Burning Desire to Share
I was about two years sober when I heard that the
young people in A.A. were separating themselves from
mainstream A.A. It puzzled me then and it puzzles me
now. I was under thirty and most members were indeed
older and wiser. I was not interested in separating
myself from their wisdom. After many years, I believe
the separation was a violation of the first tradition
of unity. I believe that our fellowship would be
stronger today if we had stayed together and worked
I believe that chanting dates back ten’s of thousands of years before Bob Newhart. A musical instrument has been dated to more than thirty thousand years ago and we certainly had voices before that. At least thousands of years in India, Hawaii and North and South America. Likely a very natural activity when humans react to spiritual matters. Someone could even call the Pledge of Allegiance or the Boy Scout Oath a chant without much of a stretch, not that either are ever recited at AA.
Or one could say chanting (if that’s what you call six words) originates spontaneously in meetings everywhere, every time it’s done. After all it isn’t dictated or even requested and there are certainly no enforcers being sure that it’s being carried out. I know because I haven’t participated in for years. If I ever start to feel embarrassed by the actions of others, its time to hitch up my big boy pants and do something about my being oversensitive. It’s one of the character defects that get me drunk.
The courts sending crossed addicted people to AA is poisoning the fellowship. The sober living homes who send their tenants (most of whom are not alcoholics, but are suffering from some other drug addiction) to AA is also poisoning our fellowship. Many of these people come because they are forced to, and they are mad about it. In our fellowship these days, there are close to 3 of 100 who actually stay anything like a year. Of those 3 that produce, get involved, get a sponsor, work the steps, at least 1 of them is not an alcoholic, but has adopted our principals as a way of life. The other 97 bounce around from meeting to meeting, sponsor to sponsor, until they find a meeting that doesn't care if they live or die. Back in the Thirties and forties members would drive a half day to go to a meeting. Nowadays, I have to drive at least an hour from where I live to find groups with decency, long term sobriety and that are still holding true to the traditions of AA. AND.. I live in a county that has over 1,400 meetings per week!!! The egotistical newcomers, with their "what it was like, what happened, what is was like, what happened, what it was like, what happened," day in and day out have chased all of the "oldsters" out of the county. We all know what it was like, and what happened.. Our experience, strength and hope is what gives a new member hope.(Hearing Other Peoples Experience). When I came to AA there were only Two steps; 1)Sit down! 2)Shut up! When we want the truth, we'll ask your mother. It was exactly what I needed. It worked back then, and it would filter them out better now. Think about what you are going to say, and maybe in a couple of years we'll let you say it... Luckily for me I have accepted the drive as part of placing recovery first.
My heart really goes out to you, since I've been in similar situations myself. I even attended one meeting in Dallas where of all the people present I was the only alcoholic! Believe me, that is when I had a real epiphany about the Traditions. I had to search high and low, but I finally found a comfortable meeting in a shabby area of town. May be you could cast your search a little wider in the county? Why don't you think about starting a new group? A friend and myself have started 2 different groups over the years for the same reasons related in your post. We imported an opening statement from Houston that firmly but reasonably lets attendees know that we are there to discuss alcoholism, and nothing else. It is a vey comfortable feeling to be able to attend a meeting knowing that no non alcoholic or cross addict is going to show up and talk about something that has nothing to do with recovery from alcoholic drinking!
I don’t think AA is distorted at all. I think the face of it has changed and this upsets you. New generations have entered the rooms and maybe you aren’t familiar with their behavioral and social cues. Not understanding cultural norms can be confusing and appear threatening. Everything changes; it’s the law of nature. You remind me of me once; the old person commenting on how they don’t sing or write songs like they used to. The truth was I became a snob and my security blanket was my self-righteousness. There is always a tendency to look at the past with rose colored glasses. I had to endure insults and rumors in my early days. I remember my long hair drove the old-timers crazy. I heard shouts; “If you don’t cut your hair, you won’t get sober” or whispers, “He’s not really sober, I heard he was smoking pot” The way you described AA is exactly the way it was 30 -40 years ago. The styles have changed that’s all. Members were just as nutty as they are today but you are out of sync, which is what happens as we get older. If you can get past the window dressing, you will find a desperate person sick in the disease. We are responsible to anyone who reaches out, not only those who look like us. Perhaps, it’s an indicator you have gotten complacent and it is you that has to change and not AA. It was for me. People you try and help will relapse and die in this disease, but one just might make it and that’s worth all the effort. This might be your next challenge. Why run when you can be helpful to a group that needs your wisdom and support? This could be a great learning opportunity for you to take your spirituality to a new level. Be the oddball of the group everyone loves and respects. It does come across to me that your comfort zone is compromised and your higher power is trying to teach you something. Be an elder and have fun with it. We don’t get cured in an AA but, a daily reprieve and Bill felt it was dependent on the quality of our spirituality. Running away is generally not how we mature in AA. Driving an hour away to find a meeting where hundreds are around the corner seems like a desperate attempt to avoid changing. Think it over; if anything you’ll save on gas! It’s over $4.00 a gallon in my area.
"The egotistical newcomers, with their "what it was like, what happened, what is was like, what happened, what it was like, what happened," day in and day out have chased all of the "oldsters" out of the county. We all know what it was like, and what happened"
"Our stories disclose in a general way what we used to be like, what happened, and what we are like now." (page 58)
"When I came to AA there were only Two steps; 1)Sit down! 2)Shut up! When we want the truth, we'll ask your mother."
Apparently you and you 'humble' oldtimers didn't get to Chapter Seven in the Big Book. "Tell him enough about your drinking habits, symptoms, and experiences to encourage him to speak of himself. If he wishes to talk, let him do so." (Page 91)
During my first two years in AA I attended meetings in five states and three foreign countries, and never, not once, did I hear a 'humble' oldtimer tell a newcomer to sit down and shut up.
I have seen two major changes since my early years: (a) self important oldtimers who insist on controlling newcomers (sit down and shut up) and (b) people who constantly complain about present day AA.
You said, “When I came to AA there were only Two steps; 1) Sit down! 2) Shut up! When we want the truth, we'll ask your mother” I’ll respectfully add, you sound like my father. Those days, which probably weren’t as wonderful as you remember them to be, are over. Recovery is in the here and now. AA is just as important and effective to us as it was to you. Let the newer generations discover and add their unique experiences to AA without put-downs. We need your support not your ego. If you don’t like the way AA is today speak to your sponsor if you still have one. There is plenty of love and support in 2014 AA. When we shut our eyes to love, we start working against our sobrieties. I’ve heard too many myths how great AA was from long ago. And to be honest some of those cranky guys who would say, “Shut up” weren’t necessarily sober; just full of anger and suppressed feelings because real men didn’t have feelings back then, right? I can picture walking into an AA meeting circa 1965; the room is so full of smoke you can barely see the speaker at the podium or the person sitting across the table as members chain smoke away and the ash trays overflow. Unhealthy donuts and cookies are served and gobbled down ferociously awaiting the impending sugar buzz. The coffee line goes around the room as people seek their caffeine fix. My old sponsor told me of a meeting like the ones you decided in NJ called “Screamers” It was full of dull angry men who would yell and cross talk to anyone who didn’t think like them. In other meetings, circa 1965, I envision women coming in for help being greeted with inappropriate ogles or comments. Minorities and people whose lifestyles didn’t match the traditional ones had a sense of not belonging. No one can convince me this AA was better. I’ll take today’s AA any day. I’d rather sit in a smoke-free room where people share without being attacked and where women feel safer. In my group, many of the members bring water bottles and eat fruit during the meeting. Some ride their bikes, skateboards or jog to meetings for exercise. People talk about positive things such as eating right, quitting smoking, leaving unhealthy relationships or marriages, refraining from heavy caffeine intact or watching sugar binges and weight gain which is a problem in AA. The rooms truly represent people from all walks of life today, even smokers and binge eaters. The only way you are going to experience your kind of AA again is to build a time machine and set if for 1965. It’s insulting when older members from yesteryear have nothing better to add to a meeting then gripe fantasies about the good ol’ days or add condescending comments like “I spilled more than you drank” My girlfriend had to join a women’s group because your generation men, not the younger ones couldn’t keep their eyes off her. To even suggest our AA is wrong, inferior and somehow we can’t get sober or aren’t really sober, can demonstrate a lack of true sobriety. The alcoholic ego is a monster, beware when fed.
In four decades of attending A.A. meetings, I have never
heard an AA member tell another member to "Sit Down and Shut Up". Admittedly, there have been a few times I thought
about it. But I also thought about our code of love and
I had no complaints about present day AA until about
2005. Bill once wrote that almost no one found fault with
AA. Today that is simply not true. A lot of changes occurred in meetings I attended. I did not like them
(reading HIW, 24hr book, chanting, holding hands and praying, sharing by "show of hands"), but I just kept
my opinions to myself. Today I see that those changes
have severely diminished our effectiveness. So, as
difficult as it has been and still is, today I speak up.
How tragic for those attending the 1400 meetings per week in your county - that they are wasting their time on a distorted message. And how blessed you are to have found a meeting of like-minded folks only an hour away who have found the "true AA." To borrow from Thich Nhat Hanh, may you awaken from the illusion of separateness.
LAST YEAR ON THE 17TH OF MARCH WAS MY LAST TASTE OF ALCOHOL. I THANK GOD, MY BROTHER AND HIS FRIEND FROM AA
WHO CAME TO HELP ME QUIT THIS DEEP PAIN OF ADDICTION. A YEAR HAS PASSED AND I AM BETTER THAN BEFORE DUE TO FAITH AND THEIR SUPPORT.
I HAVE FELT THE TOGETHERNESS AND UNDERSTANDING OF ATTENDING AA MEETINGS AS I TRAVELLED ACROSS THE UNITED STATES AND WILL NOW BEGIN REACHING OUT WHILE LIVING IN FRANCE. THANK YOU.
I find it interesting that our A.A Service Manual has been revised/changed/
altered eight times in the past fifteen years. The Manual remained the same for thirty seven years: 1962-1999. I trust that all of these revisions have been properly approved by our General Service Conference.
One of the most recent changes was the deletion of the "in 1986" paragraph from
the manual. This was the warning from a past leader Bob P. concerning the
continued practice of using profits from the sale of books and literature to
fund our headquarters operation. This removal indicates our drifting away from our
goal to become self supporting through our own contributions. There are several
important reasons for our Tradition of self support: No outside interference in
our internal affairs; Greatly enhances our public image; Books and Literature
made easily affordable; Unnecessary or distracting books or literature would not
be published for profit.
Maybe we could return the "in 1986" paragraph to the Manual. But that in itself would be of no value. We must restate the goal and move toward it. Does anyone
on board have any interest in our A.A. Service Manual? I would be interested in
a list of the actual changes in the Manual in recent years. And reasons for those
changes. Bob H. Seymour, Ct.
Alcoholics Anonymous was born of the Oxford Group Movement, a return to basic
Christianity. It took Bill and Dr. Bob two years to sober up forty men and
one woman, who was "The Independent Blond" who later went back to drinking.
By 1937 Bill had discovered that the absolutes of the O.G were more than
most alcoholics could digest. Bill separated the New York contingent which was to become Alcoholics Anonymous from the Oxford Groups. Dr. Bob remained connected
to the O.G until 1940. Against the advice from Henrietta, Dr. Bob severed ties with the Oxford Groups in 1940.
It is reported that Henrietta Seiberling told Dr. Bob
"you'll be sorry". The fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous became strong and healthy.
The Oxford Group Movement sort of faded away. The decades of the forties, fifties
and sixties were years of healthy growth.
Some of us noticed that far too many alcoholics who came to A.A did not
"make it". Those who stayed a while, even a few years faded away. Personally I
suspected that those who left had just not worked the steps properly (to my
standards). I felt that we should place more emphasis on the "Program". So we
spent the next decade pushing the Big Book and cramming the steps down
everyone's throat. By the early 1990's we had pushed 600,000 members over the
cliff, many to never return again. I am sure some of them survived and joined
the many recovery groups which they developed. But A.A. is stagnant in it's
membership and still has fewer members than 1992. We seem to be growing slowly,
which gives the appearance that A.A. is "alive and well". This is far from the
truth. We are on "life support", spinning our wheels, churning and could remain
this way indefinitely. We have at our fingertips a solution to alcoholism. The
"path" really has little to do with the steps. Saving A.A. has to do with how
we administer the "medicine". The technique, method (Bill even calls it a gadget
in Three Talks). The meetings can return to being the medicine. The side effect
is the spiritual awakening. What a wonderful gift. ANONYMOUS
Are there miracles in AA? Depends who you ask. Are there coincidences in AA? This too depends on who you ask. I personally have seen miracles in AA but, ask my sponsor and he’ll tell you he’s never seen one. He believes in coincidences and I think there are no coincidences. I’m glad the rooms are big enough for the two of us or else I would be dead as a nail. The important thing is we welcome the new person and share our experience, strength and hope, which is what we are asked to do as stated in the Preamble. I feel it’s important not to complicate these simple instructions with selfish and insensitive motivations. The less we look like Sunday Church, the Elks Club or the PTA the better. Thanks
Bill W. wrote in "Three Talks to Medical Societies":
You may ask How does this thing, AA, work. Bill answers that
even he could not fully answer that question. That seems odd
for someone who wrote a whole chapter on "How It Works".
We can only describe what we do and what seems to happen to us as the result of what we do. I would add what we do
and HOW WE DO IT.
I believe that Alcoholics Anonymous at its inception was
a miraculous miracle (gift) from God. That has come to make sense to me. I don't believe Bill's spiritual experience
came from any other Source. Some may have the opinion that
Bill was hallucinating due to medications. Bill himself
questioned his own sanity, and called the doctor. The
little doctor assured Bill that he was not hallucinating.
A miracle had happened. A miracle which led to the formation
of A.A. And any alcoholic can join A.A. and get sober,
without even believing in the Miracle. Wonderfully Strange.
You have every right to believe that Alcoholics Anonymous at its inception was a miraculous miracle (gift) from God. I hope in turn you have the ability and humbleness to allow others the same right to have a different belief of what AA means to them. Because if you do that would indicate someone who has moved past belief and into action. I found my beliefs alone won't keep me sober but, make me an irritating and bothersome member.
I’m grateful there are atheists and agnostics in AA and in my home group. Bill was right. Without their input, AA would just be another Oxford Group. Instead of trying to force the more religious elements of the 12-Step program on non-believers, we should embrace them and welcome their experience, strength and hope. Not all wisdom comes from God. Those non-believers I’ve come across bring so much richness into our meetings and they have helped me grow tremendously in my faith. Their wisdom continues to be crucial in my spiritual and religious development. I’ve learned to be tolerant and open-minded while discovering that sobriety does not exactly evolve out of what I believe; it’s more of a by-product of what I do and sometimes what I don’t do. How I live my life is more important than how I say I live my life. Some people are mature enough in recovery to not worry about if a member works the steps or not or believes in God, higher powers, the troll under the bridge or other mystical phenomenon. I bring this up because I have seen subtle antagonisms towards non-believers in meetings and have read posts here, which are very disturbing. Although these views are flat-out against AA principals, apparently they are certainly not against the principals of the self-righteous, ego-narcissistic driven member whose ideas of recovery are tiny and consumed with narrow-minded loathing pointed at anyone who doesn’t think like them. One last thought, when we repeatedly exclaim that AA is not a religious program then lets mean it. Because truthfully spirituality has nothing to do with what one believes or does not believe and we say we are a spiritual program. Are there other believers who are grateful for agnostics and atheists?
I consider myself very much a believer. Why would I
be grateful for agnostics and atheists? I am glad for
any individual sufferer who finds sobriety in Alcoholics
Anonymous. In its purest form there would be no distinction
between the believer and the non believer.
To say that AA is not religious is just not true. I
believe AA to be more religious than most religions. The
beauty of AA is that we are not a religion. We welcome
all faiths or no faith at all. As long as an alcoholic
has a desire to get well, and wants to join us he/she
is welcomed with open arms. ANONYMOUS
"Are there other believers who are grateful for agnostics and atheists?"
Depends. Are you talking about those who are willing to study the chapter in Alcoholics Anonymous written specifically for them or the ones who want AA to take dictation for them?
Your question is obviously your answer. I can relate to the original post. In AA we have to provide the time and space for every member to evolve spirituality or to develop a stronger sense of humanity. Unless individuals are blatantly disruptive or threatening people, we should provide them patience with a little love and tolerance to boot. Although, I am religious, I have compassion for any person struggling in recovery. The chapter you are talking about is not helpful to non-believers because of its conversionary tone. We aren't here to convert anybody but to share our experience strength and hope as stated in the original post and the Preamble. The instruction manual is a suggestion. It is everyone's right to accept or reject it. Either decision does not make them better or worse. There are people on both sides of the jerk coin but, we have to allow them their behavior patterns because people do get restored to sanity in AA and one of our tenets is "Principals before Personalities."
What specific actions do you suggest that we take? Just
discussing the issue here on the forum does little good. What do we do at
the meeting/group level which makes us look like a religion.
What positive steps can we take? I once asked our General
Service Office manager to remove the item with "How It Works"
from the literature catalog. Let the groups know that this was done and tell them why. HIW was never intended to be a
stand alone item. It is part of chapter five and must
be returned to its place in the Big Book. Adding this reading to the preamble has created the image that we
are a religion, a strange religion. Add Richmond Walker's
24 hour a day book and the vision is complete.
My greatest concern is how the new person and the
public view us. Add the incessant chanting and we have
become a strange religious cult. ANONYMOUS
My thoughts are very clear and were written to share the gratitude I have for the non-believers in AA for helping me develop a richer recovery and stronger faith. Do I really have to spell that out to you? What is there to discuss? I hope more people will embrace the recovery diversity that I am grateful for and to develop a stronger sense of unity with our code “love and tolerance.” Perhaps my criticisms and descriptions of certain individuals who attack non-believers and disrupt meetings with bullying tactics with fundamental ideas of recovery could be read as being too harsh. On the other hand your post to me seemed fragmented a bit and over pre-occupied with changing AA, which has nothing to do with my post because I love the AA Fellowship the way it is, as well as, my home group. AA is never the problem; it’s the people who have to mind everyone else’s business or spend a lot of energy trying to change AA, instead of working on their internal stuff which I see as the real problem. It never hurts to start another fourth step when limited by this frame of mind.
You love the Fellowship the was it is. I want to return
the fellowship to what it was before it became a Fellowship.
As long as you see A.A. as alive and well, as it is today,
our fellowship will never be very successful again.
We have the potential to grow at the previous rate of
doubling about every ten years, until all thirty million
sufferers in our country are reached. I mean really reached
as Bill was able to reach Dr. Bob in 1935. Sure, we offer
them a Twelve Step Program, but do we offer them ourselves.
Are we the altruistic society we were initially to be?
How can you possibly be satisfied with an increase of
less than 15,000 new members per year? We are not even
scratching the surface any more.
If you can't see that it is broken, you will never
see any need to fix it. And today's A.A. is so solid
and self-contained that it may never grow again. We
have closed the doors and soon they will be locked.ANONYMOUS
I am not so sure there are 30 million alcoholics who want to recover. AA is for those who want to recover and beleive they need some help.
You want AA to grow? That would require more alcoholics and that would mean increased safety risks for communities and families. Fewer alcoholics in the rooms could indicate a positive sign. Just because AA is not doubling doesn’t mean AA is falling apart and in peril. It just means AA is not doubling. It’s a complex issue. There are several obvious reasons AA is not meeting your expectations of growth. I don’t think it’s because of any internal lack. What are you talking about anyway? Taking over the world of spirituality and recovery? Just because AA saved my life and I love the Fellowship doesn’t mean the person walking through the door behind me will automatically feel the same. Every big thing has a golden age and AA had its time to shine. You want AA to return to magical Eden but, that place doesn’t exist anymore; the solution you seek is not in the past. AA does not have a monopoly on an alcoholic audience. There are other treatment modalities available, which are equally effective. To me, I am happy there are alternatives available because alcoholics that don’t fit into our system can plug in somewhere else and where is it written that alcoholics can only obtain a sober state in AA. In that way, with more variety of treatment options, there are better chances families and children will not be harmed or experience daily or unpredictable rages of explosive violence. Another way to look at it; AA works too well. People get healthy again and return to life becoming productive members of society. I’ve heard this from many ex-AA patriots that meetings become a negative and depressing experience after many years because it’s stuck in the beginning levels of sobriety. I also know many members who get treatment by attending church. This is all good. I’m just speculating that AA’s growth numbers also became over-inflated when the baby boomers started to take to meetings in the seventies and early eighties. Many were sent in by the courts and were not true alcoholics but people who abused drugs and alcohol, got in some trouble and were sent to AA. I also feel the many public health advocacy groups have helped lower the numbers because of community awareness campaigns which directly affected policies that deter drinking recklessly. When I was a kid the drinking age was eighteen. This was a disaster and thanks to advocacy groups, 21 is the universal drinking age today. One last thing, drugs are more fashionable today and perhaps people view alcoholism as “Your Grandfather’s Addiction” I hope this helps, thanks for asking.
We had a great discussion on this very subject at our sat morning big book study. A visitor to our group who has been going to other meetings for about 17 years asked “why don’t we have a picture of God on the wall’’? We discussed “God as we understand him” and turned in the big book to the last paragraph of page 46 and first paragraph of page 47. We discussed how in AA, when someone speaks of God, it’s their understanding of God. This is part of what makes AA so great. Each member chooses their own conception of God, whatever that may be. A religion says “this is God and believe as we believe” AA says start where you are at and as long as we try to lay aside prejudices against spiritual terms or religions, we are on our way. Read those paragraphs on pages 46 & 47 next time you are at a meeting and someone gets too religious.
I once was blind but know I SEE, that everything that AA is I want to BE. I once was blind but know I see, that when I listen to God I can truly be FREE.
Not a Bible or Big Book thumper, just inching towards my understanding of my higher power. Working on some quotes--
God, to me, is much like a prominent cardiologist who only takes walk-ins:
You may have to wait a long time to see Him. Sometimes He’ll give you good news, sometimes bad.
But, if you don’t go to His office or step out of line, you’ll be left to your own de-vices to mend yourself.
In over 26 years of "One days at a time" being sober, I have attended many AA Meetings and in many States. The Fellowship of AA is nothing short of a miracle! I have often marveled at how there is an inconsistency in stressing the importance of Sponsorship in AA meetings. There are many meetings that do stress the importance of getting a Sponsor and conversely, it seems, many meetings that do not. There are topics brought up in meetings that should be discussed with a Sponsor and not around the tables. Often, there are newcomers and relative newcomers, that are trying to sort out all this "sharing stuff" and either lose interest in the meeting or are obviously lost in trying to decipher what is being shared. As with most opinions related to proper AA Meeting protocols and decorum, they vary widely. I believe it is important to search for the AA Meeting that you learn from and gain support from but, my concern is that it seems there is an increasing level of being too open in AA meetings and sharing issues that need to be discussed with a Sponsor and not around the tables. Having a Home Group is vital to this need, for a Home Group should guide a regular member to either get a Sponsor and work with him or, if you are not Sponsoring someone, urged to get a "Pidgeon" soon. This is one of the most fundamantal practices of AA, certainly sharing in meetings but, not to be dimished, the need of aquiring and keeping a Sponsor to share more delicate topics with.
Practice makes perfect
Or does it?
When I was a kid, our school recruited a new basketball coach. He was good enough that he had played some semi-professional ball. He accomplished that being less than six feet tall so he was easily the best ball player that any of us had seen this side of a TV screen. He was absolutely awesome with a ball. We get the first day of practice lecture. In it he said something important that I never heard before or since.
Practice does not make perfect.
Perfect practice makes perfect.
He continued: About anyone can pick up a ball, aim, throw, repeat and get better but only so much better. If you learn the best possible way to hold the ball, move your body, breathe, look where you need to look and follow through and repeat and repeat and repeat you will get as good as you possibly can be.
Fast forward forty some years. I’m reading yet another book with “God” in the title. I have learned that being SNR (spiritual not religious) does not give me permission to sit on by butt and let spirituality happen to me. I invest some effort in it. My current read provides a history of man’s search for God through ritual, philosophy, and religion as well as the lack of it. A common thread among those who have searched and benefitted from it? Perfect practice. Tougher than shooting free throws; you don’t get to see whether you got it right instantly.
The author’s conclusion focused on spiritual growth through prayer, meditation and good works. I really enjoyed the text to the end but the conclusion left me with some feeling of dis-ease. I was locked in to thinking in terms of practicing spirituality in the book’s religious framework. It had been a tough read and I started with the introduction again slowly. Then I got it. My AA program fit her formula perfectly, I’ve been at it years and getting the results for years.
Perfect practice vs. just practice? For me it means application of AA’s twelve step program of recovery instead of trying to keep alcoholism in remission with the commonly heard just-go-to-meetings-and-don’t-drink formula.
I'm practicing being tolerant, loving and accepting of others inside and outside the meetings...even those who don't do my "perfect" program and don't work the steps the way I think they should do...even those who "only" don't drink and go to meetings. It's tough. I'm far from perfect.
One thing I've found is that if I step out of the way and let others be, they unfold to be the people they were supposed to be. We're all heading for the same destination anyway, right?
I remember at all meetings that everyone left feeling like it was your home group. They called them the mom & pop meetings.
I agree about cross talk not being from AA. I remember AA as going around the table in rotation. I feel that cross talk & random meetings are a product of treatment centers, Not AA. In rotation everyone had a chance to pass or contribute. No one left the meeting without being respected as a part of that meeting without being able to pass.
You make it sound like some format was invented outside of your group and you are stuck with it. The traditions posted on our wall tell quite a different story.
After reading many of the opinions throughout the year, it gave me the impression that AA has devolved into two opposing camps. This is far from the truth. I don’t see this in our home group. The majority of us view AA as a Fellowship as stated in the Preamble; a place with a primary purpose and a diverse cultural membership who embrace traditional religious, non-religious and spiritual or humanist points of view. In general, we share a good view of 12-Step recovery and believe it is helpful, however, we recognize that the big book reveals human confinements and cultural biases of the writers as it reflects the 1930’s. We see AA as a family with an egalitarian mission supported by a democratic group conscience. But for the devolved and rigid individuals, their focus has shifted from our primary purpose to defending recovery turf. The fundamentalists believe AA is a Program which contains a finished and unchangeable truth. A Big Book divinely inspired with a 12 step plan; the Word of God flowed through Bill’s pen one desperate night; a perfect book infallible and steadfast, which offers the only means to sobriety. The other not helpful point of view is the close-minded progressive who believes AA is religious and needs a total overhauling. They see AA using covert brainwashing methods which provide members a “Stepfordian” recovery of robotic bliss; however they must forfeit their individuality to do so. When either camp points the finger or claims superior recovery everyone loses especially the new person. We are to welcome everyone with support until the healing takes hold of them and not force our selfish and ego-driven viewpoints onto them. One of the first things I tell a sponsee is to keep an open mind and to have tolerance and flexibility.
AMEN again... Keep it simple and most importantly keep an open mind!
0617 I agree with the Solid. Today's AA is a group of
two million sober alcoholics who are so solid that the
suffering alcoholic approaching us have little or no
chance penetrating its walls. Those members who understand
this are few, a real minority.
Can you imagine what an army of two million sober drunks
could be, what power we could have, if we truly knew how
to carry the message of Alcoholics Anonymous? We could
be five million strong by the year 2020. Are we ready and
willing to follow that advice offered to us by Dr.
Silkworth so many years ago: Stop preaching. Start practicing love and tolerance.
Attraction with no promotion. Once again, become a fellowship instead of a Fellowship. A fellowship which
offers a program in a suggestive manner.
Bill wrote that without the doctors advice, A.A.
probably would not have been born. I say that if we
keep ignoring that advice A.A. will eventually die.
My greatest concern is that we are turning away so
many who could easily be saved. But they continue to
suffer and many are dying while we chant and pray. Their families and friends are suffering, needlessly.
You may say, "I am only one AA member", what can I do.
You can do what I did, and sit quietly for 35 years,
or you can investigate and get busy, I warn you, it will
not be easy. It may take years/decades to reverse our
mistakes. Bill called them blunders and I believe he
warned us about nearly all of them. We have to start somewhere. ANONYMOUS
Does anyone have any experience they can share about the Reading of HIW at meetings? Does anyone
understand why this custom has to stop? When I try to bring it up at meetings, it is like I am
trying to change everyone's religion. I am certainly not an agnostic or an atheist (not that there is anything wrong in that). But I don't try to cram my religion down anyone's throat. We have made
several blunders in AA over the past three decades. The reading of How It Works aloud at meetings
as part of the format was our most tragic mistake ever. I made that statement to our General
Service Office manager, and she gave me a blank stare. Reading "How It Works" aloud at meetings
changed the dynamics of A.A. and certainly not for the better. We have been stagnant for over
two decades now. Does anyone know the gravity of that statement? Alcoholics are suffering and
dying. Many are turning to drugs, when they find that AA doesn't work for them. We hold in our
hands the most effective tool ever for the "cure of alcoholism". And it is not the twelve steps.
It can be found in Dr. Silkworth's "cart before the horse IDEA. Most AA members today have no
idea what that technique is. Stop preaching! Reading HIW is preaching. Alcoholics are dying; their
families are suffering while we read HIW and chant. "Keep Coming Back". ANONYMOUS
The program of AA has many suggestions. It's important that old or new members know how the program works. It's also important that an informed member or group let the new comer know the GOD in how it works is still a name for a higher power of each members choice. Call it higher power , the group, the buddha, jesus christ, ect. It's just important to know it isn't the aa indivisual with 24 hrs or a 100 yrs.
I keep reading this opinion over and over in the forum. OK. I get it. You don't like the reading of How it Works, chanting, holding hands, Lord's Prayer at meetings. I don't agree with some of those things either. Though the door to AA is pretty wide, I too would prefer that it be wider- that there not be anything in AA that would make an alcoholic want to run for the exits.
That said, if I want to make changes in AA, I go to the monthly business meeting of my home group, as I did yesterday, and offer my suggestions. Yesterday, we agreed to make changes to our preamble and in how we chair meetings. (some members think others share too long and go off topic...imagine that!) Over the years, we've made significant changes to our meeting & group.
Another option is to start a new meeting. Some folks in my home group thought we needed more focus on the steps so we started a Step Meeting that met in an adjacent room each Saturday. After a couple of years, that meeting petered out. No problem, our main meeting is still going strong and there are other strong step groups in our area.
I've seen members start an entirely new meeting based on whatever they think AA should be. Our local meeting for "Atheists, Agnostics and All Others" seems to be doing very well. I doubt they are holding hands, reciting the Lord's Prayer or leading off with HIW.
As the Tradition says, "each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or AA as a whole". So have at it.
Here's a bit of wisdom from the 12&12....
"Over the years, every conceivable deviation from our Twelve Steps and Traditions has been tried. That was sure to be, since we are so largely a band of ego-driven individualists. Children of chaos, we have defiantly played with every brand of fire, only to emerge unharmed and, we think, wiser. These very deviations created a vast process of trial and error which, under the grace of God, has brought us to where we stand today.
When A.A.'s Traditions were first published, in 1946, we had become sure that an A.A. group could stand almost any amount of battering. We saw that the group, exactly like the individual, must eventually conform to whatever tested principles would guarantee survival. We had discovered that there was perfect safety in the process of trial and error. So confident of this had we become that the original statement of A.A. tradition carried this significant sentence: "Any two or three alcoholics gathered together for sobriety may call themselves an A.A. group provided that as a group they have no other affiliation."
I assume that part of this comment is directed to me. I
have no objection to using the Lord's Prayer to close our
meetings. It is the holding hands in the "ring around rosy"
circle, coercing everyone to join that I object to.
Bill W. wrote a letter to his friend explaining why
the Lords Prayer is an appropriate way to close our
meetings. Google The Dear Russ letter, Bill W. Alcoholics
anonymous. I agree with Bill's opinion.
Every A.A. meeting I attended in the decade of the 1970's closed with the Lords Prayer (without holding hands).
Our membership tripled in that decade. 300,000 to 900,000
members. Alcoholics came out of their caves to join us. I
believe we can return to the AA of the 1970's and can
become even more effective. More certainly has been
My apologies if I was a bit strident about this. I agree with much, maybe all of what you say in regards to HIW, chanting,prayers and rituals. My primary point is that if we want to change things, there is a way at the local level through our group, district and area business meetings . I understand that it can be very difficult to enact change in AA - even at the group/meeting level. That said, another option might to start a new meeting along the lines you describe and see how it goes.
from what I have heard, it was Bill himself who started the "let's hold hands". it was at the end of the 1950 or 55 international convention that Bill asked everyon to join hands and say the Lords Prayer. I can't prove it, I think I heard it on an old speaker tape.
Clu1992, Surely you can do better than that!
Each AA group is autonomous and has a group conscious. A group has every right to read “HIWs” if voted on by members. Our group voted against reading “HIWs.” We open the meetings by just reading the Preamble and going straight to the topic. During group conscious we discussed how readings and other rituals where cutting into the meeting time and sharing our ESH is more important than pushing what we felt, after all, is a suggested program. Although everyone agrees the program works, it truly doesn’t reflect the diverse nature of recovery that we see. Some members pointed out that it could instill a narrow and misleading picture of AA and not show the complexities that come with recovery and living sober in the real world. We accept that not everyone works the 12-step program, which is their right and this doesn’t make us better because we do. Love and Tolerance
Thanks for the reply. My obsession with HIW began
4-5 years ago when I discovered that Alcoholics Anonymous
had lost most of its effectiveness. I found the passages
where Bill W. warned us about AA becoming a religion. He
wrote that nothing could be so destructive for AA's future.
Bill must have seen it coming in 1957 and 1963 when
those warnings were published. I believe reading that
reading HIW and the 24 Hr. book as part of the format makes
us look like a religion.
Our Saturday morning Traditions meeting is an hour meeting, but we voted to always stay until everyone had a
chance to share. We read the first two and a half pages
of chapter five and the page in the 24 Hr. book in
addition to the chapter on the Tradition of the week.
We had a strong group, usually up to forty members every
Saturday. We discussed deleting the extra readings for
about six months at our business meetings. We finally
voted on a new format and the vote was a very close.
We voted in favor of deletion, but we lost half of our
group. We have not increased to the forty count again,
after three years. We still pay the rent $75. monthly
but just barely. We seldom have more than twenty members.
I am deeply saddened by the hard feelings. Many of those
members were good A.A. friends. But I am convinced that
those readings have seriously harmed Alcoholics Anonymous.
We have made several other serious perhaps fatal mistakes,
All need to be corrected if A.A is going to be around for
the thousand years our co-founder wanted. ANONYMOUS
Thanks for sharing what happened to your group after changing your format to remove the HIW readings. I can imagine a similar reaction in our group. We had a huge disagreement and lost members when we changed from paper to ceramic coffee cups. Ultimately, we compromised and made paper cups available to restore peace.
I believe that most old timers and regular meeting attendees, including me, frequently check out during the first 5-10 minutes of readings. I am not sure how important and impactful those readings are to newcomers. Our weekday noon meetings are only 45 minutes long. Would the time be better spent on personal sharing? I will bring this up at our next biz meeting.
I love the idea of giving all a chance to share during a meeting and offered that as a suggestion at a recent business meeting where we discussed ideas for keeping shares shorter and more focused. My first AA group was an hour long meeting where all shared. A group norm developed where we usually managed to finish at about 5 minutes before the hour whether there were 5 or 25 people in the room. It seemed that folks just developed a 6th sense for managing the time. If someone went a bit long, others would keep it short. It was an amazing thing to see. During a visit to that town years later, I took my AA wife to that meeting and it was still working.
Below is the meeting format we use. 2 years ago, there were several meetings in the town I moved to that were not attended on a regular basis. I went to this saturday meeting listed in the directory 3 weeks in a row and was the only one there. I commited myself to the meeting. I used this format from my home group meeting from the town I had moved from. last saturday, we had 10 in attendance which is good for a town with 14k people. our group even began a second meeting on thurday nights using the same format, but staggered so it's halfway ahead of the sat meeting.It's been 2 1/2 months and we have 5 regular attendees we have good fellowship before and after the meeting. please look at the format and let us know what you think.
Welcome to the Saturday 10 AM meeting of the Big Book Group my name is ______________and I’m an Alcoholic. My only qualification for chairing this meeting is that I am an alcoholic and a member of Alcoholics Anonymous.
THIS IS A CLOSED MEETING OF ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS. In support of AA’s singleness of purpose, attendance at closed meetings is limited to persons who have a desire to stop drinking. If you think you have a problem with alcohol, you are welcome to attend this meeting. We ask that when discussing our problems, we confine ourselves to those problems as they relate to alcoholism.
In ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS we generally open our meetings with the “SERENITY PRAYER,” all those who care to please join me.
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 the desire to stop drinking. There are no dues or fees for AA membership. We are self-supporting through our own contributions. AA is not allied with any sect, denomination, politics, organization or institution; does not wish to engage in controversy; neither endorses nor opposes any causes. Our primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety.
Our 7th Tradition states, there are no dues or fees for A.A. membership; we are self-supporting through our own contributions (Pass the basket).
Let’s have a round of introductions while the basket is being passed. In keeping with AA’s 12th & 3rd Traditions, please introduce yourself with your name if you so choose and that you are and alcoholic or have a desire to stop drinking.
Any AA related announcements? Feel free to borrow any of the literature on the table. Our group conscience meets the first sat of the month following the meeting.
Before we begin, this group would like to mention that none of us are AA or big book experts. When we discuss the book “Alcoholics Anonymous”, we are simply sharing our experience with the program of AA. Remember, this is an informal meeting, so feel free to ask questions. If you feel you need to share about other than today’s topic, we will be glad to listen after the meeting.
Our traditions are a guide to better ways of working and living. They are to group survival what the 12 steps are to each member’s sobriety and peace of mind. The long form of the 12 traditions are found on pages 563-566. We will now read tradition ____ and discuss briefly.(or the group or problems other than alcohol pamphlet)
We will now read and discuss a portion of the Big Book. Turn to page _____.
CONCLUDE the discussion at 10:55. We try to keep our meeting to an hour, if you need to share more than you were able to during the meeting please talk to one of us after the meeting, we’ll be happy to listen and to share with you what was so freely given to us.
Please remember that the opinions expressed here are strictly those of the individual. Remember also that ANONYMITY is the spiritual foundations of AA tradition. The things that you hear here and share here are spoken and shared in confidence. Let them be treated as confidential.
ALL those who care to please join me in closing with the “Lord’s Prayer,” OUR FATHER …
How it works is how it works...and it does very well.
Not everyone is going to have the desperation and willingness to do what is necessary to get into recovery no matter what we do.
My own inventory showed that my corrective opinions about how things ought to be were just uninformed and grandiose manifestations of intolerance, mywayism, and refusing to accept that everything is exactly as it should be. Check out what Dr. Paul said on pg 417. He was right about me...maybe you will find yourself there too?
I don't think there is any way to "stop" HIW from being read out loud at meetings. Each AA group is an autonomous entity and can do what it chooses to do, except for an outside affiliation (3rd tradition - long form). Reading HIW, holding hands in a circle, chanting, etc. are all things each group chooses to do.
But it would be helpful to newcomers to AA if there were fewer of these type of meetings where HIW was read out loud and more meetings where the format was welcoming to newcomers who are not ready to find God NOW!