|Volume IV||Number 6||June/July, 1997|
|"Shoemaker, stick to thy last!"||"Our common welfare should come first ..."|
OPPF is guided by a Newsletter Committee (Back to Basics) made up of interested and concerned members of our Fellowship. We hold regular monthly business meetings, usually on the last Friday of the month.
Our next business meeting will be Friday, July 25, 1997, at the La Mina Mexican Restaurant, 16060 Saticoy St., (at Woodley) in Van Nuys, CA. The meeting will start at 7:00 pm with an optional pre-meeting dinner at 6:00 pm.
Membership in the OPPF Newsletter Committee (Back to Basics) is open to all active members of the Fellowship who attend. We invite your support and participation!
Jim H, Editor
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Our policy is that anyone is free to copy and distribute the newsletter within the Fellowship. But "netiquette" prohibits "spamming" other groups with unsolicited materials. If you pass on the newsletter, please be sure to indicate you are doing the sending so that I don't receive complaints.
And thanks for helping spread our message.
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May an individual sign on? If so please count on me. I base my support on the information in your article as a summary but also I have read and pondered the voluminous material which circulated amongst the General Service community a few years ago regarding the scandalous law suits foisted on Section Mexico and others about copy rights and some spurious action of New York General Service Office in support of their publishing income as well as the dismissive and pre-emptive treatment of the votes of censure at G.S. Conference arising out of the international actions of GSO.
However as I see it there may be practical difficulties in a group here in the U.S. joining up in support without causing rifts amongst our membership and sowing confusion. Similarly or consequently my advocating group membership amongst the uninformed fellowship around me might only sow dissension. Do you have any suggestions in this regard?
Regarding the last article in your current issue (IV, 5) which you reprinted from THE OLD NEWS OF 1997, I agree with the thrust of the writer that we should be more active in presenting, even promoting the A.A. message, but I think he overstates his case and as such he neutralizes the value of it. The tradition says we favor attraction rather than promotion, and it does not say that we never advertise, present, or promote information about us and our purpose. We do need to do much more about telling our friends and neighbors in the community what we are about and what we can offer ... which is a great deal. There is mis-information out there and our fellowship is very remiss in not dealing with it. Our attempts at public information are terribly inadequate.
I blame the General Service Office in New York for much of this state of affairs. For over thirty years they have restricted expansion of the natural growth of Conference for fear (I suspect) of weakening their own control and their job security. Any attempt to expand is discouraged on the pretext of economy when we recovering alcoholics should know that God will provide what is needed if we take the action. If an adequate structure to service our communities was on the ground, out there, I believe that our members would see the service being performed locally and would respond accordingly. As of now they respond to G.S. by interpreting inactivity as irrelevant politicking, if they notice at all.
When I came into A.A. twenty-eight and a half years ago there were ninety delegate areas serving a membership of approximately a quarter million. Today there are about eight times that many members and only two areas added. The A.A. world outside of the U.S. and Canada has no vote at all in saying where A.A. is going or what we are about, but they are already three quarters of a million and very soon will outstrip the U.S. and Canada. They have simply got more room to expand and I predict that while we here in the U.S. may be reaching optimum, the rest of the world has got (metaphorically speaking) oceans of room to find members.
The terribly inept performance is tragic because we are dealing with life and death opportunities. We need a much better service structure in place to allow us to interface with one another and collectively with our community. Christ told the man who was freed of a legion of devils in the land of the Geresenes, "Go tell your friends the great things that God has done for you." Now I "am clothed and in my right mind;" I identify with him and take it personally.
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We are currently forming a section of groups to join with Section Mexico. Individuals who wish to join our "Back to Basics" group are welcome to do so. Our group will join with other groups that are generally in agreement with our basic position that A.A. is for alcoholics, that the spiritual principles of A.A. tradition are paramount, and that we are responsible only to a loving God as expressed in our group conscience.
If you are a member of a group that would like to join with us in a "Primary Purpose Section," please get in touch with me. When we have an established base, we will consider further action. The next international meeting has been set for 2001. Needless to say, there is much work to be done before then!
Sean's second question concerns rifts within groups. This is something that we all have long questioned. What will happen to A.A. unity if an alternative service entity is ever created? First of all, the rifts were already there; the Declaration of Mexico didn't cause them, it merely recognized them. The question is no longer, "What if," but "Now what?"
I don't pretend to know the answer to that one. I suspect that the answer to that question will be different for each of us. We are now entering that area we only used to think about. Our policy is to be inclusive. If rifts develop, they will be the result of those who oppose us. We oppose no one.
It seems to me that a service entity should exist to foster communication about such issues, among others. I invite our readership to contribute to that discussion. What are the long-range implications of the Declaration of Mexico? My own view is that it affords us an opportunity to redefine our concepts of service beyond our home groups. How can we retain the best of our past history while creating new avenues and avoiding old pot-holes?
Sean mentions public information work; surely that is an area that needs to be examined closely by those, like Sean, who are familiar with the past and with the limitations of our past policies. I think intergroup communication is a crucial issue to be examined and worked out.
The future holds much promise for us all. Changes in insurance company practices, new definitions of the "problem" by health care professionals, growing problems for longtimers in countries outside of the North American Conference. These all present us with new opportunities to carry the message of Alcoholics Anonymous. Let us not neglect our new opportunities.
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First of all I noticed that in two well attended meetings, one held in an Alano club and one in a church, not one person shared about using the 12-Steps or the Big Book as a tool for sobriety, although the Steps were read at the beginning of the meeting. Many people shared about going to meetings like the meetings were the entire program of A.A. A majority of those that shared mentioned their therapist and about two thirds of those that shared said they were taking anti-depressants like it was the fifteenth step of recovery.
A couple people shared about recently wanting to drink and both with 7 years. Another shared about getting drunk with 7 years and now he is back with anti-depressants too because the reason he drank was because of his untreated depression. I was starting to get depressed.
I shared toward the end of the second meeting that after about 30 arrests, a couple divorces, being homeless for several years, and contemplating suicide even after 9 months of A.A. meetings, I was a little depressed too. But the only medicine I took was the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous and it has worked miraculously well for almost 16 years now. I added that some of your outside solutions may work for you but I have no opinion on outside issues and if you feel you need something other than our program of recovery that is well and good but don't pretend it is A.A. Whether it is a positive or negative opinion, no opinion still means no opinion. Some folks got mad at me and I apologized for sharing my experience with A.A. at an A.A. meeting.
As I was contemplating seeking medical help for two real depressing meetings I decided to try the old way once more and called a fellow drunk who lived about an hour away from where I was staying. I drove down to visit Bob M. and his wife Gail and their son who was also in the program. We had a great meeting at their kitchen table with lots of coffee and diet cola till one o'clock in the morning. We shared about God, A.A., miracles, God-shot coincidences, gratitude, and our love for drunks.
I also found out that Bob and Gail went down to the first A.A. Conference of Seccion Mexico, and because I had just returned from the third Conference of the Mexico Section we found that we had much to talk about. To see, feel, touch, and experience the awesome power of God as he manifested through the group consciousness of at least eighteen thousand drunks who were gathered together in a soccer stadium for no other purpose than love, service, unity, and gratitude, was for me an overwhelming spiritual event. Bob and Gail were filled with joy that my experience was much the same as theirs when they had gone to Mexico. We both agreed that we have never experienced anything like it on that scale before.
I also shared about the first International Meeting of Seccion Mexico to include any section of A.A. in the world who wishes to join. An International Meeting made up of Sections of A.A. populations was preferred by all of us rather than the geographical boundaries of Countries, which is what led to the criminal litigations of Seccion Mexico in the first place. Because the change in Article Two of the Conference Charter (U.S. and Canada) the New York Headquarters of A.A. only allows for one service structure to be recognized in a country. Under such a rigid authoritarian "law" (now backed by the courts) groups like the Kurdish people, for example, could never have a recognized service structure or an "authorized" Big Book translation in their language because they reside in an area that covers three countries, Turkey, Iraq, and Iran. Not excluding any Section of A.A. on the basis of language, culture, race, religious, philosophical, or political differences we thought would better serve the A.A. principle of Unity.
We had much discussion on this and some issues were not settled so we agreed to keep it simple and see how it goes. It is much easier to add something latter if a problem arises than get rid of a hasty decision made without much reflection and a fully informed group conscience in which a loving God may express Himself.
After a warm farewell to a wonderful evening with these old A.A. friends whom I finally got to meet personally I returned to where I was staying for some sleep and in the morning drove to Maine to meet some other friends whom I also have never personally met.
I arrived at the home of Jake and Jude H. about five o'clock in the afternoon and we had another wonderful A.A. meeting at their kitchen table until about one in the morning. They both attended a Regional Forum of Seccion Mexico about two years ago and have had a deep and profound spiritual connection with them as we who have just returned have had. All these wonderful folks have had much experience with Service in A.A. and meeting with them was very informative to me. I just love the kitchen table A.A. meetings we had and it was sad to say goodbye to my new found old friends.
I drove back to my daughter's home town on the back roads through Maine. As I was driving through the beautiful Maine countryside of forest and lakes I reflected on all the friends I met from all over Mexico and from Israel, Germany, Guatemala, Hawaii and elsewhere who gratefully love Alcoholics Anonymous. Folks who understand and love the spiritual simplicity of one drunk to another. A couple drunks at a kitchen table with a Big Book, a cup of coffee, and our experience, strength and hope is the greatest gift God could have given this once hopeless alcoholic. An International Service entity whose only aim is to preserve that simplicity of our program for future drunks with no dues or fees and with no other affiliation, agenda, or business attached, feels real good.
For drunks who long for good old A.A. without all the frills, authority, business, diluted message, psycho-babble, etc., the good news is A.A. is very alive and well with Seccion Mexico. We have all learned a great deal and our lives have been touched and blessed through the connection with our fellow drunks in Mexico.
On page 160-161, the Big Book already has a pretty close description of our experience in Mexico: "The expression on the faces of the women, that indefinable something in the eyes of the men, the stimulating and electric atmosphere of the place, conspired to let him know that here was haven at last.
"The very practical approach to his problems, the absence of intolerance of any kind, the informality, the genuine democracy, the uncanny understanding which these people had were irresistible. He and his wife would leave elated by the thought of what they could now do for some stricken acquaintance and his family. They knew they had a host of new friends; it seemed they had known these strangers always. They had seen miracles, and one was to come to them. They had visioned the Great Reality - their loving and All Powerful Creator."
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