Alcoholics and Drug Addicts in Alcoholics Anonymous

Submitted by on Thursday, May 15, 200810 Comments
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Alcoholics Anonymous Symbol - Cirlce and Triangle - Unity, Service, and Recovery

Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength, and hope as it relates to recovery from alcoholism. Thousands and thousands of meeting are held daily worldwide. The Alcoholics Anonymous text book has been translated into several languages. And as for recovery rates? “Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path…” [Chapter 5, Big Book or here is the Big Book online in its entirety.]

As for my story and how A.A. relates to it; I wouldn’t be here today were it not for the Twelve Steps and Traditions and even the fellowship of A.A.

Alcoholics Anonymous meetings are for alcoholics. But increasingly, alcoholics as well as drug addicts are in Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. What does A.A. say about drug addicts in Alcoholics Anonymous? Can a non-alcoholic drug addict be an A.A. member?

Related Article: Prescription Drugs and Painkillers in Alcoholics Anonymous (Aug 17, 2013)

How does A.A. address this? Does A.A. address this? Are “addicts only” welcome? Is it conducive to the group purpose to introduce yourself as an addict or alcoholic/addict? How about if you have no problem with alcohol? Can A.A. still help you? And who enforces the Traditions anyway? These are questions I hope to answer with extensive clarity. 

Here is the A.A. preamble to begin with:

Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. There are no dues or fees for A.A. membership; we are self-supporting through our own contributions. A.A. is not allied with any sect, denomination, politics, organization or institution; does not wish to engage in any controversy; neither endorses nor opposes any causes. Our primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics achieve sobriety. [Read more at the Alcoholics Anonymous website.]

Twelve Steps Help the Alcoholic Individual

Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book 4th Edition - The basic text of A.A. are within the first 164 pages - Buy it new or used at Amazon or get it at cost from an A.A. meeting!It’s been said that the steps are there to keep me from killing myself as I journey onward to sobriety and jokingly said that the Traditions keep me from killing you, another member. Although this is a weak illustration, I think it proves the point rather well. When I came into A.A. I had no idea the Traditions had anything to do with me. I thought they were for people who were in there and knew what they were doing.

Since then, it’s been my experience that #1, no one hardly knows what they are doing in the first place and #2, if “they” [others in A.A.] are not following the Traditions, where is my responsibility in that?

My responsibility in that is clear. Since then, I have been led through the Traditions, I have studied them, I have sought their truth. Alcoholics Anonymous – the program itself, as well as the good people in the fellowship itself who were sober -  saved my miserable life and now, as one who knows better, it is my responsibility to pass that on.

And I did something last night that, for me, required a great deal of courage. I chair a Beginner’s meeting and I have never heard of a Beginner’s meeting turning into a Tradition meeting with a Group Conscience flavor. But that’s what I did. By God. or By Bill. Whichever.

Twelve Traditions help the Group [to help the Alcoholic] 

The Twelve Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous are a set of guidelines that insure the meetings we have, although perhaps full of the sickest alcoholics in the lot, remain sane and healthy. This, I believe. I have spent years looking at this theory. And every time I see – even “well-adjusted” A.A.’s in a meeting – Traditions going overlooked, denied, or excused, it ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS turns into a very sick “spreading your disease around” point of time. I can be as *healthy* as I pretend to be when I walk into a meeting. But if I sit there and overlook broken Traditions or even contribute to broken Traditions, I am going to walk away either with nothing good from the meeting or “sicker” than when I went in.

When I meet someone through my A.A. meetings, I need to be mindful of Tradition 1 that states: “Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon A.A. unity.” as well as Tradition 5 that states: “Each group has but one primary purpose — to carry its message to the alcoholic who still suffers.”

So with our common welfare coming first and with our recovery depending upon A.A. unity, it makes sense to me that we keep our primary purpose in mind lest we deviate into the realm of cursed “sickest group in town” status!

Are you an Alcoholic? Are you an Addict? Are you a Purple Giraffe?

Purple Giraffe. There is no AA Tradition that says you have to call yourself an alcoholic. There is only one requirement for membership.So with all that said, what about the people who come into an A.A. meeting and call themselves addicts? Frankly, I do not care. As I shared with a newcomer, who was loathe to label herself as an alcoholic (but had decided to try to stop drinking),

“You can introduce yourself as a purple green giraffe. The only requirement for A.A. membership is a desire to stop drinking; Not ‘to introduce yourself as an alcoholic.’” [From Tradition 3, if you please, that states: "The only requirement for A.A. membership is a desire to stop drinking."]

With that said, at my personal core, if asked, I discourage people from saying, “My name is ____ and I’m an alcoholic and addict.” It’s because it dilutes the A.A. message. It dilutes our purpose from being there. What if I introduced myself as an alcoholic and a sugar addict and an approval addict and everything else I am trying to improve upon? And more than that, what’s the point?

Over here at An Alcoholics Story in his article “Alcoholic/Addict”, the author asks “Why?” to the thought, “Why do some people in an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting say, ’I'm an alcoholic and addict’?”

I responded (and with much fervor at that!) to the article because it’s been coming around for me lately.

I have a sponsee and we talked about this last week. She began introducing herself as an addict, not knowing she was an alcoholic til her 4th step. Discovering she was an alcoholic she added “and alcoholic” into her introduction.

So then I began wondering about our singleness of purpose and my responsibility to the 12 Traditions.

Ergo, we had a conversation that went along the lines of, “I don’t say I am an alcoholic and a sugar addict do I?” or “I am an alcoholic and a codependent in recovery.” …and on it went.

The point being that alcoholism comes with it – by it’s nature – many other manifestations and to scramble to the bottom or to the top of the heap, what am I trying to prove? Am I *more* special by being *more screwed up?* or am I trying to deviate from the AA singleness of purpose by *warning you AA people* that my story may involve drugs?

Listen. I am a Traditions person and people who introduce themselves as addicts AND alcoholics are not aligning their spirits to the Traditions. That’s exactly how I look at it. … I have been in a meeting of 15 people where 12 of them introduced themselves as both. Had I been a newcomer I would have felt like I did not belong.

So then…where DOES an alcoholic go who wants to save her life when AA begins not acknowledging the repercussions of overlooking the Traditions? The Traditions are what keep us Alcoholics Anonymous.

I’ve worked with – and been worked on – by all sorts in the 12 Step Recovering Community because after getting sober is when my manifested “other symptoms” became prominent – such as anorexia, self-injuring, people-pleasing, and even sugar addiction. Does this mean that I should have begun sharing all these other labels at my A.A. meeting? No. Vehemently, no.

Are some addicts really saying that for implicit permission to discuss their drug use; to turn our A.A. meeting into an N.A. one? You betcha! [Check out that pamphlet to the lower left.]

So did you catch my truth on that? Let me specify with another story because you know – that’s what I do best.

Are you an Addict at an A.A. Meeting?

Problems other than Alcohol PamphletLast Tuesday I needed an A.A. meeting. I wanted to connect with some friends and needed some recovery talk with “my people.” Maybe a third of the people in the room introduced themselves as addicts and maybe a third introduced themselves as alcoholics and another third as alcoholic and addict. It was a Closed meeting [meaning not just anyone is welcome. People with a desire to stop drinking were the only ones welcome and this means people who usually call themselves alcoholics.]

But before the meeting got underway, when the chairperson asked if any newcomers in the room, a woman spoke up as an addict and told a room full of recovering drunks that she’s never had a problem with alcohol; that her *thing* was cocaine [although it was crack and this became pertinent later] but she did not want to go to an N.A. meeting because “more people came to this one”.

So this woman was basically – introducing herself as an addict aside – sharing with us that she did not have a desire to stop drinking and that her plan was to become a member here because she did not like the N.A. [Narcotics Anonymous] meetings. This next part may confuse non A.A. Members so if you’re reading this just for kicks and giggles, skip on over til you get to the next blue sub-heading. But it didn’t stop there.

Then when we went around the room to introduce ourselves when it came back to almost her, instead of letting the man speak beside her, she said, “Oh and he’s nothing. He doesn’t drink or do drugs or anything. He’s a really good friend who just drove me to this meeting.” So crackhead lady speaks on this man’s behalf, which I personally thought was emasculating – and then hushed him up [ssssh! it's okay] when he tried to speak on his own behalf. Talk about from sick to sicker. I watched this in slight amusement which would have been even more amusing, had I not felt like I needed this meeting; This CLOSED meeting.

Open Meeting versus Closed: Opening a Closed Meeting?

I wondered what my friend – who was chairing the meeting – was going to do.

  1. Would she be brave and courageous and do the hard thing and explain to them what a CLOSED meeting was, thereby inviting them to leave?
  2. Would she be brave and courageous – kinda – and explain what a CLOSED meeting was and *overlook* that they were BOTH not there for A.A. recovery?
  3. Or would she pretend there was no difference and keep going? Or maybe she really didn’t know the difference? [And keep going.] Because yes, friends, some chairpeople do not know.
  4. OR would she completely wimp out and – ignoring the needs of the alcoholics who may have travelled long distances to get there for a CLOSED meeting – “OPEN the meeting with an-in-name-only ‘mini-group conscience’” so that she would not have to make the hard-yet-Tradition-aligning decision of #1?

She did #4. I thought she’d pull a number 1 because she’s *my* friend and she’s a hard-ass. Let me clarify. She’s a hard-ass when it comes to working with people and their steps but this example has shown me that she is a softy marshmallow when it comes to invoking the Traditions.

So when she announced the meeting as OPEN I raised my hand to speak. She called on me in a room full of quiet.

“I want to share that although this has now become an OPEN meeting from a CLOSED that there is only one difference; Anyone can be in attendance at an OPEN meeting. In both cases, however, we still abide the Traditions and abide our singleness of purpose. This means that we still discuss our problems as they relate to alcohol.” 

That was about it. I do think it’s unfair and not wholly correct to “open” a closed meeting and no one would ever see me doing it. What if every chairperson open a closed meeting every time a visitor showed up? Again. It takes away from the alcoholic who has traveled there for a closed meeting. Not to mention, the group who decided it would be a closed meeting already decided it was a closed meeting. Opening it up the moment it begins, defers to visitors and usurps the Group Conscience who, for all we know, had unanimity with the decision to make it a Closed Meeting in the first place. It’s just wrong on many levels, in my opinion.

Toward the end of that meeting, drug addict woman shared that she had not felt comfortable sharing about her addiction and then nodded over at me and said, “Because you know…” I nearly laughed out loud so I stifled a personal smile instead. So all in all, the fact I needed a meeting turned out to be I think I needed comic relief. :) My group got 10 bonus points from me that night in not back-peddling with, “Oh you can share about your crackhead experience!” due to her transparent manipulation. [Yes, she was manipulative with that statement. Hence....good segue into the next section.]

Alcoholics Anonymous does not serve the Addict 

Alcoholics are different than Addicts and even if they are exactly the same – watch this. In an A.A. meeting, I share my experience, strength, and hope as it relates to recovery from alcohol. How is a crackhead going to feel as if she fits in? Let’s get honest here. This poor woman has done things for her drugs I couldn’t imagine doing unless *I* too had suffered the same addiction. She probably looks at me like a goody goody quite honestly and I can see how.

There is either a newer and deeper level of manipulation or even up into a criminal element going on with drug addicts that pure alcoholics can not relate to. I did not have to hit the streets and develop a thicker skin in order to survive to get my liquor. The lowest I ever went was going to a crummy ABC store in a rancid part of town. My *addiction* did not rely on really low levels of manipulation; Sure I lied to people who questioned about how much I drank but I would hardly have called myself a “con-artist” or a “thief” which is what I hear when I visit the N.A. meetings. My friends were not people who were familiar with jail or street drugs and how to get them. Now I did have friends – I found out – who doctor shopped which is still an addict but maybe the deep criminal element is missing here.

A true difference is that there are people who drink alcohol and who do not “turn” alcoholic. They suffer no weird phenomenon of craving that the A.A. Big Book talks about and specifically in the Doctor’s Opinion. I have never had a former crackhead friend explain to me he kept crack on the coffee table and offered it up when guests came to visit. Have you ever heard of someone socially shooting heroin? Even “normal” people – not having a problem with alcohol in the past – can develop addiction through prescribed pain medicine; My point being that you don’t have to be “chemically different” in order to be an addict.

You DO have to be chemically different than *normal* people to be an alcoholic.

See the Doctor’s Opinion in the Big Book regarding this chemical difference. Or try to understand- for you non-alcoholics- what it must be like to have one beer only… to then crave the next one. Once an alcoholic inputs alcohol into her system, this weird phenomena of craving starts and nothing can assuage that intense craving other than more alcohol. If we never picked up the first drink, we’d be cherry. Alcoholics Anonymous gave me the tools to learn how to stay away from the first drink. It’s really that easy. Some tools may work for others that is not A.A., but A.A. worked for me. Maybe something else would have worked for me instead, but this is what did it. So I tend to stick with what works. Not to mention, I am happy. [Small detail? Nah. :)]

But all this talk of addicts differing from alcoholics…? Not pertinent as it relates to A.A. meetings. These are just my thoughts on the differences. A.A. has another pamphlet I cannot find online, but it’s a shorter version of the pamphlet above that actually has the questions answered as they pertain to addicts in A.A. I guess G.S.O. had to answer them point blank, finally, because people in A.A. seem to be so wary of excluding anyone. That, or ignorant of the Twelve Traditions.

Alcoholics Anonymous Traditions Exclude the Addict from Membership

When I chaired my Newcomers – or Beginners – Meeting last night and read the short pamphlet still entitled, “Problems other than Alcohol” that I took from our very own pamphlet kiosk, can you believe that people with 10 plus years of claimed sobriety via A.A.; via Alcoholics Anonymous [I say this because it's important to differentiate that people who are sober not through A.A. should and would have no reason to know of the A.A. Traditions], really did say, “I think we might have to call New York and ask them the official response.”

Thank goodness someone who was there referred back to what I’d just read after saying, “It doesn’t get any clearer than this…”

(1) Can a nonalcoholic pill or drug addict become an A.A. member? No.

(2) Can such a person be brought, as a visitor, to an open A.A. meeting for help and inspiration? Yes.

(3) Can a pill or drug taker, who also has a genuine alcoholic history, become a member of A.A.? Yes.

(4) Should these nonalcoholic pill or drug users be led to believe that they have become A.A. members? No.

These questions – AND answers – came straight from the shorter version pamphlet like the one above entitled, “Problems other than Alcohol” and it’s straight from A.A. World Service; ie, New York. So you see? I read it straight out the little short pamphlet, emphasized the answers, and still there was a comment of confusion deviating from the truth.

One more time: “Nonalcoholics are not A.A. members because there is only one requirement for membership and that is a desire to stop drinking.” If there is a desire to stop smoking crack, wonderful. Has nothing to do with A.A., though because that is an outside issue. [Tradition 10. Alcoholics Anonymous has no opinion on outside issues; hence the A.A. name ought never be drawn into public controversy.]

Alcoholics Anonymous Traditions Enforcement Police

Are you a member of the Traditions police? Here's your invisible badge!I was a member of the ever-elusive A.A. Traditions police. We don’t wear badges and we’re a secret society in that we never actually tell anyone we’re the Traditions Police. This is a joke.

If you currently have about a  year sober in Alcoholics Anonymous and find yourself pointing out how groups are doing it wrong or how someone broke a *rule* or still use “she should have…” or are often blaming people or groups or situations for why you could not so and so, then you’re a member of the Traditions Police now, too. Welcome aboard. [Just Kidding.]

To avoid being a member of the Traditions Police - because the most miserable member in a group will always belong to the Traditions Police Force -  it may help to remember some sayings…

  1. Live and let Live. Easy Does it. First things First. [Let people be where they are.]
  2. A good bad example. [When all else fails I just think that maybe I need to see this.]
  3. I am responsible. [If I think YOU need to be responsible but not me, that's backwards.]
  4. Love and tolerance is our code. [Straight from the Big Book right here (Pg. 84).]
  5. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. [NOT "do it right."]

What about Alcoholics Anonymous Tradition Breaks in Groups?

Alcoholics Anonymous is about as anarchy as it gets but, for an institution with no rules of any kind, the Traditions are there so that we insure A.A.’s survival. It’s that easy. If A.A. does not survive, the alcoholic who wants recovery will not have A.A. to turn to.

Jokingly I reference the term, “Traditions Police” to those people who have been where I am talking about. The miserable people who see the harm over the help. Who see the bad over the good. Who see the error rather than the forgiveness. Who see the pill poppers over the recovering examples. But in real life, there really *are* groups who break Traditions to such an extent that it’s a goddamned miracle when there is any kind of sobriety to be had by any individual. [I came from one such group and yes my sobriety was and is a miracle.]

I am well aware that people say A.A. is a cult. I address that in several posts already with basically the same sentiment that anything can turn into a cult when you get control freaks involved. [I would suggest codependent recovery if control freaks control you in A.A. or outside A.A.]

Here is how I explained it to a friend. In keeping with Tradition 2 which states For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority- a loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern how is that we “enforce” these traditions?

We Become the Walking Example of the Traditions  

Non-complicated answer: By being the example.

Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions A.A. Conference Approved Literature or the nicknamed 12 and 12We are the example. We learn the Traditions. We ask to go over them with our sponsor or someone who knows them. We study them. We live them and particularly in meetings. We, in effect, become “armed with the facts about ourselves” as those facts relate to the group. You know how in the Big Book it says we cannot transmit something we do not have? Well, if we have legitimate complaints about the group or problems with the group, let’s get to the reasons why.

What Traditions are going unobserved? How could the meetings improve in carrying the message to alcoholics? Perhaps our group needs a “Group Inventory?” We take time to learn these things while also realizing it “takes time to learn these things.” :)

We study the Traditions in the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions for example. We grow to understand terms like “Group Conscience” and the “Twelve Concepts.” We take advantage of the internet in looking up other Group experiences. :) We read the literature from G.S.O. that is often in any A.A. kiosk at a meeting clubhouse. [If we cannot read we get what we can on tape or ask someone to read the literature to us and we discuss it with someone who has experience with the service structure.]

Conclusion

The program of Alcoholics Anonymous is the Twelve Steps, found in the Big Book. The group purpose of Alcoholics Anonymous as shared in the Traditions, is to carry the message to alcoholics. The message being how we got sober, get sober, stay sober, and so forth. The Twelve Traditions are to guide the groups so that we can best serve the alcoholics. They are not meant to be mean, elitist or exclusionary but are meant to be necessary for the welfare of the group. If we do not carry this message, who will? The onus is upon each of us who know better and this often requires – for me at least – courage.

But courage to speak up or do the next right thing should not be insurmountable when you understand that you do have the Traditions on your side. Remember. This is not your “best thinking” that you’re sharing and striving toward. They are principles founded and based upon the Twelve Traditions [and even Steps sometimes], and in that, how can you go wrong?

Here’s to your courage.

Namaste.

10 Comments »

  • drug addiction recovery said:

    Recovery from addiction can be a difficult process, especially in the beginning. A treatment program should be designed as a positive and self-esteem building experience that will be proven as an effective long-term sobriety.

  • A Darn Good Look At Living Within Samsara | Darn Good Reviews said:

    [...] Being open about her recovery from alcoholism, Samsara shares her experiences and her advice so that others may benefit. In addition to writing about the well-known Alcoholics Anonymous program, she’s able to inject a little of her own struggles in other posts such as Astral Dream Dark Presence and Done with Alcoholics Anonymous. In fact, I’d say this latter post of hers is a testament to how she continues to break free from the embrace of alcoholism by informing her readers how her AA group failed to meet their objectives. It takes a strong person to not only identify something like that, but to also act on it by deciding to leave the group and seek help elsewhere. [...]

  • Natalie said:

    Thank you and amen. I go to AA meetings because they are important to my sobriety. I go to hear solutions to alcoholism. I go to share with people who understand.

    However, more and more addicts have been taking over our meetings. There are plenty of NA meetings. First, I question their motives. 2nd, I don’t relate. I experienced great trouble from drinking, but my troubles and perspectives are very different from what I hear from addicts. I can relate to an alcoholic twice my age, different background, different country, different race, different job, you name it. I can relate. I do not relate to most of the addicts. If I did, I would probably have had a drug problem, and I would go to an N.A. meeting. But that’s not my issue. I need AA. For alcoholism.

    Thank you for standing behind the traditions. Getting sober is difficult enough without watered down meetings.

  • Kevin Dickson said:

    The say that wisdom is the ability to make something complicated….simple. At an AA meeting I introduce myself as an Alcoholic…only. When I share, I share whatever I need to stay sober. I frequently mention my addiction to opiate pain medications and my struggle to stay free form them. We don’t on AA offer ourselves as a solution or support base for marriage difficulties, educational issues, relationships, or career problems but we let people talk about these things in regard to their alcoholism. LIkewise I am free to share my story as it relates to both my alcoholism and my drug addiction. If that bothers you….thank god for the 4th step. If it’s a threat to my sobriety….as a member of AA since 1981 who has definately bought his chair in AA….I have a right to talk about it.

  • samsara (author) said:

    Natalie – Thank you for your heartfelt words. I am going to repeat the ones that resonated within my spirit:

    “However, more and more addicts have been taking over our meetings. There are plenty of NA meetings. First, I question their motives. 2nd, I don’t relate.”

    This is true for us as well. Particularly in the cities where there are numerous detox centers, rehabs, and recovery houses. I know from experience that these places *encourage* addicts to attend AA meetings. Nothing at all wrong with that. Hell, my OA friends came to open speaker meetings – when I speak because it’s an OPEN meeting.

    What people are not realizing is that there IS a difference between OPEN vs CLOSED by who can attend BUT in BOTH cases we STILL observe our primary purpose. The singleness of purpose does not change in that we discuss our recovery from alcoholism. Just because it is OPEN does not mean OA’s – or any other Anon member – can “take over” the meeting.”

    For me too, I know – again from experience – their motives are manipulative. Manipulative from the “drug seeking perspective.” Then they can say, “I am sober and have not had a drink in six years.” [Of course I know one such *member* but he is on the crack maintenance program and ACTIVELY tries to share in meetings *and* sponsor newcomers to A.A.] You are damned skippy if you think I warn people about him.

    Secondly and most importantly – putting *their* motives and inventory out of my mind – Yes, I too, do not relate.

    And where does an alcoholic who needs recovery go when she cannot relate to an A.A. meeting? To N.A.? Yep. I did that too when my meetings had turned sick as hell. My sponsor, who is NA, teaches her sponsees – in NA – to not disrespect the AA program by going there but see this particular AA mtg is popular for addicts due to the high level of sickness perpetuated already and due to the lack of people willing to enforce the Traditions.

    Thank God we moved in the nick of time and now my AA meetings are maintained by strict observers of the Traditions. These are the healthiest meetings I have had the pleasure of going to in five years or so.

    “I experienced great trouble from drinking, but my troubles and perspectives are very different from what I hear from addicts.”

    Again. This is the #1 cited reason I hear from my AA friends about addicts joining and becoming members of AA. That the alcoholic cannot relate.

    Thanks for sharing Natalie.
    Stay Blessed and Keep with the Path.

    ———

    Kevin, I agree with that. If something is a threat to my sobriety I would hope that I would be able to share – without censorship – in my A.A. meeting.

    I, too, frequently share my own story of alcoholism as it intertwines with my Alateen, Eating Disorder childhood and adulthood. I am also not too shy about telling a Newcomer in the Beginner’s Meetings that concern for another person’s using or drinking is why I went to Al-Anon.

    As long as we keep the focus on our recovery from alcoholism – because the book does say and I believe it – that alcohol is just the symptom – then the details, I would hope, most people would not get caught up in.

    There is a lot of common sense to be utilized in tandem with the Traditions and “control freakism” to the exclusion of mentioning any activity *other* than Alcoholism would – likewise – discourage an alcoholic like me; who does need the freedom to share “colorfully.”

    I think Problems other than Alcohol is a good starting point for the Dual-Addicted. The fact for me is this:

    When I stopped alcohol *first* is when my other recoveries took off. And this is key. This is how I feel totally righteous in “bringing up” [not discussing at length] my codependency issues, Al-Anon, or my eating disorders or whatever else may currently be a problem. I do this, however, keeping the newcomer in mind who may be concerned over her significant other or her weight loss or gain since stopping drinking. I do this to share *my* experience strength and hope that once I put the alcohol down everything else was worked out. This, too, is a Big Book truth. “When the spiritual malady is overcome, we straighten out mentally and physically.”

    The people unintentionally bent on diluting the singleness of purpose are going to be the folks who want the hard edges and the black and white of what to speak of and not speak of. I already know I can mention my other maladies in passing – as long as it passesthe litmus of the singleness of purpose being my motive.

    If anything else is my motive – Like to turn A.A. into my personal Burger King where I wanna have my meetings my way, instead of abiding the Traditions, then I am equally glad we have some good solid Traditions folks who care more about the meetings than my ego and would say so.

    Thanks for your perspective Kevin!

  • aaron said:

    well I’m in a bad spot and I’ve been threw a program about 6 months ago and really had my life on track and I just thought that I tell some one how great god is I tried to take my on life the other the night but for some reason god has a plan for my life he let me live a I got ahold of the rehab I went to and they said they would help me all I had to do was get out from ten to tx well of course im a doper and every one that cared about me I’ve screwed over and hurt but some how god put an angel on my shoulder and the people from the rehab have helped me so much and I just hope some one reads this and it just give them a lil hope to keep going and think god

  • Samsara (author) said:

    Thank you for sharing your story Aaron. Seeing you go from suicidal to hope is beautiful and a powerful testament to how recovery can happen for anyone who seeks it. Take care of yourself. You are a blessing and thank you again.

  • Rich S said:

    Thanks for this writing. Some see the “singleness of purpose” as mean spirited and exclusionary. Bill W. himself said it’s a matter of false pride for us to claim AA is a cure-all for anything, even alcoholism. (April 23 of Daily Reflections)

    I was at a closed meeting where a non-alcoholic heroin addict prefaced her share with “I know you guys can’t relate because you’re alcoholic, but…” She then shared an issue unique to the heroin user. Everyone tried their best to find the common ground. You could see the mental rehearsing going on! Instead of alcohol, say drug of choice. Instead of alcoholism, say addiction. Instead of drinking, say using. A worthy effort, but not very helpful. Because we are “… a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope…” we had already lost the battle, because we didn’t have the experience, so there wasn’t any strength or hope.

    I don’t believe I’m better than the non-alcoholic drug addict. I do have a significant drug history myself. I just don’t want to tell folks that AA will fix everything if it isn’t going to help them.

    Also, unless we adjust our literature or readings, we give a mixed message. Some groups welcome all addictions, then read the closed meeting statement, which states that attendance is limited to those who have a desire to stop DRINKING. (Note the lack of an asterisk by “drinking”. Then Tradition 3 states the same thing regarding AA membership. We welcome them, then read things that specifically exclude them. Which is it? I guess if you’re going to welcome drug addicts who have no issue with alcohol, you either need to stop reading these things, or re-write them. Not a job I would want.

    At a meeting at a treatment center, we had the usual introductions of alcoholic, addict,… One person introduced himself as a compulsive gambler. Nothing else. I really could not relate to him! Am I better than him? No, I just can’t help him, because the experiences are so different.

  • Samsara (author) said:

    Thanks for that support Rich.

    As the heated exchanges ensued when this first appeared at my old website, I am familiar with how some people can take the singleness of purpose. In one particular case, her responses spiraled into ad hominems upon our ‘snobbery’ and ‘elitism’ and I couldn’t help but think how NA might benefit her. I think more and more alcoholics are seeing the entitled attitudes of what some personalities due to drug addiction looks like.

    These days I like to point to the pamphlet entitled “Problems other than Alcohol” and specifically to this paragraph:

    This is why sobriety — freedom from alcohol — through the teaching and practice of AA’s 12 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.

    I, myself, do have issues in addition to alcohol.

    But if I went in and introduced myself as having an -ism other than alcohol, or spoke (while in a meeting) of this -ism other than alcohol, how myopic; It is ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS after all. To be surprised if one lets me know that only alcoholics may attend a CLOSED meeting would be silly. Where in the world would I have gotten the idea it was okay to focus on that one time I got addicted to pills?

    To put the focus on anything else renders impotent alcoholics who have nowhere else to go; so they go homeless so to speak.

    My view is that the addict thinks the alcoholic thinks they are somehow better when the singleness of purpose comes up, for I have seen this attitude at meetings – and on this article.

    I have decided to ‘let’ (winky face) the ones who assumes this, assume this because not only is it irrelevant to their own recovery or mine, but it may be true; Some alcoholics MAY think they are better than an addict. And – quite frankly – so what?

    We all know people in life – or I do anyway – we think who think they are better than the next person…and it still hasn’t anything to do with my recovery.

    I’m sure – even some recovering alcoholics – think they’re better than ME in any meeting and I’m okay with that as long as they keep the Singleness of Purpose as focus in a meeting. :)

    And your sharing your support and experience is invaluable. I had almost given up on hearing anything except from addicts in their justification of why they should be AA members. [I had to delete/purge many comments before moving addresses.] So I welcome this so much.

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