Most of today's A.A. members are sober. But how well
are we carrying the message to others? Nearly everyone
knows that our fellowship has stopped growing. Our lack
of humility has certainly harmed our groups and A.A.
Agreed, humility has been replaced by pride, which
leads the procession of the seven deadly sins. We are
doomed to failure. We haven't even a glimpse of humility.
Two through twelve explain to me exactly how to achieve this unity.
Many people think that praying is religious. It doesn’t matter if it’s the Lord’s Prayer (Christian denomination) or some other prayer. By virtue of it being a prayer it is religious. In a church, where group prayer often takes place, there may be some people who attend but don’t participate in the group prayer for various reasons. But it would be difficult to convince most people that the group prayer ceased being religious simply because some people don’t participate.
One reason the general public thinks that AA is religious is because so many meetings have group praying. Saying that the praying is “spiritual” will not change the public’s view that praying is religious. Saying that attendees don’t have to participate in the group prayer will still not change the public’s view that it is a religious practice. Thus, the AA meeting itself is viewed as religious.
In earlier posts there was a comparison of AA to the Boy Scouts, Consider this: if a Boy Scout troop always opened or closed their meeting with a group prayer, would the general public view that group as religious? Probably. There might be some people who would say that the group was “spiritual,” rather than religious because the troop’s group prayer did not occur during a church service. They would likely be a small minority of the general public.
I don’t know if Boy Scout troops engage in group prayer during their troop meetings. If they do, perhaps the majority of parents think this is a good thing, for the child’s own good. Similarly, many parents thought that prayer should be a part of the school day for their children because they thought it was beneficial and were not happy when this practice was discontinued. However, whether the parent liked the group prayer or not, it is unlikely the parent would have said the praying was “spiritual” rather than religious simply because the prayer did not occur during a church service.
The point is not to compare the issues of group prayer in public schools to group prayer in AA because there are clearly so many differences – AA members are adults and this does not create the same issues of subtle coercive pressure that it does in the elementary and secondary public schools, and AA members are voluntary attendees, whereas children must go to school, and schools are public institutions, whereas AA is a private organization. And so on.
The point is that in the previous decades when the battles over prayer in schools and prayer in other public and governmental institutions occurred, the awareness and sensitivity of the general public to the religious nature of group prayer has been elevated. We have become a society that less and less hears prayers outside of a church service. In Bill W.s era, group prayer was much more common - in all sorts of places. People simply accepted it and didn’t think about whether it was religious or not. That generation thought that “religion” had to be in a church or had to be associated with a specific denomination to be “religious.” Now, many people think that “religion” can be practiced outside of a specific church. And they think that a generic prayer to God is just as religious as a specific Christian prayer.
Ironically, the public’s view of prayer was changing in the very same decades that AA started increasing the practice of group prayer in meetings. Sort of like a perfect storm. As long the public continues to view prayer as religious and group prayer is a common practice in most AA meetings, the public’s view that AA is a religion / religious is unlikely to change.
When I think of a spiritual attitude toward prayer, I think of the words of Christ in the Matthew 6: 5-13 passage in the bible:
“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the heathens do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this: Our Father in heaven…”
Many modern people react negatively toward the ritualized group prayer in the church services of established religions. These people have an attitude similar to that expressed by Christ in Matthew 6:5-13. They prefer to view faith as an individual relationship with God, rather than a belief system that must be shared by all in the church. For many people, group prayer is a symbol of this type of regimented shared belief.
In AA’s 11th Step there is an emphasis on setting aside quiet time for private prayer, listening for God’s voice, meditation and study of spiritual matters. These are things the individual does for daily enrichment, spiritual growth and peace of mind.
In many ways, group praying seems antithetical to AA’s practice of spirituality, where each individual cultivates their private relationship with the God of their understanding. It doesn’t seem like publically declaring a relationship with God through group praying is really necessary to practice spirituality.
It seems like it would be more productive for the newcomer to have their sponsor work with them outside of meetings on learning to pray, meditate and study spiritual matters. Group prayer is a form of pressure to conform, and many newcomers are very uncomfortable with that, as they were in the established churches of their youth. Let them come to believe at their own pace and develop their individual, private way of praying - between them and God.
" Group prayer is a form of pressure to conform"
It certainly can be that. It can also be the place where we make a connection that we are a spiritual community.
"“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others."
I read that as outward acts of piety for the reward of acknowledgement. I can remember being overseas in a non-English speaking meeting where the joining of hands in prayer was extremely powerful. I am not religious myself, and do understand the concerns about religious prayers in meetings.
I have to admit I had to look up antithetical, I guess I'm not as learned as I thought! Anyway, group prayer is and has always been a part of AA meetings and individual members sobriety. starting the meetings with the serenity prayer started in the 1940's and using the Lords prayer was a custom carried over from the Oxford groups, I believe.
If you use step 11 in the big book, on page 87 it says " if circumstances warrant, we ask our wives or friends to join us in morning meditation". Another example is in tradition 3 in the 12x12, page 143. The salesman Ed (really Jim B. author of the vicious cycle in the big book)on page 144 "Ed" asks Bill W. and another friend if they have had their morning meditation yet.
You can find extensive reading in AA conference approved lit "Dr. Bob and the Good Oldtimers" about prayer and meditation. Also the non AA book about Ann Smiths journal is enlightening as well.
I doubt that Jim B., Bill W. and Bill's friend held hands
when they prayed. This ritual began in the meetings I attended in the 1980's. This is only one of the changes
which took place in that decade. Collectively those
mistakes (called blunders by Bill W.) have almost
destroyed our fellowship. The evidence is our stagnation,
our lack of growth for two decades. ANONYMOUS
I don’t like prayer in AA meetings. Haven’t liked it for over 33 years. Didn’t like getting vaccinations when I was a kid, didn’t like homework, don’t like a Mediterranean diet instead of steak and potatoes, don’t like taking a handful of meds every day for heart disease, don’t like exercise, would rather spend money as soon as I get it.
I have a life-long history of not liking what’s good for me, why would prayer be any different?
good point! I really, I mean really liked alcohol. I really didn't like being sober. That got me a good case of chronic alcoholism. I didn't and still don't like self examination, meditation, prayer, and working with others. I do however like the effects of doing so. If I waited until I liked this program to do it, I would be dead by now.
My name is Mike, alcoholic.
Thanks for the interesting and thoughtful articles on group prayer in AA meetings, especially as they adversely affect AA’s public relations and reputation.
How AA got the reputation of being a religious cult or some type of religion is self- evident to me. I have been sober for 23 years and have attended AA meetings in many parts of the USA and Canada. These are my general observations of the thousands of meetings I have attended.
The vast majority of AA groups in North America (I estimate a minimum 90%) open their meetings with the Serenity prayer and close with the Lord's Prayer. The Lord's Prayer, a Christian prayer, is conducted in a prayer circle, another religious practice. Meetings are punctuated with many chants practiced by numerous religious cults. Many groups hold their meetings in church buildings but few ever disclaim being part of the church and only rent the meeting rooms. Individuals often share at length their concept of God quoting from the Bible or other religious books.
Seeing and hearing these meeting practices, what is the newcomer, visitor or professional attending supposed to think or believe? Many members share at meetings that AA is a spiritual program and non- religious. This statement would be great if only it were remotely true. It has now become (IMO) an oxymoron of the nth degree. If we want AA and our meetings to be strictly spiritual then we need to stop all religious practices. In my, probably less than humble opinion, we can’t have it both ways.
I no longer participate in and openly discourage meeting prayers, prayer circles, chanting, and religious sharing (for or against). I do not share my concept of God or Higher Power during meetings. Our spiritual paths are personal and no one else’s business.
I am in the minority on this issue and I am grateful that AA goes to great lengths to protect minority opinions. I believe the religious issues we face in AA today play a large part in our negative public relations, lack of attraction and growth as well as record low recovery rates over the past 20+ years.
We no longer live in a Judeo/Christian church going society of the 1930’s when AA was founded. We now live in a multi cultured, pluralistic, non-religious society. Many AA members attend religions other than the Christian and Jewish faiths.
AA needs to maintain unity, continue to grow and carry the message to the still suffering alcoholic. To do so we must be as inclusive as possible without the outside issue of religion destroying those things we work so hard to achieve.
Thanks for my sobriety.
It still fascinates that you have such an understanding
of our mistakes at the meeting level. Most of these blunders
had already taken place by 1990. But, as you wrote before,
you have had some wise members around you.
By 1990 the 24 hour book had become part of A.A. Tradition. Daily Reflections was published about the same
time. This reader is a slightly watered-down conference
approved version of the 24 hour book. I am convinced that
Bill and his friends would not have accepted Daily
Reflections as acceptable for our fellowship. Religion
had already made its entrance. The reading of HIW solidifies
the religion element.
I recently was at a meeting where conference approved
books and literature was placed on a separate table from
non approved material. This non AA material must be
removed from the A.A. rooms, not placed on separate tables.
One big problem is the lack of Group Conscience meetings.
How can we depend on the integrity of the group conscience
when we don't even have one. The group conscience ought
to decide how to close a meeting. Bill W.'s Dear Russ
letter helped me to understand that process. The letter
is easy to access.
Let me describe the "Format Of The 1970's: First of
all there was absolutely no chanting. NONE. We did
not "hold hands and pray". We closed meetings with
the Lords Prayer. Most of us knew the words. We did not
force anyone to join in, like we do today with the
kindergarten "ring around the rosy" circle. This has
proven to be a serious mistake.
Members and speakers talked only about themselves..
No one told anyone else what to do. We did not say,
well, if you want what I have you will have to do what
I did, or even worse, what I tell you to do.
We did express our own beliefs. My release from near
death came to me from God, through Jesus Christ. I share
that part of my life when I tell my story. I feel I
would be remiss if I failed to share that part of my
story. "Express the spiritual feature freely". I tell
exactly what happened to me. The desire to drink was
lifted from me 43 years ago and has never returned.
A stiff drink of liquor will bring it back, if I
ever decide to have even one drink. I respect that.
We shared "round robin" No one was made a spectacle
of. No one was allowed to make a spectacle of himself/herself. Meetings were reverent. Some would
call us a glum lot. We were serious. Alcoholism is a
serious illness. We get well by using the steps. But
this has nothing to do with carrying the A.A. message
to others who suffer. This is very difficult to
understand. It took Dr. Silkworth twenty years to
figure out the technique. And He discovered it as
an experiment while working with Bill W. It has to
do with the rebellious nature of the alcoholic. If
we give the alcoholic absolutely nothing to rebel
against, we can't go wrong. When we start telling
them what to do, they fade away. They do not say
"don't tell me what to do". They just quietly vanish.
We may seem to be in the minority, but I feel
that a lot of current members share our opinions.
It is very difficult to stand up and speak out.
We have two million members. But we have another
six million members who will return if we can restore
A.A. to the Format of the 1970's. And these members
who know about A.A. can attract the other twenty five
million out there suffering. I describe them as
"on the loose". Thirty million in the US and Canada.
We can again become a fellowship of attraction.
How could any alcoholic refuse what we have to offer?
Thanks for your continued service. As someone else wrote:
A true friend of Bill's. ANONYMOUS
Thanks for your feedback on my post regarding Group prayers and the breaking of Traditions in AA meetings. Your history lesson how AA got into the mess we are in today is greatly appreciated. It’s reassuring to know I am not alone in my observations and opinions and that others share my concerns and fears for AA’s future.
I believe you are right regarding chanting, prayer circles, use of non AA approved literature (i.e. Hazelton’s 24 hour book – too religious) and the lack of group conscience on so many issues occurring in AA meetings.
I disagree with the use of group prayers at AA meetings whether the Lord’s Prayer, Serenity Prayer or any other prayer. I will pray on my time outside the meetings and I wish others would do the same. I believe prayer is something personal between me and my higher power. I believe in the practice of personal prayer and do so every day but do not participate in group prayer at AA meetings. Group prayer (IMO) is without any doubt a religious practice and has no place in AA meetings. The practice was as wrong in the 1930’s as it is today. When members expound on their concept of God be it Jesus Christ, Buddha, or any other Deity it crosses the line from spirituality into religion of which AA has no opinion as religion is an outside issue. The AA preamble states, “AA is not allied with any sect or denomination”.
I agree that the reverence and humility of our meetings has been replaced by treatment centre psycho- babble and all types of promotion that is getting progressively worse over time. Many meetings today remind me of 1960’s love-ins, high school pep rallies and religious revival meetings. I attended all of these in my youth and never thought I would have to relive them in AA meetings today.
It appears many attend AA meetings to have fun and socialize rather than carry their message of hope and recovery to the still suffering alcoholic. The purpose of all AA groups is to carry the message of recovery though the teaching and practice of our Steps and Traditions. This responsibility is serious business that should never be forgotten or lost in all the humour and frivolity that exists in many of today’s meetings. We are not a glum lot and I enjoy a good belly laugh as much as anyone providing I am laughing at myself and not others. I do believe that we need to keep things in perspective … first things first!
My primary purpose is lost when I attempt to conduct a stand-up comedy act or try converting others to my concept of God or religion. When asked I share my experience, strength and hope in a general way. I am not there to entertain but only to share my story; how I recovered from alcoholism; a seemingly hopeless state of body and mind.
Those 6 million that you want us to set out chairs for, will they be returning wet or dry?
Wet or dry, they will become sober members of A.A. if
we approach them as Bill approached Dr. Bob in the spring
of 1935, in weakness and humility. Pride became A.A.'s
worst enemy. Bill warned us in an article to the Grapevine
in June 1961. Humility for Today, Page 254 in The Language
of the Heart. Bill W. left us all kinds of warnings. He
predicted all of our blunders one by one. Pride is what
has ruined A.A. at the group level. Our leadership has
been spoiled by greed. And six million is a very
conservative number. If A.A. had sustained it's rate of
growth until today we would have ten million members
in A.A. today. Our membership ought to double at least every ten years. "Each one reach one". Don't put those
chairs away. ANONYMOUS
Another wild goose chase as usual. There is no dire warning of group anything.
“… yet we may not be within hailing distance of humility…”My plan is correct and yours is faulty…You are hurting AA and I’m going to stop you cold”
“We need only investigate ourselves… “
“When I inventory such defects…”
The reading tells about is about Bill learning how to take a moral inventory, prayer and meditation, continued inventory. Step four, step eleven, step ten.
Sounds like you want to do some kind of giant bait and switch (or maybe just bait). Just get the numbers up and everything will take care of itself. Come in, come in, sit and enjoy coffee with us for an hour and your life will become a bowl of cherries. No cost, no forms to sign, nothing to do. Just enjoy.
I came in to AA. I didn’t like the prayers or any other God stuff. I didn’t like the steps. I didn’t want a sponsor. I didn’t even want to stop drinking, I just wanted to get rid of the problems drinking was causing. Men and women were open and honest. Some talked about the same kinds of problems that I faced. They talked about the four items listed above working to solve those problems for them. Sometimes they had to turn the volume up about SUGGESTIONS. My thinking was screwed up, why wouldn’t it be? I had gone through life thinking alcohol was solving my problems. I sometimes needed a loud wake-up call. It’s called tough love and I got it and I give it and it works.
Lots of other alcoholics don’t like the four items. Some drink and die. Some drink and come back with a little more humility. Most we don’t know where they are. In any case men and women would rather face active alcoholism and all of its misery than surrender to some very simple concepts. We suffer from a severe mental disorder. Within some reasonable bounds our presentation of what we have to offer will attract them or it won’t. Any of us who have been around a while have seen brilliant people die, good people die, needless people die. They didn’t die because we didn’t pitch the product well enough.
Before you point a finger at me and MY WAY, check the source. I leave the remaining remnants of MY WAY outside the door when I participate in AA. Those suffering from Alcoholism deserve better, they deserve AA's way.
"Look what you people have done to us. You have
convinced us that we are alcoholics and that our lives
are unmanageable. Having reduced us to a state of absolute
helplessness, you NOW declare that none but a Higher Power
can remove our obsession." Most will recognize this as
copied from page one of step two.
Yes, this is indeed a clear case of "bait and switch".
But in the fellowship this is like baiting with a Chevrolet,
and switching to a Cadillac, fully equipped, for the
price advertised for the Chevrolet. Who could refuse such
This tells me there is a time lapse between inviting
an alcoholic to join us for coffee, and telling him
he must find God and Find Him NOW. I believe that time
lapse ought to be more than 20 minutes. ANONYMOUS
I believe that many have died because we have choked
them to death. We crammed the steps down their throats.
Bill W. explains this in a September 1945 issue of the
A.A. Grapevine. The article is printed in The Language of
the Heart, beginning on page 6.
It's been my experience that most chronic alcoholics will die without AA and the 12 steps anyway whether they are crammed down throats or not. Just research solutions to alcohlism prior to AA. If the steps chase newcomers out of AA, Alcohol will chase them right back.
AA and our 12 steps are for alcoholics that need and want them, not just need them.
I had a great experience tonight. I went to a meeting in Aekly Minnesota. Aekly has a population of around 400. The meeting I went to was a big book meeting. 22 in attendance including myself. everyone introduced themselves as alcoholics, spoke breifly, and closed the meeting within 1 hour. There were handshakes and hugs before and after and lots of laughs. one of the members said he couldn't stay sober until 2 years ago when he worked the steps as best he could with his sponsor out of the big book. I'm glad he felt free to share his experience without any oversensitive AA member feeling he was cramming the steps down their throat!
Agreed, most chronic alcoholics will die without A.A.
They approach us and we read HIW to them, telling them
to find God and find Him Now! We read the steps at every
meeting, which I consider cramming them down the throats
of new and old members.
How could anyone possibly object to a member sharing that he worked the steps out of the big book? And that he
found that he could not stay sober until he had done this.
And he has been sober two years. A wonderful testimony.
But to tell ANYONE else, "this is the way I did it, it
is the only way to sobriety". Do as I did, or even worse,
do what I tell you to do, is harmful to everyone.
The whole program of A.A., steps and BB are meant
to be suggestive only. The problem we face, and it is
a problem, is that we do not understand or accept the
definition of suggestion as it relates to A.A. ANONYMOUS
yeah it can harm a lot of people when we mention God, only if they misunderstand. God can be anything you want to make it to be. G-good O-orderly D-direction. however read chapter 3 in the big book on the last page, on the last paragraph and it will tell you. This fact is what saved my life.
The other thing you mentioned that can harm a person is when you said about using suggestions and not advise. When I first went in the program I wanted advise more than anything else, and really learned even more when someone put me in my place. My sponsor told me that I had a lot of humility, not to say I wasn't arrogant, self-centred, and ignorant. I seemed to have learned to shut up, listen, and do as I was told, because I knew my life depended on it, and I wanted desperately not only to be sober, but content in my life.
Really if this bothers you, it's your problem. Life's to short to get pissed.
When I was eighteen years old I turned away from the church in which I was brought up. I am now seventy-seven years old and have not returned to that church or to any other. I do not take part in religious ceremonies except for weddings or funerals. So I feel safe in saying I am not a religious person nor do I practice any particular religion.
I believe in a Higher Power whom I call God.
I have faith in that Higher Power, since He has kept me sober for nearly forty-two years.
I pray to my Higher Power, God, every morning in my eleventh step and every night when I review my day. I use any prayer which puts into words what I want to say, no matter who was the author of it.
I am personally acquainted with a number of AA members who believe, have faith, and pray on a regular basis but do not attend any church.
We do not claim that AA is our religion. Nor do we try to push our beliefs on anyone else by complaining about those in AA who do belong to a church. We believe that AA is a fellowship which has a program by which we can get and stay sober.
To put it in another way, I, and many of my AA friends, are so busy staying sober and passing on the message of sobriety to newcomers that we don't have time to worry about whether or not someone else in AA goes to church.
An A.A. meeting is not a prayer group. It may have been
that way in the very early beginning. Perhaps that is
why it took four years to gather a hundred members.
The "hold hands and pray" ritual began in the 1980's
in the Northeast. We could diminish the public's view
of A.A. being a religion, if we cease the "Ring around the
Rosy", "hold hands and pray closing.
Thanks for an intelligent message. This "perfect storm"
is still raging, at a horrible price. Not only are we
failing hundreds of thousands every year. We are going
to fail generations to come. ANONYMOUS
I think group prayer should cease in AA meetings. It makes AA look like a religion.
"I think group prayer should cease in AA meetings. It makes AA look like a religion."
Religion is not bad Religious is go ask you sponsor and find out !
As long as we continue to pray at A.A. meetings, we
will continue to look like a religion. I ask you to please
bring your "opinion" to the group. Preferably through the
group conscience meeting. If your group has no such thing
talk to the group as you share. I warn you, it will not
be easy. Many old-timers have made A.A. their church,
and opposition will be fierce. They want to run things
through their position as sponsors. The sheep just follow
them. Don't give up! Future generations of alcoholic
sufferers are depending on us. If you delete praying
at just one meeting, maybe other concerned members will
follow. We have to start somewhere. ANONYMOUS
I always thought that the primary purpose of an AA group was defined in Tradition Five: “Each group has but one primary purpose-to carry its message to the alcoholic who still suffers.”
However, in these forums I’ve seen many references to a statement in the conference approved pamphlet “The AA Group” saying that the AA group’s primary purpose is “to help alcoholics recover through AA’s suggested 12 Steps of recovery." (page 29)
I never realized that an AA group’s primary purpose had been changed and was now so limited. Evidently, Tradition Five’s broad charter for AA groups to carry a “message” of hope is obsolete. When was the decision made to change the wording of an AA group’s primary purpose from “message” to “12 Steps”?
Our Primary Purpose: - to stay sober and help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety.
Our Singleness of Purpose: - alcohol
Our Sole Purpose: - sobriety - freedom from alcohol - through the teaching and practice of AA's Twelve Steps, is the sole purpose of the group.
The pamphlet, The AA GROUP was first published in 1965, so it’s been around for awhile. If that’s news to you, read the 12x12, it’s been around longer. On page 151 of the 12x12, it says “our Society has concluded that it has but one high mission-to carry the AA message to those who don’t know there is a way out. We are not shoving the steps down anybody’s throat, but we should be practicing them ourselves and sharing about them at AA meetings. If an AA member chooses to not work the steps, that is their business, but they should not tell us not to use the 12 steps or not to discuss the steps at our meetings.
Where have you ever read to carry “A” message? I don’t know, maybe you mistook “A” message for where it says carry “AA’s” message, which to me are the 12 steps. That is why Bill W wanted to put our message in print. To keep the A’s and AAA’s from being confused with AA!
It’s easy to take a piece of a tradition and turn it into what we want it to be. We can easily use our rationalizing powers beyond alcohol. We ought to look at all the literature on the traditions to get a true meaning of AA tradition.
If the steps are not AA’s message, why do we continue to print the big book and 12x12 that give clear cut direction on the 12 step AA program?
Anyway, I think tradition five is mostly saying that in AA we stick to carrying our message of recover to alcoholics, not addicts and other problems.
To me the groups message is the 12 steps. What other message do we have that 200 other fellowships have adopted with AA's permission? If it is don't drink one day at a time, every halfway house and treatment center in the United States would be full of sober alcoholics!
Tradition Five hasn't changed, except in the minds of those who need something to complain about. The purpose of an AA group is to carry the message of recovery from alcoholism, not recovery from obsessive gambling, overeating, drug addiction, etc.
This is further explained in one of our pamphlets, which states, "Sobriety - Freedom from alcohol - through the teaching and practice of the Twelve steps, is the sole purpose of an A.A. group.
I wish you'd explain how this has limited a group's primary purpose. Do you really think the group's message is/was/should be Don't drink and go to meetings and call your sponsor?
I attended a group in another town yesterday. As usual, good meeting with good people staying sober one day at a time. The gentleman sitting immediately to my right introduced himself as a heroin addict. The group made no mention of the meeting being open or closed, so I assumed it was an open meeting.
After the meeting I had a little chat with the heroin addict. I asked him if he fit in with the group. He said he got out of prison 5 months ago and has been clean for about two years. He said some oldtimers have asked him to leave their meetings, but he has a desire to stop drinking so he can come to the AA meeting. He said if he drinks it will lead him back to other drugs. I thought of tradition 3 long form, “our membership ought to include all who suffer from alcoholism”. I think you have to have an alcoholism problem to go along with your desire to stop drinking. I was trying to be a nice guy, so I didn’t say anything.
Anyway, I then asked him this, “Why don’t you go to NA?” He said it doesn’t really exist in that town. My next question was, “Why don’t you start a NA or heroin anonymous group? You will never be able to carry the message of recovery from alcoholism from your own experience to another alcoholic. You can’t give a strait AA talk from a podium. If you start a group of your own, you can do 12 step work by identifying with those who have your problem”.
He then told me the truth. He goes to 2 AA meetings a day to stay sober and has never worked the steps and sees no need to do 12 step work because he has made it 5 months sober outside of prison. I said glad to meet you and asked him again to think about starting his own meeting.
Is attending a couple of AA meetings a day a common plan for sobriety? I have always lived in smaller towns that don’t have that many meetings. I stay sober by applying the 12 steps in my daily life. I have a hard time imagining the meeting a day plan. Can a person really go to 1 or 2 meetings a day for the rest of their life? To each his own I guess, It just sounds like a sure way to fail. That many meetings would certainly come between me and my family, job, sponsoring newcomers, and any vacations or fun activities.
I shouldn’t judge! I drove 80 miles out of my way to attend that meeting yesterday!
I know I am told not to judge, but. I have tried numerous times to encourage drug addicts to start a
meeting where they can identify with each other. My
concern is personal. My only son is a drug addict. He
has attended A.A. meetings, probably has an alcohol
problem, has attended N.A. meetings with me and on
his own. At least four rehabs. He does not feel that
he fits in anywhere.
You seem to think that an alcoholic's solution is
found in the twelve steps. The twelve steps are an
aid in recovery. But the solution to alcoholism goes
much deeper than that. An alcoholic who has gotten
sober through the process of the twelve steps can
pass that sobriety on to another suffering alcoholic
with ease. We only have to follow some very simple
basic rules. This technique takes skill, self control
and intense personal sacrifice. Rarely will we fail if
we just follow this path: Stop telling suffering
alcoholics what to do. Not even recommending what
they ought to do.
In order to effectively carry the message to the
masses, we only share own story. Stop saying, Well,
if you want what we(I) have, you will have to do what
I did, or even worse, do what I tell you to do.
Did you offer to help this Heroin addict to form
a "real" N/A type meeting? Five months of attending
A.A. meetings is not going to prepare him to start
a meeting. Please offer to help him, or find someone
closer to your location. Bill W. tells us we ought
to consider helping the drug addict. He/She is not
helped by continuing to allow them to be members of
Alcoholics Anonymous. then everyone loses. ANONYMOUS
If all it took was skill, self control, and intense personal sacrifice I would have recovered long ago. Take your skill, self control,intense personal sacrifice theory and start a sscips anonymous meeting. I wish you all the luck in the world. Please let us know how many alcoholics you get sober without using the AA name and program.
I have all the luck in the world, thank you. I was
granted sobriety before A.A. became so distorted. I do
regret being part of the distortion.
I do think you misunderstood my sscips statement. No,
these are of no use getting sober. If they were, I would
not have needed A.A. But these are the qualities a sober
alcoholic needs in order to pass the message to another.
Bill tells us how to pass the message. Read Page 70
in Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age. Spiritual Pride
and arrogance are the enemy of transferring the message.
Read "Humility for Today" Page 254 in Lang of the Heart.
Bill writes a strange story about fool's gold. ANONYMOUS
Only in AA can you hear someone talk about not telling others what to do and then proceed to tell others what to do!
Thanks God Bill W didn’t wait until he was 5 months sober to start a group, thank God Dr. Bob didn’t think he was too new to start a meeting. Thank God most of the founders of meetings throughout the US and the rest of the world didn’t think they had to be sober for long periods of time to start a group or meeting. It they thought the way you do, we would all be dead like most of the alcoholics throughout history prior to June 10, 1935.
"It (1 or 2 meetings a day for the rest of their life)just sounds like a sure way to fail. That many meetings would certainly come between me and my family, job, sponsoring newcomers, and any vacations or fun activities."
EXACTLY. I wish I had said that.
I started to attending a group that was infected with "Just go to meetings and don't drink in between" and to answer your question yes, there is a lot of that going on.
I started throwing out lines like "I couldn't NOT drink. Sounds like my mother-in-law in here".
I couldn't get it with a**mosis just setting on the same chair as sober people.
You can get warm by wetting the bed, but it doesn't last long.
Would you tell somebody to keep coming to the pool and watch people who took the lessons swim and don't drown in between?
Some got the message. At least they don't do it around me.
As far as the addict goes, relying on him or her to do the right thing isn't a solution. The group conscience needs to provide a clear policy and a group leader to employ it. We've always had addicts attending since I started 33 years ago. Has it hurt us. I can't judge. If we kicked them out would they die? I don't know. If we kick them out would NA get better? Probably.
I too have been sober a little over 33 years. In California - the land of fruits and nuts. I now live in the Palm Springs area. Before I moved here I lived in Orange County and worked at Central Office every Monday AM with my sponsor. We received a call one Monday AM from an irate sober alky. He arrived in town Sat night. Called and was told there was an AA meeting not far from where he was staying. He went there Sunday afternoon and heard nothing but Narcotics type of talk. I was a member of the 'Group RElations' Committee and told him I would look into it. Also reported this to our Central Office manager. Next Sunday I went to the meeting and sure as heck he was right.
After the meeting I took the secretary aside and told her that she was breaking AA traditions. She apoligized and said that would stop. To make the long story short this happened repeatedly during the next few months. Finally our C.O. manager went to the group on a Sunday. Sure as heck they were still breaking traditions. She gave them a check for their contributions so far and told them they would be taken out of our 'AA Directory'.
It wasn't long before the group died by itself.
God took care of our problem!
Often I hear about how "our group is autonomous" which is a PART of the 4th Tradition (Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or A.A. as a whole). I have seen problems for groups when the second half of the tradition is ignored. The word "except" is a big word.
It seems to me that the second half of the 4th Tradition is as important and maybe even more important than the first half of the Tradition. If we do whatever we want, in regards to our groups, and disregard AA as whole, we could be in collective trouble someday.
Thanks for sharing your comments on the 4th.
I believe AA has long been in serious trouble as a result of groups and individuals breaking with this Tradition.
There is very little that AA groups do that doesn't affect other groups or AA as a whole in a positive or negative manner. It is my experience that many groups could care less if they are affecting AA in a negative way; after all the 12x12 tells us that every group has the right to be wrong. I must admit that the comment on the right to be wrong sticks in my craw more than any other in our literature.
I believe the comment is wrong, selfish, irresponsible and a source of many of AA's problems today.
I have been told that what other groups do or don't do is none of my business. When I attend meetings other than my home group and traditions are being broken am I to let it be? If I think other groups or AA as a whole are being harmed am I to do nothing because it's none of my business? I think not!
Any issue that breaks the principals of unity as laid out in the Traditions are a serious threat to the survival of our live saving and life giving fellowship.
So I will continue to speak up whenever I observe or hear individuals and groups breaking with the Traditions.
If I don't stand for something I will fall for anything.
Thanks for my sobriety.
I have always questioned the value of Bill's writing of
that statement. I personally feel that Bill gave us too
much credit as far as intelligence goes. I am of average
or below the average of intelligence, but when I read some
of the messages posted, I can see that we have what I call
dumbed-down. Not only A.A. but society in general.
Bill had absolute faith that faults in A.A. would be
self correcting. I think Bill underestimated the power
of greed and the alcoholic EGO. I still believe that the
"ship can be turned around", but it is going to be a
fierce battle. We have to separate A.A from religion.
We have to separate alcoholics from drug addicts.
I believe that Bill expected that we would honor
tradition two, with the fully informed group conscience
correcting our mistakes. But group conscience meetings
are few and far between. Even those are run or controlled
by power driving individuals.
I personally feel that Bill was just telling us that
we will make mistakes. No one can be punished for
wrong doing. We have the right to be wrong. But if
something is wrong, IMO, it ought to be corrected.
Tradition two gives us the tool with which to decide
if something is wrong. Or they could just ask me. (LOL)
Thanks for that, I agree. Each AA group is a group within a group. Each group that thinks it is autonomous is a dysfunctional group within a group.
Circles of Love and Service pamphlet http://www.aa.org/pdf/products/p-45_circleoflove.pdf
I have recently been concerned about anonymity in meetings when cell phones ae in use.
I have witnessed pictures and videos being taken in a meeting without the members consent. When the member who was taking these pictures was approached he just tossed t off as though WE were the problem. This guy has over 10 years sober. I am sure that cell phones have been left with their speakerphone ON during a meeting so the called party could "listen in" to the meeting.
If Anonymity is te spiritual FOUNDATION should this issue not be addresses throughout our fellowship?
What are your thoughts about this issue?
“…should this issue not be addresses throughout our fellowship?”
It already has. It’s tradition 12 and it couldn’t be more clear. As far as I’m concerned every member is responsible for its implementation at all times. I try to be as tactful as I can but immediate action is indicated in this situation and I don't care who I have to interrupt, who get embarrassed, or who gets their little feelings hurt. AA offers excellent solutions for those suffering from self centeredness and being oversensitive.
You just showed a great example of what a poor indicator actual (or claimed) length of sobriety is for QUALITY of sobriety. I recently confronted an attorney with 35 years about a racial slur. He danced around trying to defend it but soon other members started lining up, putting principals before personalities. If he ever reached the point of admitting he was wrong and getting the wonderful relief and growth it brings, I didn’t see it but he certainly changed his behavior.
Because we are part of an organization whose admission requirements are peoples liabilities, not their assets, we’d be wise to expect problems wouldn’t we? As time passes and we get over our initial defiance, complacency sets in for a while and finally dementia takes over. If our lives didn’t depend on AA we’d be crazy to put up with it. On the other hand, it’s the best thing that has ever happened in my life. A life I wouldn’t trade for any one elses on the planet today. May you enjoy the same.
Tradition 3 short form says our only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. I can remember when it said “honest” desire.
Tradition 3 long form says our membership ought to include all who suffer from alcoholism.
I was listening to a speaker recently who stated you are not a member of AA unless you have a home group, a job in that home group, and have worked the 12 steps. I know the speaker was well aware of tradition 3. I think what he may have meant to say is there is a huge difference between going to AA meetings and being an active member of AA.
Please remember if you are new that not everyone who attends AA meetings is an active member of AA. Our meetings are open to anyone who thinks they have a problem with alcohol. If your first meeting seems off the beam and you find nothing attractive, please attend other meetings in your area until you find the fellowship and quality sobriety you seek. Those groups are not too hard to recognize. You will find enthusiasm, happiness, and from my experience, active sponsorship and 12 step work.
May God bless you and keep you—until then,
"honest desire" appears to fall into AA "urban legend" category along with "never have we seen a person fail..."
On Tradition Three
"The only requirement for A.A. membership is a desire to stop drinking."
Editorial by Bill W.
A.A. Grapevine, February, 1948
"Our membership ought to include all who suffer alcoholism. Hence we may refuse none who wish to recover. Nor ought A.A. membership ever depend upon money or conformity. Any two or three alcoholics gathered together for sobriety may call themselves an A.A. group, provided that, as a group, they have no other affiliation."
This is a sweeping statement indeed; it takes in a lot of territory. Some people might think it too idealistic to be practical. It tells every alcoholic in the world that he may become, and remain, a member of Alcoholics Anonymous so long as he says so. In short, Alcoholics Anonymous has no membership rule.
Why is this so? Our answer is simple and practical. Even in self protection, we do not wish to erect the slightest barrier between ourselves and the brother alcoholic who still suffers. We know that society has been demanding that he conform to its laws and conventions. But the essence of his alcoholic malady is the fact that he has been unable or unwilling to conform either to the laws of man or God. If he is anything, the sick alcoholic is a rebellious nonconformist. How well we understand that; every member of Alcoholics Anonymous was once a rebel himself. Hence we cannot offer to meet him at any half-way mark. We must enter the dark cave where he is and show him that we understand. We realize that he is altogether too weak and confused to jump hurdles. If we raise obstacles, he might stay away and perish. He might be denied his priceless opportunity.
So when he asks, "Are there any conditions?" we joyfully reply, "No, not a one." When skeptically he comes back saying, "But certainly there must be things that I have to do and believe," we quickly answer, "In Alcoholics Anonymous there are no musts." Cynically, perhaps, he then inquires, "What is this all going to cost me?" We are able to laugh and say, "Nothing at all, there are no fees and dues." Thus, in a brief hour, is our friend disarmed of his suspicion and rebellion. His eyes begin to open on a new world of friendship and understanding. Bankrupt idealist that he has been, his ideal is no longer a dream. After years of lonely search it now stands revealed. The reality of Alcoholics Anonymous bursts upon him. For Alcoholics Anonymous is saying, "We have something priceless to give, if only you will receive." That is all. But to our new friend, it is everything. Without more ado, he becomes one of us.
Our membership tradition does contain, however, one vitally important qualification. That qualification relates to the use of our name, Alcoholics Anonymous. We believe that any two or three alcoholics gathered together for sobriety may call themselves an A.A. group provided that, as a group, they have no other affiliation. Here our purpose is clear and unequivocal. For obvious reasons we wish the name Alcoholics Anonymous to be used only in connection with straight A.A. activities. One can think of no A.A. member who would like, for example, to see the formation of "dry" A.A. groups, "wet" A.A. groups, Republican A.A. groups, Communist A.A. groups. Few, if any, would wish our groups to be designated by religious denominations. We cannot lend the A.A. name, even indirectly to other activities, however worthy. If we do so we shall become hopelessly compromised and divided. We think that A.A. should offer its experience to the whole world for whatever use can be made of it. But not its name. Nothing could be more certain.
Let us of A.A. therefore resolve that we shall always be inclusive, and never exclusive, offering all we have to all men save our title. May all barriers be thus leveled, may our unity thus be preserved. And may God grant us a long life - and a useful one!
The A.A. Grapevine, February, 1948
"honest desire" appears to fall into AA "urban legend" category along with "never have we seen a person fail..."
Please explain how "never have we seen a person fail..." is an urban legend. According to Snopes, "Urban legends are best described as cautionary or moralistic tales passed along by those who believe (or claim) the incidents befell either folks they know personally or acquaintances of friends or family members."
According to the Big Book, third and fourth editions, page xiv, "The only requirement for membership is an honest desire to stop drinking."
Corey, Exactly when was the word Honest deleted from the
third tradition. Was it in the tradition when they were
accepted by the General Service Conference in 1950. That
was the year I first heard of Alcoholics Anonymous. I
joined the fellowship twenty years later. Was the word
Honest written in fhe Preamble when it first appeared? Was
that 1946? I am glad that it was deleted back then. Maybe
the time has come to remove it again.
I have a friend who attends our Sat Morning step
meeting. This is the only A.A meeting he attends. He has
tried other meetings and he says they are not worth
the time and effort. He spends the time at work and
with his family. I go to that meeting because that is
the only time I get to see him. And he makes great
coffee. He has only been sober for two years but
honestly seems reasonably happy with his life. ANONYMOUS
Gsc advisory action 1957
HONEST a present word that takes courage not past tense. At one time due to the fear of embarrassment I thought it was making up something when you had to make it up, I can assure you I wasn’t HONEST because I was going around and tell every body the truth after the fact to relive myself at their expense. Today I can be honest with myself and ALL the people around me I no longer have to have a parole officer pull my covers in A.A. The promise of A.A. came true that I will be able to intuitively handle situations that use to baffle me, and understand clearly why it doesn’t happen to everyone around A.A.
Poor me. Look at what’s passed off as AA today that I have to put up with. Dogma and distortion, watered down word games and worse. Poor me. Would some body pour me a drink.