If you're going to start beating people over the head with it, perhaps it's time you familiarize yourself with our Big Book.
From the first 164 pages:
Bill's Story (page 7): "A doctor came with a heavy sedative. Next day found me drinking both gin and sedative."
There Is A Solution (page 22): As matters grow worse, he begins to use a combination of high-powered sedative and liquor…" "Perhaps he goes to a doctor who gives him morphine or some sedative…"
Dr. Bob's Nightmare (pages 176-77): "…I did not take the morning drink which I craved so badly, but insead would fill up on large doses of sedatives to quiet the jitters…" "…gettin drunk, morning jitters, taking large doses of sedatives…"
This idea of "pure alcoholics" is quite outside the tradition of anonymity. Why do we need to look like we're better, or more pure, alcoholics than someone else? In the essay on Tradition 12 Bill writes about learning to let go of our desire for distinction as A.A. members.
It's generally newcomers who are the type to talk about drugs in meetings. Most alcoholics who stay sober and keep coming back figure this stuff out and conform to our traditions. Those who don't, well, they tend to stop doing it too, whether they stop coming, get drunk, or whatever. But again, it's newcomers who generally do this sort of stuff. I believe that newcomers are the life-blood of AA. So instead of criticizing and ostracizing our future, I try to remember to be as patient and tolerant of newcomers and their habits that they come in with as the old-timers were with me when I came in. I didn't know any better then, but as a sick alcoholic I learned more from those who demonstrated the principles than from those who told me I was wrong.
Stay with the Third Edition. You are not missing anything.
Experience, Strength and Hope, the book containing the
stories deleted from previous editions, is much more
Book for the buck. Just a note on acceptance being the key,
please study the rest of the short version of the
serenity prayer. I see acceptance as being only one third
of the prayer. How about courage and wisdom? ANONYMOUS
The third tradition states "the only requirement for A.A. membership is a desire to stop drinking." Moreover, the fourth step piggybacks off the 3rd step which states " each group shold be autonomous except in matters affecting other grous or A.A. as a whole."
In the beginning, alcohol was the main concern; however, today many people are dualy addicted to various substances. Who am I to decide a person's drug of choice, and whether or not if he/she should attend A.A. or any other 12th step program? If the person receives benefit, and A.A. is helping him/her refrain from all substances, let it be. Moreover, There are thousands of A.A. groups available, pick the one of your choice,i.e., a group that discuss nothing but refraining from alcohol.
When we ask if anyone is new or just coming back, we invite
the drug addict just out of rehab to take charge of the
meeting. And then we invite him/her to further take over
by an invitation to "come on up and tell us how you did it".
We only have ourselves to blame. If we treat everyone as an
equal, no one takes over a meeting. The chairpersons job is
to steer the sharing in an orderly manner, not to comment
after each share. At the beginning of the meeting state that
we limit our monologue to its relation to alcohol. Leave it
at that. We have no AA Police to monitor anyones share. Simply go around the room giving each member equal time. We
further add to this problem by going by a "show of hands".
Keep it simple, smooth and uncomplicated. Keep it AA. ANONYMOUS
I attend a lot of AA meetings (several a week now, down from over ten or more a week in the first decade of sobriety). I have seen a few like the one you described. Far more common are the meetings where a lead is given that consists of 30 minutes of "what it was like" detailed drinking stories followed by five minutes of "what happened" and a minute of "what it's like now" expressed in the most general terms. The problem here, I believe, is not drug talk, but the excessive focus on talking about the problem (whatever form it took) and little talk about the solution. Remember that alcoholism takes many forms, and a long drunkalog involving, for example, arrests and bar fights is going to be just as problematic for the person who drank in secret in their basement. Here my own sharing can point the way: if I lead a meeting I try to keep my drinking story to five minutes or less and focus on what I did in early and later recovery instead.
When I read the fifth tradition, more than the fifth tradition suggesting who it is that I should be carrying the message to, it strikes me as focusing more on what message it is that I should be carrying. Like a doctor having found a cure for cancer, my efforts should clearly be focused on illuminating the cure.
Talking about the solution doesn't leave much time for the war stories. Going to the original post, I think the issue is far more that people feel free to discuss the problem ad nauseum without any group conscience to pull the meeting back to the solution. I'm really not very concerned with whether or not the endless war story is about drug use or drinking...I'm concerned with why were wasting our time endlessly talking about that stuff in the first place.
Sharing our experience, strength and hope, "war stories" is the solution. That "stuff" is what I identified with in the
beginning. And I still love listening to speakers describe
their life before AA. If they are long winded I learn a little about tolerance and patience. Eliminate the redundant
readings and more time will be available for sharing. That
is how it really works. I listen for the miracle. ANONYMOUS
The problem with meetings like this is that those in attendance or those inivted to share (or lead) have not bothered to read "How It Works".
If they had read it they we see where "our stories disclose in a GENERAL way what WE use to be like, what happened and what WE are like now" - there is no mention of what "It" was like.
The "it" in my life are the events that happen to many when drinking - regardless is alcoholic or not. Those events are the DUIs, the passing out, the blackouts, etc. You get a non-alcoholic drunk and these things can happen to them as well.
What "we" were like is a person who's life is riddle with the four horsemen of Terror - Bewilderment- Frustration- Dispair....that what I can relate to.
Though I arrived here as an indirect result of a DUI, I soon learned that the DUI did not qualify me as an alcoholic. What I can tell you though is the frustration, despair present in my life before that occurred - the night it occurred and even after it occurred until I was able to adopt the principles of this program to the best of my ability on a daily basis.
I suggest and often share at meeting just what it is that How It Works does say....Let's emphasize the what WE were like more !
The “druggies” and other disruptive influences will not go away – they are one of the consequences of our own success. Ironically, some of our good friends in the field of alcoholism compound the problem because they believe our program works better than anything else for a variety of addictions. Good public information work and cooperation with professionals is part of the answer, but ultimately we cannot control what others do – only how we ourselves react. If we respond with a defensive flurry of restrictions, will we actually depart from our singleness of purpose by turning away alcoholics who have not yet recognized their problem? In 1986, retiring G.S.O. general manager Bob P. gave the Conference closing talk. He said in part: “I echo those who feel that if this Fellowship ever falters or fails, it will not be because of any outside cause. . . . it will be simply because of us . . . . It will be because we have too much fear and rigidity and not enough trust and common sense. . . .
“If you were to ask me what is the greatest danger facing Alcoholics Anonymous today, I would have to answer: the growing rigidity that is so apparent to me and many others. The increasing demand for absolute answers to nit-picking questions. Pressure for G.S.O. to ‘enforce’ our Traditions. Screening alcoholics at closed meetings. . . . And in this trend toward rigidity, we are drifting further and further away from our co-founders. Bill, in particular, must be spinning in his grave, for I remind you that he was perhaps the most permissive person I ever met. One of his favorite sayings was, ‘Every group has the right to be wrong;’ he was maddeningly tolerant of his critics; and he had absolute faith that faults in A.A. were self-correcting.”
- Box 459, April-May 2004
There is a great AA conference-approved pamphlet called "Problems Other Than Alcohol" that answers all the questions about whether or not there should be drug talk in a meeting. I have found it very helpful.
Bill W had absolute faith that faults in AA would be self-
correcting. I believe that Bill W. himself, underestimated
the power of the alcoholic EGO. Every group has the "legal"
right to be wrong. Simply because we have no AA police
who have the authority to enforce any rules. We have the
responsibility to police ourselves, to adhere to the
traditions. If we are not obedient, AA will suffer and
eventually die. That is already happening as evidenced
by our loss of half a million members in the past 20
years. We have lost 20% of our estimated membership
since 1992, after growing continuously for 57 years.
Why has this happened? The alcoholic EGO has reared
its ugly head. ANONYMOUS
While groups are autonomous and have the right to behave as they wish, group membership is likely to wane as rules are adopted. Groups with too many rules become exclusive as was already mentioned. AA has no opinion about hats.
The outside sponsorship system sure can take the Traditions out of order and use them for many stupid things personally - A.A. Groups cannot do what ever they want yet outside sponsored individuals can, provided that they do not call them-self an A.A. Group. what a joke the outside sponsorship system is
Any rules adopted by a group that are not in the 12 x 12 or the Concepts for Service are most likely one of the 61 rules that made an early AA group look "like the explosion at Wombley's Clapboard Factory."
No one has any authority to enforce any such rules or even the traditions. Only someone who is taking themselves waaaay too seriously, and we have to pray for them!
I would go with my hat on as I always wear hats. Who has the authority to make an old lady like me with bad hair days take off her hat? ;-D)
Golly gee, next they might even expect members to stop drinking!
Sounds like someone's taking herself (and her hats) a little too seriously.
The Traditions of A.A. are for people who want to know the real A.A. Traditions not some self proclaimed sponsors interpretations of them.
Groups that are hidden institutions in A.A that implement rules are people who support principals instead of having principles and belong in institutions - Glad A.A. is not allied with these control freak institutional ways that help them-self's through rules rather than example too many sponsors not enough A.A. members
The group that has been my AA home for the last 12 years recently adopted a rule requiring "gentlemen" to remove hats during the meeting "out of respect for the meeting". While I respect the group's right to have this rule, since it affects only that group not AA as a whole, I do not believe it is any of the group's business what anybody wears. Though I almost never wear a hat anywhere, I'm considering looking for a new home group.
You are there to stay sober and to help others achieve sobriety. Stay humble and lead by example. If the group chooses to make this decision out of respect, you should be humble to respect the group conscious.
"Our hats are off" - Big Book, p.31
OK, taken out of context : )
I would suggest finding a new home group. The members of your group have shown that they have no respect for the traditions. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking (with or without a hat).
When are we going to develop the courage to insist on
steering committee and group conscience meetings to stop
these harmful practices? What happens if we all run away?
The meeting diminishes or dies. This is harmful to AA as a whole. Stand up and speak up. Our whole AA society is
breaking up into warring fragments. There are many members
who may agree wholeheartly with you. Insist on developing
a steering committee. Hold regular group conscience meetings
where EVERY MEMBER can express an opinion. Anonymous
i am new to this tapping machine and new to this town they do not have much of a service structure i have done public info in two other cities and would like to do it here but am afraid the aa ers will think i am trying to take over i got sober in 1987 i belong to the only group in town that is wheel chair assable my whole life i worked with seniors so i am aware of the need in town i am not a leader but would like to have the word of aa out there for all who need us
AA is all inclusive and not exclusive.A simple request such as please remove your hat may send a man attending his first meeting into a tizzy.And i'm fairly certain that if this is his first intro into AA he will beleive that all meetings are the same.Most groups I attend have greeters to welcome people to AA not request he remove his hat' All I can say is I just can't wait to see whats next.
I feel the need to defend any group to run and operate any way they choose to..Even if it goes against some Traditions..They can do this because the Traditions them selves are NOT RULES AND REGULATIONS...Also, there are some Traditions that can open the door to a group to break half of the Traditions and rightously justify doing so..(each group is Autonomous Read the 12 & 12 ).They also have the right to be wrong..Group Conscence Rules The Nest...Like it or not. I personally would not belong to such a group and was even barred from a group once and I have the longest sobriety in the area of that small town.. (They had a kangaroo court and decided they did not like what I had to say and that I talked too long..I was not invited to defend myself even.. But because of the Traditions that I love and charish I will defend the principle of what they did..Even though it was kind of shady and off the wall..)DM
How do you define the spiritual principle of "self-support"? Literature sales make up over half of our operating budget and some folks find that cause for concern. What are we going to do when our printed literature no longer sells at this volume?
We ask and sometimes demand services, yet fail to contribute enough to pay for them. Ray
Seems to me that the groups have the responsibility to support our world services. If literature sales don't continue to keep our reserve fund healthy, then it will be up to the groups to contrbute to keep AA going.
It will be interesting to be a part of the growing pains we will experience in this digital age. Grow we will, we have to.
It has taken awhile and I had hope things would have changed, but to me i am totally fed up with AA if you want to take your hard earned money and throw it away all the power to you or maybe your higher power can help you with that too.
Our tradition of self support has great value. We ought
to pay a fair rent for our meeting places, not a token of
appreciation. Maybe a little extra to make AA look like
good tenants. Don't skimp on rent and send the money
elsewhere. Have group conscience meetings with detailed
treasurers reports. New members put money in the basket
along with everyone else. It is the responsibility of
us elders to verify where every dollar goes. Unlike other
organizations, A.A. is designed to be poor and remain
poor. I think what we lack at the group level is outrage.
So stick around and start asking questions. No controversy
means no PUBLIC controversy. ANONYMOUS
Here in Middletown, USA, a controversy is taking shape. In my opinion, at the heart of the issue is the phrase " except when to do so would affect other groups or AA as a whole".
A little background: a couple of groups have been started in town by AA members with long periods of sobriety. These groups refer to themselves as atheist and agnostic groups. Their group conscience has directed them to change the wording of steps 2,3,5,6,7 and 11. On these groups' websites there were links to agnostic and atheist organizations and writings, all non conference approved.
When members attended these meetings, conversations began to happen in Middetown. At my homegroup, group conscience almost unanimously (75 to 2) came to the conclusion that our intergroup rep should approach intergroup to begin the process of having these groups delisted from Middletown's meeting book. Traditions 6 and 10 clearly directed intergroup to have the website links deleted and that took place immediately. The discussion at out homegroup business meeting revolved around traditions 1 and 4. The central issue was the changing of the wording of the steps. I discussed matters with my sponsor afterwards. The steps are referred to as "suggestions". Tradtion 5 tells us that each group share "its" message to the still suffering alcoholic. We are both aware of the arrogance that we both have as "experts" of AA, knowledgeable in terms of knowing how things must be done. Are we taking the Ath/Ag groups" inventory?
What we conclude, and this goes with pretty much everyone with whom I have spoken, is what follows: the AA program IS the 12 steps. If a group decides to alter the steps for whatever purpose, what is presented at that group to the newcomer and group member is SOMETHING OTHER THAN AA. They have every right to exist, but not under AA's banner. Any AA group is free to discuss whatever its members' believe. But when it comes to altering the program or the literature, other groups are affected. As an AA member, I want to hear the steps read as they were written at the AA meetings I attend.
But, to me the most persuasive reason for the fellowship to stand up to this trend resides in the Responsibility Pledge. AA saved my life and gave me a life better than any I could have imagined. I am responsible whenever anyone anywhere reaches out for help to do all I can to ensure that the life saving, life giving program that was there for me is there in EXACTLY THE SAME FORM for all who come to AA seeking recovery. 2,000, 000 recoveries are more than enough reason to resist tampering with what works.
Geoff in Middletown.
In Ireland our conference has adhered to Tradition 3
THE ONLY REQUIREMENT FOR MEMBERSHIP IS A DESIRE TO STOP DRINKING. As a result we have no specialist meetings and no difficulties such as the Middletown. DISREGARD TRADITIONS
AND PAY THE PRICE.
No, the program is not the steps. Our fellowship is for any
alcoholic with a desire to get well. The steps are made
available for any member who wishes to use them. Only in
the past few years have I become to fully understand that
concept. I also thought for decades that the steps were
mandatory. Work the steps or die! I sometimes wonder how
many alcoholic lives have been lost. Lives that could have
been saved with the proper approach. We must stop this
cramming of the steps down other's throats. This
experiment has gone on much too long. AA membership is
diminishing because of this and several other tragic mistakes we have made in the past two decades. How
well is that working for us. Alcoholics are suffering
and dying, their families and friends are suffering,
while we stand around in our ring around the rosy
circle chanting and praying. Six million so far. How
much longer before we stop these practices? ANONYMOUS
The steps are the program. Perhaps the problem is in the "cramming" rather than suggesting. Perception is an interesting, powerful thing.
"The Program for action outlined in this book" Are The STEPS. Our AA "program" consists of the Steps the Traditions and the concepts. You want to become a member of a 12 step program and not work the twelve steps? The fellowship alone may keep us sober but wet will not RECOVER. The Big Book says of the fellowship " The feeling of having shared in a common peril is one element in the powerful cement which binds us" Then warns us: "But that in itself would never have held us together as we are now joined." The tremendous fact for every one of us is that we have discovered a COMMON SOLUTION"(program) ALCOHOLICS are dying because we do not hold people accountable for their recovery and educate what this program (AA)is and what we are not. "Sobriety-Freedom from Alcohol through the TEACHING AND PRACTICE of the TWELVE STEPS is the SOLE PURPOSE of an AA GROUP"-Bill W.
Heather, what is the program if not what we learn practicing the steps to the best of our abilities? Sure the steps are suggestions. A higher power is a suggestion too. But for me, without the strps and God I would not be sober today.
As far as this subject go, other people have birrowed the steps, used them for their own purposes, and called there goups something other than aa. Bless us all, Michal Elizabeth
"Here are the steps we took, which are suggested as a program of recovery" -Alcoholics Anonymous page 59. What an amazing program! I am so grateful that I have the path of the first 100 men and women to follow as outlined in the first 164 pages of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. The 12 steps saved my life and I am now happy, joyous and free!
Alcoholics Anonymous is indeed an amazing fellowship. Thanks
for the message that the steps are SUGGESTED as a program of recovery. They also saved my life and made it worth living. And you did not push them on me or try to cram them
down my throat. Attraction, not promotion, I believe is the
The Big Book says, "We know only a little. This book is meant to be suggestive only." Way too many AA members stick their noses into other groups' business when they have no business whatsoever nosing around.
Another group can do whatever it wants. The Traditions are not rules and they are not laws. If a group wants to change the wording of the steps, so what. It's a free country and they can do anything they please. Their group will probably be short-lived anyway. If you don't like it, try to stop them. Let me know how that works out...
I've learned it's a lot more pleasant to be happy than it is to be right.
The traditions are much more important than any law or rule.
We have the responsibility to try to correct mistakes other
groups are making. Insist on group conscience meetings to
discuss any concerns or issues. You may be surprised how
many other members agree with you. If not you will have
at least tried. And humilation may lead to a little more
humility. Sure, another group can do whatever it wants,
but there are two exceptions. You know what they are.
And Also they are going to need 2 thirds of votes from 2.5 million of members in the entire world to change the wording of the steps. God or Good will take a good care of AA.
You must be looking at membership numbers from 1992, when our head count was almost two and a half million. We had
doubled in membership about every ten years for the first 57 years. As of August 9, 2010, our worldwide head count
had dropped to 1,852,068. Why did AA stop growing and start
declining? If you read this forum, you will learn the
reasons for our decline. If you are not aware, the 21
trustees have full legal control of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Two thirds of the vote, or even the vote of every member in
AA cannot change anything without the approval of the
trustees. 93 delegates are powerless to make any changes
without the Board of Trustees approval. Take a close look
at concept #7. This is explained in detail in the AA Service Manual. You may be surprised. I know I was! ANONYMOUS
Perhaps the groups who choose to do should call themslefs atheist anonymous.
I don't think there's much of an issue with various flavors of atheist and agnostic meetings in larger cities or how they conduct their meetings. AA members either attend or don't attend as they choose. I would venture that the areas that have the most trouble are smaller communities that have less experience with the wide range of divergent views that make up AA as a whole. The old saying I heard is "if it ain't AA, it won't stay." That is, any group that strays too far from the AA message probably won't last that long anyway, so why worry about it?
The reason for my concern is this: An alcoholic entering our
rooms for the first time might think that all AA meetings are the same. This may be the only and last chance to help
a fellow sufferer to find the life which was there for us.
So why do anything which make a newcomer not want to return?
A new member might not be comfortable holding hands with
strangers and praying. Why do we continue to close with that ritual. Can't we sacrifice our own clamors and desires
for the the sake of someone new? This one ritual may prevent
someone from returning. Would any member fail to return if
we did not hold hands and pray? It is possible, but think
about it. Simply close the meeting without forcing every
member to pray, holding hands. ANONYMOUS
At our group meetings, we simply say if you would like to join hands in our prayer...
That leaves anyone not feeling comfortable with it to escape, so what is the big deal. Our first time there, it was odd, but we felt right doing it, knowing that everyone there was once in our shoes. We fit right in, the first meeting is a little awkward. Heck, it took us almost 2 months before we opened our mouth out loud.
Honestly, did you ever try to resist the invitation to hold
hands and pray? I realize there are some regions of the US
where holding hands is optional. Why would we want to do
anything a new member would want to escape from? I have heard many members share that they came to their first meeting looking for a reason not to be there. So why give
anyone a reason. Chanting, praying at meetings, and being made a spectacle of would have driven me away. I am grateful
these rituals were not practiced when I came to AA.
YOU want to hold hands & thank God for another day of sobriety,Where was god when you picked up that bottle that destroyed your life? If you want to thank god go to church and leave at the door when you walked into AA!!
I have been to meetings from NY to Hawaii, I have held hands, showed up 15 minutes early and left 15 minutes late, I have shown up late for meetings and been on time to meetings. I have heard chanting, praying, drug talk, mention of other fellowships and seen people get sober both with and without a sponsor. I have been to meetings with 2 people and meetings with 2500 people. I have met sane people who have never completed the steps and crazy people who go through the steps once a year. I have heard suggestions, demands, advice, character assassination, gossip and "The R-U-L-E-S". I have also heard love, laughter, joy, hope, praise and comfort given to newcomers and old-timers alike. I have seen people share for a really long time and some folks so nervous they hardly get out their name. I have seen arguments over which way chairs should face and debates over a meeting providing childcare. I have been told I was working the program wrong, I was working the program right and just about every other variation. Etc.
At my first meeting I felt welcome and wanted by the chant "Keep coming back". I don't know who else needed to know they were wanted but I sure did.
I have a sponsor. I want to have someone light the path ahead of me; maybe I will trip on fewer rocks that way. I believe in sponsorship as described in the Working with others. It amounts to a respectful, loving friendship. Not a demanding dictatorship.
As for praying and it scaring away some newcomers. It might, however it's far more likely that once they hear the actions suggested in the steps. That is the truly scary part. Another member once said to me that when it comes to AA, "To those who really want it you can say nothing wrong and to those who don't want it you can say nothing right."
Why are we not growing like we used to? Chances are there is more than just one reason. I offer this for consideration,
A.)When our program was founded there were no treatment centers and very little outside help for anyone suffering from an addiction. Mostly they were locked up in jails or nut houses. Starting in the 1980's the treatment industry has really blossomed both for treatment centers, church based recovery and licensed addiction therapists. Now, 20 years later a person has more options as to how they want to approach recovery.
B.) Relapse, old age, accidents and death. Lots if people relapse and don't come back. Lots of people die sober every year, we are sober not immortal.
C.) Every organization reaches a point where they go from growing membership to maintaining membership. Most everyone who is interested has already tried it or is currently doing it. Why would AA be exempt from this pattern?
D.) Rigidity AKA "The unwritten R-U-L-E-S!" Over the years that I have been sober the only thing that has ever turned me off has been the folks who go around trying to remake AA in their own image. The ones who imply that if you are not doing the program the way they think it should be done then your sobriety doesn’t count, who tell you what meetings you should be attending, who tell you who your sponsor should be and treat sponsees as errand boys, maids, children or beings who are lesser than.
I suppose that whatever mountain top you are standing on tends to look like the center of the world.
Thanks for reading -CK, Hawaii
Well said, well spoken. ST-Miami