I want to talk about Tradition 3: “The only requirement for A.A. membership is a desire to stop drinking.” All you need to become a member of A.A. is a desire to not drink anymore, that’s it. The long form of this Tradition goes on to say:
Our membership ought to include all who suffer from alcoholism. Hence we may refuse none who wish to recover. Nor ought A.A. membership ever depend upon money or conformity. Any two or three alcoholics gathered together for sobriety may call themselves an A.A. group, provided that, as a group, they have no other affiliation.
That just gets you in the door, that’s it. You have a desire to stop drinking? That’s great come in have a seat We have a solution for you. Once you become a member you have certain responsibilities.
What!? you say These are just “suggestions” you cry.
“On the other hand—and strange as this may seem to those who do not understand—once a psychic change has occurred, the very same person who seemed doomed, who had so many problems he despaired of ever solving them, suddenly finds himself easily able to control his desire for alcohol, the only effort necessary being that required to follow a few simple rules.” Alcoholics Anonymous, page xxv
“Further on clear-cut directions are given showing how we recovered.” Alcoholics Anonymous, page 29
“If we have carefully followed directions, we have begun to sense the flow of His Spirit into us.” Alcoholics Anonymous, page 85
Once you’re a member I suggest you have a responsibility to follow the program as laid out in our basic text, Alcoholics Anonymous. In there you will find detailed directions on how to find a solution. It states on page 20: “What do I have to do?” It is the purpose of this book to answer such questions specifically.” And once you have followed the directions spelled out in our book then I think it’s your responsibility to share that solution with others.
“I am responsible . . . when anyone, anywhere, reaches out for help, I want the hand of A.A. always to be there. And for that I am responsible.” In short, when newcomers walk into our meeting rooms, we want A.A. to be there for them as it was for us— something we can do continuously only if we function as a group.” The AA Group Pamphlet page 18
Essentially I think that also means that as groups and individuals we need to study and practice the Twelve Traditions.
I’m a black and white person, it’s either this way or that way, usually there is no middle of the road where I’m concerned. However I realize that groups filled with strict Tradition following naysayers, like myself, would probably be very unpopular.
At present we have a tip in the scales the other way, we have so many groups that have little to no practice or understanding of the Twelve Traditions that entirely too many A.A. meetings are group therapy and not the program of action that was shown to me in our basic text.
On Sunday morning I was the lead at a meeting and shared my experience strength and hope. That experience includes watching others go to A.A. meetings and complain about how life had dealt them a bad hand again, and how there problems were the reason they drank or the reason they came to A.A. – to share them. My experience has taught me that A.A. is not a place I come to complain about my problems – if all I needed to get better was a place to complain about my problems I’d still be sitting on a bar stool drinking, but all my problems would have taken care of themselves. After I expressed that AA was for talking about solutions as found in our program of action and not for complaining about todays issues – six men, some with more time without a drink that I, disagreed with me.
There isn’t anything I can do for those who think that A.A. is their group therapy, except be responsible (see the quote above). If I want the real recovery, the real message of hope to remain for millions of alcoholics to come then I have to be responsible. I don’t want a watered down solution for others, I want the one that was given me for free and for fun. I want others to be able to experience the entire psychic change that has happened for me and for countless friends like me.
Friends of mine have suggested the reason we have such watered down A.A. in places is because of hard drinkers or moderate drinkers that weren’t true alcoholics, but needed to escape a bad problem and stayed. They’ve suggested those people don’t have to do those things we had to do to feel better.
“Almost none of us liked the self-searching, the leveling of our pride, the confession of shortcomings which the process requires for its successful consummation.” Alcoholics Anonymous, page 25
Almost none of us liked it, but all of us have to take the steps as outlined in our book, and all of us are responsible to make sure AA is here for the man or woman suffering after we’re gone. Take a look at your meeting and think back to when you were new – is that the solution you were taught or is it the group therapy you remember from the treatment centers?
The AA Group Pamphlet has a Group Inventory that I think most would find helpful in looking at their group. Often people who have been going to these same meetings for years see little reason to look at their group, they are comfortable resting on their laurels and don’t want change to rock the boat. But I say to you who have been shown the solution in our book – rock the boat! Talk about the solution, live the solution and be responsible.