Outside Issues?

The 12 Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous, the principles that hold our groups and society together.

Outside Issues?

Postby chefchip » Wed Jul 02, 2014 11:02 am

Tradition 10, Long Form wrote:Our A.A. Experience has taught us that:

Ten—No A.A. group or member should ever, in such a
way as to implicate A.A.
, express any opinion on outside
controversial issues—particularly those of politics, alcohol
reform, or sectarian religion. The Alcoholics Anonymous
groups oppose no one. Concerning such matters they can
express no views whatever.

(Color highlights are mine)

Recently, we have been having rather spirited discussions about substances other than alcohol. Specifically, we have been talking about whether or not using other drugs -- prescribed or non-prescribed -- constitutes a slip/relapse in our individual AA programs. Rather than continuing to hijack other threads with this topic of "outside issues" I decided to start one. So.....

Part of my problem with discussions about other substances is that I feel that we often confuse the issues. Whenever we discuss this topic, there always end up being two issues, both of which are separate and worthy in their own right, in my view. But usually they are talked about as if they are one and the same, which they clearly are not. The topics?

1 - The wisdom of taking any drug that alters our moods, under a doctor's care or not.
2 - Whether AA as an organization, and even our groups, should have a specific policy, practice or guidelines regarding other substances. Or even if we as AA groups should be stating that these activities constitute slips/relapses.

1 - Personally, I believe as many people do. If I take anything that helps me escape from reality then I need to seriously reevaluate my program -- all of my program. Likewise, if I do take such a substance, I have determined that I need to reset my sobriety date -- not because I took a drink or even that I am in danger of drinking, or because someone In AA told me to do so, but because my program obviously needs some help. Also, personally, I believe that this attitude should be true for any reasonable, honest alcoholic who wants what we have to offer.


2 - It seems abundantly clear that the traditions say that AA as a whole, and AA groups specifically, should not be publicly taking such a position. If someone who has sobriety from alcohol ingests another mood altering substance, I might rightfully believe that they have slipped/elapsed. But according to the tradition, long form, quoted above, these matters are best dealt with privately -- say between sponsor and sponsee -- and not at all in any official capacity. And, for the record, a member stating in a meeting or on a group's online forum that "smoking pot equals slip/relapse" IS an official capacity. Newcomers often hang on our every word, rightfully or not.


I'm curious. How do others feel about this? It should be obvious how I feel about it. I strongly feel that one of the problems AA faces today is the slow, systematic (even if well meaning) dilution of its message by other messages, by outside issues if you will.

I hope this doesn't turn into a shouting match, or even a war of words. Rather, I post this hoping to have a serious thoughtful discussion, one that is backed up with real evidence and not just the spouting of well-worn, even worn out, platitudes. In any case, I hope people can be nice, and that I don't regret sticking my toe in this pond. Thanks in advance to all who thoughtfully, intelligently and respectfully engage.


PS - after this post, I am not going to post on this thread again, even if asked a direct question. This should not be about me. I just started the darned thing. I welcome PMs if something I said here needs clarifying. Otherwise, I just want to see what others have to say. Who knows? I've been known to change my mind before.
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Re: Outside Issues?

Postby ann2 » Wed Jul 02, 2014 12:26 pm

Not to quash discussion, but this seems like one of the constant unresolvable issues in AA, like "recovered vs. recovering."

I mean, we are here to deal with ambiguities and sober, we need to accept them. The lack of black and white.

So I say, go ahead and argue.

What do I think? My experience getting to AA had to do with pot use. My continuing to attend AA had to do with the flexibility of groups on that issue. I was so messed up that someone telling me THEN not to mention my pot use would have pushed me out the door. But nobody did (that I recall).

I stayed sober long enough to finally take the steps and acknowledge that I AM alcoholic and don't NEED to mention my pot use. I stayed sober long enough to find e-AA which politely told me that identifying myself as an alcoholic AND an addict was trying to be unique.

So I have benefited from both sides. I am the representation of ambiguity :)

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Re: Outside Issues?

Postby kenyal » Wed Jul 02, 2014 2:53 pm

I'm not sure if our opinions in any matter carry the kind of weight suggested by the OP. If I'm instructing new people online inadvertently, let me say directly that you can do far better for yourself f2f.

Some say the high from opiates or dope is really great and being not alcohol, they are ways in which sober members can still get loaded and are not to be missed. Everyone gets to pursue their own path in that matter, as we do in others. I like to observe how things work out for people based on their choices and take from that the lessons I can. I noticed early that what is possible for one alcoholic is possible for another, based on their actions. Either positive or negative results realized from their choices.

The sober wife of a sponsee liked her pain pills a lot and after 10 years began to show up at meetings too loaded to speak. No one mentioned it for quite a while, hoping she'd take care of it, but her sponsees asked others for help and she withdrew. After she was back on the needle and often coming home after dawn for about 5 years my guy divorced her and her life declined further. A little recreational time-out from reality didn't work for her. Plenty of other examples but they play out the same.

Things either work and are attractive to me or they do not and I find them unattractive. I've not seen any members improve their lives by playing around with drugs for a recreational high, so based on that I make the better choice for myself. Had I observed that they did well I might lean the other way on this question, as I want the best for my life and have no fixed morality-based beliefs in the matter.
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Re: Outside Issues?

Postby ann2 » Thu Jul 03, 2014 11:54 am

Umm . . . upon re-reading my post it might seem as if I am smoking pot now. Sorry! Very ambiguous of me. What I was trying to say was that I came to AA because I had seen I was powerless over pot . . . and alcohol. The alcohol at that point was a secondary observation, because the pot smoking was overwhelmingly in control. However, after complete abstinence from all mind-altering substances, after the fog cleared, it became obvious to me that I had been powerless over alcohol. Then after more time and a bit of step work, it became just accepted that really I was alcoholic and the pot had been a substitute. I started with alcohol, in other words, and I would go back to alcohol.

I think step 1 really helped me here. Plus some excellent reading that helped me to see the personality characteristics of the alcoholic in me.

IF the first meeting I had gone to hadn't included a lead share by a lady celebrating her first anniversary in which she primarily talked about her pot use and how that got her to AA, I might not be here. And I would have been really sorry about missing out. So thanks for your flexibility.

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Re: Outside Issues?

Postby BPG » Thu Jul 03, 2014 6:52 pm

I love the civility that Chip and Ann bring to these discussions. This is how newcomers should see us. I (for one) would do well to take note.

As to Chip's OP, I am thoroughly with him on Point 1. I avoid all drugs, prescription or otherwise, unless I really must --- as in taking painkillers after surgery. I too would consider any indulgence for pleasure --- even an innocent, relaxing joint while sitting with friends in a hot tub --- a slip in my own program.

I have a harder time with Chip's Point 2.

I guess that, in some respects, drug use is an 'outside issue'. But IMO it's more precise to think of it as a tangential issue that really cannot be lumped together with other 'outside issues' like politics. I like to think of 'outside issues' as those issues that hang out at some distance from our core issue, alcoholism. Drug use may not be in exactly the same house as alcohol use, but it is surely in the same neighborhood. By comparison, politics resides in the next county.

For me, when recreational drugs are indulged in for pleasure, then the user is demonstrating his desire to escape from his true self. Broadly defined, that is alcoholism, in my opinion. The same cannot reasonably be said about caffeine, nicotine, trans-fats or Hershey Bars.

One last point and I'll join Chip in his silence on this thread. We should never forget our true purpose, to reach out to the newcomer who still suffers. Interesting debates appear on this site, and many posters make finely drawn arguments about issues like NA beer, prescription meds, recreational drug use etc. We get these arguments, and understand the difficult ambiguities when, say, someone talks about a sober friend who indulges in a recreational joint once a year. We get it, but I'm not sure that newcomers do. I suspect they're reading the post and saying, 'Cool'....

That's not an argument against frank discussion, but it may be an issue for e-AA itself to consider.
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Re: Outside Issues?

Postby shaunagus » Fri Jul 04, 2014 4:19 am

Last edited by shaunagus on Fri Jul 04, 2014 4:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Outside Issues?

Postby David A » Fri Jul 04, 2014 2:51 pm

The only official AA statements I know of are Conference-approved bulletins and literature.

To implicate AA, I think a group or member would have to state an outside opinion and then erroneously attribute it to being part of the AA program (as laid out by Conference-approved literature and bulletins). Without the latter part, it's simply an opinion -- something we're all entitled to have, and something that the 10th Tradition specifically states AA has no opinion on or issue with.

Either that is true or the opposite is true -- the opposite being that every opinion stated in an AA group is of official AA capacity. Then, does that include meetings where I've heard members share about committing capital crimes? There's no room for grey area left in the wording of the Tradition, and to me, only one of those two options makes sense.

Maybe I'm wrong! If I've missed something, please tell me! I'm wrong all the time.

Edit: I think this Tradition also means that whenever someone shares about outside issues like drugs, then those issues can be addressed in good conscience specifically as outside issues by members interested in sticking to the primary purpose.
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Re: Outside Issues?

Postby Patsy© » Sun Oct 12, 2014 4:52 pm

I believe that Alcoholics Anonymous addresses this issue head on in one their Pamphlets called: - The A.A. Member — Medications and Other Drugs.

http://www.aa.org/assets/en_US/p-11_aam ... edDrug.pdf

This pamphlet is interesting, honest and speaks to the issue of the alcoholic using drugs, both prescribed and street drugs.

Personally, I feel strongly that if one of my sponsee's or another AA member is using any mind altering drug for the purpose of getting high, then that means that they need to start over from day one with their sobriety.....if not, then find another sponsor because I will not deal with anyone who is taking anything for the purpose of altering their mind to get high.

Just my thoughts.
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