Thursday, March 15, 2007

Problems other than alcohol

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.


  1. I've treated polyaddicted people who go to A.A. meetings even though alcohol is not their favorite drug. It seems to me that A.A. is the better organized, more sophisticated of the 12-step groups, probably because of the "old-timers."

    Thanks so much for this blog.

  2. Hi, Syd,

    Would you want me to link your blog to a carnival I'm hosting on March 30 on alcohol and relationships? You could either write something new or submit something old.

    You'd go to

    If you haven't ever done this before, email me and I'll walk you through it. The "perma-link" can be found on blogger when you go to "edit posts" and click on the "view" option to the left of the post you want to submit.

    It would be good for people to hear from you. I'm linking you to my blog. Thanks, Linda

  3. I am lucky to have sobered up in an environment where drug addicts are welcome in AA meetings. Most AAs I know are cross addicted anyway. It's nice to have read some of your entries.

  4. Thanks so much for your article. I just posted my 2 cents worth about the topic and in relation to yours i think that having drug addicts come to AA meetings is acceptable.

    From my own experiences with cross additctions i understand that the end of one addictions usually means its replaced with something else and this needs to be recognised and supported in the recovery community.

    Please have a read of my most recent blog and leave comments as you may be interested in my recent thoughts.

    All the best.

  5. HP sent me here via 'next blog'. I'm Bobanon, a greatful member of Al-Anon. Recently my niece went out and got a monkey for her back, so I'm looking at a lot of this stuff.

    In my area there are lots of NA meetings... no need for her to go to AA. But there aren't a lot of Naranon meetings, so I invite the broad family to visit Al-Anon.
    The principle of anonymity allows anyone to go to Al-Anon meetings as long as they keep their sharing on the topic and keep an Al-Anon point of view. Most of what needs to be heard is not alcohol spacific.

    There is no replacing Naranon for those who need it, but Al-Anon can be a suplement for anyone... as long as they stick to the topic and remain anonymous about 'other' topics.

  6. My personal belief is that Drugs ADDICTS maybe are breaking the law buying drugs illegal;......some are stealing for the drugs.. since so much more costly than Alcohol. So you are basically dealing with criminal activities such Drugs are ILLEGAL.

    In our Al-anon meetings we have members with children or spouses that are Drug Addict.. but it is OKAY for them to be in Al-ANON..they are learning to put the focus on themselves and not be enablers..etc.

    They talk about the illegal criminal acts their drug addict children do to get money for drugs.. stealing cars; robbing folks; etc.

    I'm not sure people on drugs should be around other AA members who are not breaking the law when they buy their substances.

    There should be more NA around. There are so many AA.. and not enough NA.


Let me know what you think. I like reading what you have to say.