Can You Ask a Person to Leave the Group?

Disclaimer:  I am a sober member of AA, and that’s all I am.  I do not speak for AA or represent AA in any way, and all the contents of this blog are my opinions only.


In a comment on the post The Thirteenth Step, Laura asks:


What is it called when a person a sober Narcissist in fact appears to be working in the program and really just using it as a dating service? This person is very predatory and has cause a lot of dissonance. Can you ask a person to leave the group?


It’s my understanding that AA groups are autonomous, and so they can do whatever the group decides to do.  A question like this is never asked for a good reason, and I’m sorry to say again that AA is not a safe place.  I have almost always been safe there, but it’s not by any means a given.

There have also been very few times in my experience when someone who is attending meetings makes other people so uncomfortable that they want to ask the person to leave.  Right now I can only think of two times.  One was when a rather verbally aggressive man was frightening people.  Another was when a registered sex offender started attending meetings.  Both of these men acted in other ways that made people uncomfortable and sometimes afraid.  The aggressive guy faded away.  The sex offender stayed and became more tolerable and accepted, though maybe not fully accepted.  I’ve known many people with mental health symptoms that made their attendance challenging, though not to the point where anyone wanted to ask them not to attend.

But to address this question.  It’s my understanding that we can’t ask someone to leave AA, that everyone is a member if he or she says so.  The literature points out that to deny someone AA may be to sentence that person to death, and that we have no right to do that.  I don’t think that means that we have to put up with any and all behavior, though, and the original question implies that this person is taking advantage of newcomers especially.

My opinion is that first, Laura (or anyone asking) should examine her own behavior and attitudes to make sure she’s seeing the situation clearly and not prejudiced in some way herself against this person.  I think she should discuss it with some group members.  Now really by the time the group is discussing an individual, the individual is problematic enough to need an intervention.

First I think group members could approach the person and tell him what they see, and ask him to think about it.  If that doesn’t work I see nothing wrong with slipping the newcomer a little friendly warning about getting involved with this guy.  And that’s it.  At this point I think the problem person will probably find another group or fade away from AA completely.  Or he may (and Laura doesn’t use a gender – why do I assume it’s a guy?) actually change his behavior, or drink.  Because it doesn’t sound like sober behavior to me.

So my short answer is that I would approach the situation slowly and carefully and try to resolve it with as much care as possible.  Ultimately even the vulnerable newcomer is an adult who to look out for him or herself, and usually the best thing we can be is a power of example.




4 thoughts on “Can You Ask a Person to Leave the Group?

  1. I know what the 3rd tradition says and I know about groups being autonomous but I can not comment because it has never come up in any groups that I have belonged to. The first person asked to leave AA was a women named Irma, that was in 1941 and it has been said that this incident may have been one of the reasons or tradition 3.
    Here is a link:

    • There’s a huge sense of history in aa and a strong desire to support established groups. Sometimes it would absolutely help someone if he or she left but asking them to do so has to be a last resort.

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