by Carla H.

Possibly the most mysterious job in Alcoholics Anonymous, the General Service Representative, is the link/channel/delivery vehicle in human form who shares information from meetings to the broader service structure of A.A. Before I became a GSR, I had no idea what they did. I said yes out of curiosity and because I met the requirements: at least two years of sobriety and willing to serve for two years. I was willing to do this because A.A. astonishes me with its longevity, poverty and democracy. 

So what do I do as a GSR? I run my group’s monthly business meetings but that isn’t required. I asked someone with a lot of experience in service to be my service sponsor, so I’ve learned a lot from him. I go to the monthly GSR meeting, listen, take notes, and report back to my group any things that I think would interest them. 

After about six months’ worth of GSR meetings, I finally understood that issues, concerns, problems, changes to our literature and ways to reach out to more newcomers (without violating our traditions) are the things discussed locally and at the annual business meeting in Manhattan. 

Service is critical to our survival

These issues are called Agenda Topics. They are published in the late winter every year and sent to each GSR. I read them and choose a few that I think my group would be interested in. For several meetings in a row, I read the topics aloud and hand out copies I’ve created so anyone who is interested in participating in a group conscience has time to read, consider and form an opinion. I announce the coming group conscience meeting several weeks in advance. 

Photo captions available upon request to [email protected]

Some meetings have a special group conscience meeting outside the regular business meeting, and that’s how I do it, especially after attending two workshops, put on by volunteer former GSRs who have become District Committee Members. Then I share my group’s conscience with our delegate to the annual business meeting. This is grass-roots democracy in action. 

GSRs are encouraged to go to various monthly service meetings held all over Northern California, where Agenda Topics, among other business, can be discussed during the year. I went to one called a Pre-Conference Assembly in San Jose. Three or four hundred GSRs were gathered to share their group consciences over two days with our delegate, who then had them to inform how they would vote or speak at the annual General Service Conference in Manhattan.

Eventually, what happens at the General Service Conference is shared with all GSRs, and I then can share relevant information with my group. This is the flow of information from the broader organization to each group. This is the essence of what a GSR does: get informed, loving group consciences from our meeting, share it more widely, then take the result back to our group, usually months later. I also do as much service as I can for the group I represent. 

How dedicated A.A.’s trusted servants can be

For years, I’ve wondered how A.A. stays together. How is it possible, given who we alcoholics can be, how little money A.A. survives on, and how life-changing this organization is for millions of people in recovery, that A.A. lives? At the Pre-Conference Assembly in San Jose a year and a half ago, I saw how: Several hundred GSRs from all over Northern California gathered for two days in one huge room and shared their group consciences on a wide range of Agenda Topics so the delegate and the rest of us could hear. All kinds of people, all walks of life, all in service to keeping this organization together to carry the message of recovery, unity and service.

Being a GSR has given me an understanding of how dedicated trusted servants can be, how devoted to putting principles before personalities, why service is critical to our survival, and the importance of trust in our Higher Powers. 

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