Safety in Self-Help Groups
~MAJ John Donovan
One of the most important issues to confront recovery groups in decades has been the issue of “Safety in Self-Help” groups. Startling headlines and shocking news reports have circulated around the nation about predatory behavior within and around self-help groups.
Earlier this year the General Service Office of A.A. in New York, NY published a paper providing A.A. groups with much sought after guidance about how to deal with disruptive behavior within an A.A. group. This paper entitled: Service Material from the General Service Office – Safety and A.A.: Our Common Welfare, was printed on January 25, 2017. The paper lays out the A.A. philosophy and suggestions for keeping groups safe. Here are a few extracts:
- The paper states, “In any situation, if a person’s safety is in jeopardy, or the situation breaches the law, the individuals involved can take appropriate action to ensure their safety. Calling the proper authorities does not go against any A.A. Traditions. Anonymity is not a cloak protecting criminal or inappropriate behavior”.
- The paper adds, “As individuals, A.A. members are also “citizens of the world,” and as citizens we are not above the law”.
- Lastly the paper adds, “No A.A. group has to tolerate illegal behavior and any activity within an A.A. meeting is subject to the same laws that apply outside the meeting.”
Although not in the aforementioned paper, this excerpt from a letter Bill Wilson (co-founder of A.A.) wrote in 1969 clearly shows how Bill felt about the subject. He wrote, “This amount of charity does not mean that we cannot exclude those who disturb meetings or seriously interfere with the functioning of the group. Such people can be asked to quiet down or go elsewhere, or, to come back when they are better able to participate.”
In summary, the group’s welfare comes first. No one in a self-help group is above or outside the law.
MAJ Donovan is a person in long-term recovery and an advocate for veterans seeking recovery. MAJ Donovan will present on “Safety in Self-Help Groups” on April 27 at the Annual Military Mental Health Initiative Conference to be held at the 133rd Air Wing located adjacent to the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport.