“We, of Alcoholics Anonymous, are more than one hundred men and women who have recovered from a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body. To show other alcoholics precisely how we have recovered is the main purpose of this book. For them, we hope these pages will provide so convincing that no further authentication will be necessary. We think this account of our experiences will help everyone to better understand the alcoholic. Many do not comprehend that the alcoholic is a very sick person. And besides, we are sure that our way of living has its advantages for all.” Alcoholics Anonymous, xiii Forward to the First Edition
The above paragraph was written in 1939. Since that time over 39 other 12 Step Groups (I recall back in the late 90s seeing somewhere that there are well over 200 different 12 step groups, but I can’t find a source that says something different from Wiki) have been formed based on the principles of the original 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous (according to Wiki there are and additional 10 groups that only partially base their programs on the 12 steps). According to A.A. estimates from January 1, 2012 there are approximately 2,133,842 members of Alcoholics Anonymous world-wide and 114,070 Groups – I have no estimates for how many people attend 12 Step groups outside of AA. The last sentence of the quote above indeed came true for all these other people and groups with problems outside of alcohol.
There is a circuit speaker I’ve heard a few times who says “Got a gambling problem? catch alcoholism. Got a drug problem? catch alcoholism” He’s referring to the great success rate of the program of alcoholics anonymous and how we can change the lives of alcoholics for the better. I’ve actually met people in the rooms of AA that state they don’t have a drinking problem but really got better following the directions of AA from our book and 12 Steps – I don’t have a big problem with that, I do when they want to speak at our meetings because I believe only alcoholics should participate in our meetings.
I was sent to treatment via the court system, I didn’t know what my problem was I just didn’t want to live anymore. A lot of people come into AA that way, the court sentences them to go to a certain amount of meetings and they show up and put their paper to be signed in the basket and typically don’t stick around – it’s rare I see these people still coming to meetings after they’ve done what was ordered of them (I do know a guy that kept getting his paper signed a year or more after he had met his legal obligation, it was a part of his recovery program; like shaking hands or making coffee). At today’s meeting I saw papers to be signed for Crack Addicts, Cocaine Addicts as well as the drinking problem forms.
Not just alcoholics come to AA, we also get hard drinkers, heavy drinkers “.. though drinking foolishly and heavily at the present time, are able to stop or moderate, because their brains and bodies have not been damaged as our were.” Alcoholics Anonymous, page 39 come to, and people who might have gotten into a little bit of trouble and looking for a quick way out.
So these people come to AA meetings and we’ll hear the leader say “the topic is Step 3, but talk about whatever you might need to talk about” and we’ll hear attenders just come “to check in”.
As a result over the years AA has changed, I think partially due to treatment centers and court systems sending almost everyone to the rooms. This is overall good for the mental health well-being of the nation and or the world – really having group therapy available to anyone in so many parts of the world is amazing.
This is however, not good for the well-being of A.A. Contrary to popular belief, A.A. is NOT group therapy. It’s not the place you get to come and talk about your dead pets or (as I heard in a meeting today) how your co-worker is not being helpful on a project you share with her.
At Alcoholics Anonymous we come to talk about our common problem – the spiritual sickness of alcoholism. This is not a drinking problem, it’s a living problem. At A.A. we share a common solution that shows precisely how we have recovered from a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body.
The message of A.A. has been watered down to help everyone that needs help getting over every problem from people who just need somewhere to go talk about their problems, gay people struggling to come to terms with being gay*, people with drug addictions claiming that it’s just dry booze. A few weeks ago at a group conscience that was called to address the lack of focus on recovery at a particular meeting it was argued that the idea of having to work the program was contrary to what AA is all about and they just like to come and talk about how their life is going – that argument got lots of nods and acceptance and I think swayed the vote.
Alcoholics Anonymous is only 78 years old and the longer we go on the farther and farther from our common solution it seems we go. Bill W. wrote the traditions to … well here’s what our book says on page 561 of the 4th edition:
“The “12 Traditions” of Alcoholics Anonymous are, we A.A.’s believe, the best answer that our experience has yet given to those ever-urgent questions, “How can A.A. best function?” and, “How can A.A. best stay whole and so survive?”
And everywhere was have a lack of traditions we have weak, watered-down, just come and talk about whatever you need to talk about – group therapy. I say again, A.A. is not group therapy or bad day meetings or any other kind of meeting – it’s a life solution for people who really need it and I fear the message will not be heard by those who need to hear it most.
*I call Gay AA Meetings Gay A, they come to talk about how hard their life has been being gay and that the reason they drank they way they did was because they are gay – I drank the way I did because I’m an alcoholic and I drink alcoholicly. (I’ve written about this before here) It should be noted there is a group that semi-basis its program on the 12 steps called Homosexuals Anonymous, who knew.
**The Title of this blog piece was chosen by Cynthia P, Laura W and Jason S – the story was in my head already, I hope they like what I’ve done here.