WHAT IS AA?
There are two practical ways to describe A.A.
The first is the familiar description of purposes and objectives that appears earlier:
“Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. There are no dues or fees for A.A. membership; we are self-supporting through our own contributions. A.A. is not allied with any sect, denomination, politics, organization or institution; does not wish to engage in any controversy; neither endorses nor opposes any causes. Our primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety.”
The “common problem” is alcoholism. The men and women who consider themselves members of A.A. are, and always will be, alcoholics, even though they may have other addictions. They have finally recognized that they are no longer able to handle alcohol in any form; they now stay away from it completely. The important thing is that they do not try to deal with the problem single-handedly. They bring the problem out into the open with other alcoholics. This sharing of “experience, strength and hope” seems to be the key element that makes it possible for them to live without alcohol and, in most cases, without even wanting to drink.
The second way to describe Alcoholics Anonymous is to outline the structure of the Society. Numerically, A.A. consists of more than 2,000,000 men and women, in approximately 180 countries. These people meet in local groups that range in size from a handful of ex-drinkers in some localities to many hundreds in larger communities. In the populous metropolitan areas, there may be scores of neighborhood groups, each holding its own regular meetings.
Many A.A. meetings are open to the public; some groups also hold “closed meetings,” where members are encouraged to discuss problems that might not be fully appreciated by nonalcoholics. The local group is the core of the A.A. Fellowship. Its open meetings welcome alcoholics and their families in an atmosphere of friendliness and helpfulness.
There are now more than 118,000 groups throughout the world, including hundreds in hospitals, prisons, and other institutions.
HISTORY OF AA KENYA
Alcoholics Anonymous was first started in Nairobi sometime in the early 1960’s only to disband soon afterwards presumably because its largely expatriate membership left the country. In view of the role of the Oxford Group, later to be known as Moral Rearmament, in the origins of Alcoholics Anonymous, it is noteworthy that Franck Buchman, the movement’s founder, visited Nairobi early in the 1960’s. Soon afterwards MRA meetings, attended largely by expatriates except for one indigenous Kenyan, were conducted in a private home in the Upper Hill throughout the 1960’s until when the movement was proscribed by the State in 1969. There is need for more research to establish if any connections exist between the first attempt at starting AA meetings in the 1960’s and the MRA meetings that were conducted in the Upper Hill area of Nairobi over the same period.
Ten years after the first attempt at starting AA meetings in Kenya, two distinct serendipitous encounters set in motion a chain of events that culminated in the AA message of hope and recovery finding a foothold in the country. These two encounters planted the seeds of the parallel emergence of first AA groups within Nairobi CBD and within Nairobi’s Eastlands neighborhoods. Over time, these pioneering groups were to in turn grow into the now vibrant fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous in Kenya.
WHAT IS ALCOHOLISM?
There are many different ideas about what alcoholism really is. The explanation that seems to make sense to most A.A. members is that alcoholism is an illness, a progressive illness, which can never be cured but which, like some other diseases, can be arrested. Going one step further, many A.A.s feel that the illness represents the combination of a physical sensitivity to alcohol and a mental obsession with drinking, which, regardless of consequences, cannot be broken by willpower alone. Before they are exposed to A.A., many alcoholics who are unable to stop drinking think of themselves as morally weak or, possibly, mentally unbalanced.
The A.A. concept is that alcoholics are sick people who can recover if they will follow a simple program that has proved successful for more than two million men and women.
Once alcoholism has set in, there is nothing morally wrong about being ill. At this stage, free will is not involved, because the sufferer has lost the power of choice over alcohol. The important thing is to face the facts of one’s illness and to take advantage of the help that is available. There must also be a desire to get well. Experience shows that the A.A. program will work for all alcoholics who are sincere in their efforts to stop drinking; it usually will not work for those not absolutely certain that they want to stop.
HOW DOES AA HELP THE ALCOHOLIC?
Through the example and friendship of the recovered alcoholics in AA, new members are encouraged to stay away from a drink “one day at a time,” as the AA’s do. Instead of “swearing off forever” or worrying about whether they will be sober tomorrow, AA’s concentrate on not drinking right now — today.
By keeping alcohol out of their systems, newcomers take care of one part of their illness — their bodies have a chance to get well. But remember, there is another part. If they are going to stay sober, they need healthy minds and healthy emotions, too. So they begin to straighten out their confused thinking and unhappy feelings by following AA’s “Twelve Steps” to recovery.
These Steps suggest ideas and actions that can guide alcoholics toward happy and useful lives. To be in touch with other members and to learn about the recovery program, new members go to AA meetings regularly.
THE IMPORTANCE OF ANONYMITY
Traditionally, AA members have always taken care to preserve their anonymity at the “public” level: press, radio, television, films and the new media technologies such as the Internet.
In the early days of AA, when more stigma was attached to the term “alcoholic” than is the case today, this reluctance to be identified – and publicised – was easy to understand. As the Fellowship of AA grew, the positive values of anonymity soon became apparent.
First, we know from experience that many problem drinkers might hesitate to turn to AA for help if they thought their problem might be discussed publicly, even inadvertently, by others. Newcomers should be able to seek help with complete assurance that their identities will not be disclosed to anyone outside the Fellowship. Then, too, we believe that the concept of personal anonymity has a spiritual significance for us – that it discourages the drives for personal recognition, power, prestige, or profit that have caused difficulties in some societies. Much of our relative effectiveness in working with alcoholics might be impaired if we sought or accepted public recognition.
While each member of AA is free to make his or her own interpretations of AA tradition, no individual is ever recognised as a spokesperson for the Fellowship locally, nationally, or internationally. Each member speaks only for himself or herself. AA is indebted to all media for their assistance in strengthening the Tradition of anonymity over the years. From time to time, the General Service Office contacts all major media in the United States and Canada, describing the Tradition and asking for cooperation in its observance.
An AA member may, for various reasons, “break anonymity” deliberately at the public level. Since this is a matter of individual choice and conscience, the Fellowship as a whole obviously has no control over such deviations from tradition. It is clear, however, that such individuals do not have the approval of the overwhelming majority of members.
A BRIEF GUIDE TO AA
General information on Alcoholics Anonymous.
HOW AA TRADITIONS DEVELOPED
Bill W.’s 1946–47 Grapevine articles on the Traditions.
ACCESS TO AA
Members share on overcoming barriers.