In 2014, high level discussions were had with the leaderships of Arizona Area 03, Maricopa District 08, Valleywide H&I and the 4 Intergroups. These trusted servants recognized the need for the unification and centralization of A.A. services in the Valley of the Sun. Over the years, multiple intergroups formed, H&I formed an entity outside GSO and intergroup/central office structures, all creating a sense of disunion. Newcomers and transplants to Central Arizona have often been confused by the number of entities here. Major cities the size of Phoenix typically have one office or have their A.A. services provided by their GSO structure, and some major cities simply work out of a locker. Everyone in these early discussions recognized the duplication of effort and resources. Most understood the financial drain of expenses involved with maintaining three or more offices. The challenge was very real.
Rumors are abounding. True or untrue, the stories that make up the reasons for disunion hurts the fellowship in Phoenix in greater ways than just the financial ones stated above. True or not, the following examples negatively affect our singular purpose of helping the newcomer and the alcoholic who still suffers:
- Perceived intergroup competitiveness/competition
- One or more intergroups reaching out to their homegroups for more money
- Mismanagement of funds and/or working without a budget
- One or more intergroups not having enough money to provide their groups a blanket insurance policy
- One or more intergroups almost dissolving
- One or more intergroups providing financial assistance to another intergroup
- Funding from fundraisers that collect from non-alcoholics
- 3 redundant 24-hour hotlines that sometimes go unanswered
Although the challenges were recognized, the big question was, “How do we improve it?” The next round of discussions thru 2015 & 2016 uncovered as many hurdles as there were advantages to real unification. Homegroups began to simply “turn off the financial tap” and discontinued their support to local entities. Dollars that had been supporting our local services were now being redirected outside of the valley. One or more intergroups began campaigning to homegroups asking for more money. Efforts were made by the intergroups to rectify. Salt River Intergroup, East Valley Intergroup and Agua Fria Intergroup started a ‘unification meeting’ involving the leadership of their respective intergroups. But it was clear that no one intergroup could, should or would ‘take over.’ It was unthinkable to even ask the question. The idea of real unification seemed to be dying on the vine.
Detailed discussions were had at the September 2016 A.A. Forum in Hawaii. Talks were had with A.A. Trustees, A.A.W.S. leadership and other Areas and GSO entities throughout the U.S. and Canada about the relationships GSO entities have with their local services and the specific challenges Phoenix was having. The discussions continued into a direction that seemed to solve some of the hurdles. With a lot of prayer and meditation, in 2017, these ideals started to gel and A.A. principals were analyzed and became paramount. Some of these are:
- The valley intergroups are exactly as they should be.
- No one entity can force their way of providing services onto another.
- GSO entities (Districts & Areas) are permitted to cooperate in local services.
- Alcoholics Anonymous 12 Traditions must be adhered to.
A structure that would unify valley services could be provided. Valley intergroups are smaller and localized, so they may not be aware of the larger needs of the valley. Any group or intergroup could choose to participate… or not. This naturally solved one of the biggest challenges. It created a way for the intergroups to unite as individual entities if they choose to do so. This structure would encourage members, groups and intergroups to recognize the challenges and duplication of efforts valley wide, and to utilize this service to help overcome them.
Brainstorming ideas that could benefit homegroups became an important topic. For example, would a calendar that included both official A.A. events and non-A.A. events be useful? Absolutely! So, putting aside either loose or strict adherence to guidelines… we asked, what services are the majority of homegroups in the valley using?
Most homegroups serve coffee, provide sobriety milestone ‘coins’ and utilize a bank to help manage finances. It does not mean that these homegroups “endorse” a particular bank or brand of coffee. An example of this is Area 03 signing a contract and using your contributions to pay The Arizona Golf Resort to host an assembly; although Area 03 publishes The Arizona Golf Resort on its website, it certainly doesn’t mean Area 03 endorses or affiliates with The Arizona Golf Resort. To solve banking issues and streamline group business, while maintaining Tradition 6, a clearinghouse was conceived where groups can manage their cash collections, purchase supplies (coffee, rent, etc.) and send disbursements (contributions to intergroups and other A.A. entities). It provides detailed accounting, without the need for a group or individual bank account.
Phoenix Central Office, Inc. came to exist in 2018. A few homegroups created this new A.A. entity under the guidance of A.A. traditions, specifically; Tradition 3: “Any two or three alcoholics gathered together for sobriety may call themselves an A.A. Group” Tradition 2: “no A.A. can give another a directive and enforce obedience” Tradition 4: “[not] greatly affect A.A. as a whole.” Tradition 9: “recognize that alcoholics can’t be dictated to – individually or collectively.” And with respect to tradition 4, by encouraging members and homegroups to continue supporting their local intergroups, phxaa has been careful to not affect the “welfare of neighboring groups”, however, if those groups feel differently, phxaa is open to further consult with them.
Phoenix Central Office was created with the following goals:
- To create a local services ‘hub’ covering the entire valley and give it to District 08.
- To build it with principals and traditions directly out of the General Service Manual.
- To cooperate and collaborate with AFI, SRI, EVI & all other A.A. entities if they choose to do so.
- To create resources that may help the valley intergroups excel at what they are doing well and pool resources that serve the entire valley without the stigma of separation.
- To provide a vehicle to eliminate duplication of services and redundant financial burdens.
- To not exclude any member, homegroup or any other A.A. entity.
- To let members and A.A. entities find their own way, by making suggestions and leading by example, and sometimes by letting go of the unwilling.
- And of course, uphold the freedom of individual and group choice.
On September 18, 2018, Phoenix Central Office, Inc. presented itself to the steering/agenda committee (DCM’s) of Maricopa County District 08 to be considered for adoption by District 08. The DCM’s have the detailed background to understand what this is, the potential for it to benefit the county and the challenges it may have in its current form. They will be taking notes, suggesting changes and forming questions. The District Committee Members will meet in November when an official offer of phxaa to the District will take place. At that time the DCM’s could decide to formalize a motion for the entire body to consider or kill the initiative in committee.
In the meantime, please ask your own questions, make your own suggestions, and most importantly, judge for yourself the merits of a Phoenix Central Office.
Phoenix Central Office knew from the beginning that this would be an imperfect process. That it would have flaws and need correction. And even if it was “perfect” there would always be the folks who simply disagreed.
Already this initiative has been accused of being impromptu, of violating traditions and being done outside the “process” of what we do here in Alcoholics Anonymous.
Phoenix Central Office was very careful to adhere to A.A. traditions and procedures. Alcoholics Anonymous allows for Phoenix Central Office to succeed or fail by suggesting non-interference. “…liberty to handle this matter in any way you please.” p.173 Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions. Indeed, merely accusing another A.A. entity of a tradition violation could be interpreted as a tradition violation itself.
If the District chooses not to adopt, either in committee or at the body level, the homegroups who support phxaa will have to decide what happens next. It may exist in a non-public shell to continue benefiting the groups who support it. It may choose to change its name or dissolve it altogether, as our program allows. They may also put it on a top shelf somewhere, to be dusted off sometime in the future if someone asks, “Why isn’t Phoenix more unified?”