Secrets and Embargoes


Alcoholics Anonymous, for me, as an organisation, has got to be the most transparent of any I have been part of.

But there does have to be some “secrets and embargoes” within AA or it just doesn’t work!

Transparency at most levels of service should be as open as it can possibly be. Some examples of complete transparency:

  • How a group operates, how it spends its money, what it contributes to local services, either on its own or through intergroup, with its excess 7thtradition funds
  • How intergroup works, all local activities that are undertaken and cooperation with neighbouring intergroups and region
  • The same thing applies at region level

There is as much transparency as possible so that people who want to be involved can be. The complete communication between service entities saves the duplication of service.

So then why secrets? Well, when it comes down to one’s individual rights within the fellowship, secrets become the most important thing we have. To be able to trust another person with these deep and dark bits of our past. Things that we swore we would take to the grave before we came to AA. Things that were stuffed so deep within us, we thought they would never see the light of day again. Ever.

But there are other levels of service where secrets and embargoes are vital.

The General Service Board (GSB), as a limited company have a legal duty of care to not reveal its ongoing business until it is at it’s conclusion. Therefore, we receive bullet points of the GSB meetings (Regional Board Briefing) via our trustees at region assemblies. These bullet points cascade up the service chain to intergroups and groups and let them know what is happening. They contain, among other things, the report from the GSB nomination committee on who has applied for either sub-committee or a trustee position. The results of these nominations are embargoed for a week after the board meeting in order that both the successful and unsuccessful applicants be notified through the proper channels. After this takes place, the information can be released to the entire fellowship.

Another very important embargoed part of service are the conference questions. They are due out around this time of year every year. These questions come about through the hard work and diligence of the fellowship when they send in topics and questions to be considered. They are taken over by the ever-rotating Conference Steering Committee (CSC) who does tremendous work sifting through the topics and questions. They have no idea of who the submissions are from, which gives each topic and question the same chance of being chosen.

The CSC then has the task of notifying the unsuccessful submissions at the proper time, and the reasons behind this. And here’s the big secret: the absolutely only people in the entire fellowship who know of these goings on are the CSC members. It is completely kept within this small, closed and confined group! No talking to sponsors, to spouses, to groups or service colleagues. These are huge secrets to keep, and I think a head nod in the direction of the CSC members is well due for this. It cannot be easy . . .

Then, through the AA Service News (AASN), the topics and questions are revealed to the fellowship at the exact same time, not giving any members or service entity an unfair advantage of previewing the topics and question before anyone else. Some people may get their post before others, but the fact is, all envelopes are posted on the same Monday morning. Everyone theoretically has the same chance of reading them at the same time. The questions are then posted to the AA GB website after it is felt that the entire fellowship, near and far, have have ample amount of time to rip open their envelope.

I personally think that these secrets and embargoes within AA are very important and vital to make sure we are as open and transparent as we can possibly be. Through secrets, we can regain transparency and openness.

I hope that everyone is as excited as I am to be receiving the conference questions by the end next week when the AASN lands through my letter box. I cannot wait to see what topics and questions are up for discussion this time.

Yours in service and gratitude,

Wullie I.