Starting an AA Group: One Member’s Experience

I was inspired to share my experience after reading a recent post on ArenA. I am always so grateful for the experience, strength and hope that is offered to me so freely in the fellowship, that I hope to be able to provide some back in return. This is what makes AA so great; a fellowship where one alcoholic can share with another and not only allow for the identification of our common problem but even more importantly, demonstration of our common solution.

For me, it has been the example of the older sober AA members that has provided the inspiration to take the actions of AA, actions which at first seem so beyond my capabilities. After 14 years of unbroken sobriety, I can say that it was AA’s action based program that has provided the foundation of my recovery from alcoholism and allowed me to face all of life’s challenges without the need to take a drink.

My sobriety, and thus the AA program, really got put to the test five years ago when I left my home town for work and landed in a foreign city in Europe. Far away from the structure and sanctuary of my AA home group for the first time, and now also without the company of the older sober group members whom had by now become good friends, what was I to do? How would I be able to stay sober? How would I carry the message to other alcoholics? How would alcoholics be able to find me?

Much to my relief, other active AA’s had arrived in this city long before me and there was by now an AA fellowship, albeit much smaller, already in place. I was thus able to meet with a few other AA’s and newcomers at the meetings straight away. This arrangement worked well for several months however it soon became apparent from these early experiences that I needed to be part of a home group that also provided sponsorship and a service structure in order for me to stay sober long-term. As there were no structured groups around, my sobriety challenge then became how to start a new group.

Fortunately for me all I needed to begin was already available. On pages 162-163 of our basic text Alcoholics Anonymous it says, “though you may be but one man with this book in your hand, we believe and hope it contains all you need to begin”. Having initially followed the directions contained within it and connected to my higher power as a result of working the steps, I had recovered from alcoholism and commenced living both free from alcohol and the bondage of self. Now, I could follow the advice further on how to maintain sobriety by working with others and carrying the message to the still suffering alcoholic.
Our Twelve Traditions also provide guidance on how to start a group, particularly number three (long-form) where it says that any two or three alcoholics gathered together may call themselves an AA group. Therefore, I just needed to find one other alcoholic who was willing to start a group too!

Problem drinkers who want to recover can be found by asking a few doctors, ministers, or hospitals (refer to the chapter “Working with Others”), and now today, with the general public’s better understanding of AA and alcoholism, there are many other places to look such as online forums, community groups, and rehabs to name a few. And of course, AA meetings, including those online.

Once there were two of us willing to start a group, all we had to do was to continue consulting the experience that is so readily available in AA. For example, there is a library of literature that describes the composition of an AA Group, such as the pamphlet “The AA Group” and the service handbooks. There is also lots of knowledge on offer from members and groups throughout AA that can be accessed at intergroup and region. I also had an experienced and active AA member as my sponsor who proved invaluable throughout. Within 18 months of arriving in this new city we had a new home group up and running, that today still attracts many newcomers who are looking for a way out.

My experience has taught me that to keep sober and live a happy and useful life, I must remain in fit spiritual condition through working the Twelve Steps with a sponsor and keeping active in service in my home group working with others to carry the message. If I don’t have a home group where I live, then the experience of other AA’s before me who have started their own group provides me with the inspiration that I can do the same. It is also good to know that I am not alone, and there are many others who had found themselves confronted with these same challenges, yet have found a way to keep sober and active in AA, even on the other side of the world.