Burning Desire to Share
In AA, and specifically in my 4th step, I had the opportunity for the first time to deal honestly with my mother. It was a miraculous experience. Speaking to other AA members and working the 4th helped me see I was not alone and that it was ok to talk and write about everything surrounding my mother. This was not an exercise in blame but one of cataloging my resentments and fears and feelings and what I was going to do about them. It was also about working the rest of the steps where I built a relationship with a higher power that helped me change. It became about practicing the principles of AA in all my affairs - especially with my mother. I was able to become much more understanding of her and realize she was a product of the alcoholic culture she'd grown up in.
I sobered up at my mother's death bed. Then, we both recovered and she lived another 10 years. During those years, thanks to AA, I got to learn much about compassion, understanding, boundaries, acceptance, keeping my mouth shut, not pouring gas on a fire....When she finally passed, I was able to be a sober, responsible family member who helped my family with the wake and funeral. Clear eyed and sober, I was there to shake the hand of and thank the kind and caring cardiologist who had nurtured her for those last 10 years.
My mother was far from perfect and some things she did or didn't do affected me in many ways. AA gives me the freedom to open up about it all and deal with it. Even when I have sought outside help, my ability to be honest and open about such things has been very helpful.
I have heard a lot of people in the rooms of AA who sobered up and finally confronted for the first time their feelings towards various people in their lives. Many had raging alcoholic parents, step-parents, etc. Some were sexually or otherwise physically abused. Some seem to be able to come to terms with these old resentments without professional help, others need counseling/psychiatric help. Never hurts to talk to a counselor or therapist, especially if after repeated efforts to accept the past and no longer be consumed by it have failed.
I celebrated 30 years of continuous sobriety this year. I have talked to sponsors, councilors, in meetings. I have JOURNALED , I DO THE STEPS, and pray all the time. I still have these resentments, not half as bad. when do they go so I can be at peace with my past life. I am almost 70 years old. I have lost a lot of people who mean a lot to me too!! Grieving LOT. TOO!! CATHERINE g
Look if what you are saying is for reals, you are dealing with serious trauma. Your psyche is broken and your inner core sounds like it has almost been destroyed. A psychopathology exists in you that needs attention outside the rooms. AA can help with the drink but the trauma issues need to be handled by a professional. Hopefully the two will lead you to a better place. In this brokenness of your spirit do not let blindness creep in and numb you out to the world.
This forum is about alcoholism but since you are here I'll share with you something that we alcoholics frequently need to deal with - frustration over trying to control other people places and things that are impossible to control. I have no control over what people did or didn't do to or for me in the past. If I can't let go of it I get help with it. I do not try to get help from nameless faceless non-professional members of the internet. Also I see a well qualified psychiatrist sometimes and he NEVER gives advice. He steers me to solutions by sometimes asking questions. My solutions may be quite different than others. That's why I want a pro.
It was easy for me to embrace the god factor in AA because I already had a belief in god. The transition from God to Higher Power was not a difficult move at all. But in my 12th year in recovery, I became an atheist. I couldn’t tell you why because AA and my sobriety gave me the best life anyone could imagine. Lightning bolts didn’t strike me dead and I remain gratefully sober. I’ve always held the belief that the most important thing I could ever do in my life, if I was left to do one thing was to not pick up the first drink. The next best thing I could do today is to continually welcome the new person. I’m glad there is flexibility in AA because we grow and change as the years go on. If I was entrenched in rigid beliefs and inflexible dogma I might be dead. So, today, my sobriety is not centered on finding God, but becoming a better person and changing. I don’t know anyone who wants to be the same person they were when they came through the door. We all know about Bill W’s recovery but, what about all the other recoveries that happened throughout the years which were different than his? They were equally important and valued but, tragically less documented. However, their stories live through the people they sponsored and the people they sponsored. So many lives were transformed and saved in AA just because they heard a different perspective then Bill W’s. I never felt recovery in AA was not a cookie-cutter experience. My life was dramatically affected after hearing an atheist old timer share one day at our group. When someone made a comment about “There are no atheists in foxholes” he laughed out loud and said, “I was in plenty of foxholes in WW2 and never said one prayer. I tried to save myself and the guy next to me” That statement alone set my recovery in a new direction. He is dead and gone now like Bill W. There are no books written about him however, he influenced my recovery significantly for the better as did countless other members whose ideas weren’t contained within the official position.
I have found AA to be quite open and welcoming to a wide range of spiritual beliefs. We have a strong group in our town called "Atheists, Agnostics and All Others". I have not been able to hit the meeting yet, which - ironically - meets in a church, but some of my favorite AA people attend.
I met all of them in mainstream AA meetings and found that they are quite philosophical and spend a lot of time thinking and talking about spiritual matters. It's not like they come to this decision lightly. They tend to be deep thinkers who are willing to explore many avenues and possibilities.
They also show deep authenticity by laying it all out there and being honest about their beliefs. It can't be easy to be in a program that saved your life and to struggle with a tenet that is central to the program.
At 27 years sober, I find the concept of "God" more mysterious today than ever. Throughout the years, I have seen a power at work in AA and in myself that produces miracles. I remain honest, open minded and willing to search for and explore this power. AA gives us that freedom.
By definition atheists only dealing with spiritual maters is to claim that they can be disproved. I astonished by those claiming to be atheist or agnostic hanging around AA believing in those who do believe in some Higher Power. It's like claiming that I don't believe in riding in cars but I will accompany someone who does.
Agnostics, Atheists, and All others. It seems to me that
all meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous ought to welcome
Atheists , Agnostics and all others. There ought not be
any need for the type of meeting you describe.
My concern is the newcomer whom I believe to pay
little or no attention of the name of the meeting. They
have exhausted all other sources and finally turn to A.A.
Whatever they find, will be considered A.A.
"It can't be easy to be in a program that saved your
life and to struggle with a tenet that is central to the
to the program". I was a "THAT ONE IS GOD, MAY YOU FIND
HIM" Big Book Thumper, crammer of the steps A.A. member
for over three decades. I had asked God to help me (I have
to say I asked in the name of Christ). He gave me the
help I needed which turned out to be the fellowship
of Alcoholics Anonymous. It is difficult to offer that
message when I share and only offer it in a suggestive
manner. I was a "Steps Are Damned- Well- Betters" member.
Today I understand what is meant by a suggestion.
I gave all of this very little thought. I thought A.A.
was "alive and well". When I saw that near collapse in
the early 1990's, and our virtual lack of growth for
two decades I did the investigation. I found out that
I was a big part of the problem. It did not come easy.
It came after the death of another loved one, and the
near death of another.
We can't fix everything that is wrong, at least not
today. But we can begin to restore the effectiveness of
A.A. at the group level. Back to my old "stop reading HIW
aloud at meetings", and develop an understanding of why
Bill W. and his friends rejected the 24hr. Book. That is
when my eyes started to open. Ib2013, welcome to the
Forum. Thanks for a refreshing message. ANONYMOUS
AA absolutely offers hope. How much of it is debatable but, for the ones who are able to stay sober with the help of a higher power or without that help, I have the highest respect and gratitude for them. My belief in God and the principals of AA make me feel secure but, they can’t necessary keep me away from the next drink without my participation. In regards to the subject heading, were the founders being objective and realistic or recklessly optimistic when they wrote that? Because I see members failing all the time, which in a bizarre way keeps me sober. It’s difficult to think my recovery depends on someone else’s ruin. In many of the groups I’ve attended, there are a smaller percentage of alcoholics staying sober opposed to the larger percentage, which continues to relapse. Some I see once, twice or three times and others I never see again. Why anyone would choose to return to that life of active alcoholism is beyond me, unless they are not getting the proper treatment. My drinking was like that horrible nightmare where you think you wake up but, soon discover you just woke up into another nightmare. I used to believe members who relapsed were weak, inferior, or had the wrong higher power. Now I know they are just plain sick and sometimes the treatment required for many people struggling is far more multifaceted than memorizing pages of a book and repeating them back at meetings. There are many other circumstances and pressures involved that return the alcoholic to the drink. No one seems to talk about in my group, such as, effects of the social environment, stress, family history, and physiology, bio-chemical and mental health. When I’ve tried to bring up these “outside” issues in the past, I was interrupted rudely, usually by the ego-appointed Big Book police, loyal protectors of the holy creed “It’s not in the book, it’s not AA.” It’s common to hear alcohol described as cunning, baffling and powerful, but why? Why can’t I ask, “Why?” Why do people say to me, “don’t ask why?” We should investigate deeper into the nature of alcoholism and be able to talk about it. There are so many factors that have a detrimental effect and impair the judgment of the alcoholic to make that healthy choice. We should discuss these things in meetings, instead of beating people of the head with rituals and clichés. Grateful and Concerned Member of Alcoholics Anonymous.
I love and agree 100% on what you said -"There are many other circumstances and pressures involved that return the alcoholic to the drink."
I would like to know more about the chemical reaction of THIQ which is as or more addictive like morphine. do doctors still want to study this further?
Have you noticed that the program of recovery put together by Alcoholics Anonymous is written the past tense starting with “We admitted…”? “Rarely have we seen a person who has thoroughly followed our path…” was an observation they made, not a prediction. The word relapse gets thrown around often in AA discussions. Is it appropriate? With other diseases a patient needs to be assessed as recovered before it is possible for him to relapse. If the disease is never interrupted it isn’t called relapse. Just because someone walks through the door of AA or Walter Reed Hospital does not mean that they are on the road to recovery from whatever disease they have. Their participation is required. Alcoholics Anonymous spells out one program of recovery. Those who do not follow it are charting their own path not following AA’s. That’s fine if they choose to, I hope it works for them, but whatever the outcome AA has not failed them if they have been given AA’s simple message and chose not to use it.
If we don’t know or forget why people return to drinking despite all the horrors they have experienced in the past we need not look farther than the Doctors opinion. "They are restless, irritable and discontented, unless they can again experience the sense of ease and comfort which comes at once by taking a few drinks…”. Second, we have a mental twist that deludes us of the perceived pleasure of drinking along with denial of our history of disaster. As time passes the memory of disaster diminishes and the restless, irritable, and discontent increases. Untreated, time is not on our side. Sobriety does not cause more sobriety. Before we try to shift or expand AA focus to take on “effects of the social environment, stress, family history, and physiology, bio-chemical and mental health” we need to get this simple message delivered and keep delivering it. The third symptom, the devistation resulting from our inability to control our drinking once we take the first drink doesn’t come into play if we treat the first two. If we don’t treat the first two symptoms we’re set on a course for the third which we are powerless to do anything about.
You wrote, “Alcoholics Anonymous spells out one program of recovery.” This is not correct. It is very clear what Alcoholics Anonymous spells out and I suggest you read the Preamble because this defines the AA Fellowship and our primary purpose wonderfully. You have forgotten that the “Program” in which you are referring to is suggested. There is no official position in AA that a member must follow a “one program” The Big Book is not AA, but an important tool available in AA. Many find the brief history, the guide for living and all the inspirational testimonies helpful. If someone is not interested in this, only the pompous and arrogant would regard them as potential failures with hopes of relapse. AA does not force a “Program” on people. It’s certain members who lack true sobriety and do not have a real understanding of our principals and traditions who are the guilty ones. You also are incorrect in assuming that everyone who relapses in AA is not working this “one program.” That is very close minded and a faulty belief. To have such thoughts is not helpful to anyone and to really think that if someone is not getting sober your way then they will relapse is lousy AA. Sorry to burst your bubble, but I have been a grateful member of AA for many years and I will tell you that not everyone gets sober the suggested way or in the same way for that matter. If someone has a desire to stop drinking they will find all the support they need in the Fellowship. What they need will be different then what you or I need even though there will be many commonalities to which we can relate. I always felt we should support people’s recoveries in AA and not rip them apart because of appearances.
You are correct in saying, "....not everyone gets sober the suggested way or in the same way for that matter."
But your assesment of the Preamble is wrong. The Preamble spells out the FELLOWSHIP of AA, not the AA program of recovery. And while you may have little regard for the Big Book, it is still the basic text of AA and has been used for seventy-five years by millions of alcoholics to get and stay sober.
I have also been sober for a great many years and have seen more alcoholics get drunk using your 'hit or miss, do what you want to do' program than get drunk using the steps.
You said, "And while you may have little regard for the Big Book" Huh? What gave you that idea because I love the big book and have studied it thoroughly while obtaining many years of recovery through the suggested program. I just happen to subscribe to our code, "Love and Tolerance." Shouldn't you? It's just silly AA to be a fortune teller and make buffoon predictions about who makes it or who doesn't. We can't assume the only way for everyone is this "one program" because its not. If someone does not choose the suggested route, I am still responsible to be available. It never pays to be a recovery snob because we are a family in a sense; all equal. And to reply to your "hit and miss" comment, I've seen just as many people relapse using this "one program" Try and keep an open mind because we don't want to walk around with egg on our faces.
The AA preamble clearly defines what AA is. It is first of
all, a fellowship. It amazes me that it has not been changed
to Fellowship. It will be capitalized soon. Our fellowship
is not the Big Book. Bill describes the BB as our basic text, but it is really a story book to be read and considered, not a "work" book. I have great regard for the Big Book.
Personally, I consider it to be the second greatest book
ever written. But Alcoholics Anonymous in its distilled
form is a fellowship, not a book. Confused enough? ANONYMOUS
In the original manuscript this read: thoroughly followed
our directions. A path is easy to follow. Directions push
alcoholics away from a valuable source of relief. Our
pioneers changed it from directions to path. We have
reversed that change in today's AA. ANONYMOUS
In my opinion, there are too many "other" factors that play in on an alcoholic in AA's decision to drink again to be discussing them in meetings, otherwise the meeting may morph into a "street psychology" discussion (the reason treatment centers insist on no cross talk?). There are a number of pamphlets discussing "other issues." I do know that a few members have shared on their struggles with such issues as depression, and of the need to get outside help for medical problems besides alcoholism. Not sure what the percentage is of folks with mental health issues that have a co-occurring substance abuse problem, but I am sure it is pretty high. There is research into chemical dependency going on globally. That is best left to the mental health and other experts involved, leaving us to work on going a day without a drink or a drug and encouraging others to do so as well. Read the chapter in the 12 x 12 regarding the tradition dealing with our primary purpose - it helped dispel me of some of my more grand ideas for AA.
Because my wife is a health professional, I've been exposed to lots of new material regarding alcoholism. There have been some fascinating studies done using modern medical tools and techniques that flesh out the Big Book's "obsession of the mind, allergy of the body" explanation. Modern studies show brain changes that explain why that obsession develops in some people and how we are different.
That said, having a better understanding of how I am different and what makes me an alcoholic does nothing for my alcoholism. "Self knowledge avails us nothing". Knowing about the brain changes that caused my obsession and having a better medical explanation for "allergy of the body" does not remove these things from me.
I still need what I found in AA to deal with the disease. Something happened in AA to remove my obsession to drink. Something happened in AA to help me get and stay sober and develop a life that is happy, joyous and free. And it happens for thousands of others.
The thing about AA is that we all KNOW what we mean when we say "obsession of the mind, allergy of the body". It might not be the most scientific explanation but we all get it because we all experienced it. And, recovering people KNOW what I mean when I talk about how the obsession was removed from me in AA. I see the heads nod of my brothers and sisters who have shared this journey.
"Now I know they are just plain sick and sometimes the treatment required for many people struggling is far more multifaceted than memorizing pages of a book and repeating them back at meetings."
I believe that memorizing pages of a book and repeating them back at meetings is not treatment at all. For example, when I was very young I, like most boys in parochial school, wanted to be an altar boy. That was back in prehistoric times when Latin was the standard language in the Roman Catholic Church. Altar boys memorized the Latin sentences, we could repeat the proper response at the proper time, but not a one of knew what the words meant.
When I was very new in AA I happened to be located in an area where there were no meetings and no known sober alcoholics. It was suggested that I use my Big Book and a Higher Power, which I did and have stayed sober ever since. Note, te suggestio was that I USE the Big Book, not read it, or study it, or memorise it.
Perhaps we have so many study guides and study meetings that we are too busy studying to actually use the Big Book
Im finding the loneliness unbearable. I fill my spare time with work or working out or anything to keep my hands and mind busy. I have multiple sign posts since I picked up at 14. Multiple DWI along with cracked up cars and near death accidents. A woman came into my life at what I thouhgt to be my worst. I was lost with no way out, she came out of nowhere and I fell in love. I honestly thought this was the one, god sent. After 5 years she left. I was at the worst point of my life. My friends who were getting married and having kids were absent because they were busy in some of there greatest points of their own lives. I was stuck with no license that I lost for 12 years. I started to abuse sleeping pills and pain meds. I got clean swore off alcohol and began my road to recovery. I never could get into sharing, even doing this makes me anxious. After 4 years on marijuana maintence with no booze she came back. This whole scenario I had played out in my mind a million times along with that story I could tell about the strides I have made in my life and the hope to go on like we never left off. I didnt cause i was stoned... i was at a party and went outside with friends came back in and there she was out of nowhere. came to me and started talking after we hugged each other. nothing came out i felt like a fraud everything i played in my mind was invalid. I now sit in this disparity but too afraid to voice it. I become close to going on a bender to end this thought process. i now have 5 months no subs doing it the best way possible but afraid of the 4th step. I dont want to move on, I want to drink until im dead. my sponsor says go to meetings do step work help another alcoholic out.. Im lost and alone
The 201 word instruction sheet for AA’s program of recovery from alcoholism contains the word alcohol twice, reference to a Higher Power eight times and no incidences of the word “I”.
Your outline of your problems contains the word “I” almost thirty times and God once.
Your post looks like a good start of a moral inventory, why not continue?
You said, "... but afraid of the 4th step" C'mon friend, you are tougher than that, I read your post. Don't drink over it. No matter how rotten your life appears, drinking will never make it better; it just gives you more problems. You are actually in a great place-you just don't see it but, we can. The magic in the rooms didn't happen to me overnight. I had to have faith in the process. Anyway, you only have to stay sober for one day. Stay in that day with the concerns that go with and it life will turn for you in ways you would have never guessed. Living in the future or the past will drive anyone crazy.
After 36 years in AA I still don't like to hold hands, but I do. As I recall, I held worse things drunk.
You don't like to hold hands? But you continue to
attend A.A. Do you think you are so different than many
others? I believe there are many A.A. members who don't
approve/like the ritual of holding hands in the ring around
the rosy circle, but just do it because they think it
has always been done. This custom began when AA was 45 years old (in my area).
Yes, when I was drinking I held worse things. I just
did not have much common sense when drinking.
I believe there are some alcoholics who do not return
to A.A. meetings because of the holding hands ritual. I
believe some alcoholics do not approach us because they
have seen the ritual on TV and the movies.
Do you think any newcomer to A.A. would not return
if we do not hold hands? I believe this is a time when
the seeming good is the deadly enemy of the best.
I believe we ought to leave holding hands to the
romantics and return to closing our meetings in the
manner of the first 45 years, standing by our chairs.
All of the changes (dogma and distortion) collectively
have severely diminished the effectiveness of A.A.
The membership numbers show it. Ignore the numbers
and this means nothing. ANONYMOUS
I agree with your comment that one reason some people don't come back to an A.A. meeting is because of the hand holding. And the ritualistic hand holding is portrayed on TV, giving the meetings a cultish public image. People see these portrayals and form a negative image of the meetings in their minds.
I don't think the majority of AA members really care about the public image of AA or whether newcomers feel comfortable in a meeting. I think they are more concerned with their own self-soothing and what's comforting to them. Or they are afraid to not participate in the hand holding because they are afraid they will be ostracized by the group or not feel like a part of the group. There is a lot of peer pressure in AA to conform.
I don't hold hands. I simply remain seated at the end of the meeting and fold my hands in my lap. It is not mandatory to participate in the hand holding. I am glad to provide an example to newcomers that the ritual is not mandatory. No one has shunned me or treated me poorly in the group I regularly attend. I think I am respected and liked. If anything, I've noticed that some of the other group members now seem uncomfortable with the ritual because of my lack of participation. It hasn't caused them to change their behavior though. They seem much too concerned with their own self-soothing and comfort in conforming to the group behavior.
We started a new meeting about seven years ago. The
format read that "holding hands is optional". For the
first couple of years, I was the only one outside the
prayer circle. One other member joined me and stopped
holding hands. Within a few weeks the praying in the
ring around the rosy circle ended. The past few years
have been like the 1970's. We stand by our chairs and
close the meeting citing the Lords Prayer "for those
who wish to join." Our Jewish members are more
comfortable, not being coerced to join in. ANONYMOUS
There was a discussion on another AA web site of someone making up stories about AA like you see posted here. He said he used to drink with a guy whose wife was always trying to get him stop drinking and to go to AA. He would pretend to go and tell her big lies about what went on. Since he was always drunk when he got home from one of these so called meetings the stories all had to do with AA making him drink, on the edge of a cliff, or on a bridge railing or chugging a fifth or anything else he could dream up in hopes she wouldn’t want him to go back. It looks like the one posting fake messages here must have a wife that is scared to death of chanting, dancing cults.
It’s not difficult to sort out whether anyone is lying about what goes on in meetings. By the way, we don’t drink at them. One, you could attend a meeting. Two, you could simply park near one and listen to see if any of the screaming and chanting and yelling you read here goes on, if it does you could hear it out in the street. Pick one that’s at midnight or on the beach, if there’s any cult activity, that’s where it would be, wouldn’t it? Or maybe it’s on Wall Street with lots of chicken blood slung around before the bell rings. Three, ask a real AA member. There’s one thing we all have in common, there is nothing they would do to discourage a newcomer from trying AA, unlike what’s being done here.
In Alcoholics Anonymous Comes Of Age, Bill writes about the
Richmond A.A.'s who believed in getting away from wives
and drinking only beer. In this particular passage Bill
does not say that the men drank beer at the meeting. Maybe
in their personal lives, they had switched to fermented
drinks rather than distilled liquor.
Of course not all groups chant. A friend went to
meetings in Peru and reported that the meetings there were
serious and reverent.
From its beginning our membership grew at a rate of
doubling about every ten years, reaching almost two and a half million members in 1992. If we had continued to grow
at what I would consider an expected rate, we would have
at least eight million members in Alcoholics Anonymous
today. Today we have about the same head count as we
had in 1992. Something is horribly wrong. Instead of
trying to ridicule me, why not do your own investigation.
One writer writes about the ingredients in a recipe.
Do we have the proper ingredients in today's A.A.
message? The answer is no. We have left out the most
important ingredient, humility. There is too much pride
in the mix.
I really do not see made-up stories on this web site.
I have read practically all of them. ANONYMOUS
If anyone was serious about changing the membership numbers by several million, would they do so by kicking the same dead horse on this website month in and month out? It sounds like you have one reader who agrees with you and zero converts for your efforts.
Maybe its time to get out your 12 and 12 and see if you can find out what your real motive is.
Honestly, what do you think my real motive is? I have
read the 12 and 12 front to back at least a hundred times,
and continue to read it on a weekly basis. Again, what do you think my motive could possibly be. Why would anyone subject themselves to the criticism this effort creates. My sole concern is alcoholics who suffer, and the future of
Alcoholics Anonymous. I have no "axe to grind". ANONYMOUS
You are not the first nor will you be the last to comment on the growth rate of AA in the early years versus the growth rate now, and like too many others suggest our lack of growth is attributable to one things or another. Using the same logic, all the world's great faiths are a failure as well, as their membership numbers have stopped growing. AA's numbers are of course hard to estimate at any time past or present, in addition to which many have left (or were asked to leave because they were not "pure and respectable" alcoholics, if the intolerance I sometimes see posted on this site gets practiced in the rooms of AA) for other 12 step programs (NA, CA, GA, OA, etc.), or perhaps found that they did not need AA to stay sober. All I know is that the meetings in my area continue to be well attended, and I see new faces periodically at most of the meetings I attend. Maybe that is because we joyfully greet alcoholic and addict alike, or maybe it is because our coffee is better than anywhere else in AA.
I went to a meeting in Manassas Virginia a couple years
ago where the chanting, shouting, hooting and hollering were
so loud that it certainly could be heard in the parking lot.
I just do not believe that meeting would be warm and
welcoming to a nervous, shaking new person coming in.
If he/she can tolerate it long enough to hear the message,
maybe they will "Keep Coming Back".
I really do not see this forum as being the place a
prospect would first look to see what AA is all about.
Sure some newcomers find this site, but not many. ANONYMOUS
"Sure some newcomers find this site, but not many."
What do you consider a reasonable number to offer discouraging information to?
To balance things out I have been to thousands of meetings from Thunder Bay, Ontario to Key West, Florida and Pascagoula, MS; on half a dozen cruise ships and a gathering of clean and sober bikers in the high Colorado desert twice and have NEVER heard what you are posting about.
Did you ever wonder how the chanting was introduced at the meeting level? Do
a search of Hi! Bob!. The Hi Bob! chant began in the Northeast around 1980.
Before that the meetings were reverent. "My name is Bob and I am an alcoholic"
was part of the first step, not a greeting or salutation. I only recently learned
that the chant was part of a drinking game, related to the Bob Newhart show.
Chanting makes us look silly and stupid. That is my opinion. Any feedback other
than "Well, We are not a glum lot!?? ANONYMOUS
It's easy to see how rituals or routines develop in AA and how some of them stick.
I attended a session of a young people in AA conference and some young people's meetings and have been astounded at all of the rituals and sayings or chants our young people come up with. They were having a hell of a good time and it was all in good fun. For example, when reading the promises, the kids shout out, "we think not" at that part of the reading. When the chair asks for a show of hands of those willing to be sponsors, the kids yell, "Thanks Sponsors". These are only a couple of the many sayings or rituals in YPAA.
The thing about AA is that these things happen spontaneously and there is no bishop or deacon there to say, "don't do that, don't say that". If it's fun and catches on, the kids keep doing it until it becomes a group norm.
I've noticed that some of the YPAA sayings or rituals are making their way into mainstream AA. Sometimes you'll hear just a few young voices in the meeting repeat a saying. Then, it starts to catch on with others. Before you know it the entire group is saying, "Hi Bob".
Before you know it the entire group is saying, "Hi Bob".
A response by the group is chanting. Some religions and
cults use chanting rituals. I don't believe Alcoholics
Anonymous ought to be viewed as a cult or a religion.
Why do we want that public image? Sure religion works as
a solution for some alcoholics. Our cult-like meetings
work for some. But Alcoholics Anonymous offers a special
technique which seldom fails. It is based on attraction
without promotion. It is based on humility and the concept
of altruism. Today's AA member does not know the meaning
of humility or altruism. Nor do they know the meaning of
Wonderful observation about young people's AA..."there is no bishop or deacon there to say, 'don't do this, don't say that.'" That is what I love about AA. The folks who are waging war on innovation in this forum are unlikely to be able to impose their will on others. They are, however, free to start their own groups, without How it Works or prayers, or chanting, or holding hands. If those groups flourish, it will be proof that their format is more effective.
We had those groups in the seventies and the early eighties. Look at the history. That format WAS more
effective. Our membership tripled in the 1970s decade.
That was before HIW, chanting, and the "hold hands and
pray" closing. We always closed with the Lords Prayer.
We just did not coerce everyone to hold hands and pray
with us. Yes the kids and young people's AA took hold.
The problem today is that those members never grew up.
Mature individuals moved on and left the kindergarten.
Today that is what remains as mainstream AA. ANONYMOUS
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.