Saturday, February 12, 2011
Jim's Grapevine Articles
A fairly recent GrapeVine article:
Is This Really AA?
I am an alcoholic with a sobriety date of November 19, 1986, not addicted to mood-altering drugs such as cocaine, heroin, or marijuana. (I am addicted to caffeine and am a formerly heavy smoker.) I'll be sixty-seven years old soon, and although I have been exposed to drugs most of my adult life, I did not "pick up and use." I cannot identify with those who do.
I've been attending open and closed AA meetings in Canada, Minnesota, Washington state, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Georgia pretty much on a regular schedule for over ten years since I travel all year to visit my children and grandchildren.
More and more, I've noticed that the lingo is changing at what is termed AA meetings. I hear people saying things like, "Although my drug of choice is crack cocaine, I drink booze when I can't get drugs." I used to hear, "My name is Joe and I'm an alcoholic." Then it became, "I am Joe and I am an alcoholic/dependent." Then just "addict." I've also heard, "I am chemically dependent." I've heard, "If I don't keep up my spiritual maintenance I will go back to using."
It appears that more than half the membership of the meetings I attend has become oriented to alcoholic/addicts, and the drug scene is overtaking the predominance of alcohol at AA meetings. I am beginning to feel like an outsider at some AA meetings. When I mention my feelings, I am labeled as rigid or intolerant.
Frankly, if I have to attend mixed AA/NA meetings to stay sober, I will but I believe we should call them what they really are. My fear is that I may not be able to maintain a comfortable level of sobriety at those mixed meetings.
Real AA meetings are becoming harder to find. After all, the Third Tradition states that "the only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking." It does not say "desire to stop shooting up, smoking pot or using."
Is the modern AA meeting really AA?
Grapevine, Don Pritts
From the late Don Pritts, GrapeVine article, 1988, Part One:
If Our Message Is Clear. . .
In working with professionals, let us keep in mind that for our friends to recommend us, they must understand us. And for that, we are responsible.
As AA grows, cooperating with members of the professional community becomes one of the most important activities we can engage in. We are experiencing a growth beyond our wildest dreams, but with that growth come some problems. Most groups are finding that many of the new people coming to us are not alcoholics, but suffer from many other maladies. The people who refer them have seen the true miracles that happen in AA and, having no other resource, they lovingly send everyone to us.
While I believe that our recovery program, the Twelve Steps, will work for any problem, our Fellowship of alcoholics does not seem to provide the same service for others as it does for us. Fellowship is a gathering of people of like mind, and while there are many similar behaviors among alcoholics and others suffering from obsessions of many kinds, the alcoholic mind and body are different. According to Dr. Silkworth, in "The Doctor's Opinion" in the Big Book, "This phenomenon [of craving], as we have suggested, may be the manifestation of an allergy which differentiates these people, and sets them apart as a distinct entity." So, as we are experiencing, nonalcoholics coming to our Fellowship cause us to be uncomfortable because we do not really understand them. We cause them to be uncomfortable because we demonstrate that we don't understand them. We know when our principles are applied to problems other than alcohol, in fellowships designed for each problem, such as Narcotics Anonymous, Cocaine Anonymous, or Overeaters Anonymous, the results are the same.
FEBRUARY 11, 2011 8:03 AM
Don P., Part Two:
So how do we help? We do not wish to pretend that we are all things to all people, but of even more importance, we do not wish to miss any alcoholic that wants help. Most folks come to us because a friend or a professional recommends them to us. How can we better help these professionals who are the front-line troops in the battle against alcoholism? For our friends to recommend us, they should understand us; and for that we are responsible. If we don't tell people about AA, someone less knowledgeable will.
FEBRUARY 11, 2011 8:04 AM
Don P., Part Three:
All too often, we think everyone on earth knows about us. Not so. All too often, we think everyone understands us and what we do. Not so. Sadly, many AA members do not even understand what AA is and what it is not.
We are very fortunate in AA. We have a rich heritage of experience that dates back to our beginnings. This has been set down on paper and passed on to us in many forms. Our Twelve Traditions are a distillation of experience of things that work and things that don't. Our literature is filled with experience, and our people are a rich resource.
For years, AAs have been active in public information. Articles, films, and public meetings have given the general public a quick look into our society. We have sent speakers to medical and legal gatherings to carry our message. Some time ago, we realized that our public information effort, while active and good, really had another component. We talked to students, but we missed the teachers who were in daily contact with the kids in trouble. We told the doctors about us, but sometimes we missed the nurses who were dealing with alcoholics daily as they nursed them for other medical problems. We missed the ambulance drivers who picked us up from the streets. We forgot that counselors in treatment centers were not all AA members. The people who were in firsthand contact with our potential members did not know what we were or how to reach us. My wife is a nurse on an infant research unit. The babies up there are not troubled with alcoholism, but the nurses tell me that sometimes the parents are, and they would like to know some things they could do or how to refer them on. The same holds true for lawyers, probation officers, and social workers as well, who deal personally with alcoholics. We owe our lives to our Fellowship, and we owe those people yet to come the same opportunity we had. We need to let the people who care enough to send sick people to us know what it is they are sending their loved ones to, and who and who not to send. This is our cooperation with the professional community (CPC) activity
FEBRUARY 11, 2011 8:05 AM
Don P., Part Four
When we started a CPC committee in Colorado, we set up a weekly meeting where those interested came to study the CPC Workbook and our Twelve Traditions. We felt that this activity of second generation Twelfth Step work was so important that those doing it should be fully informed. They needed to be able to share their own recovery story, and what AA is and what AA is not. They needed to be able to tell anyone who might ask why we do not accept money, why we have no opinion on outside issues, what kinds of meetings we do have, and the difference between open and closed meetings.
If our message is clear--that AA is a way for alcoholics to recover from alcoholism--then the professionals who labor to help will know who to send and will be able to find different resources for those who need other help.
Don P., Aurora, Colorado
Don's article is probably one of the best written pieces of writing concerning singleness of purpose and our relationship to the professional community. I print it out and give to our local C.P.C. people. I also have given it to a few of the counselors where I work in order to prove a point.
Bob Bacon, Part Two:
When a person comes to us after 30 days in a rehabilitation center, he or she is already dry and needs to know how we are staying sober. I believe our meetings are not really covering this heavy responsibility as effectively as we should and could. We do have some good news, such as Big Book Study Meetings. More and more in my area, we are going to discussion meetings. This new idea is from the Grapevine.
To me, it is vital to the survival of our Fellowship that we make certain the people coming to us for help are made aware of the Big Book, the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions as possibly their only hope for survival from alcoholism. If we fail to guide them to our program of recovery, our Fellowship will not survive. Our future is dependent upon a continuing stream of recovered alcoholics.
In today’s frustrating world, our Program works better than ever. Are we doing a good enough job sharing this with the thousands of people coming to us now? Shouldn’t we be giving these people all Three Legacies of Recovery, Unity and Service? We have to tell them more than, “Don’t drink and go to meetings”. If all we talk about is our drinking, our ideas, our opinions, my day or the way I do it, we are not carrying the message--we are carrying the illness. We should be talking about recovery. I don’t believe we are.
Are we stressing the real value of the Big Book? You can go to meetings in my area where you can’t find a Big Book. Lately, when I am asked to lead a meeting, I have to take my Big Book with me. I don’t want to lead a meeting that doesn’t have a Big Book. We hear many people lead meetings and never mention the Steps or the Big Book. Is it because nobody told them how very important the Big Book is? Do we forget to tell the newcomer that what is in the Big Book can save his or her life? Our total Program is in the Big Book and only in the Big Book. Shouldn’t we be telling people that?
We hear a lot of ridiculous things like, “There are no musts in A.A.” My Big Book read different. People say that it is an individual program, that we can take the Steps any way we want to. Dr. Bob said, and I quote, “There is no such thing as an individual interpretation of the Twelve Steps.” If we are not honest with the new people and tell them how important each Step is, who will tell them? Some people seem to think the Steps are a necessary evil instead of a lifesaving prescription for happiness.
We rarely hear about the Traditions. The fact that these came about because of our mistakes and failures is almost a secret. The Traditions are the lifesaving guide lines for each group and for our Fellowship as a whole and each of us should be responsible to honor them. When I first wanted to get a copy of the “Twelve and Twelve”, a G.S.R. told me the Tradition pamphlet had all I needed. Thank God, I didn’t listen to him.
In 1965 at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto, most of us stood with Bill and said, “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.” Being at that Convention is the reason I am standing here now. We are the guardians of this Fellowship, and maybe we need to do a better job of sharing what it is all doubt. Are we still responsible?
From my friend Dennis:
As AA changes with a more diluted message and fewer people doing 12 Step work as the Big Book suggest and getting away from our Traditions so does the group conscience change.
The group conscience works best when there is group consciousness. A spiritual experience is a rising of consciousness. Taking the Steps raises consciousness and eventually to the point where we become more intuitive. When there is enough in the group that have raised their consciousness through the spiritual process of the group the group becomes a “spiritual entity” as it states in Tradition 6. Alcoholics I believe have a spiritual connection with each other anyway and we become more conscious of this as we spiritually grow in sobriety. Through the Steps we meet each other on a plane of consciousness that transcends ego, personalities and even the intellect and we begin to understand the spiritual anonymity of Tradition 12, which is quite different than the personal anonymity of Tradition 11. This becomes the fellowship of the spirit and as a group that has become a spiritual entity; then God may express Himself through our group conscience.
Written by an N.A. World Service Trustee. This appeared in our GrapeVine back in the nineties:
WORLD SERVICE BOARD OF TRUSTEES BULLETIN #13
Some thoughts regarding our
relationship to Alcoholics Anonymous
This article was generated by the World Service Board of Trustees in November 1985 in
response to the needs of the fellowship. This bulletin was revised during the 1995-1996
The question of just how Narcotics Anonymous relates to all other fellowships and organizations
is one which may generate controversy within our fellowship. In spite of the fact that we have a
stated policy of "cooperation, not affiliation" with outside organizations confusion remains. One
such sensitive issue involves our relationship to the Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous. Letters
have been received by the World Service Board of Trustees asking a variety of questions about
Narcotics Anonymous is modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous. Nearly every NA community in
existence has leaned to some degree on AA in its formative stages. Our relationship with that
fellowship over the years has been very real and dynamic. Our fellowship itself sprang from the
turmoil within AA over what to do with the addicts knocking on its doors. We will look at our roots
for some perspective on our current relationship to AA.
Bill W, one of AA's co-founders, often said that one of AA's greatest strengths is its single-minded
focus on one thing and one thing only. By limiting its primary purpose to carrying the message to
alcoholics, and avoiding all other activities, AA is able to do that one thing supremely well. The
atmosphere of identification is preserved by that purity of focus, and alcoholics get help.
From very early on, AA was confronted by a perplexing problem: "What do we do with drug
addicts? We want to keep our focus on alcohol so the alcoholic hears the message, but these
addicts come in here talking about drugs, inadvertently weakening our atmosphere of
identification." The steps were written, the Big Book was written—what were they supposed to
do, rewrite it all? Allow the atmosphere of identification to get blurry so that no one got a clear
sense of belonging? Kick these dying people back out into the streets? The problem must have
been a tremendous one for them.
When they finally studied the problem carefully and took a stand in their literature, the solution
they outlined possessed their characteristic common sense and wisdom. They pledged their
support in a spirit of "cooperation, not affiliation." This farsighted solution to a difficult concern
paved the way for the development of the Narcotics Anonymous Fellowship.
But still, the problem that they wished to avoid would have to be addressed by any group that
tried to adapt AA’s program of recovery to drug addicts. How do you achieve the atmosphere of
identification so necessary for surrender and recovery if you let all different kinds of addicts in?
Can someone with a heroin problem relate to someone with an alcohol or marijuana or Valium
problem? How will you ever achieve the unity that the First Tradition says is necessary for
recovery? Our fellowship inherited a tough dilemma.
For some perspective on how we handled that dilemma, one more look at AA history is helpful.
Another thing Bill W. frequently wrote and spoke about was what he called the "tenstrike" of AA—
the wording of the Third and Eleventh Steps. The whole area of spirituality versus religion was
as perplexing for them as unity was for us. Bill liked to recount that the simple addition of the
words "as we understood Him" after the word "God" killed that controversy in one chop. An issue
that had the potential to divide and destroy AA was converted into the cornerstone of the program
by that simple turn of phrase.
FEBRUARY 11, 2011 6:53 PM
N.A. Article, part Two:
As the founders of Narcotics Anonymous adapted our steps, they came up with a "tenstrike" of
perhaps equal importance. Rather than converting the First Step in a natural, logical way ("we
admitted that we were powerless over drugs..."), they made a radical change in that step. They
wrote, "We admitted that we were powerless over our addiction..." Drugs are a varied group of
substances, the use of any of which is but a symptom of our disease. When addicts gather and
focus on drugs, they are usually focusing on their differences, because each of us used a
different drug or combination of drugs. The one thing that we all share is the disease of
addiction. With that single turn of a phrase, the foundation of the Narcotics Anonymous
Fellowship was laid.
Our First Step gives us one focus: our addiction. The wording of Step One also takes the focus
of our powerlessness off the symptom and places it on the disease itself. The phrase "powerless
over a drug" does not go far enough for most of us in recovery—the desire to use has been
removed—but "powerless over our addiction" is as relevant to the oldtimer as it is to the
newcomer. Our addiction begins to resurface and cause unmanageability in our thoughts and
feelings whenever we become complacent in our program of recovery. This process has nothing
to do with "drug of choice." We guard against the recurrence of our drug use by applying our
spiritual principles, before a relapse. Our First Step applies regardless of drug of choice and
length of clean time. With this "tenstrike" as its foundation, NA has begun to flourish as a major
worldwide organization, clearly focusing on addiction..
As any NA community matures in its understanding of its own principles (particularly Step One),
an interesting fact emerges. The AA perspective, with its alcohol-oriented language, and the NA
approach, with its clear need to shift the focus away from specific drugs, don’t mix well. When we
try to mix them, we find that we have the same problem as AA had with us all along! When our
members identify as "addicts and alcoholics" or talk about "sobriety" and living "clean and sober,"
the clarity of the NA message is blurred. The implication in this language is that there are two
diseases, that one drug is separate from another, so a separate set of terms is needed when
discussing addiction. At first glance this seems minor, but our experience clearly shows that the
full impact of the NA message is crippled by this subtle semantic confusion.
FEBRUARY 11, 2011 6:56 PM
N.A. article, part three:
It has become clear that our common identification, our unity, and our full surrender as addicts
depends on a clear understanding of our most fundamental principles: We are powerless over a
disease that gets progressively worse when we use any drug. It does not matter what drug was
at the center for us when we arrived. Any drug we use will release our disease all over again.
We recover from the disease of addiction by applying our Twelve Steps. Our steps are uniquely
worded to carry this message clearly, so the rest of our language of recovery must be consistent
with our steps. We cannot mix these fundamental principles with those of our parent fellowship
without crippling our own message.
Both fellowships have a Sixth Tradition for a reason: to keep each one from being diverted from
its own primary purpose. Because of the inherent need of a Twelve Step fellowship to focus on
one thing and one thing only, so that it can do that one thing supremely well, each Twelve Step
fellowship must stand alone, unaffiliated with everything else. It is in our nature to be separate, to
feel separate, and use a separate set of recovery terms, because we each have a separate,
unique primary purpose. The focus of AA is on the alcoholic, and we ought to respect that
fellowship’s perfect right to adhere to its own traditions and protect its focus. If we cannot use
language consistent with that, we ought not go to their meetings and undermine that
atmosphere. In the same way, we NA members ought to respect our own primary purpose and
identify ourselves at NA meetings simply as addicts, and share in a way that keeps our message
A casual, cursory glance at AA’s success in delivering recovery to alcoholics over the years
makes it abundantly clear that theirs is a successful program. Their literature, their service
FEBRUARY 11, 2011 6:57 PM
N.A. article, part four:
structure, the quality of their members' recovery, their sheer numbers, the respect they enjoy from
society—these things speak for themselves. Our members ought not embarrass us by adopting
a "we're better than them" posture. That can only be counterproductive.
As a fellowship, we must continue to strive to move forward by not stubbornly clinging to one
radical extreme or the other. Our members who have been unintentionally blurring the NA
message by using drug-specific language such as "sobriety," "alcoholic," "clean and sober,"
"dope fiend," etc., could help by identifying simply and clearly as addicts, and using the words
"clean," "clean time," and "recovery," which imply no particular substance. We all could help by
referring to only our own literature at meetings, thereby avoiding any implied endorsement or
affiliation. Our principles stand on their own. For the sake of our development as a fellowship
and the personal recovery of our members, our approach to the problem of addiction must shine
through clearly in what we say and do at meetings.
Our members who have used these arguments to rationalize an anti-AA stand, thereby alienating
many sorely needed stable members, would do well to re-evaluate and reconsider the effects of
that kind of behavior. Narcotics Anonymous is a spiritual fellowship. Love, tolerance, patience,
and cooperation are essential if we are to live our principles.
Let's devote our energies to our personal spiritual development through our own Twelve Steps.
Let's carry our own message clearly. There's a lot of work to be done, and we need each other if
we are to be effective. Let's move forward in a spirit of NA unity.
(Reprinted from Newsline Vol. 2, No. 6.)
AA’s Singleness of purpose
AA’s Singleness of Purpose
Recently, I received a call from a newcomer through the “Bridge the Gap” Program that our
district conducts with treatment centers in this area. I met him upon his release from the facility
and took him to a meeting of my home group Monday Night. As newcomers do in my group, he
sat quietly and listened and all was well.
The following Wednesday, he met me for a meeting that we carry to the Spartanburg Detox.
During the meeting, he introduced himself as an addict and proceeded to share a little bit on the
problems he has had with drugs. Following the meeting, as I was giving him a copy of our book,
I decided to have a talk with him regarding his sharing. I asked, “I noticed that you introduced
yourself as an addict and I need to ask, Do you have a problem with alcohol?” He shared, “ No,
I haven’t had a drink in over a year and a half. I don’t like alcohol and never really drank too
much, my problem is with the drugs.” I then asked, “ If you don’t have an alcohol problem, then
why are you coming to AA meetings?” His response was “When I was in the treatment center,
they told me to come to AA because there is more recovery there.”
I explained to him that I was not trying to make him feel unwelcome in AA, but in order to be of
help to him, I had to know where he was coming from. He again stated that he never has had a
problem with alcohol, that drinking does not create the craving that it does in alcoholics of our
type. Knowing that many alcoholics of our type reach their “bottom” through the aid of drugs and
only later come to discover and admit to their alcoholism, I did not decide that he was non-
alcoholic or that AA was not the path of recovery for him. I told him “I will help you to get started
in recovery and we will begin by studying the Doctor’s Opinion in the Big Book and I suggest
you read that as soon as possible. I will help, but I will only help if you attend NA meetings in
addition to your AA meetings. This is because there will come a time and place where you will
have to take suggestions to stay sober that go against your nature- things you don’t want to do-
and if you are not absolutely convinced that the person giving you the suggestions has
overcome the same problem you have, you will not follow the suggestions that may save your
That is where we parted and I did not here from him for a week. I had been thinking that I had
run a newcomer off when I got a call from him. He said, “I just wanted to let you know that I am
all right. I am going to NA and have a home group that I like and am going to pick a sponsor this
week. I just want to thank you for your help and I’ll call once a week to let you know how it’s
Why am I telling this story? I guess I feel that it shows real growth in my AA program. In the
past, I would have been more comfortable to welcome this non-alcoholic addict and attempt to
sponsor him in AA. It makes me feel better to be all-inclusive, to say all are welcome, to play the
good Samaritan to one and all. I would have chosen my comfort over his welfare and the
welfare of AA. My efforts to sponsor non-alcoholics in AA have always failed and I now realize
that the way to be of real help is to help the non-alcoholic find the help he needs from those best
equipped to give this help. Singleness of purpose not only benefits AA as a whole, but those
who seek recovery for whatever problem they have. There are many fine 12 Step programs out
there whose singleness of purpose makes them best equipped to help the non-alcoholic addict,
gambler, co-dependent, etc. My failure to realize this and direct these persons to the program
they need is selfish and ego-rewarding, choosing what feels good to me over what is right for
them. We do not have all the answers for all the problems known to man.
David T., Part Two:
What we do have is an answer for one very particular problem- alcoholism as defined in the
Bigbook of Alcoholics Anonymous. When I take a drink, I get a craving for another drink that
eliminates all control over how much I drink or what I do in the process. And most importantly,
knowledge of this fact will never keep me from taking the next drink. It is a progressive and fatal
malady that we have come to view as an illness involving an allergic, or abnormal, reaction to
alcohol coupled with a mental obsession for more of the same.
Our program began when one alcoholic, seeking to keep himself sober, sought out another
alcoholic with whom he shared his experience with this particular problem. Dr. Bob, who was
only going to listen for 15 minutes, spent over 6 hours because, as he said of Bill: “He was the
first living human with whom I had ever talked who knew what he was talking about in regard to
alcoholism from actual experience” Dr. Bob was then able to accept the solution because of his
assurance that Bill had overcome a problem common to his own.
So it was then and is still today. Our greatest asset as recovered alcoholics is our past.
Whether in a meeting, on the answering service, or one on one, we use our past experience
with alcohol to reach the still-suffering alcoholic. It is through our stories of alcoholism that we
help the alcoholic overcome his feelings of difference and isolation and accept the solution that
we have to offer. As an alcoholic, I had many defenses against those who would talk of my
drinking, but I had no defense against you when you spoke of your drinking. It was through
hearing these stories that denial fell away and hope was born for myself and countless others
FEBRUARY 12, 2011 9:12 AM
David T., Part Three:
I am an alcoholic. I have a drug history as long as my alcoholism, but I am not an addict. The
stories I have heard of addicts, gamblers, and so on elicit sympathy from me, but do not reach
that place in me of identification that I find in the story of another alcoholic- that place where I
actually begin to feel the pain experienced by the speaker and relate his experience to my own.
Thank God you had alcoholics speak to me of alcoholism when I came into AA. Because
identification is so vital to the recovery of alcoholics like myself, I do not wish to risk weakening
my effectiveness by speaking of my drug use in an AA meeting.
We alcoholics come with many “related disorders” of drugs, gambling, overeating, sex,
depression, anxiety, and so on, but by choosing to join AA we have chosen a common ground
on which to relate to one another- alcoholism and recovery from alcoholism. Given the diversity
of people and problems in AA, the unity necessary to function as a group would be impossible
and our effectiveness with newcomers diminished if we did not keep our focus on our common
problem. I have to relate myself to the group as a whole for my own recovery and the recovery
of those I would help. I would hate to see the day in AA where an alcoholic’s chance to recover
was dependent upon whether we had the “right” person for him that day on the answering
service, 12 Step call, and so on. I would hate to see the day when an alcoholic finds himself
unable to relate to a speaker or discussion due to too much talk of addictions and other
problems he does not have. I want every alcoholic to have the chance I had to enter an AA
meeting and come to realize that those people are like him and maybe if he does what they did
it will work for him too.
I’m sorry to inform those who don’t know it already, but AA is not all-inclusive, nor was it ever
intended to be. We developed from a narrowing of the broad objectives of the Oxford Group to
focus on helping alcoholics only. We are still strong, the Oxford Group is not. Many fine
organizations have come and gone because of their inability to stick to one thing they do well.
Many organizations have failed because they lacked the humility to realize their limitations.
Many fine Twelve Step programs have developed out of our program because their members
new the importance of identification in recovery and sought to create a place where maximum
identification, and therefore maximum recovery, was possible. In this day and age, anyone
seeking help can find a group to deal with his particular problem. Our job is not to try to expand
our program to fit all situations or persons, but to grow in effectiveness at the one simple thing
that we do well. It is not always the easy path to stand on this principle, but I am learning that
we can do this with kindness and concern for all involved. It is by so doing that AA has become
the single most effective treatment for alcoholism in recorded history.
David T., Primary Purpose Group, Spartanburg, SC
Reprinted from the K.I.T. Newsletter
So... this is my attempt to organize things of Jim's at Joe's request. There's a little pencil icon at the bottom of this post if Jim would like to clean this up, add to, or delete any of it. If you can't see the pencil icon, you're not in the mode to edit it. You must go to the Dashboard and edit this post as you see fit. Hope this works for you guys.
BTW, I'd like to thank all you guys for your awesome contributions to the... "OUR" blog these days when I've been busy as hell with work, sick family, deaths, etc.