Nine—-“A.A., as such, ought never be organized; but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve.”
Nine— Each A.A. group needs the least possible organization. Rotating leadership is the best. The small group may elect its secretary, the large group its rotating committee and the groups of a large metropolitan area their central or intergroup committee, which often employs a full-time secretary. The trustees of the General Service Board are, in effect, our A.A. General Service Committee. They are the custodians of our A.A. Tradition and the receivers of voluntary A.A. contributions by which we maintain our A.A. by the groups to handle our overall public relations, and they guarantee the integrity of our principal newspaper, the A.A. Grapevine. All such representatives are to be guided in the spirit of service, for true leaders in A.A. are but trusted and experienced servants of the whole. They derive no real authority from their titles; they do not govern. Universal respect is the key to their usefulness.
WHEN Tradition Nine was first written, it said that “Alcoholics Anonymous needs the least possible organization.” In years since then, we have changed our minds about that. Today, we are able to say with assurance that Alcoholics Anonymous— A.A. as a whole— should never be organized at all. Then, in seeming contradiction, we proceed to create special service boards and committees which in themselves are organized. How, then, can we have an unorganized movement which can and does create a service organization for itself? Scanning this puzzler, people say, “What do they mean, no organization?”
Large organization is loose organization. Nay, it would be almost as true to say that organization is always disorganization. Gilbert K. Chesterton
Atheism is a non-prophet organization just as some organized religions are for profits only.
(Tradition Two) Where does A.A. get its direction? Who runs it? This, too, is a puzzler for every friend and newcomer.
We are an unruly lot; our only hope and direction had to come from power greater than ourselves as expressed in the collective personalities that constitute an informed group conscious. We had to defer to God. We would have to be humble enough to accept the will of God when and how he expressed himself for the good of the many would untimely insure the good as few as the one.
Well, let’s see. Did anyone ever hear of a nation, a church, a political party, even a benevolent association that had no membership rules? Did anyone ever hear of a society which couldn’t somehow discipline its members and enforce obedience to necessary rules and regulations? Doesn’t nearly every society on earth give authority to some of its members to impose obedience upon the rest and to punish or expel offenders? Therefore, every nation, in fact every form of society, has to be a government administered by human beings. Power to direct or govern is the essence of organization everywhere.
It’s a very useful thing to be unorganized, as it does away with the indispensable and the disease of the petty tyrant.
Power to direct, inspect, and to hold accountable without status will follow a corrupted bread crumb trail to prestige.
The power to govern is everywhere except here, if the exception makes the rule then the rule is we have no stinking rules, we don’t need no stinging rules and if we did have stinking rules then we would have to have stinking exceptions.
Yet Alcoholics Anonymous is an exception. It does not conform to this pattern. Neither its General Service Conference, , let its Foundation Board,* nor the humblest group committee can issue a single directive to an A.A. member and make it stick alone mete out any punishment. We’ve tried it lots of times, but utter failure is always the result. Groups have tried to expel members, but the banished have come back to sit in the meeting place, saying, “This is life for us; you can’t keep us out.” Committees have instructed many an A.A. to stop working on a chronic backslider, only to be told: “How I do my Twelfth Step work is my business. Who are you to judge?” This doesn’t mean an A.A. won’t take advice or suggestions from more experienced members, but he surely won’t take orders. Who is more unpopular than the oldtimer A.A., full of wisdom, who moves to another area and tries to tell the group there how to run its business? He and all like him who “view with alarm for the good of A.A.” meet the most stubborn resistance or, worse still, laughter.
(Tradition One) Surely there is none which more jealously guards the individual’s right to think, talk, and act as he wishes. No A.A. can compel another to do anything; nobody can be punished or expelled.
(Tradition Two) No board of directors, who can cast an erring member into outer darkness, when indeed no A.A. can give another a directive and enforce obedience,
When a former sponsee has decided to attend Powerlessness University and give it the old college try one more time, I do my utmost to remain social, cordial and supportive even when it’s their decision to die. I suggest perhaps they are not an alcoholic, perhaps just a heavy drinker and if they are truly an alcoholic, their first thought will be to argue, that in fact they admit that they are an alcoholic, thus reaffirming the First Step.
The number one fear is speaking in public, more than the death of the body, the death of a child, a divorce, loss of a home, and even the loss of a job. At first blush this seems unreasonable and petty until you consider that ridicule is death to the ego and the ego will sacrifice the body on the altar of pride in a vain attempt to stay alive; the preacher said vanity of vanities all is vanity. My greatest fear is that no one will ask me to speak.
Any new truth that has not met the test of time will be first met with ridicule, and then with violent opposition, and when the violent opposition passes away acceptance as being self evident.
You might think A.A.’s headquarters in New York would be an exception. Surely, the people there would have to have some authority. But long ago, trustees and staff members alike found they could do no more than make suggestions, and very mild ones at that. They even had to coin a couple of sentences which still go into half the letters they write: “Of course, you are at perfect liberty to handle this matter any way you please. But the majority experience in A.A. does seem to suggest . . .” Now, that attitude is far removed from central government, isn’t it? We recognize that alcoholics can’t be dictated to— individually or collectively
Reason obeys itself; and ignorance submits to whatever is dictated to it. Thomas Paine
We are always reasonable when we get to do it our way and are allowed to grow from the misadventure
At this juncture, we can hear a churchman exclaim, “They are making disobedience a virtue!” He is joined by a psychiatrist who says, “Defiant brats! They won’t grow up and conform to social usage!” The man in the street says, “I don’t understand it. They must be nuts!” But all these observers have overlooked something unique in Alcoholics Anonymous. Unless each A.A. member follows to the best of his ability our suggested Twelve Steps to recovery, he almost certainly signs his own death warrant. His drunkenness and dissolution are not penalties inflicted by people in authority; they result from his personal disobedience to spiritual principles.
Whenever there is authority, there is a natural inclination to disobedience. Thomas Chandler Haliburton
A.A. is not a hot bed of mental health and so sometimes we don’t want anybody telling us what to do, not even God.
God will wisely, firmly, and lovingly correct His children and bring them to their spiritual senses. The worst thing that could happen to any of us in such situations is for God not to chastise us and leave us to our own devices.
The same stern threat applies to the group itself. Unless there is approximate conformity to A.A.’s Twelve Traditions, the group, too, can deteriorate and die. So we of A.A. do obey spiritual principles, first because we must, and ultimately because we love the kind of life such obedience brings. Great suffering and great love are A.A.’s disciplinarians; we need no others
We are never so defenseless against suffering as when we love Sigmund Freud
Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars. Khalil Gibran
When we accept what is happening to us at the present moment as part of a grander plan needed for our growth, we experience a new freedom and a new happiness. We welcome whatever comes into our lives, surrendering all wants and desire with this new awareness comes contentment and peace.
It is clear now that we ought never to name boards to govern us, but it is equally clear that we shall always need to authorize workers to serve us. It is the difference between the spirit of vested authority and the spirit of service, two concepts which are sometimes poles apart. It is in this spirit of service that we elect the A.A. group’s informal rotating committee, the intergroup association for the area and the General Service Conferences of Alcoholics Anonymous for A.A. as a whole. Even our Foundation, once an independent board, is today directly accountable to our Fellowship. Its trustees are the caretakers and expediters of our world services.
Vested: Not in a state of contingency or suspension; fixed; as, vested rights; vested interests.
We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise the illusion of control.
No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by the prestige of a vested interest, only by service, by long-suffering, and by love unfeigned;
There are no “Big Shots” in A.A. because if one is shot, were all shot
Just as the aim of each A.A. member is personal sobriety, the aim of our services is to bring sobriety within reach of all who want it. If nobody does the group’s chores, if the area’s telephone rings unanswered, if we do not reply to our mail, then A.A. as we know it would stop. Our communications lines with those who need our help would be broken.
“Some people regard discipline as a chore. For me, it is a kind of order that sets me free to fly.” Julie Andrews
The world has need of willing men who has the worker’s zeal Come, help the good work move along; Put your heart, hand, and shoulder to our deal.
A.A. has to function, but at the same time it must avoid those dangers of great wealth, prestige, and entrenched power which necessarily tempt other societies. Though Tradition Nine at first sight seems to deal with a purely practical matter, in its actual operation it discloses a society without organization, animated only by the spirit of service — a true fellowship.
Anonymity is our spiritual principle and our bulwark against the pitfalls of prestige and from the corruption of entrenched power. Money is the necessary evil for we can only help if we pay as we go, and accumulate no hoard of wealth.
For When we are in the service of our fellow beings are we not in the service of our God, and when we are in that service and in that moment are we not divorced from self dilution, self seeking and self pity, and in that service and in that moment is that when we make our conscious contact with our creator, who lives from moment to moment, eternity to eternity life ever lasting. The magic word in A.A. is Action and more Action, for faith without works is dead.