I don't know how many people know this, but a gay man was largely influential in shaping AA's Third Tradition. He is mentioned in Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions.
A newcomer appeared at one of these groups, knocked on the door and asked to be let in. He talked frankly with that group's oldest member. He soon proved that his was a desperate case, and that above all he wanted to get well. "But," he asked, "will you let me join your group? Since I am the victim of another addiction even worse stigmatized than alcoholism, you may not want me among you. Or will you?" |
There was the dilemma. What should the group do? The oldest member summoned two others, and in confidence laid the explosive facts in their laps. Said he, "Well, what about it? If we turn this man away, he'll soon die. If we allow him in, only God knows what trouble he'll brew. What shall the answer be—yes or no?"
At first the elders could look only at the objections. "We deal," they said, "with alcoholics only. Shouldn't we sacrifice this one for the sake of the many?" So went the discussion while the newcomer's fate hung in the balance. Then one of the three spoke in a very different voice. "What we are really afraid of," he said, "is our reputation. We are much more afraid of what people might say than the trouble this strange alcoholic might bring. As we've been talking, five short words have been running through my mind. Something keeps repeating to me, 'What would the Master do?' " Not another word was said. What more indeed could be said?
"The only requirement for A.A. membership is a desire to stop drinking."
"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. Any two or three alcoholics gathered together for sobriety may call themselves an A.A. Group, provided that, as a group, they have no other affiliation.""The Man of The Third Tradition"
Dr. Bob & the Good Oldtimers says on page 240-241:
"At the same time, the earliest members began reaching out to those who might either have seemed or have felt themselves to be different. By 1939, the prevailing A.A. attitude was summed in the foreword to the Big Book, stating, 'The only requirement for membership is an honest desire to stop drinking.'
"Most A.A.'s simply wanted to get people into the program, rather than keep them out. This might mean overcoming inbred prejudices and crossing social, religious, racial, and national boundaries in order to carry the message of recovery to anyone, anywhere, who needed help. It also meant doing the very same things in order to accept help. And if A.A. as a fellowship never had any greater achievement, it could say that most members have done more than pay lip service to this idea.
"As the discussion of the Third Tradition in the book "Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions" shows, there was a great deal of fear about alcoholics who might be odd or different. An A.A.'s second year, a man came to an A.A. group and said he was the 'victim of another addiction even worse stigmatized than alcoholism.'
"The group's 'oldest member' spoke in confidence with two others. They discussed 'the trouble this strange alcoholic might bring' and the notion that it might be better to 'sacrifice this one for the sake of the many.' Finally, one of the three said. 'What we are really afraid of is our reputation.' And he asked a question that had been haunting him: 'What would the Master do?' No answer was necessary.
"Letters written by Bill in 1938 and 1939 placed this situation in Akron, thereby implying that 'the oldest member' was Dr. Bob. Retelling the anecdote in 1969, Bill finally confirmed this identification by using his partner's name." Bill W. talk
1968 General Service Conference
Talk on all the traditions
At about year two of the Akron Group, a poor devil came to Dr. Bob in a grievous state. He could qualify as an alcoholic all right. And then he said, "Dr. Bob, I`ve got a real problem to tell you. I don't know if I could join AA because I am sex deviate." |
Well that had to go out to the group conscious. You know. Up to then it was supposed any society could say who was going to join it. And pretty soon the group conscious began to seethe and boil and it boiled over. And under no circumstances could we have such a coward and such a disgrace among us said these gentlemen.
And you know, right then our destiny hung on a razor edge over this single case. In other words, would there be room that could exclude so called undesirability's and that caused us in that time, and for quite a time with respecting this single case, to ponder what is the
more important; the reputation that we shall have. What people should think? Or is it our character.
And who are we considering our record, alcoholism is quit as unlovely. Who are we to deny a man his opportunity, any man or women.
And finally the day of resolution came. And a bunch were sitting in Dr. Bob's living room arguing what to do. Where upon dear old Bob looked around and blandly said, "Isn't it time folks to ask ourselves,' "What would the Master do in a situation like this? Would he turn this man away?'"
And that is the beginning of the AA tradition that any man who has a drinking problem is a member of AA if he says so not whether we say so. Now I think that the import on this on the common welfare has already been sustained because it takes in even more territory than the confines of our fellowship. It takes in the whole world of
Alcoholics Anonymous. Their charter to freedom to join AA is assured. Indeed it was an act in general welfare.