On a recent trip to Winnipeg I stopped at a noon AA meeting at their central office. It was a textbook AA meeting, most of the chairs were filled with people of every description and ethnicity and the coffee was nasty. 🙂 I was recognized as someone who hadn’t been there before almost immediately, which leads me to believe they have a great number of regulars and that’s a good sign at a meeting. Before the meeting began discussions started about where I lived and went to meetings and I heard where others were originally from or where they got sober and such.
One gentleman with a thick Irish accent asked me what prayer we use to start the meetings in Washington (this Winnipeg group started with the Serenity Prayer). I told him my regular meetings start with the AA Preamble and close with both the Lord’s Prayer and the Serenity Prayer. That seemed to get everyone’s attention in the room as they found that odd. I think it’s easy to forget that each group is autonomous when we don’t get outside our regular groups and see that meetings are run differently pretty much everywhere – or places where they don’t study or read the traditions, but enough about Washington DC.
Tradition Four “Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or A.A. as a whole.”
You never know what kind of traditions a meeting will have when you go to it the first time. I’ve been to meetings where people count out loud when “How It Works” is read, the first time that happened I burst out laughing it was so foreign to me. Other meetings where every person in the room introduces themselves by first name and sobriety date, others that read the Twelve Steps and Traditions, some that read the Responsibility Statement, some that read the beginnings of one of the Chapters in the Big Book followed by the 12 Steps (My old home group the Northside Group in Eau Claire WI does that, freaked me out the first few times, but I was new so everything pretty much freaked me out the first few times.).
The first time I attended the Eau Claire Pacific Group and heard all the “ooohing,” “aaahhing” and clapping I knew they were doing it wrong. AA is supposed to be a bunch of old boring sticks in the mud, these people are doing it wrong. But what happened in that group to me, and to others, was we were shown the enthusiasm and joy that can be a part of recovery and it made the difference for a lot of us. At almost any meeting I attend I always expect the opening statement from this meeting to be read… I don’t have a copy and couldn’t quote it here but it was a regular part of my life every Thursday for about four years and it gets stuck in your head you know.
The Northside Group and some other meetings in Eau Claire always read the Twelve Traditions (something I almost never here on the East Coast) and “The A.A. Tradition” found at the beginning of Appendix I in the back of the book (Page 563 in the Second Edition) and when I’m out traveling and hear that at a meeting it’s almost like I’ve come home.
A few years ago I was fortunate enough to go to a meeting in Nashville, TN the “Back Room Group”, a 12×12 meeting. As I walked in I saw that most people had brought their own 12x12s, pencils/pens and highlighters. I knew immediately it was going to be a good meeting and it really really was, those folks knew AA. When I’ve brought along my own literature to meetings on some occasions folks have gotten upset during the meeting that I’m highlighting or writing down – they think it’s the clubs book.
Each group can do it’s own thing and I’ve seen lots of different things out there, but in the heart of the meeting as long as we’re there to help other alcoholics and how we spread the message doesn’t affect other groups or AA as a whole – then it’s all good. But I’ll always be partial to the meetings I went to in the beginning that spread the foundation of my recovery and I’ll always do my best to help others build theirs.