"But the ex-problem drinker who has found this solution, who is properly armed with facts about himself, can generally win the entire confidence of another alcoholic in a few hours." (Alcoholics Anonymous)Sometimes people say, 'there's no such thing as a bad meeting.' I understand what they mean. As a seasoned AA member, I can always learn something from a meeting (even if the lesson is what happens when one does not work the Steps), and I can always contribute (provided that the meeting format permits; sometimes groups are too large to allow everyone who wants to contribute to do so). From my point of view, therefore, there is no such thing as a bad meeting.
There is a danger of extending this, however, into mindless apathy, if one assesses off-topic rambling and ranting to be equivalent in value to a calm, engaging presentation of how the AA programme works.
In particular, as we know, opportunity is not a lengthy visitor when it comes to grabbing and keeping the attention of a newcomer to AA, in winning their confidence, and in paving the way for that individual to recover from alcoholism.
Recently, a friend attended a meeting where the chair talked not about alcoholism but crystal meth addiction, where many of those sharing talked about their food addiction rather than alcoholism (and not in the context of how to apply the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous to deal with said problems), and where the sharing showed scant regard for the fact there was a newcomer present, in terms of adequately presenting, through experience, the nature of alcoholism and the Twelve Step solution offered by AA.
Now, I was not at the meeting, so I cannot judge whether this assessment is correct. I have been at many meetings, however, where newcomers seeking to learn what alcoholism is and how to recover from it would have been sorely disappointed, as the discourse touched only tangentially on these two major topics, focusing instead on general thoughts and feelings du jour.
Is it valid to apply this standard to a meeting: 'does it fulfil its primary purpose of carrying the AA message to others?' [the 'AA message' being the Twelve Step programme; there is no other 'message']?
Can a meeting succeed or fail in this regard?
I believe we in AA should focus on how we can maximise our usefulness when we share in AA, and refrain from justifying a failure to contribute to a group's fulfilment of its purpose under the pseudo-spiritual guise of 'all things are equally good; it's all a matter of perspective'.
Whether and how we reach those still suffering is the most important question we have.