Once we have spoken our minds, however, the 9th tradition tells us to relax and let our Higher Power take charge of the meeting. We find that we cannot force our will on the AA group, no matter how right it may seem to us. ~ AA wisdom
Some person wiser than me once counseled me to let go of my expectations of the program as a whole, meetings, and the AA structure as a whole. She told me that it is not responsibility to make AA last or survive the many changes and people that come through those doors. Bend with the breeze, or be broken by it. From time to time, I have to be reminded of this. If you have been around as long or longer than me, you will have noticed that new people bring in new ideas. Not all ideas are right.
I remember one gal came in and immediately campaigned and won her right to change the wording of the How It Works! Guess what: she went back to drinking and the group recovered and prospered via the experience. Over the next few days, I will submit some tradition #9 questions for consideration that you may want to use in your meetings:
- Does our meeting support our leaders and service providers?
- Are we critical of those who are giving service and suspicious of their motives?
- Are we mature enough to take responsibility for the well-being of AA and our own recovery programs. Take some time to survey your groups and help others embrace the traditions as that glue that binds us to each other and to AA.
Service is the key to getting to the heart of AA. It is what keeps us coming back. ~ Anon
Ooops, I over booked; then my computer mouse died. I am up and running again. I spent the weekend at a 12 step convention. There were some powerful messages of recovery. The most meaningful was that one must be completely sober in order to work the steps. I am so glad that such events exist locally and at a very reasonable cost. There is a great deal of work to be done to achieve such an event. There are boards positions such as chair, vice chair, etc. And, there are committee jobs such as registration, decorations, fund raising, etc. This year, I put the flyer together. I am not all that good at key boarding, but I got through it and it looked presentable.
I had the opportunity to speak as well. That was an honor. I spoke on the topic of acceptance as needed to work the 12 steps and how they apply to my life. Then, I gave them some questions on how these acceptance issues would apply in their lives. They seemed to appreciate that. Most importantly, was that we got to know each other a little bit more. Sometimes, just sitting and listening instead of applying the learning can get tiresome. I am one of those who is easily distracted and bored when required to sit and listen. It is probably the ADD in me. Ha ha. At any rate, we applied tradition #9 well, and it paid off. Be a part of, not apart from.
We are a motley crew of drunks who manage to have special events, service boards and committees, conventions, etc. that go off seemingly well. I know it baffles newcomers who want to know who is in charge. Who should they go to for the rules and directions? I used to wonder that too. My objective was that I wanted someone to blame if I failed. I also wanted to know what the rules were, so I could systematically run afoul of them; in the hopes of being kicked out. That didn’t work either!
This weekend, I will be attending a 12 step state convention. Somehow, several parts of the state come together each year and throw themselves a fun, weekend long party. Everyone is welcome to participate. No one is turned away if they cannot afford it. We each pitch in. This year, I put the flyer together, will do a shift or two at the registration table, and speak. I am speaking on the topic of acceptance. Had I never accepted the concept that I was an alcoholic, and that my life was unmanageable by me, I would not be 31 years sober. I would not be up at 6 AM typing this, and I surely would not be spending a whole weekend at a 12 step convention. Join the party and get involved. Your soul will thank you.
AA, as such, ought never be organized, but we may created service boards and committees directly responsible to those they serve. ~ AA 12 X 12
Gees, it is nearly mid month, I have not even mentioned the tradition of the month, and that is #9. The key word for this tradition is structure. What most of us have learned about AA and most 12 step programs, is that there are no bosses, no one is in control, and we are an unorganized organization! At the top of most nonprofits is a service board that will have at least one member on it. The rest is made up of professional and community members. These boards act as arbiters of the organization’s business. In most situations, they oversee the decisions about legal and financial matters, to ensure the nonprofit is run correctly according to the laws of the land.
AA is an upside down pyramid. The members and groups have more say so than does any entity over it. Each group is autonomous, unless it effects AA as a whole. I have had the wonderful but challenging opportunity to serve on many committees and even on some regional and intergroup boards. Committees might take care of public information, outreach, 12 step work, elections, events, banquets, etc. Service boards are usually involved in how to handle the money, setting up and maintaining an office, phone lines, publishing meeting lists, hotlines, information, literature sales, etc. There is a great deal of work to do. It takes a group effort and cooperation to keep our doors opened and to have help available for the still suffering alcoholic. Be part of the solution, and be of service.
Our real purpose is to fit ourselves to be of maximum service to G.O.D.
and the people about us. ~ Big Book
Being a part of something greater than myself (not apart from) is the essence of this thing called fellowship. I was asked just yesterday by my only “normy” friend why I go to AA if I have been sober for over 31 years. I said that this is a life long commitment. Beyond that, I do not think anyone who is not involved in this program would understand why we keep coming back, why we call ourselves alcoholic when we no longer drink, or what we do in our our meetings. I have to remember that AA is for those who want it, not those who need it. If it were the prior, there would not be enough chairs in the building to occupy.
So, why do we old timers keep coming back? We give back freely what was freely given to us. Our appearance and sharing at meetings is a form of service. It is our primary purpose to be of service to HP and others.
G.O.D. does not call those who qualify; but does qualify those who are called. Sometimes, I do not know when I will be called, but I do know in my heart of hearts that the skills and words will be furnished. Sometimes, I just open my mouth and the words fall out. There are other times (like funerals) where I ask that the right words be given. It all works when we work it. And, we are worth it. Keep coming back, you just never know who will be there that needs to hear what you have to say.
We are human beings, not human doings. ~ Anon
As humans, we have limits. There is just so much we can do and nothing more. We know that to be true when we hit that wall of fatigue and exhaustion. Those of us in service to AA recognize the need to stay in our own lane, do that which we can do and no more, and to share the load when it comes to AA service projects. Most healthy meetings know and practice the wisdom of sharing service responsibilities. Yes, chairs and literature need to be set out. Yes, someone needs to lead, make coffee, get supplies/medallions, represent the group at the intergroup level, be the contact/secretary/treasurer, etc.
How long should we do service work? According to tradition #8, it is customary that most group level jobs are for one year only. This keeps the work from becoming one person’s burden. It also helps the group stay strong, as new people will have a chance to do service, and there will be fresh eyes/minds that may bring new life into the situation. There is plenty to do. Invite new people into service work. Invite them to join you at intergroup meetings, and take them to retreats and workshops. The more they become involved in AA and have things to keep them responsible to their recovery community, the less time they will have to fight this dis-ease. Nice plan, right?
The vast good that AA does for alcoholics in this world on a
whole is done as nonprofessionals. ~ Anon
AA suggests that those of us in professional careers or who have degrees or licenses in our given lines of work; to leave our professional hats hung outside the rooms of AA. When it comes to recovery, we are all equals. We have just our experience, strength, and hope to offer the still struggling alcoholics. That is enough. I have some tradition #8 questions that may come in handy to ask of your groups, you as the individual in recovery, and then to see how they may apply to your personal life. You will be amazed.
- Do we try to fix other people in AA with professional advice, or are we content to offer our experience, strength, and hope as it relates to sobriety?
- Do we speak as professionals in AA meetings? (for example: medicine, psychology, legal, nutrition, religion, etc). Are we the Big Book experts?
- When we have a struggle, do we pretend that all is just fine? Do we ask others for help, or pretend we can handle things ourselves?
- Do we set up other AA’s as gurus or experts just because they appear smarter, more educated, or more together than we feel?
- Do we make others (old timers, volunteers, etc.) more responsible for our sobriety or meeting success than we should be ourselves?
- Can we distinguish between the AA workers from the AA members who share their experience, strength, and hope?
- Can we distinguish between the work therapists, psychologists, and treatment professionals do from the sharing of other AA members? These questions will help guide us toward better fellowship with our peers in AA and keep us more sober in our daily lives. Be a part of, not apart from.
There is plenty to do and much needs to be done. Here is the link to some service positions:
When we first get dried out, we will experience dreams where we are drinking or feeling extremely blasted beyond control. This is normal. I used to have dreams that I was being forced to drink that which I did not want. I know! Even in my dreams, I wasn’t responsible, and I was the victim! I am sure you can relate! I consider these dreams freebies: all the memories and thrills; but none of the guilt, shame, or remorse. So, relax. It is just your subconscious in overtime.
Sometimes, we can learn from these dreams as well. They can be wake up calls to get more active in AA, to do more service work, or perhaps let up on caffeinated beverages by noon, so that we can sleep better at night. I have also been able to recall things for my 4th and 5th step inventory that in real time and when wide awake, I could not recall. That was due to black out drinking. The brain has a funny way to tease things out, that we would rather not remember having done. So, be kind and gentle with yourself. Enjoy the freebie, but try to learn from what is revealed.
The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others. ~ Gandhi
If you are wondering how you can be self-supporting on a limited budget, let me introduce you to the wonderful concept of service to others. Service is the rent we pay to dwell on this earth. Each time you give service, you open your spiritual world to growth potential a little bit more. It also widens your spiritual community.
I would not have met all the wonderful people in AA from all over the world and from backgrounds and religions completely unlike my own. Service can be as simple as making coffee, putting out the literature, leading a meeting, or just staying late to help clean up. It is all that easy and simple. Each hour spent in service is one more hour of sobriety. Give freely what you were freely given and do service.