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Saturday, 23 August 2014

An Enquiry into Primary Purpose and Back to Basic AA Groups

See here


Primary Purpose internet links and other links to Back to Basics

A network of loosely linked Primary Purpose websites, hosted by individuals and groups now exists on the internet. This provides the international communication of Primary Purpose related articles, discussions, the sale of Primary Purpose/ Back to Basics related literature, website donations and links to other organisations. The Internet communication also facilitates the formation of affiliated AA groups; and the arrangement of seminars and conventions with international speakers, which can be arranged independently of local AA intergroups(5). The website network has become a separate “virtual” group conscience to that of AA.

Due to the subtle website links, some individuals and groups may be unaware that they have become part of the alternate group conscience and the implications this has regarding AA Traditions.”

Comment: An extremely useful and well-researched article (although we wouldn't refer to them as AA groups since they are by their nature outside organisations with their own Where to Finds, literature, financing together with their own outside affiliations etc). Unfortunately many of the links which appear in the research are no longer 'live' (a frequent occurrence on the internet). However their new locations may be found with a bit of judicious research


The Fellas (Friends of Alcoholics Anonymous)

Friday, 22 August 2014

Have you or have you not got IT?

A reader of the blog recently wrote in to us with this enigmatic question. Apparently he (or she) had been posed it (by a recovery 'expert') whilst attending an AA meeting . Never mind Shakespeare's existential dilemma encapsulated in that immortal enquiry: “To be or not to be, that is the question”, the crucial matter for consideration these days is whether or not we've got IT! Apparently it (no ….. not that IT!) was suggested to our correspondent that they may well not have got IT in which case they'd jolly well better get a move on or …. (as is usually appended to these 'suggestions') they may well …... DRINK AGAIN! (shock horror!). So what is IT and exactly how do we get IT? Can we borrow IT? Is IT on sale at Lidl's? Is IT hiding somewhere waiting only to be discovered? Or is IT biding IT's time waiting to pounce on us as we trudge on by? Now, of course, those of us in the 'know' already .... well ..... know what IT is. We got IT a long time ago. But what about the rest of you poor things stumbling along in the dark completely ITless! Have some compassion, you say! Let us in on the secret, we beg you. What is IT? Well OK then. Just this once.... IT …..... is …...(drum roll, breath baited blah di blah di blah). IT.... is......... CONTENTED SOBRIETY (or words to that effect). What? we hear you exclaim. Is that IT you ask with a slight hint of disdain in your voice? That's the BIG deal?? Yup. That's IT! we reply though slightly disquieted by your apparent state of unimpressedness (a neologism – Shakespeare's not the only one who can make up new words). Now the term 'contented sobriety' will be heard from time to time in meetings usually expressed as an aspiration but rarely claimed as an achievement apart from those seeking to impress mere mortals such as the rest of us. Now contentment of any kind is usually a fleeting experience which vanishes before it can be thoroughly savoured. In fact the very act of delighting in it usually banishes it from our hearts as quickly as it arrived. Ordinary people (ie not recovery experts, gurus etc etc) have to make do with these fugitive moments whilst obliged otherwise to endure the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” the remainder of the time. In fact we would strongly suggest to the aforementioned 'experts' they take a gander at that particular passage from Hamlet:

To be, or not to be, that is the question—
Whether 'tis Nobler in the mind to suffer
The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune,
Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die, to sleep—
No more; and by a sleep, to say we end
The Heart-ache, and the thousand Natural shocks
That Flesh is heir to?”

Here is a depiction of life's experiences which we would argue is slightly more accurate than that so frequently characterised by the 'happy, joyous and free' brigade (ie. cult). Sobriety, we would suggest, reflects an ability to deal with this “Sea of troubles” rather than pretending they don't exist. (Interestingly there's no mention of sponsorship in this passage! Could it be that Shakespeare didn't have a sponsor? How did he manage? Well he did have a patron but that's another matter). So, in conclusion, we'd suggest that anyone in AA who's staying off the 'sauce' one day at a time and doing what they can to “take Arms against a Sea of troubles” have probably got IT. And if you're not sure there's plenty of other things of far greater importance to concern yourself with – like paying the bills, raising the kids, …... minding your own business!


The Fellas (Friends of Alcoholics Anonymous ….. and YEAH … we've got IT!)

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Questions and Answers on Sponsorship (contd)


Can a member sponsor more than one newcomer simultaneously?

A.A. members differ in their enthusiasm for sponsorship work, in their ability to handle it effectively, and in the time they can give. Members who are willing and able to sponsor several newcomers simultaneously should certainly not be discouraged. At the same time, it should be kept in mind that sponsorship is, in a sense, a privilege to be shared by as many members as possible and an activity that helps all members to strengthen their sobriety.

Further, members who do too much sponsorship work may get exaggerated ideas about their abilities, may even risk their own sobriety. As in so many phases of A.A., common sense is the best guide.”

(our emphases)

Comment: As we've said before anyone who's sponsoring more than maybe two or three members is probably on an ego-trip and certainly of no use to any potential sponsee; far better a one-to-one relationship. With regard to “exaggerated ideas” Clancy springs immediately to mind (together with the ever expanding ranks of 'super sobers', 'Big Book experts', 'circuit speakers', 'gurus' and sundry 'con artists' who promise a lot and deliver nothing - henceforth to be denominated the 'trouserless ones'  as in “all mouth and no trousers” (Ooh! What images spring to mind!). As for "common sense" when it comes to the cult forget it! A non-starter!

But remember: a sponsor is NOT ESSENTIAL to recovery. And NO sponsorship is better by far than BAD sponsorship!


The Fellas (Friends of Alcoholics Anonymous)

(to be continued)

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Alcohol research

An Experience of a Non-Alcoholic in Alcoholics Anonymous Leadership, Thompson HS, Quarterly Journal of Studies on Alcohol, Vol.13 (2), 272-295, 1952

The ability of a "recovered" alcoholic to gain the confidence of another alcoholic, and to arouse hope and faith in recovery, is one of the great advantages which has been capitalized upon by Alcoholics Anonymous. The two other American programs which have had success in the large-scale rehabilitation of alcoholics - the Washingtonian movement in the 1840's and the Reform Club movement (Blue and Red Ribbon movements) in the 1870's and 1880's have similarly relied upon alcoholics' telling their stories to alcoholics. A third endeavour, the Catch-My-Pal movement, begun in Ireland in 1907, also required work with other alcoholics as a part of its program. The Catch-My-Pal program explicitly recognized that "...the reclaimed drunkard is the most effective medium through which to reach other victims of the drink habit."”

PS For AA Minority Report 2013 click here

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Bill and Bob's Excellent Adventure! (contd)

Title Page

And now we come to the 'black bits' on the title page. There are two words of particular interest (or to us at least). The book is described as containing: “The Story of How Many Thousands of Men and Women Have Recovered from Alcoholism”

(our emphases)

Now a story is not a scholarly research article nor is it an empirically rigorous analysis. It is a story, an account, a narrative, an exploration. This does not imply it is a work of fiction (as some of AA's detractors may claim). It is an attempt (and a brave one at that) to produce a synthesis of what the alcoholics at that time believed worked well for them. They did not claim infallibility nor that there was no other way for alcoholics to recover. They simply put forward a set of suggestions (framed in an informal almost conversational style) which they believed might provide a solution for others who were similarly afflicted. The book 'Alcoholics Anonymous' is not a bible nor is it the last word on the subject of recovery from alcoholism. It is “The Story of How Many ….” etc.

Now we come to “Recovered”. If you happen to be at a bit of a loose end one day and beginning to feel a bit “dull, boring and glum” (or whatever!) then you can do a lot worse than take yourself off to an AA meeting and introduce yourself as a “recovered” alcoholic. This prefix is guaranteed to produce an almost reflex response from the other members gathered there (that is if they're of the 'recovering' kind). The reverse works just as well. Describe yourself as a 'recovering' alcoholic, especially in a roomful of Big Book nutters, and you can almost hear the ranks of teeth grinding. One of the aacultwatch team used to describe himself in the former fashion and admits now that the main reason was so he could wind up as many people as possible in the minimum amount of time. We're glad to say he's behaving himself these days and has reverted to plain 'alkie' when making his introduction. But now that everyone's apparently 'recovered' he says he doesn't want to be associated with the mere 'hoi-poloi'. It's no fun anymore! But then he is very, very, very VERY sick, poor thing! Of course the only people who could possibly be interested in the distinction would be members of the fellowship. The rest of the human race (ie. the other 99.9999999......%) couldn't give a damn or are simply thankful that we're no longer performing like complete idiots. But clearly the distinction between 'recovered' and 'recovering' is a matter of whether you regard it as something that's 'done and dusted' or a continuous process. Although the term 'recovered' is indeed employed throughout the book the fact is that recovery is explicitly stated to be an ongoing activity. Alcoholism in its chronic form is clearly not something which can be cured (although rather confusingly there is another bunch of alkies who claim precisely that – but then no one pays much attention to them!). One can take the view that as a physically and psychologically abstinent alcoholic you have 'recovered' right up to the point where you relapse whereupon you have to start again. Alternatively you can opt for the 'recovering' tag again right up to the point where you relapse … and then you have to start again! Perhaps our time and energy would be better employed in ensuring no relapse, and leave consideration of the terminology to some later date… like never! (Now how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?). Alternatively if you really want to excite attention at a meeting you could always call yourself a 'reformed' alcoholic (or 'reforming' we suppose! There's plenty of those about!). And then again if the term 'alcoholic' is losing its allure you could switch to “dipsomaniac” (or the more catchy 'dipso'). 'Lush' and 'souse' don't have quite the same ring to them. But then there's 'sot', 'inebriate', 'bacchanal', 'bibber', 'carouser', 'debauchee' (now you're talking!), 'toper', 'toss-pot' Or then again you could make up your own denomination (non-affiliated of course). eg. a 'boomerang' (as in 'Bacchus boomeranged' - 12 and12 Step Five, p. 57 , a 'nitherer' (neither here nor there), a Shirley (as in Shirley Williams – British politician – anagram: “I whirl aimlessly”) … the possibilities are literally endless!

Coming next – Copyright information (You cannot be serious! Our reader looks wistfully away searching for any sign of a wall covered with drying paint!)


The Fellas (Friends of Alcoholics Anonymous)

PS For the term 'alcoholism' see here.

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!

Monday, 18 August 2014

Cult of 'personality'

Extracts from the aacultwatch forum (old) 

Well I'm delighted to hear that my post has contributed to a clearer perception on your part. I would be interested to hear though in what precise respects your understanding has progressed e.g. with reference to Tradition Five, the quotes from the Big Book, the promises etc?

With regard to my “ad hominem” argument it would seem to me quite impossible not to focus here on the personal conduct (and therefore personalities) of the cult members since this goes to the very heart of the issue. The systematic bullying, coercion and manipulation that constitutes “carrying the message” cult style is essential to defining its orientation, and this derives directly from the personal proclivities of those who may be termed its 'leaders'. This 'type' is most adequately described (and with due admonition) in Chapter 5 (BB) in the section subsequent to the”three pertinent ideas” ie. Step 3. If ever a profile might be presented as to what defines (and impels) a cult leader it is here, detailed in these few paragraphs – and with the summation: “the alcoholic [cult leader] is an extreme example of self-will run riot, though he usually doesn't think so.” The 'cult of personality' is again demonstrated in the injunction so widely applied within this aberrant movement – and here I quote directly from cult literature:


It is suggested that you phone daily and do exactly what your sponsor tells you"

(my emphasis)


NB If anything is unclear, ask your sponsor.

(both quotes taken from a widely employed cult website)

Clearly this is a recipe for disaster if you take into consideration the personality type described in Step 3. 

Note; although 'ad hominem' arguments are frequently listed under logical fallacies it might be worthwhile consulting the following: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ad_hominem and specifically:

"The ad hominem is normally described as a logical fallacy,[2][3][4] but it is not always fallacious; in some instances, questions of personal conduct, character, motives, etc., are legitimate and relevant to the issue.[5]

The philosopher Charles Taylor has argued that ad hominem reasoning is essential to understanding certain moral issues, and contrasts this sort of reasoning with the apodictic reasoning of philosophical naturalism.[6]"

I would propose that the abusive conduct of the cult certainly falls into the category of “certain moral issues” and for the reasons given above.

Finally I am familiar with the 'elephant metaphor'. In that case those unfortunates had no choice as to their blinded condition. We, however, do!”


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!

Sunday, 17 August 2014

An alternative to AA's “20 Questions”: You know you're a drunkard when … (contd)

Winos have stopped asking you for change They just nod and give you that weird half-smile

You sometimes misplace yourself

You get that weird tingling in your groin when you walk past a liquor store

You’re quite good looking when you’re plastered, and you have the mug shots to prove it


The Fellas (Friends of Alcoholics Anonymous)