To new eyes AA looks organised. Like it has a structure, some purpose. Maybe like it is a company of sorts. Maybe a government or even a religious arm? People were doing what seemed like jobs. Banners were displayed on walls. Leaflets were ready to be given out. Books were organised and ready to purchase. Steps & Traditions were displayed in a rules-and-regulations like fashion.
Yet upon spending some time in a meeting and talking with its members it was discovered that none of the above suspicions were entirely correct. Yes there was a structure that was similar but not like any government, company or religious group. The members who looked as though they had jobs were actually serving the Fellowship that they were in turn a member of. The only payment of sorts that each member received was the satisfaction of helping AA in its primary purpose. For the wage received was one of inner peace, of knowledge and experience, time spent thinking of others rather than of self. This, in turn, helps each individual member in finding the security of sobriety for only a few hours of service. Then collectively the group helps others. Priceless.
Now, at first, the keen or ambitious alcoholic may see opportunity in these tiers of AA service. Different service positions each with its own challenges and responsibilities. Some positions could be deemed as positions of power where there are decisions that must be made – decisions that could affect others. Grand events are organised for these positions where members attend and discuss the business of AA and make these big discussions that will ripple through the rooms of AA.
Some positions do come with more responsibility and effort required than others and the officer in such a position may feel empowered in their service. Yet it is fact that everyone in AA is equal.
No one has any grand or grandiose authority over anyone else. Shoulder to shoulder everyone stands. From the greeter on the door who has been a member for just 3 weeks to the delegate who has just finished his 3 years of Conference. From the GSR who runs the meeting, keeping Tradition 5 in mind, to the TLO at intergroup with the same focus.
To the layman’s eye it may look that certain people have an authority over others in the various groups of AA. Yet we all stand equal. One member, one vote. A regular group conscience held where each member is free to speak their own conscience. Speak their own conscience on matters that may seem small and trivial to some but can have big consequence for others. Where one can make a difference for many.
Tradition 2: For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority – a loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.
There are no ranks in AA to rise up through. There are service positions that can be moved though, experienced, enjoyed and learned from. In fact the more service you do in AA, the more you serve the Fellowship in the seeming positions of power and decision making, the more accountable you become to the Fellowship. It is expected you are to be transparent in your ways and to be prepared for anyone to, politely and orderly, ask you questions as to why or what or when or where, for what purpose? Why you did things the way you did for the Fellowship or why you did not do the things the way you were asked to by the Fellowship.
At AA we do value experience. Shared experience is invaluable, opinions are worth very much. We have long-term members who have much experience and knowledge to share. We seek their experience and guidance so the same mistakes are not made over and over. We heed their knowledge in our various meetings so informed decisions are made and our groups survive.
If our groups survive then we survive. Then we are in a better position to carry out our primary purpose.
And all for free…….well for freedom as well…
Geoff, Road to Recovery Group, Plymouth