1. Health
Send to a Friend via Email
This article is written by nationally recognized historian and oft-quoted Alcoholics Anonymous archivist Mitchell K.

The Saddest Day In A.A. History

The history of Alcoholics Anonymous is constantly being made. Events that happen today comprise a page in the overall picture that future generations of alcoholics who seek A.A.'s help will eventually read. Recent events, sad to say, are part of the darkest days in A.A.'s future history.


A member of Alcoholics Anonymous in Germany, a brother in recovery, has been attacked by the very organization espousing spiritual principles - Alcoholics Anonymous.

As a student of the history of Alcoholics Anonymous for the past 18 years, and in almost 23 years of sobriety, this writer is having a difficult time reconciling what A.A. has stood for in his own personal recovery journey with recent actions. These actions taken and endorsed by the General Service structure of Alcoholics Anonymous worldwide have disturbed this writer to the point of questioning his own continuing membership in this fellowship.

This writer has believed that the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions stood for a way of life, based upon rigorous honesty and spiritual principles. However, recent events brought to light have caused personal questioning of the actual validity and placing into practice of these principles.

A member of Alcoholics Anonymous in Germany, a brother in recovery, has been attacked by the very organization espousing spiritual principles - Alcoholics Anonymous. This brother has been vilified and ostracized by Alcoholics Anonymous to the extent that his membership and personal continued sobriety could be in jeopardy. All in the name of unity, but in reality, due to problems relating to money and property.

The "Crime"

The individual in Germany and the group he belongs to had translated and printed A.A.'s basic text into their native tongue. They printed first 164 pages of the original text, now in the public domain due to the lapse of the copyright. Their purpose was to carry the message of recovery in accordance with A.A.'s 5th Tradition: "Each Alcoholics Anonymous group ought to be a spiritual entity having but one primary purpose - that of carrying its message to the alcoholic who still suffers." (Long Form)


The legal action demands that this A.A. member in Germany no longer purchase, lend, own or give away ANY literature related to recovery.

These little blue books were being distributed at no charge to A.A. members at no charge. They were given away to members as well as in treatment centers, jails and prisons. Now, due to personally punitive legal measures initiated by the General Service Office in Germany (AAeV) and Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc. in New York City (AAWS) this carrying the message of recovery may have to cease.

The individual in Germany has been taken to court by AAeV and AAWS not only to stop both him and the A.A. Group he belongs to from printing and distributing literature in the public domain, but to, in effect, throw him out of Alcoholics Anonymous.

The legal action demands that this A.A. member in Germany no longer purchase, lend, own or give away ANY literature related to recovery. This includes all A.A. literature, and literature relating to recovery from alcoholism by any other publisher. He cannot give a newcomer a Big Book, go on Twelve Step calls with any literature, or have in his possession A.A.'s basic text.

Third Tradition

According to the 3rd Tradition (Long Form): "Our membership ought to include all who suffer from alcoholism. Hence we may refuse none who wish to recover. Nor ought A.A. membership ever depend upon money or conformity…" By taking away his ability to carry the message to the still sick and suffering alcoholic, AAeV in Germany and AAWS in New York have refused to allow the German A.A. member continued membership in A.A. They have in essence, placed his continued recovery in jeopardy by his not being able to keep what he has by giving it away. This is the cornerstone of Alcoholics Anonymous - one drunk helping another.


The German AAeV wants to take all of the literature owned by this individual A.A. member and the Group he belongs to and destroy it.

This legal action taken by AAeV in Germany and endorsed by the General Service Board of Trustees of Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., George D., General Service Manager of AAWS and others in the General Service structure also includes possible incarceration of this A.A. member in Germany and fines running into the tens of thousands of dollars. A.A. World Services desires to place this A.A. member in financial ruin as well as kicking him out of A.A.

AAWS refused to consider recent proposals regarding continued litigation to be placed on the agenda of the upcoming World Service Conference. Even the Chair of the Board of Trustees, Gary Glynn (non-alcoholic Trustee) had been reported to have said that there are times when the Traditions must be cast aside. At a recent meeting in Germany, Al H., Chairperson of the General Service Conference of Great Britain stated that he didn't care if this German A.A. member went to jail or drank again. The German AAeV wants to take all of the literature owned by this individual A.A. member and the Group he belongs to and destroy it. This writer wonders if the German General Service Office remembers in the world's not too distant past, the practice of book burning once so prevalent in Germany?

In Warranty Five of the Twelfth Concept for World Service it states: "That no Conference action ever be personally punitive or an incitement to public controversy." The endorsement by the Board of Trustees, AAWS and therefore, the Conference of taking an individual A.A. member into the public courts, threatening his financial future, his freedom (with possible incarceration), his ability to remain a member of Alcoholics Anonymous and by causing the A.A. name to be placed in a position of incitement to public controversy is appalling.

If, as members of Alcoholics Anonymous, we allow a fellow member to be placed in this position who or what is next?

In many parts of the world, A.A. books sell for as much as $45.00. In an effort to bring recovery to as many people as possible by giving away free books, can we allow Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc. to kick someone out of A.A., place them in financial ruin and give the message to the public that we don't care? This member's trail begins on March 26, 1998. This will be the saddest day in A.A. history.

Mitchell K.
the_archivist@excite.com

Latest Update
Here's the latest news about the German Court case and other A.A. developments.

Documentation
The GSO website has detailed documentation on the background of the Alcoholics Anonymous lawsuit in Germany.

More A.A. History
Previous guest columns written by Mitchell K. for the Alcoholism site on early A.A. History.


What's your opinion? You are welcome to publish your comments or questions on our message board. If you would like to receive a very short newsletter about updates to this site and other news, just send a note to Buddy T.

More Guest Columns
Previous Features

You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Discuss in my forum

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.

We comply with the HONcode standard
for trustworthy health
information: verify here.