Magazine

From the September 2013 magazine.

September 2013: To Ban or Not To Ban

In my first year of recovery I found a home group at which a young man, with the build of a light heavyweight, would also show up. Evidently, his world was not a friendly one. Enemies were everywhere. At the meeting, he would get in peoples’ faces over slights real or imagined, the veins in his neck bulging. Once, in his fury, he leaped over a couple of rows of chairs to confront his tormentor. Though the incidents never turned physical, group members were terrified. I definitely was. My mind was more on whether he would explode than on the message of recovery. Some members brought the matter to our business meeting. Our common welfare was the issue. Should one extremely volatile member be free to continue to attend the meeting if his presence was disruptive and potentially driving other members away? Although we live in a large metropolitan area with a great number of meetings, it was no easy thing to weigh banning a member from the group, given that recovery is a life-and-death matter. To be honest, I don’t recall now if a motion was made or passed to ban him for a limited time, but I know that such decisions have been made at other groups for similar reasons. What impressed me was that my group, guided by our First Tradition, had come together to discuss protecting itself.

There’s also a form of violence that’s not physical or sufficiently threatening to get me banned from a meeting, yet it’s still disruptive, often with tones of anger, resentment, and judgment. I know I myself have been a practitioner of it at numerous meetings. It’s the voice that seeks to set the record straight, to triumph, to have the last word. Often that voice arises in me when I feel another member has shared something untrue, objectionable, threatening to my belief system or to AA, or our Traditions. Since getting sober, I’ve spoken out against psychotherapy, ACOA (Adult Children of Alcoholics), the concept of an “inner child,” and mood-altering medications. I have railed at groups for threatening the unity of AA by not electing a GSR. These are but a few of the issues on which I have felt compelled to speak up for the “good” of AA.

-- David S.

New York, New York

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