Meetings in Alcoholics Anonymous
In 1953 the 12 & 12 was published and AA continues to thrive with the big books instructions on the steps. People could read, talk about and present theories about the steps, they did not have to do anything if they did not want to, there were no instructions and people liked this.
When I arrived at AA I had no clue what AA was about, what meetings were about or how they should or should not be run.
I happened to end up at a meeting 50miles from my home in another county, which suited me for I did not want anyone to know I was struggling. The meeting I first attended was organised, people were going about their business and stuff seemed to be getting done. I was warmly greeted and I felt completely uncomfortable, my fault not theirs!!
The meeting fired up and it was a meeting full of stories of where people ended up when the booze grabbed them, what they had done to get out of these places and where it had taken them to now. A clear message of recovery was heard and a clear message of how everyone achieved that recovery was also heard. I took on the suggestions of the meeting and headed back across the border with new found discovery.
A few weeks in and I start attending other meeting, feeling like I don’t mind who sees my face, they were local meetings. Now the other meetings varied from one extreme to another and caused me much confusion and a lot of talk time minutes to my sponsor.
The reason for this was that the message each meeting carried was different. Some meetings did talk of the book (steps,sponsorship,recovery). Some meetings did not mention the book at all and the meeting was purely about dumping your problems and walking away feeling better, for a few hours possibly. Group therapy, without the therapist. People took up valuable recovery time with their own problems, instead of calling their sponsor with their problems, who could direct them to the program to help solve them.
Selfishness, self-centredness. That we think is the root of our troubles.
So for me a lot of groups today have lost their singleness of purpose and have begun talking about their problems instead of how to recover.
Now, a problem meeting, for me, is not a meeting with a problem. It is a meeting where people openly and constantly share their own personal problems in the meeting instead of sharing the solution for the newcomer…
I have been meetings where a speaker has been asked to tell his story or to speak about alcoholism or the recovery program and what I have heard is 20mins or more about their divorce, their dogs bad leg, that they are moving into a new house and even that they have not yet got a sponsor as they are still looking for the right person to sponsor them. It is ok to share about problems if it is shared how that problem was overcome e.g. using God, steps and sponsor. But a share without hope or solution is not fulfilling the group’s primary purpose.
Plenty of step 4 and 10 work from those meetings!!
If people want to get sober by coming to AA, that’s ok, yet…
Tradition one says “Our common welfare should come first; personal recover depends on AA unity."
So the group comes first with the individual very close behind. If the group does not survive then neither will I. If the groups were not there when I needed help, where would I be now?
Tradition 4 “Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or AA as a whole."
I think the most important part of Alcoholics Anonymous is to carry the message, it is our primary purpose. If some groups choose not to carry that message it is affecting AA as a whole and could be damaging to the fellowship and the newcomer.
The motives of the people in the problem meetings might well be good.
Step 12 states we should always practice these principles in all our affairs.
Tradition 12 says to place principles before personalities.
Principle always wins over motives.
The traditions are a set of spiritual principles which are designed to protect AA from us, from our motives.
At my home group we have a number of speakers who talk on their experience in recovery and then there are shares from the floor with home group member’s sharing their experience. This way we are always talking about recovery at every meeting. We are carrying out our primary purpose.
I take my problems to my sponsor and my solution to our meetings that way we carry the message of recovery best we can to the new man who is looking for a solution.