I don’t blame for taking furniture and things such as that. Removing a central air conditioning system is pretty spiteful, even if they installed the thing. It takes a lot of trouble to do that just to stick it to some boy scouts. It isn’t like these were stand alone fans. It’s like putting holes back in the roof that they may have patched, or unpainting a wall..
I can see your point, both of you. I can only speak for the group I belong to, but I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t do that. Last month some of us got together and took part in a work party. We worked with some of the members of the church we meet in and did some work, mostly maintenance type stuff. One of our members is a journeyman carpenter and helped them rebuild their wheel chair ramp. I’m not tooting our horn, but that’s what we do.
And I’m not here to defend that other group, I’ll be honest, there is a lot of stuff goes on in AA that bothers the hell out of me and isn’t too effective. If there wasn’t, there wouldn’t be sites like this one. As for me, I’m not into fighting with you guys or anyone else. I have experience and it stands on its own, just as your experience stands on its own.
Hi Jim, I really appreciate your story of your group’s giving back to the community, and we do know that not all groups are the same. No one groups speaks for AA — technically (actually, if no one does, then they all do). It stinks that consciencious groups would have to answer for the actions of those who are less than… because people outside of AA aren’t really aware of the policy that keeps groups independent from AA in general, or the idea that there really is no AA to point to. So, when they involved themselves in this little public mixup, all AA groups were represented. Not “technically” as I said, but in public perception.
Anyway, this crowd could have handled this with more gratitude — Instead of stomping off with their stuff, and squabbling over the space, they could have been grateful that they had a place to meet for some time, and move on with some grace.
It’s just another example, maybe, of how AA can really be anything at all, until or unless Alcoholics Anonymous becomes accountable for how it’s name is used.
It seems that AA is really just a microism of our society as a whole, where the many pay the price for the mistakes of a few.
I make it clear that I don’t speak for AA, that I can only speak from my own experience. I think that most AA groups, or I should say that the members who make up those groups are totally ignorant of our Traditions. Either that or blatantly disregard them. So we get what you see going on. Hell, I’ll go so far as to tell the AA’s who get upset about a site like this one that we’ve opened ourselves up to it. Even Bill Wilson said we should pay close attention to what our critics are saying and if there is any truth to it, thank them and take our own inventories.
I won’t have anything to do with what you all and the public perceive as AA. What I’m a part of is totally different. Not better in the sense of “holier-than-thou,” but I’ll quote myself here, or quote MR quoting me. I was quoted as saying that what we offer is beyond mere abstinence. By that I meant not having to stay sick. Groups that pull shit like the one mentioned above are composed of sick individuals who just don’t drink. I was offered more than that. I was offered life, health, and wholeness. Not that I’m perfect, but had all I been offered was a life of sitting meetings nodding my head and spouting slogans I would have rather drank myself to death. I was taught that it’s OK to question things and to think for myself. In fact I was encouraged to do those things. I was encouraged to take responsibility for my life and for my actions.
I know that this is not the norm in AA. Hell it isn’t the norm in our society where apathy is the watchword and we expect the government to take care of us, which it will. But only if we don’t question it.
Anyway, I appreciate this chance to dialogue with you guys. Thanks for giving me the space,
Thanks for writing, and you’re welcome to all the space you want to contribute on this blog. Obviously, we go balls to the wall here, but we take all comers… I guess this is the kitchen, so to speak.
This is something I keep harping on, I know, but… I’ll harp again, because maybe you have some ideas:
If AA can offer you something valuable, as it certainly has, wouldn’t it benefit Alcoholics Anonymous as a whole if it shed the “hands off” position (since it has already declared itself to not be bound by the traditions) to take the reins and standardize AA — become an actual organization? If most of what is out there calling itself AA is not actually AA, aren’t more people — who are not in any position to know better — being misled, and ultimately harmed? I mean, if it has offered you something valuable, why not strive to make sure that it offers the same to everyone — or those for whom AA would work? It seems like it was by the grace of God that you found the right group.
By taking the reins, Alcoholics Anonymous would certainly be opening itself up to liability (responsibility), and it would certainly impact membership (the focus would shift from quantity to quality). So, I can see why this wouldn’t be in the best interest of AAWS, Inc., whose interest is its bottom line. It would be an entirely ethical move, with few worldly benefits, but it would be a revolutionary change in the way AA operates. And, while probably not good for its bottom line, AA would certainly be able to help more people who seek out what it has to offer them. Think of the people for whom real AA would work, but who never were able to find it.
As you say, AA is a microcosm of society, but in our society we have examples of standardization that work really well, like franchise businesses, for instance. When you walk in the door, no matter where you are, you know what you’re going to get. A Big Mac will taste the same in Florida and in Washington. And an AA meeting will offer the same program, no matter where you are. Sponsors are trained (and screened!); traditions and steps are taught and worked. No group therapy; no 13th stepping; no amateur MDs or psychiatrists or life coaches…
The way it stands now, I think it would be difficult for someone like you to recommend AA to anyone, because, while you know what you mean by AA, you have no idea where they’re going to end up. Considering, as you say, how society works, and thus AA — and the AA gestalt that has taken over — the odds are very high that they’re going to end up in some sick group, unaware of the traditions, etc.
It’s not fair to put the burden of finding a real AA meeting on the addict — people who are broken and cannot trust their own judgment, and are instructed not to. These are people who are being taught to completely surrender themselves and even to see the group as their higher power — and then told to look at their part when they are abused. The responsible thing to do when courting people in this vulnerable position, and instructing them in this way, would be to make absolutely sure (or as sure as possible — I realize that we’re dealing with humans here) that, when they are advised to surrender, the people they are surrenduring to can be trusted. More often than not, as you point out, the norm is that these people cannot be trusted.
So, considering how seriously alcoholism impacts all of our lives and our communities — every single one of us (domestic violence, drunk driving fatalities and injuries, disease, violence, child abuse and neglect, learned behaviors… alcohol is a factor in almost every crime) — compouded with other drug addictions — there are a lot of lost people out there who believe that AA, or another 12-step program, is their only hope. 12th stepping is responsible for this conventional wisdom, but how can by-the-book AAs 12th step responsibly as things stand?
Again, thank you for contributing, Jim. I very much look forward to hearing your thoughts on this.
I have said before that AA is a cipher. There is nothing to reform; nothing to improve; nothing to change. It is, basically, a collection of strangers occupying the same room at the same time. Sort of like a bus station.
Sure there are people who throw their weight around and want to be big fish in a small pond. Sometimes, they succeed in doing that. yes, it has a set of ‘beliefs’. But, those ‘beliefs’ are mostly empty words. Those ‘beliefs’ mean what ever anyone wants them to mean.
So, what does AA actually do? Not very much of anything. It is a place to hang out — until you get better, get worse, or stay the same.
And, that is known. AA is not fooling anyone. Unless a person wants to be fooled.
I wish I had an answer. You are not the first one with the idea of somehow centralizing AA. But I honestly do not believe it can happen. By the very nature of how it was originally set up it can’t happen, because each group is autonomous and there is no central governing agency.
I think that I read it here on this blog, maybe you said it, GSO/AAWS is not AA. Not even close to it. GSO/AAWS have came so far from what it was originally intended that it has become a bloated, top-heavy corporation. It has broken tradition in every imaginable way, it has ceased to be accountable to the groups that finance it through contributions and literature sales. GSO is not AA, believe me.
The trouble is that most members blindly worship at the altar of the sacred cows of GSO and continue to support it. My group does not send money to GSO but we are in the minority. We do all our work at a local, grassroots level. The blog that quoted me working with a woman in the detox is an example. I don’t recommend mainstream AA meetings to anyone. People like the woman I spoke of die in that kind of AA. I don’t proselityze, I just make what I’ve found and what was given me available.
So, I guess my answer to the GSO/AAWS problem as well the problem of groups like the one mentioned above is to let it die. That kind of AA has been dying for a while now.
Correct me if I’m wrong in my perception, but it sounds like your home group practices the steps as they were intended, and they weren’t intended as a “take what you want” kind of program. Why call yourselves AA? You could still practice the steps, use the ‘Big Book” (even publish your own under a different name, as there is no copyright on the thing anymore), do the same outreach, etc. You could avoid some of the things that AA does as a whole that you don’t find palatable, and that we actually see as having cult-like characteristics, such as deceptive recruiting practices. If you come as advertised, and people knew what they were getting involved in, and did so on their own, it might not be a program I believe in, but it would certainly be looked at as more benign than what we see with AA. That would be more of a true fellowship, and a way to actualize a quit, rather than a treatment method. A fellowship would work, and even thrive, along with any advancement in the understanding of alcohol addictions.
I’m not trying to tell you how to run your business, but I am curious as to whether that thought has cross your mind, or the minds of those in your group.
I have to admit this is a first for me. I’ve the discussion of what is AA and what isn’t AA with plenty of AA’s, but never with a non-AA.
We call ourselves “AA” because that’s what the book is called. We can’t think of anything else to call it. We are in the local meeting directory so that people can find find us.
You are right, most of the members of the group are looking to create a true fellowship rather than what passes for fellowship in most of what passes for AA. So yes, these thoughts have crossed our minds. Most of, but not all of our group are refugees from the kind of AA that you guys slam on this site. By group conscience we don’t contribute to GSO, we don’t buy literature from AAWS, Inc., we buy used big books at second stores and used book stores, we do participate in the local structure and do our own detox meetings, if you come to the meeting it is stripped-down plain old meat & potatoes stuff. At the end of the meeting we don’t hold hands and chant (which I think smacks of cultism). But we are an AA group in the truest sense of the word because we have only one primary purpose, there are no leaders that govern, the group’s conscience is the governor, and we are self-supporting through the voluntary contributions of our own membership.
Want to hear something funny? You mention cults. Several years back, some like-minded friends & I, people who like myself were having a small informal meeting at our house. It was an invite only kind of thing. Word got out in the local AA community and pretty soon we were being called a cult.
There is an AA group around here that keeps to themselves like that. Kind of underground group, I guess. I live an area with lots of small towns around, and each decent sized town has a group, although the many attend multiple groups. Everyone refers to this group as “the blue bloods”.
“There is an AA group around here that keeps to themselves like that. Kind of underground group, I guess. I live an area with lots of small towns around, and each decent sized town has a group, although the many attend multiple groups. Everyone refers to this group as “the blue bloods”.”
I don’t know if bluebloods was what they called us. I think it was probably more like “assholes.” We didn’t (and still don’t care) what the head-nodders called us.
We didn’t even call our little gathering an AA meeting, it was more of a casual get together amongst friends.