim that an addict will not listen to a paid Twelfth-Stepper. That did make sense, because it reminded me immediately of how the message of recovery was carried to me.
I was Twelfth-Stepped in a tearoom. Well, all right, technically it was in a coffee shop upstairs from the tearoom, but mentally setting the event in the acting-out place itself is a dramatic, yet gentle, way to remind myself that help is available–and surprisingly interpretable–when I least expect it. I can't imagine a paid addiction counselor going undercover (as it were) in a tearoom to bring the message of sexual recovery to active addicts. And I know I would never have heard the message if it had come from anyone other than someone who was in that tearoom for exactly the same reason as I was. (My Twelfth-Stepper and I didn't have sex, by the way. There was an ineffable recognition between us that quite simply led us out of our trances and toward a place where we could talk. He spoke first. Through the grace of my Higher Power, I knew it was safe to listen and respond.)
That SCA should remain forever nonprofessional means precisely that: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it". In other words, it ought to remain nonprofessional. It would be a disaster if it didn't, because its nonprofessional status is the very reason why it works. As the Twelve & Twelve reminds us, if SCA were to accept fees for Twelfth-Step work, its single purpose would be entirely defeated. In my own particular case, I know that if the first SCA room I entered had been stocked with people who got paid to be there, I would have run screaming from it, and I would never have gone back. Perhaps more to the point, had I known before entering the room that some or all of those inside were paid workers, I probably would never have gone in. In a very real sense, a "professional SCA" could not have helped me. Why? Well, here's where that tricky spirituality stuff comes in.
My spirituality is very democratic. It flourishes in an environment of fellowship–literally a place where fellows, i.e., individuals who are equals, gather to share experience, strength, and hope. My spiritual growth falters, however, in the presence of authority, and it doesn't matter whether someone else is claiming that authority or I am. We live in a society where an individual who receives wages or fees for a service is bestowed, justifiably or not, a certain authority concerning that service. If we members of 12-Step recovery groups were to become professionals, I believe that our investment in authority, either monetary or emotional, would hinder us from being entirely open to the spiritual process. Regarding the Twelfth Step in particular, I believe our ability to "practice these principles in all our affairs" is contingent upon our motives, and both money and authority tend to draw the spirituality out of our motives.
As I understand it, the Eighth Tradition also exists partly to guard against the possibility of members' making money using the Program. I've never known or heard of anyone who has gained financially from SCA. Personally, the concept has never even occurred to me. The Twelve & Twelve talks about instances of recovering addicts taking jobs in which they can draw upon their "expertise", and it doesn't criticize them for doing so as long as anonymity is maintained. I can think of only one time when my "expertise" as a recovering person could have informed the work I did at my job, and then only peripherally. I offered a colleague in educational publishing a part of my "story" (anonymously) for use in some teacher resource materials about tough issues facing secondary school kids. In the end, the content relating to recovery was suppressed–it was deemed too controversial by the company's marketing "authorities".
A consistently astonishing and gratifying part of my 12-Step experience has been the numerous occasions when I have had to work very hard to overcome the shame I was feeling just to speak in a meeting. Almost without fail, I have received positive feedback after the meeting from someone who identified with my share. So, I suspect it was shame, my longtime nemesis, that influenced, in part at least, my first choice of title for this essay. I often suffer from the feeling that I'm not qualified, that I'm not going to do it "right" or do it "good enough". But the blessing of the Eighth Tradition is the reminder that I don't have to be an authority or a "recovery professional". I'm grateful that I wasn't paid to write this. Like anything I share in a meeting, it's offered freely, from an equal to equals. Take what you like, leave the rest. And like anything I hear in a meeting, including the words that come out of my own mouth, it has helped me to learn. Writing it has been part of my very nonprofessional spiritual awakening.