Burning Desire to Share
Sometimes I get the odd call, or someone will share about how they have had enough of AA (often after many years sobriety) and my response is normally to share my experience and not resort to a quick dismissive remark about them being sick, quite often they are well and on the receiving end of a 'sick' meeting. I remember my sponsor saying that AA was not a fellowship of the well but there were well people in AA. When you live in a major metropolis, such as London, whilst there is no shortage of meetings (hundreds per week) and members, you are going to find the a range of sobriety and a few ( I stress a few) meetings which test your tolerance. Often the traditions have been forgotten at such meetings. A few examples, a speaker meeting where the chair shared about their OCD and all shared back about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (the cause of their alcoholism) maybe I should have said something but walked away justifying to myself it wasn't my home home group. There are those who think they are experts in medicine and try and advise others on health and medication (dangerous and arrogant). At a speaker meeting this week, the speaker shared how he did not suffer from fears , had no resentments and talked at the group, turned out he had been drinking the day before and the group secretary picked him at the last minute not knowing this (the speaker needed help as a suffering alcoholic not an opportunity to take the chair at the meeting).
So AA is just like real life there are going a be few disappointments and answer for me is not to walk away but to share with another long term member for their take on the meeting as it could be just me being over sensitive or expecting every meeting to be as I would like it to be.
The answer is to keep coming back and mention the Traditions when it helps. Also for me to watch out for the old perfectionism streak as in my 30 years plus continuous sobriety I would guess I have been to about 5000 meetings of which I would say about less than 50 have been wacky, this means 99% have been good, sober, and left me walking away feeling good about life and recovery. Sadly some will see a 'bad' meeting as a reason not to return and no longer see the need to pass on the gift they have been given. So part of my recovery today is accepting that sobriety is sometimes surviving AA as well , focusing on the good and seeing the value of the Traditions more and more.
From what I have been told from “old Timers” such as your –self, with 30 years Plus sobriety, I live In the part of the USA where AA traditions are adhered to at meetings, meaning; members don’t go off on tangents about medical issues associated with alcoholism such as, OCD or bipolar, or how when they drank they did drugs and other things and talk about them instead of Alcohol. Because If they do they are reminded that they are in an AA meeting.
With that said, this part of the country also realizes that (or the people that have been through a detox), you are DULE- Diagnosed, 80% of Alcoholics also suffer from mental Illness, so it wouldn’t be uncommon for you to hear that in any AA meeting, just not as a main topic and any group conesus can stop the sharing of such a topic. The confusing thing to me is, someone 30years PLUS sober, should know this or should at least have the serenity to let it go.
I remember my early AA day’s hearing a lot of God talk. It didn’t offend me because I believed in God. I grew up in the church and was not threatened by prayer or miracles. I often looked down upon atheists and agnostics and considered them troublemakers. They were saying things about AA I didn’t want to hear. AA at the time to me was a simple program of god, steps and miracles. Why don’t they go somewhere else? When I started to recover and my brain cleared up I was in a more generous position to listen. They were not troublemakers at all but, brothers and sisters with legitimate concerns about the fellowship. These members actually loved the fellowship more than I! In social groups, sometimes it’s the edge people or minorities who hold the rope that can free the majority from the dogmatic quicksand it is sinking in and point it to a higher place. One day, I was listening to this atheist elder in our group share. He was more passionate about recovery and AA than I was because I think he had to fight for everything. He had a stronger grasp on spirituality and a better sense of the world. The truth hurt. It was a wake-up call. In my AA comforts, I actually was not growing at all. I realized I was hiding behind the language of recovery but not living it. I could razzle-dazzle people into thinking I knew it all but, I really didn’t. I studied the big book and steps and was miserable and here was a man that didn’t do any of that and was peaceful and friendly. I’m certainly not going to become an atheist of agnostic anytime soon, but I’ve learned to keep an open mind like the sign above our door. I’ve learned not to judge other members and treat everyone in the rooms with dignity and respect. Most importantly, I can’t have a “leave well-enough alone recovery.” I must continue to change as I march forward towards the grave.
The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. Sounds easy enough…right? After walking through a cloud of cigarette smoke, I walked into a room and saw what appeared to be an assortment of nuts and empty seats. Then the meeting started. Some guy mumbled a bunch of rules that took forever. People were disinterested. It was a colossal bore. Then a person was instructed to start a discussion topic. He talked about God. The man seemed angry. He went on and on threatening new people like me to find God, work the steps or die. Then a person started talking about depression and the leader stopped her saying this is about alcoholism only. She got up and left. The next man called on paraphrased pages from a book as a few people nodded their heads. During the meeting, a young woman with the tightest outfit got up several times as many males gazes descended on her delightfully. And what these people all have in common is they are all talking in some weird coded language dipped in religious ideas. Then I thought, “I don’t belong here because I’m not a religious person” After the meeting a stranger walked up to me, “Hi I’m Dave, welcome, if you need anything let me know” This kindness disarmed me and I thought, “I’m not religious but, he seemed okay.” Then other aliens spoke. “Forget the god crap for now; just don’t pick up the first drink for one day. Can you do that at least?” “I lied, cheated and stole from the ones that loved me the most” “I wrecked my car in a blackout” “Once I picked up the first drink, I was off to the races” “I couldn’t even hold a wrench, my hands would shake so much.” “Woke up in jail with dried blood on my face” “She left me” “I forgot my kids at the mall” I remember identifying completely and it was comforting hearing laughter and meaningful conversation through it all. And that’s how it all started. My first impression of the actual meeting was not the greatest but afterwards the real human connection was pure gold.
Just Another Drunk
You are one of the very few who stick around for the
real message. Most get up and leave, maybe not physically,
but mentally they are saying "let me out of here".
The way the A.A. message is most effectively
carried is by sharing our own experiences, not by a lot
of redundant reading and chanting. We fail hundreds of
thousands of suffering alcoholics every year by the
very things that you mentioned. Keep them in mind and
when the opportunity presents itself, voice your
concerns to the group. Alcoholics are dying while
we read, chant and pray. ANONYMOUS
Last year I tried AA but then quickly found excuses to stay away. And I drank. Now I want to go back...need to go back...but feel ashamed and fearful I will fall back on my "excuses".
If you need AA it is there for you. You have a powerful experience that some other Alcoholic will listen to and identify with.
We all drank ourselves into AA membership!
Almost no one gets the "Introductory Offer". Thousands before you and likely millions after you will try AA, drink, try AA.
I hope you come to my meeting. I need you as much as you need us. Good luck.
as a drunk who needed 19 start overs to finally get it i totally understand. no one will look down on u when u walk back in. be honest and let your higher power take over. it does work but only if u work it.
Well, you made it here once. There's nothing stopping you from coming back. I came in the first time in '76 because i beat up the woman I was seeing at the time. Don't remember. Went to AA and didn't think it was for me. Stayed sober for 2 years and then caught up for lost time. This time I was jailed for a hit & run, leaving the scene, impaired. I get it now 27 years later. Its a disease. You can do it. We need you. We need each other in this program. Hope this helps. Good luck.
Any alcoholic ought to be allowed to enter our A.A.
rooms without embarrassment, or shame. That is why we
deleted the sentence in our format asking if anyone
is just coming back. We ask if anyone is new who would
like to introduce themselves. We do not give out "coins",
and no one is made a spectacle.
Use every ounce of courage and return to A.A. We need
you just as much as you need us. ANONYMOUS
It seems you have a simple decision to make... Do you want to continue living the misery your currently living or are you willing to change everything? I have the power to change if you just embrace it. Dont continue to hold yourself back...let yourself free to exprience a new way of life. Yes at first its hard...but just dont give up on yourself...and keep tryin
"I have the power to change if you just embrace it."
You must be God.
Why do we tell newcomers, and everyone else coming to
our rooms that they have to change everything? If an
alcoholic wants to get sober the only thing they must
do is to stop drinking. Other things will change as time
passes. New friends, new sober habits.
It may sound cute to say "the only thing you have to
change is "everything" and it usually brings a laugh.
Staying away from alcohol is all we ought to be encourging
any alcoholic, especially newcomers, to do. Manny Q.
Thank you for posting. It's only in our minds that we think people judge us harshly for relapsing. If someone in the meeting is truly living on a spiritual basis he/she will be more than happy to see you after a relapse. The best statistic in AA is that 100% of people who work the steps on a daily basis stay sober. That has been the case for me, I will pick up my 5 year chip on 3/1/12. Our disease wants us alone and it is so harmful, we are told in the AA big book to fearless and thorough from the very start. I still am a nervous person but I go to meetings anwyay and challenge myself to share even when I am scared. These past 5 years have been the best years of my life. Good luck and hope you find a sponsor! Its free!
Untreated alcoholics can always find excuses to leave AA. When I was new I heard, I'm not like you because:
I never got a DUI.
I'm not divorced.
I still have a job.
I haven't been to jail.
I never wrecked my car.
Then some smart alec said, "Yet!" and shot down all the excuses.
So we come up with new ones:
I don't like to hold hands.
I don't want to believe in God.
I don't like to hear "How It Works."
I don't like the chanting.
I don't like the praying.
I don't like the focus on faults.
Not enough people hug me and shake my hand when I grace a meeting with my presence.
So groups appoint an official hugger and vote to stop holding hands, chanting, reading anything and praying, and the meetings focus on "How my day went today."
I guess the next excuse will be, There used to be something called Alcoholics Anonymous, it folded because everyone was too busy finding fault they lost sight of recovery.
Alcoholics, back in their caves, will be saying "what
a great thing A.A. could have been".
The Washingtonion Movement, very much like A.A. existed
for about ten years. One claim was 500,000 members before
Alcoholics Anonymous was effective for about four times
that, about 40 years. And we have about four times that
number of members.
A.A. today is like an eight cylinder engine running on
two cylinders. A.A. is barely alive, and could remain on life support for several more decades.
Reversing the blunders we have made in the past three
decades will be like turning back the tide. The greatest
obstacle is convincing today's membership that the tide
needs to be turned.
Evidence of our failure is our negative growth rate
over the past two decades. We have fewer members than
in 1992. The sad part is that we have a solution that
rarely fails. We have pushed that solution aside and
have substituted a TWELVE STEP PROGRAM which rarely works.
Our negative growth rate shows that the treatment
offered in today's A.A. is no more effective than no
treatment at all.
If A.A. folds it will be because of not correcting
the faults that we have found. ANONYMOUS
When I came into the doors of Alcoholics Anonymous
I had never gotten a DUI. I had never been divorced, and
I had the best job of my life. I had been involved in
two fender-benders but had never been in jail, except
to visit my father.
There were no smart alecs that I remember. The meetings
were reverent. You would have called us a Glum Lot. We were
serious. We sat quietly and just listened as each person
shared, no response, crosstalk, or chanting.
Would you be willing to delete the hand holding if
it were keeping even one alcoholic away? Or would you
insist that "They are just not ready? How many members
would we push away if we had never started holding
hands in the "Ring around the Rosy" circle?
Would you be willing to stop all chanting if it
makes us look like a cult? Would you be willing to
stop praying at the meetings, and pray in church or
elsewhere on your own time?
Would you be willing to demand that your groups
stop reading "How It Works", or at least offer the
suggestion that it be deleted. This reading to all
and sundry makes us appear to be a religion.
Would you be willing to sacrifice all these things
which you may enjoy, if it will keep A.A. from folding?
Suffering Alcoholics are still approaching us by the
hundreds of thousands every year, searching for help.
They are desperate. Their families and friends are
desperate. They deserve to be treated with the same
method, technique, solution which Bill W. used when he
first approached Dr. Bob. Humility, not spiritual pride
is what worked then and will still work today. Bill
describes that meeting on Page 70 in AACA.
Tradition 12 is about humility, self sacrifice. We
need to return to the practice of humility, instead
of just preaching it. I beg of you to lose what I sense
as hostility and join the minority of us who are concerned
about the future of A.A. Future generations are going to
need it. We share many of the same concerns. That is
certainly good place to start. ANONYMOUS
Lets get out of the what if business and keep it simple if u have decided u want what we have and is willing to go to any length to get it then u are ready to take certain steps.We lay the program of recovery at the newcombers feet its up to them whether they want it or not.
I agree with Jim on the issue of hand holding and stuff but I also like the meetings that do hold hands and read. If you want to start a meeting where there is no hand holding and reading and keep it simple and free of religious over tones then by all means start a new meeting. If it takes hold and flourishes that is all for the better. No two meetings will be the same.
If you read the big book the word God is used quite frequently and in the chapter to the agnostic a fairly condescending attitude is used towards describing a person who does not believe in a God which I chose to call a hire power. But be that as it may I took to AA for the very reason of spirituality for that was what I was most deficient in.
We need new and different meetings to cover the the gamut of differing peoples and cultures. We are not all white men who only believe in a Christian God although it does appear that way sometimes.
Be at peace and God Bless
I attend a meeting where the Lords Prayer is not said, only the serenity prayer is said at the end of the meeting. How it works isn't read either. At first I thought this meeting was strange because every meeting I had been to at that point did all of those things. I was not aware that originally these readings and chants were not part of a meeting.
In the decade of the 1970's, every meeting I attended
closed with the Lords Prayer. I attended about 5 meetings
a week. Bill W. wrote a letter to his friend "Russ",
explaining why the use of the Lords Prayer is acceptable.
It depends on the make-up of the group. The fully
informed group conscience makes the decision about how
to close the meeting. The letter is easy to find:
Search: Alcoholics Anonymous Bill Wilson Dear Russ
Letter. I recently read it and find it very
informative. Perhaps someone with computer skills
could find it and post it here.
The reading of How It Works and the chanting
started in my locale around 1980. We had always
sat quietly and just listened. Meetings were
reverent. I still remember the first time someone
sitting behind me at a meeting said "Hi Joe", when
I stated "My name is Joe, and I am an alcoholic."
At first I was startled and then annoyed when I
realized that he was going to "greet" every member
as they shared. In a very short time this became
a group chant. I believe it to be a cult ritual.
This was never meant to be a greeting or salutation.
It is part of steps one and five.
Thanks for the posting. ANONYMOUS
A Letter From Bill Wilson
A Letter From Bill Wilson About The Use Of The Lord’s Prayer At A.A. Meetings
April 14, 1959
Am right sorry for my delay in answering. Lois and I were a long time out of the country and this was
followed by an attack of the marathon type of flu that has been around here in New York. We are
okay now, however, but I did want to explain my delay.
Now about the business of adding the Lord’s Prayer to each A.A. meeting.
This practice probably came from the Oxford Groups who were influential in the early days of AA.
You have probably noted in AA. Comes of Age what the connection of these people in AA really
was. I think saying the Lord’s Prayer was a custom of theirs following the close of each meeting.
Therefore it quite easily got shifted into a general custom among us.
Of course there will always be those who seem to be offended by the introduction of any prayer
whatever into an ordinary AA gathering. Also, it is sometimes complained that the Lord’s Prayer is a
Christian document. Nevertheless this Prayer is of such widespread use and recognition that the
arguments of its Christian origin seems to be a little farfetched. It is also true that most AAs believe
in some kind of God and that communication and strength is obtainable through His grace. Since this
is the general consensus it seems only right that at least the Serenity Prayer and the Lord’s Prayer be
used in connection with our meetings. It does not seem necessary to defer to the feelings of our
agnostic and atheist newcomers to the extent of completely hiding our light under a bushel.
However, around here, the leader of the meeting usually asks those to join him in the Lord’s Prayer
who feel that they would care to do so. The worst that happens to the objectors is that they have to
listen to it. This is doubtless a salutary exercise in tolerance at their stage of progress.
So that’s the sum of the Lord’s Prayer business as I recall it. Your letter made me wonder in just what
connection you raise the question.
Meanwhile, please know just how much Lois and I treasure the friendship of you both. May
Providence let our paths presently cross one of these days.
WGW/ni Mr. Russ
From the AA Archives in New York
"The reading of How It Works and the chanting
started in my locale around 1980."
"It is part of steps one and five."
??? Steps one and five?
Different localities, different customs. During 1971, '72 and '73 I attended meetings in five states and three foreign countries. Nearly all began with a reading from Chapter Five, some also read a portion of Chapter Three. In most the members present "greeted" the person sharing.
I have been to meetings where the speaker opens his/her lead with a prayer of his/her choice.
Some localities still stress the importance of the Four Absolutes.
I have been to meetings where the only ones allowed to share were members of that particular group, who also, by coincidence, all had the same sponsor.
I have been to meetings conducted in languages other than English.
We can always find something wrong with a meeting if we want to find something wrong.
"Resentment is the number one offender."
I belive it was Morty who moved to california and started an AA group in 1940 or so that insisted on the reading of "How it Works" to start the meetings there. It's in AA Comes of Age. Reading those pages from the big book has been around almost as long as the big book itself. Yes even during the booming times of early AA.
Corey, Take a closer look at this reading in AACA. It says that Mort insisted on a reading from Chapter Five at the
meetings. He was the boss. He paid the rent. I doubt that
the first two and a half pages were read over and over.
Remember the preamble had not yet been written.
A reading from chapter five was probably used to open
the meeting. This eventually evolved into reading of the
HIW reading at today's meeting.
Why do you think that Bill W. waited until chapter
Five to write How It Works? Bill wrote that it
worried him to death, where to position HIW. Why did he not
write HIW in chapter one?
Today I believe that Bill placed How It Works in
chapter five for an exact timed effect. It never was
meant to be read from the podium to all and sundry.
In my opinion, it is a horrible mistake. ANONYMOUS
If a speaker at an A.A. meeting opened his/her talk with a prayer,
I believe I would get up and leave. We are not a prayer
group. Pray on your own time, not at an A.A. meeting.
I would hardly call it a resentment, just a serious
When I state "My name is Joe and I am an alcoholic"
is that not an admission that I am an alcoholic, part
of step one?
Admitting that to the group is part of step five.
Something is wrong when our groups do not grow.
We are responsible to make needed corrections. Of
course we have to first investigate. ANONYMOUS
"If a speaker at an A.A. meeting opened his/her talk with a prayer,I believe I would get up and leave. We are not a prayer group."
Obviously you've never been to meetings in Eastern Ohio, and Western Pennsylvania.
"I would hardly call it a resentment, just a serious
A better word might be obsession.
I cut myself off from religion at the age of eighteen and haven't gone back. While drinking I tolerated numerous arrests for public drunkenness, sessions in front of commanding officers being thrown out of places and all the other things that happen to drunks. these were just part of the price I was willing to pay for the right to drink. Desperation got me to AA and allowed me to tolerate prayer, hand holding, chanting and sitting on a hard steel chair for long periods as part of the price I have to pay for recovery. It was suggested to me from the beginning that I focus on what I could gain from a meeting rather than try to see how many tings I could find to dislike about it.
"When I state "My name is Joe and I am an alcoholic"
is that not an admission that I am an alcoholic, part
of step one?"
See page 30 in the Big Book: We learned we had to fully concede TO OUR INNERMOST SELVES THAT WE WERE ALCOHOLICS. THIS IS THE FIRST STEP IN RECOVERY."
Anyone can admit to anything in front of a crowd. That doesn't mean they believe it themselves. at nearly any of our local open meetings there will be someone(with an attendance sheet) who will admit to being an alcoholic.
"Admitting that to the group is part of step five."
The Oxford Group held public confession, admitting one's 'sins' to the entire group.
Step Five in the AA program has us admitting only to God, ourselves, and ANOTHER (just one) human being.
Well, it wasn't for me. I respect the more religious members but, I found it not necessary to have a belief in God to stay sober. Luckily, I lived in an area where there were members staying sober without god or prayer. These AA approved groups saved my life. What would of happened to me if I lived in an area where God was forced on me? I would probably be dead.
These loving AA'ers were the happiest people I had every met in my life. I wanted what they had..or didn't have. I was told AA was not a religous program although there are religious members as there are non-believers in AA. I learned that alcoholism is not a moral disease but a brain disorder/disease. My sins did not make me a drunk. The important thing for me was to go through withdrawal and let the mind settle down without alcohol and to be careful not to switch addictions. Losing my license for a year was a good thing because I had to ride my bike or walk everywhere. This kept me physically healthy and it helped manage my early recovery crazy thinking brain.
Even the devil belives in God -Whats the real issue for going against the sole purpose of the Big BooK?
Thank you for your post. I'm trying to start an agnostic / atheist meeting in my area and I'm finding it difficult to find literature or guidance for this. Have any ideas?
If you live in NYC this is a list of AA approved meetings.
If you live in the Bible belt, well good luck.
If you are an atheist and agnostic like I am, than you will have to grow a thick skin. I was 15 years sober when I moved from an open-mined, all-inclusive area to a downright religious AA area. I kept a low profile and hid my atheism. Because I was not authentic, a part of me started to die and I became depressed. One day a stranger appeared and rocked our men’s group. He was an atheist in AA sober 49 years and never said one pray. I remember a foolish younger member challenging him, "There are no atheists in foxholes" He laughed out loud and replied, "Look, I was in plenty of foxholes in WW11 and never said one prayer!" He was in town for a week and we spent plenty of time together. He returned to the Bronx and I never saw him again. He was a true guru for lack of a better word. The wisdom he shared has kept me sober another 15 years and yesterday I celebrated 30. Of course, my Christian AA friends will tell me god sent him to me. Living in the Bible belt you will experience hostility, rage and hatred, which may come in a silent form by being ignored. It’s challenging for newcomers because we go to AA for support but, in some areas you will only get support if you believe in god. Just to let you know, if you stick around you will find another non-believer. There are more agnostics in these areas then one would think. As I experienced, pretending to be something one is not is not healthy recovery. Hang in there, don’t pick up the first drink and you can take a stand against the fanatics by staying sober quietly one day at a time.
I would like to suggest to you the pamphlet the AA group. www.aa.org/pdf/products/p-16_theaagroup.pdf You will find most of what you need within that pamphlet. After your group establishes itself, regiser with GSO and they will send you a binder of material free of charge with all the information and requirements to be an AA group.
If you are an agnostic or atheist, I would also suggest study and use of the book Alcoholics Anonymous. Chapter 4 "We Agnostics" was written for us to use. Chapter 4 is only 14 pages. The guidlines for step 2 are found entirely in chapter 4.
I wish all the best to you and your efforts with your AA group.
Feel free to chuckle at Chapter 4 and carry on in your recovery.
Some people say that the only thing they need to know is that there is a God and they aren't it. I just say that I don't believe in God, so I obviously don't think I'm it!
I have a lot of ideas. Start your meeting if you must. That
may be an acceptable temporary solution. You may not find
any A.A. literature designed for that particular type of
A.A. meeting. Would it really be an A.A. meeting if those
who believe in God are excluded?
I see two tradition violations already: Tradition one, separating believers from non-believers. and the only
requirement tradition. It would imply that a member must
be an agnostic or atheist to attend the meeting.
I believe that the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous
was designed to accept any alcoholic who wants to get
well. What if a suffering alcoholic attends your
meeting at random? That person could be a believer
of God, or could have my personal belief in Christ.
He/She might find your non-beliefs unacceptable. It seems
that would be prejudice in reverse.
That is my main concern. How is the alcoholic new
comer going to respond to the message found at the
Alcoholics Anonymous was never meant to be a
religion. Of course it has become one, a strange new
type of religion. Any alcoholic approaching A.A.
ought to be allowed absolutely to keep her/his belief
in the God of their own understanding. They can develop
that understanding, or improve on it. Or they have
complete freedom to ignore the God concept totally.
A.A. does not demand that an alcoholic believe anything,
or pay anything. The Big Book and the twelve steps were based of course on religion. The early members used what
was available. But the few agnostic/atheist members
fought to make the steps suggestive. And Bill wrote
that the Big Book was meant to be suggestive only.
To suggest something is just to mention or instill an
idea for that person's consideration, without any coercion.
Whether that idea is rejected or ignored, is not none
of our business.
I suppose that Hank and Jimmy could have just left
the group and started their own A.A. but they stayed
and fought to make our fellowship all inclusive. It
was not easy. Bill wrote that those "discussions" went
on day and night, but those men left us a fellowship
(not Fellowship) which is all inclusive.
So start your own meeting (as if you need my blessing)
LOL. But continue with our other meetings and make every
effort to return A.A. to a fellowship. Remove the 24hr.
book from the meetings. Stop reading How It Works aloud
at meetings. They are just too religious. Be prepared
for some resistance (again LOL). Bill often mentioned
the value of the minority opinion.
I suppose that everyone but me knows that LOL is
laugh Out Loud. Group Of Drunks be with you. ANONYMOUS
You mentioned, "Would it really be an A.A. meeting if those
who believe in God are excluded?" To answer this let me say I think your assuming agnostics and atheists groups are excluding people. This is not correct thinking. All Agnostic and Atheistics AA approved groups welcome believers and non-believers.
In our group occasionally a more religious AA speaker will share their experience strength and hope. If the word "God" or "Jesus" comes up we don't extend the cane and pull them off the stage. Our format is simply not God laden. Our group closes with, "Live and Let Live" We provide all AA approved literature and books at a table. Our purpose is to provide a safe place for the newcomer and to inform them sobriety can be attained by anyone with the help of the A.A. fellowship and principles, without relying on a Higher Power.
From the book “Alcoholics Anonymous” page 34 reads, “For those who are unable to drink moderately the question is how to stop altogether. We are assuming of course, that the reader desires to stop. Whether such a person can quit upon a nonspiritual basis depends upon the extent to which he has already lost the power to choose whether he will drink or not”. From my personal experience and those I have witnessed over the years this is true. High bottom or potential alcoholics seem to be able to stop or moderate. The low bottom alcoholics, like myself, have lost the power to choose whether they will drink or not. I got sober through identification with alcoholics. I stay sober by growing spiritually through working AA’s 12 steps as outlined in the book “Alcoholics Anonymous”. We should take notice that we only mention spiritual not religion or church. Also notice God as I understand Him is in italics in step 3 and 11. I think italics suggest it’s important! In AA it truly is God as you understand him, not how everyone else does!
On page 44 it says, “If, when you honestly want to, you find you cannot quit entirely, or if when drinking you have little control over the amount you take, you are probably alcoholic. If that be the case, you MAY be suffering from an illness which only a spiritual experience will conquer”. It goes on to say something like half of us thought we were atheist or agnostic. For me the MAY part of the paragraph is the key word. We can only decide for ourselves by trial and error. Is what I’m doing working or not?
I found I couldn’t leave alcohol alone for any period of time (mental obsession) and once I started to drink I couldn’t stop (physical allergy). I tried going to meetings and not drinking using a nonspiritual basis. I could make it 6 days up to 9 months. Alcohol beat me into a position where I was willing to try the spiritual basis. I think that's practicing the 12 steps of AA.
This has been my experience, how about you?
Good luck and God bless you!
You stated, "My question is this, if we are not carrying the message of AA as outlined in the basic text of AA, who’s message are we carrying?" Well, I should think we are carrying our own experience, strength and hope, which is wisdom acquired by staying sober one day at a time and living life on life’s terms out in the real world and not by hiding out in AA rooms memorizing and quoting pages of the Big Book, judging others and acting holier than thou. Knowledge and wisdom are two different things. There’s been a fundamentalist style of AA fueled by arrogance and self-righteousness creeping into many rooms over the years trying to cleanse AA of the infidels. Bill W. was afraid of this happening and was totally against it. This “Holy-man of the Hill” recovery attitude is not healthy for AA. It makes us look like a bunch of hoity-toity, highfalutin, pompous recovery snobs. I’ve learned to mind my own business in AA. I couldn’t care less how another AA brother or sister gets sober. To me, in a way, we are a family and love and tolerance is our code. Why do certain members insist they are better than others or have a need to defend a recovery path which is optional? It’s ironic the top five members of our group are all agnostics and atheists. (39, 32, 28, 25 and 21) I’ve learned so much from them. They opened my closed eyes to understand what recovery is all about. I try and embrace all members in my group with equality. Whether they believe or not believe in a higher power. Whether they read this or not, whether they sit in the back or in the front. Whenever I’m pointing my finger at someone there are three fingers pointing back at me. My sponsor used to say, “When you walk on water let me know my great pigeon”
Thanks for your post. It's comforting to hear other non-believers in AA share. It’s challenging not having a faith and at times I feel like a second class AA citizen in my group. I just don't understand why some people are trying to convert me. I don't try and convert them to agnosticism. I respect their belief in a higher power and would encourage them to continue their faith. I’m not trying to rebel against the founders of AA. I wasn’t raised with any concept of god and I can’t pretend to believe just so people will like me. Anyway, I understand right from wrong. My parents raised me to treat people with respect and to accept diversity. I felt love growing up and it was no fault of my parents that led me to drink. There is not even an alcoholic in my family. I developed an anxiety disorder at an early age and self-medicated with alcohol to help take the edge off being in social situations. Eventually in my late twenties alcohol turned against me and blackouts became frequent. I started waking up in strange places with my head bashed in. I enjoy being a part of our home group. I like to volunteer for clean up, greeting and coffee duty. Once about a year and a half ago when I was opening up a coffee can a member said sarcastically, “You won’t find god in that can.” I replied, “I wasn’t looking for him. The man retorted, “You have an attitude problem. I think you won’t make it.” I just smiled and repeated my manta, “Whatever happens today, never pick up the first drink,” over and over. A few months later he relapsed. Believe me I felt sad and had compassion. We haven’t heard of him since a member saw him drunk on the street. I really hope to see him back in the rooms. Somehow he helped me that night in the kitchen. I learned I have the capacity to forgive and love even towards someone who seemed to be attacking me.
I’m curious as to why discussing AA conference approved literature is disturbing to you? Our literature has maintained the integrity of the AA message……(big book 4th edition page xxiv) I have not said one way of sobriety is better than another. I just like talking about the way described by AA literature because that is the model I use for my personal recovery. Just like any other arena, most people want to discuss what they are familiar with.
Over the years I have met many people who have stopped drinking using a variety of methods. Most of the people I know in my small world that are happy, joyous, and free have stayed sober by working the 12 steps of AA. Regardless of what our opinions are, the 12 steps ARE the foundation of personal recovery in AA (the pamphlet “the AA group”).
I wish you all the luck in your sobriety
Bill W. warned us about turning A.A. into a religion.
Pages 345 and 346 in The Language of the Heart, April 1963,
AA Grapevine, contain the warning. Bill repeated a previous
warning printed in A.A.C.A. He warns that nothing could
be so unfortunate for A.A.'s future.
My concern, reading your message is Tradition One.
Believers and non believers ought to be accepted
equally in an A.A. meeting. A good start is to remove
the 24hr book from meetings, and stop reading HIW
aloud at meetings.
A friend claims that he can walk on water, but
only when it is very cold. ANONYMOUS
I am very curious as to why my faith in the program of AA and the conference approved literature that accompanies it is so offensive to you? I am a member of AA and a believer in AA. I don’t believe in AA because I am smart or special. I believed in AA because alcohol almost beat me to death and I had no other choice. I believe AA literature maintains the integrity of AA’s message. The Washingtonians and Oxford Group had little or no universally approved literature to maintain their message. I have read all I could find for the Oxford Groups.
When I speak of my Higher Power, I am speaking of MY Higher Power. Not yours or anyone else’s. My Higher Power is God as I understand Him. I have not now or anytime in AA spoken specifically to what my Higher Power is exactly. It could be anything that makes sense to me. I could be an atheist or an agnostic, but you can’t know that because I have maintained my story to “God as I understand Him”, which could be no God at all!
On page 93 of the big book it says, “When dealing with such a person, you had better use everyday language to describe spiritual principles. There is no use arousing any prejudice he may have against certain theological terms and conceptions about which he may already be confused. Don’t raise such issues, no matter what your own convictions are”.
To be sincere, your language about atheism and agnostics may be as offensive too some as one who declares Christianity, Paganism, Hindu, Muslim, Budism, or the Great Spirit as his Higher Power.
In AA, the everyday language of a Higher Power fits the bill. AA is a spiritual program of action. No one said anytime in any AA literature, that I am aware of, that spirituality and religion or lack of religion, is one and the same.
In closing I hope I have made clear that speaking or talking of anything other than a God as I understand him could be depriving suffering alcoholics of a life here in AA. Whether it’s an atheist professing his beliefs or a bible Baptist professing his. So when speaking of God, we should always state “God as I understand Him or Higher Power”.
Thank you for the opportunity to be of service,
Thanks Core, I agree there can be fanatics on both sides of the god-not god issue. As Bill W. mentioned earlier, the rooms are big enough for everyone. We have to “Live and Let Live.” There’s never been an issue in my group. We are very tolerant of others. It’s great because it helps the newcomer feel welcome and it erases any excuses they may have for not coming back. I believe why this happens is the old-timers of our group have set the tone. The more religious elders don’t fight with the more agnostic elders. They have learned to lower their egos and act loving and kind towards each other. Newcomers soon learn there are no opponents in the room and it’s safe to leave their boxing gloves at the door. I personally love hearing different points of view when people share the things they do to stay sober. It is all inspiring to me. Occasionally an intense person with god-not god issues will come in to our meeting with a chip on their shoulder but, they quickly realize there is no one to knock down to the canvas.
I just watched a video on youtube where a physicist talks about how within the next 5 years, science will be able to grow a human liver, kidney, and pancreas for implantation into a human being as replacement organs. He specifically mentions alcoholics. The video was uploaded on December 15, 2009. The video is an hour long. He speaks of human replacement organs about 25 to 30 minutes into the video. The title of the video is "The World in 2030" by Dr. Michio Kaku.
I am thinking about making up some buttons that read, Save The Humans Dont Shake Hands. This to me is a very disgusting ritual that should go away. I am in Health Care and we use hand sanitizer constantly to protect others and ourselves. I too have issues with the joining in a circle and holding hands, feels a little too
creepy and churchy to me. I quit going to church mainly because I could not tolorate the "everybody turn around and shake your neighbors hand" Really , I don't think we show the love in our hearts by doing this.
My sponsor sent me a text that read " No one can meet all your needs but Jesus" I was very upset by that. She did not even know what my personal higher power was, she just assumed that since I am in the bible belt that I follow all that. I finally called her and talked to her about this. It was very powerful to me to admit that I was not a follower of Christ even tho that was my upbringing. I am so very blessed and yes I can say blessed even tho I am not a christian, that I have this program. As with any tool we are given in life I will take what works for me to keep me sober and leave the rest at the door.
the wonderful part of aa there are no leaders, nothing one has to do except NOT TO DRINK.
NO ONE WOULD ORCE YOU DOWN ON THE FLOOR, CHOOSE TO SIT OR LEAVE THE ROOM GIVE ME A BREAK I HAVE 34 YEARS AND I RESPECTICS EACH PERSONS CHOICE. PLEASE BE RESPECTIFUL-
GOOD LUCK WITH YOUR PROGRAM
With 34 years in A.A. you ought to know there are leaders
in A.A., although today they are few and far between. Read
the Grapevine article Bill wrote for the April 1959 issue
of the Grapevine. You can find it on page 287 title:
Leadership in A.A.: Ever a vital need.
True, we must not drink alcohol. But I have found so
much more in our blessed fellowship. Just not drinking
may be good enough for you and you can remain a sober
member of A.A. Did you ever try to "not hold hands?"
I ask you to try it sometimes. I shake hands with one
and all. I don't like hugging men, but I never refuse.
The spread of germs is of no concern to me. I do a
lot of handwashing. I will not use hand sanitizer which
contains alcohol. I don't want that stuff absorbed into
my skin. I do not hold hands because it makes us look
like a strange religious cult or sect. ANONYMOUS
Faith opens the door to understanding...
Unbelief closes it...
We need faith in God to overcome our illness
My comment is regarding the article Why So Rigid printed in the January 2013 Grapevine. I understand that some new people need to be gently eased into the program of Alcoholics Anonymous, however I was not one of them. I was told "Get a God or go back where you came from." Since I would have done anything not to go THERE again, I started praying. God and I hated each other! I was also told that if I didn't do the steps, especially the fourth and fifth steps, I would get drunk. As much as I hated to do it, I did. I interpreted the Big Book an the Twelve and Twelve to say the very same thing as I was told. Now, 11 years later, my relationship with God is the most important aspect of my life. I thank God for bringing people in my life that weren't concerned about "being nice". They were concerned with saving my life!!
Vikki R. - Yuba City, California
Corey, I have a question for you. Do you think it is acceptable for Alcoholics Anonymous to
continue to use profits from the sale of books and literature to support services? A considerable
amount of this profit comes from outside sources, as Bob P. wrote in 1986. The paragraph on page
74 in the Service manual, describes this practice as dangerous. By the way, this paragraph was
removed from the 2012 Manual. It seems that our leadership has accepted that they have two
ligitimate sources of income, member contributions and profits from our literature and book
Our tradition of self support gave Alcoholics Anonymous a tremendous boost in the eyes of
the public. How the public views Alcoholics Anonymous is extremely important. Imagine that!
these alcoholics insist on completely supporting themselves with their own money, actually
refusing outside contributions when they are offered. Our reputation became better than
our actual character.
Our goal has always been to support ourselves at all levels with our own money, and to
sell books to everyone at the cost of printing. We can obey Tradition Seven, and claim self
support, eliminating any chance of outside influence. But we have moved further away from
that goal instead of toward it.
Please do not think that alcoholics are still "tight as the bark on a tree". Sober alcoholics
are generous to a fault. I see members who are on food stamps dropping two dollars in the
We have about a million and a half members in the US and Canada. AA members attend an
average of two meetings a week. If every member put one dollar in the basket, that would
generate three million dollars a week. Multiply that by 52 weeks and it equals 156 million
dollars annually. That is a lot of money. Where does it go? It is our obligation, as leaders,
to insure that this money is spent wisely. Members who donate depend on us to monitor where
their money goes.
We are looking at a shortfall of $700,000 for 2013 and a million dollars for 2014. How
could that possibly happen when we collect over 150 million dollars from our members?
Some may complain that members come into the meetings with their fancy expensive
coffee and put nothing in the basket. I am aware that some members do this. But in
my experience, the collection usually averages a dollar per member.
Corey, you are obviously a dedicated, informed member of our fellowship. What are your thoughts on this issue?
Thanks for your dedicated service. ANONYMOUS
In response to your question if I think AA should continue to use profits from book sales to support our services? Personally my opinion is NO, we should not.
I am not sure of the numbers exactly, but I think AA printed the 1 millionth copy of the big book in 1970. I believe last year the 30 millionth copy was printed. That’s a lot of money coming from nonmembers, when I think of the treatment center boom in the late 70’s through the 90’s where large numbers of the big book are bought and given to patients.
I am also not sure of exactly what AA’s profit from the big book is. I know in 1939 it cost around $3.50. I bought mine for $5.00. My group just bought some for $8.00 apiece. Personally I think the book and literature should be sold at cost only and our service centers should be supported by group members. If we don’t have money, we shouldn’t spend it. (Advise from my sponsor, “if you spend less than you make, you will always have money”).
As far as group donations, I no longer attend a local group due to use of 7th tradition contribution spending. First the uninformed group conscience voted to donate $100.00 to a new group and $100.00 to another group that could not make rent. I spoke up and mentioned what the 7th tradition long form states on page 564 of the big book (4th edition) “The AA groups themselves ought to be fully supported by the voluntary contributions of their OWN members”. I said if you want to support that group go to it and put your money in the basket and that we should be sending money to district, area, and GSO. They gave the money to the groups anyway. Then in November they voted to buy $100.00 in gift certificates from the 7th tradition for the Alano club Christmas party. I asked what AA purpose are the gift certificates? They said that they can spend the money however they want and proceeded to do so. I no longer attend that groups meeting.
I think much of the money you described that AA meetings should have is spent in the manner I have just described. It’s really too bad. I have decided that poor sponsorship in my local is to blame. So to do my part, I am devoting more time to the traditions with those I sponsor.
Thanks for the thoughts and discussion topic!