|Volume V||Number 2||July/August, 1998|
|"Shoemaker, stick to thy last!"||"Our common welfare should come first ..."|
Since some of the opinions printed in OPPF may be of a controversial nature and since full names are used [but edited out in the web edition], in accordance with our Tenth and Eleventh Traditions all views expressed in this publication are confidential and not for quotation outside the Fellowship.
OPPF is guided by a Newsletter Committee (Back to Basics) made up of interested and concerned members of our Fellowship. We hold business meetings as announced here in the newsletter.
Our next business meeting will be Saturday, September 5, 1998, at Dupars Restaurant, 75 W. Thousand Oaks Blvd., (west of Moorpark Road) in Thousand Oaks, CA. The meeting will start at 4:00 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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I want to thank everyone who has submitted material for publication in the newsletter. For the first time in recent history, we have more contributions than we can print in one issue. If you have submitted an article for publication, be patient. It will appear, sometimes sooner, sometimes later!
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The OPPF oversight committee, Back to Basics, is cooperating in a project to distribute free Big Books to inmates and others who are unable to obtain Big Books because of cost or other impediment. The project is an international action which is supported by Seventh Tradition funding.
Some time ago a project came to our attention which involved supplying Big Books to members of the Los Angeles Catholic Archdiocese for distribution through their Detentions Ministry. As time went on, the Big Book Study Group (Germany) was able to print a large number of Little Big Books for that purpose, and also to be made available to anyone who needs a Big Book and cannot obtain it.
This printing was made possible because AAWS lost the copyright to the First and Second Editions of the Big Book. So the first 164 pages, prefaces, forewords, and the Doctor's Opinion, along with the stories of the First and Second Editions, are now in the public domain.
The Little Big Book can be obtained by writing OPPF and asking for it, although we ask that books intended for distribution be requested in packages of twenty or more to keep down shipping costs.
In addition, the BBSG has also made available a new translation of the Big Book into Spanish. This is called "El Libro Azul" and is also being distributed through OPPF and the Detention Ministry free of charge. There is a considerable need for the Spanish version both in the California prison population and also in Mexico.
Because this work is financed solely by Seventh Tradition donations, any assistance would be appreciated. Like the newsletter itself, this project would be too costly to be borne financially by any single individual. Donations for these book distributions can be made directly to Back to Basics at the address at the end of this issue. Be sure to designate any donations to the book distribution fund or it will be accepted as a general donation to the newsletter.
Your contributions and support for this action will be greatly appreciated.
Jim H, Editor
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If this sounds like a strange question to ask, consider the amazing array of possibilities: Is the core of it Carrying the message, or Who carries the message, or What is the message to be carried, or To Whom the message should be carried, or some combination of these choices?
We raise the question because the focus of our articles has been changing through time. In the beginning it seemed that the most obvious problem was that our meetings seemed to have been invaded by people other than "real" alcoholics. Surely, singleness of purpose was the core of the problem!
If that indeed were the central problem, then the solution would involve an emphasis on the differences between alcoholism and addiction to "drugs." I enclose "drugs" in quotation marks because we understand the everyday, street term "drugs," rather than a medical or clinical definition of drugs. The invasion of addicts was surely the problem.
We reasoned that the weakening of our home groups might have been the result of that invasion. If that were the case, then getting the addicts out of our groups would be the solution of the problem.
It seemed clear to us that our various service organizations were catering to the addicts among us, were in fact being taken over by them in many cases, and had become financially dependent upon them. That would explain why we seemed to be getting so little support for what seemed to us a clear-cut issue of singleness of purpose.
We were certainly correct in identifying a problem and a link, but it now seems that our error was that we had not sufficiently identified the core of the problem apart from its manifestations. We had focused on the symptoms rather than on the center of the illness.
What was it in the development of the fellowship that caused or permitted the illness to develop? Exploring this aspect of the problem has been neither easy nor pleasant. We discovered that the dilution of our message began early in the history of the fellowship with the inclusion of the appendix on "Spiritual Experience" in the Big Book. In this regard, see the updated version of "Gresham's Law and Alcoholics Anonymous" on the Web at http://www.hopeandhealing.com/eguide5.htm. (Link updated 4/21/09) I would quote from it here, but it is now copyright protected and I haven't yet made any arrangements to use it.
That article in its earlier form struck us as a powerful explanation for the problems we were seeing today. The dilution of the original message was enough to enable AA to "reach out" to more alcoholics, but was also enough to permit weak AA to flourish. It wasn't the addicts who diluted our message at the outset, it was our own evangelists! The phenomenal growth of AA carried with it both financial and social rewards at the price of the integrity of the basic message.
So then it seemed that the problem must involve what message should be carried. However, given our earlier bent concerning addicts in the fellowship, we seem to have focused on singleness of purpose again rather than on a restatement of the basic spiritual message.
We have been asked why we take a critical attitude toward New York Headquarters AA (NYHQAA). At first it was because we couldn't understand why they seemed not to be supportive of the issue of singleness of purpose. As we continued to investigate that problem we noticed that NYHQAA seemed to be a part of the problem rather than a part of the solution.
We were puzzled, but gradually the picture began to come clear. NYHQAA is, in fact, reflecting the fellowship as it is today, warts and all. They are trying to serve two masters and they are fairing no better than others who have tried to go this spiritually deadly route.
The plain fact of spiritual history is that you cannot serve two masters. Either you serve the Spirit, God as we understood Him, or you serve Mammon. All spiritual teaching warns us against trying to ride two horses, to serve two masters, to mix the spiritual and the material, the holy and the profane. It has never been done before, and NYHQAA is certainly not doing it now.
One or the other will be dominant, will color everything. In AA the plain truth is that the material has come to dominate the spiritual in almost all matters involving both concerns. We get rationalization rather than reason.
In this respect NYHQAA is mirroring the fellowship as it is today. The sad fact is that the fellowship of today is sadly lacking in commitment to the spiritual. "Recovery" is going along splendidly without all the "God-stuff." Weak AA has triumphed materially at the level of corporate consciousness and is failing spiritually at the level of the group conscience.
The General Service Board, supposed to be the guardians of AA Tradition, is failing to protect the spiritual heritage of AA against the encroachments of material success. The business has taken over.
It doesn't really matter whether it is the book publishing business, the litigious business, or the convention-site-rebate-taking business. Decisions are now being made on the basis of business rather than of service to God. How are newcomers supposed to understand what's happening? Most of our old-time AA's either haven't fully grasped how bad the situation really is or they don't realize the significance of it.
"Either God is everything or else He is nothing. God either is, or He isn't." What will our choice be?
Jim H, Editor
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Have you ever heard a person refer to his higher power as a light bulb? The following piece was written by Clarence Snyder and can be found on the internet at lightbulb.htm/.
In their sincere and honest attempt to maintain a "hands-off" policy regarding fellow members' religious beliefs and perhaps sensitivities, our founding fathers exercised gentle wisdom and proffered spiritual freedom. No one, it was rightly thought, should be permitted to impose their own religious concepts and beliefs upon any other member of the fellowship. The area was much too important to the prospective recoveree to be tampered with by mortal man. The very life of the prospect depends, ultimately, upon his or her "personal relationship" with a "Power greater than themselves." The notion was valid in the Program's earlier days - and it still is!
In no way, shape or form, however, was the idea conceived to avoid guiding our beloved newcomer along the path of spiritual progress. Quite the contrary, our whole purpose as recovered alcoholics, was and is to help the next person achieve sobriety. If that person is a real alcoholic his only hope is God. So in its most basic and simplest terms our only real purpose is to help the still-suffering alcoholic to find God. A loving God, a healing God is the alcoholic's only real hope.
This is no easy task. A vast array of difficulties present themselves to thwart the new person on his journey. The foremost adversary, of course, is the illness itself. It seems that many, many alcoholics have a very fierce, emotionally charged resistance to accepting any dependency upon a Power which, to them, may seem an abstract and remotely distant concept. This internal resistance is most effectively broken down by the potential recoveree's initial desperation. (It seems such a shame that today's AA actually encourages the newcomer to avoid reaping the blessings of that desperation.) If intense enough and deep enough, this emotional "bottom" will be the very propellant the prospect needs to thrust him into the recovery process offered by AA through its 12 Steps.
Another stumbling block, which many people who are new to the program are currently encountering, is us! We seem to be full of fear as regarding the responsibility we have been given in the area of spiritual guidance. We shirk this responsibility by evasiveness or by the direct side-stepping of the issue by such statements as, "It's God as you understand Him, and it's up to you to come to your own conclusions." So the newcomer is left to his own devices. He is expected to arrive, alone and unguided, at a relationship with his Creator.
One of the most powerful and hope-filled statements to be found in the entire text of Alcoholics Anonymous can be found on page 25. "The great fact is just this, and nothing less: That we have had deep and effective spiritual experiences which have revolutionized our whole attitude toward life, toward our fellows and toward God's universe. The central fact of our lives today is the absolute certainty that our creator has entered into our hearts and lives in a way which is indeed miraculous. He has commenced to accomplish those things for us which we could never do for ourselves." Are we, today, so far removed from our founder's results of our recovery program that these words are nothing more than a "nice thought" or an exaggeration due to artificially elated emotions? If so, we "obviously cannot transmit something we don't have." We cannot share awareness we don't have. Cannot give guidance we have never gotten. We cannot share a vision of God we have never seen. Our lack, thereby, becomes the newcomer's and he may die because of it!
Our resistance becomes his license. In his liquor befogged mind he does not seek and experience God but begins to "create" one. It's no wonder his dryness becomes so barren that in a short while he returns to drink. His "Higher Power" was a light bulb! (No joke. We have heard this comment voiced more than once and not only by a newcomer!) Or perhaps this power greater than himself was a chair, or a wall, or even a mere mortal sponsor. A quick glance at the top of page 93 of the "Big Book" makes instantly clear a very important qualification in the concept of "...as you understand Him," and that is: "He can choose any conception he likes, PROVIDED IT MAKES SENSE TO HIM."
Power greater than himself - a light bulb? A simple flick of a switch turns off that power. A wall? Not so powerful when confronted with a bulldozer. A chair? An axe can make quick kindling of that higher power. A sponsor then? If he fails to perfect his spiritual life, his old foe alcohol is sure to reclaim him. So he won't do very well as a greater power. How about a whole group? Possibly for someone else, but not for us. If one person is powerless over alcohol, and another, and another, we would have a group of people who are powerless over alcohol. We do not have a group of people who ARE POWERFUL over alcohol. Yet they do not drink! They have gained access to something more powerful than alcohol.
It was never intended that phrases such as "higher power," "power greater than ourselves," or "as we understood Him" were created as an enabling device to justify our membership's continued avoidance of a connection with our Creator. Page 46 of the AA book says, "We found that as soon as we were able to lay aside prejudice and express even a willingness to believe in a Power greater than ourselves, we commenced to get results, even though it was impossible for any of us to fully define or comprehend that Power which is God." Again, "...that Power, which is God." Our founders apparently held no reservations, whatsoever, with Who was dealing with them. Perhaps, we would be well advised to think twice before we attempt any ourselves. Alcoholics Anonymous is not allied with any religion, as we well know. But it is allied with God, "for our very lives as ex-problem drinkers depend on it." It is allied with spirituality, for despite what our preamble states, AA is not a "fellowship," it is a spiritual way of life.
It is our most earnest desire that no one reading this feel that we are trying to impose any presentation of God of His nature on anyone. Our real hope is that a reader may be jolted from a position of complacency or spiritual evasion and get about the business of recovery.
We at RECOVER OR DIE take our committment to recovery seriously. We believe that the way of life as outlined in AA's Big Book is just as much of a suggestion as it is suggested to use a parachute when jumping out of a flying airplane.
We believe in a committment to sobriety, to a Home Group, to sponsorship and to helping other alcoholics achieve sobriety.
If you are an alcoholic, get AND read the Big Book - Get a sponsor - Join and support a Home Group. If you are unsure of these "suggestions," try jumping from the plane without a parachute.
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