The three attributes of AA, the Steps, Traditions and Concepts, are the foundations of any program: Unity, Service and Recovery. Just as a triangle can’t support itself without all three sides, a 12-Step Group couldn’t survive without all three “sides” of its structure. With its sides intact, on the other hand, a triangle (or pyramid) is the most stable structure there is.
We have to:
- Stick together and support each other;
- Make sure that we — and newcomers — have a place to come to;
- Progress physically, spiritually and emotionally so that we can get better ourselves and then help others to recover.
The home group is the basis of all three things. It’s where we meet and come to know and trust people who have been through the same stuff we have. It’s really easy to “hide out” at meetings. In my area there are hundreds of meetings a week at churches, recovery clubs, rec halls, treatment centers, on the beach, at parks — you name it and some drunks and addicts have decided to gather there. We have big, noisy groups populated by bikers, and quiet little groups of doctors, lawyers and judges. (These aren’t exclusive, but each tend to find their own. Anyone is welcome.)
All groups have things in common. They are places where, when we go there, they have to let us in — places where people get to know our stories and our faces, get our phone numbers, call to check on us or offer us a ride if they don’t see us at a meeting, go out for coffee together and become a community of support — something that most drunks and other addicts have never had.
People get to know us and, in that time-worn 12-Step phrase, “call us on our shit” when we begin to forget that we are recovering addicts. They’re where we find a sponsor among those people we’re beginning to trust a little. Or, if we want to, we can go to meeting after meeting, speak to no one, let no one get to know us, help no one — especially not ourselves — and go back again, to whine, after we relapse.
Home groups are the places where we begin to offer our services to others. We begin by doing the simple things: emptying ashtrays, picking up empty coffee cups and putting away folding chairs. From that we progress to making coffee, helping to set up for meetings, greeting folks at the door, making sure someone speaks to newcomers, and the other things that make meetings happen.
Service is part of the triangle. In our home group we progress to speaking at and leading meetings, chairing, serving on committees (often committees of one), perhaps serving the group as secretary, treasurer, or Intergroup representative or at the several other “official” service positions.
It’s also important to remember that we perform service simply by coming to meetings. What if they had a meeting and nobody came? I’ve been to more than one two-person meeting when I and one other person showed up for a meeting that had been moved, cancelled or called off for some reason. I don’t know if my being there ever stopped anyone from driving off to a bar or crack house, but I know I’ve made new friends and enlarged my own support group simply by being there when no one else was.
Finally, home groups are where we blossom, begin to “get it,” and eventually are honored by being asked to become someone’s sponsor. They are where we practice our skills of recovery among knowledgeable friends and then take them out to the world. They are were we make friendships that last a lifetime — over miles, illnesses, births, marriages, divorces, and the other stuff that everyone navigates through in life, but that we used to celebrate or solve by shutting down our brains.
Put simply, home groups are where it all happens.
As to what we can expect: we can expect whatever we put into it. If we want to belong, we can belong. If we want to remain an outsider, people will leave us alone — which leads me to the three tools we really need for recovery: honesty, openness and willingness. Without those, ain’t nuthin’ gonna happen, baby.