Friday, 11 January 2013


Short form:

Throughout our structure, a traditional "Right of Appeal" ought to prevail, so that minority opinion will be heard and personal grievances receive careful consideration.

Long form:

Throughout our world services structure, a traditional "Right of Appeal" ought to prevail, thus assuring us that minority opinion will be heard and that petitions for the redress of personal grievances will be carefully considered.

Questions in service

·         At group or Intergroup level, etc., is the expression of minority opinion encouraged?
·         At group or Intergroup level, etc., are petitions for the redress of personal grievances heard?

Questions in life

·         Do I respect the right of the minority to disagree and express that disagreement?
·         When I am in a majority, do I encourage minority opinion to be expressed?
·         Do I consider that the minority may sometimes be right?
·         Do I actually listen with an open mind?
·         Do I continue to exercise patience, tolerance, kindness, and love with people who disagree?
·         When I am in a minority, do I exercise my right of appeal and petition?
·         Do I collude or collaborate in what I believe wrong for fear of the majority's reaction?
·         Do I judge what is right and wrong by what the majority believe and do?
·         When overwhelmed by my own addictions, character defects, or circumstances, do I appeal and petition to the higher authority of God?


'In the light of the principle of the "Right of Appeal," all minorities—whether in our staffs, committees, corporate boards, or among the Trustees—should be encouraged to file minority reports whenever they feel a majority to be in considerable error. And when a minority considers an issue to be such a grave one that a mistaken decision could seriously affect AA as a whole, it should then charge itself with the actual duty of presenting a minority report to the Conference.

In granting this traditional "Right of Appeal,," we recognize that minorities frequently can be right; that even when they are partly or wholly in error they still perform a most valuable service when, by asserting their "Right of Appeal," they compel a thoroughgoing debate on important issues. The well-heard minority, therefore, is our chief protection against an uninformed, misinformed, hasty or angry majority.


Short form:

At all responsible levels, we ought to maintain a traditional "Right of Participation," allowing a voting representation in reasonable proportion to the responsibility that each must discharge.

Long form:

Throughout our Conference structure, we ought to maintain at all responsible levels a traditional "Right of Participation," taking care that each classification or group of our world servants shall be allowing a voting representation in reasonable proportion to the responsibility that each must discharge.


·         The 'doers' get to vote, too, so that practical responsibility and decision-making authority are aligned.
·         Absolute authority generates domination.
·         Those with delegated authority are not just agents and order-takers—we need their insight and input.
·         Abstain where you have a personal interest.
·         There are no classes in AA—we all need to participate to belong.

Questions in service

·         At group level, Intergroup, Region, etc., is anyone being wrongfully excluded from participation?
·         At group level, Intergroup, Region, etc., is anyone being placed in absolute authority?
·         At group level, Intergroup, Region, etc., are the trusted servants treated as such, or are they are treated as agents or order-takers?
·         At group level, Intergroup, Region, etc., is voting being skewed by personal interest?
·         At group level, Intergroup, Region, etc., does everyone get to participate?

Questions in life

·         Do I allow others a right of participation in matters that affect them?
·         Do I allow others a right of participation in matters they are knowledgeable or experienced about?
·         Do I dominate others?
·         Do I take responsibility myself, or do I absolve myself of responsibility by putting someone else in charge?
·         Do I participate fully, or do I let others do the work and make the decisions?
·         Do I act for the good of all or out of personal interest?
·         In any area of my life, is anyone being excluded?


'Such a typical corporate business management easily permits a proper degree of voting "participation." Every skilled element to do the allotted job is present. No class is set in absolute authority over another. This is the corporate or "participating" method of doing business, as distinguished from structures so common to many institutional, military and governmental agencies wherein high-level people or classes of people often are set in absolute authority, one over the other.'

'In its early days the AA Headquarters was run on authoritarian and institutional lines. At that time the Trustees saw no reason to delegate their managerial powers or to work in voting participation with any others outside their own body. The result was often grievous trouble and misunderstanding, and it was out of this rough going that the principle of "Participation" finally emerged. This lesson was learned the hard way, but it was learned. … On the one hand we had Trustees who possessed complete authority, and on the other hand there were founders and office managers who had great responsibility but practically no authority. It was a kind of schizophrenia, and it caused real trouble.'

'Every time an absolute authority is created, it always invites this same tendency toward over domination respecting all things, great and small.'

'It was years before we saw that we could never put all authority in one group and virtually all responsibility in another and then expect efficiency of operation, let alone real harmony. Of course, no one is against the idea of final authority. We are only against its misapplication or misuse. "Participation" can usually stop this sort of demoralizing nonsense before it starts.'

'Let us look at another aspect of this participation problem. The final authority for services must lie in the AA groups; but suppose the groups, sensing their great power, should try to over-exercise it by sending in Delegates irrevocably instructed as to how to vote on most questions. Would the Delegates feel that they were participants, trusted servants? No, they would feel like agents and order-takers.'

'As a matter of tradition, there is no doubt that Trustees and service workers alike should refrain from voting on reports on their own past activities… But those who would do away entirely with the votes of Trustees and service workers in the Conference overlook the point that such reports of past performance constitute only a fraction of the business of that body. The Conference is far more concerned with policies, plans, and actions which are to take effect in the future. To take away the votes of Trustees and service workers on such questions would obviously be unwise. Why should our Conference be deprived of the votes of such knowledgeable people as these?'

'There is another very practical reason for not giving Conference Delegates absolute voting authority over trustees, service directors, and staff members. It should be borne in mind that our delegates can never be like a Congress in constant session, having its own working committees, elected leaders, etc. Our delegates cannot possibly function in this manner for the simple reason that they meet for a few days only, once a year. Hence they cannot have an extensive firsthand acquaintance with many of the problems on which they are expected to vote. This is all the more reason for allowing the sometimes better-informed minority of trustees and Headquarters people the balloting privilege in all cases where no self-interest is involved.'

'There is another good reason for "participation," and this one has to do with our spiritual needs. All of us deeply desire to belong. We want an AA relation of brotherly partnership. It is our shining ideal that the "spiritual corporation" of AA should never include any members who are regarded as "second class." Deep down, I think this is what we have been struggling to achieve in our world service structure. Here is perhaps the principal reason why we should continue to ensure "participation" at every important level. Just as there are no second-class AA's, neither should there be any second-class world service workers, either.'

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Young people and AA

Around AA, the question is regularly asked, 'are we doing enough for young people in AA?'
One response to this question has been the development of a separate movement of young people in AA.
This article attempts to look at the matter from a different angle.
The above general question can and should be further broken down into:
'Are young alcoholics being exposed to AA?'
'Are those young alcoholics staying in AA?'

Are young alcoholics being exposed to AA?

There are several means by which young people may be exposed to AA:
·         General awareness within society
·         Media aimed at young people
·         Institutions attended by young people in general
·         Institutions interfacing with young problem drinkers
·         First contact with AA (e.g. through the telephone service or Internet)
In these five areas, we have existing structures: public awareness and information activities, and liaison officers at different levels, who deal with health, probation, prisons, etc. To the extent that young alcoholics are passing through prisons and the probation service and accessing health services, we already have structures in place to provide them with information about and access to AA.
Public information liaison officers often contact schools and further education establishments to discuss whether such institutions would like AA talks.
A small amount of brainstorming could extend the list of possible contacts that might currently be being missed (e.g. university or college help-lines for students in distress, services operated by local authorities aimed at helping young people experiencing difficulties etc.), but essentially this is work already falling within the scope of existing officers.
The problem throughout AA nationally is not the lack of available structure or opportunity to provide information and access to AA targeted at young people either as part of a greater strategy (e.g. providing meetings in prisons) or as a young people-specific project (e.g. schools talks) but the lack of AA members willing to fulfil the existing roles.
Two egregious examples are armed forces liaison and probation liaison. The average age of the target population with both these aspects of services is low: these are perfect opportunities to provide information to young people about AA. Most such posts in London Region (North) are vacant, however. In an ideal world, each such liaison officer could have a team of individuals carrying out the footwork.
The current structure provides for limitless growth in terms of service, provided that sufficient volunteers are forthcoming.
I would submit that, to solve the problem (to the extent that there is one) of young alcoholics not being provided with information about or access to AA, we do not need new structures—we need to use the existing structures to capacity.

Are those young alcoholics staying in AA?

Most newcomers to AA where I go to meetings are under 40, and many are under 30. Young people do not seem proportionately less likely than other age groups to come to AA.
As with other age groups, the attrition rate is high, however.
I do not believe the reason for this is peculiar to young people: rather, most AA groups are not so much groups but casual meetings where people offload about current difficulties or discuss their current emotional and mental state.
Longevity in AA, by contrast, typically requires resolute and repeated work on the Twelve Steps, engagement in the AA fellowship, and a ton of service.
The best way to ensure that young alcoholics stay in AA is therefore the best way to ensure that anyone stays in AA: practise strong, orthodox sponsorship and apply the Twelve Steps, Twelve Traditions, and Twelve Concepts in the areas of recovery, fellowship, and service, centred around a group focus on its primary purpose: to carry the AA message (as set out in AA's basic text, Alcoholics Anonymous).

The young people's movement in AA

I have belonged to special interest groups in the past, in AA. I am not going to argue here for their disbandment or de-listing. I do believe, however, that they bring with them difficulties.
There are several valid arguments in favour of special interest groups. These are well-rehearsed, and I acknowledge these and will not reiterate them here. However:
The AA basic text, Alcoholics Anonymous, describes us as people who normally would not mix. As soon as a group forms with some other unifying rallying point—alcoholism plus youth; alcoholism plus a profession; alcoholism plus a sexual orientation—that other rallying point can easily take centre stage. Some special interest groups can become more like social groups or pick-up joints (and that has been my lived experience; this is not speculation by an outsider).
Whilst such groups are non-restrictive in name, any common rallying point, even if secondary, will, in practice, prove exclusionary to those not in the subgroup, even where the participation of others is welcomed and encouraged.
One real problem with special interest groups is that they invariably affect all other groups in the catchment area. This is why they are all our business. A young person's group that drains the catchment area of young people and a gay and lesbian group that drains the catchment area of gays and lesbians will make it less likely that the remaining groups will be demographically representative of the population as a whole, and newcomers going to those other groups will be less likely to encounter people they identify with biographically.
Lastly, my primary problem is alcoholism. My primary solution is the solution to alcoholism. It was a salutary lesson when I was new in AA that the solution might come through anyone—gay or straight, young or old, male or female, agreeable or objectionable. It is my belief that the motley crew of an AA group where we have nothing in common except a common condition and a common solution is the ideal and healthiest growth medium for a stellar recovery. Special interest groups, in my case, fostered a sense of being 'special and different', of having special needs beyond those of a common-or-garden alcoholic. I did not.


AA does not have any more of a problem attracting or keeping young alcoholics than it has attracting or keeping any other alcoholics. There are no specific problems experienced in these areas by young alcoholics, at least least not that I experienced as a 21-year-old in AA, 19, 20 years ago. No new structures are needed. No new programme is needed.
What is required is an adherence to the primary purpose of groups, the propagation of the Twelve Steps, the Twelve Traditions, and the Twelve Concepts in the areas of recovery, fellowship and service, and, most importantly, volunteer AA members willing to take up the many vacant service positions in the existing service structure.

Friday, 4 January 2013

Five serious character defects

1. Hysteria. This is essentially emotional excess, overreaction to everyday difficulties or benign situations due to distorted thinking.

2. Over-thinking. A little bit of thinking is required to help us navigate the world. Many people think far more than is necessary and upset themselves in the process.

3. Hurt feelings. If you think about yourself hard enough, you'll probably discover other people don't like you or respect you enough, or you're not as fine or good or well as you think you ought to be. Shame is really hurt pride.

4. Despair. This is the belief that our problems are so special that they cannot be solved. This is arrogance.

5. Wanting others to fix us. No one can fix us. Hard work and placidly relying on God can.

The programme suggests we pray to God to have these defects removed, then we act in accordance with their opposite:

1. Act well and productively.
2. Think things through only to the extent necessary to navigate the day.
3. Pray.
4. Thank God.
5. Think of others.