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This month I explain how yet more of The Promises have become a reality for me, and how I have changed for the better.
We lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows
As I got more used to AA, I got a sponsor, and started to do service within the Group, first washing up (I am useless at making tea), then Literature Secretary, and after a year I became Group Secretary. One of the big advantages of undertaking service at meetings is it makes you go, just when you are beginning to get complacent in your recovery, and develops a sense of responsibility to the group and to AA as a whole, which is an essential part of recovery, which even in my few years in AA seems to be dropping off, with fewer people going on into service at Intergroup and Regional level.
Talk then turned to going to some Conventions, and my friend Bill suggested we could go to the Coventry mini-convention, which a group of us then did. What an inspiration that was to us all, and coming back in the car inevitably we started discussing whether we could put on a Fenland Convention along similar lines. We quickly had a group conscience, looked at venues, and elected a Convention Committee. Andy H hosted a barbeque at his house where we went into greater details, and because I have a secretarial background, I was elected as Administrator. It fell to me to take the proposal to the Fenland Intergroup, whose endorsement (and funding) we needed to hold the first one. So began not only the Fenland Convention, still going today, but also my trips to report on it to Intergroup, which opened my eyes to wider service in AA.
From that small beginning, I became Archivist, having now made friends with several of the knowledgeable people at Intergroup, I became a Region Rep and went to my first Regional Meeting. I hated it. It went on for hours. I didn’t understand half of what they were talking about, and felt embarrassed about speaking and showing my ignorance. I thought the Chair thought I was an idiot. He is now one of my best friends in AA. I slowly learned the ropes, and a lot about the different areas of service. I found something I was comfortable with as service, and became a Region Rep on the Southern National Convention Committee. I had done conventions. I was confident I could do that. I had transmuted almost without knowing it, into a Regional Officer. I had a report to submit. We had some lovely chats on the way to and from the Southern National Committee meetings. The drive took longer than the meeting! I was learning lots about how AA functioned. That first meeting that was there to pick me out of the gutter was not there by accident. There is a whole structure behind it, supported by those of the fellowship who do service. Those in fact who accept their responsibility as a member of AA
My friend Bill also became a region rep and he helped me with his long experience in sobriety of AA and how it works. Now a Regional Officer, listening to the talk at Region, which had slowly become more interesting, because I understood it more, I could not help hearing again and again how those people who had been to Conference would pull your arm off to go again. Unfortunately you get three years (four if you are really lucky and have to cover for someone who cannot go). One more year if you are Conference Chair. I asked around, “What is so great about Conference?” Again it was a scary thing. All these people who knew more than I did. Making decisions about AA. What if they got it wrong? Why were they so important that they could make these decisions? The unanimous response was that it was uncanny, or more likely down to Higher Power, that with 16 people on a Committee (one from each Region in AA GB), and individual views from each one, eventually, and over a very heavy two days, consensus was almost always achieved, with occasional reports back including a minority report where one or two members of a Committee could not agree. I was a bit cynical, but we needed Alternate Delegates, to understudy the Conference Delegates, so I became one. Well, I could always pull out, couldn’t I? In Eastern Region, where I attend, for three of the ordinary meetings of the year, for an hour before the main meeting we have a meeting of Conference and Alternate delegates. This is led by the Trustee. The November Meeting is about setting the scene really, and explaining the ropes to new alternate delegates, and those about to go to their first Conference in April the next year. The February meeting is more geared up to what to expect when you go and the practicalities of travel, hotel, the timetable, etc. The third meeting is after Conference when the individual delegates report back on their various Committees. We have one other meeting, the Pre-Conference Meeting, which all Region Reps and Officers as well as delegates and alternates should attend. This whole meeting is given over to collecting the feedback received by Region Reps from their Intergroups and Groups. All the questions are discussed at some length, and a regional consensus is reached to brief the Delegate. So even a new delegate goes to Conference with some idea of the Region’s views on the question. It is made clear at that point that the Delegate is a trusted servant, and that should subsequent discussion at Conference lead a delegate to change their mind, that is their prerogative. As an Alternate, this was all fascinating, and I was overwhelmed at my first Pre-Conference Meeting. I had never seen so much collective AA knowledge, sincerity and sobriety in action ever. What was sad was the lack of contribution from members, groups and intergroups. Personally I put this down to the fact that at group and individual levels, members just do not realise that anyone can submit a question, the discussion at Conference will take into account all the views expressed by anyone who takes the time to express it to a Region Rep, and that the committees and Conference itself is made up of alcoholics such as you and me.