by Rick R.
Being on active duty in the Navy when I got sober, it was hard for me to establish a home group since I was traveling all over the Pacific during the Vietnam War. I spent my first 13 years in A.A. on active duty attending meetings everywhere I could.
Prior to getting sober, I spent a year and a half on the ship station at Mare Island and eventually transferred to a ship in Long Beach. There I attended my first A.A. meeting on October 15, 1969. One year later I was transferred to a ship in Alameda, Ca. and spent four-and-a-half years attending a meeting at the Five Cities Fellowship in Fremont. My final tour of duty in the Navy was Recruit Training Command in San Diego. My role involved training company commanders or drill instructors, if you like. That experience is responsible for most of the discipline I have in my life today. I retired and bought a home just north of San Diego in the small town of Poway, California.
In 1983 we established an Alano Club
In 1983 I was one of 25 members that established the Poway Alano Club. I eventually got in the habit of attending the 7:00 AM meeting 7 days a week. I consider the Monday through Friday Unconditional A.A. Meeting to be my home group. To be clear, I believe that every A.A. group appeals to certain members of the program. Most alcoholics will attend meetings where they feel comfortable.
I have cycled through quite a few different groups and each of them has resolved an area of my thinking. As I grow in the program, I am drawn to meetings with a literature-based format. The Monday through Wednesday meetings are based on the Daily Reflections. The Thursday morning meeting is a Big Book study, and the Friday morning meeting is a Step and Tradition Study.
We have a core group of old timers that are there every morning. Other members have varying lengths of sobriety. We go around the room in order to allow everyone a chance to share. When an out-of-town visitor shows up at a meeting, they usually share about how comfortable they feel based on the individual shares as we go around the room.
Newcomers do not have to protect their turf
It is very gratifying to watch the progress of newcomers, overwhelmed with typical alcoholic problems, explaining them to the group. Within a month, we see their whole outlook on life change to one of reconstruction and restitution. The maturity of group input, quoting the Big Book and the 12 Steps and Traditions becomes a stronger influence than their own rationalizations. The group has a pattern of not being judgmental about a person acting or displaying symptoms of the disease of alcoholism. They patiently allow the person to assimilate values expressed in the program. Newcomers develop at their own pace. There is a constant air of ego deflation when old timers express the values of the program based on compassion and understanding.
Our goal is to provide a safe environment where newcomers do not have to protect their turf. They can feel safe and stop rationalizing alcoholic behavior. We are blessed with a handful of elder statesmen that set a non-threatening tone that appeals to the newcomers and the occasional visitors. I feel fortunate to be a part of it.