The only requirement for AA membership is a desire to stop drinking.
In the early days of Alcoholics Anonymous, members all came from similar backgrounds. They we pure alcoholics and didn’t have any other problems. In the 1940’s, it was not particularly seen as a ‘badge of honour’ to be an alcoholic. It probably, simply never occurred to them that other people might want to join. As the fellowship evolved, alcoholics who had other problems (such as drugs) wanted to join. Women started to come along too.
Tradition Three tells us that as long as you are an alcoholic, then you can be a member of A.A. Being an alcoholic is like being pregnant. You either are or you are not. You cannot be a bit pregnant. If you are 1% pregnant then you are still pregnant. If you are 1% alcoholic and 99% overeater or gambling addict, then you can join A.A. However, you have got to be an alcoholic. Your primary addiction can be anything else, but as long as you are an alcoholic you are welcome.
It does not matter how smelly you are. It makes no difference how scruffy you have become or how low down you have gone. Neither does it matter how violent you’ve been (so long as you are not violent in a meeting). You are a member if you want to be! We cannot judge another’s desire to stop drinking. Bill W said that to “take away any alcoholic’s full chance of recovery was sometimes to pronounce his death sentence, and often to condemn him to endless misery. Who dared to be judge, jury and executioner of his own sick brother?” For this reason we try not raise any barriers that might turn the still suffering alcoholic away. I know that from my own experience the slightest sign of intolerance would have been the perfect excuse not to come back.
The short form of this Tradition opens A.A. up to those who are not sure whether they are alcoholics or not. However people who come to A.A. who are definitely not alcoholics, or who want to give up drinking for other reasons (such as fitness) should check out the long form. Here it states that “Our membership ought to include all who suffer from alcoholism”. If you are a non-alcoholic drug addict or gambler, you cannot join A.A. The diseases may have some similarities, but they are different because they are not based on powerlessness over alcohol. Identification is vital. In Dr. Bob’s story in the Big Book, he says the reason that he took the life-saving actions suggested by Bill W. was because Bill was: “the first living human with whom I had ever talked, who knew what he was talking about in regard to alcoholism from actual experience. In other words, he talked my language.”
Every Friday night the Road to Recovery group holds an ‘open’ meeting, where non-alcoholics are welcome to attend. It is wonderful to see them there. However, they do not become group members and they are not elected into service positions. Our membership is made up of alcoholics.