|Volume III||Number 4||April, 1996|
|"Shoemaker, stick to thy last!"||"Our common welfare should come first ..."|
OPPF is guided by a Newsletter Committee made up of interested and concerned members of our Fellowship. We meet quarterly in January, April, July and October on the last Friday of the month at 7:00 pm.
Our Next quarterly meeting will be this month, Friday, April 26th, 1996. We will be meeting at the La Mina Mexican Restaurant located at 16060 Saticoy St. (at Woodley) in Van Nuys, CA. The meeting starts at 7:00 pm with an optional pre-meeting dinner at 6:00 pm.
Membership in the Newsletter Committee is open to all active members of the Fellowship who attend. We invite your support and participation!
I have been receiving OPPF for 8 months now (my thanks to the Singleness of Purpose group in Santa Clarita) and it is always heartening to hear from other AAs who are concerned about the deviations from our basic program that many groups and individuals seem to be taking. In west Michigan, the "it's your meeting -- you can talk about anything you want" attitude is pervasive and ingrained. Drug talk and whine-a-thons are rampant.
I WAS one of those people who ingested, snorted, smoked and injected many drugs other than alcohol but, I also drank lots of booze before, during and after. After a 28 day "education" in 1987 I was left to fend for myself in the lobby of one of our local Alano clubs. I was extremely fortunate that several AA members reached out to me and cleared up most of my confusion by leading me through the Alcoholics Anonymous basic text and giving me the pamphlet, "Problems Other Than Alcohol." I soon found out what was wrong with me (alcoholism) and where I belonged (AA.) Our program is simplicity itself and I no longer had to strain to identify myself (i.e., cross-addicted, chemically dependent, addict/alcoholic) or look any further for the solution to my problem.
Today I keep an eye out for the new guy who is experiencing the same dilemma I had 9 years ago, and try to help him identify and get on the path that has been saving drunks for 61 years. I also will not hesitate to bring up Alcoholics Anonymous as a TOPIC for a meeting.
Lee C, Grand Rapids, MI
After reading the outline for the proposed fourth edition of the Big Book, I feel something that I can't seem to describe. There is something that just doesn't feel right, like in the movie Star Wars, "an interference in the Force."
The feeling is also like that inner voice that whispers, don't buy that car, don't take that drive today, or think it over before you sign that contract.
There is also a spiritual sadness, if there is such a term, like what I felt recently when a certain musician had died, knowing that people will never again have the opportunity to experience the magical events that he was a part of, in the same way as I have. I guess it is like mourning the departure of an old friend who has contributed much joy in one's life.
Then there is this slight frustration that anyone from an alcoholic or abusive family will identify with, like what one feels when thrust into the middle of a no-win situation, often complicated by hidden or mixed messages and half truths.
Usually when I have found myself in such a space in sobriety I capitalized on the opportunity for growth and awareness of my human condition by reflection and mediation, talking with my sponsor, continuing working with others, and some inventory, or in other words utilizing the tools of our recovery program. But because the Conference is days away and because the great self-will-power of some of our members and a few of our trusted serpents to publish a fourth edition of the Big Book with the urgency and hysteria of the California gold rush, I want to throw some things out to the group conscience of our fellowship to ponder on, while I try to reach a better understanding of exactly why I am uncomfortable with the proposed changes.
Maybe it is the suggested new title of the personal stories that is the source of my uneasiness: "The Changing Face of A.A."
Maybe the line in the preface to the third edition that is being quoted by the 'lets change the book advocates' which states the purpose for the changes is what disturbs me: "to represent the current membership of Alcoholics Anonymous more accurately, and thereby reach more alcoholics." Those of you that have read the book by George Orwell titled, "1984," may remember the language of "double speak." In the language of "double speak" the above statement would translate roughly to: "to represent the growing number of members with problems other than alcohol in Alcoholics Anonymous more accurately, and thereby reach more non-alcoholics to increase book sales, sacrificing some lives of real alcoholics."
It could be the old "here we go again" syndrome. All that brain power stuff that brought us the third edition of the Big Book, which among other things, introduced the beginning of the term "alcoholic addict" into our fellowship, or all the recent literature of the past several years that has diluted our message with psycho-babble and removed God from our program, the bright-idea to separate the Institution Committee into Corrections and Treatment Facilities, the creation of Bridging the Gap, and the new world of A.A. copyright wars, and the loss of our logo and Twelve Steps, to name a few, and now some folks with some more brilliant ideas are going to give us some more of their creativity to help our fellowship. My message to them is, wake up! Our recovery rate has gone from seventy five percent to almost nothing. No more ideas, please. Lets go back to the first edition and the simple program that worked.
I didn't come to Alcoholics Anonymous because I read a story about a hippie, radical, pseudo intellectual, angry, street bum, artist who liked to guzzle beer, wine and whisky. I came to A.A. because I knew they helped people who wanted to quit drinking alcohol but couldn't do it on their own. They welcomed me as I was. In A.A. I was helped by women and men of all different races, cultural backgrounds, economic social backgrounds, sexual persuasions, and political ideologies. I identified with the way they drank alcohol, and with the insanity that precedes the first drink, and their pitiful, incomprehensible demoralization, and I knew I was home at last.
I have many friends in A.A. today that don't think the way I think, don't do the things I like to do, and don't believe in things I believe in, but we have a common bond, our alcoholism, and a common solution, a Power greater than ourselves.
"No one is too discredited or has sunk too low to be welcomed cordially--if he means business. Social distinctions, petty rivalries and jealousies--these are laughed out of countenance. Being wrecked in the same vessel, being restored and united under one God, with hearts and minds attuned to the welfare of others, the things which matter so much to some people no longer signify much to them. How could they?" (page 161, Alcoholics Anonymous)
Maybe it is because I have just read the story, "Our Southern Friend" in the first edition and feel cheated that the third edition cut out much of his spiritual message, and now they want to remove it completely while they keep a story I personally tear out of my copy of the Big Book.
I have before me a newsletter that is used for public rehabilitation places to increase profits. In the newsletter is a quote and article with the heading: "Dr. Paul O.-- author, Doctor, Alcoholic, Addict - 3rd Edition, Big Book. On the bottom of the page is a plug for his new book which you can buy for $17.95. Since acceptance really means approval, I do not accept his story being in our book (this outside A.A. newsletter also quotes from the third edition of the Big Book and the 12 & 12, but we most likely only want to litigate against our own members)
Maybe a fourth edition should revisit many of the stories in the first edition since that is when the program worked best, at least for alcoholics.
My Home Group recently started a new closed (alcoholics only) A.A. meeting. The format is a "first edition Big Book study," to include the stories. We buy the first edition which is published by an entity set up by A.A. groups for no profit. We just recently read the story in the first edition, "The Unbeliever." At that meeting was a number of people including a gay person, an African American, a Puerto Rican, a young person, a Mexican woman, and low, high, and hard bottom drunks, and everyone identified with the story. When we reached the end of that story I found it hard to hold back a "gratitude tear" from running down my cheek. I understood why some early members called the second half of the first edition "the Love stories."
It has recently been pointed out to me that the first half of the Big Book was written for profit, and the second half was written for love. And it has been said that, "God is Love." We may need a little less of the bright-ideas, promotion, and business, and a little more Love, Faith, and Trust in the real founder of this program, God.
On the front page of Vol. III #3, you have a letter from Jim A., Bellingham, WA.
WHAT THE ****? Is this guy serious? He's actually proud to be a "REAL ALCOHOLIC" who never used drugs or "grassy substances." Does that make him superior to other alcoholics who smoked pot and took drugs?
I love your newsletter because it gets me thinking about this life and death disease call alcoholism. But I get bored by all the self-righteous bleeding deacon horseshit!
It would be funny if people weren't dying from alcoholism every minute of every day. I've been to N.A. and they seem to look down on people who drank and weren't heroin addicts. This is insanity!
Oh, well, keep stirring it up, Jim H.!
R. Edward A.
I received the March 96 issue of OPPF from a friend. In that issue Jim H said men have PMS too. Pissin Moanin and Snivilin. That seems to be exactly what a lot of old timers are doing. Instead of Pissin', Moanin' and Snivilin' about the Twelve Traditions and the Concept of Singleness of Purpose being watered down and neglected, I think they should face their responsibility, and when they hear or see this happen ing, they do what the responsible old timers in my home group do. They don't hesitate to tell you to shut up and take the cotton out of your ears and put it in your mouth. I have learned not to neglect my responsibility, and nice someone to death.
If we don't teach the newcomers, A.A. won't be there for the next sick drunk that comes in.
Members of the OPPF advisory group are available to put on Singleness of Purpose Workshops (by this or any other name) for individual groups, districts, intergroups, conventions, round-ups, or whatever other AA gatherings.
We also have a format that will fit into a one-hour time slot available within a regular AA meeting.
For further information, please contact Doug B. at Side Strider, 818-780-5542.
But perhaps I missed the converse of that proposition, namely that drug use, while hastening a "dually afflicted" person's early realization of "pitiful and incomprehensible demoralization," may in fact postpone an ALCOHOLIC bottom.
In such a case, an early LOW bottom might be just the thing that prevents a drug addict from becoming a full-blown, real alcoholic. As AA's of an earlier time were at pains to point out, it takes a certain amount of time for a serious drinker to become hopelessly alcoholic. When early AA members talked about using both alcohol and powerful sedatives (Dr. Bob, for example), they started using drugs to control the effects of their drinking, then drank on top of the drugs they were using, and so accelerated their personal disintegration. In other words, they hit an alcoholic bottom before they resorted to the use of drugs.
Drugs, after all, are, or were, routinely used by medical model professionals to "treat" alcoholics during detoxification and sometimes well into "recovery." It's what I've heard treatment center failures call the "Valium deficiency" theory of alcoholism. This practice, by the way, suggests that medical professionals do not consider all drugs to be the same, doesn't it?
What I think I'm beginning to glimpse here is another piece of the puzzle about conflicts over Singleness of Purpose in AA. If "The Combination" really does hasten an early low bottom, perhaps those who are dually afflicted may be being shielded from becoming full-blown alcoholics. Might we now perhaps need to distinguish between alcoholic and nonalcoholic bottoms?
An explanation of recovery along these lines would begin to answer some of the questions which have been voiced by alcoholics, addicts, and "alcoholic/addicts" about the dually afflicted. The "dually afflicted" may have a much higher recidivism rate because they never reach the alcoholic bottom (that "desperation of the dying") that recovery in AA traditionally required.
I daresay there must be very many "bottoms" to be hit in our modern world: eating disorder bottoms, drug abuse bottoms, compulsive gambling bottoms, sexual abuse bottoms -- in short, there must at least be a bottom for every kind of problem that like-sufferers have created a "Twelve Step Program" to deal with. And then some. But of course, these nadirs of life are not all alcoholic bottoms, and mostly we see that clearly. Only the drug related bottom has confused some of us.
In AA we don't spend a great deal of time distinguishing among different kinds of drinkers any more, but perhaps we should do so. especially in the case of the alcoholic who is also an addict. An addict may well get in trouble through alcohol use; many non-addicted people get in trouble of sorts with alcohol, but they are not necessarily alcoholics because they got caught driving drunk once or twice.
With addicts, the mental disorientation of drinking may well create the atmosphere for them to use drugs again. That does not make them alcoholics, it makes them drug addicts who have a reduced capacity to stay clean when they get drunk. Alcoholism involves the physical allergy, the alcoholic craving, in combination with the mental compulsion, a combination that is lacking in the drug addict who is not an alcoholic.
Certainly we need to return to the practice of qualifying alcoholics who come into our groups. Our attention to that one item of group activity, which became somewhat atrophied during the Age of the Treatment Center, could well help to solve many of the problems we have seen in recent years. AA used to be done that way. Perhaps we are now ready to rediscover the wisdom of that earlier practice.
In the case of drug addicts, we may be able to discern some pattern of drug use in combination with alcohol which prevents the addict from becoming alcoholic in spite of heavy drinking bouts. For example, is it possible that an alcoholic state must be reached before the dually afflicted person gets addicted to drugs in order for the person to be a real alcoholic? Or is it possible that the alcoholic bottom has to be reached after drugs have been discontinued? I would like to hear some discussion of some of these possibilities from those of you who have had the experiences. I don't qualify in that regard -- I have only been an observer there.
We must abandon the idea that all who come to AA get here because they need it. The truth today is that very many get here by accident and out of bureaucratic frustration. Let's be careful that our success does not prove to be our undoing.
I want to thank all of you who have already contributed to the support of Our Primary Purpose Forum. Contributions in March were up again, and April's newsletter is running close to the black, thanks to a couple of very generous contributions and a number of smaller ones.
But we're still too close to the bare bones to insure subscription-free publication for any extended period. We don't even have an adequate operating reserve, and we need a prudent reserve to insure free distribution to those who can't help out financially.
A donation of $9.00 now meets cost for one person per year. Our actual readership list is hovering around the 450 mark, but we are basing our figures on a readership of 500.
Emailing the newsletter could bring down costs even further. If you are interested in receiving the email version, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.. Our email list is only at 5 right now, so it is still difficult to tell how electronic publication will eventually impact our costs.
There is a ton of interesting stuff on the internet these days, but we just don't have the space to report on it this month. I'll try to catch up on the net next month.
For voluntary contributions according to our 7th tradition please make checks payable to: Back to Basics