Burning Desire to Share
It is a dilemma how to stop rituals (i.e. chanting) that have crept into AA meetings over the years. Entrenched for so long, they will be difficult but not impossible to reverse. It will take time.
The problems started at the individual and group levels and that is where they must be solved. Members need to recognise and accept problems exist and make long term commitments to take whatever action necessary to solve the problems. I believe the survival of Alcoholics Anonymous is at stake. This solution is no different than personal recovery; action is the word.
I would like to thank the anonymous member for the idea of chanting louder than everyone else to make the point how senseless, silly and stupid chanting is and the poor public image (cultism) it gives groups and AA as a whole. I think I will try your suggestion. For special effect I might even delay my chant until the group chant is finished. I’m sure the practice will give me a wonderful feeling of self- importance and terminal uniqueness which is probably the reason chanting started in the first place. If you can’t beat them, join them.
Try not stating your name when asked to share at meetings. Some will surely chant, "who are you" or "Hi Mike" to remind me to state who and what I am. Remind them AA is an anonymous program and I don't need to introduce myself but will consider stating my step 1 and step 5 if they do not chant my name. If nothing else it should get them thinking about the problem.
Before doing the above I should consider trying the following suggestions first. Attend my home group business or inventory meeting and make a motion the group draft meeting guidelines that discourage these practices. Meeting guidelines could address a long list of issues other than chanting including; non AA literature, readings, prayer, prayer circles, other drugs, religion, eating disorders, smoking, etc. etc. Read the group guidelines at the beginning of every meeting. Although we can’t force members to comply, we can ask them to cooperate by respecting our group conscience and guidelines.
Hold group and district workshops on Sponsorship and Chairing meetings. Sponsors need to know what to teach newcomers as it pertains to what AA is and what it is not. Group members chairing meetings need to know group conscience on the issues of the day in order to handle them appropriately when they arise during meetings.
Whenever possible allow only group members to chair your meetings. We can't expect non- members to know our group conscience and meeting guidelines and how we want our meetings conducted.
If your home group is unwilling to make changes to resolve these issues it is time to join or start another group that will. Also attend and support only meetings that are committed to eliminating practices that threaten AA unity, growth and personal recovery. As a last resort hold underground meetings at your homes by invitation only. This will ensure that attendance is limited to those willing to keep their AA simple, humble and back to basics.
Do not hesitate to state your truths at meetings. AA is a fellowship that goes to great lengths to protect and respect minority opinions. I believe the views I express and those in agreement are definitely in the minority.
Take the time to write your concerns to the Grapevine, area newsletters and other AA related online web sites. Talk to your GSR, DCM, area service reps and GSO to express your concerns about the issues today that you believe threaten our lifesaving and life giving fellowship.
Bill W. stated if AA fails it will do so from within. In short we can destroy ourselves unless we are willing to go to any lengths to preserve AA's Steps, Traditions and Concepts.
The temporary good is always the enemy of the permanent best.
Hi Mike, I like the rituals. It gives me security and order out of the chaos in which I crawled away from. If you don't like them why not work on your sobriety more and stay out of the politics. That's what I do when I get caught up in things. You may encounter a stronger piece of mind.
When I hear people like you share I pray for you. I hope your higher power helps you see your shortcomings as mine does to me and bring resolve to this issue that is tearing away at your sobriety. I know in my last group the agnostics out numbered us and voted out the rituals. A bunch us left and started a new group where we like to chant, save the Lords prayer, hold hands and light candles. God Bless and Keep Comin' Back
Could not agree more with your post. I am seeing folks introduce themselves as "addicts" at closed meetings and being called on to share. I bought (100) copies of "Problems Other Than Alcohol" and put them in all of the local meeting halls. Cannot find any of them in any of the literature racks today but still hear folks from the other program coming to "my" meetings.
Thanks Mike, for the message. I too believe that changes
(reversals) can be made. When I began this challenge five
years ago, I had no idea it would be so difficult. But the
alcoholic EGO is very powerful thing. I innocently wrote
to my area delegate, explaining my concerns, thinking I
would "start at the top". I was sharply criticized for
even suggesting that A.A. was in trouble. And that was
after my third letter. I have written numerous (over 30)
letters to the Grapevine with copies to GSO, Box 459,
and our area newsletter. Two of my letters have been
published in the AAgrapevine. The rebuttals are soon
I have failed to identify myself at meetings, and
someone will shout "Who are you?". I simply say that
we are an anonymous fellowship, and who I am just is
not that important.
Before the group chant settled in, the members who
chanted the name of another member seemed to be saying,
"look at me! I'm here, too." Today I attend a meeting
almost every day, where we do no chanting at all. New
members soon realize how weird chanting is. They do not
know that this is a confession and never was meant to
be a greeting or salutation. They have been taught
to be friendly and welcoming by saying Hi! Joe!. They
just do not know any better, and will never change,
unless enough of us get up the courage to say something.
To join the herd is human nature. So thanks for "saying
something." You offer a lot of good advice. You must have
been hanging around members like me. Many such members
do remain with us. But they had the same opinions I had,
until I looked at the membership numbers. I still am
appalled that we were not told of our near collapse in
the early 1990's.
Bill W. was often quoted as saying "sometimes the good
can be the enemy of the best." He also wrote that "sometimes
the seeming temporary good can be the deadly enemy of the
permanent best. He went on to say that when it comes to
A.A., nothing but the very best will do.
PS: give some thought to the practice of reading HIW.
Investigate Bill's first meeting with Dr. Bob. What advice
did Dr Silkworth give to Bill, just prior to Bill's trip
to Akron in 1935? Along with the true understanding of
why the 24hr book was rejected, came an understanding of
why this reading of HIW has been so damaging to our
fellowship. Try to read this and to investigate with an
open mind. Give some consideration to this statement:
We ought to have at least eight million counted members
in A.A. by this time. You know that we only have a little
more than two million. How do we sleep at night? We have
failed all those alcoholics plus their friends and
families, plus all the others those we failed could
have helped. These faults in our fellowship will eventually
be corrected. Bill W. had absolute faith that faults in
A.A. would be self-correcting. They will be corrected but
not without a lot of work. I feel that the harder we work
the sooner the effectiveness of our fellowship will be
restored. You, Corey, and a few others are beginning
that herculean task. I believe the tide can be turned,
or at least our ship can be turned around. ANONYMOUS
I kept reading your comments, which seem to hold some strong stance and logic, until I read, "Give some consideration to this statement: We ought to have at least eight million counted members in A.A. by this time. You know that we only have a little more than two million. How do we sleep at night? We have failed all those alcoholics plus their friends and families, plus all the others those we failed could
have helped." We ought to have a least eight million? You sure not 7 or 24.3 millions? Or even 85.321 million? Or perhaps AA had achieved the current 2.0+ millions far more than it could have? ???? or ???? Who knows! Quite figures and what figures could have reached is a dangerous zone. 2+2=4, not could be 332.114. ~ Deo K.
AA is declining but this does not necessarily mean we are in peril and something is wrong. The numbers were over inflated when the boomers started to show up in the rooms in the seventies and early eighties. Many were false alcoholics who abused drugs and alcohol, got in some trouble and were sent to AA. But, many left eventually because they determined they were not alcohol dependent.
The numbers should be lower today because of public health awareness, advocates and policies that deter drinking recklessly. By today's standards, I would have had 50 drunk driving arrests, significant jail time and loss of license for life. In the seventies in the town I lived the cops would lock up my car and drive me home. Now you get the breathalizers, car boots, fines and jail. Another factor in declining numbers are members are choosing big pharma pain killers and other drugs over alcohol. My son never touched alcohol because of me but, after a sports injury in high school he got addicted to pain killers; I won't mention the brand everyone knows it though. He refuses treatment and I sense this addiction will kill him. I've lost him. My wife and I have changed the locks and gotten a security alarm. What father changes the locks on his son? This breaks me up.
How do I get a meeting back in the local AA Directory. One of our open meetings at Salvation Army is in our Indy Directory and the other one is not. Thur.8pm.
Find out who is responsible for drafting and having the directories printed in your local area. Find out from your group GSR or district DCM.
Is your meeting/group registered with GSO in New York? If not find out if your local directory is listing only registered meetings. It shouldn't really matter as most directories list all meetings especially to help out new groups getting started that have yet to register..
In larger centers it is usually the intergroup committee that is responsible for the directories. In more remote spread out areas the district committee is responsible.
GSO in New York also prints Directories for North America; 2 for the USA and one for Canada. Most Area have meetings published online.
Hope this helps.
People’s experience finding and joining (or not joining) AA varies as much as the people that walk through the door. Two people walking into the same meeting at the same time will have different experiences, different impressions. One thing is always true. They are different than mine. I read here frequently “If AA had been _____________, if my sponsor would have __________, if in meetings people would have_________________ I wouldn't have ever joined AA or stayed sober.” Are you sure? My thinking is a great deal better since I have been sober for several years however as good as it is, I can’t predict the future. Would I have been any better at fortunetelling with less than 24 hours of sobriety? Would you?
My Big Book has thirteen (sorry Bill) passages highlighted that tell me exactly how to carry the message IN MEETINGS. I use them. I recommend them. I've shared them in meetings. They aren’t easy for me. I review them and get back on course. One gal always puts on her biggest smile and tells newcomers “I’M REALLY GLAD YOU’RE HERE BECAUSE YOU’RE THE MOST IMPORTANT PERSON IN THE ROOM!”. They look like a deer caught in car headlights. I try to catch them before or after the meeting alone and ask in as colorful of language as I think I can “Who did you make mad?” or something similar. Whatever the answer is, I can respond honestly with either “Yeah, I’ve done that” or “Yeah, that’s the kind of stuff we do”. Sometimes that’s it. Sometimes they open up a little. In either case, the next time I see them, I get at least a nod out of them. That’s important. That’s really important. I remember.
I am grateful that when I came into A.A. that no one
told me that I was the most important person in the room.
I would have thought: If I am the most important person
here, we are all in trouble. My importance (EGO) was
neither built up nor pushed down. I came in as an equal.
I don't believe we ought to make a spectacle of
newcomers, or allow them to make spectacles of themselves.
Bill gives us a clear method of how to carry the message
on page 70 in Alcoholics Anomymous Comes of Age, published
in 1958. Bill desperately needed another alcoholic to talk
to to keep from drinking. Bill finally realized that deeply.
Dr. Bob needed what Bill was describing to him. Bill did
not push anything on him. Bill's message was truly a
suggestion. No pushing or prodding. Just instilling an
idea which might work if Dr. Bob chose to try it.
Bill W. approached Dr. Bob in a position of humility
and weakness. Not from a spiritual hilltop like we do
today. "Well, if you want what I got, you will have to
do what I done, or even more absurd, do what I tells
you to do." ANONYMOUS
I have some years of sobriety by the grace of God. I love my faith & church but many AA's have disdain for religion. I think Bill W. said in big book someplace that we should be quick to see where religious people are right. Coming in as a agnostic & desperate to stay sober I just kept coming back & AA itself became my Higher Power. We can not discuss religion at our AA meeting because they will not allow it. I am ok with that but are we able to discuss religion in this blog. I currently follow my Catholic traditions & find so many former Catholics bashing the church for their problems. I have kept an open mind & am a Catholic convert of 25 years plus. I do read & learn from also Buddhist philosophy to help my brain damaged mind to live in the Now. Is there anyone out there who has similar experiences???
aa in my years is not a religion. It is a way of life for me personally. There are not parades or special happenings on my days that designate my years. We all have a way we live in the halls, the question is can we live that life on life's terms outside the hall. For me personally any mention on God is a turn off. I fill my black hole with a higher power no matter what his/her name is. In fact the Hebrew religion is the closest i have come in tradition of the AA steps and of the traditions.
My first sponsor suggested that, instead of my continual worrying about other people, I had enough to do just working on myself and my program. "What other people think about me is none of my business." Also, I would suggest that after taking time to meditate and pray over it you might want to consider why you have a sponsor who repeats gossip.
When I get upset about the changes that have happened in the program that I do not feel totally comfortable with I try to remember "acceptance is the answer to all my problems today".
Trudging along.....Mary Anne B.
Thank you to everyone who posted a response to Dilemma in Orlando.
This was my first time posting on this site. I can't tell you how much I appreciate the wisdom being shared. It has been an incredible help.
I picture myself as a newcomer. I’m sick to death of being sick, having all my money disappear, my family, her family, our family and the boss I had before I lost my job hating my guts. My court date is coming up. I don’t even want to think about it. Jack Daniels stopped working. I can’t get any thing out of it but falling down sick. I can’t sleep. I can’t stay awake. Somebody said you can’t even get in the door of a mission in the dead of winter if they can smell it on you. What kind of world is this? I break down and promise to go to one of THOSE meetings. Why did I do that? How do I find one of them? I never saw one. There probably aren't any around here. If there was they probably meet one night a month or something. How am I supposed to wait that long? Probably some kind of church deal. I give up. I gotta’ do something.
“Noon or eight o’clock tonight either one? Yea, I know where that is. Been by it a million times.”
There’s a bunch of chairs and some signs and stuff but these people can’t be alcoholics. Laughing, not wearing bum’s clothes. They must be the recruiters or something. Then the prayer meeting starts. At least it’s a short prayer. They read something. I don’t what it’s about. I can’t concentrate. Some guy starts talking. Hey buddy; I didn't come here to hear your hard luck story. Another guy’s turn. Hey, he drank kinda' like me and even drew the same judge. Said he quit two years ago. Can’t be, but nobody acts like he’s lying. Some more hard luck stories and some God stuff but nobody’s jamming it down my throat. Heck, there’s a woman that says she had blank spots when she couldn't remember what happened. I thought I was crazy, but she said it happened to her for years. She claims she swore off too. Maybe she did. The Lord’s Prayer like when I was a kid then some kind of hand jive and cheerleader crap. It’s over. That’s it? The guy that made some sense is gone. I kinda’ wanted to hear some more from him. I get some flake instead. Says the other guy comes to meetings all the time. If I come back, I’ll probably catch him next time. I’ll come back and try another one. What have I got to lose?
End of story.
This was me. This was you. This was yesterday and this is tomorrow.
“…Much of the general public laugh at us as a joke….” No, they hardly know we exist. Any that do know that we exist know all about our meetings from watching some TV show.
Chanting? Over-reading How It Works? It’s going to keep this guy away? It’s not in the top 500 worries he has. I've heard HIW enough times in 33 years to know what it says and I have my own reason for not chanting but I can’t, in any stretch of imagination, believe that either matter one iota to the newcomer. If anyone brings either to a group conscience meeting at my group (the only group that I have any business trying to influence) I’ll vote one way or the other. It won’t make much difference either way.
Four years ago I moved into an apartment with a man in the program. He relapsed shortly after moving in and continued to drink over the course of our lease. I miraculously remained unaffected by it. Eventually drugs came into the picture (even though we had outlined that he could not do them or bring them into our home). It wasn't long before I got wrapped up in it all and began using myself. This went on for several months.
Enough was enough and I moved out. Since that day (which I refer to as the brightest day of my life) my life has been incredible. I have been sober for 2 1/2 years and continue to see the promises fulfilled on a daliy basis.
My dilemma...After returning to the rooms I learned that my former roomate had regained his sobriety (great news). He was attending meeting regularly (a different group than I attend). My sponsor at the time and I had met one night to work on the steps when he informed me that he had gone to lunch with a group of members from my former roommates group and that my name came up. Apparently my exroommate had told everyone that it was I that brought alchol and drugs into our home and that he was simply a victim of an enviroment that I created. My sponsor advised me to confront the lunch attendees and set the record straight (a task that I did not feel comfortable with). First of all, I didn't know who attendied the lunch (I'm not a member of that group) and although aquainted with many, I didn't even know exactly what was said or even where to begin with in a situaiton like this. I told my sponsor that it was gossip and that I did not feel the need to defend myself.
It's been 2 years since that time and I have learned that among this group I am considered a troubled liar and that the story told my former roommate was in fact believed by many. I am bothered by this and haven't been sleeping well at all lately. I am not sure where to go from here. Do I continue to "let it go" (if that's possible)? Do I attend one of his group meetings and unload this in a share (which I don't really belive is appropriate)? Please help.
Thank you for sharing, I can imagine that a situation of this sorts may be a source of resentment, frustration, maybe even worry and fear of judgement & slander.
Much like I have read, I believe that this program suggests of "Keeping my side of the street clean".
I love to use other people to define myself, who I am, what I deserve, etc.
It is completely dishonest, but I find my crazy self, believing that someone is speaking poorly of me, that someone gossiped about me, someone knows my PERSONAL business without my discretion.
I need to remind myself, with prayer - that I can only worry about myself.
The only business that I can ever deal about - is my own.
I need to pray, a lot... For other people who I resent.
And I always need reminders that I have little to no control over any one, any person, any place, and any thing.
You are not alone my friend.
"What other people think of us is none of our business"is something I heard in AA and it's helped me a lot.The eternal question is:"What am I going to do?"If you can't bring yourself to do what your sponsor suggested,ask for another suggestion! Whenever I'm stuck on the horns of a dilemma,I've learned to ask myself:"Which way is it easier to stay sober?"Maybe it's getting it off your chest at a meeting.There is nothing you cannot say at a meeting!Heck,I don't think there is anything I haven't heard at a meeting!
Pg 125 Bottom of 2cd paragraph, on pg 125, Sentence begins "Among us,.............."
Bottom of 3rd paragraph, sentence begins "We alcoholics.............."
Pg 124 1st full paragraph Starts "Henry Ford.............."
Pg 66 start at last paragraph, read to middle of pg 67 ending at sentence "Where were we to blame?"
Then do what your sponsor says to do without reservation
I was told a long time ago that what others think of me is none of my @&*$#^% business! If your "former roommate" is telling lies, then his sobriety is doomed to failure. And this time it won't be your fault. And all those others who are engaged in the gossip (a polite form of murder by character assassination)...? Their sobriety is also going to be a temporary state. True sobriety demands rigorous honesty and requires us to live life on a spiritual basis. Anything else simply won't work. As my sponsor told me, "The dead wood will weed itself out." It may take a while.... But it will happen!
First, ditch that sponsor and all such "friends" in the future. Consider unloading this on the forum as your final
step in "letting it go". You know the truth. You do not
have to prove or explain anything to anyone. Take the high
road and practice forgiveness. Alcoholics can be dishonest,
and some are very ill. Try to be grateful that you and
your friend have both found sobriety.
The sponsor here seems to be the villian. That position
must be eliminated from our fellowship. ANONYMOUS
the truth is I believe the only thing you need to do is keep your side of the street cleaned off.you have no control over anothers action but you do over yours. an I think you need to just keep doing what your doing to stay clean an sober; an just pray about it an pray for that other person,an your higher power will take care of the rest. an if no one has told you they love you today I do.
smile its a good day to be clean an sober.
We belong to a group of people who’s only requirement for entry is drinking excessively and all of the lying, cheating, stealing, law breaking and vomiting that goes with it. I find it difficult to believe that anyone in such a group could get any mileage out of 2 ½ year old gossip. Most of us are so self centered that we hardly give any attention to what anyone but ourselves are doing today. Resentments are the number one killer of alcoholics and that’s exactly what’s troubling you. The fourth through ninth steps kill resentments like sunshine on a vampire.
I used to hate to think about how I have to do the steps. That has changed. I now get to use the steps to make problems like you have go away, or better yet, stop them before they start. Isn't that exactly what we are promised?
We have a saying in AA, we keep OUR side of the street clean.
Just in case no one ever told you, alcoholics LIE! I know because I the biggest liar!
What I do in situations like yours, is first of all I think if they are talking about me, they must be pretty bored! Second, I take a good hard look at what is being said to see if there is some truth in it( we all know how we alcoholics can rationalize a situation so it's not our fault). Third, after inventorying the situation as AA's 4th,10th, and 11th step suggest, I turn my attention to someone I can help to get out of myself.
Lastly, I would be a little wary of a sponsor who tells you to do anything. it works best when we share what we have done in similar situations as I have done. Then you can only blame yourself if or when something goes wrong.
Good luck to you and God bless you
Re-reading the chapter Working With Others, reminded me that instead of "You should read the Big Book", I need to be saying "Myself, I read the Big Book, all of it." So I read it. What did I think, the last 411 pages were for, people who needed more fiber in their diet?
Putting together the information from the AA pioneers stories,
I saw clearly what I'm "Entitled" to.
The AA message.
A town the size of Chicago or a country the size of Canada (and 400 letters requesting help) to carry it to.
For thousands of years alcoholics didn't have that. They had insanity, institutions, death. The message came only 14 years before I was born and only 44 years before I needed it. I found it in minutes a few blocks from my home, a long way from where it had started.
I don't believe I'm "Entitled" to a meeting free of chanting, non approved literature, the right brand of sugar substitute, dust motes in the corner....
If I'm not "Entitled" to something I not getting, I really have no business feeling angry about it or not being able to impose MY WILL on those who HAVE IT ALL WRONG. I think I do my part keeping the group close to the AA ideal as I understand it. I think that's what I'm supposed to do.
I'm grateful that I get infinitely more than I'm entitled to.
I attend a noon meeting where newcomers that announce themselves, are given the AA zombie treatment. The members talk directly to them by name when they are sharing. The group secretary gives them , at no cost, a copy of the Big Book. Oddly, they never, hardly ever return. I don't recall ever being singled out at my first meeting. I would have never returned to that, or any other AA meeting. I am not a member of that meeting,r and I work when they hold their business meetings. The majority of that meeting openly state thy are Christian and they attend a nearby church that they say really helps them in their recovery. I know it must be hard for some of us to restrain our enthusiasm for our newfound freedom, but I don't know how to go about expressing my concerns. Any ideas? Or should I just leave them alone.
tradition 1, 3, 5,
Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism.
The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. There are no dues or fees for A.A. membership; we are self-supporting through our own contributions. A.A. is not allied with any sect, denomination, politics, organization or institution; does not wish to engage in any controversy, neither endorses nor opposes any causes. Our primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety.
One thing is for sure , If they haven't seen any miracles in there own surroundings,(and if it is like churches all over this land) they can and will see more miracles in our surroundings.
The pamphlet "the AA group" available in print or free for viewing online from GSO answers your questions. I wouldn't go there myself but groups have a great deal of freedom. Also the chapter in the Big Book "working with others" isn't just about the "man on the bed". A lot of the content explains exactly what works carrying the message in meetings too.
There is a lot more chanting going on in AA meetings besides, “Keep coming back it works if you work it”,following our closing prayer.
When I identify myself, “Hi my name is Mike and I’m an alcoholic” the group chants, “Hi Mike”. Should I forget to state my name many will chant, “Hi Mike” or “Who are you?” When I finish sharing they chant, “Thanks Mike”.
After reading the part in the Promises, “Are these extravagant promises” members chant, “We think not.” The closing prayer of our meetings is often preceded by, “Who’s the boss?”
There are many other examples I have heard over the years that bear witness that this problem exists and I believe it is getting worse. I am convinced much of the chanting was learned in treatment centers and churches and then introduced to AA meetings. It seems our members today prefer to talk instead of listen and feel the need to comment/chant something about most things they hear at meetings. Herd mentality reigns supreme and soon the majority are participating in this ritual.
The principal of attraction rather than promotion had been replaced by promotion rather than attraction. Chanting is a ritual of many religions and religious cults and in my opinion has no place in AA meetings.
I believe this practice destroys the humility, dignity and serenity of our meetings and I wish groups and members would cease and desist this practise.
Unity. Is the purpose. look around and see who is not apart of the unity, and don't listen to anything that guy has to say.The AA symbol stands for Unity-Recovery-Service. It starts with uinity.
I don't recall the speaker tape, but I vaguely remember hearing about how the "we think not" started. Apparently an alcoholic attended a meeting somewhere in Los Angeles was mentally ill to the extent that he talked to himself, before, during and after the meetings. He would repeat what the speaker at the podium had just stated. That extended to the chairpersons readings as well. Whenever the promises were read, he would blurt out ""we think not" just after "are these extravagant promises?". Some of the members began to beat him to it by chanting it out as a way of mocking the poor fellow. It seems that visitors to the group didn't know what was going on, thought that was really cool how these Californians conducted meetings and took it back to their home groups and began chanting the same thing thinking it was a cool thing to do.
I myself do not follow the chanting folks when the question is asked "Are these extravagant promises?". Instead, I answer the question with a reply of my own understanding..............
With a hardy "HELL NAW".
Works for me and allows new comers to see many know that the 9th step promises do come true, and we are all different , but the same and it is a place for them to fit in too. Unity!!
The point that is missing in this message is that the
12 promises mentioned in step nine, were never intended
to be a stand alone reading. A.A. meetings are a place to
share with other; not to read to each other.
An article in Box 459 a few years ago indicated that
"The Promises" were only meant to be read as part of step
nine, when a member gets to step nine. The article ought
to be reprinted. ANONYMOUS
This is something that we certainly agree on. Others have
told me to cover my ears if it bothers me so much. But as
you have stated, this practice harms A.A. as a whole. Much
of the general public laugh at us as a joke. I suspect that
many members think, "what do we care what the public thinks?. Without a favorable image, A.A. will not grow.
This ritual started in the northeastern U.S. around 1980.
This practice, combined with about eight other blunders
have brought A.A. to its present stagnation.
Do you have any suggestions of bringing this ritual to an
end? Most members in my locale know how much I am opposed
to the chanting. Today at some meetings I will shout as
loud as the loudest chanter, or louder. Many are beginning
to understand how stupid it sounds. Do you also see the
hooting and the hollering also on the increase? It has destroyed
our public image. Any suggestions as how to stop this
nonsense would be welcome. Alcoholics are dying while we
stand around in our "ring around the rosy" circle chanting
Keep coming back, etc, etc, etc. and whatever will be
I try to explain that "My name is Joe and I am an alcoholic", was never meant to be a greeting or saluation.
It is a simple statement, part of step one and part of
step five, admitting it to others.
An A.A. friend was watching one of those shows where
a facsimile of an A.A. meeting was protrayed. My friend
stated that her husband actually laughed out loud when
the group responded "Hi. Joe!.
This ritual has to be stopped, along with reversal of
several customs which have developed over the past 30
years. You read my messages. You know what they are.
A friend recently visited Peru. He said the meetings
were reverent, not a chant was to be heard.
It took about thirty years for these blunders to bring
A.A. to its knees. I just hope and pray that it doesn't
take another thirty years to reverse them. ANONYMOUS
My Story in less than 800 words.
My life has been a road layered with stories of survival, successes and failures, and of ghosts that continue to play a part of my recovery. I have, in hindsight, reflected on both the light and shadow sides of my life.
My alcoholism manifested itself in my life while I was a freshman in high school, I soon became a member of the CIA (Catholic, Irish and Alcoholic), resulting in the negative behavior that goes with alcohol abuse. My self imposed image was that of a hell raiser, a fighter and a lover, and I could always find a fight! I was a pseudo delinquent because I did not have the fortitude to be a genuine delinquent. I was a James Dean wannabe from the day I saw the movie Rebel Without a Cause. I spent “too much time” in front of a mirror hanging an unfiltered Camel from the corner of my mouth, then appearing at the Saturday Night Soda Pop Hop with “a couple of beers under my belt”, giving me the courage I needed to ask someone to dance! In reality, I became the phoniest teenager to walk in the Red River Valley of the North. I had the finger prints of a boy trying to be a man, constantly conspiring against my self.
The stress I put on those who cared about me must have been enormous, having rejected any and all boundaries others attempted to impose on my behavior. I thought I was “beyond cool” only to discover in sobriety that I was but a mere “legend in my own mind”.
I was living outside myself; trying to escape from the realities of life; until a shadow of weariness crept into my life and my journey into recovery began. The moment I uttered the words, “I know I am an alcoholic, I want help”, I did not feel a twinge of awkwardness, just a feeling of total relief. I intuitively knew I could deal honestly with the offenses of my years. I then began to reveal myself in all my strengths and weakness.
For the first time I began to recognize that my identity is inextricably entwined with lives beyond my own and that physically and spiritually, I was an integral participant in the process called life. I came to know about healing because I knew about being wounded.
I am now aware, there is knowing about, and there is knowing. Knowing about is talking the talk, knowing is walking the walk. Knowing there is no longevity in sobriety, knowing sobriety one day at a time, I know I need a higher power. I know there is no mystery, no secret, only a common sense choice to systematically develop a non-self centered perspective and leave behind my unveiled identity. I know I must, to the best of my ability, be supremely honorable and conscientious so my motives can once again be trusted and authenticity will be part of my life. I know there still exists a residue of the wreckage in my life, but my life once again is filled with adventure, fun, humor, and spiritual moments.
Today, I rise with many thoughts charging through my mind like wild horses across the plains of my native North Dakota. I say a simple prayer of gratitude to the spirit that created me. I hope that I will have the chance to focus on that spirit and consecrate the day in a way of my choosing. I am hopeful that my spirit can be free winged and I can launch into each day that lies before me. I also accept the reality that some of my days will be full of jagged edges and jangling moments.
I have learned to believe and accept the small graces of ordinary life and seek the spirit in the small moments of everyday life. I have learned to have fun, to sing like nobody is listening, to dance like nobody is watching, to color to outside the lines, and to think outside the box. I choose to be deeply grounded in my quest for authentic spiritual awakenings and to seek out spiritual places.
Beneath my knowing, there is a spirit greater than I am and I have shaped that spirit to fit my wants and needs. My continued hope is to stand against the strongest winds of temptation, to continue to live in recovery, to live one day at a time, and to know and accept that today is the tomorrow I worried about yesterday.
Jerry G. - Grateful member of MN Alcoholics Anonymous since June 1, 1973.
Thanks for the great share. I need repetition in education to combat the denial that spearheads our disease. I saw myself posing in front of that mirror getting the cigarette just right and bragging about that coupla' beers under my belt, a rebel without a clue exercising my very, very best thinking.
I'm not a member of any mainstream religion. I try to exercise the love of my fellow human beings through Alcoholics Anonymous. I try to improve my conscience contact with God through reading those who, much smarter or more diligent in their search than I, share a world of information about answers to the Big Questions. It's working.
Will share the CIA business with a men's group in Kansas City that's running over with CIA men.
I see references to declining AA membership. I haven’t seen the numbers from the source but for the sake of this discussion, I’ll assume that numbers have declined or growth has slowed at least. I’ve seen the culprit identified as chanting, too much prayer, wasting time reading How it Works ad infinitum. I haven’t seen any, what I would consider facts connecting these causes with the result. I would think that it would be really difficult, if not impossible, to compile the necessary information.
In my own experience and by my own observation I see another factor which would cause membership to decline - the timing of recreational drug use in society. In 1967 I was a senior in a rural high school in the middle of America. I am quite sure that only two people had tried marijuana and, of course, I was one of them and I didn't happen to like it. But, of course I liked alcohol. Liked it a lot. A number of others did too. We had at age 18 legal access and an infinite supply of cheap beer in nearby Kansas and, of course, countless illegal sources.
One of my classmates attended 4 years of college and returned to teach at the same school. She easily saw that drug use had become prevalent in those 4 years. Soon Kansas raised the drinking age to 21. I don’t know what determines our choice, alcohol or other drugs but I would think that a ready supply for early experimentation and use would be a strong factor. Around the world people eat strange food and produce strange booze that no one else would touch, so early conditioning must be an influence. At age 18, given the choice between hashish and fermented horse milk would likely make me a candidate for NA instead of AA. The number of teenagers from grades nine through twelve that have used marijuana in the last month has grown from virtually zero when I was that age to 27 percent last year. That doesn’t count others who use other drugs instead. Dope and booze compete for the same customers. Do you suppose this has any influence on AA’s numbers?
“Lack of power, that was our dilemma.” the Big Book tells me. The program of recovery offered by Alcoholics Anonymous has provided me with access to all the power that I need. The only way anyone has the power to ruin an AA meeting for me is by my giving them that power. I choose not to. If I understand what is meant by “chanting” at meetings I’ve timed it at about 3 seconds. That leaves 59:57 out of an hour when there’s no chanting. A ratio of 1,180 to 1. A friend relates that if he were faced with walking into a room with 99 smiling people and one frowning, he’s inclined to zero in on the one frowning. Does anybody really want to extend that to the 1 in1,180? I can’t afford that kind of character defect. It’s the kind of stuff that makes me miserable enough to want to get drunk to turn it off. I ask my Higher Power to remove that kind of thinking and it’s worked pretty good.
If the chant in question is “It works if you work it” I have my own reason for disliking it. I don’t like programming newcomers that the steps are work. After using them for a number of years, I see them as a gift that merely needs the giftwrap removed and put to work solving my problems or better yet heading them off before they even start. I don’t chant. No one asks me to and it’s not my job to control anybody who wants to.
A chant is a response by the group. When I say my name is
Joe and I am an alcoholic, and the group responds with
HI JOE! that is a chant. Chanting is a custom/ritual of
cults and some religions. Chanting has no place in
Alcoholics Anonymous. It is stupid, weird and makes us
look like idiots in the eyes of the public.
You have the opinion that the steps are not work? I
sometines share the opinion that they are not a punishment,
or penitance of any kind. I like the gift wrapped explanation. I consider my sobriety as a gift from God.
Unlike other gifts, this was a gift that I had to ask for.
Strange too, that in order for me to keep the gift I have
to give it away. The method of giving it away is to
talk about it, and to give the credit to Him. ANONYMOUS
I'm go grateful to this program and my sponcer. My brother passed on 01-11-2013 and I was able to be a son to my mom and dad, to greve with them and suport then at this time. I'm glade to FEEL the pain and not hide from it. Only in AA for 1.5 years and dont know whin I changed but glad I did.
The two people I am most grateful for in AA are my current sponsor and one of the original NY members, Jim B. Without his input AA would have become another religious temperance movement saving souls by providing soup and salvation. He had the vision and the foresight to recognize in order for AA to survive, people had to tone down the “god talk” His great contributions were the third tradition and the term “higher power” as well as “God as you understand him” Jim was instrumental in starting AA in Baltimore and Philadelphia. Imagine that an agnostic/atheist involved with helping alcoholics. How’s that fit? When I came to AA, the meetings I attended seemed antagonistic towards people that weren’t high on god. I asked my sponsor, “Do I have to do the god stuff?” He took me after the meeting to the local diner and over coffee learned me about Jim B. He explained in his day AA was more open to agnostics and atheists but, the new AA (Angels Anonymous) as he calls it wants to rid the program of the Jim B.’s. They should get rid of the Jim Beams and not the Jim B.’s. He said people have twisted AA into unrecognizable shapes and taken it where it doesn’t belong. He finally answered my question. “No you don’t have to do the god stuff.” He also said “Live and let Live” and “Don’t get into discussions with anyone over it. People in the rooms that are hateful and close minded will never see the true light of recovery.” So whenever I am at a meeting and the topic is God, I just say, “I found it not necessary to believe in God to stay sober and I’ll pass.” Frank R. San Diego
The AA program is suggestive only it does not demand that we beleieve anything,each member decide for themselves what they want to happpen in their life. our literature will show how the first 100 recovered.
What would have happened if Jim B. and Hank P. had
gone to an all night New York diner and discussed these
issues between themselves? No, they stayed and fought the
good fight in order that any alcoholic could join A.A.
They kept the doors to our A.A. rooms open regardless of
one's beliefs or non beliefs.
Of course Alcoholics Anonymous has been distorted and
twisted. We have become some sort of religious temperance
movement, viewed by many as a strange religious cult.
But our founders and members like Jimmy and Hank left
all the information we need to restore the effectiveness our fellowship.
I believe that many A.A. members today are closed minded.
I don't agree that many are hateful. They are defending
beliefs which have been taught them by ignorant A.A.
members. Members like myself who for so many years was also
ignorant. I simply did not understand the IDEA offered to
Bill W. in the spring of 1935 by Dr. Silkworth. The
"little Dr. who loved drunks" offered a technique, a unique
method of passing the message (solution) to other drinkers
who suffer from our disease.
I still have hope that enough A.A. members will be
willing to do the investigation, in order to prevent the
complete distruction of Alcoholics Anonymous. But we are
near the cliff and could very easily fall.
I find it real necessary to do the GOD stuff. Or higher power. ..
After reading the comments about Hank and Jim, I felt led to reread their stories in the big book. I would suggest all who read this post to read Hank and Jim’s stories in their entirety. I think there stories are a great example of how AA’s program is spiritual and not religious, and parts of their stories should be posted here. This is the last line of Hank P’s story from the first edition of the big book, called the unbeliever: Brrr, this floor is cold on my knees . . . why are the tears running like a river down my cheeks . . . God, have mercy on my soul!
Here are some excerpts from Jim B’s story in the big book, the vicious cycle: “My loneliness was worse than it had ever been before, for now even my own kind had turned against me. This time it really hurt, more than any hangover ever had. My brilliant agnosticism vanished, and I say for the first time that those who really believed, or at least honestly tried to find a Power greater than themselves, were much more composed and contented than I had ever been, and they seemed to have a degree of happiness I had never known…….. For a long time the only Higher Power I could concede was the power of the group, but this was far more than I had ever recognized before, and it was at least a beginning. It was also an ending, for never since june 16, 1938, have I had to walk alone.
Around this time our big AA book was being written, and it all became much simpler; we had a definite formula that some sixty of us agreed was the middle course for all alcoholics who wanted sobriety, and that formula has not been changed one iota down through the years……. Since I was still a theological rebel-that the work God should be qualified with the phrase “as we understand Him”-for that was the only way I could accept spirituality………..I found myself in the middle of a brand new group. When I started to tell the boys how we did it in New York and all about the spiritual part of th e program, I found they would not believe me unless I was practicing what I preached. Then I found that as I gave in to this spiritual or personality change, I was getting a little more serenity. In telling newcomers how to change their lives and attitudes, all of a sudden I found I was doing a little changing myself. I had been to self-sufficient to write a moral inventory, but I discovered on pointing out to the new man his wrong attitudes and actions that I was really taking my own inventory, and that if I expected him to change, I would have to work on myself too…………. “and I still say that as long as I remember that Jan 9 in Washington, that is how ling, by the grace of God as I understand Him, I will retain a happy sobriety”
If Hank can get down on his knees and as Jim put it, “my brilliant agnosticism vanished”, work to grow spiritually (not religious) you and I can too.
In step 2 we ask ourselves do I now believe or am I willing to believe in a Power greater than myself. As soon as a man can say he does believe or is willing to believe, we emphatically assure him he is on his way (big book page 47)
Good luck to you and God (as I understand Him) bless you!
Frank, that's very hopeful and a great way to stay out of "the debating society." But has there been some other way of expressing a reliance on a "Power greater than yourself"? Is it a matter of just choosing the right words - nothing that would scare off a newcomer - or do you not believe that the Power is some kind of Deity? Or do you stay sober despite that you DON'T believe in an HP? I'd love to hear your take because I know a helluva lot of guys who can't get past step 2! Thanks
To me, our "AA Fellowship" has been confused with being the "AA program." The "AA program" is usually associated with the Big Book and Twelve Steps whcih contains all the confusing god language troubling many and scaring others away and some to their deaths. The "AA Fellowship" is defined by the Preamble and is all-inclusive. In my experience the Agnostic Groups follow the latter and adhere to the Preamble. Please read it. The Preamble tells me that whether one believes in a higher power or not this should not be an issue in AA because we are asked to share OUR EXPERIENCE, STRENGTH AND HOPE. A misjudgment that occurs is people who find they can recover without a higher power are assumed to be against the people who do. This is not true. I am supportive of all members. We are all equals in AA. Some like the god tango and some like the humanistic fox-trot. In my own recovery, I did not see AA as moral disease. My sins did not make me an alcoholic. I looked at it more from the biochemical aspect involving my brain. I needed to refrain from putting alcohol in my body. Once I went through withdrawal and the obsessive-compulsive aspect of addiction declined enough I discovered I was an immature 40 year man with an explosive personality still acting like a juvenile delinquent. All of a sudden all the pain I had been hiding with alcohol started to seep into my consciousness and I started to feel anxiety. Some find god helps them with these feelings. I found the slogans, healthy diet, exercise and the principals helpful. But the majority of wisdom I received did not come from “the AA Program.” It came from living in the real world and “the AA Fellowship” By listening to people in the rooms sharing their vulnerable experiences in recovery and hearing the tricks they actually did to overcame situations which were causing pain, helped me tremendously. One does not have to be holy or religious to recover from alcoholism.