Volume IV Number 7 July, 1997
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"Shoemaker, stick to thy last!" "Our common welfare should come first ..."

Table of Contents for This Issue

  1. Newsletter Committee Meetings
  2. The Decided, the Antagonistic and the Irrelevant
  3. Real Alcoholic?
  4. A Reader Objects
  5. From the Big Book
  6. 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 [but edited out in the web edition], 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 hold regular monthly business meetings usually on the last Friday of the month.

Our next business meeting will be Friday August 29, 1997, at the La Mina Mexican Restaurant, 16060 Saticoy St. (at Woodley) in Van Nuys, CA. The meeting will start at 7:00 pm with an optional pre-meeting dinner at 6:00 pm.

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.

Jim H, Editor

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The Decided, the Antagonistic
and the Irrelevant

Chapter Five says "Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not give themselves to this simple program, usually men and women who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves." It continues: "If you have decided you want what we have and are willing to go to any length to get it then you are ready to take certain steps." It is obvious from the foregoing that Alcoholics Anonymous does not offer or guarantee sobriety to everyone, attainment of sober status in A.A. is limited by the personal characteristics of the drinking individual. That limit is by their choice or disposition not that of A.A.

Recently a friend told of coming to the program and thinking that he didn't as yet know what it was that "they" had and wasn't at all sure that he wanted it. When he expressed this to an old-timer, his comment was: "Son, let's turn that around the other way. If you are sure that you don't want whatever it is that you have and are willing to go to any lengths to get rid of it -- then you are ready."

Based upon my experience of many years in the program the broad scope picture of newcomers is a confusing conglomeration of misinformation, hope, fear and downright antagonism. Understandably, few newcomers at their first meeting are convinced that they are willing to go to any lengths. Most come to investigate, to find out what A.A. is all about and perhaps incidentally to learn what it is not. The role of first time attendees is legion. Then, there are visitors. They are not alcoholic but may be looking for a way to help a family member or friend. Remember that everyone is welcome at an Open Meeting.

These days with abundant Recovery programs available there are few drinking alcoholics that come on their own seeking "a way out." But, there are some and experience shows that their chances of sobriety are good. Many come to meetings for weeks or months before they make up their minds but most eventually do and become solid members of A.A.

Next are those whom I choose to call the "dragooned," the people who are coerced by a judge, an employer, a friend or a spouse. They have been told, "You will go to A.A. or else." They don't like the "or else" so they go against their will, inwardly saying, "You can make me go but I'll be damned if you can make me like it" Consciously or not, they are gritting their teeth and waiting for the chance to go back to what they consider to be serious drinking. Frequently they drink on the sly or not-so-sly even though they continue to go to meetings but they have no intention of learning anything about sobriety or attempting to quit. Their chances of sobriety are poor to non-existent. Additionally, it is unfortunate, but a majority of Recovery program patients are victims of coercion. These people have yet another roadblock to overcome, namely, they have been mislead into thinking that what they experienced in a "12 Step Recovery Program" was actually Alcoholics Anonymous when in most cases their understandings are far from the A.A. experience.

Then there are the non-alcoholic drug addicts of many varieties. Again, some come out of curiosity, some because they have been in Recovery Programs where they were told to go to A.A., "because alcohol is just another drug and we are all addicts." and also the Wannabes, the nonalcoholic, non addict who really believes that the label of "alcoholic-addict" is a status symbol and justifies a claim to superiority over common drunks. Whatever their particular vision, they almost all end up the same way. My friend Bill E., the doyen of the local Saturday Men's Stag Meeting, when I asked if these people were a problem in their meeting, Bill said: "They don't stay." He continued, "They come to a few meetings, find nothing with which to identify and leave, never to return."

Lastly there is a small but vocal group of "others;" the atheists who come with a chip already on their shoulder; the Fundamentalist Christians who want to convince alcoholics that the only course is to be "Saved" and turn to God; the Temperance types who want to get A.A. to start an anti-booze campaign and a few more miscellaneous supporters of causes.

The result of all this is obvious. As I said in the beginning, relatively few first time newcomers will become sober and faithful members on the first try. Eventually however, many do return and embrace the program after more battles with the bottle have made them willing. A real problem is that some parties have taken the trouble to collect statistical data but then failed to factor-in hard reality when drawing conclusions. Based upon questionnaires asking length of sobriety, one group published the statement that "about half of those coming to A.A. for the first time remain less than three months." This may well be true on the basis of bare figures but in view of the newcomer characteristics discussed above it would be ridiculous to conclude, as some do, that these first timers were in any sense "in A.A.," "members of the fellowship" or "in the program." They were first time visitors, nothing more. As a result, serious damage has been done to A.A by misleading interpretation of survey data. There are those who for unknown reasons persist in badmouthing A.A. at every opportunity. They gleefully drag out the "half remain less than six months" proclaiming "A.A. Doesn't Work ! -- See, we told you so.!"

I'm no statistician but it is obvious to me that if we took 90 days dry or sober as a datum and then calculated longevity in the program, the result would have some real meaning. This eliminates the dubious data of the "first time visitors" based upon fact and the perturbations of indecision by attendees in the first 90 days. Let's give A.A. a break and tell it like it is for a change. Chapter Five also says, "There are such unfortunates. They are not at fault; they seem to have been born that way. ... Their chances are less than average." We remember them in every meeting when we pray "for those who still suffer."

Don M.

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Real Alcoholic?

Six years ago a few members of Alcoholics Anonymous started a closed A.A. group in Simi Valley. They became the center of controversy and were accused of trying to change A.A.

The group grew quickly and in just a few months they had forty-five members.

They started their own A.A. phone service. What the group wanted was a person available on the phones 24 hours a day. No recordings suggesting other numbers or that they will get back to you, just give us a number that we can reach you at.

Sometimes when an alcoholic reaches out for help, they are restless, irritable, and discontented, and unless they can reach someone in that brief moment of clarity, they will succumb to the desire again, thinking that they really tried to get help, but no one was there.

The 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous deals with alcoholism.

In the 1939 Webster's Twentieth Century Dictionary, they describe alcoholism as a morbid or diseased condition induced in the human system by the excessive or continual use of alcoholic stimulants.

In the 1993 Webster's Encyclopedic Dictionary, they describe alcoholism as a continued or excessive and usually uncontrollable use of alcoholic drinks; also: the abnormal state associated with such use.

Other 12 step programs broaden their perspective of our 12 steps. They claim to follow the same path with a single exception: their identification as addicts is all inclusive with respect to any mood-changing, or mind-altering substance. Alcoholism is too limited a term for them; their problem is not a specific substance, it is a disease called addiction.

You can usually identify an addict by the way they share. They will identify as an addict-alcoholic or alcoholic-addict. They will use terms like clean and sober or drinking and using, the term sobriety is just too limited for them. As my old sponsor used to say, I'm clean and sober; I took a bath this morning and I haven't had a drink all day.

Our group deals specifically with alcoholism.

Our group deals with the common suffering of one another.

We are more than a weekly get together. We are there for the alcoholic seven days a week, 365 days a year, not for only an hour and a half a week.

We don't ever want our group to give the impression that we are a dual purpose meeting.

I have personally had friend die because they had too much trouble finding an A.A meeting that dealt specifically with alcoholism. They could not or would not relate to the addict and their drug use.

I believe that if any so called A.A. meeting gives the wrong impression or allows the wrong message to be carried and an alcoholic dies as a result of it, that group has no right to call themselves an A.A. group.

Real alcoholics don't do that.

Real A.A.'ers will direct the addict to the appropriate 12 step program that deals with your problems.

I don't want to leave you with the impression that we put down other 12 step programs; that is not the case. We just don't put up with them in an A.A. meeting.

I don't attend some so called A.A. meetings or contribute to their seventh because of their customs. I don't believe that drug use should be rewarded with chips or cakes in an A.A. meeting. If an alcoholic takes or gets addicted to drugs and changes their sobriety date, let them get their rewards or awards at the program that deals specifically with their new problem. Don't pollute or dilute our fellowship with such nonsense.

The sole purpose of any A.A. group is to carry the message to the alcoholic who is suffering.

Lou I, Simi Valley

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Don M. pointed out, in reference to the article we reprinted in the June issue (IV, 5) from The Old News, that the instances of anonymity breaking which the author mentions were all prior to the establishment of the Eleventh Tradition, and were part of the A.A. experience which ultimately led to the establishment of that Tradition.

He maintains that, once the need for such a position was discovered and made known throughout the fellowship in the mid 1950's, that Tradition has been honored by the fellowship as a whole. That attack on the Eleventh Tradition, he feels, was specious and dishonest.

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From the Big Book

We do not like to pronounce any individual as alcoholic, but you can quickly diagnose yourself. [page 31]

When you discover a prospect for Alcoholics Anonymous, find out all you can about him. If he does not want to stop drinking, don't waste time trying to persuade him. You may spoil a later opportunity. This advice is given for his family also. They should be patient, realizing they are dealing with a sick person.

If there is any indication that he wants to stop, have a good talk with the person most interested in him -- usually his wife. Get an idea of his behavior, his problems, his background, the seriousness of his condition, and his religious leanings. You need this information to put yourself in his place, to see how you would like him to approach you if the tables were turned.

Sometimes it is wise to wait till he goes on a binge. The family may object to this, but unless he is in a dangerous physical condition, it is better to risk it. Don't deal with him when he is very drunk, unless he is ugly and the family needs your help. Wait for the end of the spree, or at least for a lucid interval. Then let his family or a friend ask him if he wants to quit for good and if he would go to any extreme to do so. If he says yes, then his attention should be drawn to you as a person who has recovered. You should be described to him as one of a fellowship who, as part of their own recovery, try to help others and who will be glad to talk to him if he cares to see you.

If he does not want to see you, never force yourself upon him. Neither should the family hysterically plead with him to do anything, nor should they tell him much about you. They should wait for the end of his next drinking bout. You might place this book where he can see it in the interval. Here no specific rule can be given. The family must decide these things. But urge them not to be over-anxious, for they might spoil matters. [pages 90f]

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Updated: 22 September 1998