Saturday, 27 February 2016

Don't like your local meeting?

I meet a lot of people who don't like their local meetings because they are weak and full of people who moan or talk about anything but recovery.

The solution is to start a meeting.

Here is a good format:

XXX Big Book Step—Meeting Script

Welcome to XXX Big Book Step Group of Alcoholics Anonymous. My name’s ............ and I’m an alcoholic. Could we please have a moment’s silence to remember why we’re here and the still suffering alcoholic both in and out of the rooms?

I’ve asked _______________________ to read the preamble.

This is a closed meeting of AA. In support of AA’s singleness of purpose, attendance at closed meetings is limited to persons who have a desire to stop drinking. If you think you have a problem with alcohol, you are welcome to attend this meeting.

Are there any visitors from out of town or other groups who would like to introduce themselves?

Are there any newcomers to AA who would like to introduce themselves? This is not to embarrass you; this is simply to give you the welcome we enjoyed when we first came in.

The format of this Big Book Step meeting is as follows: the instructions for taking the Twelve Steps are contained in the book ‘Alcoholics Anonymous’, from which our fellowship takes its name. Each week, a reader reads a section on the relevant step, and then a speaker shares specifically on his or her experience of the passage, for ten minutes or so. This is followed by sharing from the floor, also specifically on the passage. If you have not taken this step, we suggest you just listen for now.

_______________________ has agreed to read a passage from the Big Book on today’s topic, which is ______________________________________________.

It now gives me pleasure to introduce _______________________, who has come to share with us on today’s topic, which is ____________________________________________.

I now invite you to share your experience, strength, and hope in relation to what we have read. Our time-keeper _______________________ will ring the bell after each person has been sharing for four minutes. This is a sign to wind up your sharing. Our aim is to enable everyone who wishes to contribute to do so. There may be time at the end to share again. Please be respectful of others in your sharing. The meeting is now open.

[If there is spare time] If no one else wishes to share on the topic, please feel free to come in and share your experience of any part of the Big Book or the Twelve Steps.

[At 8.25 p.m. or so]

That’s all the time we have for sharing, I’m afraid, but it’s not quite the end of the meeting.

We now practise Tradition 7, which states that AA groups ought to be fully supported by the voluntary contributions of their own members. Whilst the pot is going round, are there any AA-related announcements? [Make sure pot makes it all the way round.]

In this group, we believe that sponsorship is an important resource in recovery. Would all those willing to act as sponsors or answer questions about sponsorship please raise their hands now and keep them raised? If you are looking for a sponsor or have questions, please see one of these people afterwards.

I’d like to thank the service members of the group for making this meeting possible.

If you have enjoyed this meeting and would like to become a service member of the group in order to participate in its running, we invite you to attend our monthly business meetings, which are held immediately after the Big Book Step meeting on the first Friday of each month, and we will offer you a service assignment. Talk to any of the service members of the group, who are now raising their hands, if you have any questions.

Would you please join me in the Serenity Prayer to close our meeting. God ...

XXX Big Book Step—Business Meeting Script

Business meeting script

Welcome to the XXX Big Book Step business meeting

My name’s ............ and I’m and alcoholic.

I’ve asked ............ to read the short form of the Twelve Traditions.

Business meeting preamble

For the group to run smoothly, it needs officers, to take care of everything from setting up and making the tea to handling the group’s finances.

These officers make up the steering committee, which resolves questions about ‘what a group should do, and how’. We, the steering committee, meet once a month to resolve such questions, to elect new officers, and for existing officers to report back to those they serve on their service assignments.

Performing service and decision-making go hand in hand. We invite any alcoholic wishing to join the group to attend our business meetings, and we will find you a service assignment.

Twice a year—in August and February—we hold a group conscience meeting in the place of the business meeting. This takes the form of a Group Inventory.

We refer to the pamphlet ‘the AA Group’ and to the ‘AA Service/Structure Handbooks for Great Britain’ for guidance on all group matters.

Brief officers’ reports in alphabetical order

Alternates—Chair—Greeters—GSR—Literature secretary—PI committee—Secretary—Setting up—Setting down—Tea-maker—Speaker-finder—Timekeeper—Treasurer—Washing up

Election of new officers

Other matters

Would you please join me in the Serenity Prayer to close our meeting?

XXX Big Book Step

Group procedures

1. We refer to the pamphlet ‘the AA Group’ and to the ‘AA Service/Structure Handbooks for Great Britain’ for guidance.

2. Group service members are those who are carrying out service assignments for the group. These people make the decisions.

3. The roles of GSR and treasurer are for two years. The role of secretary is for one year. All other posts are for six months. The GSR and treasurer should be over one year sober. The chairperson and secretary should be over six months sober. There is no sobriety requirement for the remaining service assignments. The treasurer, in addition, should be known to the group and solvent.

4. If there are more potential group service members than service assignments available, new posts may be created or existing posts may be split. There are also posts available as alternates.

5. If a service member is unable to attend a meeting one week, he or she should find someone to deputise from amongst the alternates and let the chair know about the deputisation.

6. If a service member fails to attend for three weeks without notifying the group, the position falls vacant, and the other service members take care of the role until a new service member is elected.

7. The secretary maintains and distributes amongst the service members only a confidential list of the service members’ telephone numbers plus the scripts and procedures. Inclusion on this list is entirely voluntary.

8. Urgent matters may be resolved between meetings jointly by the chair, secretary, GSR, and treasurer, but final responsibility and ultimate authority will rest with the steering committee at the next business meeting.

9. Major matters affecting the group (e.g. location, time, day, and length of the meeting, primary purpose of the group, general format and structure, subject matter of the meetings) are discussed only at the six-monthly group conscience meetings. To provide continuity and stability, no major changes are agreed at business meetings, unless circumstances make this necessary.

Topic rotation:


Step One (physical allergy)

Step One (mental obsession)

Step One (spiritual malady)

Step Two

Step Three (first requirement)

Step Three (implementation of the step)

Step Four (resentment inventory, first three columns)

Step Four (resentment inventory, bridge passage and fourth column)

Step Four (fear inventory)

Step Four (sex inventory)

Step Five

Steps Six + Seven

Step Eight

Step Nine

Step Ten

Step Eleven (evening)

Step Eleven (morning)

Step Twelve (spiritual awakening)

Step Twelve (carrying the message)

Step Twelve (practising these principles in all our affairs)

Not getting the results?

Still unhappy?

If you're still unhappy in AA, ask yourself: have you taken every action set out in the book Alcoholics Anonymous up to page 164, adapting for the difference in AA's structure (e.g. using the service structure to carry the message to the outside world rather than seeking doctors or priests on your own per page 89)?

If you haven't, stop complaining or doubting God or the programme.

If you were following the instructions for opening a safe, you wouldn't miss out some of the instructions and expect the safe to open.

If you were writing code, you wouldn't miss out a line and expect the macro to work.

If you were following directions to drive from London to Edinburgh and missed a few turnings, you would not expect to end up in Edinburgh.

Come back when you've followed the instructions, and then we'll see.

How do we share?

The quotations below, if read properly, should clear up two gross misconceptions in AA.

The misconceptions are:

(1) We share in a general way.
(2) We share about what it was like, what happened, and what it is like now.

First quotation (page 29):

'Further on, clear-cut directions are given showing how we recovered. These are followed by three dozen personal experiences.
Each individual, in the personal stories, describes in his own language and from his own point of view the way he established his relationship with God. These give a fair cross section of our membership and a clear-cut idea of what has actually happened in their lives.
We hope no one will consider these self-revealing accounts in bad taste.'
Second quotation (page 58 of Alcoholics Anonymous):
Our stories disclose in a general way what we used to be like, what happened, and what we are like now.
Firstly a distinction has to be made between the story and the disclosure. The story is the account of what happened. What the story discloses is the general portrayal of our condition before and after the Twelve Steps. A general understanding of alcoholism and the recovered state should be derivable from our stories, therefore. In other words, we need to use our stories to make points.

Secondly, the disclosure should be of what we used to be like and what we are like now. There is no it.

Thirdly, the actual stories on which basis we make general points are supposed to be detailed. Firstly, the page 29 quotations make this explicit. Secondly, the stories in the Big Book are hugely specific, from Bill's Story onwards.

Hopefully this brief article will make clear that we must tell specific, detailed stories but make general universal points on the basis thereof. This is preferable to the alternative: anodyne stories stripped of biographical interest, which are entirely interchangeable, or fascinatingly detailed stories without an actual point. Most strong meetings display the former; most weak meetings display the latter. The few excellent meetings display good storytellers with a real message.

Thursday, 25 February 2016

What do I share?

When in meetings, we share about the Twelve Steps, Fellowship, and Service. Meetings are not the place for sharing non-AA solutions to alcoholism or other problems; nor are they a venue for a public Step Five; nor are they are place to share your thoughts and feelings about the past day or week with no reference to alcoholism or AA's solution to alcoholism.

The argument is sometimes presented that, if one doesn't share one's thoughts and feelings about the past day or week in a meeting, there is nowhere else to share it. This is disingenuous. If you are able to share such matters to thirty people in an AA meeting, you are able to share the same matters with each such person individually. Rather than telling everyone, you might approach one of the other people at the meeting and ask if you can share. Most people will be happy to listen.

AA meetings are for sharing our insightful understanding of the problem and our experience of the solution.

What is unmanageability? A simple summary

Step One states:

'We admitted we were powerless over alcoholthat our lives had become unmanageable.'

Generally, AA members suggest that these two ideas are quite separate, and that 'unmanageability' is your life being a mess externally or internally, setting aside the drink question.

This won't do. Remember: we are effectively defining alcoholism here. Any feature of Step One must be true for alcoholics but not for non-alcoholics (or at least true only of people with some sort of addiction). However, everyone on the planet has a degree of external or internal mess; the question is only one of degree. Under this reading, the Step seems badly phrased, because, without the degree of unmanageability being quantified, we are being asked to identify a feature we share with everyone. In addition, many people come into AA with external or internal lives that are actually way less messy than those of some long-term sober members of AA. Check out Jim's story (page 35 et seqq.) and Fred's story (page 39 et seqq.) of the book Alcoholics Anonymous. If being a mess externally or internally, setting aside the drink question, is required for admission of alcoholism, then neither qualify, many long-term sober members qualify more than some newcomers, and most non-alcoholics qualify.

So, we can safely conclude that this cannot be the intended reading.

Sometimes people suggest that unmanageability is our inability to influence certain factors that affect our lives. There are such factors, but this is no more true of alcoholics than non-alcoholics. We might as well say, 'We admitted we were powerless over alcoholthat we were carbon bipeds'.

Furthermore, the grammar suggests there was a time when we were not unmanageable but transitioned to unmanageability. The 'unmanageability = incompetence' and 'unmanageability = powerlessness over certain external factors' readings are inconsistent with this idea of transition as both were true before we became alcoholics.

A much more plausible reading stems from the book Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions.

'It is a tremendous satisfaction to record that in the following years this changed. Alcoholics who still had their health, their families, their jobs, and even two cars in the garage, began to recognize their alcoholism. ... Since Step One requires an admission that our lives have become unmanageable, how could people such as these take this Step? ... By going back in our own drinking histories, we could show that years before we realized it we were out of control, that our drinking even then was no mere habit, that it was indeed the beginning of a fatal progression.'

Clearly: unmanageability has nothing to do with being ineffective in your life (or emotionally unstable): it is simply the entailment of being powerless over alcohol. If you cannot choose when and how much you drink, you are not in charge of your life.

Thursday, 11 February 2016

The power problem

In principle, I have power over my thoughts. As a result, I have power over my actions, my words, my feelings, my internal life, and to some extent my external life.

In principle, you have power over your thoughts and, as a result, your actions, your words, your feelings, your internal life, and to some extent your external life.

I have some power to affect your thoughts, and thus the rest.

You have some power to affect my thoughts, and thus the rest.

I can affect your thoughts only with your permission, however.

You can affect my thoughts only with my permission, however.

When I recognise who has power over what and act accordingly, my life is harmonious. When I do not, my life is disorderly, hence unmanageable.

In the disorder of Al-Anonism, Step One manifests in four ways:

[In all cases, for thoughts read thoughts, actions, words, feelings, internal life, and to some extent external life.]

1. Denying my power over my thoughts

When spiritual sickness blocks my power over my thoughts: unmanageability (distress and disorder) follows.

2. Denying my powerlessness over others' thoughts

When I try to control others' thoughts: unmanageability (distress and disorder) follows.

3. Denying others' power over their thoughts

When I feel responsible for others' thoughts: unmanageability (distress and disorder) follows.

4. Denying others' powerlessness over my thoughts

When I hold others responsible for my thoughts: unmanageability (distress and disorder) follows.


On four sheets of paper, write:
  • Examples of powerlessness over my own thoughts.
  • Examples of powerlessness over others' thoughts: where I try to control what I cannot control.
  • Examples of powerlessness over others' thoughts: where I feel responsible for what I cannot control.
  • Examples of others' powerlessness over my thoughts: where I hold others responsible my for thoughts.
In each case write also how that makes my life unmanageable (gives rise to distress and disorder).
Share with a sponsor.

Proceed to Step Two.