No alcoholic man or woman could be excluded from our

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No alcoholic man or woman could be excluded from our Society .... Our leaders might serve but never govern .... Each group was to be autonomous and there was to be no professional class of therapy .... There were to be no fees or dues .... There was to be the least possible organization, even in our service centers .... Our public relations were to be based upon attraction rather than promotion .... All members ought to be anonymous at the level of press, radio, TV, and films, and in no circumstances should we give endorsements, make alliances, or enter public controversies. (p. vii) These twelve guidelines for a nonorganization, although not as familiar as the Twelve Steps, have made it possible for a decentralized organization like AA to avoid the temptations of power, money, and bureaucracy that would have brought about the death of the organization (Borkman, 2006 ). However, it is not suggested guidelines alone have enabled the AA organization to survive. In a fascinating ethnographic study of how AA groups have managed to avoid highly disruptive and combative conduct in meetings, Hoffman ( 2006 ) suggests that social control is achieved through various means: (1) highly structured rules of discourse, where “cross-talk” (giving advice or rebutting someone’s point) is not allowed; (2) depending on high-status (longer length of sobriety, frequent meeting attendance) members to intervene with newcomers who may not understand the norms of the group; (3) various means of criticism in group meetings, primarily indirect or humorous comments to let people know when they are out of line. An example of the humorous form of social control is as follows: When a
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chronically late person introduced himself by saying, “My name’s Darryl, I’m an alcoholic,” the group responded with the expected “Hi Darryl.” However, one member responded with “Hi, on-time” (Hoffman, 2006 , p. 687). Another effective way AA has of discouraging confrontations is that members are free to attend meetings anywhere else if they do not like what is going on in the particular group, or they can start their own AA meeting. Hoffman ( 2006 ) quotes an old AA proverb that “all you need to start your own AA meeting is a resentment and a coffeepot.” As a result of the guidance from the Twelve Traditions and the internal mechanisms of social control, more than 107,000 groups of Alcoholics Anonymous meetings in more than 160 countries have been created and remain stable, with 2,057,672 members throughout the world at last count (AA, 2011 ). According to a 2007 random survey of 8,000 AA members in the United States and Canada, the average AA member is male (67% vs. 33% female), white (85.1%), and middle-aged (2.3% under 21, 11.3% age 21–30, 16.5% age 31–40, 29.5% age 41–50, 23.6% age 51–60, 12.3% age 61–70, and 5.3% over age 70). Before coming to AA, 63% of the members received some kind of professional treatment or counseling. Alcoholics Anonymous has a stable group of long-time members who come to meetings on a regular basis. According to the survey, 33% of the members have been sober for more than 10 years; 31% are “newbies,” that is, sober less than a year. Most
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Christopher Reinemann
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