I am the President of JCCC’s Council Addressing Substance Abuse Issues (CASAI) here on campus. There was a recent article printed in the Campus Ledger that needs some clarification regarding the job of our “council” and the job of “Alcoholics Anonymous,” or more commonly, A.A. The portion of the article that I am specifically referring to said this:
“The college’s helping hands extended themselves to people struggling with addiction by the arrangement of Alcoholics Anonymous meetings that are now being held on campus. The meetings are held every Friday from 12 to 1 p.m. in RC 185, students and non-students can meet and discuss their addictions. The meetings are oriented towards those who are struggling with addiction whether it be alcohol or drugs/narcotics. … The group does not bias from any other addiction. You do not have to be an alcoholic to join or attend the meetings.”
Since the article went public, I’ve been contacted by the District 10 Chair Member of A.A., and that person put me in contact with a member of A.A. so that together we could write this response. The person I spoke to made it clear that they, “do not speak for A.A., but are a member of A.A. and familiar with A.A.’s singleness of purpose.” The member also added, “A.A. is a recovery program for alcoholics only. Of course, those who have a problem with alcohol and other substances may attend if they have a desire to stop drinking and confine their discussions to problems with alcohol.”
The article referred to meetings that are oriented toward, “addiction whether it be alcohol or drugs/narcotics.” This is a direct violation of A.A.’s purpose. I believe the confusion arose because CASAI’s mission (separate from A.A.) is to offer support, information and guidance to JCCC students, faculty and staff who struggle with substance abuse or addiction. CASAI provides ongoing campus-based education and resources to address these issues that impact our institution and our community. In that regard, CASAI’s purpose is “all-encompassing.” The council will offer any resource we have available to anyone who needs help with any addiction they may suffer from. This is quite different from A.A.’s “singleness of purpose.” The A.A. member I spoke with provided the following regarding A.A.’s singleness of purpose and problems other than alcohol:
“Some professionals refer to alcoholism and drug addiction as “substance abuse” or “chemical dependency.” Non-alcoholics are, therefore, sometimes introduced to A.A. and encouraged to attend A.A. meetings. Anyone may attend open A.A. meetings, but only those with a drinking problem may attend closed meetings.
A renowned psychiatrist, who served as a nonalcoholic trustee of the A.A. General Service Board, made the following statement: “Singleness of purpose is essential to the effective treatment of alcoholism. The reason for such exaggerated focus is to overcome denial. The denial associated with alcoholism is cunning, baffling and powerful, and affects the patient, helper, and the community. Unless alcoholism is kept relentlessly in the foreground, other issues will usurp everybody’s attention.”
The primary purpose of A.A. is to carry its message of recovery to the alcoholic seeking help. Almost every alcoholism treatment tries to help the alcoholic maintain sobriety. Regardless of the road we follow, we all head for the same destination, recovery of the alcoholic person. Together, we can do what none of us could accomplish alone. We can serve as a source of personal experience and be an ongoing support system for recovering alcoholics.”
To clarify, and help CASAI better understand Alcoholics Anonymous, I asked the A.A. member to answer this question, “What does A.A. do?” The A.A. member provided the following response:
“1. A.A. members share their experience with anyone seeking help with a drinking problem; they give person-to-person service or “sponsorship” to the alcoholic coming to A.A. from any source.
2. The A.A. program, set forth in our Twelve Steps, offers the alcoholic a way to develop a satisfying life without alcohol.
3. This program is discussed at A.A. group meetings.
a. Open speaker meetings — open to alcoholics and non-alcoholics. (Attendance at an open A.A. meeting is the best way to learn what A.A. is, what it does, and what it does not do.) At speaker meetings, A.A. members “tell their stories.” They describe their experiences with alcohol, how they came to A.A., and how their lives have changed as a result of Alcoholics Anonymous.
b. Open discussion meetings — one member speaks briefly about his or her drinking experience, and then leads a discussion on A.A. recovery or any drinking-related problem anyone brings up. (Closed meetings are for A.A.s or anyone who may have a drinking problem.)
c. Closed discussion meetings — conducted just as open discussions are, but for alcoholics or prospective A.A.s only.”
After being contacted by the District 10 Chair Member of A.A., and after speaking to an A.A. member, I felt the obligation (as President of CASAI) to make sure our college campus and community understood the difference between CASAI’s mission and A.A.’s mission. And in CASAI’s efforts to provide information and support to the alcoholic, Johnson County Community College will continue to hold A.A. meetings every Friday from 12 to 1:00 p.m. in RC 185. The meetings are closed; however, the first Friday of every month serves as an open meeting, and as mentioned above, an open meeting is the best way to learn what A.A. is, what it does, and what it does not do.
Associate Professor of Economics
Johnson County Community College
(913) 469-8500 x 4773