Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Excerpts from the G.S.O. approved literature "44 Questions" #essentialsofrecovery.com #recovery #questions #AA

44 Questions An Excerpt

Several million people have probably heard or read about Alcoholics Anonymous since its beginnings in 1935. Some are relatively familiar with the program of recovery from alcoholism that has helped more than 2,000,000 problem drinkers. Others have only a vague impression that A.A. is some sort of organization that somehow helps drunks stop drinking.

This pamphlet is designed for those who are interested in A.A. for themselves, for a friend or relative, or simply because they wish to be better informed about this unusual Fellowship. Included on the following pages are answers to many of the specific questions that have been asked about A.A. in the past. 'They add up to the story of a loosely knit society of men and women who have one great interest in common: the desire to stay sober themselves and to help other alcoholics who seek help for their drinking problem.

The thousands of men and women who have come into A.A. in recent years are not altruistic do-gooders. Their eagerness and willingness to help other alcoholics may be termed enlightened self-interest. Members of A.A. appreciate that their own sobriety is largely dependent on continuing contact with alcoholics.

After reading this pamphlet, you may have questions that do not seem to be answered fully in this brief summary. A.A. groups in many metropolitan areas have a central or intergroup office, listed in the telephone book under "Alcoholics Anonymous:' It can direct you to the nearest A.A. meeting, where members will be glad to give you additional information. In smaller communities, a single group may have a telephone listing. If there is no A.A. group near you, feel free to write direct to Box 459, Grand Central Station, New York, NY 10163. You can be sure that your anonymity will be protected.

Alcoholism and Alcoholics Not too long ago, alcoholism was viewed as a moral problem. Today, many regard it primarily as a health problem. To each problem drinker, it will always remain an intensely personal matter. Alcoholics who approach A.A. frequently ask questions that apply to their own experience, their own fears, and their own hopes for a better way of life.

What is alcoholism?

There are many different ideas about what alcoholism really is.

The explanation that seems to make sense to most A.A. members is that alcoholism is an illness, a progressive illness, which can never be cured but which, like some other diseases, can be arrested. Going one step further, many A.A.s feel that the illness represents the combination of a physical sensitivity to alcohol and a mental obsession with drinking, which, regardless of consequences, cannot be broken by willpower alone.

Before they are exposed to A.A., many alcoholics who are unable to stop drinking think of themselves as morally weak or, possibly, mentally unbalanced. The A.A. concept is that alcoholics are sick people who can recover if they will follow a simple program that has proved successful for more than one and a half million men and women.

Once alcoholism has set in, there is nothing morally wrong about being ill. At this stage, free will is not involved, because the sufferer has lost the power of choice over alcohol. The important thing is to face the facts of one's illness and to take advantage of the help that is available. There must also be a desire to get well. Experience shows that the A.A. program will work for all alcoholics who are sincere in their efforts to stop drinking; it usually will not work for those not absolutely certain that they want to stop.

How can I tell if I am really an alcoholic?

Only you can make that decision. Many who are now in A.A. have previously been told that they were not alcoholics, that all they needed was more willpower, a change of scenery, more rest, or a few new hobbies in order to straighten out. These same people finally turned to A.A. because they felt, deep down inside, that alcohol had them licked and that they were ready to try anything that would free them from the compulsion to drink.

Some of these men and women went through terrifying experiences with alcohol before they were ready to admit that alcohol was not for them. They became derelicts, stole, lied, cheated, and even killed while they were drinking. They took advantage of their employers and abused their families. They were completely unreliable in their relations with others. They wasted their material, mental, and spiritual assets.

Many others with far less tragic records have turned to A.A., too. They have never been jailed or hospitalized. Their too-heavy drinking may not have been noticed by their closest relatives and friends. But they knew enough about alcoholism as a progressive illness to scare them. They joined A.A. before they had paid too heavy a price.

There is a saying in A.A. that there is no such thing as being a little bit alcoholic. Either you are, or you are not. And only the individual involved can say whether or not alcohol has become an unmanageable problem.

Can an alcoholic ever drink 'normally' again?

So far as can be determined, no one who has become an alcoholic has ever ceased to be an alcoholic. The mere fact of abstaining from alcohol for months or even years has never qualified an alcoholic to drink "normally" or socially. Once the individual has crossed the borderline from heavy drinking to irresponsible alcoholic drinking, there seems to be no retreat. Few alcoholics deliberately try to drink themselves into trouble, but trouble seems to be the inevitable consequence of an alcoholic's drinking. After quitting for a period, the alcoholic may feel it is safe to try a few beers or a few glasses of light wine. This can mislead the per: son into drinking only with meals. But it is not too long before the alcoholic is back in the old pattern of too-heavy drinking in spite of all efforts to set limits for only moderate, social drinking.

The answer, based on A.A.. experience, is that if you arc an alcoholic, you will never be able to control your drinking for any length of time. That leaves two paths open: to let your drinking become worse and worse with all the damaging results that follow, or to quit completely and to develop a new pattern of sober, constructive living.

I can stay sober quite a while between binges; how can I tell whether I need A.A.?
Most A.A.s will say that it's how you drink, not how often, that determines whether or not you are an alcoholic. Many problem drinkers can go weeks, months, and occasionally years between their bouts with liquor. During their periods of sobriety, they may not give alcohol a second thought. Without mental or emotional effort, they are able to take it or leave it alone, and they prefer to leave it alone.

Then, for some unaccountable reason, or for no reason at all, they go off on a first-class binge.

They neglect job, family, and other civic and social responsibilities. The spree may last a single night, or it may be prolonged for days or weeks. When it is over, the drinker is usually weak and remorseful, determined never to let it happen again. But it does happen again.

This type of "periodic" drinking is baffling, not only to those around the drinker, but also to the person still drinking. He or she cannot understand why there should be so little interest in alcohol during the periods between binges, or so little control over it once the drinking starts.

The periodic drinker may or may not be an alcoholic. But if drinking has become unmanageable and if the periods between binges are becoming shorter, chances are the time has come to face up to the problem. If the person is ready to admit to being an alcoholic, then the first step has been taken toward the continuing sobriety enjoyed by thousands upon thousands of A.A.s.

Won't everyone know I am an alcoholic if I come into A.A. ?
Anonymity is and always has been the basis of the A.A. program. Most members, after they have been in A.A. awhile, have no particular objection if the word gets around that they have joined a fellowship that enables them to stay sober. Traditionally, A.A.s never disclose their association with the movement in print, on the air, or through any other public media. And no one has the right to break the anonymity of another member.

This means that the newcomer can turn to A.A. with the assurance that no newfound friends will violate confidences relating to his or her drinking problem. The older members of the group appreciate how the newcomer feels. They can remember their own fears about being identified publicly with what seems to be a terrifying word — "alcoholic."

Once in A.A., newcomers may be slightly amused at those past worries about its becoming generally known that they have stopped drinking. When alcoholics drink, news of their escapades travels with remarkable speed. Most alcoholics have made names for themselves as full-fledged drunks by the time they turn to A.A. Their drinking, with rare exceptions, is not likely to be a well-kept secret. Under these circumstances, it would be unusual indeed if the good news of the alcoholic's continuing sobriety did not also cause comment.

Whatever the circumstances, no disclosure of the newcomer's affiliation with A.A. can rightfully be made by anyone but the newcomer, and then only in such a way that the Fellowship will not be harmed.

The Fellowship of A.A. If the newcomer is satisfied that he or she is an alcoholic and that A.A. may be able to help, then a number of specific questions about the nature, structure, and history of the movement itself usually come up. Here are some of the most common ones.

What is Alcoholics Anonymous?

There are two practical ways to describe A.A. The first is the familiar description of purposes and objectives that appears earlier:

"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 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 endorses nor opposes any causes. Our primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics achieve sobriety."

The "common problem" is alcoholism. The men and women who consider themselves members of A.A. are, and always will be, alcoholics, even though they may have other addictions. They have finally recognized that they are no longer able to handle alcohol in any form; they now stay away from it completely. The important thing is that they do not try to deal with the problem single-handedly. They bring the problem out into the open with other alcoholics. This sharing of experience, strength and hope" seems to be the key element that makes it possible for them to live without alcohol and, in most cases, without even wanting to drink.

The second way to describe Alcoholics Anonymous is to outline the structure of the Society. Numerically, A.A. consists of more than 2,000,000 men and women, in 150 countries. These people meet in local groups that range in size from a handful of ex-drinkers in some localities to many hundreds in larger communities.

In the populous metropolitan areas, there may be scores of neighborhood groups, each holding its own regular meetings. Many A.A. meetings are open to the public; some groups also hold "closed meetings," where members are encouraged to discuss problems that might not be fully appreciated by nonalcoholics.

The local group is the core of the A.A. Fellowship. Its open meetings welcome alcoholics and their families in an atmosphere of friendliness and helpfulness. There are now more than 100,000 groups throughout the world, including hundreds in hospitals, prisons, and other institutions.

What does membership in A.A. cost? 


Membership in involves no financial obligations of any kind. The program of recovery from alcoholism is available to anyone who has a desire to stop drinking, whether he or she is flat broke or the possessor of millions. Most local groups "pass the hat" at meetings to defray the cost of renting a meeting place and other meeting expenses, including coffee, sandwiches, cakes, or whatever else may be served. In a large majority of the groups, part of the money thus collected is voluntarily contributed to A.A.'s national and international services. These group funds are used exclusively for services designed to help new and established groups and to spread the word of the recovery program to "the many alcoholics who still don't know."

The important consideration is that membership in A.A. is in no way contingent upon financial support of the Fellowship. Many A.A. groups have, in fact, placed strict limitations on the amount that can be contributed by any member. A.A. is entirely self-supporting, and no outside contributions are accepted.

Group Meetings The local group meeting is the center and heart of the A.A. Fellowship. It is, in many ways, a unique type of gathering and one that is likely to seem strange to the newcomer. The questions and answers that follow suggest how the A.A. meeting functions and how the newcomer fits into the group picture. How does a person join A.A.?
No one "joins" A.A. in the usual sense of the term. No application for membership has to be filled out. In fact, many groups do not even keep membership records. There are no initiation fees, no dues, no assessments of any kind.

Most people become associated with A.A. simply by attending the meetings of a particular local group. Their introduction to A.A. may have come about in one of several ways. Having come to the point in their drinking where they sincerely wanted to stop, they may have gotten in touch with A.A. voluntarily. They may have called the local A.A. office listed in the phone book, or they may have written to the General Service Office, Box 459, — Grand Central Station, New York, NY 10163. Others may have been guided to a local A.A. group by a friend, relative, doctor, or spiritual adviser. Usually, a newcomer to A.A. has had an opportunity to talk to one or more local members before attending the first meeting. This provides an opportunity to learn how A.A. has helped these people. The beginner gets facts about alcoholism and A.A. that help to determine whether he or she is honestly prepared to give up alcohol. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking.

There are no membership drives in A.A. If, after attending several meetings, the newcomer decides A.A. is not for him or for her, no one will urge continuation in the association. There may be suggestions about keeping an open mind on the subject, but no one in A.A. will try to make up newcomers' minds for them. Only the alcoholic concerned can answer the question "Do I need Alcoholics Anonymous?"

May I bring relatives or friends to an A.A. meeting?
In most places, anyone interested in A.A., whether a member or not, is welcome at open meetings of A.A. groups. (Consult the group for local custom.) Newcomers, in particular, are invited to bring wives, husbands, or friends to these meetings, since their understanding of the recovery program may be an important factor in helping the alcoholic to achieve and maintain sobriety. Many wives and husbands attend as frequently as their spouses and take an active part in the social activities of the local group.

(It will be recalled that "closed" meetings are traditionally limited to alcoholics.)

Can't an A.A. member drink even beer?

There are, of course, no musts in A.A.., and no one checks up on members to determine whether or not they are drinking anything. The answer to this question is that if a person is an alcoholic, touching alcohol in any form cannot be risked. Alcohol is alcohol whether it is found in a martini, a Scotch and soda, a bourbon and branch water, a glass of champagne — or a short beer. For the alcoholic, one drink of alcohol in any form is likely to be too much, and twenty drinks are not enough.

To be sure of sobriety, alcoholics simply have to stay away from alcohol, regardless of the quantity, mixture, or concentration they may think they can control.

Obviously, few persons are going to get drunk on one or two bottles of beer. The alcoholic knows this as well as the next person. But alcoholics may convince themselves that they are simply going to take two or three beers and then quit for the day. Occasionally, they may actually follow this program for a number of days or weeks, Eventually, they decide that as long as they are drinking, they may as well "do a good job." So they increase their consumption of beer or wine. Or they switch to hard liquor. And again, they are back where they started.

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