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Saturday, 25 October 2014

What Is Acceptance?, March, 1962, Bill W


The Fellas (Friends of Alcoholics Anonymous)

PS For AA Minority Report 2013 click here

Friday, 24 October 2014

The Oxford Group – How It DOESN'T Work!

Extracts from the aacultwatch forum (old)

Thanks …... I agree Joe’s books are really simple, that’s the problem I have with them. It’s all there in black and white, how to take the steps and how to sponsor, according to Joe. Done and dusted; a quick fix. I can understand their appeal. However, much of the way we communicate is subconscious. The subliminal insinuated messages in Joe’s writing are disturbing to me. Anyone who hasn’t much knowledge of AA history will probably be unaware of them. For many alcoholics recovery is not so simple. Nor is AA history as simple and as black and white as Joe McQ portrays. He makes little distinction between early AA groups and Oxford Groups. Early AA groups were not Oxford Groups. He takes the 1935-1939 pre formative AA timescale (Oxford Group/alcoholic group) out of its context and then mixes it with the post 1939 early AA timescale. His account of the early AA period (post 1939) doesn’t appear to distinguish between what was the overall developing AA policy at the time and what were the painful mistakes of inexperienced groups who were either dictatorships or on rule making benders.

To me, Joe McQ portrays a half truth of early AA history which leaves a very distorted picture of the origin of the twelve steps, of AA history and of sponsorship.  His books just give you the white, as Joe sees it, leaving out most of the black and shades of grey to be found in the Alcoholics Anonymous World Service books. What Joe doesn’t say is just as telling as what he does. To explain why I have a problem with Joe’s books will take a number of posts, so I hope you’ll bear with me. I’ll reference the posts with literature published by AA World Services and AA Grapevine, so if you then wish to do so, you’ll be able to check out what I have to say for yourself. The first post will be a few things about the Oxford Group that Joe doesn’t tell you, the 2nd will be a few things from the early AA period that Joe doesn’t tell you, the 3rd will be relating AA traditions to the reason why I have a problem with his books. First post coming up soon….. “

Here’s the first post about the problem I have with Joe McQ’s portrayal of The relationship between early A.A. and the Oxford group. The beginnings of A.A. are complex because A.A. began simultaneously both in New York and Akron. It is noted in the forward to “Dr. Bob and the Good Oldtimers” that a joint biography of the Co-founders was planned, but this proved impractical; therefore the biography of Dr. Bob and the development of A.A. in the Midwest was published in “Dr. Bob and the Good Oldtimers” and Bill W’s biography and the development of A.A. in New York was published in “Pass It On”.  The development of AA in the Midwest around Akron is only half the story. In this post I’ll focus on a couple of issues I have with Joe McQ’s version of events and the development of A.A. in New York.

Joe McQ writes very simply about the Oxford Group as though it was a successful and positive influence; Bill W got his ideas for the AA program from the Oxford Group in Akron.

“…Buchman was immediately successful. People who followed this procedure were changed. The Oxford groups grew and spread. Realizing that these five basic principles – these tenets – were the foundation of Christianity (and other religions worldwide), Buchman called his movement “First Century Christian Fellowship”…  (Carry this message p14)

.. “After visiting with the Oxford Group members in Akron, Bill went back to New York with a better understanding of their program. And he went back with knowledge of the powerful dynamics he had learned in Akron: the problem, the solution, and the program of action…” Carry This Message p18)

Bill expanded the Oxford Group’s tenets, and this is what he, Dr. Bob Smith, and the ‘first one hundred’ got sober on. Although they got sober in the Oxford Groups, Bill felt that alcoholics needed to change more drastically than other members of the Oxford Groups did. He realized the tenets needed to be adapted and the meetings made separate for alcoholics. When he wrote the steps in 1938, Bill Wilson did a lot more than just put them together. He found a language alcoholics were more likely to respond to.”(Carry This Message p 19)

The Oxford Group wasn’t as successful as Joe portrays, it mostly failed in sobering up alcoholics. The relationship between the Oxford Group and early AA wasn’t as simple, nor was it as positive. Joe doesn’t mention the Oxford Group’s negative side of coercion or the development of A.A. in New York.  It can be seen from the extracts from Conference Approved literature below that Bill W. and Ebby T. were with the Oxford Group in New York.  Bill W started going to the Oxford Group meetings in December 1934 in New York. The first pre-formative AA meetings in New York were held in 1935 at Bill W’s house in Clinton Street. Perhaps if these meetings had not been suppressed by the Oxford Group in 1935, Bill might have had more success with sobering up alcoholics in the early days in New York. The alcoholics attending the Oxford Group Calvary mission in New York were instructed by the Oxford Group not to attend the meetings at Bill’s house. After about six months of early failures in trying to sober up alcoholics in New York by preaching the Oxford Group message, Bill changed his approach on the advice of psychiatrist Dr. Silkworth. He tried Dr. Silkworth’s approach shortly after with Dr. Bob when he made a trip to Akron. It is clear that Bill W. was not getting a better understanding of the Oxford Group program and the “powerful dynamics he had learned in Akron” as Joe McQ insinuates, but that he was carrying his own developing A.A. program to Dr. Bob in Akron. At this time, it was based on Bill’s previous six month experience of trying to sober up alcoholics in New York combined with the advice gained from Dr. Silkworth. The following are extracts from AA Conference approved literature:

After Bill’s release from Towns on December 18, he and Lois started attending Oxford Group meetings at Calvary House, adjacent to Calvary Episcopal Church.” (Pass It On p127)

In those early months of 1935, Bill Wilson preached the Oxford Group message to anybody who would listen. He spent long hours at Calvary Mission and at Towns, where Dr. Silkworth, at the risk of his reputation, gave Bill permission to talk with some of the patients.” (Pass It On p 131)

My new Oxford Group friends (the religious group in which Ebby had made his, first, but not final recovery) objected to the idea of alcoholism as an illness, so I had quit talking about the allergy –plus- the- obsession. I wanted the approval of these new friends, and in trying to be humble and helpful, I was neither. Slowly I learned, as most of us do, that when ego gets in the way it blocks communication” (Bill W. The Language of the Heart p 247)

In that fall of 1935, a weekly meeting took shape in our Brooklyn parlour. In spite of much failure, a really solid group finally developed. There was first Henry P., and there was Fitz M., both out of Towns Hospital. Following them, more began to make real recoveries.” (Bill W. Alcoholics Anonymous Comes Of Age p74)

"While Lois later admitted that their success rate was low during the 1935-36 period at Clinton Street, she pointed out that many of the alcoholics Bill worked with during that time did recover later on. In other words, Lois said, the seeds of sobriety were being planted, to take root slowly." (Pass It On Page 166)

Tension began to develop between the main group at Calvary Church and Bill’s struggling band of alcoholics. The Oxford Group leaders resented the fact Bill was holding separate meetings for alcoholics at Clinton Street. They criticized his work with the alcoholics as being “narrow and divisive” The alcoholics, on the other hand, felt they needed these special meetings because many of the nonalcoholic O.G. members did not understand them. Jack Smith, one of Sam Shoemaker’s assistants, disapproved of Bill’s work and finally brought the conflict out into the open. In an informal talk at a Sunday Oxford Group gathering, he made references to special meetings “held surreptitiously behind Mrs. Jones’s barn.” The atmosphere of the Oxford Group then became “slightly chilly” toward the Wilsons.  Near the end of 1935, the alcoholics living at Calvary Mission were instructed not to attend the meetings at Clinton Street. “This not only hurt us but left us disappointed in the groups’ leadership,” Lois remembered.1” (Pass It On p169)

1. This incident led Sam Shoemaker to apologize to Bill later, after he himself had broken with the Oxford Group in 1941. Shoemaker wrote: ‘If you ever write the story of A.A.’s early connection with Calvary, I think it ought to be said in all honesty that we were coached in the feeling that you were off on your own spur, trying to do something by yourself, and out of the mainstream of the work. You got your inspiration from those early days, but you didn’t get much encouragement from any of us and for my own part in that stupid desire to control the Spirit, as he manifested Himself in individual people like you, I am heartily sorry and ashamed.” (Footnote Pass It On page 178)

After some six months of violent exertion with scores of alcoholics which I found at a nearby mission and Towns Hospital, it began to look like the Oxford Groupers were right. I hadn’t sobered up anybody.” “Bill W. “A fragment of A.A. History: Origin of the Twelve Steps” AA Grapevine July 1953, The Language of the Heart p 198)

There was, though, one bright spot. My sponsor Ebbie, still clung precariously to his newfound sobriety. What was the reason for all these fiascos? If Ebbie and I could achieve sobriety, why couldn’t all the rest find it too? Some of those we’d worked on certainly wanted to get well. We speculated day and night why nothing much had happened to them. Maybe they couldn’t stand the spiritual pace of the Oxford Group’s four absolutes of honesty, purity, unselfishness, and love. In fact some of the alcoholics declared that this was the trouble. The aggressive pressure put upon them to get good overnight would make them fly high as geese for a few weeks and then flop dismally. They complained too of another form of coercion – something the Oxford Groupers called ‘guidance for others.’ A ‘team composed of nonalcoholic Groupers would sit down with an alcoholic and after ‘quiet time’ would come up with precise instructions as to how the alcoholic should run his own life. As grateful as we were to our O.G. friends, this was sometimes tough to take. It obviously had something to do with the wholesale skidding that went on.” (Bill W. “A fragment of A.A. History: Origin of the Twelve Steps” AA Grapevine July 1953, The Language of the Heart page 199)

Just before leaving for Akron, Dr. Silkworth had given me a great piece of advice. Without it A.A. might never have been born. ‘Look, Bill,’ he had said ‘you’re having nothing but failure because you are preaching at these alcoholics. You are talking to them about the Oxford Group precepts of being absolutely honest, absolutely pure, absolutely unselfish, and absolutely loving. This is a very big order. Then you top it off by harping on about this mysterious spiritual experience of yours. No wonder they point to their finger to their heads and go out and get drunk. Why don’t you turn your strategy the other way around? Aren’t you the very fellow who once showed me that book by the psychologist James which says that deflation at great depth is the foundation of most spiritual experiences? Have you forgotten that Dr. Carl Yung in Zurich told a certain alcoholic, the one who later helped sober up your friend Ebby, that his only hope of salvation was a spiritual experience? No, Bill you have got the cart before the horse. You’ve got to deflate these people first. So give them the medical business, and give it to them hard. Pour it right into them about the obsession that condemns them to drink and the physical sensitivity or allergy of the body that condemns them to go mad or die if they keep on drinking. Coming from an alcoholic, one alcoholic talking to another, maybe that will crack those tough egos deep down.  Only then can you begin to try out your other medicine, the ethical principles you have picked up from the Oxford Groups. ” (Bill W. Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age pp 67- 68)

Shortly after this history-making conversation, I found myself in Akron, Ohio, on a business venture which promptly collapsed. Alone in the town, I was scared to death of getting drunk. I was no longer a teacher or a preacher, I was an alcoholic who knew that he needed another alcoholic, as much as that one could possibly need me. Driven by that urge, I was soon face to face with Dr. Bob. It was at once evident that Dr. Bob knew more of spiritual things than I did. He also had been in touch with the Oxford Groupers at Akron. But somehow he simply couldn't get sober. Following Dr. Silkworth's advice, I used the medical sledgehammer. I told him what alcoholism was and just how fatal it could be. Apparently this did something to Dr. Bob, On June 10, 1935, he sobered up, never to drink again. When, in 1939, Dr. Bob's story first appeared in the book, Alcoholic Anonymous, he put one paragraph of it in italics. Speaking of me, he said: "Of far more importance was the fact that he was the first living human with whom I had ever talked, who knew what be was talking about in regard to alcoholism from actual experience".” (Bill W. “A fragment of A.A. History: Origin of the Twelve Steps” AA Grapevine July 1953, The Language of the Heart pp 199-200)

The Oxford Groupers had clearly shown us what to do. And, just as importantly, we had also learned  what not to do as far as alcoholics were concerned. We found that certain of their ideas and attitudes simply could not be sold to alcoholics. For example, drinkers would not take pressure in any form, excepting from John Barleycorn himself. They always had to be led, not pushed. They would not stand for the rather aggressive evangelism of the Oxford Groups. And they would not accept the principle of ‘team guidance’ for their own personal lives. It was too authoritarian for them. In other respects, too, we found when first contacted most alcoholics just wanted to find sobriety, nothing else. They clung to their other defects, letting go only little by little. ” (Bill W. Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age p 74)

One of the first insights Dr. Bob and I shared was that all true communication must be founded on mutual need. Never could we talk down to anyone, certainly not a fellow alcoholic. We saw that each sponsor would have to humbly admit his own needs as clearly as those of his prospect. Here was the foundation for AA’s Twelfth Step to recovery, the Step in which we carry the message.” (Bill W. “The Language of the Heart” The Language of the Heart p 247)

Until the middle of 1937 we in New York had been working alongside the Oxford Groups. But in the latter part of that year we most reluctantly parted company with these great friends. Naturally enough they did not think too highly of our objective, limited as it was to alcoholics.” (Bill W. Alcoholics Anonymous Comes Of Age p 74)

Bill had friends in the Oxford Group who understood his view of the situation. One of them was John Ryder, a New York advertising executive who knew Bill in the days of the Calvary Mission. Ryder made these comments about Bill’s separation from the Oxford Group: “I was, or felt, quite close to Bill Wilson in the early days before A.A. was started. Herb Wallace, a close teammate of mine, spent much time with Bill, caused him to take a public speaking course at the Downtown Athletic Club; but I think the ‘group’ proper disowned Bill when he proceeded on his guidance to create a special group for A.A.’s. At that time, if you were associated with the ‘group,’ your guidance seemed to be of questionable worth unless okayed by Sam Shoemaker or Frankie Buchman or one of his accredited representatives.” (Pass It On p173-174)

The Oxford Group disapproved of the alcoholics’ concentration on their problem to the exclusion of other group concerns. Lois even said that the “Oxford Group kind of kicked us out,” that she and Bill were not considered “maximum” by the groupers. (“Maximum” was used by the Oxford Group to define the expected degree of commitment to group activities.)” (Pass It On p174)

1937 Bill and the New York alcoholics separate from Oxford Group. More than 40 alcoholics are now staying sober. (Pass It On Page 407)

“…but by counting everybody who seemed to have found sobriety in New York and Akron, they concluded that more than 40 alcoholics were staying dry as a result of the program! (Pass It On page 178)

In 1938, Frank Amos, an assistant to John D. Rockefeller Jr., made several reports to Rockefeller about the newly forming A.A. In one report he put the membership as follows: “Of the 110 members then in the program, 70 were in the Akron-Cleveland area, the report said” (Dr. Bob and the Good Old Timers p135) (This leaves 40 members in New York)

In 1939 Dr. Silkworth published a medical paper in which he stated: “These ex-alcoholic men and women number about one hundred at present. One Group is scattered along the Atlantic seaboard with New York as a center. Another and somewhat larger body is located in the Middle West”  (Dr. W.D Silkworth M.D. (A New Approach to Psychotherapy in Chronic Alcoholism,” Journal Lancet, July 1939; Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age, appendix E:a, p 303)

To sum up, the first problem that I have with Joe McQ’s account of early AA history is his insinuation that Bill got his ideas for the A.A. program from the Oxford Group in Akron, and as Joe put it, “Bill went back to New York with a better understanding of their program.” It can be seen from the above that this statement should be the other way around. Bill took his own developing A.A. program to Akron and sobered up Dr. Bob, who couldn’t stay sober with the Oxford Group until he met Bill.  Secondly, it can be seen from the above that Joe McQ’s reference to ‘the first one hundred’ “got sober in the Oxford Groups” is simplistic. At the time the book Alcoholics Anonymous was published in 1939, the New York group had already been separated from the Oxford Group for some two years. It is unlikely that all the ‘first one hundred’ got sober with the Oxford groups. Those of the ‘first one hundred’ who joined the New York group after 1937 would have got sober in this group rather than the Oxford Groups.”


The Fellas (Friends of Alcoholics Anonymous)

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Thursday, 23 October 2014

Alcohol research


"Definition of Addiction

Public Policy Statement: Definition of Addiction

Short Definition of Addiction:

Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviours.

Addiction is characterized by inability to consistently abstain, impairment in behavioural control, craving, diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviours and interpersonal relationships, and a dysfunctional emotional response. Like other chronic diseases, addiction often involves cycles of relapse and remission. Without treatment or engagement in recovery activities, addiction is progressive and can result in disability or premature death.”

Genetic factors account for about half of the likelihood that an individual will develop addiction. Environmental factors interact with the person’s biology and affect the extent to which genetic factors exert their influence. Resiliencies the individual acquires (through parenting or later life experiences) can affect the extent to which genetic predispositions lead to the behavioural and other manifestations of addiction. Culture also plays a role in how addiction becomes actualized in persons with biological vulnerabilities to the development of addiction.

Other factors that can contribute to the appearance of addiction, leading to its characteristic bio-psycho-socio-spiritual manifestations, include:
  1. The presence of an underlying biological deficit in the function of reward circuits, such that drugs and behaviours which enhance reward function are preferred and sought as reinforcers;
  2. The repeated engagement in drug use or other addictive behaviours, causing neuroadaptation in motivational circuitry leading to impaired control over further drug use or engagement in addictive behaviours;
  3. Cognitive and affective distortions, which impair perceptions and compromise the ability to deal with feelings, resulting in significant self-deception;
  4. Disruption of healthy social supports and problems in interpersonal relationships which impact the development or impact of resiliencies;
  5. Exposure to trauma or stressors that overwhelm an individual’s coping abilities;
  6. Distortion in meaning, purpose and values that guide attitudes, thinking and behaviour;
  7. Distortions in a person’s connection with self, with others and with the transcendent (referred to as God by many, the Higher Power by 12-steps groups, or higher consciousness by others); and
  8. The presence of co-occurring psychiatric disorders in persons who engage in substance use or other addictive behaviours.
Addiction is characterized by:
  1. Inability to consistently Abstain;
  2. Impairment in Behavioural control;
  3. Craving; or increased “hunger” for drugs or rewarding experiences;
  4. Diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviours and interpersonal relationships; and
  5. A dysfunctional Emotional response.”


The Fellas (Friends of Alcoholics Anonymous)

PS For AA Minority Report 2013 click here

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Bill and Bob's Excellent Adventure! (contd)

A wildly imaginative dianoetic rambling concerning the the “basic text” of Alcoholics Anonymous (viz. the Big Book) (our comments in red print)

The Doctor's Opinion (pp. xxv-xxvii)

"THE DOCTOR’S OPINION [note: apparently 'opinions' are permissible in AA, contrary to orthodoxy!]

We of Alcoholics Anonymous believe that the reader will be interested in the medical estimate [ie. an opinion] of the plan of recovery described in this book. Convincing testimony must surely come from medical men who have had experience with the sufferings of our members and have witnessed our return to health. A well-known doctor, chief physician at a nationally prominent hospital specializing in alcoholic and drug addiction, gave Alcoholics Anonymous this letter:

To Whom It May Concern:
I have specialized in the treatment of alcoholism for many years.

In late 1934 I attended a patient [Bill Wilson] who, though he had been a competent businessman of good earning capacity, was an alcoholic of a type I had come to regard as hopeless. [which implies there are 'other' types]

In the course of his third treatment he acquired certain ideas concerning a possible means [ie. not the sole means] of recovery. As part of his rehabilitation he commenced to present his conceptions to other alcoholics, impressing upon them that they must do likewise with still others. This has become the basis of a rapidly growing fellowship of these men and their families. This man and over one hundred others appear to have recovered. [a properly cautious assessment]

I personally know scores of cases who were of the type [see above] with whom other methods had failed completely.

These facts appear to be of extreme medical importance; because of the extraordinary possibilities of rapid growth inherent in this group they may mark a new epoch in the annals of alcoholism. These men may well have a remedy for thousands of such situations.

You may rely absolutely on anything they say about themselves.

Very truly yours,

The physician who, at our request, gave us this letter, has been kind enough to enlarge upon his views in another statement which follows. In this statement he confirms what we who have suffered alcoholic torture must believe—that the body of the alcoholic is quite as abnormal as his mind. It did not satisfy us to be told that we could not control our drinking just because we were maladjusted to life, that we were in full flight from reality, or were outright mental defectives. These things were true to some extent, in fact, to a considerable extent with some of us. But we are sure that our bodies were sickened as well. In our belief, any picture of the alcoholic which leaves out this physical factor is incomplete.

The doctor’s theory that we have an allergy to alcohol interests us. As laymen, our opinion as to its soundness may, of course, mean little. But as ex-problem drinkers, we can say that his explanation makes good sense. It explains many things for which we cannot otherwise account.

Though we work out our solution on the spiritual as well as an altruistic plane, we favour hospitalization [ie. medical care should be left to the professionals] for the alcoholic who is very jittery or befogged. More often than not, it is imperative that a man’s brain be cleared before he is approached, as he has then a better chance of understanding and accepting what we have to offer.[which would suggest that newcomers should not be introduced to the programme before they are ready to grasp at least some its implications]

(our emphases)

Coming next – The Doctor's Opinion (contd)


The Fellas (Friends of Alcoholics Anonymous)

Caution: This curse (sorry!!) COURSE is not to be taken as AUTHORITATIVE nor is it to be regarded as DEFINITIVE in any way. Anyone found to be according it any undue status will be reported to the appropriate authorities (ie. GSO York or whoever) who will then do …. ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! (quite rightly too we say!). Moreover any person discovered to be quoting from the aforementioned course will be TERMINATED with extreme prejudice!

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Where Will Power Comes In, May, 1962, Bill W


The Fellas (Friends of Alcoholics Anonymous)

PS For AA Minority Report 2013 click here

Monday, 20 October 2014

A little bit of extra dosh always comes in handy.....

Extracts from the aacultwatch forum (old)

To illustrate that non-profit organizations are businesses (and not always as non -profit as they appear), here’s an example of a family run non-profit drug rehab called The Ark which was busted for exploiting clients by the Human Services Department in Utah USA.

A violation notice issued in January by the Department of Human Services specifically cites Boberg, in at least one instance, for "improper use of clients for manual labor for personal gain to Boberg Family,” ….."Clients shamed, embarrassed and verbally abused due to actions of Gloria Boberg,’ the violation notice stated.”…… “It also said that staff members used methods ‘designed to humiliate or frighten a consumer,’ according to information gathered by the state.

Clients pay $13,000 to $15,000 each month, depending on insurance.”  The salaries of non-profit directors are interesting: Gloria Boberg (Founder and executive director) received $161,000 in 2008, Jeremy Boberg, (Director of admissions)and Darron Boberg (Director of operations) each received $132,000 in 2008. “IRS documents show the three also collect $11,000 to $21,000 each, per year, in "other compensation." They say that's Ark-related car and travel expenses.”

This rehab appears to have no connection with AA, but back to the subject of Step’nahead Wayne B, it would be interesting to know how much he is earning off the back of A.A. as executive director of his non-profit organization. Does anyone know? If the Last Mile Foundation is compared to a non-profit the size of The Ark rehab, “According to surveys by the Utah Nonprofits Association, $80,000 was the average salary in 2006 for an executive director of a comparably-sized nonprofit agency. It was $117,000 in 2011.” If comparable, then that would'n't be a bad income for Wayne B for copying a few bits and pieces from the Big Book and AA Grapevine, writing a rehash of the Twelve Steps, then travelling the world to talk about it to a gullible audience that loves him.

Sources: KSL TV/ News Radio: “Nonprofit rehab center's business practices raise ethical concerns” By John Hollenhors  http://www.ksl.com/index.php?nid=148&sid=19881737 “Controversial drug treatment center was cited for exploiting clients” By John Hollenhorst http://www.ksl.com/?nid=148&sid=19929490


The Fellas (Friends of Alcoholics Anonymous)

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Sunday, 19 October 2014

Alcohol research

Research Society on Alcoholism Lecture Series (2006 and 2008)

The Research Society on Alcoholism (RSA) sponsored a series of educational lectures, on a range of topics within the field of alcohol research. This website features all 32 lectures -- 16 lectures presented in 2006 and 16 lectures in 2008. These lectures are available for viewing in quicktime movie format. The presenters powerpoint slides and lecture notes are available to download as well.“


The Fellas (Friends of Alcoholics Anonymous)

PS For AA Minority Report 2013 click here