|Volume III||Number 2||February, 1996|
|"Shoemaker, stick to thy last!"||"Our common welfare should come first ..."|
OPPF is guided by a Newsletter Committee made up of interested and concerned members of our Fellowship. We meet quarterly in January, April, July and October on the last Friday of the month at 7:00 pm. Our Next quarterly meeting will be Friday, April 26th, 1996. We will be meeting at the La Mina Mexican Restaurant located at 16060 Saticoy St. (at Woodley) in Van Nuys, CA. The meeting starts at 7:00 pm with an optional pre-meeting dinner at 6:00 pm.
Membership in the Newsletter Committee is open to all active members of the Fellowship who attend. We invite your support and participation!
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"Our first duty, as a society, is to insure our own survival. Therefore we have to avoid distractions and multipurpose activity. An AA group, as such, cannot take on all the personal problems of its members. Sobriety -- freedom from alcohol -- through the teaching and practice of the Twelve Steps is the sole purpose of an AA group.
"We have to confine our membership to alcoholics, and we have to confine our AA 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."
The pamphlet, "Problems Other Than Alcohol"
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Our special workers must understand however, that when they pick up a phone and talk to a drunk, it is not part of their paid job. Drunks that work in the profession call it: "wearing two hats." It is important to keep what we do for a job separated physically, emotion ally, mentally, and spiritually from what we do as a member of Alcoholics Anonymous. It is very important to guard against "Affiliation...actual or implied," (Tradition 6). Some wear two hats quite well, while others have real problems with it. Understanding the miracle of our recovery in A.A. and why the Twelve Traditions keep the miracles alive in our groups, helps in wearing two hats.
Many of us have made 12-step calls on professionals who work in the field of alcoholism. Over and over again we hear a sobbing drunk across a kitchen table say, "but I work with drunks every day, how could I drink?" With a job, there is an identification with "I" and the position and title, for example, I am a counselor, I am a therapist, etc. Twelfth-step work within the fellowship carries a common bond, "I am a drunk like you." Our work is done with humility, the spiritual principle of anonymity. A professional can't say, "he may be helping us more than we are helping him."
If I sponsor a guy who works in the field of alcoholism, I suggest that he take a service commitment in A.A. separate from his job or the institution where he is employed. I also suggest that he spend more time with his recovery in A.A. than was necessary for him to be comfortable with in sobriety before he obtained that job. If you work with drunks for a living, you need more program, not less. Often the service commitments I suggest are things like taking panels into institutions, or answering phones at central offices, or any service commitment that allows him to talk with drunks as an A.A. member and at a specific time in which he is committed on an ongoing basis rather than only when the opportunity presents itself. Although I also suggest that he doesn't refuse to help when the opportunity does present itself to work with a drunk. I got sober in the old school with "never refuse an A.A. request unless it conflicts with another A.A. commitment."
Because A.A. is a spiritual program and the whole purpose is to find a "... Power greater than yourself that will solve your problem"(AA-45), and because we are "... suffering from an illness which only a spiritual experience will conquer"(AA-44), and since working with other alcoholics is a major part of the spiritual experience needed for our recovery, and also because no person can buy or sell a spiritual experience, our 12-step work is never to be paid for if we want to recover and help others.
Drunks such as I was don't have the foggiest idea what a spiritual or God experience is. Because of the number of wonderful experiences I have received in my life from the recovery program and the continuing awareness of a world I have never dreamed of, or could possibly understand, I try to leave myself open to the fact that I may still not understand it, in all of its possibilities and wonders. I simply know, in a way that is very difficult for someone outside these experiences to understand, that I would not have had them if I received pay for the work.
When I leave a County Jail after talking to some drunks and carrying the A.A. message, something wonderful happens which helps me stay sober. This wonderful thing that happens touches my entire life. "Many times I have gone to my old hospital in despair. On talking to a man there, I would be amazingly lifted up and set on my feet."(AA-15) "--this is an experience you must not miss."(AA-89) In Southern California it is called, the "HI from H&I." (For those of you in the rest of the country who may not be familiar with the term H&I, that is our Hospital and Institution Committee.) If I went to the same place, with the same Big Book and carried the same message for pay, I know I would not have the same experience that helps me stay sober. The miracle would be gone, and the message would be diluted.
There is a sad-to-say minority opinion, myself included, in Alcoholics Anonymous that outside book sales may not be good for the fellowship. Some of us feel that giving a Big Book to a newcomer is our usual 12-step work. When a paid employee working in a professional and/or for profit institution in the field of alcohol recovery, carries our message for us by re-selling or giving out our main text, Alcoholics Anonymous, to a drunk, then our message is not only being diluted, but it shows affiliation, actual or implied. The reason we carry our message has nothing whatsoever in common with the reason a professional institution for the treatment of alcoholism has for carrying their message.
It is wonderful that we make so much money for our General Service Office that it won't have to depend so much on God, but it may very well be destroying our spiritual heritage and dividing our fellowship.
If a treatment facility wants their clients to hear about A.A., then invite us in and we will be glad to bring a Big Book for their clients. Group donations to our local Hospital and Institution Committees are for Big Books and A.A. literature that we bring into the institutions. Following the Hughes Act in 1976, which made available Federal money for the treatment of alcoholism, G.S.O. divided the existing H&I committee to create a separate Treatment Facilities Committee. In Southern California, for practical reasons, we have chosen to keep it the way it was. The H&I Committee in Southern California which is made up of 23 autonomous Intergroup Committees, does "Contact Upon Release," (Bridging the Gap's Temporary Sponsorship) and "Treatment Facilities", and "Corrections," (and occasionally some "P.I." and C.P.C. work too, if requested) all joined together in brotherly and harmonious action, as we have been doing since the nineteen forties before we had a hundred committees to do all of our specialized 12-step work.
If we carried the message to the institutions with A.A. literature and Big Books, then our service committees could buy them from our Central Office Intergroups, which would help them keep our 12-step telephone lines going without them having to sell non-Conference approved materials and other drunk junk, which also affects our spiritual heritage. Some of us disagree with our Trusted Servants in New York who say, "It doesn't matter how the message is carried."
The Big Book does mention doctors, employers, and wives giving our book to a drunk, but I think the motivation for such an action was intended, as it was written, to be unselfishly helpful, not for profit making. Unfortunately we will never know how our founders felt about such for-profit alcoholism Treatment Facilities because there were only a few scattered around for Bill, the longest living co-founder, to witness after the AMA classified alcoholism as a treatable disease. All of Bill's writing on the subject was before the Hughes Act made treatment centers spring up like Seven- Elevens across the land. It is funny that before the Hughes Act and the accepting of alcoholism as a disease, (for how could you charge for treating something that isn't a disease) everyone said there was nothing they could do for us, but after money was involved everyone had a treatment they would gladly give us for a small fortune.
Some of our alcoholic members were resentful and had to justify getting duped when we told them our recovery only cost four dollars and twenty five cents, if we chose not to steal a book. Hospitals can be helpful with detox, but there is no way a paid person can deliver our message to a real alcoholic and help him or her. Our members who went through an expensive program to get to us should not feel better or worse than the rest of us. We all got here from doing stupid stuff. The hard thing is to leave the professional recovery methods, practices, theories, and philosophies out of our fellowship, for that also contributes to the dilution of our message.
A few years ago I would not have mentioned these opinions within the fellowship, about what I consider to be an outside issue. But when G.S.O. makes a decision based on an outside event like the Hughes Act, and when outside book sales become the mainstay of our General Service Office, and when new committees are established (Bridging the Gap) to address a problem we didn't create aimed only at drunks coming into the fellowship from a single source, Treatment Facilities, and are targeted for special help, then I must say it is no longer an outside issue. And when Treatment Facility language enters our literature, that is not an outside issue either.
It has never even been explained to me what gap "Bridging the Gap" is trying to bridge. A drunk who comes to my home group is offered the exact same thing, no matter where he comes from or how he got here. Likewise, I am willing to help any drunk that reaches out for help from a hospital, prison, motel, mansion, corporate headquarters, or the street. That is what A.A. is, not big business, specialized committee 12-step work, good management, fancy conventions, or any other sidetracks. Alcoholics Anonymous is simply one drunk helping another, and our 12-step work is never to be paid for.
Let's keep it simple, and get back to basics.
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The OPPF workshop committee is putting on a one-hour presentation for the Three Legacies Group on Saturday, Feb 24, 1996, at the 31st Church of Christ Science, 3525 Glenhurst Ave (near Glendale Blvd), Los Angeles (Atwater Village), at 8:00 pm. For details contact Ronnie M., (213) 481- 7332.
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Members of the OPPF advisory group are available to put on Singleness of Purpose Workshops (by this or any other name) for individual groups, districts, intergroups, conventions, round-ups, or whatever other AA gatherings.
We have just re-worked our format to permit us to put on a version of our presentation that will fit into the format of a speaker meeting: our presentation will fit into a one-hour time slot available at a regular AA meeting.
For further information, please contact Doug B. at Side Strider, 818-780-5542.
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There will be a presentation by the Primary Purpose Newsgroup Committee on Sunday, February 25, 1996, at the Alano Club of the Desert in Palm Springs, California. The workshop topic will be "Our Common Bond" and will be from 1:00 to 3:00 PM.
The address is 463 Dominguez, Palm Springs. Arrangements for the workshop are being handled by Don N., (619) 327- 7919.
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I want to thank all of you who have so generously contributed to the support of Our Primary Purpose Forum. Your continued support in January has enabled us to maintain our normal operating reserve in spite of a dramatic increase in distribution, permitting us to continue publishing on a non-subscription basis.
At present our cost is about seventy-five cents per copy, based on a distribution of 500 copies. As our readership list expands the cost per mailed copy will continue to drop. In the very beginning our costs were about $1.50 per mailed copy. That means a donation of $9.00 now will meet costs for one person per year.
The idea of emailing the newsletter could bring down costs even further. Please see the article below.
Remember, however, that only a small percentage of those receiving the newsletter are contributing.
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GSO has a list of online meetings, available on request. I haven't yet requested it, but I think I will before too long. There are several which have been mentioned on the alt.recovery.aa newsgroup and perhaps in a coming issue we will make available the names of those meetings. They range from live, interactive chat meetings to closed e-mail groups. And the newsgroup, which is where I fish for tidbits on a daily basis. This last month I found a very interesting post from which the author, email@example.com, gave approval to excerpt the following passages:
I become a "bleeding deacon" when I listen to the stories of people who are going in and out, without a clue as to why, to people whose lives don't work, according to them, and they are not aware of the wonderful tools available to them. My seldom resisted instinct is to share with them what I have learned. That AA is not a religious program, that GOD is god, that most of what is said at meetings has nothing or very little to do with the program. I grant you that I have not attended all the meetings there are, but in my first 12 years I attended a lot of them and on this trip I have attended meetings in two different communities, and what they are talking about is a bastardized version of the program of Alcoholics Anonymous.
The primary reason for my concern is that based upon what they are saying about their lives, the "program" that they are using is not working. I'm seeing newcomers leave meetings because people who should know better are sharing, almost forcing their religious beliefs on the group. It's left to "deacons" like me to either talk about the program and risk the wrath of some in attendance or keep quiet and watch the newcomer leave or someone else go out because they couldn't find anyone to set them on the path of a program that works.
Those that say that AA is fine and that the fellowship is working, I believe, are mistaking the warm fuzzies that can come from a meeting as being the program. Those warm fuzzies and pink clouds will not, in my experience, keep anyone sober when it gets to crunch time.
What's the answer? For me, it's more meetings, not because I need them, but to share what I have learned. That there is an absolute way to recovery from this disease. That the program I espouse is logic based and does not need a re-write. That it worked and is working for me. Maybe my efforts will keep just one from having to experiment further.
The newsgroup seems to me to be a very useful device for the exchange of ideas and points of view. One of my early visions of this newsletter was to be a forum for the discussion of issues such as Singleness of Purpose. My experience with the a.r.aa newsgroup has convinced me that it was wise to avoid those discussions here. I will continue to give some highlights of what they have to say, but discussions of AA's primary purpose are doomed to the repetition of all the arguments we have all heard from those who seem not to care about the Traditions, history, and future of our fellowship of drunks.
By the way, the author of the passages above quoted asked if I post the newsletter electronically. I said I'd give it a try, so he will be our first email reader. If any others would like to receive OPPF via email rather than through snail mail, let me know. Email looks to be a lot cheaper than regular publishing and mailing. Just no frills.
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The time for the Annual Conference is fast approaching again. There are some things to keep in mind this year. The question of a Fourth Edition of the Big Book will be brought up again, this time for revision of the stories only. Although the last conference decided not to change the first 164 pages, no conference decision is binding on any future conference -- so that decision could be reversed, however unlikely that may seem today. So:
There is an item to change the status of the first 164 pages, Dr. Bob's story, the prefaces and the forwards, including The Doctor's Opinion, to that of the Steps and Traditions -- virtually cast in stone. I'm all for it! Let's not let a wave of political correctness threaten our basic text, which is really a history of the beginnings of our society and therefore should never be revised under any circumstances.
Secondly, the threat of more drug-oriented stories is a very real one. The issue of "making the story section more adequately reflect our current membership" is still a hot one. Many of our readers have voiced complaints about Dr. Paul's story and wish to see it removed from future editions. In fact, some of our readers have literally cut the story out of their books and returned it (the story) to New York with a note explaining that this represents their version of a revised text!
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