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in Linking AA To Other Projects
© The A.A.
Grapevine, Inc., March 1947
AA experience has been raising the following set of important,
but as yet unresolved, questions. First, should AA as a
whole enter the outside fields of hospitalization, research
and non-controversial alcohol education? Second, is an AA
member, acting strictly as an individual, justified in bringing
his special experience and knowledge into such enterprises?
And thirdly, if an AA member does take up these phases of
the total alcohol problem, under what conditions should
respect to these questions, almost any opinion can be heard
among our groups. Generally speaking, there are three schools
of thought: the "do everything" school; the "do
something" school; and the "do nothing" school.
have AAs so fearful we may become entangled, or somewhat
exploited, that they would keep us a strictly closed corporation.
They would exert the strongest possible pressure to prevent
all AAs, whether as individuals or groups, from doing anything
at all about the total alcohol problem, except, of course,
their straight AA work. They see the specter of the Washingtonian
movement among alcoholics of a hundred years ago which fell
into disunity partly because its members publicly took up
cudgels for abolition, prohibition-and whatnot. These AAs
believe that we must preserve our isolation at any cost;
that we must keep absolutely to ourselves if we would avoid
we have the AA who would have us "do everything"
for the total alcohol problem-any time, any place and any
way! In his enthusiasm, he not only thinks his beloved AA
a "cure-all" for drunks, but he also thinks we
have the answer for everybody and everything touching alcohol.
He strongly feels that AA ought to place its name and financial
credit squarely behind any first-rate research, hospital
or educational project. Seeing that AA now makes the headlines,
he argues that we should freely loan out our huge goodwill.
Says he, "Why shouldn't we AAs stand right up in public
and be counted? Millions could be raised easily for good
works in alcohol." The judgment of this enthusiast
is sometimes beclouded by the fact he wants to make a career.
But with most who enthuse so carelessly, I'm sure it's more
often a case of sheer exuberance plus, in many instances,
a deep sense of social responsibility.
we have with us the enthusiasts and the ultra-cautious;
the "do everythings" and the "do nothings."
But the average AA is not so worried about these phenomena
as he used to be. He knows that out of the heat and smoke
there will soon come light. Presently there will issue an
enlightened policy, palatable to everyone. Tested by time,
that policy, if sound, will become AA tradition.
I've feared that AA would never bring forth a workable policy.
Nor was my fear abated as my own views swung with complete
inconsistency from one extreme to the other. But I should
have had more faith. We are commencing to have enough of
the strong light of experience to see more surely; to be
able to say with more certainty what we can and what we
surely cannot do about causes such as education, research
and the like.
example, we can say quite emphatically that neither AA as
a whole nor any AA group ought to enter any activity other
than straight AA. As groups, we cannot endorse, finance
or form an alliance with any other cause, however good;
we cannot link the AA name to other enterprises in the alcohol
field to the extent that the public gets the impression
we have abandoned our sole aim. We must discourage our members
and our friends in these fields from stressing the AA name
in their publicity or appeals for funds. To act otherwise
will certainly imperil our unity, and to maintain our unity
is surely our greatest obligation -to our brother alcoholics
and the public at large. Experience, we think, has already
made these principles self-evident.
we now come to more debatable ground, we must earnestly
ask ourselves whether any of us, as individuals, ought to
carry our special experience into other phases of the alcohol
problem. Do we not owe this much to society, and can it
be done without involving AA as a whole?
my mind, the "do nothing" policy has become unthinkable,
partly because I'm sure that our members can work in other
noncontroversial alcohol activities without jeopardizing
AA, if they observe a few simple precautions, and partly
because I have developed a deep conviction that to do less
would be to deprive the whole of society of the immensely
valuable contributions we could almost certainly make. Though
we are AAs, and AA must come first, we are also citizens
of the world. Besides, we are, like our good friends the
physicians, honor-bound to share all we know with all men.
it seems to me that some of us must heed the call from other
fields. And those who do need only remember first and last
they are AAs; that in their new activities they are individuals
only. This means that they will respect the principle of
anonymity in the press; that if they do appear before the
general public they will not describe themselves as AAs;
that they will refrain from emphasizing their AA status
in appeals for money or publicity.
simple principles of conduct, if conscientiously applied,
could soon dispel all fears, reason-able and unreasonable,
which many AAs now entertain. On such a basis AA as a whole
could remain uncommitted yet friendly to any noncontroversial
cause seeking to write a brighter page in the dark annals
summarizing, I'm rather sure our policy with respect to
"outside" projects will turn out to be this: AA
does not sponsor projects in other fields. But, if these
projects are constructive and noncontroversial in character,
AA members are free to engage in them without criticism
if they act as individuals only, and are careful of the
AA name. Perhaps that's it. Shall we try it?
© The A.A.
Grapevine, Inc., March 1947
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