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Alt.Recovery.AA Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

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Archive-name: alt-recovery/alcoholics-anonymous-faq
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See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge
   Suggestions/corrections/comments are welcome and appreciated.
   Send me email to or OR post in
   alt.recovery.aa with 'FAQ' on the Subject line.
   Version: 1.11 12/11/96
   This FAQ is now available on the WWW.
   The URL is
   Alcoholics Anonymous now has an official web site at
   DISCLAIMER: This file is not intended to be a complete description of
   Alcoholics Anonymous. This is an UNOFFICIAL document. If you want to
   learn more about AA, it recommended to
     * Attend meetings, if possible
     * Get and read the book, "Alcoholics Anonymous"
     * Read other AA literature
     * Talk with AA members
   TRADEMARKS: Several of the terms used in this FAQ are trademarked by
   either AAWS (Alcoholics Anonymous World Services) and/or The
   Grapevine. These terms include: Alcoholics Anonymous, A.A., Grapevine,
   Box 459.
   I. Alt.Recovery.AA, the Newsgroup
    1. What is Alt.Recovery.AA?
    2. Is Alt.Recovery.AA a group or meeting?
    3. How do I get sober through AA and can Alt.Recovery.AA help?
    4. Discussion, Hot Debate, and Flaming
    5. Does discussion here influence GSO or AA as a whole?
    6. What about anonymity? Is Alt.Recovery.AA public?
    7. Additional information in WWW [World Wide Web] pages.
   II. Alcoholics Anonymous
    1. What is AA?
    2. What does AA do?
    3. What doesn't AA do?
    4. What literature is available?
    5. What are meetings, groups, conventions?
    6. Twelve Steps
    7. Twelve Traditions
    8. Twelve Concepts
    9. Overview of the History of Alcoholics Anonymous
   III. Actual Frequently Asked Questions about Alcoholics Anonymous
    1. What do the Steps mean by 'God'?
    2. What's a spiritual awakening?
    3. Why do people keep going to meetings after they're sober?
    4. The Lord's prayer, is that in line with the Traditions?
    5. I hear Bill W. used LSD. Is that true?
    6. How can I get an online copy of the Big Book?
    7. Is AA the only way to get sober?
    8. What does AA say about drugs? Aren't they all basically the same
    9. Should AA Change?
   10. If you don't like AA why don't you leave?
   11. But AA Works!
   12. Explain that Flame Section back at the start, please.
   IV. Miscellaneous
   I. Alt.Recovery.AA, the Newsgroup
    1. What is Alt.Recovery.AA?
       Alt.Recovery.AA is a USENET newsgroup. Its purpose is to discuss
       Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.) and the A.A. program of recovery from
       alcoholism. Note that 'Alt.Recovery' is also a valid USENET
       newsgroup name and sometimes articles are cross-posted between the
       two newsgroups, so watch the Newsgroups and Followup-To header
       lines both when you read and when you respond or post.
       One of the customs of USENET is the FAQ, or Frequently Asked
       Questions document. Normally the FAQ provides information about
       the newsgroup and the subject matter of the newsgroup. This is the
       FAQ for Alt.Recovery.AA. There is a separate FAQ for Alt.Recovery.
       If you are unfamiliar with USENET then some of the postings in
       news.announce.newusers might be handy in explaining the customs.
    2. Is Alt.Recovery.AA a group or meeting?
       Alt.Recovery.AA lacks a few things common to many "live" groups
       and meetings.

        (a) Non-alcoholics can read and post here
        (b) Anti-AA folks can do likewise
        (c) People can and will "shout" you down no matter what you
            say or how nicely you say it. This can be intimidating.
        (d) Alt.Recovery.AA is public (see question below)
   with these caveats, call Alt.Recovery.AA what you will.
       Note also that Alt.Recovery.AA was not proposed and discussed in
       alt.config as a meeting or group, but simply as a newsgroup and is
       listed as being about 'Recovery and Alcoholics Anonymous.' Posting
       to the rest of the net that alt.recovery.aa was a group and under
       special rules would probably be counter-productive. Also, check a
       following section about what a meeting or group is.
    3. How do I get sober through AA and can Alt.Recovery.AA help?

        "In our experience, the people who recover in A.A. are those who:
                (a) stay away from the first drink;
                (b) attend A.A. meetings regularly;
                (c) seek out the people in A.A. who have successfully stayed
                        sober for some time;
                (d) try to put into practice the A.A. program of recovery."
                        -- the A.A. leaflet "a Newcomer asks..."
       Alt.Recovery.AA can help with the above in a variety of ways. Some
       participants may know of good meetings to go to, or may even be
       available to take you to a meeting. They may also know specific
       ways that worked for them in avoiding taking a drink. They may
       also be online for a live chat session when you really need to
       talk to someone. It may also be that you'll see participants
       demonstrating the A.A. program of recovery.
       Alt.Recovery.AA can be a good place to ask for help.
       Also, as you learn more about the A.A. Program you can incorporate
       more information you get on the net with what you learn from your
       meetings and your reading.
    4. Discussion, Hot Debate, and Flaming
       There are people on the net who like to go into newsgroups and
       stir things up. If you want to stir things up in Alt.Recovery.AA
       here's what to post:
          + A.A. is a religion [leaving 'religion' undefined]
          + I recovered from alcoholism and can still drink
          + A.A. is just a bandaid and doesn't handle the root problem
          + There would have to be some changes in A.A. before I'd join
          + I'm not powerless
          + Derisive comments about the newsgroup itself
          + Cross-link in posts from other newsgroups, like alt.atheism
          + Post about non-recovery related items
          + I'm an atheist, so A.A.'s not for me!
          + Non-alcoholic beer/wine helps me stay sober
          + You're not really recovered if you're still smoking.
          + Probably any post that's a judgment about 'you'
       Alternatively, you can wait for a post like one of the above and
       respond to it. (Note: some of those items will be covered in later
       sections of the FAQ.)
       If you do not find the debates and flaming helpful, then you can
          + put the articles in a kill file as they show up
          + set your newsreader to not show you cross-postings
          + find something helpful and post about that.
          + remember that you are not required to read every posting
          + quit reading the newsgroup.
       Keep a sense of humor. There's little room for self-righteous
       stuffed shirts in the world of network news.
       "... we cannot and should not enter into public controversy, even
       in self-defense." -- Bill W. in the Twelve Concepts
       "Let us suppose that A.A. does fall under sharp public attack or
       heavy ridicule; and let us take the particular case where such
       pronouncements happen to have little or no justification in fact.
       ... Almost without exception it can be confidently estimated that
       our best defense in these situations would be no defense
       whatever--namely, complete silence at the public level.
       Unreasonable people are stimulated all the more by opposition. If
       in good humor we leave them strictly alone, they are apt to
       subside the more quickly." -- Bill W. in the Twelve Concepts
    5. Does discussion here influence GSO or A.A. as a whole?
       A.A. as a whole is guided by the Twelve Concepts (discussed in a
       later section). Normally that's a process of input from groups,
       districts and areas, which leads to a flow of information to GSO.
       GSO or A.A. as a whole cannot control individual groups. Sometimes
       the information coming back from GSO leads groups to change how
       they do things, but a counter-reaction can also occur.
       If there is something you'd like to see changed about A.A., then
       the most effective course of action might be to get a group
       consensus (at a local group that has a General Service
       Representative [GSR]), which could be carried to the district and
       area meetings and then on to GSO. I doubt GSO will be monitoring
       this newsgroup as a means of obtaining feedback. I have never
       heard anyone get up at a Area meeting and pass along a viewpoint
       found on a newsgroup or bulletin board system. Since anyone can
       post here there is no way for a service person to know that the
       idea came from a member of A.A. The people who really know you're
       a member of A.A. are at your local meeting.
       It may be that sharing here about your opinion will lead others to
       get their groups to examine the issues as well. At the same time
       the Traditions and Concepts are pretty clear [at least to me,
       dhawk] as to avoiding public controversy. It may be that a mailing
       list of members of AA would be a more effective and 'Traditional'
       means of expressing your views if you want to do so
    6. What about anonymity? Is Alt.Recovery.AA public?
       A.A. has a Tradition that states that we should remain anonymous
       at the level of press, radio, and film. Use of full names does
       happen within various meetings -- in the A.A. service meetings
       I've been to it is common to use one's full name. But -- this is a
       broadcast medium. So you might want to consider what anonymity
       means to you before you post. So what does anonymity mean on a
       computer network? That's for you to decide.
       There are anonymous reposters and email services out there.
       For details send email to
       or check the following URL:
    7. Additional information available in WWW [World Wide Web] sites.
       There are a number of Web pages devoted to Recovery and/or A.A.
       The following are good places to start. Links were active as of
   II. Alcoholics Anonymous
    1. What is Alcoholics Anonymous?

        Alcoholics Anonymous is an international fellowship of men and
        women who have had a drinking problem. It is nonprofessional,
        self-supporting, non-denominational, multiracial, apolitical,
        and available almost everywhere. There are no age or education
        requirements. Membership is open to anyone who wants to do
        something about his or her drinking problem.
                -- "Info on A.A." leaflet
    2. What does A.A. do?
         1. A.A. members share their experience with anyone seeking help
            with a drinking problem; they give person-to-person service
            or "sponsorship" to the alcoholic coming to A.A. from any
         2. The A.A. program, set forth in our Twelve Steps, offers the
            alcoholic a way to develop a satisfying life without alcohol.
         3. This program is discussed at A.A. group meetings.
       -- "Info on A.A." leaflet
    3. What doesn't AA do?
       A.A. does not:
         1. Furnish initial motivation for alcoholics to recover
         2. Solicit members
         3. Engage in or sponsor research
         4. Keep attendance records or case histories
         5. Join "councils" of social agencies
         6. Follow up or try to control its members
         7. Make medical or psychological diagnoses or prognoses
         8. Provide drying-out or nursing services, hospitalization,
            drugs, or any medical or psychiatric treatment
         9. Offer religious services
        10. Engage in education about alcohol
        11. Provide housing, food, clothing, jobs, money, or any other
            welfare or social services
        12. Provide domestic or vocational counseling
        13. Accept any money for its services, or any contributions from
            non-A.A. sources
        14. Provide letters of reference to parole boards, lawyers, court
       -- "Info on A.A." leaflet
     What literature is available?
   The books include:
   From AAWS:
     * "Alcoholics Anonymous", the 'Big Book', 3rd edition
     * "Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions", the '12x12'
     * "Pass It On", the story of Bill W., AA co-founder
     * "Dr. Bob and the Good Oldtimers", the story the other co-founder
     * "AA Comes of Age", more AA history from Bill W.'s perspective
     * "As Bill Sees It", selected quotations from Bill W.
     * Daily Reflections, a daily devotional book written by AA members
   From GSO (and updated yearly):
     * The AA Service Manual, with Twelve Concepts for World Service
   From the Grapevine:
     * There are two "Best of the Grapevine" books
     * "Language of the Heart", Bill W.'s writings for the Grapevine
   The Grapevine is A.A.'s monthly meeting in print. It includes stories
   from all over the world, some humor, a list of conventions, some A.A.
   history, and an article in Spanish. The monthly focus is usually on
   the Step for that month, since there are 12 Steps and 12 months.
   To subscribe to the Grapevine, send check or money order to:
   The Grapevine, PO Box 1980, Grand Central Station, NY, NY 10163-1980

                Subscriptions are       1 year          2 year
                United States           $12             $23
                Canada                  $16[Canadian]   $31[Canadian]
                Foreign                 $14[US]         $27[US]

   and GSO (the General Service Office) has a monthly magazine: Box
   4-5-9. It includes news and notes from GSO, items about A.A. around
   the world, sharing stories, and a bulletin board of A.A. events.
   Individual subscription for one year is $3.50 (US) and there is a
   special bulk rate for groups of ten of $6.00 (US). To subscribe to Box
   4-5-9, send check or money order to:

                A.A. World Services, Inc.
                P.O.Box 459
                Grand Central Station
                New York, NY 10163

   There is also the L.I.M., the "Loners-Internationalists Meeting,"
   distributed bimonthly by GSO as an A.A. meeting for those who cannot
   attend meetings. Write to GSO at the Box 459 address for more
   There are three booklets from AAWS:
     * Came to Believe
     * Living Sober
     * A.A. in Prison: Inmate to Inmate
   and two booklets from the Grapevine:
     * AA Today (a booklet for the 25th anniversary of AA in 1960)
     * The Home Group
   The pamphlets cover a wide variety of topics. This is a partial list:
     * 44 Questions
     * Is A.A. For You?
     * Is A.A. For Me?
     * This is A.A.
     * Questions and Answers on Sponsorship
     * A.A. for the Woman
     * A.A. for the Native North American
     * A.A. for the Gay/Lesbian Alcoholic
     * A.A. and the Armed Services
     * Is There An Alcoholic in Your Life?
     * Inside A.A.
     * The A.A. Group
     * A Newcomer Asks
     * Understanding Anonymity
     * A Member's-Eye View of Alcoholics Anonymous
     * Too Young? [cartoon for teenagers]
     * Speaking an non-A.A. Meetings
   Videos include:
     * A.A.--An Inside View
     * A.A.--Rap With Us
     * Hope: Alcoholics Anonymous
     * It Sure Beats Sitting In A Cell
     * Young People and A.A.
   Order forms for most of the above can be obtained from
   General Service Office of Alcoholics Anonymous
   Box 459, Grand Central Station, New York, NY 10163
   or you can check your local Central Office or Intergroup.
   The Grapevine stuff is available from the Grapevine.
   There is sometimes some confusion as to the purpose of A.A.
   literature. Here's what Bill W. had to say:

                The Literature Committee: This body is charged with the
                revision of existing books and pamphlets; also with the
                creation of fresh pamphlet material to meet new needs or
                changing conditions. Broadly speaking, its mission is to
                see that an adequate and comprehensive view of A.A.  in its
                every aspect is held up in writing to our members, friends,
                and to the world at large.  Our literature is a principal
                means by which A.A. recovery, unity, and service are
                -- Concept XI

   If you have a WWW browser (mosaic, lynx, netscape, etc.) then a full
   list of literature is available at the following URL:
     What are meetings, groups, and conventions?
   A meeting is when one or more alcoholics get together. It can be
   informal, sporadic, and one time only -- or it can be ongoing and
   structured. An example of a meeting that is not a group is one held at
   an institution, like a jail or hospital, even though the meeting is
   not self-supporting, but accepts contributions from other groups.
   A group is when a group of alcoholics agrees to operate under the
   Twelve Traditions (see below). The difference between a meeting and a
   group is explained in the pamphlet, "The A.A. Group" -- and you'd
   better get the revised edition, since that's what changed when they
   revised it. Roughly, a meeting can become a group if it agrees to
   accept all who have a desire to stop drinking and has no outside
   affiliation. Some Central Offices and/or Intergroups will not list
   meetings that don't meet the 'group' criteria.
   "As we see it, an A.A. convention is almost any A.A. get-together
   beyond the group-meeting level." (The GSO in the A.A. Guidelines on
   'Conferences and Conventions.') There is a list of some of the
   conventions in the monthly magazines: the Grapevine and Box 4-5-9. The
   1995 Internation Convention was held in San Diego, CA, USA, June 29 to
   July 2, 1995. There was a "CyberSuite" setup with computers so AA
   members could login to various online services/resources and use IRC
   [Internet Relay Chat]. Various reports from the CyberSuite are
   available in some of the WWW pages listed in the first section of this
     The Twelve Steps
   "A.A.'s Twelve Steps are a group of principles, spiritual in nature,
   which, if practiced as a way of life, can expel the obsession to drink
   and enable the sufferer to become happily and usefully whole." (Twelve
   Steps and Twelve Traditions, p. 15)
   The steps are:
    1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol -- that our lives had
       become unmanageable.
    2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore
       us to sanity.
    3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of
       God *as we understood Him*.
    4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
    5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the
       exact nature of our wrongs.
    6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of
    7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
    8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to
       make amends to them all.
    9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when
       to do so would injure them or others.
   10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong
       promptly admitted it.
   11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscience
       contact with God *as we understood Him*, praying only for
       knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
   12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we
       tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these
       principles in all our affairs.
   Source: Alcoholics Anonymous, 3rd edition, pages 59 and 60
   Italics in Steps Three and Eleven are in original text
   "Many people, nonalcoholics, report that as a result of the practice
   of A.A.'s Twelve Steps, they have been able to meet other difficulties
   of life. They see in them a way to happy and effective living for
   many, alcoholic or not." (Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, pp.
     The Twelve Traditions [short form]
    1. Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends
       upon AA unity.
    2. For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority--a
       loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience. Our
       leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.
    3. The only requirement for AA membership is a desire to stop
    4. Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other
       groups or AA as a whole.
    5. Each group has but one primary purpose--to carry its message to
       the alcoholic who still suffers.
    6. An AA group ought never endorse, finance, or lend the AA name to
       any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of
       money, property, and prestige divert us from our primary purpose.
    7. Every AA group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining
       outside contributions.
    8. Alcoholics Anonymous should remain forever nonprofessional, but
       out service centers may employ special workers.
    9. AA, as such, ought never be organized; but we may create service
       board or committees directly responsible to those they serve.
   10. Alcoholics Anonymous has no opinion on outside issues; hence the
       AA name ought never be drawn into public controversy.
   11. Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than
       promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level
       of press, radio, and films.
   12. Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our Traditions, ever
       reminding us to place principles before personalities.
   The above is how they are found in the Big Book, page 564, and is
   known as the 'short form.' The 'long form' is on pages 565 and
   following. Note that Tradition Two is longer in the 'short form.'
   The Twelve Traditions are the guidelines that A.A. groups are
   encouraged to follow.
     The Twelve Concepts
   The Twelve Concepts are too long to type in here. They have
   traditionally been printed with the A.A. Service Manual and are called
   'Twelve Concepts for World Service' and are the guidelines for A.A. as
   a whole to follow. The Concepts are printed at the back of "The A.A.
   Group" pamphlet, with this footnote:

                Note: The A.A. General Service Conference has recommended that
                the "long form" of the Concepts be studied in detail. "Twelve
                Concepts for World Service", in which A.A. co-founder Bill W.
                closely examines all these principles of A.A. service, may be
                ordered from G.S.O.

     Overview of the History of Alcoholics Anonymous
   The fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous dates its inception from June
   10, 1935, when a 6-month sober (at the time) Wall Street hustler
   helped an Akron rectal surgeon through his last binge. The New Yorker
   had been relieved of his obsession to drink through a sudden spiritual
   awakening while hospitalized for acute alcoholism. He realized,
   however, that to maintain his sobriety, he needed to help others. The
   two men set out to carry this message: that a spiritual way of life
   could arrest the chronic, progressive and fatal condition known as
   alcoholism. The man from New York is commonly referred to as Bill W.,
   and the surgeon was Dr. Bob.
   By 1937, after approximately 40 solid successes and many failures, a
   decision was made to spread the message as widely as possible. Work
   began on a book that would "Of necessity ... have .. discussion of
   matters medical, psychiatric, social, and religious." (Alcoholics
   Anonymous, Third Edition, p.19). In addition to broadcasting the
   message of recovery, the book also served to codify what had been
   until then a "word-of-mouth" program. In the spring of 1938, the
   principal author of the book, Bill W., took the six principles in use
   at that time and expanded them, in his words, "to break this program
   up into small pieces so they can't wiggle out" (remarks in Fort Worth,
   Texas, 1954). Thus were born the original Twelve Steps.
   A revolutionary document for its time, "Alcoholics Anonymous" (from
   which the Fellowship took its name) presented for the first time in
   print the concept that alcoholism was an illness of both mind and
   body. The first edition (5,000 copies) was set in fairly large type
   and on the thickest possible paper (so that people would feel they
   were getting their money's worth) hence the nickname, "Big Book". The
   first 179 (then, 164 in second and third editions) pages including a
   section titled "The Doctor's Opinion" describe the problems of
   alcoholism and the accompanying "personality disorder", the program of
   recovery, and some of the expected results. The first section has had
   only minor changes through three editions, mostly dealing with
   estimates of the number of people who have used the program. The
   balance of the book set out personal stories by members of the
   Fellowship. These have changed to reflect the wider nature of the
   fellowship through its growth.
   On page vii in "A.A. Comes of Age" is the start of a list called
   "Landmarks in A.A. History." It only goes up to 1981.
   III. Actual Frequently Asked Questions about Alcoholics Anonymous
    1. What do the Steps mean by 'God'?
       Well, what the Steps say is "God as you understand Him." The added
       phrase is to help folks use their own perception of a "Higher
       Power." There are people in A.A. who use various Higher Powers,
       including a rock, a tree, a rose bush, a light bulb, the Grateful
       Dead, the sun, the earth, ... well, the list just goes on and on.
       Buddhists have been known to substitute 'Good' for 'God'. The
       "12x12" (Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions) has the following on
       pages 26 and 27:
       First, Alcoholics Anonymous does not demand that you believe
       anything. All of its Twelve Steps are but suggestions. ... You
       can, if you wish, make A.A. itself your 'higher power.' Here's a
       very large group of people who have solved their alcohol problem.
       In this respect they are certainly a power greater than you ...
       Also, from the Big Book:

        "When, therefore, we speak to you of God, we mean your own
        conception of God. This applies, too, to other spiritual
        expressions which you find in this book. Do not let any
        prejudice you may have against spiritual terms deter you from
        honestly asking yourself what they mean to you. [...]
        We needed to ask ourselves but one short question. 'Do I now
        believe, or am I even willing to believe, that there is a Power
        greater than myself?'" (Alcoholics Anonymous, p.47)
    2. What's a spiritual awakening?
       "The terms 'spiritual experience' and 'spiritual awakening' are
       used many times in this book which, upon careful reading, shows
       that the personality change sufficient to bring about recovery
       from alcoholism has manifested itself among us in many different
       Quite often friends of the newcomer are aware of the difference
       long before he is himself. He finally realizes that he has
       undergone a profound alteration in his reaction to life; that such
       a change could hardly have been brought about by himself alone.
       What often takes place in a few months could seldom have been
       accomplished by years of self discipline. With few exceptions our
       members find that they have tapped an unsuspected inner resource
       which they presently identify with their own conception of a Power
       greater than themselves.
       Most of us think this awareness of a Power greater than ourselves
       is the essence of spiritual experience. Our more religious members
       call it 'God-consciousness'. (Alcoholics Anonymous, pgs. 569-570)
    3. Why do people keep going to meetings after they're sober?
       "To watch people recover, to see them help others, to watch
       loneliness vanish, to see a fellowship grow up about you, to have
       a host of friends---this is an experience you must not miss. We
       know you will not want to miss it. Frequent contact with newcomers
       and with each other is the bright spot of our lives." (Alcoholics
       Anonymous, p. 89)
       "We sit in A.A. meetings and listen, not only to receive something
       ourselves, but to give the reassurance and support which our
       presence can bring. If our turn comes to speak at a meeting, we
       again try to carry A.A.'s message." (Twelve Steps and Twelve
       Traditions, pg. 110)
    4. What about the Lord's prayer? Is it in line with the Traditions?
       Some A.A. members think so. Some don't.
       Some A.A. groups use it. Some don't.
       Decide for yourself.
       The pamphlet, "The A.A. Group", under 'Suggested Meeting
       Procedures' has a paragraph that says, "Many meetings close with
       members reciting the Lord's Prayer or the Serenity Prayer."
       However, experience has shown that extended discussion on
       alt.recovery and other newsgroups hasn't solved the conflict yet.
    5. I hear Bill W. used LSD. Is that true?
       There's a chapter about this in "Pass It On", the A.A. published
       biography of Bill W. The short answer is Yes. Rumor has it that he
       also drank heavily prior to 1935. ;-) Seriously, LSD was still
       legal and Bill was using it under clinical conditions. The time
       period was 1955 to 1959.
    6. How do I get an online copy of the Big Book?
       You will need to have a WWW browser to read this: Mosaic,
       Netscape, Lynx, etc. The URL is:
       Copyright on the 1st and 2nd editions has expired in the U.S.
       because A.A. didn't renew it. In all other countries, the
       copyright is still in force.
    7. Is A.A. the only way to get sober?
       "It would be a product of false pride to claim that A.A. is a
       cure-all, even for alcoholism." (Bill W. in "A.A. Comes of Age",
       page 232.) Bill W. repeatedly said that "our hats are off to you
       if you can find a better way" and "If [those seeking a different
       cure] can do better by other means, we are glad." (Bill W. in
       Concept XII).
    8. What does A.A. say about drugs?
       [check the pamphlet "The AA Member - Medications and other Drugs"]
    9. Should A.A. Change?

           Perhaps our very first realization should be that we can't stand
        still. Now that our basic principles seem established, now that our
        functioning is fairly effective and widespread, it would be temptingly
        easy to settle down as merely one more useful agency on the world
        scene. We could conclude that "AA is fine, just the way it is."
        ... We have to grow or deteriorate. For us, the 'status quo' can only
        be for today, never for tomorrow. Change we must; we cannot stand
           So then, if our basics [Steps and Traditions] are so firmly fixed
        as all this, what is there left to change or to improve? The answer
        will immediately occur to us. While we need not alter our truths, we
        can surely improve their application to ourselves, to AA as a whole,
        and to our relation with the world around us. We can consistently step
        up "the practice of these principles in all our affairs."
           ... Let us continue to take our inventory as a Fellowship,
        searching out our flaws and confessing them freely. Let us devote
        ourselves to the repair of all faulty relations that may exist, whether
        within or without.
                -- Bill W., "The Shape of Things to Come", reprinted in
                        "The Language of the Heart"
   10. If you don't like A.A. why don't you leave?
         1. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop
            drinking. Or to state the Third Tradition in its long form:
            "Our membership ought to include all who suffer from
            alcoholism. Hence we may refuse none who wish to recovery.
            Nor ought A.A. membership ever depend on money or
         2. Then there's the matter of inventories. See page 64 of the
            Big Book. AA has to be serious about inventories at the
            individual, group, and overall levels. Saying "We dare not
            look" (12x12) isn't going to cut it.
         3. Bill W. welcomed criticism:

                "Thanks much for your letter of criticism. I'm certain
                that had it not been for its strong critics, A.A. would
                have made slower progress.

                "For myself, I have come to set a high value on the
                people who have criticized me, whether they have seemed
                reasonable critics or unreasonable ones. Both have
                often restrained me from doing much worse than I
                actually have done. The unreasonable ones have taught
                me, I hop, a little patience. But the reasonable ones
                have always done a great job for all of A.A.--and have
                taught me many a valuable lesson.

                        -- As Bill Sees It, page 326
   11. But A.A. Works!
       A.A. works for the people it has worked for. But there is no way,
       short of experimentation, to know if a change will make A.A. more
       effective or less. Quoting Bill W. again: "Though three hundred
       thousand did recover in the last twenty-five years, maybe half a
       million more have walked into our midst, and then out again. No
       doubt some were too sick to make even a start. Others couldn't or
       wouldn't admit their alcoholism. Still others couldn't face up to
       their underlying personality defects. Numbers departed for other
       reasons. ... Yet we can't well content ourselves with the view
       that all these recovery failures were entirely the fault of the
       newcomers themselves. Perhaps a great many didn't receive the kind
       and amount of sponsorship they so sorely needed. We didn't
       communicate when we might have done so. So we AAs failed them."
       (The Language of the Heart, page 252).
   12. Explain that Flame Section back at the start, please.
       OK, up in Section I, part 4, "Discussion, Hot Debate, and Flaming"
       it says that people sometimes come to the newsgroup and
       (intentionally or unintentionally) stir things up with statements
          + AA is a religion [leaving 'religion' undefined],
          + I recovered from alcoholism and can still drink
          + AA is just a bandaid and doesn't handle the root problem
          + There would have to be some changes in AA before I'd join
          + I'm not powerless
          + Derisive comments about the newsgroup itself
          + Cross-link in posts from other newsgroups, like alt.atheism
          + Post about non-recovery related items
          + I'm an atheist, so AA's not for me!
          + Non-alcoholic beer/wine helps me stay sober
          + You're not really recovered if you're still smoking.
       If this happens intentionally, then it's known as 'trolling.'
       So, what to do? Well, what Bill W. would have suggested is not
       replying, not even in defense of AA. That public controversy isn't
       worth it. If I always react to a prod, then that makes me
       reactionary, which I don't think falls on the 'attraction' side of
       public relations. Pages 66 and 67 in the Big Book are appropriate
       in this context, I think -- "We avoid retaliation or argument."
       If all else fails, I will post what I know is true for me. I do
       not speak for AA as a whole. Likewise, I do not have to defend AA
       as a whole.
   IV. Miscellaneous
     * The following really didn't fit in the outline form, so I'm
       putting it here.
     * If you are willing to sponsor or correspond with someone behind
       bars, GSO maintains a list of inmates who've requested
       correspondents. The May 1994 Grapevine said there were 150 inmates
       waiting to matched with an outside "sponsor." You can get more
       information from the corrections desk at GSO, Box 459, Grand
       Central Station, New York, NY 10163.
     * Quote for the month:
       ".. I was painfully learning how not to communicate. No matter how
       truthful the words of my message, there could be no deep
       communication if what I said and did was colored by pride,
       arrogance, intolerance, resentment, imprudence, or a desire for
       personal acclaim.." -- Bill W., "Language of the Heart" (p. 246)
   plus stuff downloaded from the net over the years.
    Alt.Recovery.AA FAQ / Frequently Asked Questions about AA /

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