There is a symbol that is used to represent the program of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Even if you aren’t familiar with AA on any level, I’m sure you’ve still probably seen it. Most often it’s found on the back of a car’s bumper, but it seems to be turning up more and more lately on things such as clothing, jewelry, and artwork. It’s a rather simple emblem that’s essentially a circle containing a triangle within it whose sides represent unity, service, and recovery. Unfortunately, it appears there are many groups, such as my own, which seem to be unaware what the unity part of that triangle really means.
By straight definition out of the dictionary, the word unity is defined as the state of being united and joined as a whole. And sadly, that seems to be the exact opposite of what my home group in AA is currently doing. But before I mention some of those things that they’re doing which don’t seem to be congruent with unity, I think it’s important to note that when a group is practicing that principle, it creates a byproduct called fellowship. And for many, the stronger the fellowship in a group, the more it seems to gain in membership and the more its members continue to come back week after week, month after month, and year after year.
I’ve belonged to several other AA home groups in the past and each of them helped me to understand a little better what unity and fellowship really looked like. The first home group I ever officially joined was probably the best one to represent this. I can still remember walking in those doors on the first Friday night of September in 2007. There were at least three greeters outside the meeting hall giving warm welcomes to everyone as they entered. Inside the hall, it was hard not to notice everyone helping each other out to get the room ready for the next meeting. There was plenty of smiling, laughing, hugging, and friendly conversations going on. And many people walked up to me and gave me huge embraces even though they didn’t know me. Even better, when the meeting was over, I had received several invitations to join many of those members who were going out for some pizza. While I didn’t live in the time that Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith created the program of Alcoholics Anonymous, I have come to understand through research, that they practiced something similar in their meetings back then. I had always felt they would have been proud to have walked into my first home group to see their legacy of unity live on. But as I said earlier, there are some meetings, like my current home group, that don’t practice unity so well. And just last week, I saw this was becoming very apparent there.
Week in and week out, I am the sole person there to set up and even when the other members begin to arrive, none offer to help me out. Most of the members only warmly greet those that fall into their cliques and close friendship based circles and fail to even walk around the room and say hello to anyone else, including other members like me. When I have begun the cleanup after the meeting, most promptly leave but for those that remain, it’s only to socialize with their friends for a few more minutes. And not once, in the year I’ve been a member of that group has anyone wanted to go out together for any kind of fellowship after the meeting. My group even has occasional speaking engagements at various detoxes, halfway houses, and other places of recovery, but often many of them are sparsely attended by our members. All of this stands to reason why our group has been struggling financially as of late to pay our monthly expenses. While the speakers we’ve had may have been good, I believe it also takes a strong fellowship to draw people back each week to gain in not only numbers, but also members. In the past year, our average attendance has been around 40 and our average active membership has been no more than 10. While my attempts at creating more unity and fellowship have had the tendency to be turned against me with comments that what I’m suggesting is unrealistic and unreasonable, what my group members don’t understand is that this is going against the very principles that Bill and Bob set forth so long ago.
Finding a home group that is strong in unity and fellowship, can be critical for a person’s recovery, especially when most were probably doing the exact opposite during their active days of addiction. If you are searching for a good meeting to attend or looking for one to call your home group, I encourage you to find one where people shake your hand, hug you, verbally greet you with warm cheer, and even invite you to join them later after its over for more fellowship. These are only just a handful of the many traits that fall under a good unity based group. But if you find yourself on the other side of the coin walking into a meeting where you aren’t even pleasantly greeted by one of its members, my suggestion is to keep on searching for other meetings to attend, as that’s a definite sign of a group lacking in unity. That being said, I think I need to follow my own advice here and begin looking for another group to call home again…
Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson