Dangerous, But Unity On Public Policies Vital To Future Of AA.
(Second in a series of articles presenting basic A.A. policies for
Copyright © The A.A.
Grapevine, Inc., September 1945
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,
and 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
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
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 undenying 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!
be continued in the October GRAPEVINE)