| print this
Dangerous, But Unity on Public Policies Vital to Future
in a series of articles presenting basic AA. policies for
Grapevine, Inc., September 1945
Does Alcoholics Anonymous have a public relations policy?
Is it adequate to meet our present and future needs?
it has never been definitely formulated or precisely stated,
we certainly have a partly formed public relations policy.
Like everything else in A.A., it has grown up out of trial
and error. Nobody invented it. Nobody has ever laid down
a set of rules or regulations to cover it, and I hope no
one ever will. This is because rules and regulations seem
to be little good for us. They seldom work well.
we to proceed by the rules, somebody would have to make
them and, more difficult still, somebody would have to enforce
them. "Rulemaking" has often been tried. It usually
results in controversy among the "rule makers"
as to what the rules should be. And when it comes to enforcing
an edict - well, you all know the answer. When we try to
enforce rules and regulations, however reasonable, we almost
always get in so "dutch" that our authority disappears.
A cry goes up, "Down with the dictators, off with their
heads!" Hurt and astonished "Control Committee"
after "Control Committee," "Leader"
after "Leader" makes the discovery that human
authority, be it ever so partial or benign, seldom works
long or well in our affairs. Alcoholics (no matter if ragged)
are yet the most rugged of individualists, true anarchists
course nobody claims this trait of ours to be a sterling
virtue. During his first A.A. years every A.A. has had plenty
of the urge to revolt against authority. I know I did, and
can't claim to be over it yet. I've also served my time
as a maker of rules, a regulator of other people's conduct.
I too, have spent sleepless nights nursing my 'wounded"
ego, wondering how others whose lives I sought to manage
could be so unreasonable, so thoughtless of "poor"
me. I can now look back upon such experiences with much
amusement. And gratitude as well. They taught me that the
very quality which prompted me to govern other people was
the identical egocentricity which boiled up in my fellow
A.A.'s when they themselves refused to be governed!
- A.A. Questions
non-A.A. reader can be heard to exclaim, "This looks
very serious for the future of these people. No organization,
no rules, no authority? It's anarchy; it's dynamite; it's
'atomic' and bound to blow up. Public relations indeed!
If there is no authority how can they have any public relations
policy at all? That's the very defect which ruined the Washingtonian
alcoholics a hundred years ago. They mushroomed to 100,000
members, then collapsed. No effective policy or authority.
Quarreled among themselves, so finally got a black eye with
the public. Aren't these A.A.s just the same kind of drunks,
the same kind of anarchists? How can they expect to succeed
where the Washingtonians failed? Good questions these. Have
we the answers? While we must never be too sure there is
reason to hope that we have, because forces seem to be at
work in A. A. which were little evident among our brother
alcoholics of the 1840s.
one thing our A.A. program is spiritually centered. Most
of us have found enough humility by facing the fact that
alcoholism is a fatal malady over which we are individually
powerless. The Washingtonians, on the contrary, thought
drinking was just another strong habit which could be broken
by will power as expressed in pledges, plus the sustaining
force of mutual aid through an understanding society of
ex-drunks. Apparently they thought little of personality
change, and nothing at all of spiritual conversion.
aid plus pledges did do a lot for them but it wasn't enough;
their individual egos still ran riot in every channel save
alcohol. Self-serving forces having no real humility, having
little appreciation that the penalty for too much self will
is death to the alcoholic, having no Greater Power to serve,
finally destroyed the Washingtonians.
therefore, we A.A.s look to the future, we must always be
asking ourselves if the spirit which now binds us
together in our common cause will always be stronger than
those personal ambitions and desires which tend to drive
us apart. So long as the positive forces are greater we
cannot fail. Happily, so far, the ties which bind us have
been much stronger than those which might break us. Though
the individual A.A. is under no human coercion, is at almost
perfect personal liberty, we have, nevertheless, achieved
a wonderful unity on vital essentials.
example, "The 12 Steps" of our A.A. program are
not crammed down anybody's throat. They are not sustained
by any human authority. Yet we powerfully unite around them
because the truth they contain has saved our lives, has
opened the doors to a new word. Our experience tells us
these universal truths work. The anarchy of the individual
yields to their persuasion. He sobers up and is led, little
by little, to complete agreement with our simple fundamentals.
these truths govern his life and he comes to live under
their authority, the most powerful authority known, the
authority of his full consent, willingly given. He is
ruled, not by people, but by principles, by truths and,
as most of us would say, he is ruled by God. Now some might
ask, "What has all this to do with an A.A. public relations
policy?" An older A.A. would say, "Plenty."
While experience shows that in A.A. no policy can be created
and announced full blown, much less effectively enforced
by human authority, we are, nevertheless, faced with the
problem of developing a public relations policy and securing
for it the only authority we know - that of common understanding
and widespread, if not universal, consent. When this consent
is secured we can then be sure of ourselves. A.A.s will
everywhere put the policy into effect as a matter of course,
automatically. But we must at first be clear on certain
basic principles. And these must have been tried and tested
in our crucible of experience.
forthcoming articles I shall therefore try to trace the
development of our public relations from the very first
day we came to public notice. This will show what our experience
has already taught us. Then every A.A. can have a real background
for constructive thinking on this terribly vital matter
- a matter on which we dare not make grave mistakes; upon
which, over the years, we cannot afford to become unsound.
qualification, however. A policy isn't quite like a fixed
truth. A policy is something which can change to meet variable
conditions, even though the basic underlying truths upon
which it is founded do not change at all. Our policy might,
for example, rest upon our 12 Steps for its undedying truths,
yet remain reasonably flexible so far as the means or method
of its application is concerned.
I earnestly hope thousands of A.A.s start thinking a great
deal about these policy matters which are now becoming so
important to us. It is out of our discussions, our differences
of opinion, our daily experiences, and our general consent
that the true answers must finally come.
an older member I may be able to marshal the facts and help
analyze what has happened so far. Perhaps I can even make
some suggestions of value for the future. But that is all.
Whether we are going to have a clear-cut public relations
policy will finally be determined by all of us together
- not by me alone!
(To be continued in the
© The A.A.
Grapevine, Inc., September 1945
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.