This response is pure opinion: If you were the speaker at
a speaker meeting, if I had been present I would have just
let it go. If it were a discussion meeting and you were
just a member sharing, I would have objected to the
reading, as not being appropriate.
A proper group conscience meeting is where this ought
to be brought up and discussed. The format could read that
only conference material is to be used at this meeting.
The solution would have already been in place, and
made by the group, not one individual.
Personally I feel that the only thing which out to be
read at an A.A. meeting is the preamble. We are there to
share/talk, not to read to each other. Several traditions
may have been violated, mostly Tradition Two. ANONYMOUS
Good subject and good points. The group you attend may have a custom that they only read from AA material. If the group conscience has come to a decision to only read aa material then they are following tradition 2 (you are breaking it by not following that groups conscience). Tradition 5 may come into effect also. Is the group getting away form it’s primary purpose by reading this material? We may want to consider tradition 1 concerning our unity. Our common welfare comes first, individual comes second.
If you really want to look further, go to the AA web page, find your area and send an email stating you are an alcoholic and a member of AA and would like some information regarding outside material being read or used in AA meetings. AA groups have strict limitations, but individuals have none. You can personally read anything you wish.
GSO will inform you that our general service conference suggests we use only AA conference approved materials in conjunction with our meetings and other books should not be on display or sold at AA meetings.
GSO will then remind you of tradition 4 and how each group can run it’s affairs how they see fit. Each group therefore has the right to be wrong.
I personally have no problem with you discussing a poem that means a lot to you during an AA meeting. I think the line is crossed when it is read from a book with newcomers that may think AA is about poetry and not be exposed to the mental obsession and physical allergy to alcohol, which might help them surrender and work the program.
You can also look into the AA pamphlet “the group”. It’s online or in literature racks in AA meetings. It states the sole purpose of an AA group is the teaching and practicing of AA’s 12 steps. Groups have repeatedly tried other activities and have always failed.
Please don’t just take my word for this information, do some research and bring it back to your group.
Good luck to you and God bless you,
Corey writes: "GSO will inform you that our general service conference suggests we use only AA conference approved materials in conjunction with our meetings and other books should not be on display or sold at AA meetings."
Please provide a citation or link to where the GS conference has suggested only using "approved" literature at meetings. This has been debated a lot on the forum and in the rooms, but no one seems to be able to point to any such GSO decree, and I would like to read it for myself.
AA Guidelines can be found on the G.S.O./A.A.W.S. website http://aa.org/lang/en/subpage.cfm?page=36
Conference recommendations for A.A. groups regarding literature displays 1968-1986, are on pages 3-4 of the literature guideline. The 1986 General Service Conference gave this recommendation: “The spirit of the 1977 Conference action regarding group literature displays be reaffirmed, and recommended the suggestion that A.A. groups be encouraged to display or sell only literature published and distributed by the General Service Office, the A.A. Grapevine and other A.A. entities.” (A.A. Guidelines Literature Committees p 4) http://www.aa.org/lang/en/en_pdfs/mg-09_literaturecommittees.pdf
Summer issues of Box 4-5-9-News and Notes from G.S.O. report Conference recommendations each year. Previous recommendations can be traced back to 1980 http://aa.org/lang/en/subpage.cfm?page=27
It is a duty for those serving in AA groups and intergroups to develop a working knowledge of AA guidelines and Traditions and to use these to guide group decisions.
Not to be contrary, but I read this to be a suggestion that groups only display and sell aa published and distributed literature. What I was asking is where or when has the GS conference ever suggested that groups only read from these sources?
".....but no one seems to be able to point to any such GSO decree, and I would like to read it for myself."
Why not write GSO yourself and get the answer straight from the source?
".....but no one seems to be able to point to any such GSO decree..."
Because they don't have one because they can't have one because Tradition Four puts each group in charge.
Thanks for bringing it up.
Please read posts 30&31 and email gso with your questions. Then you will have an informed answer.
Read a few posts down
If u r still confused please write or email GSOand they will respond directly to you.
GSO will simply give you their suggestions on the issue you ask about
Good topic and good replies. Good to have the benefit of all this considerable wisdom before I post. I have experienced similar conflicts in meetings. Who hasn’t? I don’t see these problems coming from collisions of great philosophical concepts and conference-generated-in-the-footnote-of-the-1956….. They come from the things alcoholics didn’t get or forgot in kindergarten. Don’t be rude. Don’t let your little feelings get hurt. Plan ahead. Dr Tebot distinguishes us from the general population by our being noticeably self centered, impatient, and having a low tolerence for frustration. Not a good toolkit for smooth interactions with others. He doesn’t say anything about our leaving it behind when we walk in AA’s door. If you’re like me, God hasn’t seen fit to remove all of it yet. You’re walking into a room full of it. Don’t be surprised, he warned you.
But my audience here are alcoholics so you don’t (or can’t) be influenced by any amount of information regardless of its source or quality. So I share my experience.
I changed groups. At the first group conscience meeting I asked “Does this group limit literature used to conference approved?” I got looks like I had two heads but there was discussion and the answer was no. I chair a meeting now. If someone shares from the Gideon Bible, Psychology Today or the Egyptian Book of the Dead it’s my job to limit the time of their share to a reasonable amount, same as anybody else, say thank you and move on. (Note to self: When the tilt-whirl in my head and the cement mixer in my gut start up because I’m not getting WHAT I WANT, remember to count backwards from 500 slowly and it will soon be over). It hasn’t happened. It probably won’t. I’m ready if it does. If I don’t like it, I’ll go back to the group conscience.
read part of the letter I received from GSO a couple of posts down. also here is a paragraph from that post:The understanding of this office is that the Conference had the intention of keeping the focus of the A.A. meeting on the A.A. message as expressed in our literature rather than outside material. However, we know of A.A. groups that use literature such as Twenty-Four Hours a Day that has not been published by A.A
I would suggest you go right to the source. email the GSO rep for your area and ask about non-conference approved liturature used in AA meetings. Then you will get an email like I did.
I would suggest you email GSO for your area. If you state your are a member of AA, they will be sure to get back to you.
The following paragraph was sent to me after asking GSO about outside liturature:
The group conscience of each A.A. group determines what literature is appropriate to have in its meetings, keeping in mind our A.A. Traditions and experience. The pamphlet “The A.A. Group” shares about the informed group conscience on pages 28-29 and is attached and available at the following link: http://www.aa.org/pdf/products/p-16_theaagroup.pdf on G.S.O.’s A.A. Web site.
The General Service Conference, the closest thing we have to a group conscience for A.A. throughout the U.S. and Canada, has suggested “that A.A. groups be encouraged to display or sell only literature published and distributed by the General Service Office, the A.A. Grapevine, and other A.A. entities.” Attached please find a service piece that describes A.A. literature and the Conference-approval process. Individual members, of course, have always had the personal choice of using whatever materials they feel best enhances their spiritual lives, including religious books and periodicals.
The understanding of this office is that the Conference had the intention of keeping the focus of the A.A. meeting on the A.A. message as expressed in our literature rather than outside material. However, we know of A.A. groups that use literature such as Twenty-Four Hours a Day that has not been published by A.A.
I hope this helps
The article shared by Carol K, Sarasota, Florida is a very interesting topic that seems to plaguing our AA Groups. When this alcoholic came to the doors of AA in Charlotte NC in 1986 and found my first sponsor, Harry W. He told me that there were thirty-six principles to our recovery. That I would have to work our 12 Steps of Recovery to find a concept of God of my understanding through our First Three Steps, find how God has always worked in my life despite my self-will riot and selfishish behaviors that kept me in the bottle, and find the pathways that my given past experiences could be used one day at a time to help others. Then I would have to work our 12 Traditions in the same fashion on a sponsor-pidgeon basis with the help of studying our 12 & 12 on a regular daily basis. When this pathway was completed and we had an understanding how our 12 Traditions kept our AA Groups sober, we were ready to study our 12 Concepts that keeps AA sober worldwide.
In July 2010, I was asked to lead the monthly homegroup Tradition Discussion Meeting which was on our Seveth Tradition. When I was asked to step forward to chair the meeting, I asked the 60 men and women AAs, how many of you have worked our Traditions on a one-to-one basis with a sponsor. No one raised their hands. This AA knew from from his first four years in recovery that roughly only 22% of our members have honestly and truly worked our Traditions like they worked our Steps. Which means there are approximately 78% of our members have no true sharing knowledge or experience of our Traditions.
Studying and having discussions on our 12 Concepts is very difficult; since less then 1% of our members have any working experience with our 12 Concepts,which keeps AA sober worldwide. The AA member, who offered a monthly closed discussion meeting on our Concepts in the Greater Atlanta passed away in January 2011. Her homegroup was the only one in the Greater Atlanta area that offered a study of our Service Manual.
My first sponsor, Harry W., also walked beside me and continues to walk beside me, told me that an AA who has studied and worked our Steps, Traditions, and Concepts will stay stay sober one day at a time. His sponsor at the time I cam into the program was one of the original 100 AAs from Akron, OH. Harry still resides in the Charlotte, NC area.
I was also that if I was to only identify myself at our meetings as I am Chuck, and I am an alcoholic. That if had problems with solid or eatable alcohols, I was to take this problem to the appropriate recovert fellowship; because if I had a problem with these solid substances and I identified myself with a dual admission that I was maintaining my uniqueness and separating myself from those who came to our rooms with a desire to stop drinking alcohol, our singleness of purpose to carry our message to the still suffering alcoholic, and most importatnt that our common welfare alwats comes first and that our personal recovery depends on upon our AA unity.
A few years ago at a closed discussion homegroup meeting, we had three members of Overeaters Anonymous, who attended the meeting for months. When they shared they always idenified themselves as members of OA. Then one evening, a member approached one the homegroup members about her concern about non-AAs attending our group's meeting, which was affecting the group's autonomy. Since only one member had any working knowledge of how this weekly event was beginning the affect the group as a whole, the sister-in-sobriety approached this knowledgeable homegroup member with her concern and the concern of others. The discussion leader asked the group members' if anyone had a topic that that s/he would like to have discussed. The member, who was approached by the concerned member, raised his hand and asked if we could discuss our First, Third, and Fifth Tradition. The awareness of the God of our understanding surfaced. The three OAs graciously were lead from the closed weekly homegroup meeting over a period of three weeks.
This example is what happens when our principles are placed before our personalities, which if handled spiritually; will maintain our spiritual foundation of our 12 Traditions, which is why AA works for an alcoholic. The process also maintains the anonymity of the group as a whole and each person's anonymity.
All of the sponsors have been entrenched in service work. All have knowledge of our 36 Principles that keep an AA Member sober, AA groups sober, and AA sober worldwide.
In closing, when an AA member identifies him(her)self with a dual tile, open the meeting to a discussion on our 1st, 3rd, and 5th Tradition and let the God of our underatndings take the lead on improving the autonomy of our groups before the group comes apart from within.
Chuck W., Dunwoody, GA
Thanks Chuck for your ideas in dealing with people attending AA meetings who are not AA members i.e. members of overeaters anonymous or drug addicts.
Here are some other suggestions that work well in our area. Always read the Blue Card prior to the start of every meeting. The card covers what needs to be said for both open and closed meetings.
If faced with the problem of non members attending your closed meeting the chairperson could add after reading the Blue Card, "If you are not an alcoholic or don't have a desire to stop drinking you are not welcome to attend closed AA meetings. Please leave our meeting and seek the help you need at a more appropriate 12 step program".
If holding an open AA meeting remind non members," that they are welcome attend as observers but may not share during the meeting. Also remind them of our anonymity principal,"who you see and what you hear at an AA meeting must remain confidential".
Chuck discusses in his post about the lack of knowledge he noticed in the groups he witnessed regarding the Traditions and the Concepts in A.A. groups.
I would agree that there is a problem in many areas of the country today in these areas. My sponsor taught the three fold solution of recovery, and expected me to continue that road with the people I sponsor.
This happened in a different area of the country from where I live today. Today, the A.A. community had decided their needs to be two, possibly three, different types of sponsors. Those who understand how to obtain sobriety and maintain sobriety solely by the use of the 12 steps. If they wish to go into service work, the sponsor leads the sponsee to a "service" sponsor, who will teach them how to live and operate in the broader world of AA using the 12 traditions. If the "service" sponsor ever studies the Service Manual, they may actually be able help their charge understand the third legacy, the 12 Concepts. But I have noticed, that few of the "service" sponsors of today have cared enough to look into the Concepts.
It is the responsibility of the original sponsor to study the legacies, and to pass these along to their sponsees. This is the way the original AA program worked. Why to fix something that isn't broken? Bill W. allowed the African American drug addict into AA because he had a drinking problem, thus making the "only requirement for membership be a desire to stop drinking." The more we learn, the more we pray, the more we listen, the more we grow. Thank you for letting me share.
"It is the responsibility of the original sponsor to study the legacies, and to pass these along to their sponsees. This is the way the original AA program worked. Why to fix something that isn't broken? Bill W. allowed the African American drug addict into AA because he had a drinking problem, thus making the "only requirement for membership be a desire to stop drinking." The more we learn, the more we pray, the more we listen, the more we grow. Thank you for letting me share."
In point of fact, there were no Traditions and concepts in the 'original' program. The Traditions were in 1950 and the Concepts in 1962.
On page 140, 141, 12 & 12, There is an anecdote which begins, "On the A.A. calendar it was Year Two." It ends with, "Never did he trouble anyone with his other difficulty. A.A. had taken its first step in the formation of Tradition Three."
this predates the arrival of the "African American drug addict' by quite a few years.
Just another Meeting?
I went to an AA meeting last night I haven’t attended for some time and took a newcomer with me. I feel somewhat ashamed and angry for exposing him to what occurred during the meeting. In my opinion, the meeting was a prime example of why newcomers don’t want what we have and don’t keep coming back. Why they soon get the wrong impression of what AA is and what it is not. It further solidified my belief that AA is going in the wrong direction and that the majority of AA members simply don’t get it or don’t care!
There was a big turnout with 3 birthdays celebrating 58 years. The crowd was pumped for the occasion; perhaps even a little over exuberant with not a lot of quiet humility to be found in the room. I was ill prepared for what happened and witnessed something I had not experienced in 22+ years of attending AA meetings. I knew that something was up when I arrived to see a laptop computer and speakers set up on a table. There was the usual breaking of traditions including; chanting/shouting, hugging, kissing, the customary prayer circle and the singing of Happy Birthday. Following the presentation of the last medallion we heard the member share on the topic of choices. It was an interesting topic with a good message. At 9 PM the birthday boy indicated he wanted to sing a George Jones song titled, “Choices”; time permitting. Ignoring the Chairperson pointing to her watch we were out of time, many urged the speaker to carry on despite the Chairperson’s wishes. The computer music was turned on and we were serenaded to a rousing rendition of the song. The member had a good voice and sang well. Only one problem; I thought we were at an AA meeting not a Karaoke night at the local pub.
Many thought the singing a nice touch and no harm done. I do not share those sentiments and here is why. Once a precedent/ practice are established at one meeting it can soon become the rule rather than the exception. Many other members and groups want to follow suit because they like the idea and think it cool or neat. With little forethought or consideration of our traditions a new practice soon becomes a ritual. Traditions are put on the back burner and group conscience becomes non-existent.
What could happen next? Will members start bringing their own band or DJ service to impress us with their singing talent? Will we have special AA Karaoke meetings where everyone sings their message? Will this practice be limited to just birthday meetings or whenever we feel the need? Perhaps we could have poetry meetings where members could read their favorite poems about alcoholism written by their favorite alcoholic poet. Are my examples too farfetched? I think not, as present meeting practices tell me anything is possible. I do not question the member’s intentions or motives; I simply maintain the idea was not well thought out. Perhaps a discussion with a sponsor or old timer would have been in order to determine if traditions were being followed and the idea appropriate for an AA meeting.
It is my firm belief that everything we say and do at meetings affects the unity of the group and AA as a whole; in either a positive or negative manner. I believe what happened at this meeting was on the wrong side of our traditions and will have a negative impact on the unity of our fellowship.
Your mistake,Mike.You should have brought him to a group you are comfortable with where you could introduced him to others.
Not sure Mustafa how I made a mistake as a newcomer asked me to take him to a meeting and that is exactly what I did. It was the only meeting available here that night as we generally have only one meetng a day in our region.
I have been to that meeting before and it has been pretty good AA. I'm afraid it was just a case of bad luck of the draw.
I wanted to share this experience with others so we don't keep making the same mistakes. That is one of the reasons why the traditions were established.
Anyways thanks for your feedback.
you say that this meeting violated traditions by 'chanting', singing happy birthday and other various behavior you find unacceptable. How interesting that people celebrating their sobriety upsets you. Even more interesting is that you had a newcomer with you and I am pretty sure that even if you did not say so out loud the newcomer was fully aware of how upset you were.
I have been to meetings in different places all over the States and Canada. Groups hold meetings in their own manner and have their own customs (not traditions). You need to lighten up and be less critical. Did you listen for any similarities? Did you try and find the message of hope that AA offers?
I will acknowledge that singing by a speaker is more than a little odd but their are worse things that could have happened.
In my opinion, all A.A. meetings ought to be similar.
Any alcoholic entering the doors of A.A. needs to be
exposed to the same message. We are not here to entertain
or to be entertained.
Any alcoholic coming to a meeting ought to hear the
preamble, and be exposed to the rest of the traditions which the preamble does not explain. The group ought to
adhere to the material in the preamble and the traditions.
When we read the preamble stating that we are not
allied with any sect, and than read That one is God,
May you find Him Now, the newcomer is confused. Manny Q.
Thanks Mike. It brings me comfort that other A.A. members
share my concerns. I am convinced that the type of A.A.
which you describe does more harm than good. This is an
example of the temporary good being the deadly enemy of the
permanent best. Where an alcoholics life is concerned, only the very best is good enough.
I too would have been ashamed to take a new person to
the meeting you described, and many of the meetings of
today's A.A. The incessant chanting and the hold hands and
pray closing would prevent many from returning. After hearing all the requirements for membership and sobriety,
most say "what an order", "let me out of here".
We have a method, technique which Bill even called a
gadget, which rarely fails when working with other alcoholics. Stop telling alcoholics what to do or what
they have to do. Let the Big Book give them the needed
information. If we share our own story truthfully, honestly
we will rarely fail. Stop reading HIW at meetings. Remove
the 24hr book from the meeting rooms. Stop the stupid
chanting. Stop praying at meetings. We are not prayer
groups. Pray elsewhere on your own time. Separate the
drug addict from A.A. Both fellowships work best side
by side. Together we all lose. A.A. seldom works for
other addictions. Each can only identify with their own.
We all know there are plenty of both around to fill
both rooms, A.A. and N.A. The things I mention are just
reversals of changes at the group level in the past
three decades. They were serious blunders and have all
but destroyed our fellowship. And yes, all from
Bill W. wrote an article for the January 1955 issue of the A.A.Grapevine, title: Why Alcoholics Anonymous is
Anonymous. See page 209 in the book "Language of the Heart". With 20 years of working with alcoholics
and the formation of Alcoholics Anonymous, I believe Bill gave us the perfect message
about anonymity and the many reasons why Alcoholics Anonymous is anonymous. We only need
to read, understand and obey. Manny Q.
Wow! There is certainly alot of personality mixed up in this principle as you read down through all the posts. The traditions have already laid out for us the proper use of the 'anonymity', so why so much discussion? If you think it is EGO driven, we have a step for that and Keep Coming Back! AA has been 'watered down' over the last several years and I am sick of it. Go to meetings, work with a sponsor and 'their interpretation' of the traditions/steps or pick a new one, stay sober and work with another alcoholic! Thats how I stay sober. BTW, in case your wondering, I was taught to absolutely identify myself with my last name, if I truely was to be of maximum service, otherwise, how would they know who to look for...the newcomer, a lady struggling that didnt have to courage to talk with me after the meeting, etc. We have over 100 groups in our area. Since, I have joined an 'anonymous' organization, I have to take a leap of faith that YOU will stick to the traditions, also, so that I do not have to worry of any workplace drama. Really, it is kinda egotistical NOT to share completely (including your full name), it is out of spite and resentment....and you know what they say about our #1 offender. I do have a question...my area has LIVE volunteers for our answering service 24 hours a day....are some of you really paying people to do service work??? Thanks, Michelle, Greenville, SC
With great shame,I'll reveal that my District 7-1(11)Hartford,Corrupticut,USA's biggest expense is the paid answering service. We have 1,000's of members & cannot cover 168 hours in a week.
I took that Chair a few years ago & found the service cheated us & the District would not let me fire them & establish our own.
Regarding "their intrepretation of the traditions/steps".
How would the new member know if the "sponsor" has an
accurate understanding of the traditions/steps. Are any
of us experts? I believe the best way to develop a
working understanding of the steps and traditions is
in a group setting. The book, Twelve steps and Twelve
Traditions, is what I believe to be the best source of
information available. I think Bill W. had the best
understanding of the steps/traditions. Bill wrote:
"And finally, we of Alcoholics Anonymous believe that
the principle of anonymity has an immense spiritual
significance, that we are to practice a genuine
humility. Today we preach humility but no longer
practice it. ANONYMOUS
You wrote that you are sick of A.A. being "watered
down", over the last several years. Could you be more
specific? Exactly what do you see that has changed?
Are you talking years or decades?
I have seen about ten significant changes in Alcoholics
Anonymous in the past four decades, and today I consider
these changes as being harmful.
I consider the "hold hands and pray" closing as being
harmful to our fellowship. I am being presumptous, but
I would guess that you would have the groups pray at the
beginning of the meeting and the closing.
I do not state my full name when I share at an A.A.
meeting. I do use my last initial due to the fact that
so many members are "Joe". I certainly do not feel any
"spite or resentment".
What do you think of reading "How It Works" aloud at
meetings? I have a friend from Texas who says that they
no longer read it at meetings, simply because it is time
consuming. I consider this reading from the podium at
meetings to be one of the worst mistakes we have ever
made in A.A. I am not a "counselor" but "How does that
make you feel?".
Welcome to "What's on Your Mind FORUM. I hope you
have the time to continue writing.
In closing, do you know that your area 62 contributed
$60,827.90. to the General Service Office last year to
"pay people to do service work"?
Again, please explain exactly what you mean by A.A.
being "watered down". Previous messages have been written
about A.A. being "watered down".
My greatest concern is our lack of growth since the
early 1990's. Stagnation has been a concern by our
chairman of the General Service Board of Trustees. What
do you think the problem is? Or do you have the opinion
that A.A. is "alive and well"? Your area gained 1164
members in the three year period 2007-2010. That is a gain of 388 per year. With an army of 8,000 soldiers whose
primary purpose is to save suffering alcoholics, is this
the best your area can do? Now I WILL close. for now. ANONYMOUS
Many A.A. members use the term, "watered down" when they are speaking of Alcoholics Anonymous. If you look at the context of their point, what they are saying is there is a diminished force or effect in our message of the program of recovery as outlined in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous.
HIW is heavy preaching when read from the podium & should be done away with-it has driven away many more than it saved.
I kinda like holding hands,but would like to close all meetings with the"Responsibility Declaration"like they do in Lima,Peru.
mustafa-GSO is overpaid & under worked & is doing things for the groups that we should be doing for ourselves.
I find holding hands with men repulsive. Before I
finally just stopped joining in the, what I now call the
ring around the rosy circle, I would try to position
myself between females.
My concern is the newcomer, who may find holding hands
with strangers uncomfortable or off-putting. I see this
ritual as a cult or religious activity.
In the 1970's, when A.A. was effective and growing,
we simply stood by our chairs for the closing, usually
The Lords Prayer. It was always: for those who wish to join.
You wrote, "My greatest concern is our lack of growth since the early 1990's. Stagnation has been a concern by our
chairman of the General Service Board of Trustees. What
do you think the problem is?"
I have no idea what the problem is, however AA is alive, well and growing locally.
One possibility is that newcomers are discouraged by being constantly reminded of what's wrong with AA. Money being wasted, religious ceremonies, chanting, etc. Who would want to be a part of something so terrible?
I don't hear a lot of griping about AA's problems at our local meetings, but I do hear a lot of gratitude for the improvement AA has made in members' lives. Maybe if we all started showing more gratitude and doing less complaining more folks would stick around long enough to get sober.
Jim S. This forum is not an A.A. meeting or an A.A.
group. I consider this forum to be a world wide conscience
meeting where anyone who is interested can have a voice.
I don't hear a lot of complaints at the meetings in
my local meetings. Have you been to meetings where a lot
of griping is done? I haven't.
Are you sure that A.A. membership in your area (state)
is increasing? My brother who is an A.A. member in the
Washington D.C. area, tells me that A.A. is "booming"
in his area. Membership numbers are posted in the
FINAL REPORT from the General Service Conference. We
have fewer members in A.A. (worldwide) than we had
twenty years ago. Does that not concern you? A little
investigation might show you what the problem is. There
is a problem, whether you acknowledge it or not. My head was pulled out of the sand about five years ago. ANONYMOUS
Thanks ADO,I,too,have been awakened to the plight of AA.
I searched the 61st General Service Conference of Alcoholics Anonymous Delegate’s Conference Report and could find no membership numbers. Perhaps you'll point out exactly where I can find them?
I did find this under “Group Services” on page 31:
"A net total of 1,896 new A.A. groups were listed at G.S.O. last year."
In July, 1972, a one year chip was hand carried halfway around the world to me along with a note which said, in part, "AA is really growing here in -----. We now have forty-three meetings." Today there are three hundred. Stagnant?
Yes, I agree this is a forum rather than a group or a meeting. But isn't the Grapevine our "Meeting in Print"? This forum has a section called "New to AA." I'm sure many of those who post to that section also read the others. How many read the posts complaining about all that is wrong with AA are turned off by the negativity posted? Does a list of supposed failings really attract newcomers to the fellowship?
Strangely enough, I don't hear these complaints in live meetings. I only find them in forums like these where the complainers can hide behind the anonymity of their computer monitors.
I have a copy of the 2011 FINAL REPORT from the 61st
ANNUAL MEETING OF THE GENERAL SERVICE CONFERENCE OF
ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS in front of me. Membership numbers
can be found on pages 78 and 79. At the end of 2009 we
had 1,358,879 members (US and Canada). The groups numbered
61,613. At the end of 2010 we had 1,373,681 members and
62,873 groups. In the year of 2010 we gained 1,260 groups
and 14,802 members. Only one group out of four (approximately) gained one member for the entire year.
That is just not acceptable. If I have made a mistake,
please point it out to me. If every A.A. member helped
one alcoholic into A.A. in a year's time we would
double in membership every year.
Let me read your mind. You are thinking up excuses.
The easiest excuse is that the numbers mean nothing. How
could anyone count members of an anonymous fellowship.
The facts are that we are failing so many suffering
alcoholics today that it is too tragic to even think
about. Denial is rampant.
Very few new A.A. have any idea that this forum exists.
How could my complaints about the chanting, the reading of
HIW, holding hands and praying, the reading of the 24hr
book, here on the FORUM turn any suffering alcoholic
away from A.A. It is the practice of these blunders in
the A.A. meeting which drives them away.
A.A. membership grow at the rate of doubling about
every ten years until 1992 reaching almost two and a
half million members. We have less than that today.
Something is terribly wrong, and I do not think my
hiding behind a computer has anything to do with it.
it works if you work it, God could and would if he were sought, holding hands, The Lord's prayer, ad infinitum. Many people associate these rituals as us being either a cult or affliated with religion. An informed group conscience by the taking of a group inventory may perhaps help. Depends on the geographic location of the group meeting. I want AA to be left the way I found it, for the next suffering alcoholic.
I also want A.A. to be left the way I found it. The
Program/Fellowship of today barely resembles the fellowship
I found in 1970. I observed as changes were being made at
the Group level. I did not feel comfortable with the changes
as they were happening, but I knew so little about the
history of the fellowship I had no ground to stand on. I
tried to prevent the reading of HIW at my home group. It
was like trying to hold back the tide.I finally accepted the
reading and read it many times saying "This is how it works.
Even Bill W. wrote in Three Talks to Medical Societies that
he could not fully explain how A.A. works.
About ten significant changes ocurred at the Group
Level in the past three decades. The introduction of
chanting was one of the blunders. The reading of HIW aloud
at meetings, and the acceptance of the 24hr book have
made Alcoholics Anonymous into a strange type of religion.
Chanting and praying at meetings makes us look like a
cult or sect. Our "hold hands and pray closing" confirmes
the religion concept. Today's "sponsor" requirement makes
us a cult. This is true, no matter how much we deny it.
I, personally will not leave A.A. the way I found it. But
hopefully the next generation will do a better job. My
generation has all but destroyed it. ANONYMOUS
There may be some truth to the idea that North America A.A. membership numbers have been stagnant for several years, but that doesn't necessarily mean we are doing anything wrong. However, it's a great opportunity for a group inventory to see how we can better carry the message to the alcoholic who still suffers.
By the way, A.A. membership is exploding in India right now. I'm guessing some members may hold hands when they pray and may even read "How It Works."
Sobriety---Freedom from ALCOHOL--- through the Teaching and Practice of the 12 Steps is the SOLE PURPOSE of ANY AA GROUP.
BILL W---problems other than alcohol
Why do you suppose that Bill wrote that the teaching
and practice of the 12 steps is the purpose of the GROUP?
Why didn't he write that we are to be teachers of the steps
as individual members of Alcoholics Anonymous? I believe
it is because none of us are qualified, as individuals, to
be teachers of the steps. It is not guaranteed that the group is qualified, but the chances are much greater than the individual A.A. member. This way no one member becomes
an A.A. big shot. Every alcoholic approaching A.A. can
be set free, if we let the group function properly. ANONYMOUS
I have been doing some reflecting on AA’s tradition of anonymity, specifically in regards to using our full names in AA meetings. I am torn on the subject. I no longer introduce myself with my full name in closed AA meetings. The reason is this, everyone that attends the closed meetings I attend already know my last name and have my phone number. When a newcomer attends, they get my number and other member’s numbers. If you have ever gone to the hospital to visit a sick or dying member and did not have their last name, you cannot find them and they die without you, so that is part of the reason we do it.
The AA who took me through the steps got sober in 1970. According to GSO there where about 311,000 AA members then. He always introduces himself with his full name so you can look him up in the phone book or visit him in the hospital when he is dying.
I think most of us in AA would agree that Dr. Bob S. had a pretty good grasp on humility and anonymity. If you look on page 264 of “Dr Bob and the Goodoldtimers”, (AA conference approved literature of course) there is some good recollections of Dr Bob’s views on anonymity.
An AA member recalls Dr. Bob saying there were two ways to break the anonymity tradition: (1) by giving your name at the public level of press and radio: (2) by being so anonymous that you can’t be reached by other drunks.
Another member recollected that Dr. Bob commented as follows: “Since our tradition on anonymity designates the exact level where the line should be held, it must be obvious to everyone who can read and understand the English language that to maintain anonymity at any other level is definitely a violation of this tradition.
“The AA who hides his identity from his fellow AA by using only a given name violates the tradition just as much as the AA who permits his name to appear in the press in connection with matters pertaining to AA.
“The former is maintaining he anonymity ABOVE the level of press, radio, and films, and the latter is maintaining his anonymity BELOW the level of press, radio, and films-whereas the tradition states we should maintain our anonymity AT the level of press, radio, and films.”
I hope this helps clarify the issue of using full names in conjunction with AA meetings. As always, don’t take my word for it. Get yourself a copy of “Dr. Bob and the Goodoldtimers” and read it for yourself. Especially pages 264 & 265.
Thanks for reading,
That is all fine and well, and reasonable. however lately some AA members took pictures of someone in a meeting hall without there consent, do I really want people like this around me?
Thanks for the comments. I sincerely believe that you
are as concerned as the rest of us on Alcoholics Anonymous
being "the best we can be". I personally am not "torn
on the subject" any longer. I am convinced, as of today,
that it is best not to use full names when sharing at
an A.A. group meeting. We are anonymous. We are Alcoholics
Anonymous. Anonymous means "without any name acknowledged"
according to my dictionary.
Most of us do not hide our identity from our fellow
A.A. member. But any member ought to have the right to
do so for whatever reason. When I came into the fellowship
I held a job as an armed security officer. For years my
membership in A.A. was not known to my employer. As time
passed, sober years, my A.A. membership became less than
top secret. I was approached for information and help.
It can be disconcerting to try to visit someone in
the hospital without knowing their last name. But in
most cases, the name can be found. If not, "so be it".
Personally I agree with Dr. Bob. I want to enter
into the next world (heaven) without any fanfare. If
you can't find my last name, go out to an A.A. meeting
and try to help some other suffering alcoholic.
I have read most of the conference approved books. I
love the definition of humility, which Dr. Bob kept on
a plaque on his desk. It is written on page 222 in Dr.
Bob and the Good Oldtimers. Alcoholics Anonymous Comes
of Age and The Language of the Heart are gold mines
of information. I believe these books ought to be
"required reading" by the tenth year of sobriety.
You see that in 1970 A.A membership was 311,000.
In 1980 we had 907,575 members. This rate of growth
continued for another twelve years. Something has
happened. What happened? In 1992 we had almost two
and a half million A.A. members: 2,489,541, according
to GSO. Today we are "spinning our wheels", churning
at about 2,250,000 members. I don't have the exact
estimates in front of me.
There are numerous excuses, reasons for our lack
of growth. Some of them make some sense. But the reason
for our stagnation is that we have lost most of our
effectiveness in working with alcoholics. Our fellowship
has all but destroyed itself from within. The ship can
be turned around, but not without a lot of persistant
study and work. I believe most of the answers can be
found on the I-SAY FORUM. Thanks for the posting. ANONYMOUS
At the room where I have been attending meetings for the past two years or so, there are two or three collections of photos posted in the room. The majority of the photos are of members as they receive their anniversary medallions, others are of members or visitors posing around the room. I see this as personalities before principles, ego inflation, self recognition, and generally all the things that I have learned that this program is not about. Your thoughts, please.
From Box 459 Vol. 53, No. 1 / February-March 2007
Taking Pictures at A.A. Events
Think Before You Push, Pull or Click
Today, when photographing friends at an A.A. event is
as easy as whipping out a cell phone and taking aim, it is
just as easy to brush aside A.A.’s Eleventh Tradition,
which states, “Our public relations policy is based on
attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain
personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, and
films.” And, in fact, this Tradition has stood many tests
At the 1974 General Service Conference, then delegate
Ruth H. of Southeast New York, said, “Recently a local
member took a picture of all tables at a personal anniversary
meeting, not asking if anyone wished to be photographed.
The celebrant (with many years in A.A.) was
snapped with the speakers and cutting the cake, like at a
wedding. The photographer, when asked if he had permission
from those present to take their pictures, said,
‘This is my group and my camera!’ ” In another instance,
Ruth related, a member caught on camera celebrating his
anniversary “innocently left the picture on his home coffee
table. A neighbor came in, pointed to someone else in the
picture and said, ‘I didn’t know he was in A.A.’ ”
Because of such instances, Ruth reported, “the topic was
brought to our area assembly. Some people said, ‘Everybody
saw me drunk, so why should I hide in A.A.?” Many
thought, she noted, that newcomers might be scared away
or else decide it was all right to come to the next anniversary
meeting with camera in hand. After discussion, Ruth said,
“the assembly passed a motion that our area committee‘very strongly suggests’ no pictures be taken at any A.A.
meeting—to protect the anonymity of all present and not
frighten away newcomers, since picture-taking violates ‘the
spirit of the First, Eleventh and Twelfth Traditions.’ ”
Today, deciding whether or not to photograph members
at A.A. events is overall a matter of group conscience. For
instance, before and after the closing brunch of the annual
General Service Conference, there is much picture-taking—
but not during any of the general sessions. The collective
experience of A.A. indicates, says a General Service Office
staff member, that such a decision be reached only after
taking a group consensus. If the group conscience nixes picture-
taking, it would be wise to announce the decision, not
just once but periodically, to the group as a whole. And in
all cases, before a picture is taken of one or more members,
it is suggested that permission from them, as well as from
the appropriate group officer, be sought first.
Time and again experience has shown that for A.A.s,
being in the public eye is hazardous to our personal sobriety—
and to our collective survival if we break our
anonymity at the public level and then get drunk. Yet “A.A.
had to be publicized somehow,” as co-founder Bill W.
pointed out (A.A. Comes of Age, p. 129), “so we resorted to
the idea that it would be far better to let our friends do this
for us”—our seven nonalcoholic trustees among them.
They can face the camera head on or use their last names
without threat to themselves or the Fellowship. Thus they
reach many a suffering alcoholic with the A.A. message,
along with the professionals who counsel and treat them.
A section of the Public Information Workbook offers
guidelines on “Carrying the Message Through the Media:
Interviews and Anonymity.” It suggests that an A.A.
member who appears on radio, TV or the Internet and is
identified as such “will find it safer to carefully arrange
with the interviewer to use only his or her first name, and
to appear in such a way that identification is impossible.
The 1968 General Service Conference motioned that a
‘full-face appearance on TV is an anonymity break, even
though the name is withheld.’ ” However, it notes, if an
A.A. appears publicly just as a recovering alcoholic, without
disclosing A.A. membership, “no question of
anonymity arises. The A.A. appears like any other guest,
using full name and full-face picture.”
Importantly, “when appearing on interview programs,
as an A.A. member and with anonymity protected, explain
to the interviewer in advance that A.A.s traditionally confine
such discussions to the A.A. program. The member
does not speak on or qualify as an expert on the disease of
alcoholism, drugs, suicide rates, and so on.” Traditionally,
the P.I. Workbook adds, “A.A.s preface their remarks by
saying that they speak for themselves, not for the entire
Fellowship.” Generally, they stress that “the sole concern of
A.A. is the recovery and continued sobriety” of alcoholics
who turn to us for help. And “when we speak as A.A.s, we
are careful to say that A.A. has no opinion on other issues.”1948 issue of the Grapevine, Bill expressed, candidly yet
tongue-in-cheek, a thought that resonates now: “…we
have good friends both wet and dry, right and left. Like
most societies, we are sometimes scandalous—but never
yet in public. … Our friends of the press and radio have
outdone themselves. Anyone can see that we are in a fair
way to be spoiled. Our reputation is already so much better
than our actual character!”
Cameras of any kind have no place in an A.A. room
or at an A.A. event. Humility, expressed by anonymity,
is our most important safeguard. Rose
It is a two fold safeguard, for the group and for the individual.
I agree 1000%. In today's world of tell all the last thing I want is a video of a private moment. Closed meetings are just that closed. For a reason. When I go into a meeting I am just another drunk. Someone trying to be sober. No better or no less than anyone else.
Please read the tradition on anonymity: "Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio and films."
Are these photos place in a public building or in an AA club? If in a club, is it open to the general public? Is the club visited by members of the media?
Do you and the other members hide your faces at the meetings you attend?
Clubhouses are traditionally open to the public, including open meetings occasionly. Photos of group members taken with or without their permission has no place in public view. Perhaps a physician wants to come to that group? Or another person who wanted to or needed to keep his/her attendence at the meeting private? I've seen students required to attend open meetings come to our home group. A photograph on the wall would be a travesty of the traditions.