Volume III Number 6 June, 1996
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"Shoemaker, stick to thy last!" "Our common welfare should come first ..."

Table of Contents for This Issue

  1. OPPF Newsletter Meetings
  2. Dear Jim
  3. Editor's Note
  4. Singleness of Purpose Workshops
  5. Questionnaire
  6. Dear Friends of Our Primary Purpose Forum
  7. Getting in Touch with OPPF

OPPF Newsletter Meetings

Since some of the opinions printed in OPPF may be of a controversial nature and since full names are used, in accordance with our Tenth and Eleventh Traditions all views expressed in this publication are confidential and not for quotation outside the Fellowship.

OPPF is guided by a Newsletter Committee (Back to Basics) made up of interested and concerned members of our Fellowship. We have regular business meetings quarterly in January, April, July, and October. In between business meetings we meet informally once a month.

Our next interim meeting will be Friday, June 21st, 1996. We will meet 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.

The next regular business meeting is scheduled for July 26, 1996.

Membership in the OPPF Newsletter Committee (Back to Basics) is open to all active members of the Fellowship who attend. We invite your support and participation!

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Dear Jim

I have been reading your newsletter for quite a few months now, and I always find the articles interesting. It does seem to me, however, that you all are talking to the choir.

I have been practicing ways to fight the program of Alcoholics Anonymous since I first went into treatment in 1983. I succeeded in carrying out quite a bit of research on how NOT to surrender. I finally gave up on March 14, 1995, so I am very much a newcomer. Because of the nature of my final bottom, I grabbed on to everything the program offered and became willing to go to any lengths. Half measures had availed me nothing. Along with willingness came abject fear that AA would cease to exist, or would mutate into something that could no longer offer a solution to me and to others like me. I learned of the alcoholic/addict debates, the discussions over who was and who was not a real alcoholic, and I became even more fearful. Old-timers, people who had what I wanted, were prophesying the end of AA as they knew it!!! Meetings and service positions and, yes, the group conscience, were being taken over by people who whined and sniveled and spoke in psycho-babble and referred to other addictions when they shared!!!! AA was certainly doomed. What could I do to save it?? Why, I could listen in on debates about its demise! I could spend time in the company of those who decried changes in the fellowship, wrong decisions at conferences, and open membership!! Why, I could fall right in with the hand-wringers and the doom-sayers!!!!!

Thank God that my desperation this time has led me never, never to trust my own instincts. When I discussed this with others in the fellowship, real alcoholics who have what I want, it was suggested to me that perhaps it was not my job to try and save AA. Instead, perhaps it was my job to work with my sponsor, study the literature, learn to pray, work the steps, put my trust in God, and become involved in service. By doing these things, perhaps I would have something that I could then pass on to another suffering alcoholic. When the time was right, I would be given the opportunity to carry the message. Not MY message, but the message of Alcoholics Anonymous.

And sure enough, as I began to follow these suggestions, I noticed more and more in meetings, in some Grapevine articles and in other literature, in conversations, that individual alcoholics were taking individual responsibility to see that the hand of AA was always there: one drunk talking to another about his or her experience, strength, and hope. I became convinced that my job is to be a responsible member of the fellowship, and to carry the message of the program of recovery outlined in the first 164 pages of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. The rest is just opinion.

How big is my ego and how weak is my faith if I give in to worry about the future of the fellowship. Who am I to think that I can "save" what I believe God created in the first place? Worry is paralyzing and ego-driven. Faith gives me the strength to do my part -- the regular, daily footwork -- to make sure that the AA message is carried to the alcoholic who still suffers. It is my job to listen, and learn, and remain honest, open, and willing. I believe what I was told by an old-timer about page 449. I shouldn't worry about understanding it until I have ten good, solid years in the program. I was led to the stories in the back of the first and second editions of the Big Book, and I learned that those touched me in a way that the ones in the third edition never have. I've been able to pass those stories and their message along to others like me who might identify with them. I believe the future of AA is in God's bands and entrusted to the stewardship of those real alcoholics who keep plugging away, in their home groups, within their communities, in service positions, to make sure the hand of AA is always there. That may mean speaking up in meetings if the discussion is not confined to problems with alcohol. It may mean attending business meetings, starting new groups, adopting a new meeting format, establishing study groups, bringing in speakers. Much experience in this regard has been shared through AA literature. Most of it tells me that I must do my part, and that usually means taking some action after prayerful consideration.

I no longer feel comfortable lurking on the fringes of your debate. Reading your newsletter and participating in what is essentially an intellectual exercise is not, I think, the sort of action that God has in mind for me.

I am sending $9.00 with this letter, to defray the costs of the newsletter issues you've sent me to date. But you don't need to send me any more. I wish you well, but my service is taking me in another direction, one that involves putting my time and energy and willingness into work with other drunks.

If you or any of your readers ever find yourself in Bellingham, Washington, come join us at a meeting of Our Primary Purpose Group of Alcoholics Anonymous. (You recently published a letter from another member of my home group.) As a group, we grapple with all of these dilemmas, constantly. We work at it. Not a week goes by that somebody doesn't complain about the purity of the message. We don't box people's ears, or draw and quarter them, or even tar and feather them, if they aren't sure what is AA and what is not. We do let them know, and we at least try to do it with tolerance and kindness. We are not saints. The point is, we are willing to share our experience, strength, and hope with others so that we may solve our common problem and recover from alcoholism. We try to do this on a daily basis, day after day after day. And the interesting thing is, those who have sponsors, work the steps, read the literature, do service, pray, and frequently use the word "God," are there carrying the message of AA. The others aren't carrying any message at all because they're not there any more. If, like me, they are mangled by alcohol and return defeated, they will find the doors open and the message of Alcoholics Anonymous freely offered. Thanks for your time. I wish all of you well.

With all best wishes...

Cordially yours,
Cheryll K.

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Editor's Note

Cheryll is indeed fortunate to have found a home group which affords her the advantages that she has listed for us. Her home group, as she has sketched it here, is very much like the model of group support that OPPF has been recommending as the cure for the ills of AA in general. It's too bad that Cheryll chose to wait until she felt she no longer wanted to participate in order to participate. There are probably more of our readership who could be sharing their home group experience with us, but who just haven't taken the time or trouble to do so.

We have noticed that it is becoming increasingly difficult for home groups like Cheryll's to function and grow. That is one of the reasons that we began OPPF in the first place. We are not doom-sayers, but we are concerned about the atmosphere of untreated alcoholism that we have observed in our area -- southern California -- and it appears that some such tendency away from the primary purpose of AA has been noticed by readers from all over the country. If your area seems not to be subject to the ills we are seeing, consider yourself fortunate. If our interpretation of our past experience is correct, however, you will soon be experiencing those conditions which have prompted us to begin publication of this newsletter.

There are some items in Cheryll's letter that probably should be commented on. She writes, "How big is my ego and how weak is my faith if I give in to worry about the future of the fellowship. Who am I to think that I can 'save' what I believe God created in the first place? Worry is paralyzing and ego-driven."

We often hear variations of this attitude in letters and conversations. Most people boil it down to the first part of the Serenity Prayer: "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change." Implicit here are two ideas: first, that it is somehow "unspiritual" to take action to save God's creation, and second, that it is grandiose to think that I can do anything about this situation.

If it were true that God's creations need no human help at all, then I suppose it would be arrogant for humans to want to protect the world from species endangerment, slavery, pollution, ozone depletion, human rights abuse, religious bigotry and holy wars, for example. Regardless of how you may feel about any single "cause" (and I'm NOT suggesting that AA take a position on any of these things!) it should be clear that people must and do take action to save God's creations. Many people feel it is the acme of spirituality to act to save God's creations.

The question remains, however, whether I should do anything. Indeed, there is little that I can do. But let's not forget the second part of the Serenity Prayer: "Courage to change the things I can." In our First Tradition we see that we are but a small part of a great whole; but we do not abdicate our responsibility to act, simply because we feel alone. Our newsletter is an attempt to help those of us who perceive problems to join together to effect the changes that WE can. When Cheryll says, "Reading your newsletter and participating in what is essentially an intellectual exercise is not, I think, the sort of action that God has in mind for me," she is, of course, speaking validly for herself. What may be "an intellectual exercise" for her, however, might well be an effort at consciousness-raising for me. Not all intellectual exercises are futile; some of us exercise our intellects to good purpose.

Perhaps her most important observation is that participation in matters much beyond immediate recovery in the home group is probably not to be suggested for people without some solid term of sobriety. The AA Service Manual, for example, recommends at least two years of sobriety before taking on the responsibilities of General Service work. At least a part of our problems in General Service is traceable to our groups' not adhering to that suggestion. Very often General Service work is given to relative new-comers either because a group has no old-timers, or because no one with time wants to be bothered by "the politics of AA." As with all "politics," those who choose not to participate, hand the reins of power over to anyone who does. This is one of the problems that have been created by a lack of careful attention by our old-timers. Our newsletter also seeks to call attention to that aspect of our group life.

I, at least, agree with the old-timer from Cheryll's group that ten years or so is about right for the third part of the Serenity Prayer, "the wisdom to know the difference."

Jim H.

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  All of the following information is obsolete and is no longer valid  

Singleness of Purpose Workshops

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.

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Please take the time to complete the enclosed questionnaire and return it immediately. If you haven't contributed to OPPF and you don't return the questionnaire by August 1, 1996, we will drop you from our mailing list.

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Dear Friends of Our Primary Purpose Forum:

Financial support from our readers has been seriously behind production costs for the past two months. Because of a generous donation from one of the groups that subscribes to OPPF, we have been able to continue publishing the newsletter as before. But now we are being forced to cut back our mailing list to those who express a desire to continue receiving the newsletter.

If you have not contributed to OPPF in the past, please take this opportunity to do so. If you have not contributed and do not return this questionnaire by August 1, 1996, you will be dropped from our mailing list.

We have devised a more detailed questionnaire which we will include in a future issue of OPPF, as we mentioned in our last issue. But we want to pare down our mailing list before we submit that questionnaire to our readers.

____ I wish to continue to receive OPPF and am enclosing a contribution to help defray production and mailing costs. (Please use a separate envelope for checks made out to Back to Basics, our account name.)

____ I wish to continue receiving OPPF but cannot make a financial contribution at this time.

____ I do NOT wish to continue receiving OPPF. Please remove my name from your mailing list.

Please copy the appropriate line above. Your response may be e-mailed back to us.

Also, if you have any suggestions on how we might improve the newsletter, please enclose them. We want this publication to be as useful as possible to our readers.

Thank you,

The Newsletter Committee
(Back to Basics)

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Please write and send contributions to: (address and payment information outdated since 2001!)

P. O. Box 6656
Thousand Oaks, CA 91359-6656
or e-mail:

For voluntary contributions according to our 7th tradition please make checks payable to: Back to Basics

Thank you for your support!

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Updated: 23 September 1998 1998