Although the qualifications for membership in twelve-level self-help groups are specifically defined, it is generally the individual members who decide for themselves whether or not they “belong” to the group.
Tradition 3 – The only requirement for A.A. membership is a desire to stop drinking.
Tradition 3 – The relatives of alcoholics, when gathered for mutual help, can refer to themselves as the Al-Anon family group, provided that they do not belong to any other group. The only requirement for membership is that a relative or friend has an alcoholism problem.
Both Alcoholics Anonymous and Al-Anon open their doors and offer fellowship to anyone who meets the entitlement described in Tradition 3, generally leaving that determination to the individual. Basically, those who attend these 12-step meetings either feel “belonging” or they don’t and move on.
The reason Tradition 3 was emphasized by the founders of the twelve-step programs was to protect the community from outside influences. to ensure that the sessions keep their main focus and are not watered down by the influx of other topics or influences.
Some classic cars today believe that the community was actually watered down by the inclusion in their meetings of those who deal primarily with issues other than alcohol problems like substance abuse. They feel that the program has deviated from its spiritual foundations and primary purpose and can be watered down to the point of ineffectiveness.
But every topic always has two sides. Visitors to this website have posted their comments on this discussion on the bulletin board. Here are their observations:
Freedom of choice
This one is pretty easy for me. I believe this tradition is exactly what it says: “The only requirement is a desire to stop drinking.” Some may not know or believe that they are alcoholics but still want to live a life free of alcohol. I have no argument with it. For those of us who are alcoholics and do not want to share a meeting with those who are not, closed meetings are available.
I would certainly hope that anyone who wants to stop drinking has the freedom to choose Alcoholics Anonymous as a means of support. Perhaps the word “membership” is the catch. You don’t have to become a member of Alcoholics Anonymous. We still have freedom of choice. We must adhere to the “closed meeting” format to protect the spiritual basis of anonymity.
I want to close with that. AA’s founding fathers learned through trial and error. I am a traditionalist at heart. I want AA to be here whenever someone asks for help. As it was for me. That is why the traditions were established. I will protect them to the best of my ability.
Alcohol is a drug
I believe the principles are the same regardless of whether the abuser is abusing alcohol or drugs. After having both types of abusers in my life, the program hasn’t changed. Alcohol is technically a drug. I haven’t met an alcoholic who can play with drugs or vice versa. Not that I’ve been there that long. The feelings are the same and so are the recovery techniques, whether you call it Alanon or NarAnon.
No other affiliation
I am a grateful Al Anon member. I believe this tradition is clear … it is for anyone who has a friend or family member who has the problem of alcoholism. I never heard the suggestion not to let a drug addict. I wouldn’t agree.
Perhaps the person is an abuser because they are unable to cope with a traumatic childhood due to alcoholism. Perhaps the person is an abuser to ease the pain of an abusive alcoholic spouse. I think EVERYONE should be welcome. Several people in face-to-face meetings that I have attended are “double winners” and that makes me proud.
In the other part of this tradition … “assuming they have no other affiliation” … means to me to keep it simple. I think it means that meetings like “Women in Recovery” or “Christians in Recovery” … are against that tradition because they have to belong to a different group first. This is just MY interpretation of this tradition.
Let God do the judging
My first time in A.A. I was just an alcoholic, I hadn’t (yet) fooled myself with drugs. But there were a lot of people in A.A. at the time who had a drug problem and I hear a lot of different conversations about it. I also heard that the front office said that we can and should help them too.
My second time in A.A., thank goodness, they didn’t tell me I’m not welcome because now I was not only an alcoholic but also fucked up drugs, just as bad as alcohol. If we all do the 12 steps in the same way, it will work just as well for the druggist and, as has been said, “Alcohol is a drug.”
I’ve never met a druggist who didn’t have a drinking problem either. I myself would never turn away a so-called druggist, they are one and the same. When a person fails to A.A. they weed out. Would you be on an overeater program if you were thin?
A.A. has given me the tools to help people in life, not just if they are alcoholics or drug addicts, but people in all walks of life. I’m not a judge who can turn anyone down at any time. For this reason we have closed sessions. Let’s let God judge.