Burning Desire to Share
Is there a point you want to make?
“He is asked to believe in a power greater than himself, or at least to keep an open mind on that subject while he goes on with the rest of the program. Any concept of the Higher Power is acceptable. A skeptic or agnostic may choose to think of his Inner Self, the miracle of growth, a tree, man’s wonderment at the physical universe, the structure of an atom, or mere mathematical infinity. Whatever form is visualized, the neophyte is taught that he must rely on it and, in his own way, to pray to the power for strength. He next makes a sort of moral inventory of himself with the private aid of another person. – one of his A.A. sponsors, a priest, a minister, a psychiatrist, or anyone else he fancies.”
(The Jack Alexander Article about AA, Saturday Evening Post, March 1st 1941, pp.19-20) http://www.aa.org/pdf/products/p-12_theJackAlexArticle.pdf
“All people having an alcohol problem who wish to get rid of it and make a happy adjustment to their lives, become A.A. members by simply associating with us. Nothing but sincerity is asked of anyone. In this atmosphere the orthodox, unorthodox, and the unbeliever mix happily and usefully together.”
- Bill W., (October 30, 1940;"Pass It On" p.173)
AA Grapevine July 1944
On Cultivating Tolerance by Dr. Bob
“During nine years in A.A. I have observed that those who follow the Alcoholics Anonymous program with the greatest earnestness and zeal, not only maintain sobriety, but often acquire finer characteristics and attitudes as well. One of these is tolerance. Tolerance expresses itself in a variety of ways: in kindness and consideration toward the man or woman who is just beginning the march along the spiritual path; in the understanding of those who perhaps have been less fortunate in educational advantages, and in sympathy toward those whose religious ideas may seem to be at great variance with our own. I am reminded in this connection of the picture of a hub with its radiating spokes. We all start at the outer circumference and approach our destination by one of many routes.
To say that one spoke is much better than all the other spokes is true only in the sense of its being best suited to you as an individual. Human nature is such that without some degree of tolerance, each one of us might be inclined to believe that we have found the best or perhaps the shortest spoke. Without some tolerance we might tend to become a bit smug or superior--which of course is not helpful to the person we are trying to help, and may be quite painful or obnoxious to others. No one of us wishes to do anything which might act as a deterrent to the advancement of another--and a patronizing attitude can readily slow up this process.
Tolerance furnishes, as a by-product, a greater freedom from the tendency to cling to preconceived ideas and stubbornly adhered-to opinions. In other words it often promotes an open-mindedness which is vastly important--in fact a prerequisite to the successful termination of any line of search, whether it be scientific or spiritual.
These, then, are a few of the reasons why an attempt to acquire tolerance should be made by each one of us.
Dr. Bob of Akron" http://da.aagrapevine.org/
“It is an historical fact that practically all groupings of men and women tend to become more dogmatic; their beliefs and practices harden and sometimes freeze. This is a natural and almost inevitable process. All people must, of course, rally to the call of their convictions, and we of AA are no exception. Moreover, all people should have the right to voice their convictions. This is good principle and good dogma. But dogma also has its liabilities. Simply because we have convictions that work well for us, it becomes very easy to assume that we have all the truth. Whenever this brand of arrogance develops, we are certain to become aggressive; we demand agreement with us; we play God. This isn't good dogma; it's very bad dogma. It could be especially destructive for us of AA to indulge in this sort of thing.”
- Bill W. (Responsibility Is Our Theme; The Language of the Heart p 333; AA Grapevine July 1965 http://da.aagrapevine.org/ )
“Nothing, however, could be so unfortunate for AA’s future as an attempt to incorporate any of our personal theological views into AA teaching, practice, or tradition. Were Dr. Bob still with us, I am positive he would agree that we could never be too emphatic about this matter.”
-Bill W. (Our Critics Can Be Our Benefactors; The Language of the Heart p. 346, AA Grapevine April 1963 http://da.aagrapevine.org/)
offline: I would like to encourage all AA members to read
this entire article. Bill wrote this article for the AA Grapevine in 1963. He repeats a warning he had first
written in the book AA COMES OF AGE page 232, 1957. Bill was always concerned about the future of our fellowship.
Bill's insight is beyond imagination. He could see that
Alcoholics Anonymous was becoming too much like a religion.
IMO, there were two main factors: The reading of "How
It Works" at meetings. And the acceptance of the 24 hour
book into AA rooms.
Looking again at the message at the bottom of page
232 AACA, it appears to have been added as a footnote.
I would assume that it was not written when AACA was
first printed, and was included in later years.
Someone, besides me, must have considered it important.
“THE phrase "God As We Understand Him" is perhaps the most important expression to be found in our whole AA vocabulary. Within the compass of these five significant words there can be included every kind and degree of faith, together with the positive assurance that each of us may choose his own. Scarcely less valuable to us are those supplemental expressions--"A Higher Power" and "A Power Greater Than Ourselves." For all who deny, or seriously doubt a deity, these frame an open door over whose threshold the unbeliever can take his first easy step into a reality hitherto unknown to him--the realm of faith.
In AA such breakthroughs are everyday events. They are all the more remarkable when we reflect that a working faith had once seemed an impossibility of the first magnitude to perhaps half of our present membership of three hundred thousand. To all these doubters has come the great discovery that as soon as they could cast their main dependence upon a "higher power"--even upon their own AA groups--they had turned that blind corner which had always kept the open highway from their view. From this time on--assuming they tried hard to practice the rest of the AA program with a relaxed and open mind--an ever deepening and broadening faith, a veritable gift, had invariably put in its sometimes unexpected and often mysterious appearance.
We much regret that these facts of AA life are not understood by the legion of alcoholics in the world around us. Any number of them are bedeviled by the dire conviction that if ever they go near AA they will be pressured to conform to some particular brand of faith or theology. They just don't realize that faith is never a necessity for AA membership; that sobriety can be achieved with an easily acceptable minimum of it; and that our concepts of a higher power and God as we understand Him afford everyone a nearly unlimited choice of spiritual belief and action.”
- Bill W.
(God As We understand Him: The Dilemma of No Faith; The Language of the Heart p. 251, AA Grapevine April 1961 http://da.aagrapevine.org/ )
“We can also take a fresh look at the problem of "no faith" as it exists right on our own doorstep. Though three hundred thousand did recover in the last twenty-five years, maybe half a million more have walked into our midst, and then out again. No doubt some were too sick to make even a start. Others couldn't or wouldn't admit their alcoholism. Still others couldn't face up to their underlying personality defects. Numbers departed for still other reasons.
Yet we can't well content ourselves with the view that all these recovery failures were entirely the fault of the newcomers themselves. Perhaps a great many didn't receive the kind and amount of sponsorship they so sorely needed. We didn't communicate when we might have done so. So we AAs failed them. Perhaps more often than we think, we still make no contact at depth with those suffering the dilemma of no faith.
Certainly none are more sensitive to spiritual cocksureness, pride and aggression than they are. I'm sure this is something we too often forget. In AA's first years I all but ruined the whole undertaking with this sort of unconscious arrogance. God as I understood Him had to be for everybody. Sometimes my aggression was subtle and sometimes it was crude. But either way it was damaging--perhaps fatally so--to numbers of nonbelievers. Of course this sort of thing isn't confined to Twelfth Step work. It is very apt to leak out into our relations with everybody. Even now, I catch myself chanting that same old barrier-building refrain, "Do as I do, believe as I do--or else!".
Here's a recent example of the high cost of spiritual pride. A very tough-minded prospect was taken to his first AA meeting. The first speaker majored on his own drinking pattern. The prospect seemed impressed. The next two speakers (or maybe lecturers) each themed their talks on "God as I understand Him." This could have been good, too, but it certainly wasn't. The trouble was their attitude, the way they presented their experience. They did ooze arrogance. In fact, the final speaker got far overboard on some of his personal theological convictions. With perfect fidelity, both were repeating my performance of years before. Quite unspoken, yet implicit in everything they said, was the same idea--"Folks, listen to us. We have the only true brand of AA--and you'd better get it!"
The new prospect said he'd had it--and he had. His sponsor protested that this wasn't real AA. But it was too late; nobody could touch him after that. He also had a first class alibi for yet another bender. When last heard from, an early appointment with the undertaker seemed probable.
Fortunately, such rank aggression in the name of spirituality isn't often seen nowadays. Yet this sorry and unusual episode can be turned to good account. We can ask ourselves whether, in less obvious but nevertheless destructive forms, we are not more subject to fits of spiritual pride than we had supposed.” –Bill W. –Bill W. (God As We understand Him: The Dilemma of No Faith; The Language of the Heart p. 252-253, AA Grapevine April 1961 http://da.aagrapevine.org/ )
“My own spiritual awakening had given me a built-in faith in God--a gift indeed. But I had been neither humble nor wise. Boasting of my faith, I had forgotten my ideals. Pride and irresponsibility had taken their place. By so cutting off my own light, I had little to offer my fellow alcoholics. Therefore my faith was dead to them. At last I saw why many had gone away--some of them forever.”
–Bill W. (God As We understand Him: The Dilemma of No Faith; The Language of the Heart p. 254, AA Grapevine April 1961)
“Of highest importance would be our relations with medicine and religion. Under no circumstances must we get into competition with either. If we appeared to be a new religious sect, we’d certainly be done for. And if we moved into the medical field, as such, the result would be the same. So we began to emphasize heavily the fact that AA was a way of life that conflicted with no one’s religious belief.”
- Bill W. (How AA World Services Grew Part II; The Language of the Heart pp. 150-151, AA Grapevine June 1955, http://da.aagrapevine.org/ )
“The fellowship is entirely indifferent concerning the individual manner of spiritual approach so long as the patient is willing to turn his life and his problems over to the care and direction of his creator. The patient
may picture the Deity in any way he likes. No effort whatever is made to convert him to some particular faith or creed. Many creeds are represented among the group and the greatest harmony prevails. It is emphasized that the fellowship is non-sectarian and that the patient is entirely free to follow his own inclination. Not a trace of aggressive evangelism is exhibited.”
- Dr. W.D Silkworth M.D., (“A NEW APPROACH TO PSYCHOTHERAPY IN CHRONIC ALCOHOLISM” Journal Lancet, July 1939. Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age, appendix E:a, pp 304-305)
“The atheist may stand up in an A.A. meeting denying God, yet reporting how he has been helped in other ways.”
- Bill W., October 30, 1940; Pass It On p 172)
Thank you for the quote references. This is important history because these discussions are still happening today.
Yes ,this is important history. Yet, I would say that this
is the first time most of our AA members, and our FORUM readers
have been exposed to these writings from Bill. Most have
never read LOTH or AACA. Even some old timers "can't be bothered with that stuff".
Why do you think Bill wrote those articles for the
AA Grapevine? They were warnings about blunders we were
making and continue to make. We have become a religion:
A strange cult-like religion. I don't know who first
wrote Dogma and Distortion. We have completed the
transition from being a fellowship to becoming a
Twelve Step Program, only one of such programs.
I learned a new word "conundrum". Enough alcoholics
get sober in Twelve Step Programs to make it appear
that we are successful. It works for some.
But Dr. Silkworth and Bill W. left us a method of
passing the message of recovery to the masses.
Alcoholics have a rebellious nature. Don't tell me
what to do, or what I HAVE to do! If we carry the message
to other alcoholics, without demanding anything at all
they will respond favorably. But we want so much for
everyone to get sober, that we tell them what they HAVE
to do. We do not know the meaning of "suggestive".
Bill wrote that we have no "musts" in AA. But we ignore
that warning, and talk about the rip cord. The entire Big
Book is meant to be suggestive. The steps are to be
offered as suggestions.
Thanks to the Poster who knows how to "cut and paste".
Maybe more members will become interested in our AA history.
LOTH is available from the AAGrapevine. AACA is sold by
AA world services. Both are reasonably priced. ANONYMOUS
I am so sick and tired of AA throwing God into the mix, you say it is not religious but that is the furthest from the truth!! there is know wonder that your membership has dropped!! The only time you will here me speak of god is thank god I left AA
Thanks for your post. It needed to be said. I wish all those who are who are leaving AA would say their piece before they went. If they did so, perhaps those that fancy themselves as oldtimers would start to listen instead of propagating what Bill W. called “rank aggression in the name of spirituality” and Dr. Bob called “smug or superior” and “patronizing attitude.” From some of the comments below, I wonder what program some people are on, because it doesn’t sound like A.A. to me. I’m going to post some writings of Bill W. and Dr. Bob. I hope the forum moderators will post all of them. I don’t think we’re here to pass on our opinion, but the AA program. And if we can’t do that, then what is the point of this forum?
The saddest part of all this is that the alcoholics we are
trying to reach are the ones who have already left. Those who remain are the problem, and IMO they are unreachable. It
doesn't take much to make a member feel uncomfortable. "Of
course, we want you to feel uncomfortable. We love you. We know what is
good for you." We offer the truth but without the grace.
If we approach each other with weakness and humility,
the suffering alcoholic will almost always respond favorably. Page 70 in AACA tells us how to carry the
message successfully. Thanks for posting these messages from Bill. ANONYMOUS
First of all I want you to know that I appreciate and
understand your message. You could just silently walk
away as hundreds of thousands of other suffering
alcoholics have done.
From the time of Bill W's spiritual experience God has
always been in the mix. Salt may be an ingredient needed
to produce a good taste, but an excessive amount makes
it hard to swallow.
Our worst mistake is the reading of "how it works" at
the beginning of meetings. Add the 24hr book and "there
you go". God this and God that.
Bill tried administering a heavy dose of religion to
his first prospects. He calls his effort spectacularly
unsuccessful. When Bill approached Dr. Bob with a
heavy dose of humility and weakness, Dr. Bob responded
Study the method of passing along the AA message on
page 70 in AACA. Study Dr. Silkworth's "cart before the
horse" IDEA. Bill says that without this idea, AA could have
never been born. I doubt that five percent of today's AA
members have any idea what that IDEA is. You seem to have
Search for a meeting where The Language of the Heart
book is studied. Or an As Bill Sees It meeting. Bill saw what you are now seeing. He explains it around page eight in LOTH. Bill warned us of many of the blunders we might
make. IMO we have made all of them. ANONYMOUS
You seem to confuse the recommendation of how to DELIVER the message with the MESSAGE ITSELF. If a person is interested in how an alcoholic "..can and will remain sober for the rest of his life." the doctor's explanation starts on p 309 of Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age. The person who started this thread wasn't put off by an ineffective twelfth step call. He's put off by AA's message. If you don't like How It Works, then you must be too.
That's OK. We don't care how you try to stay sober. Go invent something better than AA, publish a book, just don't waste your time and ours hanging around bashing what works for us.
I consider the first two and a half pages of chapter
five "How It Works" to be one of the most beautiful readings
in all of our A.A. literature. To my knowledge, I have never
written or said that I don't like it.
Bill and his friends wrote the Big Book to deliver, pass
on, carry the message to the alcoholic who still suffers.
Let me ask you this one question: Why do you suppose
Bill placed HIW in chapter five? Why did he not include it
in the introduction or at least in chapter one?
Bill placed HIW after the first four chapters of
information for a special timed effect. He obeyed Dr.
Silkworth's "cart before the horse idea". Soften them
up before you give them the facts.
I firmly believe that the starting to read HIW aloud
at meetings was our worst mistake ever, followed closely
by the chanting and the reading of the 24 hr. book. No,
we did not always read HIW at meetings. In my location
it began around 1980. And No, there is nothing wrong with the message. I consider the third edition of the Big Book
to be the second greatest story ever told. It certainly
saved my life and made it worth living. ANONYMOUS
Where did those hundreds of thousands walk away to?
"Prison looks good to me."
"I think I'll try one of those state run mental hospitals."
"Anybody say the word God around me and I'm going to get fitted for a coffin."
I agree we do hear a lot about God in AA. Unlike traditional religions, though, AA adds the caveat, "as we understand him" or "higher power". In reality, each member is free to believe what they want or not believe anything.
My wife is a recovering Mormon Buddhist. I am a recovering Catholic agnostic. I have a friend in AA who became a Baptist Minister and presided at my wedding. I have other good AA friends who are atheists. We all somehow recover together in AA.
I sometimes wonder about the God talk and rituals in AA but quickly realize that no traditional religion would want much to do with the "pirate ship" that is my AA home group. No religion I know of would claim the motley crew of foul mouthed bikers, gays, pornographers, pedophiles, prisoners and others who I sit with and LOVE in AA. I've yet to attend a religious service where a speaker precedes the G word with the F word. If we are a religion or cult, we are the most irreverent and disorganized one that ever existed.
I certainly did not think I could get sober if I had to find a God of my understanding but thank Heavens I believed A.A. worked. One way of looking at it was Group Of Drunks. Since I couldn't stop drinking after a few years in A.A. I felt absolutely hopeless so did something out of character for me. I actually asked for help!
Long story short I asked a gal from my meeting how exactly does one not take that first drink? She was taken aback so it was suggested I speak with "Joe" who told me I might get on my knees and ask if anybody was out there that could help me not to take a drink. It wasn't an instant result. It took a short time but it worked and still does after many years. I did come to believe in Power greater than myself and it was/is not a human power!
Just an alcoholic!
Hello, I use to be sick and tired all the time too when drinking and everything got on my nerves. In my part of the country I heard this joke: if God is a «pain in the a***» for you, wait a while, he will climb up to your hart. Good luck whatever you choose. Anonymous
Goodbye & God bless you!
oh and remember, keep coming back it works if you work it :)
You stopped AA but here you are at aagrapevine.org. I'm confused.
And went where?
Before you stop altogether why not talk to your sponsor first. I came here for help, whatever the direction it was taking me. I couldn't stop myself. FFT food for thought
sad that you feel that way, we say we are not religious nor a cult then we act that way with all our "chanting" etc. (what moron thought that up). still does not change the fact that we are indeed a God program. Try it your way....again. Let us know how that works out for you, maybe you might find a better way. God Bless You. M
Some say the basis of recovery is HOW - Honesty, Open Mindedness and Willingness. Thanks for your honesty.
I am an atheist who has been sober and attending AA since 1993. When I hear so many people in AA (and on this forum) talk of God I just smile. I have learned to be tolerant in AA. Anyone who told me over the years that I must believe in a god to stay sober has long since dropped away from my life. They may or may not still be sober themselves. Also, drugs are part of my story, but I don't think I've ever been chastised for mentioning them. The vast majority of people who attend the meetings I go to are warm, welcoming, and tolerant.
I don't worry about our national membership numbers. I don't worry about what the newcomer in general does or does not hear in the meetings. I don't worry about people in general being turned off by the program because of the chanting,reading of the 5th step, or what have you. I can't do anything about abstract people or statistics. What I can do is go to meetings myself; engage in service; reach out and shake the hand of someone who is new and scared. If I don't like the format of the meeting I go to, I am free to attend another or start my own.
I primarily go to meetings because I love them, and because if I started drinking again I would face certain prison or death. I already did the institutions.
That was my burning desire to share after reading many of the posts here. The polemic on here gets boring, but it's typical of anonymous online forums. What I like is to read about people's struggles and triumphs. The triumphs and miracles in this program happen every day.
Tom - I loved your share. Disputes, contentions, resentments, confusion, are usually not new stuff for the average alcoholic - certainly not for me. But being able to not drink and to grow in stability certainly are. I consider you - and the first sharer - my fellow, my valued brother, whether or not we share the same perspective on faith. I have a fellow feeling with agnostics and atheists, it is familiar ground for me. For now, I have an appreciation of a power greater than me, and a gratitude, but not a lot in the way of comprehension. All I wish for anyone is that they find their truth, and be sober (if they have this problem) and happy.
Before I begin a response, let's get a few definitions in order. People seem to love to confuse religion and spirituality these days. But the two are more opposite than similar in nature.
Religion has to do with institutions, dogma, books and teachings. Religion has little, if any, tolerance of anyone having different views. Religion has been the cause of most of the wars in this world, most of the suffering, most of the ignorance and small-mindedness and most of the killings of innocent human beings. Religion is a plague that should be wiped from the face of the earth. (Of course, I might be wrong, but I doubt it.)
Spirituality has to do with being concerned and questioning about things that are not so easily defined -- like the purpose of life, whether or not there is a higher power, our relationships with one another, etc. Spirituality is, by definition, hard to define. Everyone has their own interpretation. Everyone has their own definition. Everyone has their own path.
When AAs say (as the Big Book says) that we are not religious, therefore, they speak the truth. No one is required to believe in anyone else's god, or lack thereof. No one is required to be subservient to that supposed god's servants and leaders. No one is required to do anything no one wishes to do. Heaven and hell, if they even exist, are filled with people both in and out of AA, as it should be.
The genius of AA as it has evolved is that none of us care at all about your god, or your lack of god! He/she/it can have any name. It can look like anything you want it to look like, even the Flying Spaghett Monster, praised be his noodly appendages. It can spout any doctrinal nonsense you want it to spout and you can believe all of that nonsense you want to believe. But, at the end of the day, each of us who are truly alcoholic need something/someone that is NOT US to help us find a solution to our problem with alcohol, and with life. It is as simple as that.
For the record, I am a buddhist. I don't believe in a god in the traditional sense. I don't NOT believe in a god in that sense either. I just don't think it is relevant at all. On my spiritual path, any god that might exist and might be worth its salt doesn't care in the slightest whether or not I, or any other puny human being, believes in it. It is up to me, and me alone, to find my path, to work out my salvation, as it were. It is up to me to seek guidance from the spirit of the universe when I need it. Otherwise, that spirit of the universe has bigger fish to fry, I would imagine.
Having said that, I am highly spiritual. I have a path that I walk daily. I meditate often. I sit quietly and listen for wisdom and guidance. More often than not, that wisdom and guidance come to me and help me on my path. I have found peace. I have found repose in something that is definitely "not-me" but "still me." I have, if you want to call it that, found god.
AA, and the Big Book, have never pretended to be anything other than a spiritual program. You can't read the book, go to meetings, or study the steps without seeing spiritual principles everywhere you look. You can't work the steps and miss the presence of someting/someone bigger than yourself, call it god or anything else you want to call it.
If anyone ever thought that they could work THIS PROGRAM without spirituality or their version of god, they were only fooling themselves. Chiding and berating us because you tried to lie to and fool yourself is childish. Just because something does not work for you does not mean you have the right or the privilege or running others' beliefs down. It didn't work for you. Learn from that and move on, with peace and maturity.
There are plenty of programs out there that do not require spirituality or belief in order to get one sober. And, as the Big Book says, we in AA do not have a monopoly over recovery and sobriety. Other paths work for other people. That does not mean, however, that AA and the steps are any less valid for some of us. It just means they don't work for everyone. No one ever said they would.
If you don't like the spirituality of AA then we say good for you. Please go elsewhere and find your sobriety and peace wherever you can, and leave us to finding ours where we do. However, it is nothing short of childish, petty and dishonest to mischaracterize and lie about our program, a program that is working for many of us every day!
Of course we talk about god every day. Of course we talk about spirituality. They are both the basis, the part and parcel if you will, of the AA program. From the tone of your terse posting, may I recommend Rational Recovery. Not only do you need sobriety, I would guess since you came to AA, but you sound like you need rational thinking, freedom from the emotions that seem to rule you at every turn. I wish you the best in your journey.
so you do beleive?
Hello, I have been sober for 90 days. Several months ago, before I quit drinking, I had blood tests that indicated low thyroid function. I am wondering if my chronic drinking for 30 years could have damaged my thyroid -- and if so, is it reversible? Has anyone observed a correlation between alcoholism and thyroid issues? ( I do have another appointment with my doc to get retested but it is not for another 2 months ).
A responsible doctor wouldn't try to begin answering your question. Anyone else doesn't know and should be ignored. So where does that leave you? The time is right now. We can't undrink the past nor hurry the future. The only thing you can do about your thyroid is keep your appointment and follow your other doctor's instructions. On the other hand there is a lot you can do about your alcoholism. A whole book-ful.
Welcome to the adventure.
God destroyed my life
Actually God didn't destroy your life...you did. I did the same thing. God gave us free will to make our own decisions and most of us made a mess of things trying to do it our way. That doesn't mean God left us though, we left God. If you think you can do it on your own then have at it! See how that works for you again. More power to ya, but I know I "had to have God's help!" Good luck and God bless!!!
I had that problem too.
AA helped me with Step two and I found a different God. He fixed my destroyed life.
Curious. How much alcohol did this God of yours pour down your neck?
Alcohol ruined my life
Still going to my meetings. Last nite was steps 2-3-4. Was a good meeting and putting my all into it. 11 mile bike ride to and from for last nites meeting but the time to myself was really needed. Sometimes I have to put myself back in my place and was offered a ride home but declined to have time to reflect on what I heard in the past hour. Glad I did, it was a better trip home than it was going there thou I was already tired from biking there! Hope! ---Stan
Keep it rolling Stan. I biked to meetings during early sobriety in Chicago and earned the name, Bicycle Bill. My 5 mile ride to and from became a time to breathe, relax and reflect - a time of peace. I knew that my anxieties and depression would ease during the meeting as I listened to other members share and began to open up about myself. During the journey home, I'd feel lifted up, filled with a sense of hope.
26 years later,I have a much different life in a totally different part of the country but I still ride to meetings - on a much nicer bike. I mentioned at a meeting last week that during early sobriety, in order to ease my anxiety & depression I would occasionally ride to a meeting that was 45 miles south of me and then ride back. That really took the edge off. A member asked yesterday if I still did that. I answered that I did not; that thanks the program, I was a bit older and much less anxious.
Keep rolling back.
In the FINAL REPORT for 2012 I see that we had 1,388,727 A.A. members at the end of 2012. That is
an increase of 4,020 compared to 2011. These are estimated numbers (US and Canada).
I heard a member last evening who stated that he had been in several institutions, jails, etc.
He said that every one of them told him to attend A.A. meetings.
With an estimated thirty million alcoholics in the US, is this the best we can do? I consider
these numbers to be shameful. Something is dreadfully wrong. Is anyone else concerned? I can't
be the only one left who remembers what Alcoholics Anonymous was like when we were growing
at a healthy rate. For 57 years our membership grew at the rate of doubling about every ten
years. At today's growth rate, it will take us three hundred and fifty years to double our membership
again. The solution is presented in this forum.
The solution which our current leadership will offer is just to stop counting. They have
already hidden prior numbers, which were available to the membership until last year. These
historical numbers are hidden in the vault with salaries of our paid trusted servants. ANONYMOUS
So estimates of membership are stuck at one or two million and this is terrible? With what other disease is success measured by the number of patients who stay in rehabilitation? AA meetings are running over with those seeking or maintaining remission rather than recovery. Meetings, year after year, ignoring responsibility to family, community and, in fact, themselves. More than once I have occasion to visit the home of a “Mr. AA” for some errand to find the only house on the block that hadn’t been painted in years or encountered the spouse, a widow to meetings instead of the bar.
I can anticipate the backlash to this alternate view of success, of recovery. You are not reading in this post that EVERYONE has the ability to recover in AA and discontinue meetings forever. I’m sure some can site numerous horror stories and anyone paying attention can site success stories. I wouldn’t encourage anyone to leave half-baked. If the promises listed after step nine aren’t a norm in your life, I wouldn’t be hopeful for you. Some need more than others. Some have more to give than others. Some like meetings more than others. Alcoholics are world champions at doing exactly what they want to do and hanging the label “The Best Thing to Do” on it. Many AA’s in retirement have plenty of spare time and love a captive audience for their stories. Does including their numbers in the head count prove that AA is any better, more successful?
I remember it in my own experience and I see it repeated today. As a newcomer, I could relate to those sober for a few months or a couple of years. If they could do it, perhaps I could too. I wanted what they had. Old timers with thirty or forty years? They might have well have been from a different planet. Of course I could relate to parts of their stories. Of course they were an essential asset providing service to keep things running and on track. I just don’t see that AA needs every single newcomer to become a lifer. Many non-alcoholics need every minute of the day to meet the responsibilities of family, health, career, and community and enjoy some time being happy, joyous and free. For those of us in recovery, are there more hours in the day or fewer demands on our time?
I spent a few years in AA getting my life together and moved on. I used the tools I was given and enjoyed a sober, productive life. I checked in from time to time. I know, and know of many more, that have done the same, with sucess. Now that I am retired, I have time to give something back. I enjoy it and there seems to be a place for me. AA just doesn’t need millions of old timers to avert failure or be any better.
I think AA is doing fine. Our message is strong. I think you did a hack job when you applied the scientific method. To arrive at those conclusions which I found erroneous, is just not good science. There are so many variables to why the numbers seem the way they do. To suggest AA is failing based on lower numbers is a fabrication in your mind. Think, Think, Think!
This is from the summer issue of "Box 459"
"Estimates of Groups and Members as of January 1, 2013 (1)
United States 59,321 1,295,656
Canada 5,093 93,071
Sub-Total 64,414 1,388,727
Correctional facilities (2) 1,499 36,838
Internationalists 3 15
Lone Members 0 67
Total 65,913 1,425,647
Outside U.S. & Canada (3) 48,726 705,902
Grand Total 114,642 2,131,549"
What you neglect to mention is:
"1. The General Service Office does not keep membership records. The information shown here is based on reports given by groups listed with G.S.O., and does not represent an actual count of those who consider themselves A.A. members."
At a recent local meeting a self described 'oldtimer' ranted about the declining membership in AA. He based his argument on the number of Big Books in circulation vs the number of members. Both of you might think seriously about finding something good to say about AA, rather than give newcomers the impression that AA is facing away.
If membership increase is what you are seeking why do you try to portray AA as a good place to stay away from? I haven't found it so. The membership runs the organization through it's frequently replaced representatives. If you or your ideas didn't find favor, get over it and try again next year. Maybe polish up your salesmanship in the mean time.
I was in an on again off again relationship with someone in the program. We last broke up on Christmas Eve and was I extemely distraut. Even though I have had a good sponsor (although she practically had to hold my hand through the entire relationship), home group, connections with other women, etc.. it took a toll on my program and well being. Everytime I got back in it I felt crazy and cycle starts all over again.It was unhealthy and we are both at fault for fear of intimacy but moslty me. However I can not seem to get over this person so I have chosen to avoid meetings, certain places, emails and texts, etc.. so I don't slip again. Most recently he showed up at one of my meetings and was extremely angry when I would not engage with him. His texts pointed out almost every character defect I have. I feel awful and am doubting my approach of avoiding him because I am not being thoughtful and kind. I'm trying to stick to safe meetings, joined district, practice meditation, had to get a second job to clean up the past and don't want to lose what I have. I struggle with female friendships and never share about the relationship with them or at meetings. Anyway I still feel alone alot of the time and wonder if the disease has got the best of me since I can not face the breakup. I feel like I will pay dearly for this.