After finally admitting defeat, I came to Alcoholics Anonymous with a desire to stop drinking. I also opened my ears to one of the most important suggestions AA has to offer, 'join a group'. It's so simple. You just say to a group member that you'd like to join the group and you're in. No forms, no interview, just a handshake and a warm welcome.
I had been attending AA meetings on and off for over four years and had therefore been around a lot of different groups. I knew that I felt comfortable in the first group I was to join, the Coatbridge Dundyvan Sunday Night. That was 17 years ago and I am now in my fourth group. I have benefitted from all the groups I have been a member of, but the first group I joined was where I learned the basics. I sometimes wonder if the newcomers are receiving the same message.
In the Sunday Night Group I would help set up the hall and put everything by at the end. However, the ice breaker was to be asked to serve tea and coffee and I realise today that this was a way of getting me to relax and interact with other members. We also held group meetings where the various jobs within the group were agreed and rotated. Everything was explained to me by the various members as follows... The money we collect from round the hall does not belong to the group but to Alcoholics Anonymous. We are simply responsible for passing this on. Prior to the money being sent to intergroup every month we set aside a prudent reserve for the rent, tea and coffee. The rest is passed to intergroup then region and from there to the General Service Office in York where it is used to carry the AA message.
At our group we had sandwiches and biscuits. This had to be paid for by the group members, as it was our decision to have refreshments. Therefore we took turns to provide these items, but only if we could afford it as no-one should be under any financial pressure. When someone was celebrating a yearly birthday we would have a separate collection by group members to cover the cost of a cake. Again, this was not to be taken from the collection around the hall.
We had a Group Service Representative (GSR) who would attend intergroup along with all the other local groups to discuss any AA business. I was taken along to listen. This is a role I carry out currently on behalf of our group. I would not have learnt this had it not been for the teachings of my first group members. I simply attend the meeting and if our group has asked me to raise anything I do so and return with notes to be relayed at our group meeting.
Our intergroup currently struggles for members as less than half the groups are represented. We meet six times a year for around two hours. I would ask, as I was taught, that you hold group meetings, nominate a GSR and have them attend these very important service meetings. Intergroup also collect the monies from local groups to be forwarded to region.
I have learnt over the years that the local group is very important because, if the doors are not open, where will the newcomer go? Where would you and I have gone? We have a responsibility not only for keeping the doors open to extend the hand of friendship, but also to run the groups as set out in our guidelines. Without the monies from group level, how is AA to carry the message to the less fortunate in hospitals, schools, prisons etc? Had this message not been freely passed to me I would be unable to pass it on to newcomers who have walked through the doors disillusioned and confused, just as I was when I joined this wonderful, lifesaving Fellowship.
This share was discussed at our group conscience meeting. It was suggested that we prepare it for Roundabout and submit it as a group. We discussed it, voted on it and agreed on this.
Coatbridge Thursday Night