Alcoholics Anonymous - The Primary Purpose Group Elmira, NY



recover or are you going to get back out there and finish the job?”.  If they said they “were willing to go to any length”, they were given a sponsor, a Big Book and began the process of recovery by taking the Steps and experiencing the Promises that result from that course of action.  This process kept the newcomer involved in working with others and continued the growth of our Fellowship.  Our growth rate was approximately 7% and the number of sober members of Alcoholics Anonymous doubled every 10 years.


With the advent of the rapid growth of the Treatment Industry, the acceptance of our success with alcoholics by the judicial system and endorsement of physicians, psychiatrist, psychologist, etc. all kinds of people were pouring into A.A. at a rate greater than we had ever dreamed possible.  Almost without realizing what was happening, our meetings began changing from ones that focused on recovery from alcoholism to “discussion or participation” types of meetings that invited everyone to talk about whatever was on their mind.  The meetings evolved from a program of spiritual development to the group therapy type of meeting where we heard more and more about “our problems” and less and less about the Program of Recovery by the Big Book and the preservation of our Fellowship by adhering to our Traditions. 


What has been the result of all this?  Well, never have we had so many coming to us for help.  But never have we had such a slow growth rate which has now started to decline.  For the first time in our history, Alcoholics Anonymous is losing members faster than they are coming in and our success rate is unbelievably low.  (Statistics from the Inter-Group Office of some major cities indicate less than 5% of those expressing a desire to stop drinking are successful for more than 5 years; a far cry form the 75% reported by Bill W. in the Forward to Second Edition).  The change in the content of our meetings is proving to be death-traps for the newcomer and in turn, death-traps for the groups that depend on the “discussion or participation” type meetings.


Why is this?  The answer is very simple.  When meetings were opened so that untreated alcoholics & non-alcoholics were given the opportunity to express their ideas, their opinions, air their problems and tell how they were told to do it where they came from, the confused newcomer became more confused with the diversity of information that  was being presented.  More and more they were encouraged to “just go to meetings and don’t drink” or worse yet, “go to 90 meetings in 90 days”.   The newcomer no longer was told to take the Steps or get back out there and finish the job.  In fact, they are often told, “Don’t rush into taking the Steps.  Take your time.”   The alcoholics who participated in the writing of the Big Book didn’t wait.  They took the Steps in the first few days following their last drink.


Thank God, there are those in our Fellowship, like Joe & Charlie, Wally, etc., who have recognized the problem and have started doing something about it.  They are placing the focus back on the Big Book.  There have always been a few groups that would not yield to the group therapy trend.  They stayed firm to their commitment to try to carry a single message to the suffering alcoholic.  That is to tell the newcomer that “we have had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps and if you want to recover, we will see that you have a sponsor who has recovered and will lead you along the path the 1st 100 laid down for us”.   Recovered alcoholics have begun founding groups that have a single purpose and inform the newcomer that until they have taken the steps and recovered, they will not be permitted to say anything in meetings.  They will listen to recovered alcoholics, they will take the Steps, they will recover and then they will try to pass their experience and knowledge on to the ones who are seeking the kind of help we provide in Alcoholics Anonymous.  As this movement spreads, as it is beginning to, Alcoholics Anonymous will again be very successful in doing the one thing God intended for us to do and that is to help the suffering alcoholic recover, if he has decided he wants what we have and is willing to go to any length to recover, to take and apply our Twelve Steps to our lives and protect our Fellowship by honoring our Twelve Traditions.

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The primary purpose group website is neither endorsed nor approved by Alcoholics Anonymous World Services.  This website is simply part of our 12-step work; its main purpose is to show the alcoholic who still suffers the simplicity and the effectiveness of the program of alcoholics anonymous when practiced as described in the big book of A. A.   

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