- Open vs. Closed Meetings

Open vs. Closed Meetings




Topics related to AA Meetings - and alcohol addiction recovery

Open vs. Closed Meetings

Postby carol1017 » Mon Jul 30, 2007 3:25 pm

I'd like to get everyone's thoughts on open vs. closed meetings. We have a few people in my home group who are complaining about "andas" -- as in "My name is _________, I'm an alcoholic "and a" ________.

Some people say that open meetings are open to all who are interested in AA , others say that addicts should not share at open meetings unless it pertains to alcoholism, still others say that no one other than alcoholics should even be there.

I understand our singleness of purpose, but I don't see how we could exclude someone from an open meeting, or deny them the opportunity to share in an open discussion meeting.

Any insights are welcome!!

Thanks!
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Postby garden variety » Mon Jul 30, 2007 4:09 pm

Hi Carol,

If its a meeting of A.A., then the comments should be limited to alcoholism. At open meetings all are welcome, but the comments are supposed to be limited to the alcoholics there speaking about our "common problem" of alcoholism.

We have a habit up here of telling our proteges' if they want to say they're alcoholics "and a", then they have to put two bucks in the basket - one for each addiction. You'd be surprised how many dual addicted folks stick to just alcoholism.

See in an open meeting, we don't want anyone to not feel welcome, but that's why we need to stick to mentioning "Singleness of Purpose". Now the secretary at my home group just last night started qualifying the purpose as a reminder. It's not that he's so much against people talking about drugs. He's just tired of hearing the addicts get up and make defensive comments about drugs and alcohol being the same. I know he's also not real fond of hearing any of us mention "Singleness of Purpose" because it triggers unneeded back and forth comments from drug users who say they don't feel welcome.

But the "sharing" can and should be limited to alcoholism even at open meetings. One of the weekday groups I go to say that right in their opening remarks. And if an addict is not also an alcoholic, then he or she can't carry the message to other alcoholics - so they should not lead or speak. Now this happens. I heard a guy lead at an AA meeting about three weeks ago. He didn't have a drink in 13 years, but he was not "sober" that long.

I gave a guy a ride home last night who hasn't had a drink in 11 years, but he's addicted to heroin. I don't think he can be an alcoholic if he hasn't had a drink in that long but he's still in and out because of heroin. See if it was me and I started using a drug in a "recreational" way - say like the "Marijuana Maintenance Program" like they call it up here. That would get in between my relationship with my Higher Power, and I would drink again because I 'm an alcoholic and I've lost the ability to choose when it comes to alcohol.

But nothing I ever said or did made this guy ever feel "unwelcome". I've known him for quite a while. I know his girlfriend who just came back into the rooms this week, and she is addicted to heroin. I pray for them and couple other heroin users still out there.

Its just that they are addicted to a different product. I think maybe the solution or "antidote" of the program can work on any addiction. It's more a matter of who can "carry" a message of ES&H to whomever and what addiction. I know I can't identify with an addict that is not a drunk. ANd I wouldn't even try to carry the message of A.A. to an addict because I just don't understand how the other addictions work.
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Postby anniemac » Mon Jul 30, 2007 5:44 pm

Around here, it's quite rare to find an Open meeting where there's "audience" sharing. Almost all Open meetings are what we call Podium meetings -- two speakers split the hour and share their ES&H, 1/2 hour each. No sharing from the peanut gallery. I know of only one Open meeting that's a discussion -- and outside of students who come to observe and don't say anything anyway, everyone is in AA who attends it.

Sooo, I can't say I'm familiar with the situation.

However, open or closed, I don't see how that prevents an "and a....". We hear that at plenty of closed meetings. So long as they ID as an alcoholic, they can say whatever "and a..." they want (not saying that's appropriate, but it's allowable). Some of our meetings read the "blue card" at the beginning -- saying that we need to limit our sharing to alcoholism. It's meaningless sometimes; addicts go on and on anyway if they want to.

What's needed is a strong chairperson to cut those people off and steer the meeting back on course. But around here there's a lot of touchy-feely lovely stuff that prevents anyone from being strict. I get glared at when I cut someone off after they've rambled for 10 minutes and the stated group conscience is 3-minute shares so all can share. Then again, I also get glared at when I cut someone off for saying they are looking for a job, during the "are there any AA announcements?" segment. Or that they're having a barbeque on Sunday and all are invited. Or that there's a new NA meeting on Friday nights. Grrrr!

But back to your questions -- I don't understand how anyone could say that noone other than alcoholics should be at an Open meeting. Then what's Open about it?? Should non-alcoholics share at an Open discussion? I suppose that's group conscience; I'd allow it, as it pertains to alcoholism. To me, an Open AA meeting does not mean Open to all other addictions to be talked about; it means open for all people to attend a meeting about Alcoholism.

Just my 2 cents....
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Postby carol1017 » Mon Jul 30, 2007 8:03 pm

Thanks Paul and Annie -- this is very helpful. Paul, I especially like the idea of "andas" having to put two dollars in the basket! :lol:

The main reason I asked is because my experience with AA rooms in Miami was much different that what I'm seeing here in Washington State. In Miami, we had either Step Rooms or Clubs. The Step Rooms were far more strict in their enforcement (or rather, practice) of Traditions and singleness of purpose. The Clubs were more open to all. There was also a strong NA presence.

Here in WA, there are no "rooms" that I know of, just groups that meet in whatever church or other location will put up with us LOL. Consequently, formats and group consciences vary widely. It seems more casually organized than Miami, and there does not seem to be a strong NA presence (or if there is, people prefer AA).

The group I have chosen as my home group is relatively new and still finding their way. It's fun to be a part of a growing group, but it's also a little frustrating that the rules aren't in place yet, thereby causing some friction among members.

We only recently decided to hold monthly business meetings instead of just holding one if there was a problem. :shock: That was quite a surprise to me, being used to the monthly ego thrashing and bashing in Miami!! LOL

I agree that a statement should be made at the beginning of the meeting regarding singleness of purpose and limiting sharing to our ESH with alcoholism. I'll suggest that at our business meeting next week.

Thanks for sharing, and keep 'em coming -- I can use all the input I can get!
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Postby DebbieV » Tue Jul 31, 2007 1:48 am

Paul Wrote:
Its just that they are addicted to a different product. I think maybe the solution or "antidote" of the program can work on any addiction. It's more a matter of who can "carry" a message of ES&H to whomever and what addiction. I know I can't identify with an addict that is not a drunk. ANd I wouldn't even try to carry the message of A.A. to an addict because I just don't understand how the other addictions work.


I have been back and forth on this topic and havent came up with were I stand yet, but what you said Paul make more since than anything I have heard, It's not that I have anything against addicts, I hope the best for them as much as I do an alcoholic, but I just can't relate, and I guess I am seeing that its ok. I do have a strong feeling of singleness of purpose, but with only a month and 1/2 sober and the meeting I go to, I don't feel comfortable yet saying anything about getting away from it, I always hope someone with enough time will speak up sometimes but so far they havent, that I know of anyway, but I have faith that maybe we as a whole (AA) will get back to singleness of purpose. I assume Bill W. thought it was important, and that make me think that maybe it sould be important to me.
Thanks, I hope this topic goes on for a while, I would like to see how others feel, as long as it doesnt get a little to hot in the kitchen. :wink:
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Postby Dallas » Tue Jul 31, 2007 2:46 am

Hot in the kitchen? Around here? :lol: :lol:

We're all just a bunch of recovered marshmellows! We get warm and sometimes have hot flashes but we most often cool rapidly or else we'll burn! :lol:

It's an important topic. It's also a difficult topic to discuss in meetings... when you're out-numbered. :lol:

I better get some sleep before I discuss this one. I don't want to be up all night editing my message! :lol:

I will say -- that the best way that I've discovered to address the situation with the Fellowship locally -- is to try to help one person at a time to understand singleness of purpose. And, hopefully, if enough of those one-at-a-timers' finally get it -- the course of direction can possibly be changed.

We have three legacys: Recovery, Unity and Service. Each of these are based upon spiritual principles.

The 12 Steps bring about recovery. It isn't until Step 10, that sanity is restored. If an alcoholic is still living in insanity (unsound thinking) because they haven't got to Step 10 -- how will they ever comprehend the 12 Traditions? And, since the 12 Traditions are spiritual principles -- and according to our book -- it's at Step 10, that we have "entered the world of the spirit" -- how are we going to understand the spiritual principles of the 12 Traditions -- if we haven't had a Spiritual Awakening?

The Legacy of Service is based on the 12 Concepts of Service... but to comprehend the 12 Concepts of Service... it takea a recovered alcoholic who has been through the experience of taking the 12 Steps (and recovered) and who is now attempting to Live and practice the 12 Traditions within their Group.

There seems to me -- to be a direct co-relation between groups with a history of strong sponsorship -- (recovery) -- that learns the importance of honoring our 12 Traditions (unity) -- so that we can all survive to be of Service (the concepts). Without a strong sponsorship history -- I've observed that there is usually weak recovery and a misunderstanding of the traditions.

To top off the problems that can be encountered with groups that have been weak on sponsorship -- which produces weak recovery -- and weak on the traditions -- and a weak understand the importance of singleness of purpose -- there is a flood of newcomers coming in to A.A. from the now popular drug courts -- who also do not understand singleness of purpose -- and floods of people coming through treatment centers -- who are being taught that all Anonymous Fellowships are the same. Many are being told things like "Well, I know your not alcoholic -- but, A.A. has a record of being the best of the best places to recover -- so, just go in there and save your ass by saying that you're alcoholic-and-a so that you can stay and get helped!

So... when some of us mention some things in meetings -- like singleness of purpose and the traditions -- we're out-numbered. :lol:

The solution, I believe, is to do what we have always done -- one alcoholic helping another alcoholic -- face to face, one at a time -- taking them through the 12 Steps -- while we keep our house clean and trust God.

There are some other things that can be done -- but, personal recovery must come first.

Small study groups can get together to study and learn the traditions. Traditions workshops and speaker meetings on the topics of Singleness of Purpose and 12 Traditions can be planned.

And, we can show love and tolerance and patience and helpfulness to those who do not understand. We can help them more by being living examples than we can with our words of sharing! :lol:

Dallas
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Postby rockingchair » Tue Jul 31, 2007 12:58 pm

Here on the west coast of Florida, we've got a lot of open meetings -- and we've got a lot of closed meetings, too. I go to both kinds of meetings - in fact most of the meetings at my home group are classified as open meetings. We do that because we get a lot of newcomers coming through the door and some of them aren't sure they are an alcoholic yet, so they come to an open meeting to sit and listen and figure out if they identify or not.

Our meeting format that the chairperson reads at the beginning of the meeting states something like this -- "we ask that when people share they limit their comments to those that relate to alcoholism" -- or some wording like that.

And you know what - most of the people that are not alkies just sit and listen. Sometimes people that share mention that they got into the "dry goods" too, but that is as far as they go with it - and these are discussion meetings, step meetings, big book meetings -- not just speaker meetings. Actually, I think there are very few people these days in AA that haven't had some other addiction problem. But, we limit our discussion to alcoholism because of tradition, but also because it is the one thing we all have in common.

I go to the closed meetings here too. They are mostly for people that don't want anyone there except alkies -- I've even heard it referred to as some kind of exclusive club. Like the other night, someone brought their mother to the meeting and asked if she could stay. It was a closed meeting, so the mother was politely asked to leave - which she did. The alkie ended up leaving too - which in my thinking was unfortunate, but an individual decision.
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Postby Susan » Mon Aug 13, 2007 8:07 am

My home group is a big book discussion and it is CLOSED. If you are not alcoholic you can not stay. We do not want the public coming in and then running there mouths about who was there and all out in there travels. The drug addicts have NA, I don't no why they want to go to the alky group. My home group has always been closed and I love it. I do not go to open meetings any more. Once in a while to hear a lead. One night I lead and after someone came up and asked for more info about myself, they were writing there paper for there PHD. I also think it depends on your job, whether you want the whole world knowing you are in AA. It is anonymous for a reason. I have the right as a member to be with my equals and be able to share in a safe way. I am here in OH.
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Postby Dallas » Mon Aug 13, 2007 9:15 am

Hey finch! Thanks for sharing your message and your experience. I really enjoy reading the experiences of others, and how they do it in their Home Groups, in different areas. It's refreshing and it gives me food for healthy thoughts.

Dallas
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Postby DebbieV » Mon Aug 13, 2007 11:19 am

Dallas Wrote:

I will say -- that the best way that I've discovered to address the situation with the Fellowship locally -- is to try to help one person at a time to understand singleness of purpose. And, hopefully, if enough of those one-at-a-timers' finally get it -- the course of direction can possibly be changed.


I think I saw what you were talking about in your quote at the meeting last night. We had such a great meeting, one of those you could see it in most everyones face. It stayed in the book ( That was great ) and it stayed in the solution. There was joy of being sober, not just how messed up life was when we were all drunk. Some nights I come away from a meeting feeling like I need a meeting, but last night I felt like I was walking on air, It was just great. There was at lest 20 or so kids in there with under a month sober, and they got to hear a bunch of drunks tell them how great our life was, and the time that its not, what tools used to get it back. Did all of them have a desir to stop drinking? I dont know, but they had one hell of a meeting anyway.

I am one of those people who want to start yelling about 'singleness of purpose' But I saw for the first time that yelling wont help, just trying to stay in the solution and carry the message, that Bill tells us step by step how to do, is what I need to be doing. Seems like someone has told me that at least 20 times, but I see the light now.
Man I have a hard head :oops:

I am also glad there are closed meetings out there for people who feel they need them, the 2ND letter in AA is Anonymous, so they have every right to that. We all have a purpose, I think, and for me it is try to get the message out to the ones who come in the door scared, hurt, mad, lost (we all know how they feel) so I go to open meetings. If I had a job that it would hurt if it got out that I went to AA, I may change how I look at it. For ME I did not hide my drinking sitting on a barstool, or getting my name in the paper again for another DWI, so I am not going to shy away from an open meeting. However I do respect poples right to anonymity, that is a very important thing for me. I know everyone does not have the same feelings I do and I would never want to cause someone not to want to come to a meeting for fear that, say their boss, friend, family etc.. may find out. I'm glad we have both open/closed meetings.
That is my dimes worth. :D

Thanks for letting me share,
Deb
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