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A Question of Lives That May Be Lost If A.A. Does Not Survive."
Service Conference, 1953
the presentation on the work of the General Service Office
and its importance to the survival of many among the "millions
who still dont know," the Conference voted to
throw the session open for a discussion of means of getting
adequate financial support for the Office.
number of points were made:
Continued dependence upon personal appeals from Bill is
not in the best interests of the Society.
The Reserve Fund of the Foundation should be increased to
guard against possibly serious contingencies.
The Group Contribution Fund still owes the Reserve Fund
of the Foundation $24,000, "borrowed" in previous
inconclusive discussion, Bill W. was asked to comment on
the general problem of getting the membership to support
its service facilities. A digest-summary of his remarks
it comes to this problem of asking this Society to support
its own services, let us try to put ourselves in the other
is interested, first of all, in his own recovery, his own
survival. Next, he is interested in his family and in what
he can do for them after all his years of drinking. Next,
he is likely to be interested in the fellow he is twelfthstepping.
Next, down the line, he is interested in his group and the
place where it meets and the way meetings are run and so
thats the way things always will be, the way they
always should be.
other words, its only very slowly and very gradually
that you are going to get this A.A. interested in even a
local Intergroup or Central Office set-up, much less national
and international headquarters of the society.
fact, it is only when he wakes up to discover that the local
situation is becoming pretty chaotic with newcomers
not being looked after, with no suitable arrangements for
hospitalization, with no adequate telephone facilities -
that this A.A. finally begins to see the glimmer of a need
for an Intergroup office.
and laboriously, he and some of the other drunks in the
area hire an office and sit a gal in it. So Intergroup,
or a Central Office, comes into being. But only after the
need has been there for a long time, only after our friend
and the other A. A.s have come to see a personal necessity
for an Intergroup. They have to see that personal necessity,
or nothing gets done.
times in the history of Alcoholics Anonymous we have created
services in advance of the time the average alcoholic could
see the need for them.
people thought back in 1939 that the book "Alcoholics
Anonymous" was not only dammed heresy but the beginning
of a big racket. They saw no use for it. They thought they
were being asked to buy or contribute to something to fill
a need that they simply could not see.
same thing happened when the Alcoholic Foundation was created.
People began to fear that great sums of money would be involved,
that our affairs would be under the control of some great
bureaucratic board. They said, Lets not do this
thing. And some people even said: "The Alcoholic
Foundation is a menace to the future."
too many years ago, there were a lot of people who did not
see the need for overall management of our public relations
at the national level. These people couldnt imagine
hundreds of groups writing in to the New York Office to
get the benefit of our overall national experience. They
couldnt foresee some of the hassling that would develop.
the Grapevine was first set up as our national publication,
again there were a lot of folks who simply could not see
the need for a magazine of that type.
were dealing with ventures in prophecy!
was foreseeable six or eight years ago that there would
be a need for a link between the Trustees of the Alcoholic
Foundation and the Movement. We could see then that if we
did not come up with the General Service Conference, or
something like it, this Movement would cave in - right in
was predicted that we would meet with complete indifference.
People foresaw hassles breaking out all over the country.
They thought there would be a lot of politics. What they
could not foresee was the need to strengthen the unity of
our fellowship by transferring the Third Legacy of service
to representatives of the society itself.
have to remember that most of our services are not visible
to the average group. Take, for example, the prodigious
work of public relations that has helped to preserve and
protect us for many years. The average A.A. in the average
group cant possibly have any conception of the importance
of that work.
thing we have to remember is that as ex-drunks, we have
all had frightening personal problems to cope with. And
the groups themselves have had problems. Now, those problems
were visible. And, because, they were visible, they seemed
a lot more real than some of the problems the Trustees and
the Headquarters Office have been wrestling with back here.
was a time, in the early days, when some people thought
we were cluttering up this movement by trying to get people
to consider the Twelve Steps. We dont have to worry
about the Twelve Steps anymore. They are pretty well accepted
by the Society today.
same problem came up when we began to set down our Twelve
Traditions of group experience. People thought I was a little
crazy when I began to set those traditions down in writing.
But today the Traditions are pretty well accepted by the
groups - although the average A.A. still isnt too
sure what theyre all about because they simply cant
as to getting financial support for the services carried
out back here, we might think of it in terms of an educational
job, without too much pressure. We dont want to make
any "drives" for funds, in the usual sense of
the term. But if delegates to this Conference can carry
home an adequate picture of our services, if you can relate
the operation of the Alcoholic Foundation to the functioning
and survival of the whole movement, I dont think we
are going to have too great a problem about getting the
support we need to carry the message to the "millions
who still dont know!" Its largely a question
of using horse sense and of doing first things first.
not be bashful about what we are doing, or what we need.
Alcoholics Anonymous as a whole has to function or we fail.
Our needs are pretty simple and pretty clear. Our big need
has to do with survival. Its a question of survival
for us. Its a question of lives that may be lost if
A.A. does not survive.
but firmly, the delegates to the Conference can point out
to the folks back home a pretty ridiculous situation. In
1951 the book Alcoholics Anonymous, made a profit of $20,000
for the Foundation. That means that $20,000 was contributed
for services that normally would have been financed by contributions
from the group treasuries. We can also estimate, in a rough
way, that another $15,000 worth of services is performed
for the non-contributors and financed by the contributing
other words, about half of the groups are carrying the load
of the General Service Office and, in addition, making a
gift to the guys and gals who arent contributing anything.
get that little story across where it will do some good
back home - and I dont think we will have to worry
too much about getting real support for our Service Office.