by Frank T.
Looking at the online rows of my homegroup’s faces, and faces from people from all over the world, hearing their voices one by one, I think to myself, “Every time you talk, I feel my defects.” My On Awakening group reads literature at 5:30 a.m. every morning before the shares, so why can’t people share about the topic? A newcomer shares, “I don’t come to A.A. meetings to get my news. I come for recovery. Can we please talk about that?” I agree with him. My gentle nod should signal to everyone online to heed his point. My face can control the meeting if only people are looking at me. I have to pretend they are.
On Awakening celebrates birthdays and milestones every day, including singing the song with bronze chips. We used to hold hands at the end of the meeting.
Until we went online.
How did I get here? Pandemic. Forward-looking members of our group had called a teleconference to suggest an online meeting. Some protested, “We need to meet physically!” Others said, “We won’t be able to meet at the church.” What made it work was creating a separate meeting with a slightly different name – On Awakening Online. It was up and running the next day, just hours before the Bay Area public health order.
Renegades continued to meet at the church, me included. Until a falling out two days later. The first person who arrived changed the lighting scene and claimed it was a group conscience. That lying son of a gun—How dare he! Rage rose up inside me and I left, joining the online meeting. Business meetings started to be every week because there was so much to talk about: how to support the church and keep our space when the virus winds down; how to end the physical meeting; how to capture 7th Tradition offerings to help the greater A.A.; what about “everyone chat” – could be disrespectful and disruptive.
How about people calling in from other continents? Who cares where they are from – please ask them to not say – we are all the same. Just stick with your name. There is no time to hear where you’re from – killing precious share time … My homegroup has seen me for seven years. In my early days when I would share, people would turn to my sponsor and say: “He’s your sponsee.”
I took it as an honor on how well I shared and helped them. Un-self-aware lunacy ruled me. Fortunately, working the program, I started to get aware of myself. I began to move from tolerance to acceptance, to appreciation, to love of my meeting comrades even as I tried to control them. And they started to be OK with me.
In my early days, when I would share, people would turn to my sponsor
What am I after? Defect surrenderment. How does it work? I keep noting my view of the world, which is seeing what’s wrong. What’s wrong: Everything that does not bring me emotional or financial security, prestige and approval and affection, or control. That’s all I need. I don’t ask for much!
When circumstances change, like these online meetings, my defects make new plans of attack to keep controlling me and preventing me from seeing the meeting faces as faces of God, and hearing their voices as voices of God, as our members bring a higher power into existence for me and everyone else.
What’s it take for an online meeting? The creators and hosts, the technical support person, and the reading person who displays the literature. It is not a small task to set up and run a meeting for 60-90 people online. And they train secretaries for each meeting which is strange because On Awakening has no secretary. Anyone can start the meeting. So our creators of the online had to take a no-secretary format and make it work for an unlimited number of people not familiar with our meeting. They made it work. They trained new hosts. They created a website – https://aaonawakening.com/ – to communicate.
Hours and hours of sacrifice and work kept the meeting coming. Not only that: they created a 7:00 p.m. meeting as well as a 5:30 a.m. meeting, and expanded the 5:30 a.m. meeting to include 5 minutes of freeform chat and a 5-minute mediation in response to member requests.
What’s the point of all my challenges with this viral change? Not taking myself too seriously, and not missing a chance to appreciate. Pointing out what’s working well. And what’s that? Our A.A. members ensuring A.A. is there for us, for themselves, and everyone else who cares to get sober and get on a spiritual path.