Dry Goods / Old Timers (Singleness of Purpose, Dickweed!)

"Dry Goods / Old Timers (Singleness of Purpose, Dickweed)." 12/15/12. Pen. 3x5".
“Dry Goods / Old Timers (Singleness of Purpose, Dickweed!).” 12/15/12. Pen. 3×5″.

Narcotics Anonymous has a statement of clarity, which says that they don’t distinguish between drugs and alcohol. Makes sense, right? After all, heroin (for example) has got way more in common with alcohol than it does most illicit drugs (crack and cocaine, meth, acid, and weed, to name a few). For the purposes of recovery, what’s important isn’t a substance’s legality – it’s the effect that it’s had on your life. NA doesn’t care if your problem’s with heroin, alcohol, or Benadryl; if it’s a chemical, if it’s fucking up your shit, and if you wanna try their way of life – their doors are open to you.

In Alcoholics Anonymous, on the other hand, there’s a principle oft cited (in some groups) known as the singleness of purpose: “Each [AA] group has but one primary purpose – to carry its message to the alcoholic who still suffers.”

No one forced me into recovery. Anytime I showed up to any kind of twelve-step meeting, it’s ’cause I was ten kinds of fucked up, miserable, and desperate. And I didn’t need someone to give me shit about “not belonging” for me to feel that way – I already did.

I’m not gonna use this as an opportunity to tear into the Fifth Tradition (from which singleness of purpose is derived) and the subsequent literature like I’m interpreting constitutional law for the Supreme Court. One thing I’m fucking certain of though is that it was never meant as an excuse for people to be assholes. I’ve seen kids come into meetings, fresh off the streets, grasping at straws, just desperate for anything to help save their lives. And I’ve seen shitbag AA “old timers” start coughing and muttering “singleness of purpose” under their breath when some poor kid that isn’t fully acquainted with the rules of AA mentions a drug other than alcohol. I’ve even seen a kid interrupted and told that he needs to go to an NA meeting (and not in a well-meaning, helpful kind of way).

There’s a reason that the twelve steps are identical in AA, NA, CA, OA, CodA, SLA, EA, and all the others. Compulsive behavior is compulsive behavior. The (specific) problems may vary (a little) but the fix is always the same.

In an effort to placate singleness hardliners, some alcoholic-addicts use codewords like “dry goods” and “other forms of alcohol.” Personally, I don’t bother with that. I know “the rules” so, if I’m at an AA meeting, I’m perfectly okay with total substitution. I say “alcohol” instead of “heroin,” “bottle” instead of “needle,” and “drink” instead of “shoot up.” While I might think that all of that’s kind of dumb, I do respect that the purpose of a meeting is to carry the message to those that still suffer –  not to offer me a soapbox from which I can share my brilliant opinions (that’s what this website’s for!) So here we go…

So-called “old timers” that take a hardline stance on this shit are dinosaurs, and they’re on their way out. The time when alcoholics outnumbered drug addicts is history. For every kid that realizes he has an alcohol (and only an alcohol) problem,  there’s gotta be a dozen more that are fucked up on alcohol and/or some other drug (or combination of other  drugs). And I use the word “other” in that last sentence very purposefully: because alcohol is a drug. You’re not better than or different from some junkie just ’cause your chemical is legal. Get the fuck over it, get better, and help somebody else do the same.



  • Signed 4×6″ prints of this cartoon are available in my webstore.
  • The framed original cartoon is now for sale as well. (As you can see, like many of my pencil/pen cartoons, it differs from the version sold as a print).


Though I shared “witness accounts” in this entry, I do have my own story about being turned away by singleness of purpose hardliners. (It’s pretty fucked up). I’m going to leave it for some other time though.


6 thoughts on “Dry Goods / Old Timers (Singleness of Purpose, Dickweed!)”

  1. I am Responsible.
    When Anyone, Anywhere
    Reaches Out For Help,
    I Want The Hand Of A.A.
    Always To Be There.

    And For That,
    I Am Responsible!

  2. Just because folks have completed their first step and miraculously dont put something mind altering in themselves doesnt mean they have worked on the rest of their beings. Nor does it mean they have been cured of being ignorant. Somehow there is a notion that because youve stopped drinking now all of a sudden you a savant. Mainly, alot of people stop drinking or druggin and remain A-holes. A quick story.. being a polyuser. a connisuer of many drugs, I fit in better in AA. So I go along with the singleness of purpose. I was chairing a closed AA mens meeting and line up my 4 leads. 3 understood singleness of purpose and handled the switch to describing their d.o.c just fine. My one friend, an M.D. was forewarned, yet he proceeded to give a “drug lead”.[ Also laced with profanity, which didnt help the 4 absolute crowd, throwing purity right out the window]. He got slammed in the comments. One Old timer, who basically holds sway in the meeting, decided it was the Chairs fault. Now all of the emotional children, angry elves, in the room hold grudges towards me. The more rationale guys know I forewarned my friend and he ignored me. So they dont blame me. But here is the kicker..in a week or so that followed, another drug lead came and filled with ego..Did it recieve the same blowback..no it did not..and why? because they were all buds..Singleness of purpose my ass. LOL…Prinicipals and not presonalities eh?

  3. Thanks for your article. I only disagree on one point. The steps are NOT all the same. Step 1 is worded differently and means a different thing to those who choose to look at it differently.

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