“Our Twelfth Step – carrying this message – is the basic service that the A.A. Fellowship gives; this is our principal aim and the main reason for our existence. Therefore, A.A. is more than a set of principles; it is a society for alcoholics in action. We must carry the message, else we ourselves can wither and those who haven’t been given the truth may die.”
The A.A. Service Manual, “A.A.’s Legacy of Service” p. 51
Members of PI/CPC committees across the nations inform the public, professionals, and future professionals about AA – what we are, what we can do, and what we cannot do. They attempt to establish better communication between AA’s and these entities and to find simple, effective ways of cooperating without affiliating. Cooperating with the nonalcoholic public, both lay and professional, is a very effective way of carrying the message to the sick alcoholic. Through such, alcoholics may be reached who might otherwise never find our program, or they may be reached sooner with the help of informed non-AAs. A sample list of those we might approach or be approached by include but are not limited to: armed forces officers, athletic coaches, corrections officers, court officials, educators or employee assistance programs, health care professionals (physicians, nurses, psychologists) and those students in training, clergy, judges, juvenile services, law effacement, lawyers, probation and parole officers, public health officials and social workers.
Many of these individuals often encounter the suffering alcoholic, and despite public awareness, many
History shows clearly how cooperation with the professional community has been an integral part of the Fellowship since our beginnings. Alcoholics Anonymous might never have gotten off the ground, or progress would have been much slower, without the help of non-alcoholics such as Dr. Silkworth, Sister Ignatia, and the Reverend Sam Shoemaker (as demonstrated by the inclusion of their involvement in our literature.)
Singleness of Purpose
The Singleness of Purpose statement has been added to AA pamphlets intended to share information about AA with professionals and the public. Many refer to alcoholism and drug addiction as “substance abuse” or “chemical dependency.” Non-alcoholics are often introduced to AA and encouraged to attend our meetings. Open meetings are just that – open to all, including
AA’s Third Tradition – “The only requirement for A.A. membership is a desire to stop drinking.”
AA’s Fifth Tradition – “Each group has but one primary purpose – to carry its message to the alcoholic who still suffers.”
When delivering the message and information about Alcoholics Anonymous, it is important and essential to be guided by the 12 Traditions and our Preamble which states:
“Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they might solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism. The only requirement for A.A. membership is a desire to stop drinking. There are no dues or fees for A.A. membership; we are self-supporting through our own contributions. A.A. is not allied with any sect, denomination, politics, organization or institution; does not wish to engage in any controversy, neither endorse nor opposes any causes. Our primary purpose is to stay sober and to help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety.”
These tenets are adopted by all of us as the basis for AA’s expanding “internal” and public relationships. In light of such, individuals take certain precautions when speaking at gatherings of non-alcoholics:
- While representing AA, when telling your individual story, one recognizes that they speak only for themselves and not AA as a whole.
- Clarify the Tradition of Anonymity with the people arranging the meeting.
- Assure that if publicity is involved, caution is taken to not to link the AA name with the activities of other agencies.
Who is qualified?
Members speaking at non-AA gatherings carry significant responsibility. Even with careful clarification that they are not speaking for AA as a whole, members of their respective audience will formulate good or bad opinions of AA based on what is said and how it is said. Needless to say, the reaction by non-alcoholic listeners and the message they consequently
What to talk about?
In addition to utilizing one’s own experience and the knowledge obtained from other individuals’ experiences, members while preparing to and in speaking to groups of non-A.A.’s can rely on a wide breadth of A.A. approved resources. Some pamphlets available from and approved by the General Service Office which are recommended as a resource include:
- “Speaking at Non-A.A. Meetings”
- “Frequently Asked Questions About A.A.”
- “A.A. Membership Survey” (I find especially useful)
- “Understanding Anonymity”
- “If You Are a Professional”
- “A Brief Guide to A.A.”
- “How A.A. Members Cooperate”
- “A.A. Fact File”
- “A Members-Eye View of Alcoholics Anonymous”
- “Information on Alcoholics Anonymous”
Although AA is primarily for the alcoholic, mentioning that two other fellowships exist to help families and relatives is important also. These include Al-Anon Family Groups and Alateen for teenagers with alcoholic parents. While we are all quite familiar as to what AA does, there exist some common misperceptions among non-AA’s. In light of such the following is a brief summary of some of the things AA does not do drawn from the final resource on the above list and may prove valuable to address when speaking to non-AA’s.
AA Does Not
- Run Membership drives to convince people to join. AA is for alcoholics who want to get sober.
- Check up on members to see that they don’t drink. It helps alcoholics to help themselves.
- AA is not a religious organization. Members are free to decide on their own individual beliefs.
- AA is not a medical organization and as such does not give out psychiatric advice.
- AA does not run any hospitals, wards or sanitariums, or provide any nursing services.
- AA is not connected with any other organizations; however, it does cooperate with other organizations that fight alcoholism.
- AA does not accept money from sources outside AA, either private or government.
- AA does not offer any social services such as housing, food, clothing, or money.
- AA lives up to its firm tenet of anonymity. It does not want members’ names or faces revealed on radio, TV, newspapers, or any modern media such as internet/social media.
- AA does not provide letters of reference to parole boards, lawyers, court officials, or social agencies.
The above was compiled to provide some basic points and guidelines to those called upon to participate in this type of service work as a member of AA. All of the above material comes from AA-approved literature by the AA General Service Conference. These, along with other materials, are available from GSO and our Central Office.