Alcoholics Anonymous started in Plymouth many years before I joined. But I thought it would be worth sharing my experience of the changes I’ve seen over time. Thinking back helps to give a perspective of my recovery. This is not so much an article about history as about my recovery history in AA meetings.
I recently found a meeting directory from the early nineties for Plymouth. I compared it a 2017 directory and found out something that I guess I’d suspected but never seen the evidence for directly. Out of about 30 meetings in City of Plymouth in the early 90s, there were only three meetings still in existence in 2017. But there are still over 30 meetings in the City of Plymouth. (One of these is my homegroup.)
Seeing this makes me think back over the years of the groups I’ve attended myself. There was the Nuffield group – which was the largest group in Plymouth when I recovered – well over 60 people twice a week. And then dwindled to 6 and finally closed. There was the Wednesday Peverell Step meeting which was huge at its peak. I remember the group officers making an appeal towards its end, for people to do service. Then it died. There was the Sunday night Vision for You, my first home group for a year. That closed many many years ago. Other popular meetings include the two a week at the Salvation Army – now gone.
Aside from people moving away or getting jobs, I guess there are two main reasons why these meetings have closed: the people there couldn’t stay sober, or people were staying sober but couldn’t work together. Alcoholics Anonymous has a solution to both of these: the 12 Steps and the 12 Traditions.
Does this mean that all groups that have survived the last 25 years in the city of Plymouth have been using the Traditions and Steps rigorously and accurately? Probably not. They’ve just been doing it well enough to hold together for the medium term. And as far as I’m concerned 25 years is the medium term. I’d say 40 years is a long-term group. Another conclusion I come to is that I pick who I listen to in AA with care. So many many people I’ve known in the last two decades have failed, as have so many many groups. Yet most of them spoke with great confidence about how best to do AA, and which AA was the worst.
Over the years, I’ve become far more cynical about the opinions of wise-sounding outspoken AA members. I look at the years behind them and the group behind them. Have they survived, and can others survive around them? My life is too precious to think any other way.
Alexis, Road to Recovery Group Plymouth