Alcoholics Anonymous Greatest Danger: Rigidity

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Alcoholics Anonymous Greatest Danger: Rigidity

Postby Dallas » Thu Aug 12, 2010 7:18 pm

Our Greatest Danger: Rigidity

Bob Pearson (1917-2008) was General Manager of the General Service Office from 1974 to 1984, and then served as Senior Advisor to the G.S.O. from 1985 until his retirement. His story is in the Big Book as "AA Taught Him to Handle Sobriety," 3rd edit. (1976) pp. 554-561, 4th edit. (2001) pp. 553-559.

During the 1986 General Service Conference, Bob gave a powerful and inspiring closing talk to the conference at the closing brunch on Saturday morning, April 26. It was an especially significant occasion, because he knew that he was going to retire early the next year, and that this would be his last General Service Conference. The following excerpts are taken from that farewell speech, as published in the Conference's final report: The Thirty-Sixth Annual Meeting of the General Service Conference of Alcoholics Anonymous 1986 (Roosevelt Hotel, New York City, April 20-26, 1986), Final Report.

In his farewell speech to the 1986 General Service Conference, Bob P. gave this warning to future generations of A.A. members:

"If you were to ask me what is the greatest danger facing A.A. today, I would have to answer: the growing rigidity -- the increasing demand for absolute answers to nit-picking questions; pressure for G.S.O. to 'enforce' our Traditions; screening alcoholics at closed meetings; prohibiting non-Conference-approved literature, i.e., 'banning books'; laying more and more rules on groups and members."

The spirit of real old time AA is being destroyed as more and more people are beginning to ignore one of Bill Wilson's favorite sayings: "Every group has the right to be wrong."

Larry H.
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Postby Larry H. » Thu Aug 12, 2010 8:32 pm

I travel a lot and visit a lot of different AA groups. My observation is that many groups are ignoring this warning, If that is the group conscience then so be it. These types of groups eventually fail because newcomers see the ridgidity and infighting and they don't return. The really sad part is some of those newcomers never make it back and die of alcoholism or are locked up.

First impressions are so very very important to newcomers. The only reason I went to my second AA meeting is I saw people having fun and truly enjoying life. I was not enjoying life but I desperately wanted to. Those group members gave me the first hope that maybe just maybe since this AA thing worked for them that it might work for me. That was 34 years ago and today I go to meetings to freely give someone else the hope that I received so long ago.

HOPE = Happy Our Program Exists
HOPE = Hearing Other Peoples' Experience
HOPE = Hang On Peace Exists

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Postby RichC » Sat Aug 14, 2010 11:03 am

I have seen this myself. Though not real common from where I have visited.
Although it rears its head in some strange places and times.
As an example:
I went to a meeting I attended regularly for some time.
It was actually an open meeting and very large.
AA, NA, Al-anon members were regular attendees.
One night I overheard a group of old timers (old as in AA for some time) discussing the Al-anon people that attended with thier spouses the AA/NA'ers.
They were specific in the point they did not want them there and felt they should be banned from the meeting. These Old Timers pretty much ran the meeting on the whole.
My wife and myself came unglued and confronted them.
And basically asked them who they thought they were to be able to make such decisions and what gave them the overreaching power to do so?
They responded they ran the group and they were the admins of it. Thats how!
Needless to say the group was tarnished for me from then on.
I stopped attending the group; now I would not go back.
I found other less rigid groups and much smaller than that one.
A newcomer may be discouraged by such a body and the tyrannical "Admins" of such a group.
This is not a good thing and something we all need to control.

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Postby Ranman99 » Sun Aug 15, 2010 10:10 pm

Interesting. I was back in my home country a few weeks back and rushing around I accidently ended up in a meeting in the wrong church.

It took me about 10 minutes to realize that I had walked into an NA meeting instead of the AA meeting up the street.

Now I have had my bout with all different kinds of monkies and it is just by the grace that I have not used other substances for about 4 years where as with the boosh I was about 18.5 months sober at the time.

I did a little share and to these guy's and gals I was a dinasaur of sobriety and not quite fitting in.

But you know what there was at least one wise woman who did approach me and we chatted and it was what we needed.

That little accident was good for me and I'm glad to have heard the sharing because at least for me it was one of those there but for the grace moments.

However I can tell you that in an closed AA meeting I would much prefer the topic to be on the mark of my number one offender and how I get relief from that.

Anyway just a little story. 8)

I was really shunned by some of the young folks at the NA meeting that were just in for a few weeks. But hey I didn't take it too personally. There but for the grace you know.

Then, and only then
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My Way or Highway

Postby Then, and only then » Thu Mar 10, 2011 1:17 am

I agree 100%. "Demands for absolute answers", the only think in life has absolute answers is the fact that when I drink, I can not stop. Other than that, I do not think there is such thing as an absolute answer. Easy for me to say, I only got 3 years. I see old-timers with such demands out of love and duty, they think. B.S.

If I have a brain capable of an absolute answer, I will be dead already or I am not an alcoholic.

Dear old-timers,
No, I dunno what I am talking about. I have no experiences in life without the bottle, I am as strong as 2 year old, and only thing I have is Hope. I want some of what you have. Especially, time, but not all. Maybe some of you are cured, but I am not. So, please allow me to make a fool out of myself. Please do not correct me, instruct me, point out to me, go out of your way to help me and judge me. My keen alcoholic mind does all that 24 7. You may have seen an obedient alk, but due to my short time, I haven't. And I know I can never be one. My HP knows I want to be one. Allow me to struggle on my own, listen to my bull with forgiving eyes. That is all I ask of you. You know I want to follow your suggestions, but I can't. I can not see yet. If this 9 year old boy feels, you are talking down on me from spiritual mountain top, my eyes and years shut immediately. Please be an empathetic friend, who only knows your way out of this Hell. Your way might not work for me, and you look heck of a lot attractive and persuading that way. That is what you intend, right? Not to show me how big you are, and how small I am. Thank you for sharing, my friend.

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Postby Toast » Sat Feb 04, 2012 12:16 pm

Been thinking along the same lines lately. More and more speakers seem to do lectures on how things should be rather that a good honest share on what it was really like, what happened and what its like today. 8)

This alcoholic didn’t come here to be lectured. Just tell me what you suffered from, who it affected and how by the grace of god you got over it and how your life is today and I’ll pick the best bits out of that and leave the rest. I may even call my sponsor and ask him things about the share I didn’t understand but if the guy doing the share sounds like a Bible salesman I sure aint going to ask him! :lol:

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Postby Dallas » Sat Feb 04, 2012 1:31 pm

I was listening again recently to an old Chuck C. talk. I think it was from the Palo Mesa retreat, that was recorded and turned into the book 'A New Pair of Glasses.'

Chuck was commenting on: (my paraphrase) "AA is not 'telling' others what to do -- it's sharing what we did. We don't tell -- we simply share what we did. When someone in AA is telling others what to do -- they're not doing AA."

That comes to my mind often now, when I hear one of the 'AA Police' sharing. :lol: :lol: They spend an enormous amount of time 'telling' us when and what we're doing wrong -- instead of sharing with us -- what they did.

A specific place in the Big Book comes to mind, that goes along w/ this. It is in the Chapter 3, More about alcoholism -- where they are discussing Jim, the salesman. I think it's on page 35... it's simply 'telling Jim, what we knew about alcoholism." There is a way to 'tell' what we know about something -- without telling someone what they should do.

As an AA, I can't tell another AA what to do. So, when speaking in a meeting -- I try to constantly 'check myself' to see if: Am I telling? Or, am I sharing what I did? And, even when I'm 'sharing what I did' -- am I using words that will appear to, or possibly give the impression of -- me 'telling someone' what they should do.

The exception that I see in this is in Sponsorship. I WANT my sponsor to tell me what to do and how to do it. That may not work for other AA's -- it's simply what I NEED and WANT.

I had previously worked w/ sponsors that would not tell me what to do -- because that's the way they sponsored. And, even though that may work well for some AA's -- it produced more problems for me.

My head was probably messed up more than other peoples heads. My head kept me drinking and kept me getting into trouble -- so, I had to make a decision to use someone else's head and their thoughts, and their judgements -- until, I had the ability to use my head. And, now that I have the ability to use my head -- I still use my sponsor to help me keep a check on what I'm thinking and what I'm doing.

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Postby Dallas » Sat Feb 04, 2012 1:33 pm

btw: In that same talk, Chuck C., did mention -- that there are some in AA that really do get it better by having someone tell them what to do.

His summary was: "Even though we will always have those in AA that will TELL others what to do -- all will be well -- because some people need that kind of talking to and telling to do!" :lol:

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Postby MKL » Tue Feb 28, 2012 10:48 am

Rigidity i don't believe in . Where i sobered up, in Boise , Idaho the BB group and joined had 3 meetings a week , all open to anyone interested in a spiriual way of life. Most of us were alkies but some cross addicted people were there too and as long as they were wiiling to talk and work out of the 164 in the BB none were asked to leave. I do believe meetings should be disciplined to the degree that others shouldn't be allowed to talk endlessly about themselves or that no one should be allowed on his/her bully pulpit and condemn others either. I needed someone to tell me what to do. I too don't believe or like the AA police but neither do i believe newcomers and those that haven't worked steps solidly be allow to dictate the tempo or what meat of the meeting is. I'm conservative in what i believe AA is or should be and in what i believe in, however when i go to a new place i don't correct everyone who doesn't believe in the BB the meeting or condemn them, but share how the 164 in the BB has saved my life. One of the reasons i believe AA has gotten watered down over the years is because of a lack of leadership by oldtimers who have worked steps and to avoid conflict, let newcomers do say whatever they want at meetings or clubs. I've been to AA clubs where street drugs were sold and where one oldtimer and his wife preyed on new women for their own sick sexual games, and other meetings where 13 stepping was the norm or where newcomers were preyed"on financially, so i don't believe an an " anything goes ' attitude at meetings either. To those of us much has been given do i believe much is asked of by God in the form of keeping AA a safe, sane place for those wanting to recover from their illness.

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Postby Dallas » Tue Feb 28, 2012 12:16 pm

MKL -- I think we might have been to some of the same meetings. I hope it was the same ones. If it was, it would mean there would be fewer of them. :wink:

I do a lot of traveling.

I'm glad this topic was freshened up today. I sure needed to read it!

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