The Tip of the A.A. Iceberg
What Happens When Someone Tells You What You Can’t Do
Copyright 2012 Anonymous. All rights reserved
Scholar Robin Room wrote an article, a very small portion of which states the followins
“(a) The group as self-governing, subject to no external authority or
superstructure (Tradition 9). The discussion in Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions
emphasizes the distinction between “the spirit of vested authority and the spirit of service” (p.
174). AA has an elaborate structure of service boards and committees, elected directly or
indirectly by AA groups, but power is firmly defined as lying at the base rather than in the
structure: “our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern” (Tradition 2).
Accordingly, it is noted in Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions (pp. 173-4), a headquarters
communication to a group will be worded in the form of suggestions: “Of course, you are at
perfect liberty to handle this matter any way you please. But the majority experience in A.A.
does seem to suggest. . . .
“In practice, there are some forms of recognition or non-recognition of AA groups.
Johnson (1987:427-431) reports that in Southern California the local central office sends out
a delegate to observe procedures in a new group, “to see that the group is not violating the
Traditions”, before listing it in the area directory of groups and meetings. Listing in the area
directory is an important means of recruitment of new members, often by referral by others,
so that denial of a directory listing may affect the continuation or growth of the group. But
there is nothing to stop an unlisted group continuing and considering itself to be an AA group.
Certainly failure to participate in and support AA’s service structure does not hinder
recognition; about half the groups listed in the directory for a northern California county fail
to participate in and support AA’s general service structure.”
He or she who plows straight into this iceberg without notice may find great frustration and have unnecessary anxiety, hesitation, and even fear. Not to mention, a sinking ship.
There are ample examples in my own experience over 26 years and in the experience of hundreds of Christians in A.A. who have informed me about the following: (1) A sponsor who tells you that if you read the Bible you will get drunk. (2) You must not share in meetings about God or Jesus Christ. (3) You must never read or quote from the Bible in a meeting. (4) You must never encourage someone to join you in church or come to your Bible fellowship. (5) If you organize a meeting, you cannot call it a Bible Study Group, a Big Book Bible-Study Group, or allow a Bible or Christian materials to be displayed on any literature table. (6) You will not be allowed by the Central or Intergroup office to be listed as an AA group if you organize such a group. (7) You must fill out an application in writing which is sent to New York for approval; and it will be rejected if you indicate your group mentions God or the Bible or Jesus in its name or says it will study any or all of these “religious materials or subjects.” And there are a number of letters that have issued from A.A. Central Offices and from General Services in New York that condemn any of the practices mentioned. (8) Your DCM may inspect your meeting to see if it conforms to A.A. Traditions. (9) The “suits” may appear and try to block your meeting.
This rigidity and inexcusable behavior happens. And it sometimes causes AAs to cease a meeting, cease a practice, change a name, or cower in fear of discovery.
We have published Stick with the Winners! How to Conduct More Effective 12-Step Recovery Meetings Using Conference-approved Literature. This guide, plus a series of 27 videos will tell you where the icebergs are, what to do when you learn of one, and how to avoid crashing your traveling ship into one. We cite ample A.A. Conference-approved literature that will leave you confident that you can do what the early AAs did. That you can do it today. And that is rude and erroneous for any A.A. leader, group, or office to hinder what you do.
Early AAs read the Bible, quoted the Bible, and listened to the Bible. They conducted “old fashioned prayer meetings.” They insisted that members believe in God and that they accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. They read all kinds of Christian literature and Christian devotionals, and they quoted these and circulated these at meetings.
See Dick B., Dr. Bob and His Library, 3rd ed; The Books Early AAs Read for Spiritual Growth, 7th ed; The Good Book and The Big Book: A.A.’s Roots in the Bible; The James Club and the Original A.A. Program’s Absolute Essentials; Anne Smith’s Journal 1933-1939
See also DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers (NY: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., 1980)