Philosophy of AA:

a Drunk and Some Opinions

Pot – Kettle

There has been some discussion lately about the decision the trustees made recently regarding the manuscript of Alcoholics Anonymous.   Some are saying that the decision to file suit to block the sale of property that should be held in our AA Archives is a decision that is in violation of the Traditions.   Some allege that disunity was created by hour trustees as they engaged Alcoholics Anonymous in an “outside controversial issue.”

Having been through the process of litigation before, I value its ability to uncover the truth in matters, and I believe that the trustees of AA did the right thing by exploring the matter through legal channels, rather than sit on the sideline and allow our heritage to be auctioned off.

Having participated in our 3rd Legacy before, I always was told to trust my trusted servants.   I may not always agree with their decisions, but unless I’m available to be an informed member of the group conscience that is making the decision, I should understand that my opinion may be lacking in MANY respects.   Just the fact that our trustees made the vote shows that they (Class B Trustees) have vast experience in other important AA maters.  Check out the REGIONAL FORUM schedule and hear from the General Service Board directly.   I’ve seen lots of pent up hostility dissolve right in front of me when people meet face to face with the GSO staff and trustees and learn more about the matters first hand.  Ironically, lots of AA members reacted just as harshly in the times when our co-founders led our society in its infancy, and later when the board was in its early years.   The Regional Forums were created for that very reason!

This decision is far from over, but I ask our members for peace and unity.   Instead of feeling the need to attack and threaten our trusted servants and charge that some kind of change must be made in our leadership or structure, consider that they may have made the best decision, and pray for God’s hand in the outcome, then pick up some AA literature and take time to learn more about our Traditions and Concepts so that when the time comes, you can be one of the Trustee’s on the ‘firing line.’


October 25, 2017 Posted by | Unity | Leave a comment

Perceived Badness


Last week I was at an event with a friend.   He’s a good guy and very serious about the program.   He’s a great example of someone involved in recovery, unity, and service (the Three Legacies).

Someone came up, and the three of us started talking about meditation. Our new friend has been in AA for a little over two years and joined our home group a few months ago. We started talking about the practice of meditation:  how long we meditate, where we meditate, and the tools we use for helping us meditate.  Great ideas were shared, until the person said “you probably will hate me, but I use the Twenty Four Hour a Day Book.”

Having been involved in A.A. General Service for years, my buddy has become sort of known as a person of great knowledge and experience.   He has helped in group conscience discussions many times by pleasantly drawing a distinction between service in and for Alcoholics Anonymous, and service to other entities like clubs, treatment facilities, 3/4 houses and conventions;  never placing shame, just providing information.

To say that he was bothered by our new friends comment was obvious.  What followed was like a chapter in a Plato book.

“Hate you?”

“well, yes…  It’s not AA approved”

“Ah..  “A.A. Conference Approved Literature.”


My friend quietly contemplated. ” So you’re thinking that I believe that AA members should only read AA Conference Approved Material?”

Our friend seemed uncomfortable. “I guess so?”

My buddy smiled a gentle smile. “No.”

He went on, “I’ve read my copy of the Twenty Four Hours a Day Book for over twenty years, and I read a whole bunch of other books too.   It sounds like you may have picked up a bit of a misunderstanding of why our fellowship developed the conference approved literature process and what it all means.”

The conversation between us represented an interesting problem in Alcoholics Anonymous that seems to come up frequently.    Despite our best efforts to keep rules out of AA, to encourage group autonomy (self-governing) and state that we have no monopoly on God, many AA’s still have the impression that the General Service Conference is some type of “Big Brother” with rigid standards, judgement and expectations on members of Alcoholics Anonymous.   The best way to really learn how false that really is has been to get involved.

I guess I may have had a touch of that belief when I attended my first AA Regional Forum.   Despite my level of activity in AA, I thought that I would seem inferior to those AA members that were serving as trustees and staff members at GSO.  I found out quickly the complete opposite.

He described that Conference Approved Literature simply meant the piece of literature or pamphlet was published by AAWS.   As far as anything else went, he and AA had no opinion for or against.   From time to time, we’ve probably all heard folks encourage the purchase of Conference Approved literature.   That may be an individuals opinion, but despite its financial gain, AA itself has no opinion on what its individual members read and purchase.  To her suprise, he even told her that the AA Grapevine, our principle newsletter and all its related books, were not conference approved.

To witness this exchange was interesting.   I can identify with this type of misperception as I’ve had it in many areas of my life, and it shows me how I can’t judge a book by its cover.  Conference approved, or otherwise.

April 26, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

2015 International Registration Has Begun

Screen Shot 2014-09-04 at 11.41.31 PMOne of the coolest events in my sober life has been the first time I attended an International Convention!  Holding hands with the many thousands and closing the meetings was a powerful experience.  What has been equally fulfilling is encouraging other friends in AA to attend, then watching their excitement and gratitude as the event unfolded.  Powerful!  

Yesterday I woke up and did my normal routine, until 7:54 am EST.  That’s 6 minutes prior to the opening of registration.  Getting into the GSO site ( wasn’t a problem, but clicking through to the registration site took about 30 minutes.  I was able to sign up myself & my partner, then reserve 3 rooms in a hotel nearby.  While it was happening I had time to reflect on my life and my gratitude for being able to register and afford to pay for hotel rooms (9 room nights), and do so the first day.  My first experience going was more like my life up to that point:  last minute decision, little advanced preparation, sharing a dumpy motel with 3 other guys and sleeping on the floor.  It was perfectly acceptable to me at the time, but I did recognize, even in those days, how there were other people that were ‘on top of things’ that registered early and those people had better rooms, closer to the event.  

What is so important to me about the International Convention is that despite the chaos of 60,000+ drunks hitting town simultaneously, I always recognize what feels like being a part of a historic event.  Meeting some of the old timers in AA has been awesome.  It was at this event and others that I’ve been able to meet some of the elder statesmen of AA before they moved on to the ‘big meeting in the sky’.  

Bill W. and Bob S. used the International Convention as a vehicle for communication and advancing ideas that are institutionalized as part of AA Today.  Our fellowship ‘grew up’ and came of age in St. Louis and continued to develop and build upon its experience and celebrate its history and growth throughout the world every 5 years at the International Convention.    

If it’s not in the budget today, set $5 a week aside and make an effort to go.  Every single one of them is a once in a lifetime experience.  Atlanta 2015 will be an awesome host city too.  It has the experience and the amenities to handle our crowd with ease.  

Now the GSO site has survived the influx of registrations and appears to be operating normally.  The link to register is  

September 5, 2014 Posted by | International Convention | , | Leave a comment

Does AA work for Atheists?

cartoon atheistEmphatically, YES.  Despite the 12 Steps calling us to rely on a higher power, that higher power can be many things, not limited to a deity.

Recently I was at a meeting where there were some conflicting opinions being thrown around about whether someone who doesn’t believe in God can stay sober in AA.    Opinions are always swirling around with people, but in AA, we share experience, strength and hope, not opinions.  If someone doesn’t have experience either a.  being an atheist that stays sober, or b. knowing an atheist that stays sober, then they really don’t have experience in that subject and should keep their opinions to themselves.

My experience was that I was definitely atheist when I joined AA. I didn’t have any other choices really.  I was talking to a counselor that was trying to get information on a program that would cater to an atheist that wanted to get sober, but he never found anything.  Getting sober wasn’t something I could really wait around for, so I took the plunge.  I remember to this day how angry I was at the end of the beginners meeting circling up with all the AA members that were chanting the ‘Our Father’ at the end of the meeting.  I didn’t do it.  (Eventually I did, but after several years I returned to my ‘roots’ and quit any kind of group chants all together for an entirely different reason).

The thing that really worked for this atheist is that I was ‘willing’ to believe that a power greater than myself could restore me to sanity. I knew I was insane, and that my life was insane. For a time, the biggest part of my insanity was that I could figure my “life problems” out on my own, and ideally still drink. After beating my head against the proverbial wall for years, I finally admitted that I was willing to believe that a power greater than myself could restore me to sanity.  As an atheist though, I just couldn’t figure out what that power was.  Willingness to believe meant that I was willing to listen to others and take their suggestions.  They suggested that I pray and meditate. As an atheist, one might feel that its a bit contradictory, but I did it.  I even tried going to church and doing what I was told in AA initially, “listen for the similarities, not the differences”.  While it wasn’t something that ‘caught on’, I tried it.

What happened to me can be described as miraculous if one is so inclined.  If you’re an atheist, just say its pretty cool, but my life started changing for the better, one day at a time. What happened is that the AA program worked for me.  Day after day, year after year, I worked the program and continued to “seek through prayer and meditation” for a conscious contact with God as I understand him.  I’ve studied Eastern and Western philosophy and several religions.  SEEKING.  What I’ve FOUND is that my opinions about a deity haven’t changed in all that time seeking.  Seeking is actually good exercise. . Prayer and meditation for me became an exercise for my mind that would settle me down and help me build a positive attitude.  I find that I can practice each and every one of AA’s principles every day without conceding that God created the world in 7 days or that “Jesus loves me”.  I’ve even found a ‘church’ that I can belong to that doesn’t conflict with my beliefs, which has been great for me socially and mentally. So in all my years of sobriety, while my ACTIONS have changed, my WILLINGNESS has changed, my  beliefs have stayed the same.

Today I don’t refer to my self as an atheist, simply because I don’t reject the existence of a God. I’m like AA in that I just don’t have an opinion.  Hard core atheists can be as frustrating with their attempts to indoctrinate the world as some religious folks are.    God may or may not be there.  I’m open.  Bill W. said that  we all have a fundamental idea of God, that’s just not true for me yet.  Maybe some day, but after many year of willingness to believe, the simple truth is that my beliefs haven’t changed, and I’m still happily sober in AA!

Anonymous Guest Blogger

March 9, 2013 Posted by | Atheists in sobriety, Step 2 and 3 | Leave a comment

Our Public Relations….Or Lack Thereof

This month is the 11th month, and so by practice of many AA groups, the 11th Tradition is a topic of discussion.  I recently caught one of these meetings, and the discussion was of interest.  “Attraction rather than promotion” is a mantra I hear way too often in AA.  Overall, the idea is good, but its used as more of an excuse than I think it was intended for.  What it allows for is a large chunk of AA membership to be lazy and avoid doing anything that would help another drunk get the life saving message of AA.

In the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions book, the first couple paragraphs talk about how important having a good public relations policy is to our fellowship, and also what good can come out of it:  the opportunity to help other alcoholics.  The rest of the chapter seems to be a cautionary tale about how the members of AA should stay away from the public eye and allow our friends to recommend us.  All good advice, but how do we get friends?  What happens when AA becomes ‘old news’ and the press isn’t always as favorable towards us?  What happens when the press, struggling for its own survival, decides to only publish melodramatic stories with suggestive headlines?  All these questions are ones that are real life issues for our fellowship today.  Fortunately, AA has the answers to these questions.

Once I found myself in a bit of a ‘rut’ as far as the program was concerned, though I didn’t realize it at the time.

Accidentally, I got involved in the CPC committee (Cooperation with the Professional Community). I wasn’t trying to save the world.  I didn’t care.  The opportunity presented itself and I was warmly welcomed into service.

Driving to the meetings and events, my self-centered thoughts seemed to be focused on why I was doing something that seemed to provide no short term benefit to me.  There were no beautiful women at the meetings.  There was nothing particularly exciting.  It took a precious hour out of my schedule, but they told me they really needed me, and it just seemed like the right thing to do.

In those two years, we contacted clergy, doctors, nurses, school counselors, probation offices and judges;  always asking them how our fellowship could be more effective in helping them with their problems with alcoholics.  Our CPC chairperson insisted that we don’t meet with professionals that work with drunks every day with an attitude that we know how to handle the problem, but  instead hold a deep respect and appreciation for what they do, seeing ourselves only as an additional tool for their use.

Now, years later, my understanding of our fellowship has grown, and I’ve seen how CPC committee work has lead to suffering alcoholics being referred to AA’s doors.  One of the clergy persons appreciated our visits and information so much, they offered us a place to hold a meeting in their facility.  Something they’d never allowed before.  Anther contact in probation and parole has become an incredible resource for our corrections committee work and always helps us in contacting probations officers in the area. One medical school started requiring classes to be held only by AA members for its doctors and nurses.Just our small amount of effort has produced friends of AA that seem to continuously help our meetings stay full of newer members looking for a better way of life.

A few months back, I went to a meeting where an old timer was talking about the 12th Step Call.  Interestingly, the subject of  what our fellowship can do came up.  Some people suggested that doing more workshops on how to make a 12th Step call would help, but the old timer disagreed.  Saying that having workshops on CPC would teach our members how to generate more 12th Step calls.  It sounded a little odd, but thinking about how our fellowship was started, Bill W. contacted the clergy in Akron to line up a meeting with Dr Bob.  Weeks later, Bill and Dr. Bob contacted the hospital ward to meet up with AA number 3, Bill D.  Even before Bill and Dr. Bob, Ebby T. was helped by Oxford Grouper’s appealing to a Judge in court.  Our fellowship was started by reaching out to professionals with gusto, until the years passed and treatment centers took the place of much of our efforts and carrying our message outside of our meetings.

Today, in looking at the 11th Tradition, we as members must work harder than ever to build on our relations with the public through CPC work.  As social media changes the way the world communicates, our members must remain vigilant in our efforts to reach the still suffering alcoholic however possible.


November 26, 2012 Posted by | Anonymity, Good AA Press, Legacy of Service, Tradition 11 | Leave a comment

Dear Abbie, Is my wedge an acceptable replacement for my mindless troll sponsor?

This whole flap about bi-winner Charlie has been nothing less than an entertainment phenom.  Despite the urge to become mindless trolls, some AA’s see merit to the rants. 

AA saved my life every day since walking through the doors, so its always more beneficial to focus on the positive.  Our literature never suggests we should become judgemental, arrogant or condescening, yet just about any AA can cite different times when they’ve been subjected to this behavior in meetings.   Just about everyone that walks through the door has a lot of growing up to do, and sometimes its the beginner or someone on a relapse that points that out.  How embarrasing! 

The past few years I’ve been truly interested in the opinions of the disenfranchised that take aim at our fellowship.  Bonafide criticism is sometimes hard to seperate from nonsense.  Behind the hurt feelings and resentment, I frequently see an element of truth to what they say. 

One talk I heard from a circuit speaker Keith L. in my early days talked of an amends he made to the Roman Catholic Church.  While making amends to an elderly priest, Keith said the priest stopped him and said, “Its not you who owe me, but I who owe you amends.  For all too long, I was comfortable with those that supported me, but never went after those who were lost.”  That message has stuck with me.   I see that in AA.  Those who are detractors or resentful at our wonderful fellowship can be shunned or treated with anger.  We react when we need to be loving and understanding.  We reject those who don’t accept AA. 

For this drunk, its much more fun to crack jokes about the antics of someone like Charlie, and I do.  Hell, while he’s off with the Goddesses living out his bitchin life, he’s probably cracking jokes about a troll like me! I have to remember though, that when I’m in the trenches, its my job to walk with the alcoholic, not against.  Page 100 of Alcoholics Anonymous says “both you and the new man must walk day by day on the path of spiritual progress.”  It doesn’t say anything about them knowing the secret handshake or having to like or agree with  me.  The whole line about “if you want what we have….” sometimes gives us a big head about what we really do have. 

The BEST thing that I have is the knowledge of the gift of humility and the opportunity to help my fellow alcoholics.

March 4, 2011 Posted by | Good AA Press, Legacy of Service | Leave a comment

Good Information on This Years Conference.

Not being as involved in Service this year, I love to find good information on what is being addressed (both before and after) the AA General Service Conference. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, that’s the meeting held each year where AA delegates from all over the US and Canada meet up with the Trustees of Alcoholics Anonymous and a few others to hash out the issues that face our organization nationally. Literature, budget, Grapevine, Public Information, Cooperation with Professional Committee, Correctional Facilities, Treatment Facilities; committees for these and other topics are formed.

Looking at the topics discussed often times gives an AA member some idea of what issues we should stop and think about ourselves. These issues don’t resolve themselves, and our leaders that make the decisions have often reported about wanting more help from the fellowship to come to an informed consience.

So I usually start searching the web for information on the topics discussed at the conference some time after the holidays so that I can consider the topics myself and talk to others about them. That’s how I figure I can do my job as a member.

Last week I found the article on page to of the Eastern Area of Missouri newsletter (Gratitude Gazette) was a summary of the conference topics for 2011. Take a gander!

January 31, 2011 Posted by | Good AA Press, Legacy of Service | Leave a comment

So THATS How It Works….

Interesting post on the Helper Therapy Principle. from the Times of India.

So often in meetings, folks say, “I don’t know how it work, IT JUST WORKS!” about AA.

I guess that’s why we have doctors, they can figure out how it works, quantify it, etc. Our job is to just do it.

It talks about this Helper Therapy Principle (HTP) as a way we can become less self-centered. In my case, that is really when ‘the program’ kicked in. The first chunk of sober time I had, I still questioned actions like a sharp 5 year old. My sponsor would tell me what to do…..WHY? WHY? WHY? Basically, my questioning was really resistance, even though I didn’t see it that way at the time. But in truth, just like a little kid, if I didn’t get a worthy explanation, I wouldn’t follow the suggestion.

Until I hit that wall in sobriety, came close to the drink, and rededicated myself to doing the deal.

Since then, sponsorship, 12 Step work, and service work are all a big part of keeping my mind off of myself. Some people say that all three things are synonymous, but not in my book. Sponsorhip is 12 Step work, but not all 12 Step Work is sponsorship. Aside from Sponsoring, having a chance to talk to the drunk on the front lines is huge for me. Picking up calls at the intergroup and hearing someone say that AA doesn’t work isn’t quite as “feel good” as giving out a medalion for my pidgeons AA aniversary. Feeling good is only part of the work though. Seeing where I could end up is just as valuable as seeing our successes. Service work to me is different entirely from 12 Step work. Service is just doing a job that makes 12th Step Work possible……often times for someone else. Speaking at schools, organizing committees, visiting doctors, lawyers, and clergy to tell them a little about what AA does and does not do; there are many many ways to do service. If someone were to stay sober for 25 years, they probably couldn’t cover all the different jobs there are out there. Those jobs give me something to focus on, and give me a chance to pay back AA for the wonderous recovery it has given me.

So get out there my fellow AA’ers and get busy with HTP!

January 31, 2011 Posted by | Good AA Press, Legacy of Service, Recovery | Leave a comment

AA is Spiritual?!?

CNN just wrote this article about AA members spirituality.

Its funny, because the media seems to know AA more for its ‘pop culture’ than for what it actually is. Our meetings, our introduction (“I’m Horace and I’m an alcoholic…..”, “HI HORACE!!” ) and for other characteristics that aren’t requirements of AA. After all, the spiritual program was outlined and published in Alcoholics Anonymous in 1935. The fact that AA is about spirituality being written about like its news in 2010 is somewhat disappointing.

It is nice to see that its still possible to get favorable press in this day & age when controversial press seems to be more prevalent.

Recently I went to a meeting where the subject was pgs 84-88 of Alcoholics Anonymous; steps 10 & 11. Those pages (mainly 86-7) outline our 24 hour plan. “Upon Awakening….When we retire at night….throughout the day….” As far as what I hear “around the tables” is less about the spiritual steps and more about going to meetings. That wasn’t always the case. Even though the number of AA meetings in the US has dramatically increased since the “old days” of AA, our message really shouldn’t change–within AA or in the media.

December 15, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

In Gratitude…..

Now is a special time for me. Summer is coming to a close, fall is approaching, and so is ROTATION!

It kills me to have summer end, but every other year on opposite years, Alcoholics Anonymous rotates. In and of itself, that’s not so special, but for most of the really active AA members, now is the time that they are looking to the future of what they want to do in service for the next few years.

If this sounds totally foreign to you, no problem. I was a member of AA for quite a while before I really became “plugged in” to AA. Once that happened though, I would never turn back.

What happened for me is that I spent my early days in AA going to meetings and talking about how grateful I was for Alcoholics Anonymous. Many others were doing the same thing. So much so, that it almost seemed like finding new and catchy ways of expressing one’s gratitude for sobriety and Alcoholics Anonymous was the focus. While there’s nothing wrong with that, the principles of AA taught me that gratitude is best expressed by my actions, not my mouth. I noticed that when I did something nice, or went out of my way for someone, the people who showed me their thanks were so much more appealing than the people who acted happy and said thank you.

My time in AA was actually rather tumultuous for a while as I wrestled with several questions about life and AA. I was getting bored with AA and didn’t know what to do. I’d read just about everything out there on the subject and felt that I knew everything I needed to stay sober and happy, but I was growing restless. Then, against my desires, I was elected as my home groups General Service Representative (GSR). The prior GSR didn’t do his job at all and made up some catchy excuses as to why he didn’t fulfill his commitment to the group. He glamorized stories about how district meetings were just crabby people arguing about inane AA matters. So I was willing to do what I was asked, but I WAS NOT excited about stepping into this realm of AA after what he said.

What I found was that I was stepping into the most informed, spiritual, humble and grateful set of AA members that I had ever encountered. In my “AA circles,” I’d met hundreds of people that talked gratitude, now I was with those who ACTED GRATITUDE. In regular meetings, I’d met people who often times gave great reasons as to why they couldn’t sacrifice their time for an AA request, now I was amongst those who really made tremendous sacrifices of their own time to give back to this wonderful fellowship.

Ever since getting involved, I’ve tried to be an observer in Alcoholics Anonymous. I’ve watched group consciences drag on a bit long and some members get up and slowly walk out of the room, silently voicing to the group that they had sacrificed enough. When that happens, I think about the Class A (non-alcoholic) trustees of our fellowship that attend a week long general service conference and four, 5 day “board weekends” to keep our fellowship strong. Group members talk of owing their lives to the program and can’t spend an hour, but these non-alcoholics give nearly 1 month out of a year to us. All throughout the service structure we can observe the people who truly give back and sustain our fellowship.

So now, in roughly half of the areas in Alcoholics Anonymous, the process of rotation is occuring. Now is the time to get involved. For me, it was the best thing I had ever done (without knowing it at the time) in AA. It has impacted my membership in AA and every other aspect of my life. Its made me a better person.

Today, for various reasons, stepping back a bit from really active service was a necessity. Life started getting too big. Fortunately there are still jobs in AA that can be done that don’t require quite as much. We give when and where we can.

Good luck getting “Plugged In” to AA!

October 11, 2010 Posted by | Legacy of Service | Leave a comment