The AA Service Handbook …
This article is about the importance of following the AA Service Handbook at all levels of service and having the courage to speak up when you’re in a minority. I have found it invaluable to read the AA literature and listen to my sponsor when preparing for everything from a Group Conscience to a General Service Conference.
My experience of working on AA committees over the years is that lots of people who participate in them have not read or are not aware of the AA service handbook. This can bring about certain difficulties for those who place more importance on it. Alcoholics dying in their thousands are not helped by a silent minority – to hide and watch lessons of the past be ignored is irresponsible, and to speak up is often difficult. Even though some of the work done on these committees can seem far removed from the suffering alcoholic, the reality is it can help pull them back from “the gates of insanity or death“. This will remain true if we are vigilant and do not fear taking responsibility.
When a GSR attends his Home Group he may be among like-minded friends, but at Intergroup this is not always the case. This is usually a place where groups who don’t agree meet and do business. A pre-arranged framework in which to operate allows us to work with a greater degree of unity. This doesn't mean we will always agree,we don’t have to.
This structure may well evolve, change or be adapted to current needs, but the principles that under pin our whole society can be ignored only at cost. When they are ignored, unity is often the first casualty.
My sponsor told me to attend Intergroup or Region only when he thought I was ready. It was made clear to me that I should be fully armed with the facts contained within the AA service handbook before participating in any AA committee. Wanting to do service is a good start, but at Intergroup level this alone is insufficient. I was told that I should be familiar with the experience of those who served before me. Our founders went to great lengths to share this experience with us; we don’t need to re-make their mistakes.
I now tell those I sponsor that speaking in an AA committee not knowing what’s in the AA service Handbook, is like speaking at an AA meeting and not knowing what’s in the Big Book. What I say or don’t say in either can have far reaching consequences. We have been entrusted with three legacies and they all deserve equal “attention and understanding”. We sign our own death warrant with disobedience to the steps and we condemn countless others with indifference to the Traditions and Concepts. By allowing ourselves to act on the information within the Concepts and listening to a sponsor who has done the same, we take our place in the group conscience knowing we have done our utmost to pass onto others what was freely given to us.
My conscience is only as good as the value’s I place in it. That’s why I was told to read and put high regard on the literature of Alcoholics Anonymous .It is the experience of those who have traveled this road before us, a gift entrusted to us by a loving God, and it is my responsibility to help maintain it. As Bernard Smith once remarked: “to ensure the recovery of the alcoholic who stumbles in the darkness, seeking the light.”