Troublesome Member

Greetings from GSO!

GSO has no specific guidelines regarding disruptive individuals. Groups, from time to time, have had difficulty with someone. Throughout the years, many groups have confronted members who have been troublesome and were causing disunity among the group members.

As we are all aware, our Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous is one of love, sharing and caring. Such a Fellowship would never “kick one of its members out.” Someone is a member of A.A. as long as the say they are a member of A.A.; however, to keep this loving Fellowship cohesive and functioning, it needs Traditions which are its guidelines. These Traditions provide for the unity of the group and, therefore, ultimately protect each member’s sobriety. So, while no one who says they are a member of A.A. can be kicked out of A.A., someone can be asked to leave a meeting for the sake of the common welfare of the group.

Our Traditions, rather than proclaiming and individual’s right to act in any way he or she pleases, confirm the spirit of self-sacrifice restraining our desires when they conflict with the good of the group. If a member’s behavior is disrupting the functioning or unity of the group, he or she may be asked not to attend that meeting. As our First Tradition states, “our common welfare should come first, personal recovery depends on upon A.A. unity.”

Only the group and the individuals involved can decide what actions, if any; they will take A.A. groups and members need to apply A.A. principles and use common sense when dealing with difficult individuals. And being a member of A.A. does not preclude individuals from taking necessary action to protect themselves. A.A. Traditions do not place A.A. members above the law.

It has happened, unfortunately, that a troublesome individual’s behavior is so disruptive that it is making it difficult or impossible for the group to fulfill its primary purpose of carrying the A.A. message. In this instance, a person might be asked to stop attending the meeting for a specific period of time. This sort of action is taken as a last resort after an individual has been asked to change his or her behavior. Groups which take this drastic action do it to preserve the common welfare of the group and maintain A.A. unity. It is always hoped, in these situations, that the individual member will see the difficulty as an opportunity for personal growth and will attend other meetings in the area to maintain his or her sobriety.

Even our co-founder, Bill W., who always emphasized the loving and tolerant attitude A.A. members should show each other, wrote in one of his letters in 1969.

“In general, A.A. really has to deal with alcoholics no matter what their other complications. You would be the first to agree that there is no such thing as an alcoholic who has no emotional ‘complications.’ So the question boils down to this: shall A.A. try to help those with severe and addictive problems, provided they are alcoholics? The answer is ‘yes’ we should try.

“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.”

Bill finished the letter by stating that there are “_____ no pat answers. As you know, an A.A. group even has the ”right” to be wrong.”

As we all know, the ultimate authority in A.A. is a loving God as he expresses himself through the group conscience. Each group has different experiences, and I hope you will continue to discuss the matter, and that it will be resolved in the spirit of A.A. love.

Good luck. All of us here at GSO enclose our best wishes.