by Rob S

Step 12. “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and practice these principles in all our affairs.”  

Only a few weeks sober, I marched into my favorite bar in Santa Monica, California, and commenced to announce that I was attending AA meetings. I also pointed out to my imbibing friends that they were probably alcoholics and that they needed to join me, pronto. Not only did my bar room popularity go south at that point, but so did our 11th Tradition of attraction rather than promotion.

Best to bring out the aspects of AA that will dispel any preconceived fear

Of course, I was ill prepared to carry the AA message. I had little notion what the Twelve Steps were, save from my own vague interpretations from the club house pull-down shades. My honeymoon enthusiasm did not qualify me as having had a spiritual awakening (or experience) as the result of these steps.” (Spiritual Awakening means slowly, Spiritual Experience means suddenly—p. 567)

Eventually, after absorbing the clear-cut directions from the Big Book, I busily began sharing my newfound sobriety with other members, but when some of them relapsed I was disappointed. However, I took solace in that Step 12 tells us only that: “we tried.” However, I believe that it is vitally important that I continue to keep on trying regardless of results: “Nothing will so much insure immunity from drinking than intensive work with other alcoholics.” (P. 89). Vital means lifesaving—that means me!

I have found it best not to dwell on the steps when making my first visit to a newcomer, but to casually drift the conversation into some of my drinking experience, good and bad; happy and sad; but explain why I needed to stay sober. Then explain how the AA fellowship helped me to obtain my period of sobriety. Of course, never mentioning that he or she is an alcoholic—this is best for them to ascertain!

 I believe it is best to bring out the aspects of AA that will dispel any preconceived fear, such as: “The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking;” explaining our principle of anonymity; that we have no dues or fees; that we have no rules or laws; that AA is not affiliated with any religion or outside organization. Explain that we are not a treatment center, although we sometimes cooperate with treatment facilities.  I believe it is important to tell how we have grown to over two-million members around the world in the last eighty-plus years. The point is to replace newcomer doubt with hope! Then I like to share about my personal sobriety. The point is that the new person will have hopeful expectations before his or her first meeting.

The new person leaves with appropriate literature from the meeting rack

Upon leaving this “first meeting” I believe it is paramount that the new person leaves with appropriate literature from the meeting rack, but not too much—just three or four items. The titles make it obvious which ones are appropriate. If the new person leaves with a Big Book, I never tell them to read the first 164 pages—maybe just The Doctor’s Opinion, along with some of the personal stories. A farmer once told me: “You don’t feed a newborn calf a bale of hay, but just a little milk.”  

Of course, I point out from the meeting directory where the next meeting might be best and exchange phone numbers or email addresses. If time allows, I like to have a meeting-after-the-meeting to provide a welcome and happy atmosphere.  First impressions are very important for a lost and lonesome new AA member. These are just a few of my thoughts. 

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