When I turned up at my Homegroup
When I turned up at my home group, I was a prospect to them and they were an odd bunch to me. I was a white collar professional who knew nothing about staying sober, and they did. Apparently they were not subject to the constant thoughts of alcohol, nor were they appalled to be congregating on a Friday night for the express purpose of telling me how they got sober and maintained a happy useful sobriety.
I thought I was different, and that’s what nearly killed me. However, I was beaten enough to return to the group and eventually I began to identify with the way I used to drink – how taking one drink set up a craving for another and another until the job was done. I knew this already but hadn’t been able to work it out. What I did not know was that I had no mental defence against picking up that first drink. Despite identifying with this obsession for, and allergy to, drink I was still sceptical. But the group convinced me to take actions I did not believe in. It is these actions that have conspired to keep me sober for 11 years: The actions of asking for a sponsor, allowing myself to be sponsored, doing a few simple spiritual actions on a daily basis and, fundamentally, working through the 12 steps and trying to practise the principles of the 12 steps in my life.
The group presented this solution to me and, as Bill W wrote, most individuals cannot recover unless there is a group. It is vital therefore that my group is in the best possible shape to present the AA message to the newcomer. The AAs I met were prepared to bend over backwards to help me. However, they were very business like- and nothing, it seemed to me was left to chance. Members turned up at 6:30, an hour before the start of the meeting so that newcomers could be made welcome and the tea could be made and the literature displayed. The chairs were arranged just so, and when the meeting started the tea hatch was closed up and every effort was made to keep disruptions to a minimum. I was impressed. I was still confused and baffled as a newcomer, but I wasn’t stupid and I could see how seriously the group took its primary purpose. Group members were expected to attend group conscience meetings, where members met after the main meeting to discuss group business and what it could do to improve its presentation of the AA message. We now have a steering committee to deal with the group’s business, and their dedication and commitment, sometimes convening until late into the night is an example to me.
The Group’s approach has always been this disciplined. So disciplined that, as a newcomer, I sometimes thought it was over the top. Couldn’t we just lighten up a little? Did we really have to sack that tea person for missing their commitment, again? Why couldn’t people jangle their pockets looking for ‘tradition 7’ money, before the secretary had stopped speaking? Why couldn’t we get up for a cup of tea while the meeting was on? The short answer to these, and the other niggles I had about the way the group operated, is ‘a meeting where anything goes eventually becomes a meeting where nobody goes’. Underlying that answer us the fact that disciplined leadership in the Group wasn’t prepared to accommodate my pleas for a more relaxed approach. Essentially it went against the grain, as it should have done – because it was a sign that I was sacrificing a bit of what I wanted for the good of the group and, ‘most individuals cannot recover unless there is a group’.
Of course no-one can make me do these things. I willingly obey spiritual principles. Soon enough this way of doing things changed from something I felt I had to do – to something I wanted to do, because I like the results. I like having a degree of discipline and stability in my own life, which allows me to live life sober a day at a time. And just when I start to think my Group ha all the answers, my sponsor reminds me that we are a long, long way from perfection and that we are not necessarily ‘right’, that in fact we may be ‘wrong’. But what we do have, if the individual recovery and willingness to service is anything to go by, is a way that works.
Jon F, Road to Recovery, Plymouth, Nov 2007