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Now there are certain things that AA cannot do for anybody, regardless of what our several desires or sympathies may be.
Our first duty, as a society, is to insure our own survival. Therefore we have to avoid distractions and multi-purpose activity. An AA group, as such, cannot take on all the personal problems of its members, let alone the problems of the whole world.
Sobriety -- freedom from alcohol -- through the teaching and practice of the Twelve Steps, is the sole purpose of an AA group. Groups have repeatedly tried other activities and they have always failed. It has also been learned that there is no possible way to make non-alcoholics into AA members. We have to confine our membership to alcoholics and we have to confine our AA groups to a single purpose. If we don't stick to these principles, we shall almost surely collapse. And if we collapse, we cannot help anyone.
To illustrate, let's review some typical experiences. Years ago, we hoped to give AA membership to our families and to certain non-alcoholic friends who had been greatly helpful. They had their problems, too, and we wanted them in our fold. Regretfully, we found that this was impossible. They couldn't make straight AA talks; nor, save a few exceptions, could they identify with new AA members. Hence, they couldn't do continuous Twelfth Step work. Close to us as these good folks were, we had to deny them membership. We could only welcome them at our open meetings.
SteveP wrote:Excellent post AGO. This re-inforces my own skepticism about some of the folks you meet in the rooms who take it upon themselves to try and give other members advice about medication (e.g. anti-depressants, anti-psychotics) and tell them that AA requires them to quit taking those. It's expressly there, AA is ONLY about freedom from alcohol. SteveAbsolutelyI have seen this with my own eyes, and the results weren't pretty, I almost lost one of my best friends to such well meaning ignoranceOften men and women who have been diagnosed with a dual disorder say that they have received misguided advice about their diagnosis and the use of medication at other Twelve Step meetings. Some have been told that they do not have an emotional or psychiatric illness, and that they are experiencing merely self-pity or some other character defect "You don't need those pills; they'll cause you more problems" and "If you're taking pills, then you're in relapse and not really sober". Individuals who have followed such advice have experienced relapse: some have been hospitalized; some have returned to alcohol or drug use; some have attempted or even completed suicide. To say the least, it can be very confusing. Though we can not speak for other organizations, their literature makes clear that these types of statements are not the official position of A.A., N.A., or any other Twelve Step recovery groups that we are aware of. On page 133 of the Big Book of A.A. it says in part: "Now about health: A body badly burned by alcohol does not often recover overnight nor do twisted thinking and depression vanish in a twinkling. We are convinced that a spiritual mode of living is a most powerful health restorative. We, who have recovered from serious drinking, are miracles of mental health. But we have seen remarkable transformations in our bodies. Hardly one of our crowd now shows any dissipation. But this does not mean that we disregard human health measures. God has abundantly supplied this world with fine doctors, psychologists, and practitioners of various kinds. Do not hesitated to take your health problems to such persons. Most of them give freely of themselves, that their fellows may enjoy sound minds and bodies. Try to remember that though God has wrought miracles among us, we should never belittle a good doctor or psychiatrist. Their services are often indispensable in treating a newcomer and in following his case afterward." Reprinted from Alcoholics Anonymous, with permission of A.A. World Services, Inc. There is also an important piece of A.A. conference approved literature called "The A.A. Member - Medications & Other Drugs" that addresses these issues specifically "...A.A. members and many of their physicians have described situations in which depressed patients have been told by A.A.s to throw away the pills, only to have depression return with all its difficulties, sometimes resulting in suicide. We have heard, too, from schizophrenics, manic depressives, epileptics, and others requiring medication that well-meaning A.A. friends often discourage them from taking prescribed medication, Unfortunately, by following a layman's advice, the sufferers find that their conditions can return with all their previous intensity..." "It becomes clear that just as it is wrong to enable or support any alcoholic to become readdicted to any drug, it's equally wrong to deprive any alcoholic of medication which can alleviate or control other disabling physical and/or emotional problems."
Excellent post AGO. This re-inforces my own skepticism about some of the folks you meet in the rooms who take it upon themselves to try and give other members advice about medication (e.g. anti-depressants, anti-psychotics) and tell them that AA requires them to quit taking those. It's expressly there, AA is ONLY about freedom from alcohol. Steve
On page 133 of the Big Book of A.A. it says in part:
"Now about health: A body badly burned by alcohol does not often recover overnight nor do twisted thinking and depression vanish in a twinkling. We are convinced that a spiritual mode of living is a most powerful health restorative. We, who have recovered from serious drinking, are miracles of mental health. But we have seen remarkable transformations in our bodies. Hardly one of our crowd now shows any dissipation. But this does not mean that we disregard human health measures. God has abundantly supplied this world with fine doctors, psychologists, and practitioners of various kinds. Do not hesitated to take your health problems to such persons. Most of them give freely of themselves, that their fellows may enjoy sound minds and bodies. Try to remember that though God has wrought miracles among us, we should never belittle a good doctor or psychiatrist. Their services are often indispensable in treating a newcomer and in following his case afterward."
Reprinted from Alcoholics Anonymous, with permission of A.A. World Services, Inc.
There is also an important piece of A.A. conference approved literature called "The A.A. Member - Medications & Other Drugs" that addresses these issues specifically
"...A.A. members and many of their physicians have described situations in which depressed patients have been told by A.A.s to throw away the pills, only to have depression return with all its difficulties, sometimes resulting in suicide. We have heard, too, from schizophrenics, manic depressives, epileptics, and others requiring medication that well-meaning A.A. friends often discourage them from taking prescribed medication, Unfortunately, by following a layman's advice, the sufferers find that their conditions can return with all their previous intensity..." "It becomes clear that just as it is wrong to enable or support any alcoholic to become readdicted to any drug, it's equally wrong to deprive any alcoholic of medication which can alleviate or control other disabling physical and/or emotional problems."
AGO wrote:Why Does AA Insist upon "Singleness of Purpose"? Why do they insist only alcoholics can become members? (and yes they do, read the long form of Tradition Three, it is stated and restated in AA literature that only Alcoholics can become members over and over again)
Why Does AA Insist upon "Singleness of Purpose"? Why do they insist only alcoholics can become members? (and yes they do, read the long form of Tradition Three, it is stated and restated in AA literature that only Alcoholics can become members over and over again)
Larry_H wrote: AGO wrote:Why Does AA Insist upon "Singleness of Purpose"? Why do they insist only alcoholics can become members? (and yes they do, read the long form of Tradition Three, it is stated and restated in AA literature that only Alcoholics can become members over and over again)A lttle confict here:Tradition Three The only requirement for A.A. membership is a desire to stop drinking.THIS Tradition is packed with meaning. For A.A. is really saying to every serious drinker, You are an A.A. member if you say so. You can declare yourself in; nobody can keepyou out. No matter who you are, no matter how low you've gone, no matter how grave your emotional complicationsven your crimes we still can't deny you A.A. We don't want to keep you out. We aren't a bit afraid you'll harm us, never mind how twisted or violent you may be. We just want to be sure that you get the same great chance for sobriety that we've had. So you're an A.A. member the minute you declare yourself.-- Edited by Larry_H on Monday 26th of April 2010 10:39:47 AM-- Edited by Larry_H on Monday 26th of April 2010 10:40:59 AM
and he goes on:
We cannot give AA membership to non-alcoholic narcotics-addicts. But like anyone else, they should be able to attend certain open AA meetings, provided, of course, that the groups themselves are willing.
AA members who are so inclined should be encouraged to band together in groups to deal with sedative and drug problems. But they ought to refrain from calling themselves AA groups.
There seems to be no reason why several AAs cannot join, if they wish, with a group of straight addicts to solve the alcohol and the drug problem together. But, obviously, such a "dual purpose" group should not insist that it be called an AA group nor should it use the AA name in its title. Neither should its "straight addict" contingent be led to believe that they have become AA members by reason of such an association.
Certainly there is every good reason for interested AAs to join with "outside" groups, working on the narcotic problem, provided the Traditions of anonymity and of "no endorsements" are respected.
In conclusion, I want to say that throughout AA's history, most of our special-purpose groups have accomplished very wonderful things. There is great reason to hope that those AAs who are now working in the grim regions of narcotic addiction will achieve equal success.
In AA, the group has strict limitations, but the individual has scarcely any. Remembering to observe the Traditions of anonymity and non-endorsement, he can carry AA's message into every troubled area of this very troubled world.
So we can carry AA's message to every part of the world, but we can't call it an AA meeting.
The Big Book States:
Remember that we deal with alcohol, cunning, baffling, powerful! Without help it is too much for us.
1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol, that our lives had become unmanageable.
12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
Our description of the alcoholic, the chapter to the agnostic, and our personal adventure before and after make clear three pertinent ideas:
(a) That we were alcoholic and could not manage our own lives.
(b) That probably no human power could have relieved our alcoholism.
OPEN MEETING DEFINITION
This is an open meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous. We are glad you are all here-especially the newcomers. In keeping with our singleness of purpose and our Third Tradition which states that "The only requirement for A.A. membership is a desire to stop drinking, "we ask that all who participate confine their discussion to their problems with alcohol. (The 1987 General Service Conference made this statement available as an A.A. service piece for those groups who wish to use it.)
CLOSED MEETING DEFINITION
This is a closed meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous. In support of A.A.'s singleness of purpose, attendance at closed meeting is limited to persons who have a desire to stop drinking. If you think you have a problem with alcohol, you are welcome to attend this meeting. We ask that when discussing our problems, we confine ourselves to those problems as they relate to alcoholism. (The 1987 General Service Conference Made this statement available as an A.A. service piece for those groups who wish to use it.)
The Big Book uses the word "Alcoholic" 93 times in the first 164 pages, and alcoholism 46 times, and our fellowship, book, AND program are all even called "Alcoholics Anonymous"
This is the first pamphlet ever written concerning sponsorship. It was written by Clarence H. Snyder in early 1944. Its original title was to be "A.A. Sponsorship...Its Obligations and Its Responsibilities." It was printed by the Cleveland Central Committee under the title:
Each member of Alcoholics Anonymous is a potential sponsor of a new member and should clearly recognize the obligations and duties of such responsibility.
The acceptance of an opportunity to take the A.A. plan to a sufferer of alcoholism entails very real and critically important responsibilities. Each member, undertaking the sponsorship of a fellow alcoholic, must remember that he is offering what is frequently the last chance of rehabilitation, sanity or maybe life itself.
Happiness, Health, Security, Sanity and Life of human beings are the things we hold in balance when we sponsor an alcoholic.
No member among us is wise enough to develop a sponsorship program that can be successfully applied in every case. In the following pages, however, we have outlined a suggested procedure, which supplemented by the member's own experience, has proven successful.
PERSONAL GAINS OF BEING A SPONSOR
No one reaps full benefit from any fellowship he is connected with unless he wholeheartedly engages in its important activities. The expansion of Alcoholics Anonymous to wider fields of greater benefit to more people results directly from the addition of new, worth-while members or associates.
Any A.A. who has not experienced the joys and satisfaction of helping another alcoholic regain his place in life has not yet fully realized the complete benefits of this fellowship. On the other hand, it must be clearly kept in mind that the only possible reason for bringing an alcoholic into A.A. is for that person's gain. Sponsorship should never be undertaken to -
1. Increase the size of the group. 2. For personal satisfaction and glory. 3. Because the sponsor feels it his duty to re-make the world.
Until an individual has assumed the responsibility of setting a shaking, helpless human being back on the path toward becoming a healthy useful, happy member of society, he has not enjoyed the complete thrill of being an A.A.
SOURCE OF NAMES
Most people have among their own friends and acquaintances someone who would benefit from our teachings. Others have names given to them by their church, by their doctor, by their employer, or by some other member, who cannot make a direct contact.
Because of the wide range of the A.A. activities, the names often come from unusual and unexpected places. These cases should be contacted as soon as all facts such as: marital status, domestic relations, financial status, drink habits, employment status and others readily obtainable are at hand.
IS THE PROSPECT A CANDIDATE?
Much time and effort can be saved by learning as soon as possible if -
1. The man* really has a drinking problem? 2. Does he know he has a problem? 3. Does he want to do something about his drinking? 4. Does he want help?
*The masculine form is used throughout for simplicity, although it is intended to include women as well.
Sometimes the answers to these questions cannot be made until the prospect has had some A.A. instruction, and an opportunity to think. Often we are given names, which upon investigation, show the prospect is in no sense an alcoholic, or is satisfied with his present plan of living. We should not hesitate to drop these names from our lists. Be sure, however, to let the man know where he can reach us at a later date.
WHO SHOULD BECOME MEMBERS?
A.A. is a fellowship of men and women bound together by their inability to use alcohol in any form sensibly, or with profit or pleasure. Obviously, any new members introduced should be the same kind of people, suffering from the same disease.
Most people can drink reasonably, but we are only interested in those who cannot. Party drinkers, social drinkers, celebrators, and others who continue to have more pleasure than pain from their drinking, are of no interest to us.
In some instances an individual might believe himself to be a social drinker when he definitely is an alcoholic. In many such cases more time must pass before that person is ready to accept our program. Rushing such a man before he is ready might ruin his chances of ever becoming a successful A.A.. Do not ever deny future help by pushing too hard in the beginning.
Some people, although definitely alcoholic, have no desire or ambition to better their way of living, and until they do........ A.A. has nothing to offer them.
Experience has shown that age, intelligence, education, background, or the amount of liquor drunk, has little, if any, bearing on whether or not the person is an alcoholic.
PRESENTING THE PLAN
In many cases a man's physical condition is such that he should be placed in a hospital, if at all possible. Many A.A. members believe hospitalization, with ample time for the prospect to think and plan his future, free from domestic and business worries, offers distinct advantage. In many cases the hospitalization period marks the beginning of a new life. Other members are equally confident that any man who desires to learn the A.A. plan for living can do it in his own home or while engaged in normal occupation. Thousands of cases are treated in each manner and have proved satisfactory.
The following paragraphs outline a suggested procedure for presenting the A.A. plan to the prospect, at home or in the hospital.
QUALIFY AS AN ALCOHOLIC*
1. In calling upon a new prospect, it has been found best to qualify oneself as an ordinary person who has found happiness, contentment, and peace of mind through A.A. Immediately make it clear to the prospect that you are a person engaged in the routine business of earning a living. Tell him your only reason for believing yourself able to help him is because you yourself are an alcoholic and have had experiences and problems that might be similar to his.
TELL YOUR STORY*
2. Many members have found it desirable to launch immediately into their personal drinking story, as a means of getting the confidence and whole-hearted co-operation of the prospect.
It is important in telling the story of your drinking life to tell it in a manner that will describe an alcoholic, rather than a series of humorous drunken parties. This will enable the man to get a clear picture of an alcoholic which should help him to more definitely decide whether he is an alcoholic.
INSPIRE CONFIDENCE IN A.A.*
3. In many instances the prospect will have tried various means of controlling his drinking, including hobbies, church, changes of residence, change of associations, and various control plans. These will, of course, have been unsuccessful. Point out your series of unsuccessful efforts to control drinking...their absolute fruitless results and yet that you were able to stop drinking through application of A.A. principles. This will encourage the prospect to look forward with confidence to sobriety in A.A. in spite of the many past failures he might have had with other plans.
TALK ABOUT "PLUS" VALUES*
4. Tell the prospect frankly that he can not quickly understand all the benefits that are coming to him through A.A.. Tell him of the happiness, peace of mind, health, and in many cases, material benefits which are possible through understanding and application of the A.A. way of life.
SHOW IMPORTANCE OF READING BOOK*
5. Explain the necessity of reading and re-reading the A.A. book. Point out that this book gives a detailed description of the A.A. tools and the suggested methods of application of these tools to build a foundation of rehabilitation for living. This is a good time to emphasize the importance of the twelve steps and the four absolutes.
QUALITIES REQUIRED FOR SUCCESS IN A.A.*
6. Convey to the prospect that the objectives of A.A. are to provide the ways and means for an alcoholic to regain his normal place in life. Desire, patience, faith, study and application are most important in determining each individual's plan of action in gaining full benefits of A.A.
7. Since the belief of a Power greater than oneself is the heart of the A.A. plan, and since this idea is very often difficult for a new man, the sponsor should attempt to introduce the beginnings of an understanding of this all-important feature.
Frequently this can be done by the sponsor relating his own difficulty in grasping a spiritual understanding and the methods he used to overcome his difficulties.
LISTEN TO HIS STORY*
8. While talking to the newcomer, take time to listen and study his reactions in order that you can present your information in a more effective manner. Let him talk too. Remember...Easy Does It. TAKE TO SEVERAL MEETINGS* 9. To give the new member a broad and complete picture of A.A., the sponsor should take him to various meetings within convenient distance of his home. Attending several meetings gives a new man a chance to select a group in which he will be most happy and comfortable, and it is extremely important to let the prospect make his own decision as to which group he will join. Impress upon him that he is always welcome at any meeting and can change his home group if he so wishes.
EXPLAIN A.A. TO PROSPECT'S FAMILY*
10. A successful sponsor takes pains and makes any required effort to make certain that those people closest and with the greatest interest in their prospect (mother, father, wife, etc.) are fully informed of A.A., its principles and its objectives. The sponsor sees that these people are invited to meetings, and keeps them in touch with the current situation regarding the prospect at all times.
HELP PROSPECT ANTICIPATE HOSPITAL EXPERIENCE*
11. A prospect will gain more benefit from a hospitalization period if the sponsor describes the experience and helps him anticipate it, paving the way for those members who will call on him.
CONSULT OLDER MEMBERS IN A.A.*
These suggestions for sponsoring a new man in A.A. teachings are by no means complete. They are intended only for a framework and general guide. Each individual case is different and should be treated as such. Additional information for sponsoring a new man can be obtained from the experience of older men in the work. A co-sponsor, with an experienced and newer member working on a prospect, has proven very satisfactory. Before undertaking the responsibility of sponsoring, a member should make certain that he is able and prepared to give the time, effort, and thought such an obligation entails. It might be that he will want to select a co-sponsor to share the responsibility, or he might feel it necessary to ask another to assume the responsibility for the man he has located.
From Box 459, published bimonthly the General Service Office of Alcoholics Anonymous, Februaru/March 2003
by George E. Valiant, M. D. Class A (nonalcoholic) trustee A.A. General Service Board
"Singleness of purpose" is essential to the effective treatment of alcoholism. The reason for such exaggerated focus is to overcome denial. The denial associated with alcoholism is cunning, baffling, and powerful and affects the patient, helper, and the community. Unless alcoholism is kept relentlessly in the foreground, other issues will usurp everybody's attention.
Mental health workers, however, have great difficulty with A.A.'s Fifth Tradition: "Each group has but one primary purpose-to carry its message to the alcoholic who still suffers." Since mental health workers often admire the success and geographic availability of Alcoholics Anonymous, they understandably wish to broaden its membership to include other substance abusers. They also note that pure alcohol abuse is becoming less frequent, and polydrug abuse more common. In addition, mental health workers sometimes view singleness of purpose as outmoded and exclusionary. They worry that the Tradition is a holdover from the early days of A.A. and that the young, the poor and the minority with a criminal record will be barred. Besides, when there is no professional drug treatment center or Narcotics Anonymous (NA) group easily available, mental health workers find it hard to understand why A.A., with its tradition of Twelfth Step work, won't step in and fill the breach.
As both a mental health worker and a researcher, it seems to me that there are two arguments that trump these concerns. First, the Third Tradition of A.A., "The only requirement for A.A. membership is a desire to stop drinking," renders A.A. nonexclusionary. Each year A.A. welcomes many thousands of minorities, many thousands of poor, many thousands of alcoholics with coexistent drug problems and tens of thousands of convicts into its membership. Nobody with a desire to stop drinking is excluded.
The second argument, that "Singleness of Purpose" is necessary to overcome denial, is even more compelling. Given a choice, nobody wants to talk about alcoholism. In contrast, drug addiction commands newspaper headlines, research funding and the attention of clinical audiences. After two years of work at the Lexington, Kentucky Federal Narcotics Treatment Center, I, a mere assistant professor, was invited around the world to lecture on heroin addiction. In the late 1990s, as a full professor and after 25 years of research on alcoholism and its enormous morbidity, I was finally asked to give a medical grand rounds on alcohol in my home city. My assigned topic, "Why alcohol is good for your health." In short, the greatest single obstacle to the proper treatment of alcoholism is denial.
I first began my psychiatric career at a deeply dedicated community health center. The community had voted alcohol abuse as their biggest problem. After its first ten years of operation the center was still conforming itself to addressing the community's most pressing second, third, and fourth problems. No resources at all were devoted to alcohol treatment.
I moved to another community mental health center that had listened to its citizens and had opened an alcohol treatment center. In being asked to fill the position of co-director of the clinic I was the last staff psychiatrist hired by the mental health center. Significantly, I had had no experience with alcoholism, but no one else wanted the job.
Put differently, the experimentally documented success of A.A. in the treatment of alcoholism is in part because A.A. groups are the only place in the world where the focus is on alcoholism and nothing but alcoholism. There is simply no other way to overcome the denial.
Larry_H wrote:One term you will not find in the Big Book is "Closed Meeting"Larry,-----------------Do not condemn the judgment of another because it differs from your own. You may both be wrong. ~Dandemis
One term you will not find in the Big Book is "Closed Meeting"Larry,-----------------Do not condemn the judgment of another because it differs from your own. You may both be wrong. ~Dandemis
That is true, Instead, in a "Vision For You" it describes them:
A year and six months later these three had succeeded with seven more. Seeing much of each other, scarce an evening passed that someone's home did not shelter a little gathering of men and women, happy in their release, and constantly thinking how they might present their discovery to some newcomer. In addition to these casual get-togethers, it became customary to set apart one night a week for a meeting to be attended by anyone or everyone interested in a spiritual way of life. Aside from fellowship and sociability, the prime object was to provide a time and place where new people might bring their problems.
So six nights a week they basically attended "closed meetings" and one night a week they set aside a day to have an "Open" meeting so newcomers and outsiders could find them and see what "they" (members of Alcoholics Anonymous) had to offer
Open meeting = a meeting to be attended by anyone or everyone interested in a spiritual way of life.Aside from fellowship and sociability, the prime object was to provide a time and place where new people might bring their problems
So newcomers and outsiders were welcome and embraced, but by no means were they "members" of AA
To become a "member", there were certain requirements: