The Principle of Rotation


For me, service has been a large part of my sobriety, it doesn’t keep me sober, but it has enhanced it. There were times where I could quite have easily walked away from AA – through quarrels with others in the group or AA as a whole in my area. But the commitment I had made to whatever service role I had at that time, stopped me from doing that. And a couple of days or weeks later it was all forgotten or forgiven. I am still at meetings and attached to AA.
I have been involved in service from about 3 months into my sobriety. Going on 12 step calls and listening to the more experienced 12 stepper talking, only chiming in when I was asked to. Working with the intergroup Health Liaison Officer, taking clients from the local alcohol unit to their first meeting, and even better, getting to chat with them on the way back to the unit on what they thought of the meeting. One of the “Long Time Sober” members was the Public Information Officer. He gathered a team of us young and enthusiastic in sobriety and we did the leg work for him, going around doctor’s surgeries, local libraries, employers, anyone who we thought might be interested in our message. Then, after the agreed term of sobriety, going into the alcohol unit and talking to the clients, some who were totally anti-AA. That taught me to bite my tongue when they spoke of other organisations that promised “Their Way” would work for them in controlling the units they drank, etc.
Finally, I took on my first full role at intergroup shorty after my 3rd AA birthday. The pride I felt after having completed the role to the best of my ability, taking great care and time in handing the role over with sponsorship for the new person now in the role. I had a few more roles at intergroup before eventually going to region at about 11 years sober. A whole new world of service then opened to me, they even asked me if I would consider attending conference on behalf of them! What a blast that was – completely blew me away, the way this wonderful fellowship came together and really worked. Meeting people from all over Great Britain and continental Europe, coming to decisions in a substantial and, at times, unanimous way. A bunch of ex-drunks agreeing on things – unbelievable to me. I have had other roles within the fellowship which I have taken on and completed, to the best of my ability, and I have gained from every role. I must say at this point, that not once when I took on these roles did I think that I would be any good or of any use. The self-doubt was overbearing that I would not be able to do the role as well as the previous person had done.
I recently had a conversation with a fellow member of the fellowship about service and the spirit of rotation. Strange as it may seem, but for me Concept XII offers me guidance in this. Rotation is both good for the fellowship and me.
In Concept XII its states:
• The Conference shall observe the spirit of A.A. tradition, taking care that it never becomes the seat of perilous wealth or power; that sufficient operating funds and reserve be its prudent financial principle; that it place none of its members in a position of unqualified authority over others; that it reach all important decisions by discussion, vote, and, whenever possible, by substantial unanimity; that its actions never be personally punitive nor an incitement to public controversy; that it never perform acts of government, and that, like the Society it serves, it will always remain democratic in thought and action.
I try to work the steps, traditions and the concepts into my life, Concept XII is the one that guides me from trying to take over the world. If I take on a service responsibility, I need to do the service to the best of my ability and finally when I think I have it sussed, I need to hand it over to someone else, someone I might think will never be able to do the great job I did. How will AA survive if we learn a job and give it up? By passing the role on, I am working Concept XII,  “taking care that I never become the seat of perilous wealth or power”. I am not the only person in the world that can do the job, and it might come as a surprise to me that the next person does it even better than I did!
The pamphlet, The AA Group offers good guidance on rotation, and the need for it. This carries through to other levels of service – intergroup, region and the General Service Board. Traditionally, rotation ensures that group tasks, like nearly everything else in A.A., are passed around for all to share. Many groups have alternates to each trusted servant who can step into the service positions if needed. To step out of an A.A. office you love can be hard. If you have been doing a good job, if you honestly don’t see anyone else around willing, qualified, or with the time to do it, and if your friends agree, it’s especially tough. But it can be a real step forward in growth — a step into the humility that is, for some people, the spiritual essence of anonymity.
Among other things, anonymity in the fellowship means that we forgo personal prestige for any A.A. work we do to help alcoholics. And, in the spirit of Tradition Twelve, it ever reminds us “to place principles before personalities.” Many outgoing service position holders find it rewarding to take time to share their experience with the incoming person. Rotation helps to bring us spiritual rewards far more enduring than any fame. With no A.A. “status” at stake, we needn’t compete for titles or praise — we have complete freedom to serve as we are needed.
Now it has not always been that way. In the past, I have had roles that I was unwilling to give up or have given up and then quickly taken over again because the person, for whatever reason, could not continue. I have had roles at group and intergroup that, under the guise of no one else wanting the job, I have continued. Because I have come to the end of my “term” doesn’t mean I need to give up service, it means I need to find another role.
To lose people who have a vast experience in service, to me, is a waste. If the older, more experienced member can be an “Elder Statesman” and pass on the knowledge when asked and not become the “Bleeding Deacon,” bemoaning that it’s all change and was never like that in their day – then this fellowship, that has saved my life, will continue to flourish and draw others into service to experience what I have and still do.
John M.