|Volume III||Number 5||May, 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 have business meetings quarterly in January, April, July, and October. In between business meetings we meet informally once a month.
Our next informal discussion meeting will be 11:00 am Sunday, May 26th at the La Mina Mexican Restaurant, 16060 Saticoy St., Van Nuys, CA.
Our next business meeting will be Friday, July 26th, 1996. We wail again 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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Tradition 9 starts with the group. "Each A.A. group needs the least possible organization. Rotating leadership is best." Now if the groups really run A.A., as I was told when I was new to the fellowship and which is also implied by the chart of our service structure, then why do so many groups and members have a hard time getting information from our service entities in New York? I have a couple of pounds of letters from members, groups, delegates, past delegates, etc., asking questions to our various service entities in New York. A few letters of inquiry get answered with a run around diatribe of evasive rhetoric. There are some staff members and Trustees who try to answer our questions, but it seems some of them have a tough time securing information themselves on certain issues; nevertheless, some of them have been very helpful.
Many questions have been asked such as this one from a Delegate: What is this entity on the literature order forms that we write our check out to: World Service Inc.? Is it a separate corporation? Is it different from AAWS Inc.?
Another example of unanswered questions after three letters to our Service Director from a past Delegate: Who is the legal counsel for G.S.O. or AAWS Inc.? To whom can the fellowship address any questions concerning our copyrights, trademarks, etc.? Did we lose the copyrights to the Twelve Steps?
And this one from a group: Who and what guidelines are used for listing groups in the 'Special International Contacts' section of the International Directory?
Here is one I have been asking for over five years now without a answer: In regards to 'Bridging the Gap,'why do we, within the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous, have the need to fix a problem that was created well outside of A.A. by professional profit making entities? If we hold to our Traditions, and our recovery program, and our singleness of purpose how do we create a 'Gap' we need to 'Bridge?'
Another question asked by many throughout the fellowship: If problems of money, property, and authority can easily divert us from our primary spiritual aim, then why can't A.A. groups anywhere in the world break away from their service entities and form a new entity -- within our Traditions -- if they see their spiritual aim being interfered with? If they can print literature and books and sell them at cost and improve their service responsibilities, is this not God's will?
Whoever is in control of the information to the groups is actually in control of the groups, for how can the groups reach an informed group conscience if they are not informed?
In my Area we have one Delegate to represent nearly two thousand registered groups, and many intergroup services. In New York we have people who can have a staff position and have a seat at the Conference. They then can be on the Board of Directors of one of our Inc's (I don't know how long, as I can't find it in the Service Manual 90-91), and continue to have a voice at the Conference. Then they could be a Trustee and continue having a voice at the Conference.
Then we have some confusing contradictions as to authority in our fellowship. We don't want our leaders to govern, but we don't want them to just represent the group conscience of the fellowship either. We want them to lead, as stated in the third Concept, but we say the groups run A.A. The groups give them authority but they are discouraged from taking it back, sometimes even by criminal litigation, as in Mexico. Our service entities in New York are our servants but we can't get information from them. Either we need representatives to represent or we need leaders to lead, but now we have representatives who want to be leaders and leaders who hide from accountability for their decisions.
The deal made between the groups and the Alcoholic Foundation for the fellowship bail-out of the debt of the Big Book was that, after the debts were paid, the Alcoholic Foundation would sell the Big Book at cost and lower the price to $1.00. The debt was paid off by 1944 and the groups never saw the one dollar Big Book. To this day the Book costs $1.35 to print and the 'at cost' book has never materialized.
On page S130 in the Service Manual in 1986 it again reiterated the concerns of the groups and the Service Board to have a Big Book at cost and also to work toward primary support for G.S.O. by contributions of the membership. In the last 10 years the cost of the Big Book went up, and G.S.O. support by outside Book sales has increased even higher. Do the groups really run A.A.?
The Trustees are "...the custodians of our A.A. Tradition." I know we have had and now have many Trustees that mean well and have dedicated a major part of their lives in service to Alcoholics Anonymous, so I hope you understand that this is not about personalities but life- saving principles. My life and the lives of my fellow alcoholics are dependent on adhering to the Traditions for ourselves and our groups. Every single problem in Alcoholics Anonymous from the groups to the Conference is directly related to straying from our Traditions. When we stray from the Traditions we die. For the Traditions are the safeguards which protect the healing Power of a loving God which flows into our groups from selfish misuse. It is hard for me to trust any one small group to be the custodian of something my life depends on, especially after reading some of the recent literature that has been approved for print these last few years.
Maybe the qualifications for Trustees listed in the Service Manual, such as business or professional background, should be changed to someone with familiarity and experience that better reflects the upside-down organizational needs of our fellowship. Experience with outside business and social organization won't help here. Need I remind anyone that there is a difference between a 'fellowship' and a 'follow-ship.'
One line in Tradition 9 begins with: "They are authorized by the groups..." If the groups give our Trustees authority then the groups can take the authority back. But most of the groups in our fellowship have long stepped away from their responsibilities. Most groups don't even plug into the 'whole' by sending a group representative to the District or Area. Many of our groups and members are like the farmer on page 82 in the Big Book, "Don't see anything the matter here, Ma. Ain't it grand the wind stopped blowin'?"
If we are having problems, it is not the fault of our service folks in New York. Many of them are trying to address the problems in A.A. simply because the groups are not. If we force our trusted servants to come up with the solutions to our problems then we might as well form a corporation and hire bosses to run it. What many of our members don't seem to understand is that the responsibility has to be ours.
Many groups and members, like you who will most likely be reading this, have started the 12-Step call on A.A. in your home groups and local A.A. communities. It is a program of attraction, and I hope real alcoholics will be attracted to your groups. Many of you, if you are not already a member of a solid, down home, older A.A. group, have started new back to basics, keep it simple, singleness of purpose, one drunk to another, uphold the Traditions, A.A. groups. In time and with God's help I think we will be around to help the drunk who has yet to walk in the door.
Do you remember the first time that you read the Lasker Award? "Historians may one day recognize Alcoholics Anonymous to have been a great venture in social action; a new therapy based on the kinship of common suffering; one having vast a potential for the myriad other ills of mankind." (page 573, Alcoholics Anonymous)
What we have found in here, the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous, might help some ills out there, but we must not take the ills from out there and pretend they might help in here. We must let go of old ideas from out there and try to remember the God idea that has been here since the beginning. I know it works. Without the members taking responsibility at the group level, our future history will record: A.A. almost came of age.
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I've been sober in AA for over 10 years and have certainly seen many of the changes in meetings and members that your Forum talks about. I haven't seen many changes in AA as such, however. I still get my strength and hope from the 12 Steps, the 12 Traditions, attending Area Assemblies, AA Conventions, the Concepts and service work, etc. I can choose which meetings to attend, and which not to attend. I try to practice the 10th and 12th Steps, especially with regard to one of my shortcomings - the lack of Tolerance and Compassion for others. I also try to remember that 99% of what happens out there is none of my business. I am not in control.
The 3rd and 5th Traditions are quite clear to me. The 10th Tradition is also clear, and I think you'll agree that many of the subjects mentioned in the Newsletter are outside issues. If I, and others who have received the blessing of AA for awhile will abide by these Traditions, and by our example and voice in meetings calmly uphold them, I think that the Higher Power will take care of things in His own way and time. He certainly doesn't need my help.
Perhaps I missed it, but I don't see anything in your Forum about working with our trusted servants in local AA or GSO with regard to the subject matter contained in the Newsletter. These topics are hardly news to them, as well you know. Maybe a larger forum from within may be more useful in addressing these issues.
With best wishes for sobriety, peace, and serenity,
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But not all of the problems that we have become aware of are equally evident all over the country, or the world. Our next issue will contain a questionnaire which we are designing to get input from our readers about how they see the present and future of AA. We need your help to make OPPF more timely and relevant to our Fellowship.
In addition, we will be asking you for positive feedback on the usefulness of OPPF to you in your sobriety. As noted in our recent notices on finances, your contributions have not been keeping pace with our expenses. We will soon be forced to begin paring down our mailing list to those who express a desire to continue receiving the newsletter.
Along with Jim A's letter from our March 1996 issue, we are concerned that our readers are not responding to our articles in anything like the volume we had hoped for. We are not getting a wide variety of feedback from our observa tions. Either we are accurately representing the views of our 450 readers, or we are dealing with issues that our readers don't care about. Or, as I feel may be the case, we are dealing with issues about which our readers may not have adequate information with which to come to an informed judgement. We hope to develop ways of dealing with this deficiency in the not-too-distant future. But WE DO NEED YOUR INPUT. And thanks again to the many of you who have taken the time to send messages of your support along to us.
Another concern that Peter's letter raises is what he calls "outside issues." I really don't think there is much in OPPF that deals with anything outside the Fellowship, except as such issues pertain to problems which have subsequently been created within the Fellowship. But the upcoming questionnaire will help us get your perspective on such matters.
I don't know how long Peter has been a reader of OPPF, but we have devoted a large part of our efforts to considerations of how members can address all of these issues through their home groups. In fact, one of our main goals has been to encourage a return to the concept of home groups which we see as the only real answer to the drift of our Fellowship.
One of the major problems we have encountered is the lack of information we have been able to get from our trusted servants at any and all levels of service. Nearly all of our committee members have been GSRs at one time or another, and many of us have had other General Service commitments at the district and area levels, along with Central Office experience. We don't lack for service experience, but we often do lack information. That's a major part of our problem. If you have information which we lack on issues that we raise, please let us know what it is and where we can find it. We can publish only what we know.
When Peter says, "If I, and others who have received the blessing of AA for awhile will abide by these Traditions, and by our example and voice in meetings calmly uphold them, I think that the Higher Power will take care of things in His own way and time. He certainly doesn't need my help," he has hit on one of the recurring themes of reader response: namely, that God will take care of things.
First of all, the IF part of the statement is a BIG one. That's clearly a part of our message, "Let's abide by Tradition and require our Trusted Servants to do likewise." As for the last part, I know that my higher power works through people who are willing to be His channel. That means that He certainly may use my help regardless of His need for it. Need I describe the benefits I derive from being His channel?
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We also have a format that will fit into a one-hour time slot available within a regular AA meeting.
For further information, please contact Doug B. at Side Strider, 818-780-5542.
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We want to insure subscription-free publication, but it is difficult to guarantee for any extended period. We don't even have an adequate operating reserve, and we need a prudent reserve to insure free distribution to those who can't afford to help out financially.
A donation of $9.00 now meets cost for one person per year. Our actual readership list is hovering around the 450 mark, but we are basing our figures on a readership of 500.
Emailing the newsletter could bring down costs even further. If you are interested in receiving the email version, please email me at (updated 2001:) (obsolete -4/20/09) . Our email list is only at 8 right now, so it is still difficult to tell how electronic publication will eventually impact our costs.
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The "alt.recovery.aa" newsgroup on the internet is a fun place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there. I see issues thrashed to death there -- sometimes very significant issues -- without any sort of responsible resolution of them. It is a vast arena (circus?) of contending points of view. Though occasionally it descends into trivial personality clashes, often it allows discussion of matters of vital concern to the Fellowship: Singleness of Purpose, Anonymity on the Internet, Atheists in Recovery, or Should AA Drop the Lord's Prayer?
I believe these discussions are healthy because they allow any and all points of view to be heard, but it is frustrating because it mirrors all of the ills we find in so many of our groups -- or meetings.
Here is a newsgroup posting that takes a critical look at the last General Service Conference. I get this far ahead of any report from my Delegate. I think you won't find this in the Grapevine or in the Conference Report!
Subject: Re: Grapevine Article
From: catlin77@... (Catlin77)
Date: 6 May 1996 03:49:38 -0400
Re: Grapevine Article
On Date: 5 May 1996, J<SNIP>net wrote:
>question: 1.) where do you get the $700,000 figure? [Cost of the 1996 General Service
> 2.) what 'wing-dings' are you talking about?
> 3.) what 'real' issues are not being addressed?
>just thought i'd ask.
Hey, J ... the over $700,000 figure can be found in just about any AAWS Financial Statement...think it might be included in the Final Conference Reports, too.
The wing-ding I was referring to is the year meeting, in New York, of the General Service Conference, in April.
Real issues that weren't addressed...? This should be 'tackled' at another time, and will be, but some quickie Conference observations we might want to look at is why no Advisory Actions out of Literature??? Good Lord, they pushed everything forward, *again!* A prime example is the 4th Edition of the Big Book...this is the second year in a row that literature has been afraid, yes, afraid, to tackle this which is totally ridiculous considering all the back ground from the Fellowship they had on this issue! I also heard tell that the Conference doesn't think the Third Legacy Procedure is very important (God, hope I'm wrong on *this*!) Seems that it was brought to the attention of those attending the election that a 2/3rds vote had not been obtained on the first ballot as was first thought...hey, didn't make much difference to them, guess only the Areas are suppose to use the true Third Legacy Procedure; Conference is above that! One great way the Conference now has to stop any debate on 'controversial' issues is to call the question (maybe the Delegates can share this cute trick with their Areas)...with a 'sigh' of relief, the Conference has found a way to not have to thoroughly debate an issue, any issue....The Conference refused to discuss the issues of whether or not we are a Spiritual movement (by way of not debating issues which spiritual affect our Fellowship) and then had the nerve to vote in "Spirituality...Our Foundation" as the theme of next year's Conference. Time and again, they looked at issues and could not see the spiritual principles behind them...thus, refusing to confront them....much, much more to come on this just past General Service Conference. But one thing I will push, in my meager way, is the Power of the Purse. Enough is enough. The Conferences have become a place where a few elite can go and be pampered and coddled, with visions of future Trusteeship dancing in their heads, by AAWS (who, after all really *runs* the Conference). Most don't have the foggiest idea of how they are acting for AA as a whole nor the ability to see the reflections of the spiritual base of the Concepts and Warranties and whether or not they relate to current business practices enforced by AAWS. We have a Conference which is totally into personalities instead of principles; the question isn't 'what is the agenda item presented before a committee' but '*who* is presenting that agenda item'! I don't have any idea what others will chose to do but I, for one, will no longer support a group which supports GSO...Until we can elect Delegates who have the very best of AA at heart, instead of their own 'pay-off' trip to New York, 'cause they worked so hard to get there and its their reward....I'll be damn if any of my contributions go up there to support that AAWS fiasco. More about this Conference shall surface and I'm sure when the Final Conference Report comes out, there will be many shaking their heads, too, wondering on *what* the over $700,000 was spent for.
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Recently I had the privilege of attending the 50th Anniversary of Alcoholics Anonymous in Ireland. It was with great delight to be a part of their celebration. As I understand Alcoholics Anonymous it is alive and doing very well. The time I was there I participated in a few meetings and I never heard a word of anything other than our primary purpose.
The Irish people are great people, very hospitable and have AA as we know Bill & Dr. Bob gave it to us. For the scared country boy I was when I got to Alcoholics Anonymous I must say that FEAR tried its best to creep in, because here I am in a foreign country and don't know anyone, but the Irish people made me feel right at home. I could feel the love and believe me I basked in every minute of it.
Had I been asked in my early sobriety to make a list of what I want this program to do for me, other than sobriety, I would've never said I want a passport to travel to any European country. As indicated in the 12 Promises I know very well, today, that God can and will do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. For the first couple of days my physical strength was so extremely weak that I stayed in the Hotel in prayer and meditation because I knew FEAR was a part of it. The last few days was as well, but in between, aside from the gift of life, this is the most gratifying experience this drunk could've ever experienced. In a drunken stupor I would've never tried that. I am very happy for the oldtimers of my day and of the present, and of course the grace of God and the miracle of AA for it all.
Thanks to all of the new people I met, several from the local area and other parts of California, Canada, and St. Thomas, USVI. I certainly am anticipating the reunion that one of the ladies is planning for a future date, hopefully soon. May I share with the newcomer who has a desire to stop drinking and to help another alcoholic to achieve sobriety, WELCOME! Come aboard, get you a sponsor, find a home group and get into service as it is my experience that God could and would if sought.
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