From: (5f8e)
Newsgroups: alt.recovery.aa
Subject: Frequently asked Questions (FAQ) for alt.recovery.aa
Followup-To: alt.recovery.aa
Distribution: world

Archive-name: alt-recovery-aa/FAQ
Posting-Frequency: monthly
Last-modified: 2012/07/27
Version: 1.16
Maintainer: (5f8e)


Suggestions/corrections/comments are welcome and appreciated.
Send email to OR post in alt.recovery.aa with
'FAQ' on the Subject line.

Version: 1.16 27Jul2012

This FAQ is now available on the WWW. The URL is
Alcoholics Anonymous now has an official web site at

DISCLAIMER: This file is not intended to be a complete description
of Alcoholics Anonymous. This is an UNOFFICIAL document. If you want
to learn more about AA, it is recommended to
  * Attend meetings, if possible
  * Get and read the book, "Alcoholics Anonymous" (sources in III.6)
  * Read other AA literature
  * Talk with AA members

TRADEMARKS: Several of the terms used in this FAQ are trademarked
by either AAWS (Alcoholics Anonymous World Services) and/or The
Grapevine. These terms include: Alcoholics Anonymous, A.A.,
Grapevine, Box 459.


I. Alt.Recovery.AA, the Newsgroup
  1. What is Alt.Recovery.AA?
  2. Is Alt.Recovery.AA a group or meeting?
  3. How do I get sober through AA and can Alt.Recovery.AA help?
  4. Discussion, Hot Debate, and Flaming
  5. Does discussion here influence GSO or AA as a whole?
  6. What about anonymity? Is Alt.Recovery.AA public?
  7. Additional information in WWW [World Wide Web] pages.

II. Alcoholics Anonymous
  1. What is AA?
  2. What does AA do?
  3. What doesn't AA do?
  4. What literature is available?
  5. What are meetings, groups, conventions?
  6. Twelve Steps
  7. Twelve Traditions
  8. Twelve Concepts
  9. Overview of the History of Alcoholics Anonymous

III. Actual Frequently Asked Questions about Alcoholics Anonymous
  1. What do the Steps mean by 'God'?
  2. What's a spiritual awakening?
  3. Why do people keep going to meetings after they're sober?
  4. The Lord's prayer, is that in line with the Traditions?
  5. I hear Bill W. used LSD. Is that true?
  6. How can I get an online copy of the Big Book?
  7. Is AA the only way to get sober?
  8. What does AA say about drugs? Aren't they all basically the same
  9. Should AA Change?
 10. If you don't like AA why don't you leave?
 11. But AA Works!
 12. Explain that Flame Section back at the start, please.

IV. Miscellaneous


I. Alt.Recovery.AA, the Newsgroup

 1. What is Alt.Recovery.AA?

    Alt.Recovery.AA is a USENET newsgroup. Its primary purpose is to
    discuss Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.) and the A.A. program of
    recovery from alcoholism. This can include topics and discussions
    that are wide ranging and not directly related to AA/recovery,
    but do relate to how the group's members are living sober lives
    today. In other words, while our common bond is AA and recovery
    from alcoholism, we have been known to talk about nearly anything.
    The subjects you will see discussed will more likely be about life
    in general - i.e., a reflection of what "it is like today." (In
    many ways this is like “the meeting after the meeting.”  If you
    want a particular topic or have a specific need, start a thread.

    Note that 'Alt.Recovery' and 'Alt.Recovery.from-12-steps' are also
    valid USENET newsgroup names and sometimes articles are cross-posted
    between newsgroups, so watch the Newsgroups and Followup-To
    header lines both when you read and when you respond or post.
    Cross-posting is generally better avoided unless there is a specific
    reason for doing so, such as a discussion that is relevant to other

    One of the customs of USENET is the FAQ, or Frequently Asked
    Questions document. Normally the FAQ provides information about
    the newsgroup and the subject matter of the newsgroup. This is
    the FAQ for Alt.Recovery.AA. There is a separate FAQ for

    If you are unfamiliar with USENET then some of the postings in
    news.announce.newusers might be handy in explaining the customs.

 2. Is Alt.Recovery.AA a group or meeting?

    Alt.Recovery.AA lacks a few things common to many "live" groups
    and meetings.
     (a) Non-alcoholics can read and post here
     (b) Anti-AA folks can do likewise
     (c) People can and will "shout" you down no matter what you
         say or how nicely you say it. This can be intimidating.
     (d) Alt.Recovery.AA is public (see question 6 below)
    Disruptive people are nearly impossible to stop or remove.
    Better to just ignore them.  If you don't read them, they
    cannot disrupt your use of the group.  With these caveats, call
    Alt.Recovery.AA what you will.

    Note also that Alt.Recovery.AA was not proposed and discussed in
    alt.config as a meeting or group, but simply as a newsgroup and is
    listed as being about 'Recovery and Alcoholics Anonymous.' Posting
    to the rest of the net that alt.recovery.aa was a group and under
    special rules would probably be counter-productive. Also, check 
    section II.5 about what a meeting or group is.

 3. How do I get sober through AA and can Alt.Recovery.AA help?

    "In our experience, the people who recover in A.A. are those who:
        (a) stay away from the first drink;
        (b) attend A.A. meetings regularly;
        (c) seek out the people in A.A. who have successfully
            stayed sober for some time;
        (d) try to put into practice the A.A. program of recovery."
                       -- the A.A. leaflet "a Newcomer asks..."

    Alt.Recovery.AA can help with the above in a variety of ways.
    Some participants may know of good meetings to go to, or may
    even be available to take you to a meeting. They may also know
    specific ways that worked for them in avoiding taking a drink.
    They may also be online for a live chat session when you really
    need to talk to someone. It may also be that you'll see
    participants demonstrating the A.A. program of recovery.  See
    also the caveats in item 2 above.

 4. Discussion, Hot Debate, and Flaming

    There are people on the net who like to go into newsgroups and
    stir things up. If you want to stir things up in Alt.Recovery.AA
    here's what to post:
       + A.A. is a religion [leaving 'religion' undefined]
       + I recovered from alcoholism and can still drink
       + A.A. is just a band-aid and doesn't handle the root problem
       + There would have to be some changes in A.A. before I'd join
       + I'm not powerless
       + Derisive comments about the newsgroup itself
       + Cross-link in posts from other newsgroups, like alt.atheism
       + Post about non-recovery related items
       + I'm an atheist, so A.A.'s not for me!
       + Non-alcoholic beer/wine helps me stay sober
       + You're not really recovered if you're still smoking
       + Probably any post that's a judgment about 'you'

    Alternatively, you can wait for a post like one of the above and
    respond to it. (Note: some of those items will be covered in
    later sections of the FAQ.) If you do not find the debates and
    flaming helpful, then you can
       + put the articles in a kill file as they show up
       + set your newsreader to not show you cross-postings
       + find something helpful and post about that
       + remember that you are not required to read every posting
       + quit reading the newsgroup.

    KEEP A SENSE OF HUMOR. There's little room for self-righteous
    stuffed shirts in the world of Usenet news.

    "... we cannot and should not enter into public controversy,
    even in self-defense." -- Bill W. in the Twelve Concepts

    "Let us suppose that A.A. does fall under sharp public attack or
    heavy ridicule; and let us take the particular case where such
    pronouncements happen to have little or no justification in fact.
    ... Almost without exception it can be confidently estimated that
    our best defense in these situations would be no defense
    whatever--namely, complete silence at the public level.
    Unreasonable people are stimulated all the more by opposition. If
    in good humor we leave them strictly alone, they are apt to
    subside the more quickly." -- Bill W. in the Twelve Concepts

 5. Does discussion here influence GSO or A.A. as a whole?

    A.A. as a whole is guided by the Twelve Concepts (discussed in a
    later section). Normally that's a process of input from groups,
    districts and areas, which leads to a flow of information to GSO.
    GSO or A.A. as a whole cannot control individual groups.
    Sometimes the information coming back from GSO leads groups to
    change how they do things, but a counter-reaction can also occur.
    If there is something you'd like to see changed about A.A., then
    the most effective course of action might be to get a group
    consensus (at a local group that has a General Service
    Representative [GSR]), which could be carried to the district and
    area meetings and then on to GSO.  Alt.recovery.aa does NOT have
    a GSR, as it is not a recognized AA group (as that term is
    generally defined).

    It is doubtful that GSO monitors this newsgroup as a means of
    obtaining feedback. Since anyone can post here there is no way
    for a service person to know that any idea came from a member of
    A.A. The people who really know you're a member of A.A. are at
    your local meeting.

    It may be that sharing here about your opinion will lead others
    to get their groups to examine the issues as well. At the same
    time the Traditions and Concepts are pretty clear [at least to
    me, dhawk] as to avoiding public controversy. It may be that a
    mailing list of members of AA would be a more effective and
    'Traditional' means of expressing your views if you want to do
    so electronically.

 6. What about anonymity? Is Alt.Recovery.AA public?

    A.A. has a Tradition that states that we should remain anonymous
    at the level of press, radio, and film. Use of full names does
    happen within various meetings -- in the A.A. service meetings
    I've been to it is common to use one's full name. But -- this is
    a broadcast medium. So you might want to consider what anonymity
    means to you before you post. So what does anonymity mean on a
    computer network? That's for you to decide.  Some folks here on
    alt.recovery.aa try to be very careful about anonymity, and
    others have decided it is not important or have simply given up
    on it.  What you choose to do is up to you.

    There are anonymous accounts and email services out there.
    For example, see or 

 7. Additional information available in WWW [World Wide Web] sites.

    There are a number of Web pages devoted to Recovery and/or A.A.
    The following are good places to start. Links were active as of
       +       (OFFICIAL AA SITE)
       +  (unofficial)
       +   (unofficial)

II. Alcoholics Anonymous

 1. What is Alcoholics Anonymous?

    The description published by A.A. is:

    Alcoholics Anonymous? is a fellowship of men and women who
    share their experience, strength and hope with each other that
    they may solve their common problem and help others to recover
    from alcoholism. The only requirement for membership is a
    desire to stop drinking. There are no dues or fees for AA
    membership; we are self-supporting through our own
    contributions. AA is not allied with any sect, denomination,
    politics, organization or institution; does not wish to engage
    in any controversy, neither endorses nor opposes any causes.
    Our primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics
    to achieve sobriety.
        -- The A.A. Preamble

    Another description may be found at:

 2. What does A.A. do?

      1. A.A. members share their experience with anyone seeking help
         with a drinking problem; they give person-to-person service
         or "sponsorship" to the alcoholic coming to A.A. from any
      2. The A.A. program, set forth in our Twelve Steps, offers the
         alcoholic a way to develop a satisfying life without alcohol.
      3. This program is discussed at A.A. group meetings.
             -- "Info on A.A." leaflet

 3. What doesn't AA do?

    A.A. does not:
       1. Furnish initial motivation for alcoholics to recover
       2. Solicit members
       3. Engage in or sponsor research
       4. Keep attendance records or case histories
       5. Join "councils" of social agencies
       6. Follow up or try to control its members
       7. Make medical or psychological diagnoses or prognoses
       8. Provide drying-out or nursing services, hospitalization,
          drugs, or any medical or psychiatric treatment
       9. Offer religious services
      10. Engage in education about alcohol
      11. Provide housing, food, clothing, jobs, money, or any other
          welfare or social services
      12. Provide domestic or vocational counseling
      13. Accept any money for its services, or any contributions
          from non-A.A. sources
      14. Provide letters of reference to parole boards, lawyers,
          court officials
              -- "Info on A.A." leaflet

 4. What literature is available?

    The books include:
    From AAWS:
     * "Alcoholics Anonymous", the 'Big Book', 3rd edition
     * "Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions", the '12x12'
     * "Pass It On", the story of Bill W., AA co-founder
     * "Dr. Bob and the Good Oldtimers", story of the other co-founder
     * "AA Comes of Age", more AA history from Bill W.'s perspective
     * "As Bill Sees It", selected quotations from Bill W.
     * Daily Reflections, a daily devotional book written by AA members
    From GSO (and updated yearly):
     * The AA Service Manual, with Twelve Concepts for World Service
    From the Grapevine:
     * There are two "Best of the Grapevine" books
     * "Language of the Heart", Bill W.'s writings for the Grapevine

    The Grapevine is A.A.'s monthly meeting in print. It includes
    stories from all over the world, some humor, a list of
    conventions, and some A.A. history. The monthly focus is usually
    on the Step for that month, since there are 12 Steps and 12 months.
    There is also a Spanish language version called La Viña.
    To subscribe to the Grapevine, visit
    or send check or money order to:
    The Grapevine, PO Box 1980, Grand Central Station, NY, NY 10163-1980

    GSO (the General Service Office) has a monthly magazine: Box
    4-5-9. It includes news and notes from GSO, items about A.A.
    around the world, sharing stories, and a bulletin board of A.A.
    events. To subscribe to Box 4-5-9, send check or money order to:

          A.A. World Services, Inc.
          P.O.Box 459
          Grand Central Station
          New York, NY 10163

    The current issue of Box 4-5-9 is also available online, at

    There is also the L.I.M., the "Loners-Internationalists Meeting,"
    distributed bimonthly by GSO as an A.A. meeting for those who
    cannot attend meetings. Write to GSO at the Box 459 address for
    more information.

    There are three booklets from AAWS:
      * Came to Believe
      * Living Sober
      * A.A. in Prison: Inmate to Inmate

    and two booklets from the Grapevine:
      * AA Today (a booklet for the 25th anniversary of AA in 1960)
      * The Home Group

    The pamphlets cover a wide variety of topics. This is a partial list:
      * 44 Questions
      * Is A.A. For You?
      * Is A.A. For Me?
      * This is A.A.
      * Questions and Answers on Sponsorship
      * A.A. for the Woman
      * A.A. for the Native North American
      * A.A. for the Gay/Lesbian Alcoholic
      * A.A. and the Armed Services
      * Is There An Alcoholic in Your Life?
      * Inside A.A.
      * The A.A. Group
      * A Newcomer Asks
      * Understanding Anonymity
      * A Member's-Eye View of Alcoholics Anonymous
      * Too Young? [cartoon for teenagers]
      * Speaking an non-A.A. Meetings

    Videos include:
      * A.A.--An Inside View
      * A.A.--Rap With Us
      * Hope: Alcoholics Anonymous
      * It Sure Beats Sitting In A Cell
      * Young People and A.A.

    Order forms for most of the above can be obtained from
    General Service Office of Alcoholics Anonymous
    Box 459, Grand Central Station, New York, NY 10163
    or you can check your local Central Office or Intergroup.
    The Grapevine stuff is available from the Grapevine.

    A full list of literature is available at the following URL:

 5. What are meetings, groups, and conventions?

    A meeting is when two or more alcoholics get together. It can be
    informal, sporadic, and one time only -- or it can be ongoing and
    structured. An example of a meeting that is not a group is one
    held at an institution, like a jail or hospital, even though the
    meeting is not self-supporting, but accepts contributions from
    other groups.

    A group is when a group of alcoholics agrees to operate under the
    Twelve Traditions (see below). The difference between a meeting
    and a group is explained in the pamphlet, "The A.A. Group" . and
    you'd better get the revised edition, since that's what changed
    when they revised it. Roughly, a meeting can become a group if it
    agrees to accept all who have a desire to stop drinking and has
    no outside affiliation. Some Central Offices and/or Intergroups
    will not list meetings that don't meet the 'group' criteria.

    "As we see it, an A.A. convention is almost any A.A. get-together
    beyond the group-meeting level." (The GSO in the A.A. Guidelines
    on 'Conferences and Conventions.') There is a list of some of the
    conventions in the monthly magazines: the Grapevine and Box 4-5-9.

 6. The Twelve Steps

    "A.A.'s Twelve Steps are a group of principles, spiritual in
    nature, which, if practiced as a way of life, can expel the
    obsession to drink and enable the sufferer to become happily and
    usefully whole." (Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, p. 15)

    The steps are:
     1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol -- that our lives
        had become unmanageable.
     2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could
        restore us to sanity.
     3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the
        care of God *as we understood Him*.
     4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
     5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the
        exact nature of our wrongs.
     6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of
     7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
     8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing
        to make amends to them all.
     9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except
        when to do so would injure them or others.
    10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong
        promptly admitted it.
    11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our
        conscience contact with God *as we understood Him*, praying
        only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry
        that out.
    12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps,
        we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice
        these principles in all our affairs.

    Source: Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th edition, pages 59 and 60
    *Italics* in Steps Three and Eleven are in original text

    "Many people, nonalcoholics, report that as a result of the
    practice of A.A.'s Twelve Steps, they have been able to meet
    other difficulties of life. They see in them a way to happy and
    effective living for many, alcoholic or not." (Twelve Steps and
    Twelve Traditions, pp. 15-16)

 7. The Twelve Traditions [short form]

     1. Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery
        depends upon AA unity.
     2. For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority--a
        loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience.
        Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.
     3. The only requirement for AA membership is a desire to stop
     4. Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting
        other groups or AA as a whole.
     5. Each group has but one primary purpose--to carry its message
        to the alcoholic who still suffers.
     6. An AA group ought never endorse, finance, or lend the AA name
        to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems
        of money, property, and prestige divert us from our primary
     7. Every AA group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining
        outside contributions.
     8. Alcoholics Anonymous should remain forever nonprofessional,
        but our service centers may employ special workers.
     9. AA, as such, ought never be organized; but we may create
        service boards or committees directly responsible to those
        they serve.
    10. Alcoholics Anonymous has no opinion on outside issues; hence
        the AA name ought never be drawn into public controversy.
    11. Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather
        than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at
        the level of press, radio, and films.
    12. Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our Traditions,
        ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.

    The above is how they are found in the Big Book, page 564, and is
    known as the 'short form.' The 'long form' is on pages 565 and
    following. Note that Tradition Two is longer in the 'short form.'

    The Twelve Traditions are the guidelines that A.A. groups are
    encouraged to follow.

 8. The Twelve Concepts

    The Twelve Concepts are too long to type in here. They have
    traditionally been printed with the A.A. Service Manual and are
    called 'Twelve Concepts for World Service' and are the guidelines
    for A.A. as a whole to follow. The Concepts are printed at the
    back of "The A.A. Group" pamphlet, with this footnote:

          Note: The A.A. General Service Conference has
          recommended that the "long form" of the Concepts
          be studied in detail.  "Twelve Concepts for World
          Service", in which A.A. co-founder Bill W. closely
          examines all these principles of A.A. service,
          may be ordered from G.S.O..

    For those seeking more information, see:

 9. Overview of the History of Alcoholics Anonymous

    The fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous dates its inception from
    June 17, 1935, when a 6-month sober (at the time) Wall Street
    stock analyst and promoter helped an Akron proctologist through
    his last binge. The New Yorker had been relieved of his obsession
    to drink through a sudden spiritual awakening while hospitalized
    for acute alcoholism. He realized, however, that to maintain his
    sobriety, he needed to help others. The two men set out to carry
    this message: that a spiritual way of life could arrest the
    chronic, progressive and fatal condition known as alcoholism. The
    man from New York is commonly referred to as Bill W., and the
    physician was Dr. Bob.

    By 1937, as the number of successes was approaching 100 members,
    a decision was made to spread the message as widely as possible.
    Work began on a book that would "Of necessity ... have ...
    discussion of matters medical, psychiatric, social, and
    religious." (Alcoholics Anonymous, Fourth Edition, p.19). In
    addition to broadcasting the message of recovery, the book also
    served to codify what had been until then a "word-of-mouth"
    program. In the spring of 1938, the principal author of the book,
    Bill W., took the six principles in use at that time and expanded
    them, in his words, "to break this program up into small pieces
    so they can't wiggle out" (remarks in Fort Worth, Texas, 1954).
    Thus were born the original Twelve Steps.

    A revolutionary document for its time, "Alcoholics Anonymous"
    (from which the Fellowship took its name) presented for the first
    time in print the concept that alcoholism was an illness of both
    mind and body. The first edition (5,000 copies) was set in fairly
    large type and on the thickest possible paper (so that people
    would feel they were getting their money's worth) hence the
    nickname, "Big Book". The first 179 (then, 164 in second and
    third editions) pages including a section titled "The Doctor's
    Opinion" describe the problems of alcoholism and the accompanying
    "personality disorder", the program of recovery, and some of the
    expected results. The first section has had only minor changes
    through three editions, mostly dealing with estimates of the
    number of people who have used the program. The balance of the
    book set out personal stories by members of the Fellowship. These
    have changed to reflect the wider nature of the fellowship
    through its growth.

    On page vii in "A.A. Comes of Age" is the start of a list called
    "Landmarks in A.A. History." It only goes up to 1981.

III. Actual Frequently Asked Questions about Alcoholics Anonymous

 1. What do the Steps mean by 'God'?

    Well, what the Steps say is "God as you understand Him." The
    added phrase is to help folks use their own perception of a
    "Higher Power." There are people in A.A. who use various Higher
    Powers, including a rock, a tree, a rose bush, a light bulb, the
    Grateful Dead, the sun, the earth, ... well, the list just goes
    on and on. Buddhists have been known to substitute 'Good' for
    'God'. The "12x12" (Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions) has the
    following on pages 26 and 27:

       First, Alcoholics Anonymous does not demand that you believe
       anything. All of its Twelve Steps are but suggestions. ... You
       can, if you wish, make A.A. itself your 'higher power.' Here's
       a very large group of people who have solved their alcohol
       problem. In this respect they are certainly a power greater
       than you....

    Also, from the Big Book:

      "When, therefore, we speak to you of God, we mean your own
      conception of God. This applies, too, to other spiritual
      expressions which you find in this book. Do not let any
      prejudice you may have against spiritual terms deter you from
      honestly asking yourself what they mean to you. [...]
      We needed to ask ourselves but one short question. 'Do I now
      believe, or am I even willing to believe, that there is a Power
      greater than myself?'" (Alcoholics Anonymous, p.47)

 2. What's a spiritual awakening?

    "The terms 'spiritual experience' and 'spiritual awakening' are
    used many times in this book which, upon careful reading, shows
    that the personality change sufficient to bring about recovery
    from alcoholism has manifested itself among us in many different

    Quite often friends of the newcomer are aware of the difference
    long before he is himself. He finally realizes that he has
    undergone a profound alteration in his reaction to life; that
    such a change could hardly have been brought about by himself
    alone. What often takes place in a few months could seldom have
    been accomplished by years of self discipline. With few
    exceptions our members find that they have tapped an unsuspected
    inner resource which they presently identify with their own
    conception of a Power greater than themselves.

    Most of us think this awareness of a Power greater than
    ourselves is the essence of spiritual experience. Our more
    religious members call it 'God-consciousness'.. (Alcoholics
    Anonymous, pgs. 569-570)

 3. Why do people keep going to meetings after they're sober?

    "To watch people recover, to see them help others, to watch
    loneliness vanish, to see a fellowship grow up about you, to have
    a host of friends---this is an experience you must not miss. We
    know you will not want to miss it. Frequent contact with
    newcomers and with each other is the bright spot of our lives."
    (Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 89)

    "We sit in A.A. meetings and listen, not only to receive
     something ourselves, but to give the reassurance and support
     which our presence can bring. If our turn comes to speak at a
     meeting, we again try to carry A.A.'s message." (Twelve Steps
     and Twelve Traditions, pg. 110)

 4. What about the Lord's prayer? Is it in line with the Traditions?

    Some A.A. members think so. Some don't.
    Some A.A. groups use it. Some don't.
    Decide for yourself.

    The pamphlet, "The A.A. Group", under 'Suggested Meeting
    Procedures' has a paragraph that says, "Many meetings close with
    members reciting the Lord's Prayer or the Serenity Prayer."
    Some like to close with the Responsibility Statement: “I am
    responsible. When anyone, anywhere, reaches out for help, I want
    the hand of AA always to be there. And for that: I am responsible.”

    However, experience has shown that extended discussion on
    alt.recovery and other newsgroups hasn't solved the conflict yet.

 5. I hear Bill W. used LSD. Is that true?

    There's a chapter about this in "Pass It On", the A.A. published
    biography of Bill W. The short answer is Yes. Rumor has it that
    he also drank heavily prior to 1935. ;-) Seriously, LSD was not 
    illegal and Bill was using it with clinical supervision. The time
    period was 1955 to 1959.

 6. How do I get an online copy of the Big Book?

    AAWS has made the Big Book available online, see:

    Copyright on the 1st and 2nd editions has expired in the U.S.
    because A.A. didn't renew it. In the rest of the world, the
    copyright is still in force.

    Anonymous Press has the 1st 164 pages in many formats for
    Download (PC/Mac/Kindle/etc.):

 7. Is A.A. the only way to get sober?

    "It would be a product of false pride to claim that A.A. is a
    cure-all, even for alcoholism." (Bill W. in "A.A. Comes of Age",
    page 232.) Bill W. repeatedly said that "our hats are off to you
    if you can find a better way" and "If [those seeking a different
    cure] can do better by other means, we are glad." (Bill W. in
    Concept XII).

 8. What does A.A. say about drugs?

    [check the pamphlet "The AA Member - Medications and other Drugs"]

 9. Should A.A. Change?

    Perhaps our very first realization should be that we can't stand
    still. Now that our basic principles seem established, now that
    our functioning is fairly effective and widespread, it would be
    temptingly easy to settle down as merely one more useful agency
    on the world. We could conclude that "AA is fine, just the way it
    is."  ... We have to grow or deteriorate. For us, the 'status
    quo' can only be for today, never for tomorrow. Change we must;
    we cannot stand still.

     So then, if our basics [Steps and Traditions] are so firmly
     fixed as all this, what is there left to change or to improve?
     The answer will immediately occur to us. While we need not alter
     our truths, we can surely improve their application to ourselves,
     to AA as a whole, and to our relation with the world around us.
     We can consistently step up "the practice of these principles in
     all our affairs."

     .... Let us continue to take our inventory as a Fellowship,
     searching out our flaws and confessing them freely. Let us
     devote ourselves to the repair of all faulty relations that may
     exist, whether within or without.
             -- Bill W., "The Shape of Things to Come", reprinted in
                        "The Language of the Heart"

10. If you don't like A.A. why don't you leave?

    1. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop
       drinking. Or to state the Third Tradition in its long form:
       "Our membership ought to include all who suffer from
       alcoholism. Hence we may refuse none who wish to recover.
       Nor ought A.A. membership ever depend on money or conformity."

    2. Then there's the matter of inventories. See page 64 of the
       Big Book. AA has to be serious about inventories at the
       individual, group, and overall levels. Saying "We dare not
       look" (12x12) isn't going to cut it.
    3. Bill W. welcomed criticism:

           "Thanks much for your letter of criticism. I'm certain
           that had it not been for its strong critics, A.A. would
           have made slower progress.

           "For myself, I have come to set a high value on the
           people who have criticized me, whether they have seemed
           reasonable critics or unreasonable ones. Both have
           often restrained me from doing much worse than I
           actually have done. The unreasonable ones have taught
           me, I hope, a little patience. But the reasonable ones
           have always done a great job for all of A.A.--and have
           taught me many a valuable lesson..
                        -- As Bill Sees It, page 326

11. But A.A. Works!

    A.A. works for the people it has worked for. But there is no way,
    short of experimentation, to know if a change will make A.A. more
    effective or less. Quoting Bill W. again: "Though three hundred
    thousand did recover in the last twenty-five years, maybe half a
    million more have walked into our midst, and then out again. No
    doubt some were too sick to make even a start. Others couldn't or
    wouldn't admit their alcoholism. Still others couldn't face up to
    their underlying personality defects. Numbers departed for other
    reasons. ... Yet we can't well content ourselves with the view
    that all these recovery failures were entirely the fault of the
    newcomers themselves. Perhaps a great many didn't receive the
    kind and amount of sponsorship they so sorely needed. We didn't
    communicate when we might have done so. So we AAs failed them."
       (The Language of the Heart, page 252).

12. Explain that Flame Section back at the start, please.

    OK, up in Section I, part 4, "Discussion, Hot Debate, and Flaming"
    it says that people sometimes come to the newsgroup and
    (intentionally or unintentionally) stir things up with statements
       + AA is a religion [leaving 'religion' undefined],
       + I recovered from alcoholism and can still drink
       + AA is just a bandaid and doesn't handle the root problem
       + There would have to be some changes in AA before I'd join
       + I'm not powerless
       + Derisive comments about the newsgroup itself
       + Cross-link in posts from other newsgroups, like alt.atheism
       + Post about non-recovery related items
       + I'm an atheist, so AA's not for me!
       + Non-alcoholic beer/wine helps me stay sober
       + You're not really recovered if you're still smoking

    If this happens intentionally, then it's known as 'trolling.'
    So, what to do? Well, what Bill W. would have suggested is not
    replying, not even in defense of AA. That public controversy
    isn't worth it. If I always react to a prod, then that makes me
    reactionary, which I don't think falls on the 'attraction' side
    of public relations. Pages 66 and 67 in the Big Book are
    appropriate in this context, I think -- "We avoid retaliation or

    If all else fails, I will post what I know is true for me. I do
    not speak for AA as a whole. Likewise, I do not have to defend AA
    as a whole.

IV. Miscellaneous

    * The following really didn't fit in the outline form, so I'm
      putting it here.
    * If you are willing to sponsor or correspond with someone behind
      bars, GSO maintains a list of inmates who've requested
      correspondents. The Grapevine has previously reported a need
      (e.g., in May 1994 was noted that there were 150 inmates waiting
      to be matched with an outside sponsor). It is likely that this
      need still exists. You can get more information from the
      corrections desk at GSO, Box 459, Grand Central Station, New
      York, NY 10163.
    * Quote for the month:
      ".. I was painfully learning how not to communicate. No matter
      how truthful the words of my message, there could be no deep
      communication if what I said and did was colored by pride,
      arrogance, intolerance, resentment, imprudence, or a desire for
      personal acclaim.." -- Bill W., "Language of the Heart" (p. 246)


   Original Contributors: