When Is a Meeting No Longer an A.A. Meeting?

A reader asks:  I … have a question about when would a meeting evolve to no longer be an AA meeting?

Page 563 of the Big Book answers:

Any two or three alcoholics gathered together for sobriety may call themselves an A.A.
group, provided that, as a group, they have no other affiliation.
My personal feelings about it are that I’m glad it’s broad, and accepting.  I don’t think that these “special” meeting threaten AA in a serious way.  I don’t think that meetings that part from the traditions last long, or thrive or survive over time.
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June 14, 2015 (this day)

IMG_0984In two different and somewhat wacky situations, Carole and I have visited two old institutions this month.  These are asylums built in the 1840s and beyond, now abandoned.

In a different time I would have been locked up in one of these, if I was lucky.  Until recently there was no AA, and I doubt that any of the previous or current, for that matter, treatments would have worked for me.

AA works for me and it has been for 31 years.  I recently heard an “oldtimer” or three talk about the good old days of AA, 30 years ago or more, when they started.  AA was better than, they say, and they worry about the future of it, it’s gotten into such a state.

All this talk does, I think, it possibly discourage the newcomer who has been unlucky enough to miss the glory days.  I disagree with this.  I think AA is just as vital and flourishing and wonderful as it ever has been in my 31 years of sobriety and 36 (7?) years of attending meetings.  I would like to ask these oldtimers to talk amongst themselves, for goodness sake, and not express these things at a meeting that includes newcomers.

Anyway.  I will soon fly far away and I’m still afraid of flying.  Faithful long time readers and people who know me may remember that years ago I flew thousands of miles.  I’m afraid to fly and I’m afraid to take drugs that will change my fear into something else chemically induced.  I’m afraid I will love the drugs too much, and end up in a screened off room.  I’m afraid I’ll have to fly regularly, and need the drug regularly.  I’m afraid I’ll have to fly in some emergency without notice and not be able to secure the drug.  For these reasons and because I’m an alcoholic, I choose not to take drugs to deal with fear, today.  I may change my mind about that some day, but not today.

So instead I’d like to deal with my fear and get rid of it.  I succeed at this to some degree because of what I’ve learned in AA and in childbirth.  I’m thinking of it from the angle of sanity.  It is not sane to fear flying, because flying is safe.  Also from the angle of character defect.  This fear is an invention of my over-evolved mind.  What I focus on grows.  Or my two favorite thoughts of the moment.  One, my daughter is not in Greece!  Two, there are many many people who have real problems.

Cunning, Baffling, Powerful

Remember that we deal with alcohol–cunning, baffling, powerful! Without help it is too much for us.

Cunning, baffling, powerful.  Sly, deceiving, confusing, perplexing, bewildering, mighty, having great influence.  It isn’t the liquid itself that possesses these qualities, but my desire to drink it in the face of my imminent destruction.  I’m reading a biography of e. e. cummings, and in it he describes his friends who went to their alcoholic deaths as “lemmings,” members of a group who follow an unthinking course toward mass destruction.  e. e. apparently learned to successfully moderate his drinking.  Lots of others did not.

To be a little lyrical, I sometimes can picture my alcoholism as something alive and separate from me, but part of me.  A hideous parasite that will kill us both.  Sayings like “the disease that tells you you don’t have a disease” resonate with me.  “That’s your disease talking,” makes sense to me.  It’s like there’s this entity that is bent on self-destruction.  I know it exists.  Like e. e. cummings, I’ve seen the people go to their deaths, brought there by their own hands.

I think that for me, for today, the part that wants to kill me is weak and actually dormant.  I’m smarter than it.  I’m not deceived.  I’m not confused about this, at least.  The part of me that wants to live is more powerful than the force inside me that wants to die.  The liquid has no power over me while it remains in the glass.  The program has given me the power to leave it there for today.

May 31, 2015 (this day)

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We went to a meeting at this place in Canada last year.  This year, I don’t know.  Alaska?  Maybe.  Probably not.  I know I did not want to go to a French-speaking meeting in Canada, since I don’t speak French.  Happily English meetings were plentiful.  It’s a blessing I’m always aware of and grateful for, the meetings in the places I go.  I know many people in the world aren’t so lucky.

We celebrated May anniversaries at my group last night and I got an XXXI coin.  It’s truly amazing to me, like an unfathomable amount of money or something.  I remember a long time a ago when a sponsor of mine celebrated 16 years and that seemed like an incredibly long amount of time to have in the program, not drinking.

I don’t have much to write about, but I do want to say that I still participate in Alcoholics Anonymous for many reasons, but I guess the biggest reason is that some bit of sanity has returned to me, and I realize that without it I couldn’t stop drinking, and that drinking was killing me and giving me an awful life in the mean time.