Can You Support Trump and Say You're Sober?

By Audrey Fox 10/16/16

If we practice 12-step principles in all our affairs, can we say we are in recovery and vicariously underwrite racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, ableism, misogyny, sexism, fraudulence and blatant dishonesty?

Donald Trump
Not a serene bone in his body. a katz /

Sobriety is characterized by a number of principles, not the least of which is positive orientation to right action. But what specific character attributes does the Big Book prescribe as the mark of emotionally sober individuals? And how are these brought to bear in our civic lives? 

This electoral season has coughed forth two of the most polarizing presidential candidates since 1980, with both setting record lows in unfavorable rankings. While not without her own controversy, I am confident in allowing Secretary Hillary Clinton to sit scrutiny out in this discussion so as to fully focus on one Donald J. Trump. While I've been profoundly troubled by all of Donald's past actions, expecting total public denunciation of support with each passing horror, his most recent moral failure as captured via recorded advocacy of sexual assault left me sickened in a silent rage. Then I realized it would be far better to be sickened in a rage aloud, and I can think of no better way to circumvent implosion than to vet it through externalization, specifically in the form of parallel recovery and political processing. See, you can have fun sober! 

But before that deep dive, a brief note to the newcomer: 

Hello and welcome, dear fellow trudger. Please have a seat, this should only take a moment. Now, many persons in recovery will tell you that maintaining physical sobriety is your only responsibility during this time. It is certainly a critical one—indeed, the base upon which we have all endeavored to build ethical self- and other-respecting lives. By this turn, it is easy to think that just being sober is enough, yet it does not hold as sufficient when it comes to this November. This November demands the exercise of your 15th Amendment right. This right is not solely a prerogative, but an imperative—indeed, it is your civic duty. 

When I was growing up, my family spoke often of and consistently demonstrated a sense of civic duty. Civic duty may be likened to an invisible hand guiding the actions of a responsible citizen. And a responsible citizen is not only physically sober, oh no. A responsible citizen is committed to the perpetuation and practice of social ideals. Not those social ideals prescribed in a bandied volume or bullish moment, but those that inform governance as effectively practicing these (read: AA’s) principles in all its farthest reaches and ranging affairs. And while norms and standards are culturally variable, within recovery there are specific guiding means leading to certain inflexible ends. 

Each of the Twelve Steps correspond with a principle and, though they may be described in different terms, they trend toward the following: 

Step 1. Surrender and Honesty

Step 2. Hope and Faith 

Step 3. Surrender and Commitment

Step 4. Honesty and Soul-Searching

Step 5. Truth, Confession and Integrity

Step 6. Willingness and Acceptance 

Step 7. Humility

Step 8. Reflection and Willingness 

Step 9. Amendment and Forgiveness

Step 10. Vigilance and Maintenance

Step 11. Attunement and Making Contact 

Step 12. Service

These underlying virtues serve to shape what might be held as a paragon of recovered or recovering behavior. They lie in diametric opposition to our character defects, those traits and behaviors we seek to root out and amend. While a lengthy list, 4th step stalwarts often include anger, arrogance, myopia, codependency, pessimism, dishonesty, manipulation, greed, gossip, intolerance, judgmental, envy, laziness, prejudice, resentment, rigidity, selfishness, self-centeredness, and self-pity. 

These character defects are the keystones of my alcoholic behavior. The purpose of my recovery regarded alcohol in but a minor way when viewed relative to the depth and breadth of work required to correct these maladaptive attitudes and their influence upon my actions. The replacement of self-centeredness with service, falsehood with honesty, egotism with right-sizing, fear with faith and anger with reconciliation was a dramatic enterprise within my recovery, and remains an ongoing undertaking through regular inventorying and amend-making. 

In addition to those means of spot-checking, the people with whom I surround myself have consistently changed so as to better reflect the evolution of sober conduct and recovering behavior as I have encountered and understood it. This has required the confrontation of certain attitudes and assumptions I’ve held throughout my life. While mine have centered on self-righteous anger and perfectionism, others have confronted their implicit biases regarding race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sex, sexuality, and financial inequality. Further, many recovering alcoholics and addicts have also amended myriad perpetrations of aggression, intimidation, violence, and physical, psychological and emotional abuse. 

The fellows I know who count themselves changed individuals would no longer call themselves sober were they to resume engagement in these behaviors, nor would they encourage or affiliate with individuals actively behaving in such a manner. As such this demands the following questions: 

Is our recovery isolated to our own attitudes and actions, or do it and its qualitative health extend beyond our individual spheres? And are our endorsements—via passive abiding, active presence, ongoing participation, or cast vote—reflective of our recoveries? 

There is no official literature advising those in recovery toward one party or the other in a largely dyadic system, nor explicitly advocating for types of company kept—be it social, religious or political. To quite the contrary end, it does appear that unambiguous discussion of politics is staunchly discouraged within the rooms, for fear of obfuscating primary purpose, alienating fellows, and/or violating Emily Post’s rules of polite dinner discussion. Yet, with this candidate’s contrasts to recovery lifestyle cast starker than ever, it would be irresponsible to omit these considerations from recovery’s consciousness. Is it not the 12th Step’s express edict to practice these principles in all of our affairs? 

Naturally, then, it would prove imperious to conceptualize the practical application of these principles to politics. As a means of facilitation, the following considerations: 

• Is it possible to say that you are in recovery and vicariously underwrite racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, ableism, misogyny, sexism, fraudulence and blatant dishonesty? 

• Is it possible to say that you are a sober individual and simultaneously encourage a candidate bragging of sexual assault as a perk of celebrity? 

• Is it possible to uphold dysfunctional power dynamics while claiming spiritual connection and evolved mindfulness? 

• Is it possible to practice these principles in all of our affairs while sanctioning their national undoing? 

I find it difficult to believe that one can attempt embodiment of recovery principles while concurrently being party to the mass exercise of antithetical precepts. But perhaps you disagree, feeling confident in your ability to reconcile the endorsement of abject hatred against the fellowship’s call to a code of love and tolerance. Maybe you will be able to tally enough redemptive deeds against this gross act of hypocrisy in your nightly inventory. Or possibly you won’t need to, as it is far easier to rest soundly in the insulation of delusion than the disturbing reality within which we of applied recovery, civic duty, and principled living have found ourselves. Regardless of the position in which you find yourself as November rapidly approaches, I should hope that fearless and searching appraisal of ethical standards be applied not only to your personal conduct, but to its extension as redoubled representation within the bipartisan electorate. 

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Audrey Fox is a writer who lives three-quarters of the year in Brooklyn and summers in their mind. Audrey last wrote about sobering up young. She can be found on Linkedin

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