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"Alcoholics Anonymous should remain forever nonprofessional,
but our service centers may employ special workers."
ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS will never have a professional class.
We have gained some understanding of the ancient words "Freely
ye have received, freely give." We have discovered
that at the point of professionalism, money and spirituality
do not mis. Almost no recovery from alcoholism has ever
been brought about by the world's best professionals, whether
medical or religious. We do not decry professionalism in
other fields, but we accept the sober fact that it does
not work for us. Every time we have tried to professionalize
our Twelfth Step, the result has been exactly the same:
Our single purpose has been defeated.
simply will not listen to a pain twelfth-stepper. Almost
from the beginning, we have been positive that face-to-face
work with the alcoholic who suffers could be based only
on the desire to help and be helped. When an A.A. talks
for money, whether at a meeting or to a single newcomer,
it can have a very bad effect on him, too. The money motive
compromises him and everything he says and does for his
prospect. This has always been so obvious that only a very
few A.A.'s have ever worked the Twelfth Step for a fee.
this certainty, it is nevertheless true that few subjects
have been the cause of more contention within our Fellowship
than professionalism. Caretakers who swept floors, cooks
who fried hamburgers, secretaries in offices, authors writing
books--all these we have seen hotly assailed because they
were, as their critics angrily remarked, "making money
out of A.A." Ignoring the fact that these labors were
not Twelfth Step jobs at all, the critics attacked as A.A.
professionals these workers of ours who were often doing
thankless tasks that no one else could or would do. Even
greater furors were provoked when A.A. members began to
run rest homes and farms for alcoholics, when some hired
out to corporations as personnel men in charge of the alcoholic
wards, when others entered the field of alcohol education.
In all these instances, and more, it was claimed that A.A.
knowledge and experience were being sold for money, hence
these people, too, were professionals.
last, however, a plain line of cleavage could be seen between
professionalism and nonprofessionalism. When we had agreed
that the Twelfth Step couldn't be sold for money, we had
been wise. But when we had declared that our Fellowship
couldn't hire service workers nor could any A.A. member
carry our knowledge into other fields, we were taking the
counsel of fear, fear which today has been largely dispelled
in the light of experience.
the case of the club janitor and cook. If a club is going
to function, it has to be habitable and hospitable. We tried
volunteers, who were quickly disenchanted with sweeping
floors and brewing coffee seven days a week. They just didn't
show up. Even more important, an empty club couldn't answer
its telephone, but it was an open invitation to a drunk
on a binge who possessed a spare key. So somebody had to
look after the place full time. If we hired an alcoholic,
he'd receive only what we'd have to pay a nonalcoholic for
the same job. The job was not to do Twelfth Step work; it
was to make Twelfth Step work possible. It was a service
proposition, pure and simple.
could A.A. itself function without full-time workers. At
the Foundation* and intergroup offices, we couldn't employ
nonalcoholics as secretaries; we had to have people who
knew the A.A. pitch. But the minute we hired them, the ultraconservative
and fearful ones shrilled, "Professionalism!"
At one period, the status of these faithful servants was
almost unbearable. They weren't asked to speak at A.A. meetings
because they were `making money out of A.A." At times,
they were actually shunned by fellow members. Even the charitably
disposed described them as "a necessary evil."
Committees took full advantage of this attitude to depress
their salaries. They could regain some measure of virtue,
it was thought, if they worked for A.A. real cheap. These
notions persisted for years. Then we saw that if a hard
working secretary answered the phone dozens of times a day,
listened to twenty wailing wives, arranged hospitalization
and got sponsorship for ten newcomers, and was gently diplomatic
with the irate drunk who complained about the job she was
doing and how she was overpaid, then such a person could
surely not be called a professional A.A. She was not professionalizing
the Twelfth Step; she was just making it possible. She was
helping to give the man coming in the door the break he
ought to have. Volunteer committeemen and assistants could
be of great help, but they could not be expected to carry
this load day in and day out.
the Foundation, the same story repeats itself. Eight tons
of books and literature per month do not package and channel
themselves all over the world. Sacks of letters on every
conceivable A.A. problem ranging from a lonely-heart Eskimo
to the growing pains of thousands of groups must be answered
by people who know. Right contacts with the world outside
have to be maintained. A.A.'s lifelines have to be tended.
So we hire A.A. staff members. We pay them well, and they
earn what they get. They are professional secretaries, *
but they certainly are not professional A.A.'s.
the fear will always lurk in every A.A. heart that one day
our name will be exploited by somebody for real cash. Even
the suggestion of such a thing never fails to whip up a
hurricane, and we have discovered that hurricanes have a
way of mauling with equal severity both the just and the
unjust. They are always unreasonable.
individuals have been more buffeted by such emotional gusts
than those A.A.'s bold enough to accept employment with
outside agencies dealing with the alcohol problem. A university
wanted an A.A. member to educate the public on alcoholism.
A corporation wanted a personnel man familiar with the subject.
A state drunk farm wanted a manager who could really handle
inebriates. A city wanted an experienced social worker who
understood what alcohol could do to a family. A state alcohol
commission wanted a paid researcher. These are only a few
of the jobs which A.A. members as individuals have been
asked to fill. Now and then, A.A. members have bought farms
or rest homes where badly beat-up topers could find needed
care. The question was--and sometimes still is--are such
activities to be branded as professionalism under A.A. tradition?
think the answer is "No. Members who select such full-time
careers do not professionalize A.A.'s Twelfth Step."
The road to this conclusion was long and rocky. At first,
we couldn't see the real issue involved. In former days,
the moment an A.A. hired out to such enterprises, he was
immediately tempted to use the name Alcoholics Anonymous
for publicity or money-raising purposes. Drunk farms, educational
ventures, state legislatures, and commissions advertised
the fact that A.A. members served them. Unthinkingly, A.A.'s
so employed recklessly broke anonymity to thump the tub
for their pet enterprise. For this reason, some very good
causes and all connected with them suffered unjust criticism
from A.A. groups. More often than not, these onslaughts
were spearheaded by the cry "Professionalism! That
guy is making money out of A.A.'s Twelfth Step work. The
violation in these instances was not professionalism at
all; it was breaking anonymity. A.A.'s sole purpose was
being compromised, and the name of Alcoholics Anonymous
was being misused.
is significant, now that almost no A.A. in our Fellowship
breaks anonymity at the public level, that nearly all these
fears have subsided. We see that we have no right or need
to discourage A.A.'s who wish to work as individuals in
these wider fields. It would be actually antisocial were
we to forbid them. We cannot declare A.A. such a closed
corporation that we keep our knowledge and experience top
secret. If an A.A. member acting as a citizen can become
a better researcher, educator, personnel officer, then why
not? Everybody gains, and we have lost nothing. True, some
of the projects to which A.A.'s have attached themselves
have been ill-conceived, but that makes not the slightest
difference with the principle involved.
is the exciting welter of events which has finally cast
up A.A.'s Tradition of nonprofessionalism. Our Twelfth Step
is never to be paid for, but those who labor in service
for us are worthy of their hire.
work of the present-day staff members has no counterpart
among the job categories of commercial organizations. These
A.A.'s bring a wide range of business and professional experience
to their service at G.S.O.
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