Once upon a time there was a home group of Alcoholics Anonymous.
I say once upon a time, because this group no longer exists. It folded one day after many, many years of serving the alcoholics in its community.
I found this meeting to be a very healthy group of Alcoholics Anonymous. There were many old-timers to be seen talking with new people, there were greeters at the door, a secretary, treasurer, and a GSR all discussing group business. New people were welcomed with a cup of coffee and a handshake.
The group just beamed with happy people. A large crowd each week caused many tables to be filled and seats were hard to come by. The last Tuesday of month the group broke down into smaller groups for table discussion meetings. The rest of the meetings each week were closed speaker/ discussion meetings and again were hard to come by and the importance of getting there early was common knowledge. Coffee was always ready for the first early person to arrive and there was always fellowship after the meeting.
Sound good? Maybe this is your home group?
One meeting, after a group conscience discussion, a woman was offered the responsibility of GSR. She got the job after discussion about whether she would be good for the group.
She started attending area assemblies and workshops to learn about the Traditions and how they helped groups stick to their primary purpose.
She learned about Conference-approved literature and how it shouldn't be mixed in with other literature to confuse the new people about which is AA's and which is not.
She also learned about money in the Fellowship, the 60-30-10 and other plans, and not using basket money to buy outside literature. It was exciting to me to watch this group becoming informed on issues that affected it, as one group within the larger AA.
But then, slowly, the group's customs and practices began to erode.
At one group business meeting the GSR pointed out that the literature the group literature representative had purchased was not Conference-approved literature and was purchased with money intended for AA use.
This business meeting ended with the literature representative throwing the outside literature order forms at the group and leaving!
Later at another business meeting, discussion was held on whether an interpreter for the hearing impaired could be allowed to attend a closed meeting. The group conscience decided against it, since it was a closed meeting.
An old-timer in disagreement took the matter before the people attending that night's meeting whether they were members of that group or not.
The people attending voted to reverse the decision of the group conscience by opening the meeting to anyone. That meeting conscience weakened the effectiveness of that group conscience, and more people left the group.
This group was so well attended, that the church adjusted the rent accordingly. But money was always there because of the number of people who attended the meetings.
The group became so effective in carrying the message that a local alcoholism referral agency began sending young people to the meeting as an introduction to AA.
This drew other young people to the meeting, and eventually it began to be known as a great place for young people to meet.
Within a year after this flood of young people, a local centre for troubled children began sending some of its clients to the meeting also.
By this time, some of the old-timers had found other meetings to attend.
When asked why, they said, "We are not hearing the language of AA that we need to hear to stay sober."
Others thought the real reasons might be age differences, dress, language of the street, and just plain being outnumbered young to old.
A powerful principle in AA, rotation - the passing-it-on to the newer people - was needed for the group to grow.
This time there was no discussion by group conscience about who would be best for the group or who was sober, but rather anyone who would volunteer got the responsibilities.
Secretary, treasurer, and GSR were passed on to people who didn't know the first thing about the principles of AA or anything of the Traditions.
Once a chairman offered the Traditions for a topic one night and they were turned into drug talk, Freudian concepts, and rehab language.
He never came back and neither did the former officers of the group. The group had become a group of the blind leading the blind.
Group conscience began discussing the topics: how do we get older people to return, how are we going to pay this high rent? What are we going to do?
A local DCM was asked to attend a group conscience meeting to listen and offer some suggestions.
Members talked about the Traditions, Steps, outside literature, getting sober people to chair the meetings, turning radios off and the quality of sobriety that action in AA offers.
A plea went out to older members to please return to the meeting.
A few did return, but only for a short time. These kids seemed to want to be left on their own.
A new group conscience emerged, struggled for a short time, and failed again when volunteers were needed to fill the frequently vacated group responsibilities
Again, there was no leadership from the now "younger old-timers," as they too left for other groups.
Finally, with the rent too much, no coffee, no unity, our home group met last week to announce the end.
Bill W. said that the force which will destroy Alcoholics Anonymous will come very slowly from inside the Fellowship.
This group lasted some fourteen to seventeen years.
AA consists of home groups, and as a Fellowship we are seeing a breakdown of this principal structure.
If we as a Fellowship don't carefully pass on to newer members, the responsibilities that come with being a group, many more groups will go the way of this group.
The old-timers must stick around to teach the newer members "how it works", not only in the Twelve Steps but in our groups.
Sometimes the new people must drag the answers out of the old-timers, and if they are not at the meetings, we will repeat the mistakes made early in the Fellowship.
We must learn how to keep this Fellowship alive and our groups intact for the next member who needs it.
By helping insure the sobriety of others to come, we insure our own sobriety today.
The best member of Alcoholics Anonymous that one can be - is the best member of a home group that one can be.
Reprinted with permission from The Grapevine