On the Matter of Chips
TO: GROUP MEMBERS THROUGH: GROUP SECRETARY C.C. AS INDICATED
After listening to the arguments for and against as put forward in the business meeting on Sunday 7th February, here is my take on the issue (for what it’s worth).
The “chips” topic was based upon one member raising that some people were coming to the Friday meeting solely to receive a “sobriety chip” and no more than that. These (few) individuals would then leave the meeting at half time. They are never seen at closed meetings at the ROH group.
It was pointed out by the member that other members who attend the ROH group on a regular basis throughout the year have also commented on this.
The feeling shared by some of the regular members of the group was that the credibility of presenting “chips” was being undermined and the values as such were becoming rather a farce.
And so this point was raised for discussion.
To begin, please allow me to define AA meetings concisely - according to Conference Approved literature.
The purpose of all A.A. group meetings, as the Preamble states, is for A.A. members to "share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism."
Toward this end, A.A. groups have both OPEN and CLOSED meetings.
CLOSED MEETINGS are for A.A. members only, or for those who have a drinking problem and "have a desire to stop drinking."
OPEN MEETINGS are available to anyone interested in Alcoholics Anonymous’ program of recovery from alcoholism. Non alcoholics may attend open meetings as observers. (From Conference approved Literature)
The Ray of Hope group holds 3 meetings each week throughout the year. One of these meetings (Every Friday) is defined as “OPEN” (please refer to definition above).
Some people come ONLY to the closed meeting on the week where they feel they have completed a period of “sobriety” that entitles them to a “sobriety chip”.
These persons are otherwise absent from most or all of the other meetings. We therefore do not have any idea as to whether or not they fulfil the 3rd tradition requirement for AA membership.
As many regular attendees of AA meetings will know, the most common way of identifying as a member of AA is through the custom of announcing it.
Example: (“My name is xyz and I’m an alcoholic”).
By doing so the remaining persons present will accept that this person has a desire to stop drinking and thereby is fully entitled to be a member of the group. This is general custom and practice at many meetings.
However, it must be noted that AA does not insist on this or any other way of introduction. A member of AA is a member when he/she says so. And that’s it………... SIMPLE.
But as we all know, and in spite of the encouragement of the group format to let people identify as alcoholics, there are still those who come to AA meetings and declare themselves as addicts.
We have no problem with persons being members of AA who also have other addictions.
However, if this kind of statement confuses (or amuses) people like me (and I have been “around” for a few days now) just what do the newcomers feel about it or understand from it?
This attitude is often done deliberately to challenge and I have no sympathy with it at all when done for this purpose.
By ignoring/challenging the suggested and usual way of introducing themselves at the AA meeting they become APART FROM the group instead of A PART OF the group (in my eyes).
So then, how do we AS A GROUP accept these people as persons who have a desire to stop drinking?
Frankly and quite honestly I do not accept them as such. I may have compassion for them but accept them as members of the group I cannot.
I have sponsored people in AA who are dual addicted ( and still do so) and always suggest to them that if they want to be accepted by others as being a part of the AA fellowship they need to align themselves with what is suggested.
This way they can feel themselves A PART OF instead of APART FROM. This is not a rule but just plain common sense.
Some of these people have become and still are valuable and respected friends in the fellowship. They are no less a member (in my eyes) that ANY other member who perhaps has alcohol as his/her primary drug of choice.
But, these members ARE NOT the people the discussion is referring to.
The people this discussion is referring to DO NOT usually attend the OPEN meeting UNLESS they want to “pick up a chip”.
Furthermore, some of them NEVER come to a closed meeting at the Church at all.
For my way of thinking, as I have made clear to the group on several occasions, this behaviour not only undermines the “spiritual significance “of receiving a chip but is clearly in conflict with the definition of an open meeting.
If we are to continue with this (to my mind farcical practice) then where does it stop?
If a person comes to an open meeting of AA for the sole purpose of collecting a Chip why do we not pass a motion to give EVERYONE a chip if they come to OPEN meetings?
After all, in the cases I am referring to, the 3rd Tradition is not applicable.
Should we then give EVERYONE a chip for attending the OPEN meetings?
My wife often comes to OPEN meetings. Should we offer her a chip?
And what about the wives and husbands of those who attend OPEN meetings? Do we offer them a chip? After all, they have also not identified as AA members and this is an OPEN meeting.
Of course not. This would simply be madness.
In the interests of the group welfare a solution needs to be found. We cannot keep pleasing people so as not to upset them. Principles should ALWAYS come before personalities in such matters.
So what might we do?
Well, I suppose there are several solutions but none for sure are perfect. We could:
· Stop issuing chips to EVERYONE at OPEN meetings
· Issue chips ONLY at Closed meetings.
Additionally, we could prepare a statement related to the issuance of chips which will inform the attendees of the origins of issuing chips and their SPIRITUAL SIGNIFICANCE to AA members.
Although I agreed at our meeting to prepare such a statement I have given it further thought and decided that under the circumstances this is not for me to do. I am normally not one for going back on my word but this time I believe it would be better for another member to draft the statement and not me.
I have presented the side to this discussion as I see it. Whatever the group decides to do from here on in then let the group decide – without any further involvement from me.
If to some members I sound bossy or controlling it’s unintentional. I have merely done what I can to present the argument backed with reason and integrity.
As always, I try to “cross the t’s and dot the I’s” but that is just my way and there is no intent to offend.
Of course, there will be the argument that our 4th Tradition allows each group to be autonomous.
This is fine, but our 5th Tradition protects us from trying to be “all things to all men”. “SHOEMAKER STICK TO THY LAST”
Some of us do care about using the traditions and guidelines to avoid group division and conflict. I am one of those advocates. It was proposed by one attendee at this evenings meeting to vote on the issue.
But our group has previously agreed that before any issue goes to a vote (which is almost certainly to be divisive), we shall first exhaust the process of discussion. This in the interest of unity.
As those that attend the meetings will know the chairperson always reads the long form of Tradition One to remind us the common welfare – (the group), comes before individual welfare.
Sorry about my cynicism but I feel even this is just lip service to some of us. If the group comes first it is a principle we should be serious about. Individual welfare follows close afterwards – does not precede.
And finally, I offer here what AA says about the group conscience.
WHAT IS AN INFORMED A.A. GROUP CONSCIENCE?
The group conscience is the collective conscience of the group membership and thus represents substantial unanimity on an issue before definitive action is taken. This is achieved by the group members through the sharing of full information, individual points of view, and the practice of A.A. principles. To be fully informed requires a willingness to listen to minority opinions with an open mind. On sensitive issues, the group works slowly—discouraging formal motions until a clear sense of its collective view emerges. (From Conference approved Literature)
We also need to bear in mind the importance of our 12 Concepts for service and particularly the guidance of our sometimes forgotten 5th Concept.
I shall not try to influence anyone at any future meeting. Like a “bleeding deacon” I shall leave the scene and allow others to do as they will.
All the guidance any of us need can be found in our Conference Approved literature. It is always advisable to read this stuff as it helps us to avoid conflict in the groups.
After all, those that came before us have made all our mistakes and we do not need to repeat them. Hence the guidelines and traditions etc. were developed for our benefit BEFORE we got to the rooms.
If we are able to rely upon this and the ultimate authority as described in Tradition 2 then we shall probably not get lost in our journey of recovery.
The time has now come for me personally to “let go and let group”- (my apologies for paraphrasing one of our slogans)
I very sincerely wish the ROH group membership a long and happy existence wherever the direction of the group conscience leads it on this or any other matter.
If I have offended anyone, at any time, by my manner, my actions, my words or general behavior please allow me to apologize to you.
I thank each of you for allowing me to be part of the group.
Yours in service………….Doug………………………….8th February 2016.
Copies by email to attendees: Kumar, Franco, Ann, Balaji, …………………Copy to group file: