From Your Chair – Wendy W – March 2015

Greetings, Salt Lake Central Office. After a brief hiatus, the Lifeline is running again. All Standing Committee positions are now filled, with the exception of the Volunteer Chair. Yay Central Office! Thanks to those of you who have stepped up to be of service to your fellows.

As the Chair of the Board, my participation at the Central Office Committee meeting is limited by our Bylaws to facilitation of the meeting. I have no vote except in a tie, and I attempt to keep my opinion out of the discussion. This Newsletter is my opportunity to share with you my perceptions.

The Board has been elected to “Oversee the operation of Central Office and its functions in accordance with 1) the A.A. Guidelines – Central or Intergroup Offices published by the General Service Office (GSO) of Alcoholics Anonymous; and 2) the Twelve Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous.” Copies of these documents are available at the Central Office and online at I am very proud to serve an all-volunteer Central Office, which keeps our 36 spiritual principles, the 12 Steps, 12 Traditions and 12 Concepts, in the forefront.

The Volunteer Chair vacancy prompted a special meeting between the Board and the Volunteer Coordinators, where it became evident that the authority and responsibilities of the volunteers needed clarification. An ad hoc committee was formed at the February business meeting to discuss and document the operation of the Central Office. A report or recommendation will be given at the March business meeting.

In addition to questions of authority and responsibility, an issue has been forced to the front that is in direct conflict with our principles, our practice of selling coins, or chips or medallions, whatever you want to call them. This practice was approved by the Salt Lake Central Office Committee at some time in the past and in recent times, the Volunteer Chair has purchased coins, but the provision for purchasing and selling coins was never included in our Bylaws, past or present. The selling of coins at a Central Office does not appear in either of the documents the Board references in the overseeing of the operations.

…Continued on Pg. 8

In the May 1948 Grapevine, Bill W. wrote: “…Tradition 6 also enjoins the group never to go into business nor ever to lend the A.A. name or money credit to any “outside” enterprise, no matter how good.”

The selling of coins is currently at a profit at the Central Office, a profit we don’t need. We have reduced our literature prices to the fellowship in an effort to maintain our Bylaws’ financial prudent reserve. From the same Grapevine article, Bill states “…But money is not the life blood of A.A. With us, it is very secondary. Even in small quantities, it is scarcely more than a necessary nuisance, something we wish we could do without entirely. Why is that so? We explain this easily enough; we don’t need money. The core of our A.A. procedure is “one alcoholic talking to another,” whether that be sitting on a curbstone, in a home, or at a meeting. It’s the message, not the place; it’s the talk, not the alms. That does our work. Just places to meet and talk, that’s about all A.A. needs.”

But the real problem with selling coins at the Central Office lies not in the money, but in the rest of the 6th Tradition, which states in the Long Form, “…While an A.A. group may cooperate with anyone, such cooperation ought never to go so far as affiliation or endorsement, actual or implied. [my emphasis] An A.A. group can bind itself to no one.” By selling items from a for-profit company, (or non-profit, for that matter) we are affiliating with a company and endorsing the product it makes. Even if we sold the coins at cost, we would still be affiliating with and endorsing an outside enterprise.

Alcoholics Anonymous does not sell non-conference approved items or anything the AAWS, Inc. or the Grapevine, Inc. doesn’t produce. Why would a Central Office do that? A Central Office is part of A.A., not the Conference structure, but it is more purely A.A. for the fellowship. There is no need for the Salt Lake Central Office to sell coins, in terms of availability. There is a shop located two miles away which sells coins, literature and a large array of other recovery related items. Google returns 13.4 million results from a “recovery coin” search, most of which are retail outlets. There is no lack of availability.

One of the more popular rationalizations for selling coins is that “We’ve always sold coins.” It brings to mind something I heard Madeline P., past Pacific Region Trustee, say from the podium about certain A.A. practices, “Just because we’ve always done something doesn’t mean it’s not incredibly stupid.” The Salt Lake Central Office has no opinion on the use or efficacy of coins, they are an outside issue, just as any other type of merchandise or product would be. Our Bylaws have provision for the purchase and sale of AAWS, Inc. and Grapevine, Inc. literature, nothing else.

We are extremely good at justifying behavior that is not in accordance with our principles. Drinking the way I drank was not in accordance with my principles, but I found a reason to do so. It is a slippery slope that leads to further rationalizing until we’re just doing what we want, when we want it, principles be damned. Which Step would you not take, based on your own desires? Why would not adhering to Traditions be any different? This is dangerous for us individually, and to the fellowship of A.A. as a whole. We are the protectors of our integrity, our actions are our legacy.

Ask yourself these questions, “Are these coins an outside enterprise? Is selling them at the Central Office in conflict with our 6th Tradition?”

This program is simple, but not easy. We can change. We can improve. We can grow in effectiveness and understanding. We demonstrate over and over with each step we take in creating a Central Office that serves the fellowship better by following our principles ever more closely.

I don’t expect to make any friends by making these statements. As Joe Hawk used to say, “The 12 Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous are not popular in A.A.” I’m well aware of the passion this particular topic arouses. My passion is aroused as well. I was elected to uphold our principles, I’m doing that to the very best of my ability.

In loving service,

Wendy W.



3 comments on “From Your Chair – Wendy W – March 2015”

  1. Patricia Reply

    Thank you Wendy. You have a really good point, about outside business. Thank you for your clear calm chairmanship.

  2. Doug R Reply

    It’s really just a matter of opinions now.

    At the February CO Rep meeting a motion was made that the SL Central Office, Inc. continue to provide sobriety tokens. It passed with substantial unanimity. It’s what the groups want from their Central Office.

  3. Bill F Reply

    Regarding comments in the Lifeline about anniversary chips. First – thanks for the great job you are all doing in the ‘all volunteer’ office. As a long time subscriber (1991)I also wanted to commend you on the Lifeline Newsletter. It has gone from a good publication to an excellent one!

    I have been one who has always prized the fellowship tradition of recognizing newcomers and lengths of sobriety through handing out chips. The vast majority of members with whom I associate also express the importance to them of receiving these reminders. I do not see how we are ‘endorsing’ any business; I daresay that, if you canvassed ALL of Utah AA, you would be hard pressed to find a meaningful number of members who have the slightest idea who the supplier is. Suggesting that we are endorsing someone, is suggesting that, when we buy foam coffee cups, we are endorsing the manufacturer, or buying coffee for the group is endorsing the manufacturer, or creamer, or sugar, or the buying of any supplies constitutes endorsement; nothing could be further from the truth. Many of these supplies are bought with checks that identify an AA group.

    Keeping it simple means that we need to conduct business out in the real world; that does not constitute endorsement! Taking that to the extreme, since Central Office is an outside agency, we could infer that using this facility is an endorsement; extreme but equally as valid. Tradition 6 does not even really address this issue; it’s intent is to NOT lend the AA name. If that prohibits us from conducting routine business, then we are prohibited from doing ANY business with ANYONE. That is NOT the intent of the tradition. The intent is to prevent the AA name from being used to promote outside entities; buying chips, like buying coffee does NOT do that. Also, suggesting that we can buy chips elsewhere simply changes the source. SOMEONE has to supply them; changing the source does not even address the alleged issue.

    I have spoken to the secretaries of several groups, and they are unanimous: Central Office was created at the behest of the several groups; the convenience of ‘one stop shopping’ would be lost for many of them, meaning that, rather than make several stops at different locales, they would also buy their group’s other needs at these other locations. You don’t need to the profit? Central Office determines the price point; sell them at break-even! However, I have watched Central Office struggle to be solvent over the years, and even now, there are months that have seen precipitous drop in revenues; you may not need the profit now, but the future is uncertain; even now there are months where a loss is shown. The good that is done by the distribution of chips far outweighs ANY perceived negative. Slippery slope? We haven’t even approached the precipice after decades of using chips; the expressed concern is unfounded; indeed, the phrase ‘slippery slope’ is quite hackneyed, and used to address imagined dangers ahead – there are NONE here.

    There has always been a small contingent of members who oppose chips; I can’t help but wonder if that isn’t what we’re witnessing here? A small minority should not be allowed to make such decisions without input from the majority. And finally, dropping chips would be a major change, and ought now to be undertaken without the approval of the groups; no decisions should – or CAN be made by Central Office regarding this, without first consulting the groups!

    As stated, Central Office exists at the behest of the groups, for the sole purpose of serving the groups, at the will of the groups; bylaws have nothing to do with this issue; they are strictly concerned with the operation of the office, not which products to carry. That is a decision that is up to the groups.

    Thanks you once again for your service!

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