Just an upfront disclaimer: this is how I perceive things. You may not perceive things the way that I do. You might be offended or butt hurt at what I’ve had to say, if that’s the case you really shouldn’t be reading my blog…
When I sobered up I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by Big Book Thumping, Tradition Practicing, Service oriented old-timers. I was told on a few occasions to take the cotton out of my ears and put it in my mouth until I knew what I was talking about – that was usually during a step meeting where they were discussing a step I hadn’t done yet… you know, any of them. From that group, I think it was called the Sunday Serenity Group, I not only got to hear about the Steps and Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous I got to see people actually putting those principles in action in their daily lives. This was my first “Home Group” and I made it there every Sunday night for a year, just like I was told to do. That meeting wasn’t a Big Book Study Group, it was a Step meeting with the last meeting of the month the Tradition of the month. What I did get at that meeting was a sponsor who had been taken through the Steps as laid out in the first 164 pages of our text-book, Alcoholics Anonymous – and he was willing to take me through that same process which gave me the tools I needed to not only find a power greater than myself that would relieve me of my alcoholism, but also provide the tools to be a productive member of society.
One of my other regular meetings was the 5:30 Monday Night Big Book group, there we went through the book; every week reading a couple of pages out of the Book and then folks could share their experience with what was read – if they had any. This group would get to the end of the 164 and turn around and read it again. The Book, the Steps, the Traditions – were everywhere that I went to meetings. I couldn’t have escaped if I had wanted to.
I was also a member of the Eau Claire Pacific Group that meets every Thursday night. An open speaker meeting with thirty minutes of call-up before the speaker. Great enthusiasm, lots of service work, experience strength and hope each week from the podium. It’s where I learned to feel comfortable introducing myself to strangers, where I learned to shake new people’s hands and where I learned the importance of suiting up and showing up.
When I moved to the DC area I tried to find meetings that were similar to what I had gotten sober with. I looked for a good Step Meeting that met regularly, I sought out a Big Book Study and I also hoped to find a regular speaker meeting. I didn’t find things that were like home. This is typical, and something I should have anticipated but did not. In hindsight upon traveling all over the country in the last ten years – every region has its little traditions that are specific to the region and as you may know each group is autonomous except in matter affecting other groups or AA as a whole.
Every Big Book meeting I encountered was focused more on reading the stories in the back of the book (after Page 164) then they were the meat of the deal. The directions, the prayers, the actions in the front of the book weren’t read at all – unless it was to read the Promises, How it Works or the end of A Vision for You. Every step meeting I encountered focused more on the steps as laid out in the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions (the argument here by those with more time than I have is that when Bill wrote the 12×12 he had more experience and knew better what to say for how to stay sober – but I’ve not found in that book anything like the specific direction and suggestions that I find in the Big Book so I nod and smile at them).
A few months before 9/11 I started a Big Book Meeting using the format I grew up with in WI, but between 9/11 and the honest belief by attendees that AA is about coming to complain about your day – it didn’t last. So I officially gave up trying to find or create meetings that were similar what I had been brought up with. I still went to meetings just to occupy the chair, not much more. If I shared, which was rare, it was because of something I had heard that was just that outrageous that I couldn’t contain my anger or disappointment. That’s not really a good way to share the message – brow beating people who have managed to NOT pick up a drink today or for the last 10 – 20 years is no way to win friends either. So I settled on continuing to read my book, listening to speakers via Round-Ups and Conferences, Podcast or CD of the month clubs – while still attending meetings regularly.
Then I met my tattoo artist, who’s been in DC a few years now from Houston, TX (there is a Houston WI or MN just a FYI) who talked to me over long tattoo sessions about his sobriety, the book and the difference in meetings here in DC vs meetings in other parts of the country. He invited me to come to a Saturday meeting he attends where he said was attracting people interested in the book. I honestly just didn’t give it any real consideration – I had given up on meetings here after all. Then a person heard me share at a meeting I regularly attend and he thanked me for sharing and ALSO invited me to that group, so I figured maybe there was something to it – never saw that person again btw.
That first Saturday Noon meeting I met two or three more people, relatively new to the area who also were brought up on the Big Book and were desperately seeking a solution based meeting. The next week, I met another two people and before you knew it there were six of us that really wanted to start a new meeting that would “study” the book. We started mass texts, long chains of emails, discussed formats, laughed at one another, ate lots of food and became a group – sooner than we’ve become a meeting.
Our book, our text-book, says in There is a Solution page 29 “Further on , clear-cut directions are given showing how we recovered.” It’s my belief, and the belief of this new group, that people need to be shown these directions. It’s my belief that if they follow the suggestions as written in this book they will be “rocketed into a fourth dimension of existence of which we had not even dreamed”
So on Tuesday nights at 7:15, starting on July 31, 2012 at the Dupont Circle Club we’re going to start reading the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. The format of the meeting is reading a small section of the book, then allowing all those who want to participate a chance to share – lather, rinse, repeat. Once we get to page 164 we’ll start all over again. If you want to discover a design for living that really works, a way of life that is immensely greater than you ever imagined… come join us.
This time I’m not creating a meeting alone with no one else knowing what I’m talking about, this time I had to compromise on several things that I wanted, this time … well, this time it might really work. I’d love that.
If you’re looking for a meeting to talk about your bad day or complain about your spouse… this is probably not the meeting for you, fortunately for you there are plenty of those type of meetings and we can probably direct you to one within walking distance.
Thump, Thump, Thump