A.A. has but one primary purpose, although it may indirectly be responsible for other benefits. The following are questions that are occasionally asked by newcomers to the Fellowship.
Will A.A. help me financially?
Many alcoholics, by the time they turn to A.A. for help with their drinking problems, have also accumulated substantial financial problems. Not unnaturally, some may cherish the hope that A.A. may in some way be able to help them with more pressing financial obligations.
Very early in A.A. experience as a society, it was discovered that money or the lack of it had nothing to do with the newcomer's ability to achieve sobriety and work his or her way out of the many problems that had been complicated by excessive use of alcohol.
The absence of money — even with a heavy burden of debts — seemed to prove no hindrance to the alcoholic who honestly and sincerely wanted to face up to the realities of a life without alcohol. Once the big problem of alcohol had been cleared away, the other problems, including those related to finances, seemed to work out, too. Some A.A.s have made sensational financial comebacks in relatively brief periods. For others, the road has been hard and long. The basic answer to this question is that A.A. exists for just one purpose, and that purpose is in no way related to material prosperity or the lack thereof.
There is nothing to prevent any member of a group from staking a newcomer to a meal, a suit of clothes, or even a cash loan. That is a matter for individual decision and discretion. It would, however, be misleading if an alcoholic gets the impression that A.A. is any sort of moneyed charity organization.
Will A.A. help me straighten out my family troubles?
Alcohol is frequently a complicating factor in family life, magnifying petty irritations, exposing character defects, and contributing to financial problems. Many men and women, by the time they turn to A.A., have managed to make a complete mess of their family lives.
Some newcomers to A.A., suddenly aware of their own contributions to chaos, are eager and enthusiastic about making amends and resuming normal patterns of living with those closest to them. Others, with or without cause, continue to feel bitter resentments toward their families.
Almost without exception, newcomers who are sincere in their approach to the A.A. recovery program are successful in mending broken family lives. The bonds that reunite the honest alcoholic with family members are often stronger than ever before. Sometimes, of course, irreparable damage has been done, and a totally new approach to family life has to be developed. But generally, the story is one with a happy ending.
Experience suggests that the alcoholic who comes to A.A. solely to keep peace in the family, and not because of an honest desire to stop drinking, may have difficulty achieving sobriety. The sincere desire for sobriety should come first. Once sober, the alcoholic will find that many of the other problems of daily living can be approached realistically and with very good chance of success.
Does A.A. operate hospitals or rest homes for alcoholics?
There are no "A.A. rest homes or hospitals." Traditionally, no professional services or facilities are ever offered or performed under A.A. sponsorship. By adhering to the tradition of avoiding services that others are prepared to render, A.A. thus avoids any possible misunderstanding of its primary purpose, which is to help alcoholics searching for a way of life without alcohol.
In some areas, service committees made up of individual A.A. members have made arrangements with local hospitals for the admission of alcoholics who are sponsored by A.A.s as individuals, not as representatives of the Fellowship as a whole.
In other areas, individual A.A.s or groups of A.A.s have established rest homes that cater primarily to newcomers to the recovery program. Because of their special understanding of problems confronting the alcoholic, the owners or managers of these homes are often able to help the newcomer during the first crucial period of sobriety. But these homes have no connection with A.A. beyond the fact that they may be operated by persons who achieved their own sobriety through A.A. As a movement, A.A. is never affiliated with business enterprises of any description.
Does A.A. sponsor any social activity for members?
Most A.A.s are sociable people, a factor that may have been partially responsible for their becoming alcoholics in the first place. As a consequence, meetings of local A.A. groups tend to be lively affairs.
A.A. as a fellowship has never developed any formal program of social activities for members, since the sole purpose of the movement is to help alcoholics get sober. In some areas, members, entirely on their own individual responsibility, have opened clubrooms or other facilities for members of the local group. These clubs are traditionally independent of A.A., and great care is usually taken to avoid direct identification with the movement.
Even where no club exists, it is not uncommon for local groups to arrange anniversary dinners, picnics, parties on New Year's Eve and other special occasions, and similar affairs. In some large cities, A.A.s meet regularly for lunch and sponsor informal get-togethers over weekends.
What do medical authorities think of A.A.?
Also see pamphlet: "A.A. as a Resource for the Health Care Professional"
From its earliest days, A.A. has enjoyed the friendship and support of doctors who were familiar with its program of recovery from alcoholism. Doctors, perhaps better than any other group, are in a position to appreciate how unreliable other approaches to the problem of alcoholism have been in the past. A.A. has never been advanced as the only answer to the problem, but the A.A. recovery program has worked so often, after other methods have failed, that doctors today are frequently the most outspoken boosters for the program in their communities.
Some measure of the medical profession's atti tude toward A.A. was suggested in 1951 when the American Public Health Association named Alcoholics Anonymous as one of the recipients of the famed Lasker Awards in "formal recognition of A.A.'s success in treating alcoholism as an illness and in blotting out its social stigma."
A.A. is still new (or unknown) in some communities, and not all doctors are familiar with the recovery program. But here are excerpts from comments on A.A. by leading medical authorities:
In 1967, the American Medical Association stated that membership in A.A. was still the most effective means of treating alcoholism and quoted Dr. Ruth Fox, an eminent authority on alcoholism and then medical director of the National Council on Alcoholism: "With its thousands of groups and its 300,000 recovered alcoholics [now upwards of 2,000,000], A.A. has undoubtedly reached more cases than all the rest of us together. For patients who can and will accept it, A.A. may be the only form of therapy needed."
"I have the utmost respect for the work A.A. is doing, for its spirit, for its essential philosophy of mutual helpfulness. I lose no opportunity to express my endorsement publicly and privately where it is of any concern."
Karl Menninger, M.D.
"Perhaps the most effective treatment in the rehabilitation of the alcoholic is a philosophy of living which is compatible with the individual and his family, an absorbing faith in himself which comes only after he has learned to understand himself, and a close association with others whose experiences parallel his own. The physician's cooperation with Alcoholics Anonymous is one way of obtaining these things for his patient."
Marvin A. Block, M.D., member of the
American Medical Association's Committee
on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence
What do religious leaders think of A.A.?
Also see pamphlet:"Members of the Clergy Ask About A.A."
Probably no lay movement of modem times has been more richly endowed than A.A. with the support of the clergy of all the great faiths. Like the doctors, mankind's spiritual advisers have long been troubled by the problem of alcoholism. Many of these advisers have heard honest people make sincere pledges to abstain from alcohol they could not control - only to see them break those pledges within hours, days, or weeks. Sympathy, understanding, and appeals to conscience have been of little avail to the clergy in their attempts to help the alcoholic.
Thus it is perhaps not surprising that A.A. - although it offers a way of fife rather than a way of formal religion - should be embraced so warmly by representatives of many different denominations. Here is how some of them have referred to A.A. in the past:
The Directors Bulletin, a Jesuit periodical
published at St. Louis, Mo.
"Father Dowling of The Queen's Work staff had exceptional opportunity to observe the Alcoholics Anonymous movement.
"He found that the keystone of the A.A. therapy includes self-denial, humility, charity, good example, and opportunities for a new pattern of social recreation. All denominations are represented in the movement. Readers can be assured that no article or book on the movement is one-tenth as convincing as is personal contact with an individual or group of A.A.s whose personalities and homes and businesses have been transformed from chaos into sound achievement."
The Living Church (Episcopal)
"Basis of the technique of Alcoholics Anonymous is the truly Christian principle that a man cannot help himself except by helping others. The A.A. plan is described by the members themselves as 'self-insurance.' This self-insurance has resulted in the restoration of physical, mental, and spiritual health and self-respect to hundreds of men and women who would be hopelessly down-and-out without its unique but effective therapy. "
Who is responsible for the publicity about A.A.?
The A.A. tradition of public relations has always been keyed to attraction rather than promotion. A.A. never seeks publicity but always cooperates fully with responsible representatives of press, radio, television, motion pictures, and other media that seek information about the recovery program.
At national and international levels, news of A.A. is made available by the Public Information Committee of the General Service Board. Local committees have also been organized, to provide the media with facts about A.A. as a resource for alcoholics in their communities.
A.A. is deeply grateful to all its friends who have been responsible for the recognition accorded the movement. It is also deeply aware of the fact that the anonymity of members, upon which the program is so dependent, has been respected so faithfully by all media.
It should also be noted that within A.A., at A.A. meetings and among themselves, A.A. members are not anonymous.
This is A.A. General Service Conference-approved literature.
The following excerpts are from the A.A. Pamphlet "44 Questions":
Reprinted from the A.A. Pamphlet "44 Questions" with permission of A.A. World Services, Inc.