Moment of Clarity
It seems to me that your posting is more severely caustic, scathing than anything I have posted.
I questioned whether it was even worth a reply. But here goes: I really do not consider any edition
of the Big Book to be sacred. I would have stayed with the third edition. I would never have accepted
the "Hold hands and pray" story in the fourth edition. AA is prettymuch like it was thirty years
ago. By 1982 most of the changes had already taken place. The reading of HIW, the 24hr book, and
chanting had already made an appearance. These changes had taken place in the eastern states by
that time. Todays concept of sponsorship developed probably late 1980's, into the 1990's.
I love the way Bill W. wrote. I do not know if it is Edwardian English. I know that his writings
are simple and can be understood with a little effort. He warned us about turning AA into a
religion. He wrote that nothing could be so unfortunate for AA's future. The courts view AA as
a religion. Recent postings show that to be true. Bill warned us about cramming the steps down
anyone's throat. Yet we read them to newcomers over and over at meetings. The God filled 24 hr
book has been accepted as appropriate for AA in many meetings.
We have about 300,000 less members in Alcoholics Anonymous than two decades ago. If that does
not alarm you, then just go back to sleep. We grew continuously for 57 years until these
distortions began to affect our effectiveness. Very few alcoholics coming to AA today remain
with us. We make too many demands on them. Really, "what an order".
I believe if we can develop an understanding why the 24 hr book was rejected by our
founders, we can understand why the reading of "How it Works" from the podium has been
so harmful. How it Works is a part of chapter five. Let us return it to chapter five. If this
were to be the first thing a newcomer to be exposed to, Bill would have written it
in chapter one. We startle the newcomer by yelling HI JOE, and then tell him/her they have
to find God and find Him NOW! This nonsence has to stop. For those members who understand
what I am writing about, the reversals will not be easy. But we must stand up and speak out.
Alcoholics continue to suffer while we delay. Their families are suffering unnecessairly.
We have a solution, a technique, method that works. Dr Silkworth and Bill W. left the
solution for us. Stop telling any alcoholic what to do, or what they must do. Just share
what we were like and what happened to us, and end it there.
I do not consider Bill W. or Dr. Bob to be spiritual leaders. They were simply alcoholics
who discovered a way out of the nightmare. They left this solution for us. Dogma and distortion
have pushed the solution to the sidelines. We can bring it back, but it will be costly, not in
cash. We have to give up our foolish pride and admit our mistakes. ANONYMOUS
I agree that there was no need for a 4th Edition.I did campaign against it & fully understood why the GSB wanted it but why would the membership?
I remember reading "somewhere" that the number of
new fourth edition books sold on the first day available,
exceeded the number of any other book sold in any one day.
I believe this to be true. Anyone who finds it, please
give its location. Almost all A.A. members were waiting
to order it. Add the groups who stock and use the
Big Book. The number sold was huge, to my knowledge.
Instead of taking it personal when members say "keep coming back." I now understand it as life gets better.
Keep coming back, It works if you work it, etc. when
spoken by the group is chanting. Chanting has no place
in A.A. This ritual began in the Northeast around 1980,
and makes us look foolish in the eyes of the public. I
think it startles newcomers, who come to their first
meeting aprehensive, shaking and sweating. This seems to be one thing that many I-SAY posters agree with. This
nonsense began with one member chanting Hi Joe! when I
said my name is Joe and I am an alcoholic. It quickly
spread throughout the Northeast. Chanting can be
eliminated from AA but not without a lot of work. Too
many members have no idea how stupid it sounds. They
only hear themselves, as they demand attention. ANONYMOUS
That statement is not coming from a judgement of you, nor is it an attack, just that I sense by your words that you haven't gotten 'it' yet. What I mean by that is there are a lot of things that can be off putting to a newcomer, the language they use, the mantras, the activities, the chants... but here's the point to it: all of it together is a new kind of routine and structure that is not part of 'your element', is not something you'd normally do or say, may seem foolish. (By the way as I type that word out, it now feels a bit insulting that you'd go to the length of posting your view of not only something I've come to appreciate but more importantly as a response to someone else's offering of their moment of clarity.)
To really get it means that no matter how you feel about the ways they present this program, what you ultimately get out of it for you to interpret. Forget the language, the style they use and so on, and take what you hear and learn to use for your own recovery. If it really bothers you so much, then start a meeting of your own where that rhetoric is left out. But, if being sober is really your goal and it's not being forced on you or is a way to get people or the law of your back, then you take out of it what you need and leave the rest. Repeating the lines 'keep coming back, it works if you work it' ('sober and honest' is added at the end of our version) is a way of reminding you that if you've gotten through the day in the way you had really hoped for, it was probably because you had something different at play than the ways and means that you did before. You were honest with yourself and others, you didn't have thoughts of using, you didn't relapse. What you were doing in the past was destructive in some way and trying to sort it out without help and being honest never truly worked, or you wouldn't have needed AA in the first place.
That's why I think that you don't get 'it'. Why right now you might not be able to further recover because of the issues you have with how it works. I'm drawing from observations of my own when I see someone who appears to not be commited to it. I could be wrong as I'm unaware of your situation or progress.
As far as saying hello in response to an introduction, just realize that people are trying to make you feel welcome, at the very least it helps some remember people's names. But keep in mind, some of these people have almost literally just come from a place where they've screwed up their lives and relationships so badly that people they love and would want to now rely on may not even want to look them in the eye, let alone acknowledge them when they've just done something as meaningful as admitting to a serious problem. A problem that a lot people have died from before ever opening up about. Your comments didn't anger me, just made me confused that you feel these are aspects that need to be eliminated, even though that program as it exists now has proven to help so many people. It's the total commitment to the process and the structure that makes it work the way you need it to. But like I said, take from it what helps you and simply leave the rest.
As a note, I just started a recovery program for the first time in my life this last Friday (10/5/12) and the same day attended my first AA meeting. I don't pretend to have all the answers but I have an open mind and am slowly gaining the tools that will help me live a life that I would have missed out on. Right now, I can't think of much else that I am more grateful for than that.
-Anonymous, alcoholic and addict.
Welcome to Alcoholics Anonymous. I do hope that you
also seek help with your other addiction. Let us keep our
fellowships separate. My food addiction took me to Overeaters Anonymous, but I do not state "My name is Joe
and I am an alcoholic and an food addict".
Please try to keep an open mind while reading the
many posts on the I-SAY FORUM. Listen carefully at
meetings. I find that listening to the other person
helps us both equally.
And please do not let anyone keep you away from A.A.
especially members like me. Be one of those very few
who remain sober no matter what happens. There are so
very few alcoholics today who remain in the fellowship.
I don't know why you would feel sorry fo me. I am
one of the luckiest people in the world. There was a
time long ago when I would have traded lives with
almost anyone. Today I am happy with my own life and
who I am. I have difficulties like everyone else.
Before I found Alcoholics Anonymous, I just felt
that life was not worth living. My life for over
four decades (sober) has been very much worthwhile.
Save your sorrow for the six million suffering
alcoholics, and their families, who have been pushed
from our rooms, by the strange cult-like religion
which A.A. has become in the last three decades.
Spiritual Pride and the alcoholic EGO have all
but destroyed our fellowship. You can be a part of restoring the effectiveness to an acceptable rate.
Our negative growth rate since 1992 is shamful.
Most of the reasons for our failure can be
found right here on the I-SAY FORUM. Maybe not all
the reasons, but I believe most of our mistakes can
be found here. Don't drink anything containing
alcohol, including over the counter medicines,
and stay close to A.A. And again, try to keep
an open mind. Remember, the parachute works best
when open. ANONYMOUS
Over the span of 35 years of drinking, 9 DUI's, the courts and prison system, my 1st and 2nd wife and family, my employer and even my friends and drinking buddies telling me I have to get a handle on my drinking, I refused to "see the light" and could never manage to string together more than 3 or 4 months of sobriety and when I did, it was "forced!" No one could tell me what to do! Even faced with four years in prison for violating the terms of my last DUI conviction, I continued to drink through the better part of my probation. I barely squeaked through the five year process and finally, with the last of my legal troubles behind me, it was off to the races with a particularly vigorous 2 month binge. The morning of June 4th, 2011, not unlike many other mornings, to many to recount actually, I woke up at two o'clock in the morning, shaking and sweating in a puddle of piss, not able to remember the last several days and I desperatly needed a belt just to function. I reached behind the cushion of the couch for the bottle of vodka I had left there instinctively the night before with just enough vodka left to get me to the liquor store the next morning. I stared at that bottle for only an instant and I felt the bile rise in my throat. You see, it was not at all unusual to dry heave for a period in the morning before I could actually keep any liquor down and not wanting to waste my "get back to normal" stash, I hesitated! In that instant something happened! In that moment, something clicked! In that oh so brief flash, something was different. I experienced an intense "Moment of Clarity" unlike anything I had experienced before! I saw my life and my alcoholism for what it truly was and where it was quickly taking me. I would soon be dead, or worse yet, in a drunken stupor, I would kill someone else and spend the rest of my life in prison. I recoiled from the thought and with my head in my hands, I sobbed. I cried like I had never cried before and finally, after ALL these years, I truly surrendered! Alcohol had finally beaten me. It had whipped me into submission! I was helpless and I admitted! I believe in that moment, my Higher Power intervened and I was, to the core of my being and in the depths of my soul convinced that, for me, "to drink is to die!" I have not found it necessary to take a drink since. By the grace of my Higher Power and the program of Alcoholics Anonymous, my life is much different today. In working the steps and working with other alcoholics I have found uncounted blessings and rewards and I thank God daily for my "Moment of Clarity!"
Yes I most certainly did . One of tremendous magnitude . I did not call AA . My total consideration over the 5 days since my just previous 6 days away from home binge .was I was a total failure in every respect. I was working full time in an elected position in a labor Union. I had been active all my life ,from the age of 14 years , in the labor movement . In fact I was fired from my first job for trying to organize the "Union " there . I had matured into my teens as a very defiant athiest. I had been impressed by the writings of Karl Marx and some how along the way for my search, to back this position in bar room arguments, I also fell into the writings of Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution . Very quickly I became an avid student of both of these philosophers and became proficient at "proving " there was no God . I became very adept at this defending all comers against this dual philosophy . I did much harm and lost many if not all freinds and aquaintances over this position , but,I did pick up considerable debating skills and this lent itself well to the working position and the . Then came that moment of truth , I am a failure as a father, as a husband, a friend ,and an employee. Little did I know how terrifying the next 90 days were to be .I went to work head down ,came home to my family, head down and silent, finding myself in an absolute as I tried desperately to "do " the fourth step. I was finished . Suddenly I heard a voice scream ,if only some day' some way there could be a power greater than myself I could accept . The Miracle happened,complete surrender, complete faith . In that OH YES MOMENT MY LIFE CHANGED FOREVER , there was a God and , It wasn't me.
The same thing happened to me. Fighting the urge to
drink for about 60 days, I finally realized what was wrong
with me. I am an alcoholic! That is what is wrong with me!
That is why I feel the way I feel! There is a name for it;
alcoholism. I also cried out to the God of my understanding
and the desire to drink was lifted. And it wasn't a
"sponsor" or another human being. That moment changed
my life over forty years ago.
Today I consider my sobriety a gift from God. Unlike
other gifts, this was one I had to ask for. Strange too,
in order to keep the gift, I have to give it away. And
the way I give it away is to talk about it; to share the
experience with other alcoholics. Thanks for sharing your
gift with me. It works! It really does! ANONYMOUS
After 30 years of the same sponsor I had to make a change. Now I live in a small rural community with good AA but I have the most time sober in AA. My expierence is you need to have a sponsor no matter how long you have been sober and active in AA. I have also been taught to believe that sponsor is a guide with more AA expierence. I also have been advised that the sponsor should be someone you see face to face regurlarly.
My questions to all are - in the expierence of AA.....
- do we really need a sponsor with more time or expierence than ourselves?
- does that sponsor need to be nearby or is remote sponsorship successful?
We pray that one day you will be able to join the fellowship of the spirit instead getting easily diverted again.
I learned early on it's not the quantity of days but the quality. I started out needing help yesterday and was able to attend as many as 5 to 6 BB studies a day. Which I did for 2years, until I moved to a small community miles away.
I still attend many meeting each week, have been involved in service work and live the AA design for living each day to the best of my ability. I now have accumulated over 20 years - sponsor people with much more time than I have and do several ladies long distance. We talk to each other on the phone, e-mail etc. They like you have good sobriety and know when to call, to get new solutions as life's circumstances change.
So my answer to your question is no I learn from my newcomer's too. Yes, remote sponsorship can be successful.
The more I observe and read, the more convinced that
the lable sponsor needs to be eliminated from our A.A.
vocabulary. We all come together as absolute equals.
Bill W. explains this on page 70 in AACA. We sober
members need the new member as much as she/he may
need us. Who do we think we are? We are not A.A. experts.
We are all patients trying to stay sober and get well.
No matter how much experience any member has, that
person is still not perfect. We are not God. No human
power can relieve you. Don't expect them to.
It is wonderful that you have kept an AA friend for
thirty years. It is so easy to keep in touch today. Why
let distance prevent you from keeping this "sponsor"?
Maybe it is time for you to question this "advice"
you have been receiving. ANONYMOUS
I used to get upset at all the different views and opinions about how to or not to work the steps.
I had another moment of clarity this morning at an open AA meeting.
As I listened to each person around the room share their experiences, I looked into the eyes of each speaker. I was amazed. All the speakers that said do whatever you want or there are no one way to work the seps, ect, had a depressed or sad look in their eye. Like the look of a dog that has been beaten.
On the other hand, I noticed all the people sharing of how they worked the steps and now try to be usefull to others had a certian glow in their eyes. They had something attractive that I wanted and that made me want to listen to what they had done.
Now I am grateful for all the different views in an AA meeting. It is now clear to me that everyone is an example. Some may be of what to do, some may be what not to do, but everyone in that room this morning was an example.
Wow thanks Corey:
Reading your share hit me like an Ah-Ha moment. If the eyes are the windows to the soul then looking into the speakers eyes and not just listening to their words will tell me if they have something I want. Are they happy, joyous and free or sad, depressed and dry. I know we all have up days and down days but my worst day sober, beats the heck out of my best days drunk. I want to be with people whose eyes sparkle and I want to help bring the sparkle back into the eyes of those who have had it extinguished by the wet brain of alcoholism.
I would also like to help bring back the sparkle into the eyes of those who have had it extinguished by the wet brain
of alcoholism. But the condition of "wet brain" is irreversable, to my knowledge. We have to save them before they get that far. Being happy, joyous and free are goals
we strive for. I have heard that anyone who walks around
always smiling is on something or up to something. ANONYMOUS
It has been hard letting go of those familiar places and people alcohol and drugs took me too. sometimes I miss it sometimes I hate it and am glad to be free. I'm still angry about everything that's happened, and everything I have done. I hope to work through it someday, I'm grateful to be able to share with na and aa groups my hardships that others can relate to. I have been sober since September 2007. It still feels like it happened not long ago, and an eternity ago all at once. Thank you for reading. Sd
It has been hard letting go of those familiar places and people alcohol and drugs took me too. sometimes I miss it sometimes I hate it and am glad to be free. I'm still angry about everything that's happened, and everything I have done. I hope to work through it someday, I'm grateful to be able to share with na and aa groups my hardships that others can relate to. I have been sober since September 2007. It still feels like it happened not long ago, and an eternity ago all at once. Thank you for reading. Sd
The following is an excerpt from “AA Comes of Age” pg 250: “Primarily, they say quite simply that AA can never be just a miracle. The single act of surrender can produce sobriety by its stopping effect upon the ego. Unfortunately, that ego will return unless the individual learns to accept a disciplined way of life, which means that a tendency for ego comeback is permanently checked. This is not new to AA members; they have learned that a single surrender is not enough. Under the wise leadership of the founding fathers, the need for continued endeavor to maintain that miracle has been steadily stressed. The Twelve Steps, repeated inventories, not just one, and the Twelfth step itself, a routine reminder that one must work at deserving sobriety, are all essential. Moreover, it is referred to as Twelfth Step work, which is exactly what it is. But this time the miracle is for the other fellow.”
After reading this paragraph last night I was struck with an overwhelming feeling of gratitude. I was taught to practice steps 10,11, and 12 on a daily basis. However I can remember complaining to my home group meeting after starting step 9, then learning I had to vigorously commence this way of living as I cleaned up the past. I didn’t like the idea of self examination, meditation, prayer, and work and self sacrifice for others. I wanted to have someone else do the work for me!
I am fortunate because I had fully conceded to myself that I am an alcoholic. I knew that I have a progressive illness that only gets worse over time. The memory of being 40 pounds underweight and having yellow skin was still fresh in mind. So there was nothing special about me. Alcohol had prodded me into accepting this program of action as a way of life.
This all took place in 1992. I remember it like it was yesterday - or maybe the newcomer I talked to yesterday reminded me!
In his essay on "This I Believe," Aldous Huxley wrote of the common thread in all faiths and spirituality, that "all [people] are called [to the spiritual way of living] but few are chosen - for the simple reason that few choose to be chosen." When I had that initial moment of clarity as I hit bottom, when my choice was to live or to drink, I chose to live. Since then, I have had other moments of clarity, of awareness, of self-realization, many of which are incredibly fleeting. With each comes the choice, whether to stay anchored to the spot or to move forward. What I learn from others' examples in AA is that I do not have to be afraid of moving forward, in fact I am supposed to embrace change as natural and inevitable, a part of growing up. Or to paraphrase a mentor, every moment is another growth opportunity if I am open and willing to grow.
The following is a list of numbers which changed my belief that Alcoholics Anonymous is "alive and well". I will
try to get other AA members to also "view with alarm" for
the good of AA. Many call us Bleeding Deacons.
This is Service Material from the General Service Office.
These numbers are estimates of worldwide AA individual and
Group Membership .
(Because AA has never attempted to keep formal membership lists, it is extremely difficult to obtain completely accurate figures on total membership at any given time. The information shown here is based on reports given by groups listed with GSO's around the world and does not represent an actual count of those who consider themselves AA members. We are aware of A.A. presence in more than 150 countries, including 60 other autonomous general service offices in other lands.) copied from the bottom of the page.
YEAR// ACTIVE MEMBERSHIP// GROUPS
1940 1400 50
1945 12,986 556
1950 96,475 3,527
1955 135,905 6,249
1960 162,037 8,615
1965 232,105 12,444
1970 311,450 16,459
1975 533,590 26,456
1976 574,318 29,352
1977 612,876 31,587
1978 627,456 33,241
This list continues to show our fellowship membership numbers to increase continuously until the year 1992. The
theme was "each one reach one". If we are sober and are
helping others, our membership will always increase.(in
1992 2,489,541 89,215
1993 2,062,380 90,155
The numbers continue to fluctuate around the two million
mark and remain at about two million today. The complete
list is available from GSO. Many AA's seem to say, "well
that is about all we can expect", and come with many
excuses for our stagnation. For those who have any interest
or concern, read the reasons for our lack of growth on
I-SAY. Please stand up and speak out at the group level.
Stop the chanting. Stop reading "How it Works". Bill W.
himself wrote in Three talks to medical societies, that
even he could not explain how AA works. Remove the 24 hr book from AA meeting rooms. These reversals at the group
level can be made if we start now. In another two decades
it could be too late. It may already be too late, but we
have to try. While we "spin our wheels" or "churn", men
and women are suffering needlessly. ANONYMOUS note: When
I clicked on preview, the numbers run together. For any
who are concerned please consider that I am still
basically computer illiterate.
In a spiritual program we never should count the amount of people involved. "Principle's above personalities".
We never know who will, at some point, return to AA after more research. I am a 2 time repeater and have accumulated more time since. You cannot count, for whatever reason, how many came and went in our program. It stays open to all who have an honest desire to stop drinking, even if it takes more than once.
Principles before personalities is right on!
We must return AA to a fellowship which remains open to all
alcoholics with a desire to stop drinking, whether that
desire is honest or not. In the pamphlet "Three talks to
medical societies", Bill writes that the only the the only
thing we ask of the alcoholic approaching us is a desire
on his/her part to get well. We push alcoholics away by
inplying that an "honest" anything is required. We have
a count today in AA of just over two million. A Grapevine
article called it "TWO MILLION STRONG". We had almost
two and a half million members twenty years ago. We should/
could/would have six to eight million members today.
Dogma and distortion have almost ruined a perfect solution
for the "cure" for alcoholism. ANONYMOUS
When Bill was giving the presentation to these
doctors, He commented: You may ask, Just how does this
thing work. Bill says that he cannot fully answer that
question. He said: We can only tell you what we do and
just what seems to happen to us. I believe Bill is
saying that even he does not know exactly how AA works.
If Bill were alive today he could request a copy
of "How It Works" from our General Service Office.
And I repeat my conviction that the introduction
of the reading of HIW aloud at A.A. meetings was a horrible
blunder. Chanting and reading the 24hr book aloud at
meetings are a close second and third mistake.
My comments are not direct quotes. I do not have
the pamphlet in front of me. ANONYMOUS
Bill W. was always counting heads. This has been done in
AA up to this day. We pay for these surveys. These numbers
are a good indication of our effectiveness, or lack of it.
When I first saw the numbers showing the loss of half a
million members in the early 1990's I could see that we
were failing to help very many new alcoholics. We are
just helping ourselves, churning. I fear that we will
indeed just stop the counting. That will be easier than
admitting our faults. ANONYMOUS
Mabe some of them folks is getting sober in RR or that Malibu thing on tv. After all that "isn't a 12step program--it works!"
Your tiresome editorializing all over the different I-say sites is becoming a real boar.
Nobody in AA should be telling anyone what to do, and if they are they should be gently corrected, pointing to page 59 in the BB where it clearly states " Here are the steps we took, which are suggested as a program of recovery". Many of us have (like you) seen family and friends die from this disease and we are hurt every time it happens and it reinforces the deadly nature of this disease. Some people need to hear that these are just suggestion much like its only a suggestion that you pull the rip-cord of your parachute.
WE DO NOT push anybody away. They stay or they don't, their choice. They've hit bottom or they haven't. They want what we have or they don't. To do 90 in 90 IS useful in establishing a habit of attendance but it's still only a suggestion. Reading the Preamble, How it works and the 12 Traditions is something the newcomer need to hear and yes They are the most important person in the room (not you). Keep coming back it works are not chants and the Serenity prayer is that, a prayer
I don't know if your just a dry drunk or a bleeding Deacon or you just want every thing done your way. Read page 61. Do you see your self in there?
My little town has over 50 meeting on any given day One of them is call the Happy Heathens, If you don't like the way things are being done in the meeting you attend then I SUGGEST you start your own and do it your way and see who comes. Just a thought
It states in the Big Book, that for an Alcoholic of the Hopeless Variety, like myself..Need to have what is called a"spiritual experience." Now, some may have a "burning-bush" experience, or something more subtle. Regaurdless, this is vital in having any real chance of staying sober, and in my experience, proved to be true. I am a Re-tread in the program of AA.. and as hard as it was to put my Ego aside, and honetly concede to myself I was tired of being enslaved by the Hideous Four Horsemen, I had this vital experience. I said the most humble, honest prayer i'd ever said before. I felt as if God himself, or the Spirit wrapped his arms around me. This experience gave me the Faith, the power that I did not have in my own Will.. to come back into the rooms of AA.
I know now, to this day. I completed step one Honestly, and thoroughly enough, to have complete faith that this Power(God of my understanding) restored my to sanity. Constant contact with my Higher Power has been a daily task, seeking for guidance, and humility along the way. Meetings are an Insurance Payment on my sobriety, and keep my Ego in check. --I am forever grateful for having this experience, because I was at my jumping off point. Could not imagine my life with or without my best friend, and worst enemy..Alcohol.
I hope someone can relate to this message, and know sobriety is possible, with complete Surrender, and for seeking a relationship with his/her Higher Power, whatever that may be. I know my will and my way were killing me. I needed a new Coach. My best thinking kept me drinking. My higher power loves us all, and would not want us to be destroying our minds, bodies and souls like some of us have!
Yes, many of us have seen friends and family members die from alcoholism and drug addiction. Many of these could have found a new life in A.A. and N.A. And I believe they would/could have found it if we had just let them search, instead of cramming our beliefs down their throats.
I find it a bit strange that you would SUGGEST that I
"start my own" meeting, and then criticize me for doing so. "Keep coming back, it works if you work it, is a chant when it is done by the group. Some groups actually hold on
to you and pump your arms up and down while chanting.
The suffering and deaths of so many, reinforces my
belief that we are failing to help them. Dr. Silkworth,
Bill W. and God in his mercy, left us a solution which
I will agree that newcomers ought to be exposed
to the traditions. They need to know about our anonymous
nature. They need to know that the only requirement for
membership (full membership) is a desire to stop drinking.
They need to know that we need them as much as they may
need us. They need to be assured that we will not impose
any of our religious beliefs on them. We were never intended to be a religion. (Of course most of us know
that has happened. Judges have ruled that A.A. has
become a religion).
I believe that if we can understand why Bill and
his friends rejected the 24 hr book, we can develop
an understanding of why the reading of How It Works
aloud at meetings has been so devestating to our
fellowship. If we can get rid of the chanting, maybe
we can regain the respect of the general public. But
chanting will not stop by itself. There are just too
many members who have no idea how foolish chanting is.
I had many of your same beliefs for about three
decades. I could have written many of your messages,
word for word. But when I saw those membership numbers
in front of me, that all changed. ANONYMOUS
I don’t find the writer the least bit tiresome, quite the reverse in fact. I am enlightened by what he says. It is good for me to know that there are others who also share my concerns. If he reads this, then I say thank you.
It is easy to accept the truth and to speak it when it brings comfort. It is easy to resent the truth and to silence it when it brings discomfort. Truth, comforting or discomforting, will always come out in the end. The growth and well being of AA will always depend upon how well each new generation is willing to accept the truth, take inventory of itself and then to correct its faults.
I am grateful that I got sober in the days before the internet. Back then there was no coercion for newcomers to get a sponsor, or for them to take the steps before they were ready to. The 1940s AA slogans “Easy does it.” “Live and let live.” still meant something. Newcomers decided in their own time and manner. There was no conformity to ritual, yet all the meetings were more or less the same. There were no special purpose groups, no religious emotionalism, no outside literature, no speaker recordings, no greeters, no holding of hands; no question of unity.
People talked with humility, of their sordid drinking, of themselves, without exhibition. They did not talk of what their sponsor said, nor did they entertain; nor pride themselves with their knowledge of the Big Book. They did not pride themselves with their having had a spiritual experience, nor how they pray and meditate; nor did they pride themselves on how many years they had been sober. There was no sponsor worship, no old timer worship; no guru worship.
I have seen the changes in AA and I do not think they are good. These changes are producing emotional experiences instead of spiritual awakenings; dry alcoholics with half cracked egos, emotionally dependent on amateurish teachers and preachers; emotionally defensive of the dogmas they have been taught. They have not yet experienced the truly open mind, humility and tolerance that is associated with a spiritual ego deflation at depth. This writer gives me hope that AA still does have a good future, if it can but stay on its spiritual foundation of placing traditional principles before the personalities of those who seek to gain power, prestige or money.
There is another alternative to being a dry drunk or a bleeding deacon and that is to be good leader. So, I hope the writer continues, regardless of those who, as Bill W. put it: “pitch gobs of rumors, gossip, and general scuttle-butt to gain their ends --- all for the good of A.A., of course!” Not all is in the Big Book. It is but a beginning.
(Bill W. quote from “Leadership in AA: Ever a vital need” Concept IX, The AA Service Manual Combined with the Twelve Concepts for World Service pp 36-40) http://www.aa.org/pdf/products/en_bm-31.pdf
I had hope that there were others who shared my concerns.
I feel that most who find today's A.A. disturbing have just
walked away. I sadly do not know how to reach them, and
suspect that many who could have been saved have died. But
there have to be others who have stayed as I did, just
accepting the changes as inevitable.
We did not have greeters at the door. Every member was
a greeter. And very few speakers were recorded. It just
was not even considered. There was a drive in my state
to record speakers' stories if they have over thirty
years (for the area archives). I considered it, as I
still suffer from self importance sometimes. Then I
realized that my story is not that important. Every
A.A. member has a story, and most of us love to tell
There was no coercion for newcomers to get a sponsor
or to work the steps before they were ready. I hope I
have your permission to use some of your words such as
amateurish teachers and preachers, and being emotionally
defensive of the dogmas they have been taught.
As you can guess I sometimes consider just walking
away from all this controversy. But I will probably stay to the end. Thanks again for the encouragement. You probably
know that your letter was posted in two categories, this one and STEPS. Thank you I-SAY! ANONYMOUS
Thanks for your reply. You’re welcome to use anything in my posts. Yes, newcomers were given a good informal welcome at meetings by an unorganized collective. It didn’t need organized doormen to scare them away. Like you, I have considered walking away from the hassle and I know a number that have. But if everyone did this then there would be nothing left. I’ve decided to stay. I know there’s a few in my area who can see the writing on the wall, who are also doing their bit. I see you and others on AA Grapevine. Your posts have inspired me to continue and I’m sure they have inspired many others. I’m glad to find again good “Fellowship of the Spirit” in your posts (The Language of the Heart p 384), since I don’t find it so much in my locality anymore. You are definitely not alone in your concerns and I believe there are many who share them, yet remain silent.
Relating to Tradition Two and Concepts V and IX, if AA is to continue without descending into anarchy, then more people need to speak up, because the power behind the expression of the group conscience needs always to be greater than an individual alcoholic’s power driven ego and greater than power driven egos combining to form a tyranny of very small minorities invested with absolute power.
“…the greatest danger to democracy would always be the “tyranny of apathetic, self seeking, uniformed, or angry majorities….” (Concept V)
“ ..The well-heard minority, therefore, is our chief protection against an uninformed, misinformed, hasty or angry majority…” (Concept V)
Therefore a well heard minority, such as your self, is our chief protection against
“…the even worse tyranny of very small minorities invested with absolute power.” (Concept V)
You’re not the only one questioning speaker recordings. This member regards some of them as “a perversion of the spirit of anonymity”. I agree with them. The article can be retrieved from the AA Grapevine archive: “Unrecorded A member questions the practice of recording AA speakers”, AA Grapevine August 2007
I think you have done AA a great service and thank you for your persistence. A true friend of Bill W.
Concept V and IX pages 20 and 34: http://www.aa.org/pdf/products/en_bm-31.pdf
I just want to know one thing. Did you get sober using the 12 steps or not?
A co-worker and I were drinking friends. It came out that
he had been to AA meetings. I asked him about it several
times. We were drinking one evening and I mentioned it again. He said we would go to a meeting that evening. We
were fairly drunk by meeting time so we had a designated
driver. We didn't want to drive to an AA meeting drunk.
As drunk as I was I knew there was something of great
value in the room that night.
My co-worker lost his job, due to drinking and I lost
track of him. I continued to drink, but thought of AA
often. I really wanted to stop drinking for good. I
could go for short periods of time without it, but I
always started drinking again. I went to another
meeting the following year and stayed sober for a
four month period. When I picked up again, my drinking
was worse than it had ever been; the progression was
evident. I drank heavily for a month and managed to
stop, due to a family tragedy. I was determined that
I was not going to drink again. I feared that I would
die if I drank again. I fought the craving, and the
merciless obsession for two months until I just
could not fight any more. I had an open bottle of liquor
in my hand when I took the first three steps. I said
aloud "Dear God, if there is a God, In the name of
Christ please help me! My feeling was that I was turning
my life over to You, whether You accept me or not. At
that moment the desire to drink was lifted and has never returned. I knew then what an alcoholic was and that I am one. I realized months later that I had taken the first
three steps. But I had no one pushing them on me. I had
taken them of my own free will. John Barleycorn was the
enforcer. Great suffering was the advocate.
Two days later I was in Alcoholics Anonymous and there
I found the great love written about in one of our traditions. Great suffering and great love are to be our
disciplanarians; WE NEED NO OTHERS!
In the first three years I heard the steps mentioned
by speakers, and the twelve steps shade appeared on the
meeting room walls. No one pointed to them and said: This is what you must do. At almost five years, my back was
against the wall and I felt that it was time to do the
fourth and fifth steps, which helped me greatly. And I
have continued with the rest of the steps, repeating
steps four and five with a priest I had become friends
with at about 20 years. Year 19 was difficult, and I
knew from experience that they would help me again.
I believe that if I had been told at those first
couple of meetings that I had to find God and find Him
now, and all the other "suggestions" given to the newcomer
today, I would have turned my back on AA and I would have
died. But that first meeting gave me hope. I saw alcoholics
who were not drinking any more. I listened to their stories and I believed them. I wondered if it would ever happen for me, but it did happen and is still happening. I have lived
a life beyond anything I ever expected, much better than I ever deserved. I hope you didn't expect a yes or no answer.
I believe I was given the gift of a spitirtual awakening
as the result of the first three steps. I continue to
practice these and the rest of the steps in my daily life.
I do hope that answers your question. ANONYMOUS
.....and I find it odd that if someone would have said find God and may you find Him now that you would have turned your face to the wall and died considering by your own admission that God is the one you cried out to in your pain and that you worked the first 3 steps!! Amazing how we say and do things we don't even know we are saying or doing isn't it?
If I had been told to get a sponsor, work those steps with
him, find God and find him Now!, plus the God filled 24 hr
book, and the chanting and holding hands and praying, I
would have realized that this was just another religion or
some type of cult. I had already tried religion several
times. I was never in a cult, except for today's AA.
Please, no offense. I am just trying to get a point
You spend more time on the computer than I do. Could you
spend a little more time rephrasing the question? I am saying that we push members away by the demands made of
them, new and old. If I had been told at my first, or
second meeting to get a sponsor, work these steps, do
90 in 90, find God and find Him now, hold hands with us
while we pray for you, I don't think I would have ever
returned to an AA meeting. I don't believe I would have
ever been "ready" for all that. And I don't think I am
muuch different than any other alcoholic approaching
our fellowship today. But I do ask you to write the
comment in simpler terms. ANONYMOUS
Let me splain it this way. I think we are in agreement on some things. I don't like the chanting because it is too sect like. I don't approve of reading non-AA material in meetings because I think keeping it AA will keep it uniform and will help keep religion out of AA.If people are allowed to read whatever they want some will be reading the Bible, Koran, etc. The 24hr book is not approved literature. But no one can say what a person can use outside of the meeting for their own personal recovery including: the Bible, the 24hr, self help books, tapes, whatever they want. I also see a trend in my area. We have always had a custom of giving the 1st time meeting goer a 1st step meeting. Now, the BB says, and I will paraphrase so don't get your undies in a bundle, tell the necomer your story in general terms so they will know you know about the drinking game, what it was like, what happened and what it is like now, (for you! we cannot tell "OUR" story). In my area it seems like people in the 1st step are not doing this. They are doing what you are talking about and barking at the newcomer about 90/90, (then what? You Graduate?), getting a sponsor, ( I did not get one until 3 months sober because I went to a meeting every day and waited until I heard someone I thought I could trust and asked him to be my sponsor), don't drink and go to meetings, meeting makers make it, ( I don't like these two because not drinking and going to meetins alone is not the program and the only thing meeting makers make is meetings. If you are not working the steps you are not working the program and meeting sobriety alone is very precarious sobriety). I don't think this is what we are supposed to be telling the newcomer.
We part ways on the BB and reading HIW. The book was written to put the program down in writting so the history of how to get sober was preserved for future generations and to send out to alcoholics a basic text, road map, design for living, guide book or whatever you chose to call it so they could read it and sober up. (This protects the program from people like you and I who think we know what is bes for everybody)! This book and the 12 steps is our program. Just because some folks may have sobered up in a slightly different manor doesn't matter. The majority of folks sober in AA used this book and the 12 steps! Reading something out of this book will not hurt anyone who has an honest desire to get sober! If they don't want to hear it they are not ready! How many meetings did you go to and listen to HIW before you decided it was the wrong thing to do? Maybe it is chap 5 and you say they should be read in order. Some people say the 12 steps should be taken in order but Bill W said you can take any of the steps you are able to take at the time! I think making it clear to the newcomer that this is a spiritual program and not a religous program and that the word God means God as you understand him is important. But telling a newcomer they need to find (their) God is not going to hurt him. (When Ebby to this to Bill a light went on)! Having a HP and getting ourselves out of the center of the universe is the very crux of AA. This is not my opinion it is fact from the BB and other AA literature.
Telling a newcomer they need to find God, (their God or
any God), is a tragic mistake. The AA technique which reaches the suffering alcoholic is this: If you have found
God or a higher power, tell the newcomer that you have
done this and tell him how you did it. Do not even imply
that they have to do the same. Leave shame and guilt out
of the equation. Attraction not promotion. Absolutely
no promotion. This is the formula given to Bill W in
1935, just prior to Bill's trip to Akron. This is the
technique which worked with Dr. Bob. In three talks to
medical societies Bill called it a "gadget".
Chapter Five is a very important chapter, as well as
all the other chapters. Bill placed "How It Works" in
a very special place for a precise timed effect. Reading
this aloud at meetings is a very serious mistake.
If you do not understand this, I ask you to read
it again, study our history, the cart before the horse
IDEA. It will begin to make sense. We must do this.
Alcoholics are dying while we delay. Their friends
and families are suffering, needlessly. ANONYMOUS
Sincere thanks for the splaination. Just a couple of
brief comments, please. (When Ebby told this to Bill, a
light went on). When Ebby told Bill he had gotten religion,
Bill was crushed. Bill writes; Ebby didn't try to pressure
me or evangelize me, and pretty soon he left. "Somewhere
else" Bill wrote that Ebby stayed for hours talking about
old times. The light did not come on until Bill was in his
hospital bed crying out to God, I believe this was about
four weeks after Bills meeting with Ebby.
I believe many, maybe most alcoholics come to their
first AA meeting without a sincere desire to stop drinking.
That is why the word honest was removed from the literature. I doubt that many who approach AA are really
ready. I believe that it is up to us to allow them to become ready, helping them whereever we can. I do think
we push many away by the demands we make of them. (disguised
as suggestions). Do you think we ought to be "suggesting"
that they get a sponsor at their very first meeting? Some
say,"Get a sponsor before you leave the meeting today".
Some groups actually assign sponsors.
I have written ad-nausaum of my opinions and beliefs
on the reading of HOW IT WORKS. The first time it was
read at my meeting in 1980, I had an awful feeling that
it was just not right. Over the years I finally accepted
the reading, and read it aloud many times, standing and
saying This is how it works! I called the steps D...ed
well betters. I did not know that Bill had written that even
he could not fully explain how AA works. And when I found
Bill's explanation of why he placed chapter five, how it works, in the Big Book, the light went on. As I have written
at least a hundred times, I think this was the worst
mistake AA ever made. I had no real understanding of Dr.
Silkworth's "cart before the horse" idea to Bill. Today I
understand why that was so important. Sorry, someday I
may learn to be brief. And I am truly grateful for AA
members like you. Few members have that passion.
I have an AA friend who will soon complete 30 years
of continuous sobriety. Just this morning he accused me,
indirectly, of trying to put God on the shelf. I believe
that God places himself on the podium, in full view for anyone who wants or needs Him. I ought not tell anyone: That One is God; Find Him Now! Leave that decision entirely up to each individual alcoholic member. Sorry, again. ANONYMOUS
After reading the last couple of posts, I am grateful for Ray and anonymous. It reminds me of an AA talk. There where 3 of us that got up and shared our experience,strenght and hope. We were all a little different, but similar in that we had all worked the steps as a program of recovery.
After our stories, one of the audience quietly came up after the meeting and said after 7 years of being in and out of aa that this was the best mtg he had ever been to.
When relfecting on this during my evening meditation it came to me that it was the 3 different views that made that talk special! the audience could compare and contrast and come up with there own conclusions! No one member was saying this is the only way, just 3 of us saying how we did it.
Now if 2 out of the 3 of us gets drunk or goes on an emotional bender, the audience can choose for themselves who to listen to.
I read in AA comes of Age that out of the 28 stories in the first addition, 15 authors remiained sober, 5 drank not to return, and the remainder-8 got sober again after a slip. AACA didn't say who was who, but I would assume some of the stories of the slippers didn't make it into the second addition!
Thanks again for posting all the great discussions!
The way I read it the light went on for Bill when Ebby said, Why don't you choose your own conception of God?
Remember? The scales of prejudice fell away?
I wrote b4 I don't demand anything of anyone in AA. The chapter is Working With Others not Fixing Others or even Helping Others. All we can do is lay the kit of spiritual tools at their feet for their inspection.
The crux of the AA program is to get a HP and get our selfish, self centered selves out of the way! That HP is up to the individual.
Also, I see you finally wrote the "may you" in that quote about finding God. It is a wish, not a command!
If you are an atheist and got sober in AA, God bless you! (Pun intended). But you must have used something as your HP correct?
Messages like this sadden me. And the saddest part is that it could be written by most of the members of today's A.A., and that I could have written most of it
myself ten years ago. My head was pulled out of the sand
by events around me. I, too, thought A.A. was alive and
I did take your advice and started a meeting where we
do not read HIW, we do no chanting, and we do not do the
ring around the rosy hold hands and pray closing. We meet
every day at the local club and we are today usually a
dozen or more. I also started two LANGUAGE OF THE HEART
meetings. One has the format of the 1970's, and I am
working on the other one. A friend started a step meeting
using the 1970's format a couple years ago. Ten or
more show up every Sat morning.
I can add "real boar" to the list of names I have
been called. Believe me, I have been called worse. I
have been assaulted verbally and physically, but I
still continue. But I will give up soon. My wife laughs
when I say that, for late in the day I promise her
that I will quit. But early the next morning I am
back on the computer again. But I am almost done. I have
written my concerns over and over, both here and in
handwritten letters to the Grapevine.
This information will be available when AA members
and our leaders decide to use it. How is that for a
Bleeding Deacon's dry drunk EGO? Not much humility here!
I have used that parachute analogy more times than
I care to admit. I often wonder how many alcoholics have
died because of that one. I have read HOW IT WORKS many
times at meetings, saying "this is how it works". I found
out later that Bill W wrote in Three talks, that even
he could not fully explain how AA works.
I do believe we push suffering alcoholics away by the
demands we make of them. You know what they are.
Of all the messages posted on I-SAY not one writer
has agreed that reading HIW aloud at meetings is
harmful. But if you study Dr. Silkworths cart before
the horse idea, Well, there it is! A full explanation.
But you have to be concerned enough about AA to investigate
If we had continued growing at an acceptable rate, we
would/could/should have eight million members in AA today.
You know that we are stagnant at two million. Where are
the other six million. Those are the ones we have pushed
away by the way our meetings today are conducted. ANONYMOUS
Bill also wrote:"Our chief responsibility to the newcomer is an adequate presentation of the program. If he does nothing or argues, we do nothing but maintain our own sobriety. If he starts to move ahead, even a little, with an open mind, we then break our necks to help in every way we can."
In my home group an adequate presentation to the newcomer is to read. The preamble, How it works, and the Twelve Traditions at the start of every meeting. YOU are not the most important person in the room. The newcomer is !!!!! If your 70's format works for you fine. My only problem with your long winded diatribes,your distortion of facts and figures has always been your insistence on impossing your limited and narrow minded viewpoint and experience on the greater group of AA. This will be my last word on the matter and I will try to Place Principles Over Personalities once again.
The reading of the preamble is prettymuch a given. The
Traditions can be read explaining our guidelines. But if the
preamble has been read slowly and clearly, it contains most
of the traditions, except the traditions about our anonymous nature. Reading "How It Works" is time consuming
and may be confusing to newcomers. For a member who attends
a meeting every day it may become boring and lose its
value. And I do believe that chapter five is of great value.
Reading what we call "How It Works" aloud at meetings
is in contrast with the "cart before the horse" IDEA offered to Bill W. by Dr. Silkworth in the spring of 1935
prior to Bill's trip to Akron. Bill states many times that without Dr. Silkworth's IDEA, AA could never have been born.
Recovery from this illness is based on our mutual need
for each other, elder and newcomer. The newcomer is vital
to the future life of AA. Without the elder there would
be no AA for the newcomer to come to. I do not understand
how you can say that the newcomer is the most important
person in the room. Telling the newcomer that he/she is
the most important person in the room is hardly deflating
the ego. The hierarchy and patriarchy status of AA members
needs to be eliminated. We all come together as absolute
equals. Bill explains this in AACA page 70. Before you end
this discussion I ask you to investigate Dr. Silkworth' idea. I would appreciate a list of my distortion of facts
and figures. I don't claim to be perfect or an expert.
I have no "axe to grind". My concern is for the future of
the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous. I watched a lot of our mistakes as they were taking place. Bill often wrote
about blunders A.A. could make. I find that we have made
practically all of them. ANONYMOUS
I am very interested in the 1970's fromat. If you could post a link or something along those lines where I could view some, I would greatly appreciate it!
I also very much enjoy reading your posts, so please keep it up!
I will also try to track down a local archivist to see if they have some formats to look over.
You had to be there! Honestly, except that would make
you elderly. I met an old AA friend last week at a beginners meeting. She came in in 1971, the year after I
got sober. She also has stayed sober all that time. After
the meeting (her first time at that meeting), I asked her
how she liked the meeting. She replied, It seemed kind of
empty. She commented on how reverent the meetings were
when we came in. I pointed out to her that our fellowship
almost tripled in membership in the decade of the 70's.
Our AA membership increased from about 300,000 to 900,000
in that decade.
At several meetings I would pine aloud for the way
meetings used to be. An AA friend suggested that I start a
meeting patterned after the meetings as I remembered them.
We did just that and we called it The Format of the 1970's
meeting. It is basically following Dr. Bob's advice to
"keep it simple. I will briefly describe the meeting, but
it is written all over the I-SAY forum. No readings other
than the preamble to open the meeting. We cite the
serenity prayer. If our members consider that praying that
is a personal choice. This particular meeting is a Language of the Heart meeting. We read an article written by Bill
W. origionally printed in the AAGRAPEVINE. Each member
reads a paragraph or two, simply going around the room.
I suppose this is additional reading, but it is not like
reading the same redundant thing over and over like some
meetings do. After the reading is completed, the basket is passed and discussion begins. We do not go by "show of hands"; we simply go around the room allowing each member
equal time. I have heard that called round robin.
We do absolutely no chanting. Hi! Joe! a response
by the group is chanting. Chanting is a cult or sect
ritual and makes us look foolish or at least a bit weird,
to new members and to our general public. "My name is Joe
and I am an alcoholic" is a simple statement, part of step
one and part of step five. This statement was never meant
to be a greeting or salutation.
You will notice that we do not read "How It Works".
This has been covered extensively on I-SAY. The same
applies to the 24 hr book. If I write about these again
I fear that I-SAY will throw me off this bulletin board.
We end the meeting after the last member has had the
opportunity to share, or the time is up. Closing the meeting
there is no "moment of silence" praying for all and sundry.
I feel that an AA meeting is not the place to pray. I
am a firm believer in prayer, but I pray on my own time.
We close with the Lord's prayer, "or a silent prayer of
your choice". We do not hold hands in what I call the
"ring around the rosy" circle. We all stand by our
chairs. I no longer "hold hands and pray", which I did
join in for many years. I believe coercing new members
to hold hands with strangers can be uncomfortable.
We have made about ten changes in AA at the group
level in the past three decades. I feel that these
"distortions" are the cause of AA's lack of growth.
When I write about lack of growth, I am writing about
human suffering, unnecessary suffering. We are failing
the very sick, when we have the means to help them.
Sorry, there is no link, and you will not find
much of this in the archives. Practically all of these
concerns are posted on I-SAY. And I-SAY is a free
service provided by the AAGRAPEVINE. Support it by
subscribing to the AAGRAPEVINE. I appreciate the
posting more than you know. As my AREA delegate wrote
me, Keep sounding the alarm; maybe we can get this ship turned around. ANONYMOUS
could you or someone who knows post where to find the yearly estimated membership list you posted. I can only find the 2010 estimated membership numbers in the aa factfile. It would be great to bring a hard copy of the 1935-2010 estimated yearly membership to our group conscience for discusion.