The ONLY requirement for membership...

By KateQ 05/31/19
empty chairs at AA meeting

This weekend I sat in an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting that I helped start about a decade ago.

There were about a dozen or so women in the room, and half of them would have been in their early teens when I typed out the first format for The Step Sister’s Group.

It came time for one of these young women to share; she was a month sober, but didn’t pick up a chip she said, because she’s on the methadone program.She was a drunk sure, she said, but the drug that helped her hit bottom was something other than alcohol. For the last year or so she’s been trying to use methadone to get off her drug of choice therefore she was not 100% without a substance in her system, and therefore not clean, she believed she was ineligible to take a chip.

I bit my tongue.Literally, I can still feel the scab.

The room finished sharing, and eventually the chair closed the meeting.

A few announcements were made about upcoming and recent birthdays. The 7th was collected and of course, finally, we joined hands in prayer.

“Hey, - Shannon…” I turned towards the young woman after the circle broke.
“Yah?” she said as I approached her.

“Have you had a drink in the last month?”

“Nope.” She stated…

“Cool, take a chip then, ok? The 3rd tradition states, here I’ll show you,” I grabbed the laminated version of the 12 traditions and pointed to the 3rd one.“…The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. Also just so you know, we have no opinion on outside issues; which means, no one in AA can tell you that you can’t pick up a chip, ok? Or that you’re not sober…If they do, you can send them my way. OK?”

The poor girl started crying instantly.

She hugged me and another member handed her a chip.

I didn’t ask the rest of the group what they thought, or take a vote or a group conscious. I didn’t really give a fuck what the other people in the room thought, this young woman’s life was at stake, and from MY experience, taking a chip from a group of women who support ones recovery can and will help keep her alive.

Some members of Alcoholic’s Anonymous, might not be aware of the seriousness of the crisis that is currently in full swing.In Canada, in the first 9 months of 2018, 3,456 people died due to suspected opioid overdose.I acknowledge that AA’s primary purpose has nothing to do with drugs, but if this is the only room this woman is comfortable in then we welcome her, especially since she clearly has a desire to not drink.

Harm reduction is frowned upon in the rooms of AA, and it’s killing people.

I am not a proponent of breaking the traditions; the only requirement for AA is a desire to stop drinking and it is there for a reason…however if as members we stay focused on what other substances people use to cope during their recovery from addiction we will certainly impeded their recovery process and will miss the opportunity to be of service and share our spiritual practice.

I know that our primary purpose is to offer our experience strength and hope to the still suffering alcoholic; this I am not contending. There are people in the rooms who have the desire to stop drinking, but who have also used other substances to excess. I believe we are harming everyone if they are not allowed to speak freely at meetings, actually, I think we are doing a huge disservice to all of our members.

My struggle is, if people in AA were strict about having only ‘pure’ alcoholics at a meeting, and I mean no one with any other addiction or substance abuse problem …well, in my experience, church basements across the world would be empty.

Anyone else use anything to excess to cope besides illegal drugs or alcohol?

Think carefully…

Many members continue to smoke and drink coffee and would certainly have withdrawal symptoms if they stopped.

The sugar intake in meetings would definitely be worth taking note of.

Are you reading this article on a cell phone or other form of technology & how many hours do you spend on that screen? If an expert addiction specialist monitored your screen time, how would you fair in an assessment of addictive behaviors?

Does your heart race when the internet goes down? ….I’m just asking….no need to get defensive.

How many times have you binge watched a series on NETFLIX and let the laundry and dishes sit waiting to be done?

Have you ever avoided dealing with a conflict by going on a shopping spree?

All of these are examples of potentially addictive behaviors.

Alcoholics Anonymous is a safe place for people who have decided to remove alcohol as one of those behaviors.Some of us in 12 step rooms have trauma, some of us don’t but as humans all of us have uncomfortable emotions that we’re doing our best to deal with.

I am simply contemplating, honestly, as a long time member in AA, how well do we deal with life’s stressors? What do they do when you’re having a hard time? I would dare say that NO ONE in AA is perfect at practicing Step 3 (to turn ones will and life over to the care of a higher power) without using some unhealthy coping strategies. We are only human.

I would challenge that there is not person in all of the 12 step rooms across the world that is 100% spiritually fit and completely abstinent from using anything outside of themselves to help deal with life…pick a substance…you probably have an unhealthy relationship to something.

Nowhere in Alcoholics Anonymous literature does it state a requirement of FULL abstinence…from EVERYTHING…to be able to sit in a room of AA; if a group decides to keep people on methadone out of meetings, then I would suggest they may want to take a group inventory of every member to ensure that only the purest of Alcoholics stay members.

I’m hoping that eventually people will recognize the irrelevancy of the substances used, and stop judging others because their ‘drug of choice’ is different than there own. I am not suggesting that AA change, but perhaps the people in it could be more willing to take their own inventories rather than focus on who’s truly sober or not, because the third tradition keeps it pretty clear.

The woman's group didn’t say anything when I gave Sharon her 30 day chip.I am grateful that AA groups are autonomous, unless affecting other groups or AA as a whole, since I am certain I was not breaking any traditions or harming AA as a whole by giving Sharon a chip…she is by all definitions without a drink for 30 days and eligible. Period.


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