The Home Group
When I came into Alcoholics Anonymous a little over ten years ago, I had no idea that the group I had found, that carried the message of Alcoholics Anonymous to me as it is laid out in the Basic Text, would be my sanctuary, my lifeboat and the place I feel most comfortable in. I was amongst my own kind – a group of recovered alcoholics whose primary purpose is to show the still suffering alcoholic how they recovered from this fatal and progressive disease called alcoholism.
Had those people not been there, in that place, at that time, as I crawled through the doors after thirty destructive years of drinking and appalling behaviour, I would be dead. I had reached ‘the jumping off point’ – I could not live with or without alcohol and the world had become an impossible place for me to live in. Full of self pity and despair, I finally asked for help and had a period of ‘dry’ time, during which I was told to ‘Get a sponsor and get a Homegroup’. Ultimately, both would be my own choice but I could be guided by others with experience, to attend meetings and meet women with continuous sobriety, who were sponsoring others.
Tradition Four states “Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or AA as a whole”, This meant (although I knew nothing of Traditions at the time), that thanks to the foresight of the Co-Founders of AA and their passing the Legacy onto the fellowship, that there were many meetings to choose from, all of whom were run in different ways but whose existence was founded on helping the still suffering alcoholic.
For the first time in many years, I was about to make a decision that had the power to change my life forever, although I didn’t know that at the time. I simply knew that I was seeking ‘something’ and believed I would know it when I found it – but there was a desperation, born of fear, that I needed to get on with it. I recognised, finally, I could not do this alone.
At the heart of our Third Legacy of Service is the belief that AA’s Twelfth Step, ‘Carrying the Message’ is our basic reason for service within the Fellowship. All else grows from that. The homegroup I chose is the group that carried the message of Recovery to me and I am proud to be a part of it.Tradition Five reads “Each group has but one primary purpose-to carry its message to the alcoholic who still suffers.”
For each individual, this choice will be different but it was explained to me (because I knew NOTHING when I came in), that to be a part of my Homegroup, I had to get involved, get into Service and think of others. (Not a natural state!) It was a place I would attend regularly and I would be missed if I didn’t turn up. There would be expectations placed upon me because I would become a small part of a bigger whole, centred around the newcomer and those that still suffered. When I first arrived, I was the newcomer and the meeting had been set up for me.
By the time I left that meeting, had asked someone to sponsor me and was following suggestions, I was one day in front of the newcomer attending the next meeting and I could shake THEIR hand, make them feel welcome and offer them a cup of tea. Small but significant beginnings, which would gradually change my life, provided I keep putting one foot in front of the other. I watched ‘Oldtimers’, greeting, talking, laughing with an ease I did not yet feel, but with just enough Faith to believe them when they said it could happen for me if I was willing to let go of my old ideas. Would I have this? You bet!
I was encouraged to ‘Get into good habits early’ and was given service very quickly. My sponsor knew that if I stayed idle, I would not develop that feeling of usefulness, commitment and fellowship, which comes when I am thinking of others and not myself. As I remained at my Homegroup, getting into the heart of it, I became sponsorable and willing to go to any lengths; I was given more responsibility within the service structure. I was taken through the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous by my sponsor, leading to a spiritual awakening, and I was expected to share for the newcomer. I remain accountable to my Homegroup and the Group Service Committee if my commitment and Integrity to any service position is not properly carried out.
The service structure for our wonderful fellowship was hammered out by our Co-founders, Bill Wilson and Dr Bob as they watched the early alcoholics recover then die as they struggled to imbue them with the simple (but complex) truth that constant thought of others and working with another alcoholic will always save the day, when all else fails. My Homegroup was the first place I had been welcomed in years and it practices the belief that we have a duty to make the homegroup a safe place for any vulnerable, still-suffering alcoholic to walk into.
I didn’t feel comfortable there initially, because the first night I was not doing the actions that other group members were. By the time I came back, I could identify with not only their stories of drinking but also their recovery because I had set out on the same road with a humility previously unknown. I had finally been humbled by the might of King Alcohol. As desperate as only the dying can be. Today that desperation is gone. I went for coffee after the meeting and found another dimension to the group as the atmosphere buzzed with laughter and earnest talks with newcomers who were asking questions. People sat in two’s as the Sponsors patiently began to lay out the plan of recovery to the newcomer who had plucked up courage after the meeting to ask someone to guide them.
We have marvellous times outside of our Homegroup meetings. There is much fun and laughter. Even going to Pre and Post Conference can be turned into rioutous laughter and camaraderie on a coach! We go to the cinema, some enjoy runs at the weekend, or sharing a Chinese meal on a Friday night. As it says in the Big Book: “So we think cheerfulness and laughter make for usefulness. Outsiders are sometimes shocked when we burst into merriment over a seemingly tragic experience out of the past. But why shouldn’t we laugh? We have recovered and been given the power to help others.” That is always at the heart of the Homegroup. Though there may be laughter, we are in deadly earnest about passing the message of recovery to the still suffering alcoholic. For we never forget that this disease of alcoholism kills and there but for the Grace of God go I.