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Safety and A.A.: Our Common Welfare

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Safety and A.A.: Our Common Welfare

Safety is an important issue within A.A. — one that all groups and members can address to develop workable solutions and help keep our meetings safe based on the fundamental principles of the Fellowship.

Each member of Alcoholics Anonymous is but a small part of a great whole. A.A. must continue to live or most of us will surely die. Hence our common welfare comes frst. But individual welfare follows close afterward.

Tradition One (Long Form)

A.A. groups are spiritual entities made up of alcoholics who gather for the sole purpose of staying sober and helping other alcoholics to achieve sobriety. Yet, we are not immune to the difficulties that affect the rest of humanity.

Alcoholics Anonymous is a microcosm of the larger society within which we exist. Problems found in the outside world can also make their way into the rooms of A.A. As we strive to share in a spirit of trust, both at meetings and individually with sponsors and friends, it is reasonable for each member to expect a meaningful level of safety. Those attending A.A. meetings derive a beneft by providing a safe environment in which alcoholics can focus on gaining and maintaining sobriety. The group can then fulfll its primary purpose — to carry the A.A. message to the alcoholic who still suffers. For this reason, groups and members discuss the topic of safety.

Autonomy and Group Action

Because A.A., as such, ought never be organized, as indicated in Tradition Nine, it is individual members and groups who ensure that all members feel as safe as possible in A.A.

There is no government within A.A. and no central authority, legal or otherwise, to control or direct the behavior of A.A. members. As embodied in the Fourth Tradition, the formation and operation of an A.A. Group resides with the group conscience of its members. A.A. groups and service entities such as areas, districts, inter-group/central offices are autonomous.

Recognizing that safety is an issue of importance to its members, many groups have taken actions to keep distractions and disruptions to a minimum within the context of the group.

A.A. Membership

A.A. membership has never been contingent on any set of behavioral or moral standards — beyond those founded on common sense, courtesy, and the timeless values of kindness, tolerance and love.

A.A.’s Third Tradition states that the only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. This brings an openness that helps to defne our character as a diverse Fellowship; yet it also requires us to be mindful of our group and individual safety.

Some people, however, come into A.A. without an understanding of the type of behavior that is appropriate in meetings or in the company of other members. A person can be sober in A.A., yet still not understand what is acceptable.

Dealing with Disruptions

While most groups operate with a healthy balance of spontaneity and structure, there are a number of situations that can threaten group unity and challenge the safety of the group and its members. Often this can center on disruptive individuals, those who are confrontational, aggressive, or those who are simply unwilling to put the needs of the group frst. Such behavior can hijack the focus of a meeting and frighten members, new and old.

Some groups have developed plans for addressing disruptive behavior and have established procedures through their group conscience to ensure that the group’s welfare is protected. In many cases, disruptive behavior is pre-empted by having the chairperson state the expectations for behavior in the meeting.

Some groups include in their opening announcements that illegal and disruptive behavior is not tolerated. Still other groups have asked disruptive members to leave the meeting. Additionally, groups and members always have the option to call the appropriate authorities if disruptive behavior continues or anyone’s safety is at risk.

Group Safety and Unity

Situations that groups have addressed through their group conscience include, sexual harassment or stalking; threats of violence; bullying; financial coercion; racial or lifestyle intolerance; pressuring A.A. members into a particular point of view or belief relating to medical treatments and/or medications, politics, religion, or other outside issues. In addition, there may be other behaviors that go on outside of typical meeting times that may affect whether someone feels safe to return to the group.

Some groups have their own guidelines or procedures to help keep the meeting safe. A.A. members can speak to those who are acting inappropriately. Situations can be discussed at business meetings to come to a group conscience about how to handle a situation. As a last resort, the disruptive member may be asked to stop attending the meeting for a specifc period of time. Groups that take this drastic action do it in order to preserve the common welfare of the group and to maintain A.A. unity.

In any situation, if a person’s safety is in jeopardy, or the situation breaches the law, the individuals involved can take appropriate action to ensure their safety. Calling the proper authorities does not go against any A.A. Traditions. Anonymity is not a cloak protecting criminal or inappropriate behavior.

Inappropriate or predatory behavior, such as unwanted sexual attention or targeting vulnerable members can be especially troublesome. These behaviors may go on outside of typical meeting times. While A.A. members can be caring and supportive to those affected, we are not professionals trained to handle such situations. Law enforcement or other professional help may be necessary.

Victims of inappropriate behavior, harassment or predators can let the group know about such situations, often through a sponsor or trusted friend. This way the group is informed, and members can help address the situation and curtail further problems. Group discussion should be focused on creating an environment where all alcoholics can fnd and maintain sobriety.

A.A. and the Law

Common sense and experience suggest that A.A. membership does not grant immunity from local regulations and being at an A.A. meeting does not put anyone beyond the jurisdiction of law enforcement officers. As individuals, A.A. members are also “citizens of the world,” and as citizens we are not above the law.

Through the group conscience process, many groups have established guidelines regarding when it may be appropriate to call authorities and handle a given situation within the legal system. No A.A. group has to tolerate illegal behavior and any activity within an A.A. meeting is subject to the same laws that apply outside the meeting. The nature of illegal acts that groups have faced include violence, embezzlement, theft of property, drug sales at a meeting, and more.

Emergencies

Injuries, accidents, fres, etc., sometimes do occur during meetings. To accommodate these situations, groups can also develop plans and procedures, often in consultation with their landlord or local authorities. Addressing an emergency situation is more important than continuing the meeting, and members should not hesitate to call emergency personnel in critical situations.

Keeping the Focus on Our Primary Purpose

It is hoped that our common suffering as alcoholics and our common solution in A.A. would transcend most issues and curtail negative behaviors. As noted in the Big Book, Alcoholics Anonymous, “Love and tolerance of others is our code.”

Safety, however, is important to the functioning of the group. By maintaining order and safety in meetings, the group as a whole will beneft and members will be able to focus on recovery from alcoholism and a life of sobriety.

Ultimately, the experience of how these situations are handled can be as varied as our Fellowship. Good judgment and common sense, informed by the Twelve Traditions, seem to provide the best guide.

What Can Groups and Members Do?

Groups and members can discuss the topic of safety, to raise awareness in the Fellowship and seek through sponsorship, workshops and meetings, to create as safe an environment as possible for the newcomer, and other members or potential members. This can be the subject of sharing among groups at the district or area level.

Here are some helpful suggestions and reminders:

  • Talk about issues of safety before they arise.
  • Safety is something each member attending an A.A. meeting can be mindful of.
  • Communicate clearly what A.A. is and what it is not.
  • Sponsorship plays an important role and sponsors can be helpful in pointing out warning signs or unhealthy situations to sponsees and newcomers.
  • A.A. members who are concerned about the words or actions of a sponsor or other member, may fnd it helpful to speak to someone they trust, their A.A. group, or a professional, as needed.
  • Include Safety and the A.A. Meeting Environment as topics for a group inventory.
  • Consider developing group guidelines and procedures on safety. Recommend that no one walk to a car alone but be accompanied by a trusted fellow or travel in a group.
  • In all discussions about safety, keep the focus on our primary purpose, our common welfare, and place principles before personalities.

Helpful Resources for A.A. Members and Groups

  • Box 459 October 2010 edition, articles on “Disruptive Members at A.A. Meetings” and “A.A. and the Law” (available on the newsletters page at www.aa.org).
  • A report from the 62nd General Service Conference Workshop: “Safety in A.A. Our Common Welfare.*
  • Final Report of the “Ad Hoc Committee on Group Safety of the General Service Board of Alcoholics Anonymous, U.S. and Canada.*
  • A.A. pamphlet, “Questions & Answers on Sponsorship.
  • A.A. pamphlet, “The A.A. Group… Where it All Begins.
  • Contact your District Committee Member or Area Delegate for local shared experience.

*Available upon request by contacting G.S.O.

 

Download at District 11 Website or www.aa.org

 

Selected 2017 Agenda Items results…

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CONFERENCE ADVISORY ACTIONS
OF THE 67th GENERAL SERVICE CONFERENCE

NOTE: These are Selected 2017 Agenda Items that are most relevant to most Members.

 The following recommendations were approved by the 67th General Service Conference:

Floor Actions

It was recommended that:

  1. The pamphlet “Too Young?” be revised to reflect more current collective experiences of young alcoholics and their welcome to A.A.
  2. A.A. Grapevine create a Google for Nonprofits account, with use of the account limited to the YouTube Nonprofit Program and with a guarantee that comments not be shown on the A.A. Grapevine YouTube pages. The A.A. Grapevine Board will track its effectiveness through website metrics.

Archives

It was recommended that:

  1. A draft or a progress report of Unity in Action: Bill W.’s General Service Conference Talks, 1951 – 1970 (working title) be brought back to the 2018 Conference Committee on Archives for review.

 Cooperation with the Professional Community

It was recommended that:

  1. The pamphlet “Three Talks to Medical Societies by Bill W.” be retired.
  2. The title of the pamphlet “Is There an Alcoholic in the Workplace?” be changed to “Is There a Problem Drinker in the Workplace?”

Finance

It was recommended that:

  1. The following text be added to the pamphlet: “Self-Support: Where Money and Spirituality Mix”: “Question: Can an individual or group make a recurring online contribution? Answer: Yes, online at aa.org.”

Literature

It was recommended that:

  1. The following two bullet points in the section “What procedures can a group set up to sponsor new members?” in the pamphlet “Questions and Answers on Sponsorship” be removed:
  • A file of names, addresses, and phone numbers of newcomers (who wish to volunteer the information), with notations showing sponsor or sponsors for each one.
  • Review of newcomers list by steering committee (or Twelfth Step or sponsorship committee) – with follow-up activity where it seems needed.
  1. The following text about young people’s conferences be added to the pamphlet “Young People and A.A.” in the section “Where do I find A.A.?”: Young people’s conferences are held in the United States and Canada and around the world. For information, consult your local A.A. area, intergroup office, or search online for YPAA.
  1. Question 10 in the pamphlet “The A.A. Group” in the section “A.A. Group Inventory” that currently reads, “Are we doing all we can to provide an attractive and accessible meeting place?” be revised to read: Are we doing all we can to provide a safe, attractive and accessible meeting place?
  1. The pamphlet “The A.A. Group” be revised to add the following text from “Safety and A.A.: Our Common Welfare” to the section “Principles Before Personalities”:

Safety and A.A.: Suggestions to Consider

“Safety is an important issue within A.A. – one that all groups and members can address to develop workable solutions and help keep our meetings safe based on the fundamental principles of the Fellowship.

“’Each member of Alcoholics Anonymous is but a small part of a great whole. A.A. must continue to live or most of us will surely die. Hence our common welfare comes first. But individual welfare follows close afterward. (Tradition One, Long Form)’

“A.A. groups are spiritual entities made up of alcoholics who gather for the sole purpose of staying sober and helping other alcoholics to achieve sobriety. Yet, we are not immune to the difficulties that affect the rest of humanity.

“Alcoholics Anonymous is a microcosm of the larger society within which we exist. Problems found in the outside world can also make their way into the rooms of A.A. As we strive to share in a spirit of trust, both at meetings and individually with sponsors and friends, it is reasonable for each member to expect a meaningful level of safety. Those attending A.A. meetings derive a benefit by providing a safe environment in which alcoholics can focus on gaining and maintaining sobriety. The group can then fulfill its primary purpose – to carry the A.A. message to the alcoholic who still suffers. For this reason, groups and members discuss the topic of safety.”

For more information see “Safety and A.A.: Our Common Welfare” (SMF-209) www.aa.org.

  1. The trustees’ Literature Committee develop language regarding safety to be incorporated in current and new recovery literature, where appropriate, along with a plan for implementation. The committee requested that the draft language and proposed plan or progress report be brought back to the 2018 General Service Conference.

Public Information

It was recommended that:

  1. The pamphlet “Understanding Anonymity” be rewritten to include material from G.S.O. literature covering Tradition Eleven and to expand the discussion of humility in Tradition Twelve as it relates to anonymity and that a progress report or draft language be brought back to the 2018 Conference Committee on Public Information.
  2. A.A. World Services, Inc. create a Google for Nonprofits account, with use of the account limited to the YouTube Nonprofit Program and with a guarantee that comments not be shown on A.A.W.S. YouTube pages. The committee requested that a report including information from website analytics and the usefulness and effectiveness of the A.A.W.S. YouTube account be brought back to the 2018 Conference Committee on Public Information.

Treatment and Accessibilities

It was recommended that:

  1. The pamphlet “A.A. for the Alcoholic with Special Needs” be approved with suggested editorial changes and be re-titled “Accessibility for All Alcoholics.”

 

For ALL 2017 GSC (password protected) results, click here.

For password info, contact District 11 (at cniadistrict11@gmail[dot]com) or Webmaster (at cniadistrict11webmaster@gmail[dot]com).