I decided a few weeks ago it was time to leave my Sunday evening AA home group after five years of service there and I leave them with plenty of good memories, but I want you to know it wasn’t an easy decision to leave and one I definitely didn’t make in haste.
For those who might know what a home group is, it’s the main meeting a person in recovery from an addiction chooses to join and attends every week, pledging both their attendance, as well as their service, to the group itself. Unfortunately, what I’ve come to know over the years is that far too often people end up finding a home group they like, they join it by putting their name on the group list, but then only show up when they feel like it, and rarely do anything to help keep the meeting going. Sadly, many recovery meetings around the country and the world end up failing because of this.
Having been sober and in recovery for many years now, I’ve come to see the rise and fall of a number of different recovery meetings, always for the same reasons of people either not showing up or not helping to keep the meeting going. This tends to put the burden upon those members who are willing to help keep the meeting going, which then leads to them juggling multiple jobs, eventually burning out in the process. This is exactly what started happening to me about a year or so ago, long before COVID ever hit.
Before all this began though, the camaraderie of my home group was outstanding. It’s why I joined it in the first place. I was fully accepted there and never once questioned my desire to be a member. Frankly, I looked forward to attending every Sunday night and usually showed up quite early and left as the lights were being turned off. Even though this was expected of members, I did it because I wanted to. Once a month, we’d have a business meeting to assign various group responsibilities and talk about the ongoing health of the group as well. There were typically plenty of us on hand for this where a number of us always were willing to take on the positions needed to fill. Years ago, I took on the position of secretary, as well as the “chip guy” who’d hand out anniversary tokens. At some point, I also took on social coordinator, setting up monthly events outside of the meeting for us all to connect a little more, as fellowshipping is very important to recovery.
The first time I noticed things were moving in the opposite direction of why I joined this group came during the summer of 2019 when most members had stopped attending the social gatherings. Shortly thereafter, I saw how many members weren’t showing up early anymore to help set up the meeting and were leaving as soon as it ended. A number weren’t attending the business meetings either, and for those who came, many didn’t want a duty, yet still wanted a say in the direction of the group. As an FYI, most AA home groups have the following positions: coffee/snacks person, a literature person, a chip person, a chairperson, a secretary, a treasurer, a GSR representative along with its alternate, and an Intergroup representative along with its alternate. Each month, I was noticing the same people remaining in the same positions and filling in where the rest didn’t. The one reason why people weren’t willing to take a position was frequently that they were too busy. The irony in that is that none of us were ever too busy to engage in our addiction when it had a grip upon us!
Regardless, when COVID finally hit, the overall sense of group lethargy and disunity only amplified. Those of us who were already doing our best to carry the group continued to do so, while the rest just seemed to disappear. During the past six months, my secretarial duties often felt like I was either pulling teeth to get feedback, or it was met with a sense of passive aggressiveness, even though I was merely just doing my job. After the last email I sent out was met with this repeated type of response, I decided it was time to leave the group.
I honestly never thought I’d leave this group though, but I feel secure in knowing it’s the best decision for my recovery. I’m often asked how a decision like this is actually made and this is it in a nutshell. I look for how many members actually show up at each meeting and how many come early and leave late as well. I look for laughter, connection, and fellowship amongst its members. And lastly, I look at how many members are willing to fill those group positions. But truly, at the very core, when you stop looking forward to going to your home group, it’s probably time to go.
So, as I say good bye to a group that’s been my home for over five years in AA here in Toledo, I’m excited for God to lead me to my next home where I look forward to new opportunities for fellowship and service.
Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson