YPAA – The Power of the Group

I am lucky enough to have started a little tradition study with a few of my fellow AA’s. Last month we discussed Tradition Four: “Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or A.A. as a whole.” So when this offer to share on YPAA as a part of greater AA arrived, I could not help but throw this in as part of the mix of food for thought.

I am not really sure if I am the one to be writing on YPAA as I have never really been a member of the YPAA community, despite getting sober at 23. In fact, I seemed old at the time in these circles. As a newcomer when I was whining about not being an alcoholic during my first year as surely, “I was too young”, my trusted sponsor dragged me to the SF YP hangout to show me that, in fact, I was old enough. I have had many newcomer experiences but this one stands out as a life-changing turning point, almost as much as that first day of not drinking.

The myth of youth is widespread, long-lasting and all too prevalent. How many times outside AA I had heard, “oh, but you are so young! Don’t worry!” I have seen some people who were “too young” wrap themselves into an early grave and watched those around them remain in a fantasy of “this won’t happen to me.” In my mind, YP acts as that reality breaker that only comes with true identification.

The program has always told me to look for people who have what I want. I can remember how far off these “grown-up adults” seemed to me when I came in to AA with their cars, houses, marriages, and jobs. I got sober in 1992, long after the first YP groups showed up 1947, yet they still seemed to be in development. My meetings were populated by 30 to 50-year-olds who had life problems I had little understanding of or relationship to. In my group in NYC, the late night meetings were the hang out for many of us under thirty, right down to high school age. I recall the starting and growth of the group “Never Had a Legal Drink.” It’s not easy to come into AA from nightlife and youth and sit down for hours, listening in chairs. I remember my own inability to sit through a whole meeting, my insomnia, and lack of major responsibilities or life skills. I know I needed those night meetings with fellowship. There is a comfort to sit among one’s own, whether it is in a women’s, men’s or young people’s meeting.

Thank God for the tradition that allows us as a group to be “autonomous”, to have faith that we can allow AA to develop and change as long as we are not affecting AA as a whole.

Around my 5th year of sobriety, I went with a group of people to the ICYPAA conference. We ranged from teens to well beyond, and there I encountered a level of fun and noise I had not seen in AA before. It was awesome and heart-wrenching as they did the countdown. I learned that “young” only meant you had “room to grow” and nobody was excluded from participating or ,as in any other group, being a member. I also learned that there was more to sobriety than not drinking. It was the first time I heard this idea of “happy, joyous and free” which continues to be a reminder to me years after.

I reap the benefit of YPAA as it continues to improve and offer growth to AA as a whole. Many times I have sent sponsees who find a home there. Everyday I thank God for AA and AA for God. I am grateful that AA is big and wide and all encompassing so that as I change and grow, wherever I am there is always a place for me and for all those who want it as I do.

Kris A (International Group Stockholm)