There is no doubt that if every SA meeting was conducted along the lines as prescribed in our White Book (185-187), our fellowship would have thousands of strong meetings globally and many, many thousands of members with strong recovery.
However, the starting point is to ask, what is the purpose of meetings in 12 Step fellowships? I think there are three answers to this question: (1) Not only to get our secrets into the open – but also ourselves. Ours is mostly an addiction of hiddenness, secretiveness and privacy. In meetings we work in the opposite direction. (2) The core activity for recovery is to work through the 12 steps, have a spiritual awakening and live the steps. All other things we do are to support that process – including meetings. Meetings are where we learn and see for ourselves what worked for others with the same problem. We take baby steps out of ourselves, remove our ego and leave behind what we perhaps think recovery should look and feel like. Rather we allow ourselves to take direction from what we see in others. (3) Meetings consistently remind us that we are a fellowship of men and women with a common problem, doing the best to help each other.
I have the good fortune to be a member of a strong, reasonably committed group, with the once in a while weak meeting, generally strong meetings and the occasional magical meeting, where undoubtedly we feel God’s presence.
Until COVID – when we went to Zoom for nearly 12 months, our meetings were often thought of a little too formal. (We stood up and went to the front of the hall to share!) I came to feel very at home and comfortable in our formality. I don’t recall any issue dealt with in a group conscience meeting to be divisive or acrimonious. Perhaps an occasional bit of acrimony and spice in a group conscience meeting is a good thing. But here in Australia, we are by nature consensual and relatively easy going. The quality of shares are mostly on topic and we are spared any Big Book or White Book thumpers, quoting text instead of sharing experience, strength and hope. We are also usually spared a preponderance of war stories. In terms of getting ourselves into the open, our fellowship has created an ethos and an expectation that regular members attend regularly. Most members with strong recovery attend each week.
When I think of my program and what worked for me, nearly everything was gleaned from others at face to face meetings. In my first meeting a long-time sober member said that he was committed to come to this meeting every single week. Since he had what I wanted, I took on the same commitment. In my second meeting, they played an excerpt from a wonderful AA speaker. I was so inspired by what I heard, that listening to recovery speakers has been a major part of my recovery. In my first two years or so, there was a member who had attended SA regularly for over 15 years but had little, if any, recovery. To me, that seemed to be a fate as bad as remaining in the addiction. We learn from others what can work for us, and what not to do.
The conundrum in having strong meetings is that the only requirement for membership is a desire to stop lusting. Yet the strength of the fellowship is based on members with more than a desire to stop lusting. A strong group needs the majority of members committed to, and engaged in the recovery process.
That we are a fellowship of people with a common problem committed to helping each other is where the magic in a meeting can really unfold. When the member who was once so helpless, clocks up a length of solid recovery and expresses their gratitude to the members and our program. When you take a call, and a member seeks advice on a problem or an issue, and the words you speak are not yours, but a transmission of what you have learnt in the rooms of SA. When you look around the room at a meeting and you see people from all walks of life and you can’t help but feel an incredible bond with these strangers.
Somehow, the newcomer, the crusty old timer, the members who can’t get sober, the member who still grapples with whether they identify as an addict, the member who attends regularly – all come together in fellowship and recovery. Nothing is more powerful, nothing is stronger.
May all our members, meetings, groups and fellowships continue to flourish and go from strength to strength.
Marcus C., Melbourne, Australia