First and foremost let me say that I am a member of Alcoholics Anonymous. I’m also a part of a nonprofit women’s recovery organization (A2WG). I am anonymous in this blog so I will not be breaking tradition 11. Alcoholics Anonymous has the 12 traditions and the Ann Arbor Women’s Group has bylaws.
The Differences in Governance
Here’s where it gets a little dry, but bear with me, I promise it will get interesting soon.
The Ann Arbor Women’s Group has a board of directors and is ruled through its bylaws. Note that “rules” is a synonym for bylaw.
- a rule made by a company or society to control the actions of its members.
- a regulation made by a local authority; an ordinance.
Synonyms: rule, regulation, ordinance
Alcoholics Anonymous is guided by a set of principles. On a personal level the principles are the 12 steps and to preserve the AA group there are the 12 traditions. Note how different a bylaw is from a principle.
- a fundamental truth or proposition that serves as the foundation for a system of belief or behavior or for a chain of reasoning. “the basic principles of Christianity”
- a fundamental source or basis of something. “the first principle of all things was water”
Synonyms: truth, proposition, concept, idea, theory, assumption, fundamental, essential, ground rule
If I had a nickel for every time I heard that recovery organizations are “breaking traditions”… Well, I’d probably only have a couple of bucks, but that’s still too many times. They CAN’T break traditions because they don’t have any. Here’s where it gets confusing for some people. Many of the participants in recovery organizations are also members of 12 step fellowships. On a personal level it is their responsibility to adhere to the 12 traditions. A2WG may not have traditions but they respect them deeply and the board members act in accordance with the 12 traditions. In fact, it’s because of the restrictions the 12 traditions put on AA groups that groups like A2WG have popped up to bridge the gap.
Building Social Bonds
There is a piece that’s lacking in AA and it’s the social aspect of recovery. Sure, we as AA members try to take newcomers out and do fun things with them but typically newcomers are broke. Hell, I’m pretty broke and I’m not even a newcomer. We buy them a cup of coffee and chat with them but we are limited. Going to the movies, taking craft classes, canoeing, lunches, workshops, retreats… (all previous A2WG events) all cost money. AA can’t give money toward those things. It’s not their primary purpose. So how do you get a group of women together to socialize, learn, grow and bond together outside of AA when they all have different economic situations? And why is it even important that these social bonds take place?
Statistics show that people who make strong social bonds in recovery have a greater chance of staying sober! That sounds like a good enough reason to me to start a group outside of AA. Let’s do EVERYTHING we can to help the newcomer. It’s damn hard to stay sober in the beginning. Let’s give them a leg up.
It’s not only newcomers that need those social bonds. People with long term sobriety need that connection too. It’s easy to drift away from recovery once you’ve put a little sober time behind you. A2WG has helped many women reconnect in sobriety.
How A2WG Works
Like I said earlier, A2WG is a 501(c)3 nonprofit. It is run by a board of directors. They are all volunteers and work hard to help women in recovery. A2WG gets grants from different organizations and some donations from individuals so that they can offer free, low-cost ($2-5) and/or scholarship based events for women in recovery. Its goal is to enhance women’s recovery not replace AA. At these events women get to know each other, spend time together, and make strong friendships.
AA can’t do what A2WG does because A2WG gets their money from grants, grants that come from NON-alcoholic/addicts. AA can only accept money from alcoholics (tradition 7).
The Gift of Recovery
A2WG has based some of their workshops and retreats on the 12 steps. Some people automatically assume they could be stepping on AA’s toes by doing this. Mostly this is due to ignorance about AA and AA history. Many years ago Alcoholics Anonymous was gracious enough to gift the 12 steps to the world. Anyone can use them. There are more then two hundred 12 step fellowships out there. Churches use them, treatment centers use them, and nonprofit recovery organizations like the Ann Arbor Women’s Group use them too. Here’s the real kicker, the principles that are in the 12 steps have been around for thousands of years anyway. They are simple spiritual principles. Alcoholics Anonymous was the first organization to put them in the right order to bring about recovery, but you can find them in most really old pieces of spiritual literature. The 12 steps are free for anyone to use.
Third Step Prayer
“God, I offer myself to Thee — to build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy Way of life.” Pg. 63 of “The Big Book”
Do you know what else is free to use from Alcoholics Anonymous? The Big Book. The copy right expired on it years ago and AA chose not to renew it. It is currently in the public domain. You can quote from it, use it in a blog like this (see above) and even use it at an A2WG workshop if you wish. The 3rd step prayer is a beautiful prayer. A2WG refers to it repeatedly. Do you think God cares who is sharing that prayer?
The bottom line is the Ann Arbor Women’s Group and Alcoholics Anonymous work well together. They aren’t affiliated with each other but there is a spirit of cooperation. Alcoholics Anonymous gave people in recovery an amazing gift 80 years ago, and personally, I am eternally grateful. God is still speaking. You’ll hear Him in an AA meeting, church, from a homeless woman on the street or at an A2WG event…IF you are listening.
Shouldn’t we all have the same goal in mind, to stay sober, help the others and live by spiritual principles?
Peace, Love & Sobriety