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What I do: easy wins

1. Offering guidance to young people newly in AA

  • I identify meetings in my area that young people attend. This could be specific Young People’s meetings, or regular AA meetings with young members attending. I do this by asking young people I already know which meetings they recommend.
  • I put in my calendar to attend, mention to friends or sponsees that I’m going and invite them to join me. (All this helps me to follow through and stick to my plan.) I show up early and try to speak to any young people there, and I plan to go for fellowship after, if fellowship exists.

  • If I speak to a young member who is new, I may mention that I can connect them with other young people in the area. In my phone, I add the words “Young Person” or the code “YP” to young AA contacts, so that I can quickly find them when I need to. I seek to match people by age, age of arrival in AA, gender, and any other demographic connection. For example, if I meet a young newcomer woman of nineteen, I will offer to connect her with a young AA whom I know came in in her teens. If I meet a young newcomer male who’s studying for a PhD, I will try and match him to an established young AA member who has also has experience of being newly sober and studying.
  • If it’s a meeting I know and the person is new, I may briefly mention to them the format of the meeting to put them at ease. I may say that they will be invited to introduce themselves, and may wish to do so, but need not if they don’t want. Maybe I’ll get them a cup of tea and introduce them to anyone helpful I know in the room. The goal is to make them feel welcome and relaxed.

  • I will try to share, with the intention of carrying the message of recovery.
  • If appropriate, I may seek to mention the age I came in (twenty-seven) and how I believed I was too young for AA before I arrived. I may mention how AA defied my expectations. Sometimes I talk about how I still hang out with my old drinking buddies and still go to pubs and bars when I’ve got a reason to. I may mention that I’ve made a load of new friends as well as improving my relationships with the old ones.

  • In the announcements section, I stand up and may say something like this:

“I’m Nico, I’m an alcoholic. I’m the Young Persons Liaison Officer for this region. If you’re new to AA and consider yourself young or would like some guidance, I can point you towards Young People’s meetings in the area, social-media groups for young people, young people’s conventions and I can link you up with other young people around here. In case your wondering, a young person in AA is anyone who got sober under 30, irrespective of their age now. Talk to me after the meeting if you want more information.”

  • When the meeting is over, I usually ask my Higher Power to show me who I can be helpful to and go over to them and speak. I may encourage them to come for fellowship or ask them how they found the meeting.

What usually happens?

Occasionally, no one comes up to me after a meeting where I make an announcement like this. In that case, I am pleased to have made my demonstration and to have carried my message. Who knows what effect it may have under the radar, or what result it may produce further down the line?

More often, at least one person comes up to me to ask about young people’s groups and options, which I then briefly outline. Usually, I will take their number and add them to my phone with the code YP NC so that I can find them easily in the future. As relevant, I can put them in touch with other young people that I know already. I’ll invite them to come with us for fellowship and make sure they are taken care of. As I see fit, I may follow them up with a text or call later in the week, but I’ve been taught not to chase.

As well as attending meetings myself, I ask GSRs at my intergroup to look out for young newcomers and point them in my direction, and to announce on my behalf that I am available to guide young people new to AA. looking for young people to help me in my service work. I have been put in touch with a number of young newcomers in this way, whom I have been able to help.

We’d love to know what other people are doing to help guide young people when they first arrive in AA! Please get in touch with the YP Subcommittee with your ideas.

2. Encouraging and supporting young members of AA into service and to develop their service

Again, I will go to the meetings where young people are.

  • I seek to speak to young members.
  • If they’ve been around a while, I may ask what service they are doing and how this is going.
  • If appropriate, I ask them what service they are considering taking up next. Often people haven’t thought about it. I sometimes say that, as my length of sobriety time grew, I found that I needed to take on more demanding service to make sure I’m being stretched.
  • You can ask them what their homegroup is and if their homegroup has a GSR. If they don’t have a homegroup, I may talk about how important a homegroup is to me. I will sometimes say what the role of GSR entails.
  • If they lack confidence about AA service, sometimes I ask if they have a service sponsor. Often, the concept of a service sponsor is a new one and so I explain what that is and how it has helped me.
  • If appropriate, I may ask if they have considered taking up service at intergroup and outline my experience of intergroup. I may ask them where they live or work or go to meetings and tell them which intergroups might be good options for them. If they are interested, I can connect them with officers at those intergroups and give them the date and location of the next intergroup meeting. (Clearly, this entails me knowing the intergroups in my region.)

  • Service is part of my message of recovery, so I often use some of my sharing time to mention AA service that I’ve done and how I believe it has aided my spiritual awakening and keeps me sober.
  • I may mention specific projects, or simply how I revert to service tasks sometimes when I’m becoming self-obsessed, as a good way of distracting myself from myself.

  • In the announcements section, I stand up and may say something like this:

“I’m Nico and I’m the Young Persons Liaison Officer for this region.”

“Part of my role is to offer to young people guidance in their service journey within and beyond group level. At group level, have you wondered about becoming and GSR but don’t know what it involves? Do you want to take a secretary role, but are a bit nervous about taking it on? I may be able to help.”

“Beyond group level, we have loads of opportunities to be of service. For instance, I can add you to the twelfth step list for the area, so that if a young person calls up, you can get the chance to meet them and take them to their first meeting.”

“I can also set you up to reach out to schools and universities where we do talks and presentations about AA to pupils and students, or link you up with other AA officers doing similar work. For instance, we could get you into Pentonville prison to do a talk or helping at a health fair for trainee nurses.”

“Speak to me after the meeting for further details.”

What usually happens?

Again, sometimes no one comes up to me afterwards, but more often than not, at least one person asks me for more information. I give them the information they seek and take their details as appropriate.

I’d love to hear from other YPLOs about how you help encourage young members to take up service and develop their service offering.

As well as attending meetings myself, I ask GSRs at my intergroup to look out for young people who may wish to grow their service and to announce on my behalf that I am available to guide young people in their service journey. I have been put in touch with a number of young member in this way, some of whom have gone on to take up service.

3. Ensuring that the voice of young people in AA is heard at all levels of the service structure

First I need to know what the service structure is. The diagram below describes the inverted pyramid that is the AA Service Structure.


The AA triangle
 The AA Service Structure - the "inverted pyramid"

The idea of this structure is that the groups are at the top and each layer below serves and supports the one above it. Hence, as a Regional YPLO I am a leader, but my role is to lead by serving the Intergroup YPLOs and not by governing (Tradition 2). When I was an Intergroup YPLO, my role was to serve the groups, and I was supported by my Regional YPLO in doing this.

The main way for me to represent the voice of young people at any level is for me to be in the place where that level meets. This means, in the first instance, at formal business meetings. When I was an intergroup YPLO, this meant attending intergroup. Now, as a regional YPLO, this means at regional committee meetings and regional assemblies. But representing young people at all levels in the structure doesn’t mean only at formal business meetings; it also means at events put on by the structure, including workshops, and public information initiatives. Hence, I make a point of attending service workshops and seek to speak at them, as well as providing young people to support other PI initiatives.

Scheduling and Attendance

I find out the dates of the next meetings for the twelve months ahead and put them in my calendar. I do my very best not schedule other commitments in those times. I seek to book holidays around these meetings. Sometimes, this is inconvenient. Sometimes, it means loss of earnings.

When at the table, I seek to make sure that young people are represented. I do this in a few ways.

  1. I try to keep myself informed about the views of young people in my area, by talking to them regularly, attending meetings they attend, and asking their views. I am ready to voice these views, even if they are not my own. This is part of my advocacy role.
  2. When in the room, I try actively to think about how people under thirty, and especially still suffering alcoholics, might respond to what is being proposed, and allow this to inform my contribution.
  3. I exercise my right of participation and voice my views in discussions. Usually, this is pleasant and straightforward. Sometimes, issues arise that are contentious. When there are differences of opinion and I fear my point of view may be unpopular, I ask for the courage to speak, and not be cowed into silence. I regard learning to carry a message even when I feel uncomfortable about how it may be received as being part of my recovery. I learn to outgrow fear. I seek to be courteous, co-operative, constructive and polite. I try and speak no more loudly than is necessary for me to be heard. Wherever possible, I seek to add to discussion, rather than to disagree, but where disagreement is unavoidable, I am willing to state my different point of view. I try to use phrases such as “It is my understanding that” rather than “This is how it is” when introducing points of procedure or received practice; or I try to say “I agree with everything that has been said” before going on to add additional points, rather than run the risk of it seeming as though my point represents a disagreement, when it does not. I find that this language is constructive.
  4. I inform myself about the Traditions and Concepts. This can seem daunting. It can also be hard to know how the Traditions and Concepts, which can seem abstract, are to be applied in practice. To overcome this, I speak regularly to my service sponsor and we discuss issues within the framework of the Traditions and Concepts. I run through questions with my service sponsor before meetings, so that I can have thought them through ahead of time. I also listen out for how more experienced service members apply the Traditions and Concepts in practice. I use my critical thinking skills in applying the Traditions and Concepts to problems that arise. I recognise that I can feel intimidated by some personalities and emotionally blackmailed by others. I seek to put principles ahead of both. I refer to the Twelve Concepts Illustrated and The Twelve Concepts Checklist for reminders about these. I attend workshops on the Concepts as well as Traditions meetings.
  5. I seek to be informed of what is on the agenda ahead of the meeting, so that I can respond and not react to it. If no agenda has been published, I may ask the secretary for one.
  6. I try to file written reports before meetings, so that my the work of the Young People in AA is taken into account.

Another key way I can help ensure that the voice of young people is represented at all levels of the service structure is by encouraging other young people to take up service within the structure and offering them guidance and service sponsorship in their roles.

If there are ways that you use to ensure the voice of young people is heard through the AA structure, I’d love to hear about them.

4. Carrying the AA message to young people outside AA who have not yet had their chance to recover

In my view, this is a major aspect of the role.

  • In the first instance, at groups I attend, I announce the goal of carrying the message to outside organisations, especially schools and universities, and ask if people have contacts at such institutions that they can put me in touch with.
  • I will then seek to contact those organisations and offer them information about AA. This has led to discussions with members of staff, or presentations to students or pupils.
  • In carrying out this service, I seek to collaborate with other AA officers.

5. Supporting other members of AA in carrying the message outside AA by providing them with young AAs to give talks and attend presentations

  • I identify the officers at my intergroup who are engaged in Public Information, for example the Public Information Officer, or the Health and Employment Liaison Officers and offer them my contact information and the option of providing them with younger members of AA to speak at or help at events that they are organising.
  • I keep a list of Young People who are eligible and willing to do service, and who have given me permission to pass on their information to AA officers.
AA table at an Exhibition
AA table at an exhibition

How your RYPLO can help

The RYPLO supports YPLOs at the Intergroups across the region (there are eleven intergroups in London Region North), and fills in where intergroups have no YPLO. Many RYPLOs were previously a YPLOs at Intergroup level.

The Regional YPLO’s responsibilities include:

  • Encouraging, assisting, supporting, and providing information and guidance to intergroup YPLOs in performing their service
  • Coordinating activities across the region where necessary, for instance when a university has multiple campuses
  • Collating information from you and reporting it to the Region, National Subcommittee, and AA Board
  • Holding region-wide info, such as lists of young people able to perform 12th Step work
  • Helping to ensure that the voice of young people is heard at regional level
  • Providing young AAs to assist at PI talks organised by other officers

How you can help your RYPLO

  • Keep in regular contact and be willing to take guidance
  • Attend quarterly meetings with other YPLOs
  • File a written report of what actions you’ve taken since since the previous meeting

How your Intergroup can help

Many intergroups have a PI committee, of which the YPLO should be a member. Ask your intergroup Chair if there is a PI committee and ask any PI officers if you can collaborate with them on your PI outreach.