Volume III Number 9 September, 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
  4. It is misleading
  5. Watering down of A.A. is not just an American phenomenon
  6. Bring A.A. back into focus
  7. Steps in the wash of psycho-babble
  8. Confine our membership to alcoholics
  9. 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 hold regular monthly business meetings, usually on the last Friday of the month.

 Our next business meeting is Friday, September 27, 1996, at the La Mina Mexican Restaurant, 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 OPPF Newsletter Committee (Back to Basics) is open to all active members of the Fellowship who attend.  We invite your support and participation!

                     Jim Hastie, Editor

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 Last night at our "Freedom From Alcohol" A.A. Group Big Book Step Study we had 2 women visitors from out of town.  The twelve regulars identified as Alcoholics, with their names and sober dates.  One visitor identified as an Alcoholic/Addict with 1977 as her sober date and 1981 as her clean date, which was the date she chose as her new clean and sober date.

 The other woman identified as an Addict and couldn't remember her clean date -- eight or nine months.  The Addict was 18 years old and said she had "grown up in A.A."  I told her that our meeting was open, but because she did not identify as an Alcoholic, she could not participate.  After the meeting I took the time to speak with her and here is the dialogue.

Me: Do you go to Narcotics Anonymous?

Addict: Oh no, I don't like it.  I go to A.A. meetings.

Me: You're an Addict.  How do you identify?

Addict: By Tradition Three.  I say I have a desire not to drink and then I can share.

Me: Tradition Three says that our member ship ought to include all who suffer from Alcoholism.  Alcoholism is an allergy of the body, obsession of the mind, caused by ingesting beverage alcohol and being hypersensitive to it.  Did you ever drink?

Addict: Oh no, I've never had a drink.  I'm a prescription medication addict.

Me: Do you  realize that going to A.A., you're lying to yourself to fit in and lying to the group and your information could harm a real Alcoholic, newcomer or not?

Addict: I hadn't thought of it that way.

Me: There is "Prescription Pills Anonymous" in your area.  Don't you think you would be better served to get the identification you need to recover among fellow addicts?

Addict: No, I like A.A.

 And so it goes out there on the A.A. Campus.  Don't for an instant think that this is an isolated incident.  This is going on EVERYWHERE!

                        Angel S. (3-28-1979)
                  Freedom from Alcohol Group
                              West Hollywood
                            FAX (outdated 2001)

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 Indeed, our experience is that the scene described by Angel is commonplace in A.A. today:  "I like A.A."  "I don't get as much out of N.A."  "A.A. has better sobriety."  "There is more recovery in A.A.", and so on.

 We have sometimes been criticized for not offering solutions to the problems we report, but on the other hand we keep hearing that there is no problem, or that A.A. has to change, or any of countless other excuses for not taking action.

 The truth is that there are problems and that only a strong program of action undertaken by strong Home Groups can offer solutions to those problems.

 One strand, at least, in the knot of problems we face today began with the general concept that all addictions are the same, only the substances change.  This, by the way, is a central tenet of Narcotics Anonymous (see, for example, Narcotics Anonymous, 5th Edition, page xv: "Alcoholism is too limited a term for us; our problem is not a specific substance, it is a disease called addiction.")  It serves little purpose to argue about WHO started it; blaming is futile.

 It would seem to make sense to me for those who believe that "it's all the same" to go to a fellowship that has that point of view from the start.  I often hear addicts complain about how "unfriendly" A.A. is to them, only to hear them say that A.A. is more friendly than N.A.  Then they want to continue to complain about A.A. being unfriendly.  This makes no sense to me.

 Our failure in the past decade or so has been to neglect Step One when we work with newcomers.  Here is the place where we can "teach" what it means to be an alcoholic; to use Chapter Two and Chapter Three to evaluate a newcomer, as we are invited to do on page 92 of the Big Book, "If you are satisfied that he is a real alcoholic."

 Although we are cautioned, "And be careful not to brand him as an alcoholic.  Let him draw his own conclusion," the book does not tell us that no one can tell another that he is an alcoholic.  It cautions us that WE ought not "brand" him as alcoholic, but goes on, still on page 92, to say, "If his own doctor is willing to tell him that he is alcoholic, so much the better."  Again, on pages 31 and 32, the book tells us:

 "We do not like to pronounce any individual as alcoholic, but you can quickly diagnose yourself.  Step over to the nearest barroom and try some controlled drinking. Try to drink and stop abruptly.  Try it more than once.  It will not take long for you to decide, if you are honest with yourself about it.  It may be worth a bad case of jitters if you get a full knowledge of your condition."

 How often do we hear that advice being given to newcomers these days?  No, our collective approach seems to have become a plea not to descend any further into the "pit" of alcoholism.  Don't drink, don't try controlled drinking.  Don't find out whether you are an alcoholic.  Join us because someone may have thought that you might have a problem with some kind of stuff or activity that could possibly be bad for you.

 That's quite a stretch from "thousands of men and women who were once just as hope less as Bill," isn't it?  Soft-pedalling Step One hurts A.A. and misinforms the addict about A.A. and drugs.

                           Jim Hastie


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It is misleading

"It is misleading to hint or give the impression that Alcoholics Anonymous solves other problems or knows what to do about addiction to drugs."

The pamphlet, "The A.A. Group," p. 22

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Watering down of A.A. is not just an American phenomenon

 The watering down of A.A. is not just an American phenomenon, either.  Below is part of a letter from an A.A. in Spain.  He is a member of an English-speaking group there, and so the group is even more important to him than to most of us, who have the luxury of finding a good many English- speaking meetings.
 "... It is my belief that the book gets 'shelved' basically for three reasons.

 "Number one, no one wants to be bothered reading it.  Your can't simply flick through it.  Sure, it's simply written and the language can be understood by everyone regardless of how much gray matter they possess.  However, the ten dency today is to watch TV, films and so on, more visual stuff and the act of reading is kind of lost. ...

 "The second reason is the God bit.  The general complaint about the book is that it talks too much about God or the other guy, the Higher Power, who it turns out is like God's distant cousin.  Again you get the looks when you mention this is a spiritual programme.

 "The third reason is simple.  A lot of those who are sponsors haven't read the book and so the new people get the same stuff and so a new generation of sponsors is born, half measures.  By the time the dust settles you end up with experts and you don't need a book if you have an 'expert' sitting beside you.  Oh sure, you can have a bit of humility thrown in: 'I'm not God and I don't know everything' and so on.  But if I had had to wait for my first sponsor to get me started on the steps I'd still be waiting after eight years; he never once mentioned the book.

 "So, as you know, you end up with this kind of watered down version of A.A. sobriety which causes a lot of trouble, especially if you fall out with your pals in the group.  Then you really are on the outside looking in, because the groups are then fairly tight-knight, all gathered around a leader so you really need to go elsewhere."

                               Duncan T.
                        Barcelona, Spain

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Bring A.A. back into focus

 Reading through the alt.recovery.aa newsgroup on the internet, I came across the following set of observations, slightly modified here:


"The tremendous fact for every one of us is that we have discovered a common solution.  We have a way out on which we can absolutely agree, and upon which we can join in brotherly and harmonious action."
                             [Big Book p. 17]

Thank God there are positive workshops, conventions et al that are  'trying' to bring A.A. back into focus.  Back to basics.  Maybe if there  continues to be enough of these kinds of sharing we may, once again, have  a "common solution."  In my opinion, the way it stands now, in most of A.A., and,  needless to say, on this newsgroup, we have become a debating society... We debate the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous... We seem to have this obsession to re-invent the wheel.  To throw away A.A.'s recovery program and Traditions so as to redefine A.A. in terms of self-knowledge and being all things to all people... We debate singleness of purpose; spiritual awakenings as opposed to medication awareness; pain as the touchstone to spiritual growth vs feel good and plenty of hugs...

We will continue to have disunity on issues such as these, and others, until we figure out what we should be uniting behind... Unity is  impossible until we re-discover our "common solution."

Hopefully more and more gatherings will get back to basics... Whether or not the new wave is just too overpowering in numbers to return to our 'common solution,' time will tell.  If that be the case, though, what shall happen?  Will another "fellowship" be formed?  Unfortunately, the new minds would keep the A.A. name, though none of its practices... It will be an empty shell... Self knowledge and self gratification will be its theme... All emphasis on "I" and carrying the message, a thing of the past.  Time will tell...

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Steps in the wash of psycho-babble

 A letter from a new reader.

                         AN OPEN LETTER TO OPPF by John B. Robinson D.M.D.

 It is ever so hilarious sometimes how things work out. Just the other day I was sitting at my computer drafting a letter to a friend of mine in Sacramento and yammer ing to him how I was sick to the death of hitting my head against the wall trying to impress on SOMEBODY'S mind how impor tant the primary purpose was. How I had gotten a communication from New York (Not the GSO office, by the way) that said basically, "If we don't do something rapidly about the dilution of AA, the program as we once knew it will cease to exist in this decade." So it was written, so it has come ABOUT.

 I had gotten into a frame of mind that after all these years, "What's the use?" Then I get news from your area -- The land of Clancy and other Gurus -- who apparently had not only permitted the AFTA (Any Freaking Thing Anonymous) approach at meetings but for all I knew had nurtured it. Even the Earls who insisted on bathing our blessed steps and traditions in the wash of psycho-babble seemed to be capable of showing how new people could get well by just thinking! "THINK, THINK, THINK!" I say with "WHAT, WHAT, WHAT."

 I had finally decided, like Chief Joseph of the Nez Pers Tribe, "When the sun sets, I will fight no more forever!" Hell, I know about fights in and around AA and I've lost them all. After nearly 40 years exposure to Alcoholics Anonymous, I have learned four battles the INDIVIDUAL will not win! I know because I have tried and lost.

1 - THE BOOZE BATTLE: Tell me, have any you ever known any alcoholic who tried to do battle with booze and win? If you have, you can bet your socks he died trying.

2 - THE GOD FIGHTER: In the first place, God won't put up His dukes. He doesn't have to. He, through His permissive, will allow us to think we are getting away with doing without Him, but as the good Newman said, "God knows what He's about."

3 - THE AA FIGHTER: What a futile battle this one is. Any alcoholic that comes to us and stays without a drink for as much as 1 day has screwed himself because now he knows he can do it. Never again will he be able to muster an EXCUSE that will allow him to drink with impunity. Even more certainly, the newcomer that stays for 30 days or more damn sure won't he able to ever again say he can't do it. He has already proven he can.

4 - THE INTELLECTUAL: How many times and in how many ways have we seen guys and gals "smart" themselves into a drunk while chasing a feeling around, or an inner child or, worst of all, "l don't know who I am." We do. Your a damn drunk, that's what and that's all you've got to know.

 But those were individual fights. Now I hear from you people and you point out a blood bath for the entire program via their groups to enter. Can we win it when I can't even talk to an ANDA (I'm Joe and I'm an Alcoholic and an Addict) and patiently try to teach them when they use that lingo three  things happen: First, he violates the first tradition of "unity" because he has made himself different than me. And when we are different, we are out of unity with each other. Secondly, he violates the 5th tradition which says our primary purpose is to carry the message to the alcoholic that still suffers, and lastly, he violates the 10th tradition since there is no greater outside issue than drugs, or grass, or food, or ding dongs.

 If I can't show him how wrong be is by saying in meetings "I love AA so much" and at the same time break 3 of AA's traditions, how in God's name can I possibly be of value in the fight that so few of us are staging now? But I'm willing once more to try and so will some of my dear colleagues who had also given up. 30 for now. More to follow.

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Confine our membership to alcoholics

"Our first duty, as a society, is to insure our own survival.  Therefore we have to avoid distractions and multipurpose activity.  An AA group, as such, cannot take on all the personal problems of its members.  Sobriety -- freedom from alcohol -- through the teaching and practice of the Twelve Steps is the sole purpose of an AA group.

"We have to confine our membership to alcoholics, and we have to confine our AA groups to a single purpose.  If we don't stick to these princples, we shall almost surely collapse.  And if we collapse, we cannot help anyone."

                    The pamphlet, "Problems Other Than Alcohol"

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