Saddest Day In A.A. History
This article is written by nationally recognized
historian and oft-quoted Alcoholics Anonymous archivist Mitchell K.
The history of Alcoholics Anonymous is constantly being
made. Events that happen today comprise a page in the overall picture
that future generations of alcoholics who seek A.A.'s help will eventually
read. Recent events, sad to say, are part of the darkest days in A.A.'s
As a student of the history of Alcoholics Anonymous
for the past 18 years, and in almost 23 years of sobriety, this writer
is having a difficult time reconciling what A.A. has stood for in
his own personal recovery journey with recent actions. These actions
taken and endorsed by the General Service structure of Alcoholics
Anonymous worldwide have disturbed this writer to the point of questioning
his own continuing membership in this fellowship.
This writer has believed that the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions
stood for a way of life, based upon rigorous honesty and spiritual
principles. However, recent events brought to light have caused personal
questioning of the actual validity and placing into practice of these
A member of Alcoholics Anonymous in Germany, a brother in recovery,
has been attacked by the very organization espousing spiritual principles
- Alcoholics Anonymous. This brother has been vilified and ostracized
by Alcoholics Anonymous to the extent that his membership and personal
continued sobriety could be in jeopardy. All in the name of unity,
but in reality, due to problems relating to money and property.
The individual in Germany and the group he belongs to
had translated and printed A.A.'s basic text into their native tongue.
They printed first 164 pages of the original text, now in the public
domain due to the lapse of the copyright. Their purpose was to carry
the message of recovery in accordance with A.A.'s 5th Tradition: "Each
Alcoholics Anonymous group ought to be a spiritual entity having but
one primary purpose - that of carrying its message to the alcoholic
who still suffers." (Long Form)
These little blue books were being distributed at no
charge to A.A. members at no charge. They were given away to members
as well as in treatment centers, jails and prisons. Now, due to personally
punitive legal measures initiated by the General Service Office in
Germany (AAeV) and Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc. in New
York City (AAWS) this carrying the message of recovery may have to
The individual in Germany has been taken to court by AAeV and AAWS
not only to stop both him and the A.A. Group he belongs to from printing
and distributing literature in the public domain, but to, in effect,
throw him out of Alcoholics Anonymous.
The legal action demands that this A.A. member in Germany no longer
purchase, lend, own or give away ANY literature related to recovery.
This includes all A.A. literature, and literature relating to recovery
from alcoholism by any other publisher. He cannot give a newcomer
a Big Book, go on Twelve Step calls with any literature, or have in
his possession A.A.'s basic text.
According to the 3rd Tradition (Long Form): "Our
membership ought to include all who suffer from alcoholism. Hence
we may refuse none who wish to recover. Nor ought A.A. membership
ever depend upon money or conformity
" By taking away his
ability to carry the message to the still sick and suffering alcoholic,
AAeV in Germany and AAWS in New York have refused to allow the German
A.A. member continued membership in A.A. They have in essence, placed
his continued recovery in jeopardy by his not being able to keep what
he has by giving it away. This is the cornerstone of Alcoholics Anonymous
- one drunk helping another.
This legal action taken by AAeV in Germany and endorsed
by the General Service Board of Trustees of Alcoholics Anonymous World
Services, Inc., George D., General Service Manager of AAWS and others
in the General Service structure also includes possible incarceration
of this A.A. member in Germany and fines running into the tens of
thousands of dollars. A.A. World Services desires to place this A.A.
member in financial ruin as well as kicking him out of A.A.
AAWS refused to consider recent proposals regarding continued litigation
to be placed on the agenda of the upcoming World Service Conference.
Even the Chair of the Board of Trustees, Gary Glynn (non-alcoholic
Trustee) had been reported to have said that there are times when
the Traditions must be cast aside. At a recent meeting in Germany,
Al H., Chairperson of the General Service Conference of Great Britain
stated that he didn't care if this German A.A. member went to jail
or drank again. The German AAeV wants to take all of the literature
owned by this individual A.A. member and the Group he belongs to and
destroy it. This writer wonders if the German General Service Office
remembers in the world's not too distant past, the practice of book
burning once so prevalent in Germany?
In Warranty Five of the Twelfth Concept for World Service it states:
"That no Conference action ever be personally punitive or an
incitement to public controversy." The endorsement by the Board
of Trustees, AAWS and therefore, the Conference of taking an individual
A.A. member into the public courts, threatening his financial future,
his freedom (with possible incarceration), his ability to remain a
member of Alcoholics Anonymous and by causing the A.A. name to be
placed in a position of incitement to public controversy is appalling.
If, as members of Alcoholics Anonymous, we allow a fellow member
to be placed in this position who or what is next?
In many parts of the world, A.A. books sell for as much as $45.00.
In an effort to bring recovery to as many people as possible by giving
away free books, can we allow Alcoholics Anonymous World Services,
Inc. to kick someone out of A.A., place them in financial ruin and
give the message to the public that we don't care? This member's trail
begins on March 26, 1998. This will be the saddest day in A.A. history.
More will be revealed