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A.A. group ought never endorse, finance, or lend the A.A.
name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest
problems of money, property, and prestige divert us from
our primary purpose."
The moment we saw we had an answer for alcoholism, it was
reasonable (or so it seemed at the time) for us to feel
that we might have the answer to a lot of other things.
The A.A. groups, many thought, could go into business, might
finance any enterprise whatever in the total field of alcoholism.
In fact, we felt duty-bound to throw the whole weight of
the A.A. name behind any meritorious cause.
are some of the things we dreamed. Hospitals didn't like
alcoholics, so we thought we'd build a hospital chain of
our own. People needed to be told what alcoholism was, so
we'd educate the public, even rewrite school and medical
textbooks. We'd gather up derelicts from skid rows, sort
out those who could get well, and make it possible for the
rest to earn their livelihood in a kind of quarantined confinement.
Maybe these places would make large sums of money to carry
on our other good works. We seriously thought of rewriting
the laws of the land , and having it declared that alcoholics
are sick people. No more would they be jailed; judges would
parole them in our custody. We'd spill A.A. into the dark
regions of dope addiction and criminality. We'd form groups
of depressive and paranoid folks; the deeper the neurosis,
the better we'd like it. It stood to reason that if alcoholism
could be licked, so could any problem.
occurred to us that we could take what we had into the factories
and cause laborers and capitalists to love each other. Our
uncompromising honesty might soon clean up politics. With
one arm around the shoulder of medicine, we'd resolve their
differences. Having learned to live so happily, we'd show
everybody else how. Why, we thought, our Society of Alcoholics
Anonymous might prove to be the spearhead of a new spiritual
advance! We might transform the world.
we of A.A. did dream those dreams. How natural that was,
since most alcoholics are bankrupt idealists. Nearly every
one of us had wished to do great good, perform great deeds,
and embody great ideals. We are all perfectionists who,
failing perfection, have gone to the other extreme and settled
for the bottle and the blackout. Providence, through A.A.,
had brought us within reach of our highest expectations.
So why shouldn't we share our way of life with everyone?
we tried A.A. hospitals-they all bogged down because you
cannot put an A.A. group into business; too many busybody
cooks spoil the broth. A.A. groups had their fling at education,
and when they began to publicly whoop up the merits of this
or that brand, people became confused. Did A.A. fix drunks
or was it an educational project? Was A.A. spiritual or
was it medical? Was it a reform movement? In consternation,
we saw ourselves getting married to all kinds of enterprises,
some good and some not so good. Watching alcoholics committed
will-nilly to prisons or asylums, we began to cry, "There
oughtta be a law!" A.A.'s commenced to thump tables
in legislative committee rooms and agitated for legal reform.
That made good newspaper copy, but little else. We saw we'd
soon be mired in politics. Even inside A.A. we found it
imperative to remove the A.A. name from clubs and Twelfth
Step houses .
adventures implanted a deep-rooted conviction that in no
circumstances could we endorse any related enterprise, no
matter how good. We of Alcoholics Anonymous could not be
all things to all men, nor should we try.
ago this principle of "no endorsement" was put
to a vital test. Some of the great distilling companies
proposed to go into the field of alcohol education. It would
be a good thing, they believed, for the liquor trade to
show a sense of public responsibility. They wanted to say
that liquor should be enjoyed, not misused; hard drinkers
ought to slow down, and problem drinkers-alcoholics-should
not drink at all.
one of their trade associations, the question arose of just
how this campaign should be handled. Of course, they would
use the resources of radio, press, and films to make their
point. But what kind of person should head the job? They
immediately thought of Alcoholics Anonymous. If they could
find a good public relations man in our ranks, why wouldn't
he be ideal? He'd certainly know the problem. His connection
with A.A. would be valuable, because the Fellowship stood
high in public favor and hadn't an enemy in the world.
they'd spotted their man, an A.A. with the necessary experience.
Straightway he appeared at New York's A.A. headquarters,
asking, "Is there anything in our tradition that suggests
I shouldn't take a job like this one? The kind of education
seems good to me, and is not too controversial. Do you headquarters
folks see any bugs in it?"
first glance, it did look like a good thing. Then doubt
crept in. The association wanted to use our member's full
name in all its advertising; he was to be described both
as its director of publicity and as a member of Alcoholics
Anonymous. Of course, there couldn't be the slightest objection
if such an association hired an A.A. member solely because
of his public relations ability and his knowledge of alcoholism.
But that wasn't the whole story, for in this case not only
was an A.A. member to break his anonymity at a public level,
he was to link the name Alcoholics Anonymous to this particular
educational project in the minds of millions. It would be
bound to appear that A.A. was now backing education-liquor
trade association style.
minute we saw this compromising fact for what it was, we
asked the prospective publicity director how he felt about
it. "Great guns!" he said. "Of course I can't
take the job. The ink wouldn't be dry on the first ad before
an awful shriek would go up from the dry camp. They'd be
out with lanterns looking for an honest A.A. to plump for
their brand of education. A.A. would land exactly in the
middle of the wet-dry controversy. Half the people in this
country would think we'd signed up with the drys, the other
half would think we'd joined the wets. What a mess!"
we pointed out, "you still have a legal right to take
"I know that," he said. "But this is no time
for legalities. Alcoholics Anonymous saved my life, and
it comes first. I certainly won't be the guy to land A.A.
in big-time trouble, and this would really do it!"
Concerning endorsements, our friend had said it all. We
saw as never before that we could not lend the A.A. name
to any cause other than our own.
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