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.
I think it's a 12th tradition related comment, not so much 11th--unless the photos are in a location televised or involved in some other fashion related to the media. These photos are in a 12 Step Room of Alcoholics Anonymous.
My thoughts are that photos of members should not be posted in the room--nor should any other non-Conference approved items, for that matter. The posting of photos seems to smack of self promotion/recognition, pride, ego, etc. Doesn't it lack humility? Doesn't it place personalities before principles? What if a particular member's photo appeared many times among the photos? Couldn't it lead to big shotism? Would a newcomer tend to think that guy who is in so many photos is in charge of AA? I could be wrong, but I don't believe photos of our founders appeared in any rooms until after their death (and those wonderful men were not in charge of AA either). Guess who is?
I have been attending meetings at a group in another country that has pictures of members posted in the room (most, as they receive their anniversary medallions). From what you have taught me in the Rooms of AA, I don't think these pictures have a place in an AA room--I feel they represent issues with our 12th Tradition and anonymity/humility (all very closely related). Thoughts, please.
I am 2 years so into meetings, and 3 months sober, my bottom was 2008 , which was really a top because I graduated both college and rehab!!! I guess I had too much knowledge. Anyway I like what I am getting and I will keep coming back. I have a sponsor and thinking about making the my noon group my home home group even though my first meeting was somewhere else!!
Listed below are some facts on AA’s view on anonymity, in this case using last names in meetings, as written in the AA conference approved pamphlet understanding anonymity:
At the personal level, anonymity provides protection for all members from identification as alcoholics, a safeguard often of special importance to newcomers.
…….such a disclosure, however, is always their own choice: AA as a whole seeks to ensure that individual members stay as private and protected as they wish, or as open as they wish, about belonging to the fellowship; but always with the understanding that anonymity a the level of press, radio, tv, films and other media technologies such as the internet is crucial to our continuing sobriety and growth.
On the bottom of page 11 in the same pamphlet it says, “Use last names within the fellowship, especially for election of group officers and other service jobs.
On page 6 and 7 of the AA conference approved pamphlet “The AA Group,” in the paragraph understanding anonymity at the AA group level, it says, “We may use last names within our group. At the same time, we respect the right of other members to maintain their own anonymity however they wish, and as closely as they wish.
So the fact is it is OK to use your first and last name within an AA group. Anonymity is broken when I say my full name and that I am a member of AA in the press, radio, films, and digital media.
I live in a small town. Everyone in the meeting already knows everyone else’s full name, where they work, and who their last 3 or 4 generations of their family are. So introducing yourself with your last name in a closed AA meeting here doesn’t make much sense anyway. My point is that in a closed meeting anonymity is not broken by introducing yourself with first and last name. I think at an open meeting that is open to the public only first names should be used, but I have no facts to support that, just the forward to the first addition of the big books suggestion for speaking publicly.
Thanks for reading
When Bill W. wrote Tradition Twelve, he concluded with
this paragraph: We are sure that HUMILITY, EXPRESSED BY
ANONYMITY, is the greatest safeguard that Alcoholics Anonymous can ever have.
Most of the reasons for us, as members of A.A. to
remain anonymous are covered in Tradition Eleven.
Tradition Twelve is mostly about humility. I see
not using last names when sharing at A.A. meetings,
as part of the sacrifice Bill writes about. We give
up our desire for personal distinction and prestige.
I am convinced, at least for today, that no good
reason can be given for using last names when
sharing at an A.A. meeting, open or closed. But my feelings are obviously in conflict with the latest pamphlet on
The pamphlet reads, you are correct, on page 11,
"Experience suggests that A.A. members: Use last names
within the Fellowship, especially for election of group officers and other service jobs. That is a conference
approved A.A. pamphlet.
I believe this is just another indication of
how far we have strayed as a fellowship (not Fellowship)
from the true meaning of Tradition Twelve. Humility is
mentioned only once in the new pamphlet.
I believe that today's movement only preaches humility.
It is time for us to put true humility back into practice.
A friend who came into A.A. in the 1960's said he
went to A.A. meetings where no names at all was used.
Our A.A. membership has been "stagnant" for two
decades. All of these blunders have taken its toll.
What a price is paid for our stubborn pride. Human
beings are suffering and dying, while we ignore the
truth. "As Joe Sees It". ANONYMOUS
Quote: "A friend who came into A.A. in the 1960's said he
went to A.A. meetings where no names at all was used."
I have a library of several hundred AA speakers mostly from Conventions and/or conferences. Sobriety dates go back to the thirties.
In those cases where the speaker didn't give his name, no one shouted, "Who are you?" I guess the audience paid attention when the speaker was introduced by name. In some cases the person introduced the speaker by first and last name. And in many cases the speakers used their full names
Anonymity has been important to members long before the Traditions were written and accepted, as shown in the forward to the first edition of the Big Book and the broohaha over Rollie H.'s publicity in May of 1940.
At the Central Atlantic REgional assembly in Washington, DC on Jan. 31. 1948, Both Bill W. and Dr. Bob were introduced by their full names.
Just my opinion, but it seems that some are so ashamed of their alcoholism they use humility as a convenient excuse for secrecy.
Followships need last names and lables like sponsor thank only God A.A. was anonomous not your ?
I have no absolute facts to support a lot of my feelings.
But I have become more attentive to the way I feel about
things. Intuition has a purpose. You think that A.A.
members ought not give their full names at open meetings.
Do you ever ask yourself why you feel that way? What difference does make? Should we state last names or
ought we stay Anonymous? One way must be better than the
other. We should strive for the very best we know how,
or can learn. For our fellowship, only the very best is
acceptable. If Bill W. states in Three Talks to American
Societies, that even he cannot explain fully how A.A.
works, why do we say to almost every newcomer, "This
is "How It Works". Keep Thinking, and stop chanting. ANONYMOUS
An open meeting is open to anyone interested in aa. that means drinkers, nonalcoholic family and freinds, doctors, lawers, students, writers, filmakers, private investigators, police, clergy,and members of other anonymous groups.
Closed mtgs are for alcoholics or potential alcoholics only. to me there is less chance of my name ending up in a college students paper or local newspaper, or ending up in a courtroom from what was said during a closed aa mtg.
I have lived in larger communities where i was able to make 12step calls because they where able to look me up in the local phone book through using my last name in closed mtgs.
I know live in a small community where we already know everyones last names anyway. the only way to truly be anonymous is to take a cab to the local mtgs so the locals wont recognize your car at the mtg parking lot.
I believe anyone who is trying to contact Alcoholics
Anonymous ought to easily be able to do so. They should not have to know my last name to find A.A. Manny Q.
I have heard at meetings: In A.A. there are no big
shots and no little shots; One shot and we are all shot.
I honestly see no reason to state one's last name while
sharing at an A.A.meeting.
Our first tradition explains the importance of
unity. There is a separation of sorts when some members
give full names when they share, and others do not. The
newcomer may think some members are notables, if the
last name is given. Some members may consider themselves
so important that their full name ought to be given. But
the first tradition also assures all members the right
to think, talk, and act as he/she wishes. p129 -12+12.
I believe most A.A. members who use last names while
sharing do so because that is the way they grew up in
the fellowship. None of the areas I have lived have
used last names.
The use of last names is necessary in service of course.
If I receive mail addressed to Joe J., instead of Joe
Johnson, it might draw more attention than using my
We are responsible to have the fellowship available
to any alcoholic seeking help. But that does not mean
that I am so important that I need to be "on call". The
answering service is paid to contact an A.A. member.
I help to pay the answering service and make sure it
I am simply not that important, and believe that
an alcoholic's EGO is easily inflated by this feeling
of being special or important.
My concern is the newcomer. Is he/she going to
be confused? I believe that any alcoholic entering
our fellowship, ought to find uniformity. Meetings
ought to be basically the same no matter what the
locale. That may sound like a violation of Tradition
Four, but look at the two storm signals posted.
In this age of communication, is there any GOOD
reason to state full names in an Alcoholics ANONYMOUS
meeting, while sharing? ANONYMOUS
Some might remember Jack Paar on late night TV. He was fired by the network and during his final show he told the audience he was fired because the network thought he wasn't humble enough. He pointed to the tears running down his cheeks and said, "Look how humble I am."
I have flashbacks to that show in many AA meetings when I hear/read members sharing that allowing another AA member to know one's last name is an ego trip, a violation of a tradition, that sharing one's sobriety date is an ego trip, etc., etc., etc.,
If I hide my identity it's not out of humility, it's out of fear that someone might actually find out I'm an alcoholic.
And it's because my inflated ego says I'm so important that if anyone learns I'm an alcoholic it will be on network TV and in all the newspapers by next morning.
I agree that it is no one business to know your last name. There are to many people out there that wants to judge you for what is or what happened to you. I believe that companies would hold that against you as well even if it had nothing to do with your work. You have a enough going on in your like to worry about let along about losing your job.
Allowing another A.A. member to know one's last
name is not the same as stating "My name is Joe
Johnson, and I am an alcoholic, when sharing at an
A.A. meeting. I have no fear that someone might
find out that I am an alcoholic. I did have that
fear when I first came into A.A., because of my
job in security.
I am convinced that stating full names while
sharing at an A.A. meeting is not the best custom
for A.A. In my opinion it serves no purpose. I
personally feel that this topic is more about
humility than anything else. EGO deflation at
depth is vital in recovery from addiction. ANONYMOUS
Do you give your phone number to newcomers?
If you do, do you tell them only your first name,and maybe your last initial?
I have seven Joes in my phone list, three with the same last initial.
Personally, if a member doesn't trust us with his identity I don't put much faith in what he shares.
whats the deal withthesenonalcoholic professors of the bib book. im an alcoholic and can understand the big book because it was written so only an alcoholic can understand it. n
I have not seen or heard of any non-alcoholics
teaching the meaning of the Big Book. I do
agree that it is written so that any alcoholic can
understand it. The book was written by alcoholics
for alcoholics. Bill wrote that the book was meant
to be suggestive and that more would be revealed.
A,A. members, alcoholic and maybe some potential
alcoholics, have become teachers (gurus) of the book,
and have forgotten that it is to be suggestive only.
Many have no idea what suggestion means. In our
fellowship. I believe it to mean the introduction
of an idea, with no further coercion. Not: You had
better do as I did, or even worse, do what I tell
you to do, or you are going to drink.
Offer the Big Book to prospective
members, (a third edition, if you can find one).
Let the Big Book do the teaching. Let the new
member develop Her/His own understanding of the
book and of God. Let the Book and the Group do
I believe that much too often the old alcoholic
EGO rears its ugly head and again drives the alcoholic.
Some drink again. Others remain sober to become teachers,
preachers, advisors, gurus. I believe that this is what
drives most newcomers from our A.A. rooms. ANONYMOUS
Not sure what you are referring to, but from my own experience, much of the big book resonates with me because I am an alcoholic and the experiences of other alcoholics are similar to my own. That said, those same stories may resonate with others who found other substances or behaviors in an effort to deal with their troubles. The 12 steps, which are outlined in chapter 5, are the same 12 steps used in Alanon without modification, used in many other 12 step programs as well, the only change being the substitution of another addiction for that of alcoholism. The design for living the big book presents is hardly original though, as Bill W. drew on several recent and older sources, adapting them to the alcoholic life he was familiar with - his own. As to "gurus," I make it a point to avoid anyone in or out of AA who claims to have answers to anyone's problems except his/her own.
I have been in and sober 22 years. I am grateful for my life and found that life in aa. When I came in as a know it all, old timers were not at all afraid to confront myself or others who broke tradition. What happened in 2012, where are these members? I go to tradition meetings and when I have spoke up at other meetings in regards to upholding our traditions, I get shunned at future meetings. I am afraid of our ruin as a whole. What's next imdergroimd meetings where real alcoholics meet?
When Bill W. was writing the traditions, he had a lot
of opposition. Members wanted to "Keep it Simple" and told him so. A simple story is told where Bill is invited to
speak, to tell his "bedtime story". But Bill, we do not want to hear about those darned traditions. It took Bill about four years of hard work to write the traditions. I am
pretty sure that it was Jack Alexander who helped Bill
with the writing of the traditions. "On the anvils of
experience", they were hammered out. And I believe they
were accepted unanimously at the first or second
General Service Conference. Don't be too concerned
about being shunned. And try not to take it personally.
This is what they have been taught, and this is what
they are teaching others. We have been too polite,
much too long. Controversy in the preamble means
public controversy. We have always had squabbles
in Alcoholics Anonymous and hopefully we always
will. Try to voice your concerns at a group
conscience meeting. But most meetings do not have
group conscience meetings or a group conscience. So
speak up at meetings. Insist on being heard. Tradition
one guarantees each member the right to think, talk and act as he wishes. Page 129, 12+12.
Just try your best not to come across as a "know it all".
Study and learn as much as possible about the traditions,
and how they were formed, and why. Study the origional "points to assure our future" in Lang. and A.A.C.A. Bill wrote the traditions
to assure the future of our fellowship. Unless we learn
what they mean, understand and OBEY them, the future of
Alcoholics Anonymous is down the drain.
Most A.A. members adored Bill W. but there were some
who despised him. This appeared in a grapevine article.
So everyone is not going to like you. It was not easy
for Bill W. but thank God he perservered, or I would
have died many years ago. And don't be afraid of a
little humiliation. That may lead to a glimpse of
humility, through repeated humiliations.
You ask where are those concerned members. Many
have just walked away. Others are just too afraid, or
pretending to be polite, to speak up. They are waiting
for someone else to speak first. Go do it! ANONYMOUS
As I see it there are 3 options for AA members who can't find AA meetings that adhere to the traditions and/or have exhausted every avenue to evoke needed changes in their home group.
1. Start a new registered AA group that does meet the AA group purpose of carrying our message of recovery to the still suffering alcoholic, through the teaching and practice of AA's steps and traditions. If there is little or no support for this type of meeting then see #2 and #3 below.
2.Put up with what you have or stop going to meetings.
3.Form a closed underground AA meeting where only AA members who want #1 are invited to attend. This goes back to meetings in member's homes when AA was started. This may not appeal to many but it can and does work and sure beats #2 in my humble opinion.
Thanks for my sobriety and I wish all of you another 24 hours.
I got tired of the redundant readings, the chanting,
the pushing of the steps, and the holding hands and
praying at meetings. I started a morning meeting six
years ago. We meet Mon-Fri 7:00 to 8:00 A.M. It was
not well attended for the first year or so. Today we
have about 50 members, 12-20 who show up every day.
It can be done. My experience has renewed my
belief that A.A. can recover, as well as any
alcoholic can recover. Denial seems to be our
worst enemy. We deny that anything is wrong, "I can't
be an alcoholic!" A.A. is "alive and well!" We
are TWO MILLION STRONG. Using my calculations we ought
to have at least eight million members in A.A. today.
We have failed six million sick and suffering plus
their friends and families in the past two decades.
Most alcoholics approaching A.A. today eventually
chose #2. We have to return to the "Format of the 1970's
before dogma and distortion took us down a perilous
path. We must: Stop reading HIW aloud at meetings,
Remove the 24hr book from A.A. rooms; Stop all chanting
and praying at meetings; Lose the lable of Sponsor;
Stop the pounding of the Big Book and the cramming of
the steps. Learn the true meaning of "suggestion".
Study A.A. history and how it began. Find out How
it really Works. Page 70 in A.A. Comes of Age is
a good place to begin.
Thank you Mike B., Oliver, BC, from ANONYMOUS
Back to Basics is not approved literature for AA. In Back to Basics material and web site money is donated to the Local AA were these meetings are held. I never have seen our monthly report and funds being giving by this groups or meetings. I personnaly believe Back to Basics profits off AA related material and against the traditions of AA. I have read were Back to Basics is not AA approved material how can they use AA materail to profit off AA?
Back to Basics is not Alcoholics Anonymous, nor are Wally P’s Back to Basics books published by Alcoholics Anonymous. Back to Basics is an independent registered 501 (C) (3), not-for-profit, corporation. A statement given on the corporation’s website indicates that the General Service Board of Alcoholics Anonymous World Services Inc. has asked Back to Basics to comply with Traditions and to separate its activity from A.A. so there is no confusion. The response given on the website is that it is unable to do so.
I think it would be helpful for the General Service Board of AAWS Inc. to inform the fellowship of all actions taken with respect to outside enterprises misusing the AA name, in line with concept II. An uninformed group conscience is unable to function well. If such actions by the General Service Board were reported to group level, this might prevent unnecessary confusion and distress. I found the following post on an unofficial AA member’s internet forum. I think the information the member sought should have been be freely available within the service structure in his area, rather than him needing to source it from outside AA:
“In this USA area, about 2 1/2 years ago in 2008, a Yellow cover book - "Back to Basics " by Wally P., began to be passed around; soon many were buying it and some malcontented [sic] people from a few AA groups began to gather to discuss the book. They were generally outspoken and not recieved [sic] well by AA groups and the strong opposition seemed to bond the malcontents to each other. They had a fixed idea of how the 12 steps should be done, an out of balance view of AA history and statistics. Like claiming that AA once had 75% success rate; and futher [sic] claimed AA lost that sucess [sic] rate when AA became organized! The movement has grown more active and now "seeds" meetings and discussion rooms with individuals who push their views. Now, there seems to be an organized effort for 6 to 10 "Back to Basics" people to meet before a target meeting - they split up a few small groups - go to various tables or each Meeting Room and steer discussions into issues which give them a format to present half truths and thier [sic] "sprituality" [sic] claims. Many of us "regular" AA people are concerned. It seems to me that your experiences are similar and may be repeated here in this USA area. I found your [name of site omitted] site on the Bing search engine. The information is valuable and appreciated by me and I have passed the web address on to a DCM friend.”
I think we all ought to be working together and supporting the efforts of the General Service Board at group and intergroup levels, to keep this outside enterprise separate from A.A., in line with Concept XII, warranty five.
If we truly adhered to Tradition Seven, there would
be no profit to be concerned about. Literature and Books
would be sold to everyone at the cost of production. Our public image would be greatly enhanced. "These Alcoholics Anonymous members and their groups insist on being self supporting, depending exclusively on their own donations..
They don't ever accept money from outside the fellowship,
even when offered." What a concept.
But our current General Service Board does not seem to
understand the immense value of self-support. They have
removed the 1986 warning from the Service Manual. The
paragraph on page S74 beginning with "In 1986" has been
deleted from the 2012 Manual. I suppose that since they
were not going to heed the warning, they may as well just
remove it. I know, "It was approved by our conference".
But how informed were the conference members who voted
for the removal.
If our delegates understand the warning and voted to
delete it, Someone please shut off the lights. A.A., as
I have known it, is done for. ANONYMOUS
The paragraph referred to in the above post reads as follows:
“In 1986, the General Service Board asked for a special effort to inform the Fellowship if the dangers inherent in this situation; particularly that a substantial fraction of the publishing income was, at the time, derived from outside sources. The effort was begun to inform groups about this growing problem. The challenge was to make G.S.O.’s service work self- supporting through contributions of the membership and to sell literature at cost to everyone…” (From The A.A. Service Manual combined with the Twelve Concepts for World Service; 2007-2008 ed. p S72)
I don’t think A.A. Literature should be sold to outside enterprises; especially the bulk orders to treatment centers and internet book suppliers.
Please, Please, think again. Why in heavens name would
we want to limit information about Alcoholics Anonymous
to those who are already here? The solution to this
dilemma is the same as it has been for six decades. Make
A.A. self supporting with funds and contributions from
its own members. Our General Service Board of Trustees
are the only ones who can make this happen. It seems to
me that the more we send, the more they spend. They
have moved us further away from our goal of self support,
not closer to it. My plea to our GSB is to SPEND WHAT
WE SEND and not a penny more. Today's sober A.A. member is
generous to a fault, not "tight as the bark on a tree".
We must return to the point where Alcoholics Anonymous
reputation is better than its actual character. ANONYMOUS
"Resentment is the "number one" offender."
'Anonymous' keeps beating the dead horse of AA's GSB and their lavish spending habits. He (she) sounds suspiciously like "Agent Orange" or "GSO Watch".
The sad truth is that it is a "dead horse". "Agent Orange" tried to explain the structure to me a few
years ago. Our General Service Board of trustees have
absolute legal power, and there is not a thing we can
do about it. Our only control, "the purse strings",
has been by-passed by accepting more and more funds
from outside sources. Profit from the sale of Books
and literature to entities outside of our fellowship
is money from outside sources.
Another sad truth is that most of today's A.A.
members could care less where the money comes from.
With the profits from our Literature and Book
Business diminishing, where do we turn? Do we
further violate Tradition Seven and accept
contributions from all sources? Then Alcoholics Anonymous
as I knew it is gone. ANONYMOUS
Offline: Thanks for posting the "In 1986" paragraph.
Neither you or any future readers of the A.A. Service Manual
will be able to read it in future manuals. Soon it will be
forgotten. It has already been discarded.
The General Service Board in 1986 was telling the
membership: Send us more money! We have certainly done
that. Yet we have moved further away from that original
goal of self-support. You don't have to be an accountant
to see where the problem lies. Our General Service Board
seems always to find a way of spending more and more,
all in a claimed effort to reach the poor suffering
alcoholic who has never heard of A.A. Bill wrote fifty
years ago that almost everyone in America had heard of
A.A. I believe today almost everyone in the world has heard of Alcoholics Anonymous. In many cases, what they have
heard about A.A. is what prevents them from approaching
us. The tragic truth is that what they have heard is correct. See page 199 in "As Bill Sees It", and read
the related chapters in Language of the Heart.
I hope you are the only A.A. member who thinks we
ought not sell our Books and Literature to outside
enterprises. That would be the epitome of selfishness,
and stupidity, more ammunition for critics of A.A.
The solution to this dilemma, which the GSB in 1986
called dangerous, is to sell books and literature
to everyone at cost of production and distributing.
That has always been our goal and now is the time to move
toward it. The time has long past, but better late
than never. It is up to our present General Service
Board to steer the ship.
Refusing to sell to outsiders would be a way of
maintaining self-support. But what a price we would
pay in the long haul. ANONYMOUS
Thank you for your reply, but I disagree with you for the following reason. Selling AA literature at cost price to outside organizations would still go against principle of Tradition Seven because the money to pay for the literature would still be coming from outside contributions. Business being business I doubt if many commercial book suppliers would sell AA literature without making some profit for themselves. There are also indirect ways to make a profit from AA, by selling products alongside AA literature. I have seen this done on the internet where the Big Book is advertised alongside outside products with captions along the lines “Those who bought the Big Book also bought Jo Jo’s Big Buck Sponsor guide - Buy Now!” (Title used here is fictional and does not imply any association with any outside enterprise.)
One reason for Tradition seven is to prevent outside interference in our affairs, another is to prevent AA from being exploited. Other traditions also come into play. AA must never become confused in the public eye with other related facilities or outside enterprises, actual or implied.
The publication and distribution of the Big Book and AA literature is an AA service (Language of the Heart p 348). We are cautioned that we should never force AAs message upon the world by aggressive promotional schemes (Language of the Heart p 316). I don’t think we can risk outside enterprises doing this for us. We have to protect the spiritual quality of the fellowship. AA has to remain a spiritual entity set entirely apart from the business world. If someone wishes to buy AA literature they can already easily do so from the many service offices, intergroups and approximately 114,000 AA groups worldwide.
A previous message, about complicating a mud puddle, comes to mind.
Simply sell Books and Literature at cost to everyone. It
is really not that complicated. Rose
Selling Books and Literature to outside organizations at
the cost of publishing would not produce any profit. How
could that violate our tradition of self support? This is a not-for-profit service. You
wrote two reasons for our tradition of self support.
There is a third: We want the world to look at A.A.
in the most favorable way possible. Supporting our own
fellowship, without using anyone else's money, enhances
our public view, as part of our public relations policy.
The irresponsible have become responsible. ANONYMOUS
"Selling A.A. literature at cost price to outside organizations would still go against princple of Tradition Seven because the money to pay for the literature would
still be coming from outside contributions."
Our goal has always been to become fully self-supporting
using only voluntary contributions from our own members.
Using profit from the sale of Books and Literature to
support our organization violates tradition seven. Profits
made by selling Books and literature are not voluntary
contributions. We want this material to be available to
anyone who needs it or wants it. If we sell it at the
costs of publishing there would be no profit to be
concerned about. That has always been our goal. But
instead of moving toward the goal, we just keep
moving further away from it. Our leaders keep going
in another direction, down a dangerous path.
I certainly can not understand how the sale of
information about A.A. could violate Tradition Seven,
if it is sold at cost. Are you suggesting that we
print it and give it away to outside organizations
for free. I would consider that to border on
agressive advertising. I think you are saying that
we ought not make our books and literature available
to organizations outside of A.A. That makes no sense to me. Are we not encouraged to "cooperate"? ANONYMOUS
I had a look at prices of the 4th edition Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book (hardback B1), on the literature order forms of four intergroups. Prices ranged from $8.15- $9.75.
The Hazelden price for the 4th edition hardcover is $11.75, $2.00 more. I don’t agree with outside enterprises profiting from the sale of A.A. literature. Once the businessmen (Promoters as Bill W. called them) both in and outside the fellowship, get the idea that there’s shed loads of money to be made out of A.A., then the fellowship will be finished. I think this process has begun and needs to be turned around. Our traditions are supposed to protect A.A. from exploitation from within and outside the fellowship. Concept XII, Warranty Five states that “Individuals, sometimes outside organizations may try to use the A.A. name for their own private purposes” that we should make their deviations from traditions “unprofitable or unwise”. It is my responsibility, your responsibility, and for all those in service, at every level, from AA groups to the General Service Board and the General Service Conference, to see that the General Warranties of Conference are upheld. I think we face ultimate collapse if they are not. Co-operation does not extend to facilitating the means by which businesses or individuals can make money out of AA.
Concept XII, Warranty Five: (The AA Service Manual Combined with the Twelve Concepts for World Service, pp 67-72) http://www.aa.org/pdf/products/en_bm-31.pdf
Back to Basics came from stories told to Wally P. by James A. H., who supposedly got sober a day before Bill W. H. told Wally how AA operated in the forties, which was strange since H. never attended an AA meeting until his granddaughter needed help in the eighties. Much documented information on H. can be found on the AA history lovers site.
James A.H. might have told Wally P. some stories, how true they are is anyone's guess. When it comes to AA history I think it best to stick to conference approved literature and treat the rest with normal caution. More Documented information on H and Wally P can be found on the aacultwatch site. Once you cut under some of the vitriolic sarcasm directed at cult-like behaviour in AA, I found it has provided me with some useful information. It has helped me to make some sense of what has been going on in my intergroup.
The Back to Basics groups were attempts to reverse some
of the mistakes which had occured in A.A. in the 1970's.
The cult nature of A.A. was becoming recognized. The
movement was honorable, but just went too far "back",
to the edge of the Oxford Group Society. Active alcoholics
have great difficulty with that religious/spiritual
approach. Bill realized that and separated from O.G
1937-1938. Dr. Bob remained attached to the Oxford
Groups until 1940. The Akron groups were more
attached to the Oxford Groups. It must have been
very difficult for Bill and Dr. Bob to leave O.G.
Both had gotten sober using O.G. principles and groups.
The founder of the "Back to Basics" passed away a
few years ago. He had gotten sober with Bill and Dr.
Bob in 1934, but was not involved in the formation
of our A.A. fellowship.
Some of this posting is history, as I remember
reading, and some is my own opinion. In my locale
one meeting is called back to basics, but that is just
the name of the group. The Back to Basics groups
claimed 200,000 members at one point. ANONYMOUS
It is not honourable to break A.A. Traditions. Breaking with Traditions jeopardises our unity and future. This is well documented in our history. I have read Wally P’s books. I’m not sure whether he is an alcoholic genuinely suffering a resurgence of delusions of grandeur, or whether he is a callous conman who knows exactly what he is doing in order to manipulate and exploit the emotionally vulnerable, for money, power, and prestige. Creating a doctrine of how to run AA meetings, how to sponsor newcomers and how to listen to god is against the General Warranties of Conference (Warranty Five): “...We have no doctrine to that has to be maintained. We have no membership that has to be enlarged. We have no authority that has to be supported. We have no prestige, power, or pride that has to be satisfied…” Going against these warranties of Conference jeopardises our unity and future.
An extract from a post on this forum:
“Does the "Back to Basics" movement still exist? I tried to find them a few years back. I was offered a "start up kit" for a price of about $60.00.” (Extract, AA Grapevine ‘I Say’ Forum: Traditions: ‘Re:Re:AA Hasn’t Folded Yet’: Wed, 2011-12-07 06:57)
An extract from Tradition Seven:
“On every lip were the words, ‘You can’t mix A.A. and money. We shall have to separate the spiritual from the material.’ We took this violent new tack because here and there members had tried to make money out of their A.A. connections, and we feared we’d be exploited. Now and then, grateful benefactors had endowed clubhouses, and as a result there was sometimes outside interference in our affairs…” (Extract, Tradition Seven)
Concept XII, Warranty Five: (The AA Service Manual Combined with the Twelve Concepts for World Service, pp 67-72) http://www.aa.org/pdf/products/en_bm-31.pdf
Our Forgotten Traditions
My name is Mike, alcoholic, sober since March 1990.
The purpose of AA groups is to carry our message of recovery through the teaching and practice of the steps and traditions. Few groups conduct meetings that comply with the traditions.
Traditions are essential in maintaining the unity and survival of groups. There is little unity without group inventory meetings, guided by the traditions. The traditions identify what group problems there are and how to fix them?
Let me take you through meetings I attend to see and hear them from the seat I sit in, by describing how meetings fail to follow traditions.
Most groups begin meetings reading the Preamble, Blue Card and Traditions then ignore them throughout the remainder of the meeting. They talk the talk but fail to walk the walk.
Members arrive at meetings and find love-ins complete with hugging, kissing and occasional 13th stepping. These practices cross personal boundaries and confuse newcomers about what AA is and what it is not.
Shouting and chanting breaches AA tradition. When sharing we begin, “My name is ….and I’m an alcoholic.” This is followed by members chanting, “Hi ….”, and is repeated after all introductions. We not only introduce ourselves, but more importantly, are making a humble admission of steps 1 and 5. We cheapen the process by shouting the speaker’s name. Most shout, “Thanks ….” after every speaker. Only Chairpersons should thank speakers to eliminate the pep rally mentality of shouting and religious cult practice of chanting. When speakers fail to state their names some shout, “Who are you”, to remind them to introduce themselves. This practice ignores the principal of personal anonymity and is none of our business.
Meetings end with a closing prayer. The Chairperson states, “For those who wish let’s join hands for the Serenity/Lord’s Prayer”. All meeting prayer should cease if newcomers, atheists, agnostics and non- Christians are pressured into religious cult practices (prayer circles) or religious specific prayers (Christian Lord’s Prayer). Following prayer we flap our arms while shouting a farewell chant, “Keep coming back it works if you work it, so work it”. To newcomers and visitors shouting and chanting must appear ridiculous at best and bizarre at worst. These rituals cheapen the decorum of our meetings, drive members away and do nothing to enhance the principal of attraction.
Outside issues break traditions 5 and 10. Primary purpose is lost or diluted when talk of drugs, smoking, eating disorders, sexual orientation, religion and politics are encouraged or condoned. Many think it their right to discuss outside issues in today’s anything goes meetings. Many are unable to identify with outside issues and the power of attraction and motivation to return is lost.
Treatment centre practices have no place in AA meetings. Herd mentality has accepted them in AA without question. We forget or ignore they detract from the dignity, humility and decorum of our meetings and break with our traditions.
There are two ways members respond to these issues. First is to say, “I like my meetings just the way they are” and are unwilling to make changes regardless of the consequences; or are willing to change, at the personal and group level, those things that will make AA more attractive and inclusive to all. Groups are folding and AA membership is in decline due to our unwillingness to make needed changes. We must not forget that in applying the traditions, the good is always the enemy of the best.
I hope and pray that my home group sticks to AA’s traditions else I will be leaving AA. God help me if it comes to that!
In today's A.A. we are so busy studying the Big Book
and working the steps, that we don't have time to be
concerned with the "traditions". The belief is that A.A.
is alive and well and wonderful. That is the belief of
most A.A. members today. Knowing about the traditions,
is not the same as understanding and obeying them.
Tradition Twelve is about humility and sacrifice.
We have to give up that "look how great I am, now that
I am sober". "My name is Joe Johnson and I am an alcoholic. Call me any time and I will help you with any problem."
Using last names is a violation of 11 and 12. We confuse
the newcomer. Am I "less than", if I don't give my
last name. Am I so important that my full name needs
to be given? What does anonymous mean? Doesn't it mean
without name? Pride leads the procession of the seven
deadly sins. Pride not only harms the A.A. member: It
harms A.A. as a whole. Spiritual pride is nauseating
to alcoholics approaching us.
Bill writes about "fools gold", in an article to
the grapevine. I think it is "Humility for Today"
in the Language of the Heart book. But we are too
busy pounding the Big Book (a story book, not a study
book), and cramming the steps down everyone's throat,
(forgetting that the steps are but suggestions), to
allow any real humility to enter.
Page 199 in "As Bill Sees It", and the related
articles in Language of the Heart will make this
message easy to understand. ANONYMOUS
I really like what you've said about folks who give both their first and last names. For some reason, it has always bothered me and you've helped me now to articulate how. Pride is a bugger to deal with, that's for sure. I'll have to check out that article in the Language of the Heart. Sounds like a good one! Thanks!
Try rereading that bb. its our basic texbook. no, not a story book,a textbook. like an algebra book in school. it even says its purpose is to show you precisely how we recovere
d. I suggest you read it. that book will protect you from people like me who know it all.