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Carrying the message into Treatment Facilities & Hospitals
For Reading-Berks Intergroup
Reading Hospital Detox. Unit
St. Joseph's Hospital Mental Health Unit
Wernersville State Hospital
Caron Foundation

Please Read:

What qualifications should an A. A. member have to carry 
the message to treatment facilities?

1. Some good sobriety.

For exactly how long, nobody can say. Some members handle this kind of A.A. activity beautifully soon after getting sober, especially if they are accompanied by an experienced member. But others need a longer time before getting into institutions work. If you have all the other qualifications, it may not be very important how many A.A. anniversaries you have had. Ask some longer-sober members about it.

2. Personal experience of alcoholism and recovery.

This, of course, is the chief, and unique, qualification we have. You do not need to have been hospitalized yourself to twelfth-step someone in a treatment facility. No more than you need a prison record to carry the message into a correc­tional institution.

What is important to share is the pain we once felt and the joy in recovery we now feel.

3. A common sense approach.

Our Fellowship of amateurs firmly resists getting organized, as A.A.s know. We do not want A.A. rules or bosses.

But professional treatment facilities have to be well organized to do their job and to meet various legal requirements. Their personnel often have to be professionally trained if the agency is to be properly licensed. Staff members must be highly disciplined to take orders. They do not take their duties lightly, nor do they appreciate jokes at their expense.

Alcoholism is a grave illness. Our A.A. message of hope, experience, and strength is not to be treated lightly either. We just cannot take ourselves too seriously, or get pompous, or bossy.

An ex-drunk who gives a cup of coffee to a newcomer hardly deserves a medal of honor. After all, we do it primarily for ourselves, don't we?

4. Freedom from vanity.

If prestige, acclaim, praise, and applause are what we need, this kind of twelfth-stepping is probably not going to satisfy us very much. If we like to hear ourselves described as great sponsors, working with alcoholics in any kind of treatment facility will very rarely offer such reward.

We simply put the message in front of the alcoholic in treatment. What the alcoholic does with it is not our legitimate business. He or she may flush it away, or ignore it, or use it well in recovery. The alcoholic needs to be free to choose without our getting vain if the message is used, or angry or discouraged if it is ignored.

5. Ability to follow directions.

This sort of twelfth-stepping will not be very satisfactory to anyone who needs to be a boss. In treatment facilities, one's personal will is submitted to other authority in at least two ways.

First, the ultimate authority for this A.A. work is, of course, the group conscience of all A.A.s. Sometimes, for the good of A.A. and for the good of those we are trying to help, we as individuals have to do things differently from the way we might ourselves like.

Second, the professional treatment facility is in charge of its patients or clients and is responsible for them. If A.A. members do not conform in every way to the rules and regulations of the facility, it has a perfect right to keep A.A. members out.

So, carrying the message into such places calls for patience and self-discipline.

6. Absolute dependability.

Once an A.A. commitment is made to any non-A.A. institution or organization, we cannot let our Fellowship down by not living up to the agreement fully. We go to any lengths to perform faithfully the services promised in the name of A.A. We try to be completely reliable, never letting weather, a bad mood, some personal event, or anything else interfere with keeping our word. (We almost never let such things interfere with our drinking, did we?)

What people think of A.A. depends on us. If we are reliable, then A.A. seems so. If we are not, it makes A.A. look bad.

In the same way, a good-natured friendliness is helpful. A.A.s who cheerfully fulfill commitments without grumbling give our Fellowship a good reputation. Angry, gloomy, bossy, or fanatical A.A. members are not so welcome.

Since A.A.'s public relations policy is based on attraction, not promotion, that leaves it up to us to make the A.A. way of life look attractive.

7. Broad knowledge of A.A.

Members who have been to meetings in only one or two A.A. groups in one community do not have a broad acquaintance with our Fellowship.

To be the best possible message-carrier, it helps to know all the local groups and lots of different members, of many sorts. Familiarity with many approaches to the A.A. program increases our usefulness to newcomers.

In addition, a thorough knowledge of A.A. literature helps. It would be good to know what A.A. material would be helpful to a potential member who may be very different from you.

A cramped, narrow view of A.A. is a severe handicap. The deeper and broader our understanding of all aspects of our Fellowship (including all three of our legacies: Recovery, Unity, and Service), the more we have to offer the troubled newcomer.

8. Ability to stick to our own business.

Carrying the message to alcoholics in treatment facilities can challenge our ability to keep focused on A.A.'s primary purpose.

We are not in the business of educating non-alcoholics about alcoholism, religion, or medicine, or anything else. We carry our own personal message to patients in a treatment facility, not the professional staff. We have no business criticizing any professional agency or person, or telling them how to treat or not to treat alcoholics. Those are not A.A. purposes.

Our nonprofessional status is a valuable asset  -our standing as simply amateurs who volunteer our services. We do not claim to be experts. We are just recovering alcoholics. We do not have to get into deep scientific or philosophical debates.

We have had the personal experience of alcoholism, which we now share, along with what we have learned about recovery. Our suffering and the recovery we now enjoy can give valuable hope to other still-suffering alcoholics. More than that -giving it away freely, without any thought of reward, strengthens our own sobriety.

With Permission:  AA in Treatment Facilities, pg 10-13 Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc.

Other Suggestions

1- Arrive on time, parking in designated areas.
2- Dress appropriately.
3- Refrain from using obscene or inflammatory language.
4- Be polite and respectful.
5- Remember that you represent A. A. and not other Fellowships, introduce yourself accordingly.
6- We share, in a general way, what we used to be like, what happened and what we are like now.
7- We present our experience, strength and hope, not our opinions or social commentary
8- If possible, hang around after the meeting to talk with anyone that wishes to speak with you.