This story was originally published in the July 2015 issue of the newsletter put out by the Salt River Intergroup called “The Filing Cabinet”.
I found sobriety the old fashioned way – people thought I was a danger to myself and others – so they had me committed. Many people don’t wait as long as I did, they reach out for help before falling to the depths I fell. Fortunately for them the hand of AA is there – always.
At my first meetings I was rather ashamed I didn’t have anything to contribute to the basket as it went around – I was struggling to get a hold on life and money matters truly troubled me. I remember feeling rather proud when I got that job and then prouder when I was able to put a dollar in the basket two weeks in a row – that was real progress for me. My sponsor, and other home group members, placed two dollars in the basket each week… I wasn’t that well yet, but I was trying to get there.
At our groups business meeting I found out where that money went – rent, coffee, cookies and literature just for our group. Then we doled out money to the district, the area, G.S.O. all the way in New York – if we had had an intergroup we would have given to them as well. Looking at that one dollar each meeting, it didn’t seem to be very much to go all that way.
I was curious as to how it worked. Many alcoholics, I assumed, were like me – unable at first to place even one dollar in the basket, who would pay for these things if money weren’t available. I was told that AA provides services based on funds available – if money isn’t there then some of the services are cut.
Imagine calling the AA hotline for help and having it go unanswered. The Twelve and Twelve or the pamphlet “Do You Think Your Different?” not being published – all the people they helped see the solution and to relate to us if it wasn’t there imagine how different AA might be.
At my home group we’ve recently had serious heated discussions about… Birthday Cake. No really. We like to provide a birthday cake each week a home group member celebrates a birthday; then we sing (horribly off key) loudly and congratulate the fellow AA on his accomplishment… That cake costs almost 50% of our basket intake for a week and that bothers some of our members as they think our money should be better spent (I’m one of them).
Other members of our group talk about how that cake made the difference in why they came back the next week – they talk about the celebration of sobriety and the happiness of the guy getting his chip and some cake and how it gave them hope when they were new.
So this is where the group conscience comes in and open minded members of the group (hopefully) listen to one another’s points of view and come to agreement. For our group, one of the services we provide is cake and the money put in the basket each week by our members goes to that cake (as well as GSO, District, Area, Intergroup… ) and that cake is actually helping people get and stay sober. They argue that as long as we are continuing to contribute as we’ve always done, nothing should stand in the way of some good cake each week.
Each dollar, or two dollars on a good week, I put in the basket goes to help fellow AA’s. It helps them at all levels from birthday cake to new editions of our beloved Big Book or workshops on the traditions. As a home group member I have a voice in deciding where that money goes – I can voice my opinion on cake, ask about our contributions to SRI or even if we have a prudent reserve.
SRI, just like GSO, is supported primarily by group donations. We provide services which include but are not limited to AA hotline, meeting lists, website (to help find meetings, listen to AA speakers share experience strength and hope and more). When you’re involved with service at any level in AA you quickly come to realize how tight money can be to accomplish your good deeds