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A good source for the facts and figures can be found in Nell Wings (Bills secretary) book. She states that when Bill had 100 she asked him and he said that by the time it was printed, there would be 100.
I am not sure of the number, but it was around 75.
The way I see it, Bill was a dreamer, and that was good for A A, and Doctor Bob was the realist holding the fellowship together. When the book was written, using the 75 figure, Akron had a little more than 50 members and New York had a little less than 25. Also, most of the stories came out of Akron and a couple from Cleveland. Only a few came from New York.
Thanks for the correction. I hope I-SAY will continue this
dialog. The information from GSO about AA membership is
available upon request. It is a one page list of membership
numbers from 1935 to the present. "It is titled Worldwide
A.A. Individual and Group Membership". It shows continuous
growth until 1992, reaching almost two and a half million.
I an sure you know that today we stand at two million members worldwide.
When I first saw these numbers, my belief that AA is
"alive and well" disappeared. I remembered all of the
changes we had made at the group level over the past four
decades. The list of changes is about ten. In my opinion
they were significant changes (distortions). Those members,
the few who do believe the numbers, can probably come up
with ten reasons for our lack of growth. These reasons for our lack of growth may make sense to them.
Please, Write to GSO for the number and group list. I don't believe you can look at that sheet without viewing
with alarm. Yes I have been called a bleeding deacon several times, but, believe me I have been called much worse.
I have no "axe to grind". Alcoholics Anonymous saved my
life and my brother's life decades ago. But AA at the group
level barely resembles the AA of the 1970's decade. I have
listed the changes over and over on I-SAY. But very few AA
members read these messages, and even less understand them.
I do believe that Alcoholics Anonymous is a "one size
fits all" fellowship. Bill W. wrote in Three Talks to
Medical Societies "The only thing we ask of the alcoholic
approaching us is a desire on his part to get well.
Our AA membership today ought to be eight million.
We have failed a generation of alcoholic sufferers plus
their friends and families. Do we have the wherewithal
to reverse the blunders we have made at the group level?
Or will we fail another generation of alcoholics?
The not to worry, was in regards to members reading your postings. Some where the Web monitor reports 600 - 900 visitors per month. It was not clear as to whether it only accounts for those logged in, and if they come back to the forum a number of times.
Then they might use the I P Address to calculate.
Then you have that Anonymous Guy writing every second post . . . YOU WOULD THINK THAT THIS FORUM IS BEHIND CLOSED DOORS ENOUGH THAT IF YOU HAVE A POINT TO SHARE AT LEAST ADD YOUR HANDLE
Just curious as to the changes you have seen at the group level in your area, I have more questions than answers, most of our mistakes stem from our trying to be all things to all people giving the impression to the world at large that we can help the non-alcoholic, opening up our closed discussion meetings so all can come and now participate.
On average we sell nearly one million Big Books per year and have for many years, yet your membership stays flat. Who the heck is buying our book?! A fellow Bleeding Deacon
We gladly share the twelve steps to the world at large
so that all who want can use them. I believe the true AA
method is also freely given to all. The method or technique
is different from other recovery "programs". You might say
that our recover process is opposite other attempts at
recovery from addiction. Other programs tell their members
what to do. We only tell (share) what we did and what has
happened to us. No one can be left out or pushed away. I
believe that most addictions can be arrested by using the
true AA process. I like to say, "it is not really that
complicated", but it really is complicated and very
difficult to understand. ANONYMOUS
My first reaction to this post is that we cannot possibly
be selling a million books annually. But I think we gave
away the 30 millionth big book at the 75th AA aniversary.
Who IS buying the Big Book? I suppose most AA members bought
a copy when the fourth edition was printed. I just don't
believe that the casual reader who is not an alcoholic would
have much interest in our Big Book. Those million books are
bought by alcoholics or given to alcoholics every year. The
result of a million books in 2010 was 16,499 new AA members.
Observing our local groups in action, several of the larger ones are pretty consistent in giving a Big Book to every newcomer. I suspect that there is a landfill somewhere with millions of the Big Book, along with copies of "The Bhagavad Gita As It Is" distributed at airports a few decades ago. Not that either is unworthy of study, but neither is going to resonate with the reader unless they are ready for the message. After my second meeting, someone chased me down as I was leaving and thrust a Big Book in my hand, saying I had to read the first 164 pages, had to attend 90 meetings in 90 days. I stuck around in spite of this person. I did read the Big Book, but can't say it resonated with me initially. It was the stories of those in the rooms that made sense, along with the suggestion not to drink today and to keep coming back. I wonder if the "requirements" thrown at newcomers turns them off? Some of that "you have to do this" might be attributable to treatment centers, which I gather pretty much control the lives of their patients for the length of their stay. But I think the pioneers of AA were similarly demanding, so perhaps it is only natural for me as a human being to assume that how I successfully accomplished something is the only way to do it. Fortunately, the longer I am around, the more I realize that while there is only one way to stay sober, by not drinking, there are many ways within and without AA to accomplish that - though AA is the only one that has worked for me.
Quote "I wonder if the "requirements" thrown at newcomers turns them off?"
The Outside sponsorship system in A.A. UNDERMINES A.A's ideas!!!
How? Read A.A's 3 "PERTINENT" ideas.
The Outside sponsorship system in A.A. UNDERMINES Gods promises to A.A's
How? You will intuitively be able to handle situations.
The outside sponsorship system has been around a long time and so has evil
Simply DON'T DRINK is it possible any other way?
Many people believe that not drinking is what keeps you from getting bad feelings. However, changing how we act helps eliminate most bad feelings that made us drink. And changing the way we think helps us from drinking from the bad feelings we allow to cross us by. Don't believe the people who tell you life will be o.k. if you stop drinking. If you don't change as a person simply put you will drink again because you never took care of the bad feelings.
Simply DON'T DRINK alcohol and you won't get drunk. If I could have simply stopped drinking, I would have done so. I
certainly would not have to attend all these dreadful AA
meetings. (smile, I love AA). That was what was so puzzling.
I believed that I could stop. Others believed that I could stop. "If that stuff is causing you so much trouble, why don't you just leave it alone"? I did not realize how very
ill I was, at the edge of the cliff, and still dancing around.
I assume that the writer of this posting is a sober
member of Alcoholics Anonymous. Is this what worked for you?
You simply stopped drinking? How did you end up here? If you are not an alcoholic, and not a sober member of AA, I
don't believe you could have much understanding of why the
simple "DON'T DRINK" method is just not a solution for the alcoholic.
Sure, sobriety starts with never taking that first drink.
And we do that one day at a time. But it is usually a bit
more complicated than simply not drinking. Otherwise, why would we need AA? ANONYMOUS
"DON'T DRINK" method is just not a solution for the alcoholic"
Nor is the outside sponsorship system a solution
But a good SOLUTION not rea-lies-ing it is that we are ALL beyond human aid and need a power greater than OURselfs stated that God could and would if sought.
Subsitute reliance of God for your sponsor is not a smrt idea if you be Alcoholic.
im in serious trouble. I need help getting to meetings. i need support. I made the mistake of starting a serious relationship when I shouldn't have. I cant get to therapy, meetings or anywhere. Icant take much more of myself.
"why would we need AA? ANONYMOUS"
To discover the loving God that was down deep in each and every one of us - unless of course your God, i mean friend is a volunteer hand raising sponsor.
"Simply DON'T DRINK alcohol and you won't get drunk. If I could have simply stopped drinking, I would have done so."
So do it!! Simple Trust in God clean house and find a friend not some sponsor who volunteered.
I was surprised, angry and concerned today when reading The Sac. Bee newspaper about a Priest who says he is in AA and that he is an alcoholic and that he abstains from alcohol except for the sip of wine during Communion. I hope other alcoholics do not look up to this man and think it is ok to have a sip of wine during communion!
Having a sip of wine during communion is not the issue here.
Why would an article appear in a newspaper about a priest
who is a member of AA. If the priest is local and the newspaper in the same area, it is almost certain that this
is a violation of tradition eleven: anonymity at the level of press, radio and films.
I am aware of at least one priest who is sober for
decades. The only way I know that he takes communion is
that I see it. I also see him at AA meetings. He refers to
himself as Danny, not even Father Dan. Although he does not
put himself on a pedestal, I certainly look up to him as
an elder statesman. ANONYMOUS
A good friend was in Rusty R.'s situation-in prison with no meetings availableuntil he was released. This points out the importance of the Corrections Correspdence Program and its ability to go "where anyone reaches out for help so thhe hand of AA is there
In service Walter G.
W. Palm Beach, FL
An AA friend works "in the field". He holds a low paying job
working with men and women who have been released from
correctional facilities. He informes me that virtuallly
every one of his clients has been to AA meetings,
prior to going to prison. We have pushed them out of our rooms, and further down, by the way we conduct our AA and NA meetings. I believe we have almost 40,000 AA members in correctional facilities today. These are the reversals
which must be made at the group level to restore the
effectiveness of Alcoholics Anonymous: Stop reading How
it Works at meetings. Remove the 24hr book from AA
meetings. Stop all forms of chanting. Hi Joe! is a
chant. Stop all praying at meetings. We are not a prayer group. Eliminate the hierarchy, patriarchy sponsor
system. We all come together in AA as equals. Stop
making a spectacle of newcomers, and stop allowing
newcomers to make spectacles of themselves. Maybe
someone "out there" can add to the list. ANONYMOUS
You don't get it your way. If you don't like the way your group is doing it, all you need is three things to start a group run the way you please. 1. A coffee pot. 2. A Big Book. 3. A resentment.
I will share a little experience at following this advice. The group will probably push you out of the way and do it they way they decipher at their group conscious meetings.
When you get all the answers, let me know.
The AA group of today is composed of strong personalities who control the meeting and the group conscience. All it takes is one ego-driven loud mouth to start chanting, and the whole group starts chanting. One member can demand that
How it Works be read at the beginning of the meeting, and it will be read. If one or two members want to hold hands and pray, closing the meeting, it will be done. New members
and earlytimers simply quietly walk away. I may not have all
the answers, and I do ask some questions. Do you know that
only one group out of four, in the US and Canada could count
ONE new member for the entire year of 2010?. Do you know that our membership doubled about every ten years until
the early 1990's? We had almost TWO AND A HALF MILLION
members in 1992. Today we boast of TWO MILLION STRONG!! That is just appalling. How do we sleep at night? We
should have at least eight million members in Alcoholics
Anonymous today. Soon all who remain in AA will be KINGs.
Your words seem to be awash in fear and judgment. We have members doing all the horrors of which you speak and we have significant numbers of new members-almost all not court referred, as our county, like several district courts, consider AA to be a religion.
You write "The AA group of today is composed of strong personalities who control the meeting and the group conscience." You, like many of us, prove your statement every day, or burn with resentments that you don't have that control.
Relax. Take a deep breath. Don't fight anyone or anything. Try to help the alcoholic who still suffers. Personally. Don't worry about 2 million alcoholics at large. Worry about that newcomer who could use a cup of coffee and an encouraging word. Keep in mind that joy is the theme of AA's 12 steps ....
"as our county, like several district courts consider AA to be a religion". Any concerned AA member ought to be alarmed by that phrase. Bill left us with a stern warning
about turning AA into a religion. We have done just that.
On page 346 Language of the Heart Bill repeats a warning
he had previously written in AACA in 1957 page 232.
Note: I am ever so grateful for this method of expressing my concerns for the future of Alcoholics
Anonymous. I attend an AA meeting almost every day and
am very much concerned with helping the newcomer to feel
welcome. I first offer them "the hand of AA" and show them
the way to the coffee pot. Our coffee is still the best
cup in the world, a quality never before tasted.
I bring up my concerns at business and group conscience
meetings. Several meetings have deleted the reading of HIW.,
and the chanting has started to diminish. Some of our groups
do no chanting at all. Members are beginning to realize how
stupid chanting is.
I do not know if meetings outside my limited locale
have begun to make corrections. I hope so. I wish our
leaders would take an interest and get involved. They
come up with themes such as We are responsible for AA's
future; Let it begin with us. And then they come up with
excuses or remain silent. Excuses for our lack of growth,
our loss of effectiveness. The reason for our failure is
that we have become a religion, a strange cultish religion.
Everyone seems to know this except our own members. ANONYMOUS
In Saint Paul, MN, we do not experience the scenario that you are portraying. You are making many judgements on the data alone.
While I think that we can all agree that changes could always be made for the better, and you bring up some very good points, can you possibly tone down the alarmism? Change will take time. We are still helping the sick and suffering alcoholic every day.
Beginners come to this site for hope. Please give them at least that.
May you all find hope, peace and serenity as we trudge this road of happy destiny.
I'm enjoying the latest edition of the Grapevine and it reminded me of what my friend Larry W. used to say over 30 years ago. "Neil he said people will be into your life and out of your life for the rest of your life." Today I realize the truth of that and how precious those relationships are.
Wouldn't imaginative people like Bill W. and Dr. Bob be open to small revisions in the Serenity Prayer every century or so?Here is a "modern" version in 12 lines:
STEP-WISE SERENITY PRAYER:
My higher power,
the things I cannot change,
to change things
as much as I can,
to know the difference,
and the patience
to receive wisdom.
I love the translation. Nothing wrong with the original. Which I also love to hear followed by a whisper of "thy will not mine be done," as it appears in the step book.
I traded in a punishing God for a loving God. My Higher Power does not cause earthquakes or make people sick. My loving God did not give me the disease of alcoholism, but my God has helped me to deal with it...One Day At A Time in AA. God did not give me a teaspoon more than I could handle so that I would turn to him. But, my God has been there for me - helping me to deal with it.
I believe that many alcoholics have been sexually abused
by the time they reach AA. I can understand why they may
find the practice of holding hands and praying repulsive.
An AA friend with 20 years sobriety shared that he went
on cruises in his early sobriety and attended AA meetings
on the cruise liner. He stated that a noted elder conducting
meetings insisted on this ritual before the preamble was
read: Everyone stand in a circle. Hug the person on your
left. Then everyone hug the person on your right. Do you
say: So what? What is your point? These meetings took
place in the mid 1990's, as membership in AA was starting
to decline. I find this practice appalling, and no longer
Hold Hands and Pray. If someone I know wants a hug from
me, that is certainly acceptable. But it is harmful to
the newcomer and to AA to force anyone to Hold Hands and
Pray. Did you ever try to not join in the kindergarten
ring around the rosy circle? I know it is not mandatory.
But how would someone at their first meeting Know this.
In the decade of the 1970's, we simply closed the meeting
with the Lords prayer. No moment of silence was announced.
We did not hold hands forcing everyone to join in. Again,
I personally find it repulsive and no longer take part
in this ritual. If your daughter or sister or wife came
to AA looking for help, would you want old men like me
hugging them? Think about it. Anonymous Please.
When I came to AA at the age of 25, I hadn't said "I love you" to a family member since I was a little boy. None of my 7 member family every showed love or affection. In AA I learned how to express brotherly love. I was off-put the first time my sponsor hugged me 3 years ago, but each time he does gets a little easier. I'm gradually breaking down the protective walls I built to sheild me from the pain of rejection.
Friendship hugs are good. Men with men, women with women. Keep it about recovery!
I believe our primary purpose is to stay sober and to help
other alcoholics to achieve sobriety. Helping other sufferers is the way we maintain our own sobriety. How do we help others? What does the Big Book tell us to do? Does Bill tell us to cram the steps down their throats? No!!!
On page 92 of the fourth edition Bill writes in italics:
Tell him exactly what happened to you. Stress the spiritual
feature freely. Again tell the new person about your own
spiritual experience. Don't tell him what to do. Do not make demands disguised as suggestions. Just share your own
personal experience. If the newcomer wants to know more,
let him/her ask the question. If the newcomer does not identify with you, she/he is sure to identify with someone else. Allow them to listen and learn. We push newcomers
away by telling them to find God and find Him now!: At least let them become addicted to our fellowship and AA coffee first. Again I believe that the custom of reading HIW
aloud at meetings has been our worst, most tragic blunder
of the past three decades. What really works is allowing
every AA member to follow our path, not our directions.
The only enforcers needed are great love and great suffering
One of the traditions tells us this. Our membership is
diminishing. What is the solution? Just do away with the
three year survey? Anonymous.
YOUR CONCERN ABOUT WHY THE GROUTH OF AA HAS SLOWED DOWN IS CLEAR TO ME.THE EXAMPLE OF HOW TO GET SOBER AND MAINTAIN SOBRIETY IS FOUND IN THE BEAUTY OF THE STEPS AND THE AND WHEN WE SHOULD BEGIN TO TAKE THEM WITH OUR SPONSOR.BILL WILSON COMPLEATED HIS STEPS IN SIX DAYS.THEY WAS A GREATER URGENCY IN THE 1930S THEN EXIST TODAY FOR MANY SOCIAL REASONS.AA IS A SCOREBOARD REFLECTION OF WHAT IS GOINING ON IN OUR SOCIETY AT LARGE AND AS A ORGIANATION THAT IS GIFTED IN THE ART OF SAVING LIFE THE IMPORTANCE AND VALUE OF THAT LIFE HAS BEEN ERODED TO A DEGREE. AS DRUNKS WE ARE DROPING LIKE FLIES.I BURRIED TO OF MY GOOD FRIENDS LAST YEAR AFTER THEY TOOK THERE LIVES.BAFFLING CUNNING AND POWERFULL IS THE ENEMY OF AA DENIAL IS ITS GREATEST WEPON TRUTH IS ITS GREATEST STRENGTH ROOTED IN HUMILITY ITS ALL IN THE LITITURE OR YOU COULD SAY THE POWER OF WORDS LOV YA. AXIOM JULY 777
AA EXIST TODAY ONLY BEACUSE OF THE SPIRITUAL PRINCIPLE FOUND IN THE FIRST TRADITION WICH GIVES US OUR FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND CHOICE. PLACING ANY PERAMITERS LIMITING OUR FREEDOM INJURS AA AS A WHOLE. REMBER AS LONG AS THE TRUTH WICH IS FOUND IN HIW IS PRESERVED AA WILL CONTINUE AS LONG AS GOD ALLOWS.I CAN NOT ASSUME THAT I KNOW A THING ABOUT WHAT THE NEW COMER BELIEVS AND OR WHAT THEY ARE THINKING. WHAT MADE ME A LITTLE UN EASY WAS THE WORD HIGHER POWER.AS LONG AS THE WORDS WE USE IN THE ROOMS ARE SINCERE FROM THE HART AND ROOTED IN TRUTH NEWCOMERS HAVE NOTHING TO WORRIE ABOUT.THE BIG BOOK CLEARLEY STATES THAT WE ARE GOING TO TALK ABOUT GOD.AA IS A THERAPUTIC COMMUNITY THAT HAS GRASPED THE BEAUTY AND POWER OF THE SPOKEN WORD THEY LIFT OUR SPIRITS AND GIVE US HOPE AS WE GROW SPIRITULLY.THE SPIRITULLY LIFE IS NOT A THEORY WE MUST LIVE IT.OR WE DIE LOVE YA. AXIOMS JULY 777
It is good to see that new members are finding this FORUM. I try to spread the word. But there is so much on line today
about AA, members are reluctant to search for yet another site. I love this method of sharing our opinions, concerns
and joys without any face to face confrontations.
If you have been sober since 1977, God has truly
blessed you. Me too. AA was by far the greatest gift of
I well remember my first days as a newcomer. I have
posted some of my concerns here. I was especially sensitive
to criticism (I still am). I still recoil when anyone tells
me what to do. If someone is paying my salary, I readily
say "Yes Sir!", That is why AA works so well. No one is in
charge to tell me what to do. Each AA member just tells
me what they did and what happened to them. And they end
it there, PERIOD!
The traditions assure ever newcomer and every potential
newcomer that the only requirement for membership in AA
is a desire to stop drinking. We don't require that they
pay anything or believe in anything. Bill W., in the pamphlet "Three Talks to Medical Societies simplifies this
even further. Bill writes that the only thing that we ask of the alcoholic approaching us is a desire on
his part to get well. Bill also writes "You might ask,
How does AA work. Bill answers his own question. Bill W. our AA co-founder says that he can not fully answer that question. (If Bill were alive today he could simply order
a copy of HIW from GSO). Bill says that we only share what we do and what seems to happen to us. We follow a "few
simple rules" left for us by Dr Silkworth and the thirst
for alcohol leaves us. For those who do not know, those
simple rules are not the twelve suggested steps. I trust that you have read AACA and language of the Heart. They are loaded with information every AA member ought to know.
Thanks to I-Say for posting your letters in CAPS. ANONYMOUS
The power of the WISDOM to know the difference
Don't fall into the trap of similarities while at the end of the meeting praying for the wisdom to know the difference, guess it all depends on what you listen to - Your sponsor or God
Sure glad everything is not the same today - boy did that get boring
If I were to share exactly what happened to me, that would include the fact that the obsession to drink was completely lifted from me at 3 months of sobriety when I got a sponsor and launched into the steps. Would my sharing of my own experience constitute "cramming" the steps? When many of us share our experience it will include steps & sponsorship. Sorry if that offends some people. Kind of a sad day when one feels the need to apologize for sharing about sponsorship & working steps.
Sad that the outside sponsorship system does not believe the steps in A.A. will work without them administering it to ya, and what is sadder yet they got the weak ones to believe it.
Time to grow up and handle life responsibilities with God given resources rather than the need for a mommy or daddy.
Really embarrassing for A.A.'s big book especially after sobering up.
If we could only share our own recovery with other alcoholics (our experience strength, and hope) without
even implying that anyone else do the same, we would be
following the path left for us. That is why directions
was changed to path, before the Big Book was printed.
Just share how the steps have worked in our lives. Attraction not promotion. We come together in AA as
equals. Today's distorted concept of sponsorship promotes
a system of hierarchy and patriarchy. A suffering alcoholic
does not look for a sponsor, until we tell him/her that
one is necessary for sobriety. I think I am beginning to
understand what you mean by the outside sponsorship
This site is becoming more and more difficult
to access. I find that it takes me forever to find it
at times. I am concerned that many will just give up.
The old origional site is still being opened about seven
hundred times a day, even though it has not been attended
to since Apr.6, 2011. ANONYMOUS
Sad that the outside sponsorship system does not believe the steps in A.A. will work without them administering it to ya, and what is sadder yet they got the weak ones to
believe it. This is what Bill W was telling us on page 8
in Language of the Heart. Why would anyone need a sponsor
to show them how to "work" the steps. Anyone who enters
the rooms looking for help to stop drinking has already
done steps one, two and three. They have admitted that they
cannot stop drinking alone. If they could have they would
have. Hopefully they have come to believe that AA can help
them. They are already surrendering as in step three. How
to do step four and five is described in our 12 & 12.
And it was decided 70 years ago that the steps were only
suggestions available to those of us who want or need to use them. Again on page 8 Lang Bill tells us that the
steps are not to be crammed down anyone's throat. He
explains how important this to our public relations
policy. The prospective AA member must be assured that
if he/she comes to the rooms, the steps will not be
crammed down her/his throat. Yet we do that by reading
How it Works aloud at meetings, telling the newcomer
That One is God! May you find him now! One of our
I have by the grace of God, been sober since 8/17/10. In the beginning, I had a sponsor. Through time, her and I lost touch as I gave birth and she became involved in a relationship.
For the last 5 months, I have been sponsorless and without any deep connections to the rooms. My fear is staying the same without doing the steps and eventually drinking again.
However, I let fear rule my social interactions and keep much of this to myself. How does one get past themselves and be free of the mental limbo between not drinking and not changing through the steps?
For the last 5 months, I have been sponsorless and without any deep connections to the rooms.
Sorry you been diverted so long around A.A.
Maybe it's time to trust in God !
Don't work them showing off to a sponsor - Take the freely given steps instead and they will work you -
It is totally impossible to accept and surrender at the same time most cannot accept God he as they surrender to an institution of an outside sponsorship system others accept the A.A. pertenent ideas.
SURRENDER IS NOT A CHOICE accetace of God could be.
That is the best way to try to help any newcomer. We share
our own experience, exactly what has happened to us. But the secret to reaching anyone else, is to share our
story, without even implying that anyone do the same. If
they want to follow our path, fine; if not that is fine
too. We do not push what worked for us on anyone else.
Hopefully they will find someone they can identify with.
Bill W discovered this approach which works in 1935
when he met with Dr Bob. Bill explains this fully on
page 8 in Language of the Heart. This is not easy to
understand and may even sound absurd. But this is the
technique which works with the alcoholic, believe it
or not. ANONYMOUS I was granted complete release from
the desire to drink after two months of being dry. It
happened as the result of the first three steps.
When I speak I always share that part of my story.
Quoted "That is the best way to try to help any newcomer. We share
our own experience, exactly what has happened to us. But the secret to reaching anyone else, is to share our
story, without even implying that anyone do the same."
Give them the Big Book and leave them alone unless someone asks which they don't - stop diverting people with you personal BS as if you are A.A.
I have read this message several times and ask myself
if it is even worth a reply. I think not.
The membership of alcoholics anonymous has declined over
half a million in the past two decades. After continuously
growing at the rate of doubling about every ten years,for
the first 57 years, today we are stagnant at around two
million. We had that many members twenty years ago. What
happened? Did we run out of alcoholics to help? Hardly!
The need for AA is greater today than any time in history.
No one will argue that point. Why did we stop growing?
The answers will shock some members. Some will deny them.
I have found that the response by most members and groups
is "Kill the Messenger". In one sentence I can tell you
what has actually happened. It happened so slowly and
subtly that I missed it. I wasn't really looking for it,
as I thought AA was "alive and well". Actually we have
been on "life support" for the past two decades, with
enough spectacular recoveries to make it appear that we
are doing great. All of this would be just nonsense,
maybe just called rhetoric, if there were no answers to
this dilemma. But we have made mistakes, grave mistakes
in Alcoholics Anonymous at the meeting/ group level. I will
save the one sentence to conclude this letter. I will very
simply list the mistakes we have made. Our most tragic blunder was the introduction of the reading of the first
two and a half pages of Chapter Five, "How it Works", at
the beginning of meetings. Bill W. explains this many
times in his writings about Dr Silkworth's "Cart before the
Horse IDEA. Our second most harmful blunder was the adoption
of the cult ritual of chanting. This makes us look like a
cult in the eyes of the public, and not only drives members
away, but hinders them from approaching us in the first place. When I see this part of my letter on the I SAY FORUM,
I will continue, God willing. ANONYMOUS
Why must our antediluvian members always point to AA's present day numbers as a validation to their every argument. Would CV have us still reading and writing in Edwardian script as Bill W. did ?
There are three parts to every verbal transaction. The transmitter, the receiver and the message its self. As the transmitter and the receiver has evolved from the depression era babies to the boomers and now the Gen-Xer's and Gen Y the message of AA has evolved as well, always inclusive never exclusive. This is why so many different group types have evolved as well. Not just open and closed meetings but men's group, woman's group, gay friendly, meditation, step study, discussion groups, morning noon and night groups. If you don't like a particular trend in any meeting then call for a group conscience or find an Ole timy meeting that fits your need
If AA's numbers are down since the 1990's maybe that was when CV's generation dug in their heels and said NO MORE CHANGE FOR YOU!
Thanks for the advice. I opened an Ole timey meeting four
years ago. It is a one hour meeting which has grown to a daily dozen each morning. We have a format accepted by the
group conscience. We do not chant: Hi Joe! This ritual as a response from the group is a chant. We do not read "How it Works" aloud at the meeting. We do not share by "show of hands",we simply go around the room allowing each member equal time. We do not make a spectacle of newcomers, or
allow them to make a spectacle of themselves. All members
come together as equals. We do not hold hands and pray.
We simply close the meeting with the Lords prayer, for
those who wish to join. So we have an Ole timey meeting
where we have reversed many of the changes (I personally
believe they were tragic mistakes) made over the past
three decades. Although these changes may have had some
short term benefit: we chant names so we can remember
who you are; or, we read How it Works to introduce the
newcomer to the steps, or, we "hold hands and pray" as
a circle of unity, in reality these practices have led
us down a dangerous path. Bill W was often quoted as
saying sometimes the good can be the enemy of the best.
He also said that sometimes the seeming temporary good
can be the deadly enemy of the permanent best.
How well have these changes served us? A close look
at our membership numbers will reveal the sad truth. We
have made reversals at several other meetings locally,
but the process is slow. I ask you to do one thing:
contact GSO for a list of membership numbers from 1935
to the present. Take a look at the continuous growth
until 1992. I don't remember "digging in my heels" to
stop the changes. I thought that A.A. was alive and well.
it appeared to be. It wasn't until 2005 that I became
aware that we had stopped growing. Hopefully, God willing
you will live long enough to become a very old person.
I see that your message appears in two categories: Suggest
a Topic and A Burning Desire to Share. I was surprised,
although there were some minor differences. ANONYMOUS
I remember the feelings that I had during the years when these changes in AA were made. I have always been reluctant to change just for the sake of change. The first time I heard HIW read aloud at an AA meeting, I questioned whether
this was the best use of meeting time. But I had no way of
knowing how harmful this be to AA in the future. Bill W
wrote many times that this approach did not work for him
in his first six months of "violent exertion". We have
returned to that approach which seldom worked. The steps
ought not be cramed down anyone's throat. The reading
of HIW does exactly that. Anonymous