The importance of the newcomer, AA groups and the Fellowship as a whole is emphasised in Tradition 5 and is read out as part of the Secretary's introduction at the beginning of each meeting. As an alcoholic who has found remission from my illness, I have come to experience for myself what the Big Book states: that I can only keep what I have found if I am willing to try to give it away.
"Each group has but one primary purpose, to carry its message to the alcoholic who still suffers", the message being to those who don't know, that there is a way out and we have found it, as a result of having had the spiritual awakening that is necessary by going through the Twelve Step programme of AA with the help of a sponsor.
I didn't want to be thought of as being the most important person in the room when I first arrived: in fact I would have far preferred to have shrunk into a corner and not have had anyone take any notice of me at all. However, the friendly welcome I was given – by people who didn't seem to want to judge me or look down on me – left a deep impression, which when I added the fact that they all seemed pretty cheerful and happy that they didn't drink alcohol any more, brought me to the conclusion that if I was going to try to stop drinking I would rather do it with them rather than anyone else.
The fact is that I was frightened of where my drinking was likely to take me if I carried on, but only marginally more so than of what life was going to be like if I actually stopped drinking. That was where I was when I first came in and I guess that many newcomers feel the same, so it is for that reason that I try to share that experience so that a newcomer can identify with it and appreciate that there is someone else who has gone through the same thing.
Much of what I have found in AA after 10 years sobriety seems to be something of a paradox; the outcomes of the actions it has been suggested I put in have all been good, but in rather different ways to that which I (but not necessarily my sponsor) had expected. The greatest sense of joy and reward has come through trying to help the newcomer, whether he accepts it or not, but particularly when he does. Because I know now that what has worked for me when I was newcomer – from the simple daily actions that I was told to put in by my sponsor to getting involved with AA and a wonderful home group – can work for any other newcomer who has the willingness and enough faith to give it a try: "To watch the eyes of men and women open with wonder as they move from darkness into light, to see their lives quickly fill with new purpose and meaning and above all to watch these people awaken to the presence of a loving God in their lives, these things are the substance of what we receive when we carry A.A.'s message to the next alcoholic."
Johnny J, Road to Recovery group, Plymouth, April 2010