Volume IV Number 8 August, 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. AA -- How Long Will It Last?
  4. From readers
  5. From the editor
  7. Getting in Touch with OPPF

Newsletter Committee 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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AA -- How Long Will It Last?

Occasionally, the question is asked: "How long will Alcoholics Anonymous last?" All institutions degenerate, and so it is conceivable that someday those who claim to follow the A.A. program will allow their practice to degenerate into formalism, imposing membership "requirements," insisting on rigid adherence to certain "rules," conducting meetings according to some inflexible pattern, and stringently applying various theories and doctrines about "disease" or "codependence" or whatever. In such a setting, the Twelve Steps will likely be scorned or, worse, given only lip service.

But should that happen is some cold and distant future, we can also be sure that somewhere, perhaps under a battered bridge, or in a dingy alcove, perhaps even in an atmosphere free of cigarette smoke and without the requisite coffeepot, come alcoholic who is trying to stay sober will sidle up to some other acoholic who may even be drinking and say: "Psst buddy, You must be awfully thirsty, but let me tell you how it was with me when I used to drink."

And in that moment of acknowledged shared weakness, an A.A. meeting will begin, and the story of Alcoholics Anonymous will continue, and nothing that any of A.A.'s individual groups, or those who borrow its Steps, or those who run treatment programs, or those who write books, or the wider culture itself might do will ever be able to prevent from happening.

Whenever, wherever, one alcoholic meets another alcoholic and sees in that person first and foremost NOT that he or she is male or female, or black or white, or Baptist or Catholic or Jew, or gay or straight, or WHATEVER, but sees rather another alcoholic to whom he or she must reach out for the sake of his or her own sobriety -- so long, in other words, as one alcoholic recognizes in another alcoholic first and foremost that he or she IS alcoholic and therefore BOTH of them need each other -- there will not only be AN Alcoholics Anonymous, but there will be THE Alcoholics Anonymous that you and I love so much and respect so deeply."


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Before me is a letter sent to a corporation that is an outside entity from Alcoholics Anonymous. The letter is addressed: "Dear Treatment Professional." On the top of the page the letterhead reads: "The AA Grapevine, Inc." The letter is signed by "Ames K. Sweet, Executive Editor." It is the policy of OPPF to not use last names without the permission of the writer, and last names are used only for accountability for positions and opinions within the fellowship. The person that signed this letter obviously doesn't seem to mind, although a magazine is "press," and now "publicly promoted," for a "fee."

The letter states: "The Grapevine publishes the experience, strength, and hope of AA members in their own words and has often been called an AA meeting in print." Actually the Grapevine has been calling itself an AA meeting in print, along with the tapes, books, and other stuff it "sells," in its promotion within the fellowship for a long time.

If it is an AA meeting in print they can be awful fussy about who gets to share in their meeting. I can understand editing out outside issues but they seem to shy away from good, old time, Big Book, basic AA and seem to favor the "don't drink and go to meetings," recovery. When is the last time you have read about someone putting drunks on their couch or AA members going on Twelfth Step calls with the old AA cocktail of orange juice and white Caro syrup or a pint of vodka for a jittery drunk and taking turns watching him for a couple of days in case he has an alcoholic seizure.

Just the other day I took a 62 year old drunk to a doctor because he was having a tough go of it and needed some medication. The doctor said he really needs to be in a hospital. I agreed and asked the doctor if he knows of any hospitals that will take him with no money and he didn't, so he wound up with us. He now has two weeks sober. We have been getting more and more of these drunks because there are a growing number of people with no money. Where are the stories in the Grapevine about the increasing number of these drunks?

The AA Big Book Study Group in Germany, who hold to their hearts the principle of "freely have you received, freely you shall give " provides Big Book mini editions in seven languages (German, English, Spanish, Swedish, Finnish, Russian and Hebrew) with the Seventh Tradition and distributes them for free. Do you think the Grapevine will print that? I don't think they will print any story that is critical of AA's businesses at the New York headquarters. That is why the OPPF was started for AA members to have a forum in which to freely express their views and inform themselves on problems and solutions within the fellowship.

I am personally uncomfortable trying to explain to new people in AA why the 12 Traditions are so important to our group while, collectively, AA groups and service entities don't follow them. We can't accept outside donations or go into business but we can sell books, magazines, literature, tapes and calendars outside of AA to make profits and pay royalties. There are no dues or fees and the groups are self supporting from the voluntary contributions of their own members, but we can buy a meeting in print, or pay sixty dollars registration for an AA meeting at a convention, round up, or camp out. We can also raise money in AA by the business of having fun with a dance, golf game, hike, banquet, or by selling T shirts and coffee mugs. If an AA group paid the rent for their meeting with a donation from Alanon they would be violating Traditions, but a convention is exempt? Anything which requires much property or administration should be separately incorporated and should not use the AA name, but we have AAWS Inc., and AA Grapevine Inc. who both use the AA name and solicit money from outside the fellowship.

"Our public relations should be guided by the principle of attraction rather than promotion," and before me is the letter from the Grapevine to outside professionals. What's next? To call treatment facilities from a telephone boiler room to sell Grapevines and Big Books?

"And finally, we of Alcoholics Anonymous believe that the principle of anonymity has an immense spiritual significance."

And we have the public lawsuits in which the anonymity of many AA members has been broken by the General Service Structures in their countries. And not one word or letter or anything from our AAWS Director suggesting that a public lawsuit may not be a good idea, but instead we have letters like the one sent to Central Mexicana by the Service Director of AAWS Inc., and notarized February 24th, 1994. The letter states in part with my comments in parentheses:

"We understand that you wish to take appropriate legal action for copyright and trademark infringement against infringers in Mexico.(Seccion Mexico) As you know, Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc. the trademark and copyright owner, has licensed its trademarks and copyrights to you. Paragraph 7 of the copyright license provides that you, as the Licensee, may take appropriate legal action regarding infringement in your own name. (The AA groups oppose no one.Trad.9) The purpose of this letter is to formally advise you that AAWS, Inc. has no objection to your starting any legal action that you deem necessary to protect the copyrights and trademarks which have been licensed to you before any administrative authority, including but not limited to the Attorney General's office, the Mexican Trademark office of the Commerce Department (in Mexico the copyright is ended with the death of the author and the name of our then G.S.O. manager appears on the document filed in this office as co author of the Big Book) and the Copyright Office. Any such action will of course be at your cost." (which was several hundred thousand U.S. dollars)

(Copyright for the circle and triangle, and 1st and 2nd editions of the Big Book were already lost in the U.S. when this letter was written)

It is strange that this letter sounds a little bit like legal advice. When I visited G.S.O. last year I asked who was the legal counsel or to whom I might address a legal question as a member of the fellowship, such as a question about copyrights? They told me there wasn't one.

Seccion Mexico chose to follow Warranty Five of the Twelfth Concept that a "public lawsuit is a public controversy" and not engage in fighting the lawsuit and drag AA through the mud. An alcoholic --the Chairman of the Board of Trustees -- who was named in the lawsuit, was sentenced to a year in prison but didn't have to serve it because Seccion Mexico paid a fine. The Federal Police confiscated all their books and literature, which Seccion Mexico sold at cost, but they didn't lose anything. My recent visit to the Third Conference of the 2,500 AA groups of Seccion Mexico put me in touch with an awesome spiritual power which I still feel blessed to have experienced. We who are in the U.S./Canada Alcoholics Anonymous groups are the ones who have lost something. As my dear friend has said, "the moneychangers have entered the temple."

Dennis M.

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From Readers:

"When I came into A.A. twenty eight and a half years ago there were ninety delegate areas serving a membership of approximately a quarter million. Today there are about eight times that many members and only two areas added. The A.A. world outside of the U.S. and Canada has no vote at all in saying where A.A. is going or what we are about, but they are already three quarters of a million and very soon will outstrip the U.S. and Canada. They have simply got more room to expand and I predict that while we here in the U.S. may be reaching optimum, the rest of the world has got (metaphorically speaking) oceans of room to find members.

"The terribly inept performance is tragic because we are dealing with life and death opportunities. We need a much better service structure in place to allow us to interface with one another and collectively with our community. Christ told the man who was freed of a legion of devils in the land of the Geresenes, 'Go tell your friends the great things that God has done for you.' Now I 'am clothed and in my right mind;' I identify with him and take it personally.

Sincerely, Sean M.

If the above is quite true I must agree that something should be done about it, But I wonder if splitting the fellowship is the way to go. Doesn't this fly in the face of our legacy of "Unity?" Surely if the problem were more widely known, delegates would take corrective action in the annual conference. Isn't that the way Bill W. set it up?

Regards, Nat H., DOS 6/15/86, Oxford, Arkansas

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From the editor:

Nat's comment on Sean's article raises the very questions that have bedeviled us for some time now. Nat's position is the position that many good AAs take until they do some homework and find that many have tried to take this road, only to have been repulsed, reviled and/or ignored.

Those who ask the questions are not the ones who divide the fellowship and create disunity. And surely unity does not require our doing that which we believe would be harmful to our fellowship, does it?

We obviously cannot repeat the whole of every complex discussion in every issue of the newsletter. We are, therefore, opening a web site that will contain the history of many of the issues that we have raised. In addition, it will contain past issues of OPPF (in the ASCII text versions, edited to preserve the anonymity of the authors) for those who care to look through them.

We have reserved the site, http://www.ourprimarypurpose.com (Link has been corrected to the April 2009 website index page -ed.) , and I am in the process of learning how to put the documents up for viewing and downloading. It may be a while before I master the thing, so please bear with me.

In the meantime, if you have any documents you think would be appropriate for such a web site, please e-mail them to us for consideration.

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OPPF is a newsletter by and for alcoholics who want to see our Fellowship return to its basic mission of carrying the message of Alcoholics Anonymous to the alcoholic who is still suffering.

OPPF understands that an informed group conscience must hear about all issues, including controversial topics, and that all sides of every issue must be heard; therefore, it affords the opportunity to AA members to voice their opinions on any vital issues they may discover in the course of maintaining their sober lives.

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Updated: 22 September 1998