AA Primary Purpose and Development of Special Purpose : 12 Step Fellowships

AA Primary Purpose and Development of Special Purpose : 12 Step Fellowships

“The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking”

Below are excerpts from Bill Wilson’s writing “Problems Other Than Alcohol”

Perhaps there is no suffering more horrible than drug addiction, especially that kind which is produced by morphine, heroin, and other narcotics…

Many A.A.’s, especially those who have suffered these particular addictions, are now asking, “What can we do about drugs — within our Fellowship, and without?” Because several projects to help pill and drug takers are already afloat — projects which use A.A.’s Twelve Steps and in which A.A. members are active — there has arisen a whole series of questions as to how these efforts, already meeting with not a little success, can be rightly related to the A.A. groups and to A.A. as a whole…

An A.A. group, as such, cannot take on all the personal problems of its members, let alone the problems of the whole world. Sobriety — freedom from alcohol — through the teaching and practice of the Twelve Steps is the sole purpose of an A.A. group. Groups have repeatedly tried other activities, and they have always failed. It has also been learned that there is no possible way to make nonalcoholics into A.A. members. We have to confine our membership to alcoholics, and we have to confine our A.A. groups to a single purpose. If we don’t stick to these principles, we shall almost surely collapse. And if we collapse, we cannot help anyone. 

Tradition Five states that: “Each group has but one primary purpose – to carry its message to the alcoholic who still suffers”.

One of the best A.A.s I know is a man who had been seven years on the needle before he joined up with us. But prior to that, he had been a terrific alcoholic, and his history proved it. Therefore, he could qualify for A.A., and this he certainly did. Since then, he has helped many A.A.’s and some non-A.A.’s with their pill and drug troubles. Of course, that is strictly his affair and in no way the business of the A.A. group to which he belongs. In his group, he is a member because, in actual fact, he is an alcoholic.

This man’s experience of a dual-addiction shows the importance of having open AA meetings to allow people to come and listen to see if they identify with the problems with alcohol.

Such is the sum of what A.A. cannot do — for narcotics addicts or for anybody else. Now, then, what can be done? Very effective answers to problems other than freedom from alcohol have always been found through special purpose groups, some of them operating within A.A. and some on the outside. 

Our first special-purpose group was created way back in 1938.

That first special purpose group was The Alcoholic Foundation. Several special purpose groups that did not last long-term formed in the 1940’s. Some of those groups evolved into Al-Anon and Narcotics Anonymous early 1950’s.

I’m very sure that these experiences of yesterday can be the basis of resolving today’s confusion about the narcotics problem. This problem is new, but the A.A. experience and Traditions which can solve it are already old and time-tested. I think we might sum it up like this: We cannot give A.A. membership to nonalcoholic narcotics addicts. But, like anyone else, they should be able to attend certain open A.A. meetings, provided, of course, that the groups themselves are willing. A.A. members who are so inclined should be encouraged to band together in groups to deal with sedative and drug problems. But they ought to refrain from calling themselves A.A. groups.

There are now hundreds of 12 step fellowships active around the world today Thanks to the experience and wisdom of the AA pioneers to allow anyone to adapt and use the 12 Steps and Traditions to form their own groups and recover from their problems.

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