Friday, October 17, 2008


I read an interesting talk by Bob Pearson who was General Manager of the AA General Service Office from 1974 to 1984, and then served as Senior Advisor to the G.S.O. from 1985 until his retirement. During the 1986 General Service Conference, Mr. Pearson made these interesting comments:

"Let me offer my thoughts about A.A.'s future. I have no truck with those bleeding deacons who decry every change and view the state of the Fellowship with pessimism and alarm. On the contrary, from my nearly quarter-century's perspective, I see A.A. as larger, healthier, more dynamic, faster growing, more global, more service-minded, more back-to-basics, and more spiritual -- by far -- than when I came through the doors of my first meeting .......A.A. has flourished beyond the wildest dreams of founding members, though perhaps not of Bill himself, for he was truly visionary.

I echo those who feel that if this Fellowship ever falters or fails, it will not be because of any outside cause. No, it will not be because of treatment centers or professionals in the field, or non-Conference-approved literature, or young people, or the dually-addicted, or even the "druggies" trying to come to our closed meetings. If we stick close to our Traditions, Concepts, and Warranties, and if we keep an open mind and an open heart, we can deal with these and any other problems that we have or ever will have. If we ever falter and fail, it will be simply because of us. It will be because we can't control our own egos or get along well enough with each other. It will be because we have too much fear and rigidity and not enough trust and common sense.

If you were to ask me what is the greatest danger facing A.A. today, I would have to answer: the growing rigidity -- the increasing demand for absolute answers to nit-picking questions; pressure for G.S.O. to "enforce" our Traditions; screening alcoholics at closed meetings; prohibiting non-Conference-approved literature, i.e., "banning books"; laying more and more rules on groups and members. And in this trend toward rigidity, we are drifting farther and farther away from our co- founders."

I attend several meetings in which there appears to be a "melding" of the fellowships of AA and Al-Anon. This isn't something that's intentional but happens because there are so many AA members who attend these Al-Anon meetings. There is frequent mention of the "other" fellowship, quoting from non-CAL literature, and so on.

Maybe I was just irritable at the meeting the other night. The person who had the topic showed up 25 minutes late, so the person chairing came up with a topic that included information from the Big Book. Then another lady came over from AA and brought her entire McDonald's super-sized meal and ate it during the meeting. It just seemed that the primary focus wasn't on Al-Anon.

I second guess myself all the time on my "rigidity". I like to play by the rules (=Traditions). And I bring to the meeting an attitude of respect for our singleness of purpose. But maybe it's time for me to just turn this over, put it in my God box, and quit taking the group's inventory.


  1. If it's a common problem that the meeting gets disrupted, I'd quit going there. If normally things are not that way, well, shit happens.

  2. I bought my first 12 step book this afternoon at my meeting - and this meeting is amazing and meets Tuesday and Friday. Nothing like what I had been to in the past. I am thrilled.

  3. I thought your post was very thought-provoking. Loved the excerpt from Bob Pearson. I'll have to think about it.

    I would have said, "Pass the fries, please". :)

  4. I've been to meetings where people are, in my opinion, getting too caught up in the "rules" and also meetings that are too "lax". They both have their ways of disrupting things. I tend to like the middle way.

  5. Good reminder for me as I head to our District meeting today. This will be our new groups first time that we have had an GR to send to the DM. Our little group started April 3 and we just got back our packet from WSO with our group number. I am not a rigid person by nature but do believe that if we do not remember the 1st Tradition, our groups will become anything BUT Alanon. thanks for the reminder.

  6. maybe you were just irritable, but if this happens often, maybe you weren't just irritable and something needs to change?!

  7. I think it is up to us, as responsible members of our fellowships, to reign things in. The guy in 1989 might not have agreed, but I think we need to be responsible for the survival of our beautiful programs.

  8. I say, take a step back and view the entire picture.

  9. I really like those 3 paragraphs by Mr Pearson.

  10. Syd, I don't totally follow. What does he mean druggies coming to closed meetings? They don't want drug addicts coming to an AA meeting?

    The super-sized meal would annoy me too. One guy comes in with a McDonald's ice cream cone and I tease I want to go get one Bob. ;-)

    Aren't AA and Alanon so intertwined? And isn't that a good thing? I feel I have alot of respect for AA and thank God for it since that is where we get all of our Alanon structure from.

    Thanks so much for your comments by the way. They are so appreciated. (How do you keep up with so many blogs? I am flunking that right now and have neglected some of my followers.)

  11. I think it's ok for some meetings to be whatever hybridthat comes out naturally from the group. There can always be another group for those who like things in a different configuration. Enforcing all AA type programs to conform to one accepted format that someone deems best is too rigid imho. In fact, I believe one of traditions talks about the fallacy in this. I also think it smacks of fear of change, something we in recovery are supposed to embrace when it makes room from growth.

    The person eating a meal? Disrespectful.

  12. From Dr. Paul's chapter in the AA Big Book (member of both AA and Alanon)
    "I can do the same thing with an AA meeting. The more I focus my mind on it's defects – late start, long drunk a log, cigarette smoke – the worse the meeting becomes. But when I try to see what I can add to the meeting, rather than what I can get out of it, and when I focus my mind on what's good about it, rather than what's wrong with it, the meeting keeps getting better and better. When I focus on what's good today, I have a good day, and when I focus on what's bad, I have a bad day. If I focus on the problem, the problem increases; if I focus on the answer, the answer increases." and page 420: "Perhaps the best thing of all for me is to remember that my serenity is inversely proportional to my expectations. The higher my expectations the lower is my serenity. I can watch my serenity level rise when I discard my expectations."


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