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June 4, 2014

Slips, Relapses, and Not Reading Carefully

by Brendan

We were talking about “slips” at yesterday’s meeting, and the prevailing sentiment, belabored a bit, a little repetitive, was that the word “slip” implies an accident, whereas relapses were generally planned carefully, or at least had a beginning, middle, and end.  They didn’t just happen, like “slipping” on a surprise icy patch of pavement.

2006 Olympian Matt Savoie Falls

2006 Olympian Matt Savoie Falls

We were supposedly reading from As Bill Sees It and using the readings as a springboard for comment.  As Bill Sees It is a collection of writings from A.A. co-founder Bill Wilson, taken from Alcoholics Anonymous, Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, The Grapevine, and previously-unpublished letters from Wilson.  The letters are especially interesting to me, as they’re short and to the point, usually in response to a problem a recovering alcoholic has posed to Bill.

Of the 11 entries indexed under “Slips” In As Bill Sees It, 8 of them are letters or contain parts of letters.  The word “slip” is how Bill Wilson refers in the letters to a relapse reported to him by the letter writer asking for advice.  We don’t get the original letter (as that might violate the letter writer’s privacy), but we can infer from Wilson’s response that the writer is shaken by the relapse, being hard on himself or herself, feeling like a failure, etc.   Wilson’s use of “slip” is his way of being gentle, supportive, compassionate, and it’s a lovely thing to see.

No one at the meeting seemed to notice that — perhaps because no one established the context of letters written by Wilson to recovering addicts who were in distress about relapsing.   And, to be sure, we didn’t read many of the entries because those at the meeting preferred talking to reading, as we usually do.  But context is important.  Wilson apparently didn’t think he needed to jump on the bandwagon and chastise the relapser, but instead chose to be gentle.  As I wrote above, it’s a lovely thing to see, and it’s too bad we missed it yesterday.

I’m happy to criticize\analyze the word “slip,” but context makes a difference.  Maybe the accidental implication of “slip” is a bit scary — it could happen any time and suddenly, and possibly there’s no way to prevent it.   Oh, watch where you’re going — look out for icy patches, roots, etc. on the path; that could prevent a “slip,” possibly.


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