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One of the critical components of 12 step programs is the message we carry. The 12 steps, which originated in Alcoholics Anonymous are a message, and that message has been transformed by other organizations, like Narcotics Anonymous, 12 step groups meet regularly. The support of group members is the basis of the recovery process that has improved the lives of millions of people. Our messages are clear. We all carry a message at meetings. Some members of groups work together to create the best environment to carry a message to everyone who attends. The environment we create is a message as well. These groups created service structures that try to support the groups, by providing services and literature. The messages we commit to paper are powerful. They are the summation of all our ideas as a fellowship.
Both AA and NA are similar in structure since the groups are the top, and all the service bodies are directly responsible to the groups. That’s the way our structures were created, and the 12 concepts are the guiding principles of our service structures. The funding of these services has the potential to create complex relationships between the groups and the various service bodies and is ripe for abuse. Where do the funds come from to provide this literature and services is a hot topic for anyone involved in these service structures and how the funds are spent is an even hotter topic. Here are some numbers from their respective websites, for comparison.
Alcoholics Anonymous (2015);
65,741 Groups registered, contributing $7,154,146 (estimated 1.3 million members)
The bottom of the service structure is Group Service Office (GSO) which spends about $149 annual to support each group, of which $108 is contributions and the rest is from literature sales. Annual budget for revenue is $9,835,124.
Narcotics Anonymous (2015);
About 63,000 Groups registered (without Iranian groups, 44,800)
Iran has a huge fellowship that exploded into life in the 1990’s and wasn’t well connected to the rest of the fellowship until after the millennium.
Contributions of $1,038,626 from the fellowship
(no membership estimates available but likely hundreds of thousands, and perhaps approaching a million) (Iranian financials aren’t readily available.)
The bottom of the service structure is Narcotics Anonymous World Services (NAWS). NAWS spends about $71.61 (without Iran, $100.70) annual to support each group, of which $16.49 (again, without Iran, $22.95) is contributions and the rest is from Literature sales.
Annual budget for revenue is $8,213,890.
As you can see AA is much better supported by the fellowship than NA. I could write several articles on how this came about, or what I believe the cause is, but neither would really serve the purpose of writing this article, which is a call to arms. I do believe there is a disconnect between our principles of self-support and a lack of accountability from a growing discontent within the fellowships. I have a solution, and I’m promoting a revolution…but first a story. It’s difficult to have a decent revolution without a good story.
About 10 years ago, our literature person had her car stolen. She was a house cleaner, and the scoundrels (likely alcoholics and addicts…but I digress) took all her cleaning products, her vacuum and destroyed the car. What they left was the duffel bag full of literature that was sitting on the floorboards, behind the driver’s seat. When this happened, I realized was that our literature is effectively worthless. You couldn’t pawn a Big Book (AA literature) or get a bank loan with a stack of Basic Texts (NA literature) as collateral. The only value that comes from our literature is when it’s in the hands of someone with desire to stop using. We have created these elaborate service structures and built paper empires that no longer service the fellowship effectively and are becoming increasingly distant and less accountable because of worthless paper.
The Gideon’s is a Christian fellowship of 300,000 people worldwide (according to their website). They are dedicated to putting their literature into the hands of people in need of salvation, and every hotel room in the world seems to have a bible because of them. Their annual budget is about 115 million, of which 100 million is for literature that they give away. That works out to about $400 annually to each member. I’m willing to bet many us spent more than $400 annually to support our addictions.
So, this is my manifesto for revolution. What I want is 100,000 addicts, and 100,000 alcoholics to register with NA or AA on the website, and donate $25 per month. I know it seems like a lot but I’m struggling with an $80 a month Starbucks addiction (love the Grande Flat White!), so I think I can cough up $25. This represents about $30 million annually, and effectively triples the annual budgets of both organizations. Think about that for a few minutes then start harassing your brothers and sisters in recovery. We don’t even need them all…just 100,000 dedicated souls.
The second phase of the manifesto is to go to your next business meeting and make a motion to have all the literature housed in storage lockers and warehouses shipped to the groups. It’s the only place where our literature becomes effective or starts to have any value. The best part is that the literature is already paid for. We own it, and we’re tired of paying for it twice. The masters of the paper empires can’t stop us because they are our trusted servants. If we are a registered group, they must create the structures to support us. We show up monthly to our group business meeting and start demanding better services. We want billboards, and TV ads, and better distribution of meeting lists. We need simple, effective guides on how groups can be effective locally, and what a member can expect from their service structures. The service structures themselves would benefit from improved training. We demand that ‘you’ serve ‘us’ in a more accountable fashion by showing us how to hold you accountable. We effectively tripled your budget, so we want to triple the service. I always wanted to say this and mean it, so “Viva la Revolution!”