| print this
Other Than Alcohol:
What Can Be Done About Them?
© The A.A.
Grapevine, Inc., February 1958
time is a good time to review our relations with each other
and with the world outside. In the following article Bill
has done this with the accent on special groups which seek
to handle drug addiction. At the moment this problem is
under a great amount of discussion in many AA areas-Ed.
THERE IS NO SUFFERING more horrible than drug addiction,
especially that kind which is produced by morphine, heroin,
and other narcotics. Such drugs twist the mind and the awful
process of withdrawal racks the sufferer's body. Compared
with the addict and his woes, we alcoholics are pikers.
Barbiturates, carried to extremes, can be almost as bad.
In AA we have members who have made great recoveries from
both the bottle and the needle. We also have a great many
others who were-- or still are--victimized by "goof
balls" and even by the new tranquilizers.
this problem of drug addiction in its several forms lies
close to us all. It stirs our deepest interest and sympathy.
In the world around us we see legions of men and women who
are trying to cure or to escape their problems by this means.
Many AAs, especially those who have suffered these particular
addictions, are now asking, "What can we do about drugs
-- within our fellowship, and without?"
several projects to help pill and drug takers are already
afloat-projects which use AA's Twelve Steps and in which
AA members are active-there has arisen a whole series of
questions as to how these efforts, already meeting with
not a little success, can be rightly related to the AA groups
and to AA as a whole.
here is a list of questions: (1) Can a non- alcoholic
pill or drug addict become an AA member? (2) Can such a
person be brought, as a visitor, to an "open"
AA meeting for help and inspiration? (3) Can a pill or drug
taker, who also has a genuine alcoholic history, become
a member of AA? (4) Can AAs who have suffered both alcoholism
and addiction form themselves into "special purpose"
groups to help other AAs who are having drug trouble? (5)
Could such a "special purpose" group call itself
an AA group? (6) Could such a group also include non- alcoholic
drug users? (7) If so, should these non-alcoholic pill or
drug users be led to believe that they have become AA members?
(8) Is there any objection if AAs who have had the "dual
problem" join such outside groups, such as Addicts
Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous?
some of these questions almost answer themselves, others
do not. But all of them, I think, can readily be resolved
to the satisfaction of everyone if we have a good look at
the AA Traditions which apply, and another look at our long
experience with the special purpose groups in which AAs
are active today-both within and without our society.
there are certain things that AA cannot do for anybody,
regardless of what our several desires or sympathies may
be. Our first duty, as a society, is to insure our own survival.
Therefore we have to avoid distractions and multi-purpose
activity. An AA group, as such, cannot take on all the personal
problems of its members, let alone the problems of the whole
from alcohol -through the teaching and practice of the Twelve
Steps, is the sole purpose of an AA group. Groups have repeatedly
tried other activities and they have always failed. It has
also been learned that there is no possible way to make
non-alcoholics into AA members. We have to confine our membership
to alcoholics and we have to confine our AA groups to a
single purpose. If we don't stick to these principles, we
shall almost surely collapse. And if we collapse, we cannot
illustrate, let's review some typical experiences. Years
ago, we hoped to give AA membership to our families and
to certain non-alcoholic friends who had been greatly helpful.
They had their problems, too, and we wanted them in our
fold. Regretfully, we found that this was impossible. They
couldn't make straight AA talks; nor, save a few exceptions,
could they identify with new AA members. Hence, they couldn't
do continuous Twelfth Step work. Close to us " these
good folks were, we had to deny them membership. We could
only welcome them at our open meetings.
I see no way of making non-alcoholic addicts into AA members.
Experience says loudly that we can admit no exceptions,
even though drug users and alcoholics happen to be first
cousins of a sort. If we persist in trying this, I'm afraid
it will be hard on the drug user himself, as well as on
AA. We must accept the fact that no non-alcoholic, whatever
his affliction, can be converted into an alcoholic AA member.
though, that we are approached by a drug addict who nevertheless
has had a genuine alcoholic history. There was a time when
such a person would have been rejected. Many early AAs had
the almost comical notion that they were "pure alcoholics"-guzzlers
only, no other serious problems at all. When alcoholic "ex-cons"
and drug users first turned up there was much pious indignation.
"What will people think?" chanted the pure alcoholics.
Happily, this foolishness has long since evaporated.
of the best AAs I know is a man who had been seven years
on the needle before he joined up with us. But prior to
that, he had been a terrific alcoholic and his history proved
it. Therefore he could qualify for AA and this he certainly
did. Since then, he has helped many AAs and some non- AAs
with their pill and drug troubles. Of course, that is strictly
his affair and is no way the business of the AA group to
which he belongs. In his group he is a member because, in
actual fact, he is an alcoholic.
is the sum of what AA can- not do---for narcotics addicts
or for anybody else.
then, what can be done? problems other than freedom from
alcohol have always been Very effective answers to found
through "special purpose" groups, some of them
operating within AA and some on the outside.
first special-purpose group was created 'way back in 1938.
AA needed a world service office and some literature. It
had a service problem that could not be met by an AA group,
as such. Therefore, we formed a Board of Trustees (The Alcoholic
Foundation) to look after these matters. Some of the Trustees
were alcoholics, and some were non- alcoholics. Obviously,
this war not an "AA group." Instead, it was a
group of AAs and non-AAs who devoted themselves to a special
example: in 1940, the New York AAs got lonesome and installed
themselves in a club. The club had directors and dues-paying
AA members. For a long time, the club members and directors
thought that they were an AA group. But after awhile, it
was found that lots of AAs who attended meetings at "Old
24th" didn't care one hoot for the club, as such. Hence,
the management of the club (for its social purpose) had
to be completely separated from the management of the AA
group that came there to hold its meetings. It took years
of hassling to prove that you couldn't put an AA group into
the club business and make it stick. Everywhere today, club
management's and their dues-paying members are seen as "special
purpose" groups, not as AA groups.
same thing has happened with drying-out places and "Twelfth
Step Houses" managed by AAs. We never think of these
activities as "AA groups." They are clearly seen
as the functions of interested individuals who are doing
helpful and often very valuable jobs.
years ago, numbers of AAs formed themselves in "retreat
groups" having a religious purpose.. At first, they
wanted to call themselves "AA groups" of various
descriptions. But they soon realized this could not be done
because their groups liad a dual purpose: both AA and religion.
another time a number of us AAs wanted to enter the field
of alcohol education. I was one of them. We associated ourselves
with some non-alcoholics, likewise interested. The non-alcoholics
wanted AAs because they needed our experience, philosophy,
and general slant. Things were fine until some of us AAs
publicly disclosed our membership in the educational group.
Right away, the public got the idea that this particular
brand of alcoholic education and Alcoholics Anonymous were
one and the same thing. It took years to change this impression.
But now that this correction has been made, plenty of AA
members work with this fine group and we are glad that they
was thus proven that, as individuals, we can carry the AA
experience and ideas into any outside field whatever,
provided that we guard anonymity and refuse to use the AA
name for money-raising or publicity purposes.
very sure that these experiences of yesterday can be the
basis of resolving today's confusions about the narcotic
problem. This problem is new, but the AA experience and
Tradition which can solve it is already old and time tested.
I think we might sum it up like this: We cannot give AA
membership to non-alcoholic narcotics-addicts. But like
anyone else, they should be able to attend certain open
AA meetings, provided, of course, that the groups themselves
members who are so inclined should be encouraged to band
together in groups to deal with sedative and drug problems.
But they ought to refrain from calling themselves AA groups.
seems to be no reason why several AAs cannot join, if they
wish, with a group of straight addicts to solve the alcohol
and the drug problem together. But, obviously, such a "dual
purpose" group should not insist that it be called
an AA group nor should it use the AA name in its title.
Neither should its "straight addict" contingent
be led to believe that they have become AA members by reason
of such an association.
there is every good reason for interested AAs to join with
"outside" groups, working on the narcotic problem,
provided the Traditions of anonymity and of "no endorsements"
conclusion, I want to say that throughout AA's history,
most, of our special-purpose groups have accomplished very
wonderful things. There is great reason to hope that those
AAs who are now worlding in the grim regions of narcotic
addiction will achieve equal success.
AA, the group has strict limitations, but the individual
has scarcely any. Remembering to observe the Traditions
of anonymity and non-endorsernent, he can carry AA's message
into every troubled area of this very troubled world.
© The A.A.
Grapevine, Inc., February 1958
practicing our Traditions, The AA Grapevine, Inc. has neither
endorsed nor are they affiliated with Silkworth.net.
The Grapevine®, and AA Grapevine® are registered
trademarks of The AA Grapevine, Inc.
W. Grapevine index