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Saturday, 19 April 2014

Never had a bad day? What's wrong with you?

Extract from the aacultwatch forum (old):
“…..... The issue isn't to question the idea of sharing in a way that gives hope to the newcomer. That is what we should do - share experience, strength and hope, as indicated in our Preamble.

EXPERIENCE is, of course, what happens in our lives and can include delightful events or tragic events or just plain run-of-the-mill daily routine events. Sometimes sharing "bad" experiences can give the newcomer or others IDENTIFICATION. Identification is the starting point of all healing in AA. It has been my experience that I should never pre-judge what will or will not help my listeners.

STRENGTH is what I get from the High Power(s) of my understanding. This is what keeps me going, keeps me strong and gets me through good or bad times. Remember - alcoholics don't really need an excuse to drink. I wanted to drink just as much in the good times as the bad.

HOPE is what I try to give the newcomer, and the alcoholic who suffers (who may not necessarily be a newcomer), by showing that it is possible to stay sober one day at a time, whatever the circumstances of life. On my first day of sobriety I was homeless and destitute, but I didn't drink. I went to a meeting that evening and began to take further actions in order to recover my life. It started with the first Step. That is one reason I still keep coming back, even after 26 years - to give people hope, to confirm that sobriety is possible over a long period. And by doing so, it affirms my own recovery. Besides, I love AA now and I really enjoy most meetings I attend.

The issue in my post was about the phrase "I've never had a bad day" which is not an AA promise, and is bandied about in the Cult groups I have attended in order to bamboozle and control unsuspecting and vulnerable people, and lead them into a state of co-dependency upon another person (e.g. sponsor). It is a mechanism of control based upon exaggerations and even lies. It also causes unnecessary distress to people who, for one reason or another, cannot in the heart of hearts say that they have "never had a bad day". (And, let's be honest, that would include nearly all of the human race!) It is a way of putting people down while putting others on a pedestal. It also generates intolerance and division. Having witnessed the distress and confusion this phrase causes newcomers, and others in AA, I feel it right to unpack it, and to challenge it. That's all.”

The Fellas (Friends of Alcoholics Anonymous)

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PPS For new aacultwatch forum see here. Have your say!

Friday, 18 April 2014

AA Conference Questions 2014 (contd)

(See the new aacultwatch forum)


The background document to this question can be seen on the GSO (GB) website in the Document Library. Follow the link ‘Background Material for Conference 2014, then select  ‘Revised Chapter Three, AA Service Handbook for Great Britain.doc’  http://www.alcoholics-anonymous.org.uk/Members/Document-Library# On the first page of this Revised Chapter Three, AA Service Handbook for Great Britain there is a quotation attributed to Bill W. which has been so severely edited and the wording so radically changed, including the addition of the word “modern”, so that it goes well beyond that at which it can honestly be attributed to Bill W. The severely butchered and mashed up misquote reads as follows:

A vast communications net now covers the earth, even to its remotest reaches... nothing matters more to AA's future welfare than the manner in which we use the colossus of modern communication. Used unselfishly and well, it can produce results surpassing our present imagination.”
Bill W, The AA Grapevine, Inc., November 1960

What Bill W. actually wrote was:

"A vast communications net now covers the earth, even to its remotest reaches. Granting all its huge public benefits, this limitless world forum is nevertheless a hunting ground for all those who would seek money, acclaim and power at the expense of society in general. Here the forces of good and evil are locked in struggle. All that is shoddy and destructive contests all that is best. Therefore nothing can matter more to the future welfare of AA than the manner in which we use this colossus of communication. Used unselfishly and well, the results can surpass our present imagination. Should we handle this great instrument badly, we shall be shattered by the ego demands of our own people--often with the best of intention on their part.”  (Bill W. AA Grapevine November 1960. http://da.aagrapevine.org/  The article from which this quote has been taken is also published in full in ‘The Language of the Heart,’ the paragraph quoted on pages 319-320.)

It is not too difficult to find where this distortion of AA history comes from. It can be found on Primary Purpose cult websites:

"Nothing matters more to AA's future welfare than the manner in which we use the colossus of modern communication. Used unselfishly and well, it can produce results surpassing our present imagination." - Bill Wilson, Grapevine, November, 1960. (AA Australia Online Unity Group) http://www.aa-oztralia.net/

A vast communications net now covers the earth, even to its remotest reaches… nothing matters more to AA’s future welfare than the manner in which we use the colossus of modern communication. Used unselfishly and well, it can produce results surpassing our present imagination.” Bill W., The AA Grapevine, Inc., November 1960 (Primary Purpose Group, Austin) http://austinppg.org/

Apart from the precise surgical removal all of Bill W’s critical thinking in the passage, the following parts of remaining sentences (marked in brackets) have been re-worded when compared to the original, one with the addition of “modern”.

A vast communications net now covers the earth, even to its remotest reaches... [nothing matters more to AA's future welfare than the manner ]  in which we use [ the ] colossus of  [ modern ] communication. Used unselfishly and well, [ it can produce results surpassing ] our present imagination. ” 

In its present form this page of Chapter Three of the handbook, illustrates how the AA programme and AA history is being subtly, yet powerfully, censured and distorted by material put on the internet by outside organisations and individual independent websites which claim to be AA, but operate outside the AA service structure.

Perhaps the literature committee could do better than spend time lifting things off cult websites and read a little of George Orwell instead. Because when these distortions of history find their way into official AA guidelines and literature, the power of those who would seek money, acclaim and power at the expense of society in general will be complete.

But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought. A bad usage can spread by tradition and imitation even among people who should and do know better." - George Orwell, (“Politics and the English Language” April 1946) http://orwell.ru/library/essays/politics/english/e_polit


"It is generally acknowledged that a movement which deletes its history, deletes its future as well." (Zafiridis Ph. (2011). 'The SYNANON Self Help Organization and its Contribution to  the Understanding and Treatment of Addiction.' Therapeutic Communities, 32,2, pp 125 – 141. http://www.selfhelp.gr/attachments/article/57/Synanon_eng.pdf

Note: Conference Questions can be downloaded in pdf from the GSO (GB) website. They are on pages 5-11, AA Service News, Issue 157, Winter 2013 http://www.alcoholics-anonymous.org.uk/download/1/Library/Documents/AA%20Service%20News/157%20Winter%202013.pdf 

Conference 2014 background material can be found on the GSO (GB) website. Follow the “Background Material for Conference 2014” link in the Document Library. http://www.alcoholics-anonymous.org.uk/Members/Document-Library


The Fellas (Friends of Alcoholics Anonymous)

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Thursday, 17 April 2014

This Matter of Honesty, August, 1961, Bill W

PS For AA Minority Report 2013 click here
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Wednesday, 16 April 2014

A 'financial awakening'! Yippee!


Recently, I attended a meeting at an AA "clubhouse" [which shall remain nameless] at the …...... . It was a noonie, It was a closed discussion meeting. 

After going through the opening rituals and introductions and readings, someone who is "newish" stuck up his hand to share. 

This "newbie" went on to share about some problems that he was having with his sponsor. Based upon what the "newbie" said, it appears that his sponsor was micromanaging his life. The sponsor was telling him not to look for a job. The sponsor was telling him how to treat his parents, with whom he lived. The sponsor was balancing his check book. Etc. 

So, the topic of the meeting turned to Sponsorship. 

People began to share about their sponsors who now how to answer all their questions. Others shared about their sponsees and how they would answer all of their problem and tell them what to do. 

As this progressed, I recalled my first sponsor. It took me about 4 months to join a home group, and when I did, I told the leader that I needed a sponsor. She reached her arm out, grabbed a guy, pulled him over and said "...say hi to Dave, he will be your sponsor..." 

Dave and I exchanged phone numbers and Dave told me to call him, to check in with him, every day. 

So, I began calling Dave - daily. Being a "newbie" I was full of questions and confusion, etc. And, I learned that, by today's standards, Dave was a terrible sponsor. When I would ask him about a problem that I was experiencing, this answer was "...don't drink, go to a meeting.." I can't tell you how many times I heard that ...don't drink, go to a meeting.." When I asked him about the Steps, he said "...go to a Step meeting..." Other times when I would complain about stuff he might say things like "...did you ever try....? or "...did you ever consider..." and things like that. He never answered my questions. He never told me what to do. In fact, once, when I was complaining about the Steps. I forget the reason, which really doesn't matter, Dave said one of the sternest things that he ever said to me. He pointed his finger at me and said "...Stop trying to work the Steps, let the Steps work You..." In hindsight, I now understand what he was saying. 

What did Dave do? Well, he listened to me. He talked to me. He talked to me as equal. He never talked down to me. When I took my first coffee commitment, he was there with me to help make the coffee and set up the chairs. 

And I did follow Dave's advice, I did "...don't drink, go to a meeting.." 

Dave helped, was instrumental in getting through my first several years of sobriety. 

During my journey in AA, however, things have changed. Sponsors have now become deified. Sponsors are now all-knowing gurus. Sponsors are able to tell their sponsees what to do. 

Listening to people share, I feel very inadequate as a sponsor. I sort of copy what Dave did with me. When a sponsee asks me that to do, I tell them "...don't drink, go to a meeting.." When I sponsee has a problem, I try to listen. Often I must tell them "...I donnuh..."  With my sponsees, we can bounce ideas back and forth, but the playing field is level. I have learned that I am not a guru. I am not competent to tell someone else what the should do. In fact, when I was new, I didn't like to be should on. 

So, with all this conflict raging in my head, I had a brilliant I idea that I need to share! This is such a brilliant idea that I do need feedback to work out many details. I invite anyone who is interested to make suggestions that we can consider. 

Here is my idea [ absolutely brilliant ]. 

We develop a training course for Sponsors. We develop course material. We develop lesson plans. And we charge tuition to the course, and we sell the course material to the students. We design a course of approximately 100 hours, with written and oral exams at the end.

Then, upon successful completion [ graduation ] the person is presented with a certificate, suitable for framing, and a wallet sized card, with photo ID, proclaiming that person to be a "CERTIFIED AA SPONSOR." 

So, waddayatink? Brilliant isn't it. I realize it will need some tweaking of the details, which is why I am looking for feedback. 

We can develop the course. 

We can publish the course materials. 

We, alone, become the certifying organization for AA Sponsors.

And we can do this as a TransAtlantic project, and just think of the money that we can make! 

Please let me know. 

Oh, by way of PS, I attach hereto several samples of that I have in mind. 

Let me know your thoughts on these as well.”

Comment: Our thoughts? We can smell the dosh already! Quick! Quick! Before anybody else thinks of it! [looks around furtively]. Oh damn! They already have! (see Back to Basics/Primary Purpose etc).

Still it was a nice dream while it lasted!


The Fellas (Friends of Alcoholics Anonymous …. and still broke!)

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

To thine own self be true

This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Farewell, my blessing season this in thee!
Most humbly do I take my leave, my lord.
Hamlet Act 1, scene 3, 78–82

Extract from the aacultwatch forum (old): 

"Hi …....,
Thank you for your contribution.  I would like to comment on something important you said in your post. If you will allow me to quote you :

"....he pointed out that in a group such as joys your given a group identity. The trobel with that is you dont really know you you are with out that group. Your given an identity which is more what th group wants you to be insted opposed to a better version of who I am is an unique  individual. I was sort of like a clone. "
You have a very interesting insight into the dangers of being involved in cults like Joys/Vision/RTR etc. I have heard that some in AA think that is it is ok to be in a cult, and "whats the big deal?".  I beg to differ. And here is why.
What exactly does "recovery" mean? For me, it means to recover something that was lost. To get back something. When I was drinking I lost sobriety, yes. I also lost peace of mind, and gradually, over the years of progressive drinking, I lost my jobs, hobbies, interests, relationships, family, and even my identity. I didn't know who or what I was at the end of my drinking. I was either drunk as a skunk and numb in the brain, or hungover wishing I was dead.
Recovery, for me, has not just been about putting down the drink. It has been about RECOVERING ALL that was lost as a result of my drinking. Thus - returning to work, developing hobbies, finding interests, social involvements, emotional development, sex and romance, study, improving relationships with family and friends etc- all has been part of the recovery process. My identity is part of that. Finding out who I am as an individual, what my values and beliefs really are, and what interests me, what inspires me, and what I want to do with my life.  In order to achieve this I need freedom from alcohol and freedom of conscience and action. In the cults this is not really possible.
Yes, a cult member may be free from alcohol, but have they really "recovered" in the full sense of the word ?? In many cases I would say no. Talking "group-speak" all the time; having to live your life on the say-so of a sponsor; only being allowed to feel "happy" feelings or think "joyful" thoughts etc. - this is not learning to have one's own identity, process emotions in a healthy way or developing into an individual human being. In fact it is the reverse. It is abandoning responsibility for being an individual human being. 
During my involvement with the Vision cult, I became alienated from non-cult friends, I lost interest in many of my hobbies - in fact I dropped some of them altogether because I was told they were not "spiritual" enough. I became intolerant of people who didn't work the same "program" as I was working. I became cut off from the mainstream of AA. I became arrogant and narcissistic - wanting sponsees to be carbon copies of me. I became obese. I also became a liar - saying that I was "happy joyous and free" when inwardly and secretly I was not happy with myself at all. Not surprising ! How can anyone be happy when they are not really being themselves and not being true to themselves?!  I was too scared to be myself because the Vision cult dogma inferred that I would be being "self-centred" and would drink if I didn't tow the line.
Of course this was all fear based and unfounded cult rubbish. One of the happiest and most constructive days of my life was when I left the VIsion cult and walked out of the gates of St Peter's Eaton Square for the last time. I bless that day. For although I was sober, and had been for a long time at that point, I was still living in fear and not being true to myself. I had not yet fully "recovered" that which I had lost - my identity, my individuality, my humaness,  - all that makes me what I am. 
This all happened over 10 years ago now. I regard it as my "second spiritual awakening". Since I left Vision, life has had its ups and downs - because that is called NORMALITY. The slogans and group-think of Vision's, Joys etc try to shame normality in order to belittle, manipulate and control. ("Misery is optional" and "I've never had a bad day" are normality-shaming slogans. Have you ever heard normal people in day to day life say things like that?)
Cult involvement is very dangerous and can seriously damage your mental, physical, emotional and spiritual life.  This is my experience.......” 

The Fellas (Friends of Alcoholics Anonymous
PS To use “comment” system simply click on the relevant tab below this article and sign in. All comments go through a moderation stage

PPS For new aacultwatch forum see here. Have your say!

Monday, 14 April 2014

Time to play with the toys!

Here's something we're experimenting with …. QR codes. All those with the latest toys scan this (ie. with your mobile (cell) phone)

Let us know how you get on


The Fellas (Friends of Alcoholics Anonymous)

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Money, money, and more money!

A couple more conference questions that didn't quite make it...... 

16. Would the Fellowship discuss, share experience and make recommendations on whether the selling price of AA literature should be reduced?


Guideline 12 
Report of the Trustees and Financial Statements for the year ended 30 September 2012 
Tradition 7 
Concept XII

Guideline 12 suggests GSO hold 'a prudent reserve equivalent to the budget expenditure for the forthcoming year', this aim being underlined by the Reserves Policy in the Report of the Trustees. However, at 30 September 2012 reserves totalled over £1.9 million while annual expenditure was £1.2 million.

In the year to 30 September 2012 the General Service Board reported a surplus in excess of £250,000, further increasing its reserves from a figure already over the Guideline's recommended position and the Trustees' aim.

Tradition 7 long form states that ‘...we view with much concern those A.A. treasuries which continue, beyond prudent reserves, to accumulate funds for no stated A.A. Purpose.’ Additionally, Concept XII warns against becoming ‘...the seat of perilous wealth...' In the year to 30 September 2012 literature sales were £512,000 while costs were £178,000. Literature is therefore being sold at almost three times cost.

Reducing the selling price of literature would bring many benefits, such as:

decreasing the Board's annual surplus and reducing reserves to bring them into line with Guideline and Trustees' aims to hold one year's running costs as a prudent reserve.

helping groups and members to carry the message more widely at a lower cost.

allowing AA groups to sell literature at a lower price than online bookstores, making this part of the fundamental attraction of meetings.

My intention behind asking this question is to address two significant issues revealed by the latest accounts‐ those being that literature is being sold at a large profit, significantly hindering its vital role in carrying the message more widely, and the unnecessary and ever growing level of reserves which are in danger of compromising our primary spiritual aim.

Terms of Reference No. 6/7 Background information incorrect and is the responsibility of GSB.”


17. Would the Fellowship discuss, share experience and make recommendations on whether, given recent negative publicity surrounding corporate tax avoidance and the use of tax havens, allowing the Board's investment managers to place A.A. reserves in various funds listed in Luxembourg risks the Fellowship being drawn into public controversy?


Tradition 10 
Report of the Trustees and Financial Statements for the year ended 30 September 2012

The short form of Tradition 10 suggests that '...the AA name ought never be drawn into public controversy’. The Report of the Trustees and Financial Statements for the year ended 30 September 2012 discloses, at note 14, the following investments valued at over 5% of the total invested:

Giobal Select SICAV‐ Sol Glob EQ L{A) (market value £108,398), and Global Select ‐ Corporate Bond XXVIII (market value £101,300)...Global Select Total Return Bond XLI (market value £42,600), and Bluebay Investment Grade Bond Fund Lux Listing (market value£51,024)

These funds are listed in Luxembourg, a low tax regime.

My intention behind asking this question is to address what I see as a very real threat to AA's noncontroversial stance. I strongly believe our reserves should be held in UK listed investments, in a mix of riskfree Government bonds and ethical investments. With public opinion as it currently stands, investing in Luxembourg assets is unwise.

Terms of Reference No. 7 Responsibility of General Service Board”

Comment: For question 16 see here.

As usual the solution is simple. If the General Service Board is not prepared to uphold AA traditions then it's time for them to go. If the General Service Office (York) has become profligate with our funds then the solution again is simple. Cut off their money. The fact is that whereas they might need us we don't need them. Our primary (and indeed sole) responsibility is to carry the AA message to the still suffering alcoholic. This has always taken place best face-to-face (either one-to-one or via the AA group and meeting). To this end each group's priority should be its own financial viability. ie. can it pay the rent for the meeting venue? After that all we need to do is provide the necessary conduits for potential members to contact us either via the phone, personal contact, or increasingly the internet. For none of these do we require the services of a head office. Similarly ALL AA literature should be provided online free. It should not be used as a subsidy for the running of increasingly expensive, (and as we have already said) largely unnecessary facilities For those who require hard copies these should be made available at cost (with absolutely no profit element included). With respect to the last item it should be a relatively simple matter for groups to provide a library service for members so that the latter can borrow books rather than buy them. A refundable deposit could be taken to cover loss or damage to items. Similarly literature secretaries should advertise the fact that AA literature is mostly available free online and provide the web links to these (we shall be experimenting with our own hand outs and posting these online in the near future). Finally the General Service Office (York) has always been a bottomless pit and will always ask for MORE money – and the MORE of YOUR money they have the MORE of YOUR money they will inevitably spend (and hoard apparently!). Cut off the supply and they will soon find ways of reducing unnecessary expenditures, or indeed simply cease to exist. AA will adapt and carry on and hardly notice their absence!

As for question 17, if the flow of funds is reduced so is the surplus and thus the need for investments (ethical or otherwise) ….. problem solved! Simple isn't it!


The Fellas (Friends of Alcoholics Anonymous)