Last night, I took a friend to an AA meeting. To protect the friend, let's just say that he has had a drug problem for years but isn't alcoholic. It was a closed AA meeting so before making definite plans, I called the local AA Intergroup to see if this was going to be okay. They assured me that it would be. I've heard conflicting stories about addicts going to AA meetings. One only has to read the AA approved Problems Other Than Alcohol to realize that Bill W. didn't envision AA to embrace the addict.
"Our first duty, as a society, is to insure
our own survival. Therefore, we have to avoid distractions
and multipurpose activity. An A.A.
group, as such, cannot take on all the personal
problems of its members, let alone the problems
of the whole world.
Sobriety — freedom from alcohol — through
the teaching and practice of the Twelve Steps is
the sole purpose of an A.A. 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 nonalcoholics into A.A.
members. We have to confine our membership to
alcoholics, and we have to confine our A.A.
groups to a single purpose. If we don’t stick to
these principles, we shall almost surely collapse.
And if we collapse, we cannot help anyone."
From "Problems Other than Alcohol" P-35
So I was in a dilemma. Here was a young person who needed to get to a meeting, yet there are few NA meetings in the area. So I did what my I thought was right, no doubt guided by my HP, and took him to the meeting. I talked to the chair of the meeting, explained the situation, and then let my friend talk to the chair. It worked out great, he was embraced by the AA attendees, picked up a white chip, and was overwhelmed by the welcome. People offered names and phone numbers and spoke during sharing directly to this newcomer. It was a good meeting and a very positive experience.
Yet, there still appears to be some old timers who frown on addicts coming into AA. In fact, a long-time AA friend of mine has expressed his concern about this to me several times. I did some additional reading and found that before NA began, AA was in turmoil over how to treat people addicted to drugs other than alcohol. A key factor in AA's strength has been its single-minded focus on doing one thing and doing it well--carrying the message of recovery to alcoholics. In general, one drunk can empathize with another in a way that no other person can.
When Bill W. co-founded AA, there wasn't the problem with drugs that now exists. But as addicts began wanting to come to AA meetings, some in AA feared that the very heart of AA would be weakened. The dilemma put lives at stake. On the one hand, many types of addicts begged for admission into AA meetings. On the other hand, AA's Step One called for members to admit their powerlessness over a single drug--alcohol. Rewording that step to include every conceivable kind of drug was impractical. Yet, turning dying addicts away was no solution either. Some AA groups are rigid about participants. Official AA policy states that drug addicts are welcome at open AA meetings, but not at closed meetings. However, many closed AA groups do accept people "purely on drugs," and addicts cross-addicted to alcohol and another drug are always welcome.
I thought that this article would be helpful in laying out the concerns of both sides. The article has an interesting perspective.
I guess I have no right to an opinion since I'm Al-Anon. However, I've never let protocol stop my opinions before so here's my scoop. I can see the reasoning of old timers in AA that idenity and purpose of the program could be compromised by large numbers of addicts. However, it is undeniable that drugs are a major issue. With the number of NA meetings being lower than that of AA meetings, I think that it is okay for addicts to attend AA meetings regardless of whether they are open or closed. Perhaps at the closed meeting, it would be best for the addict to simply listen. I'm a live and let live person so in my mind, if someone can gain something from attending meetings, then I'm all for it.