Recently, I have attended several meetings where things have gotten out of hand: I’ve heard rants about child services, rants about the government, and strained to hear when screaming toddlers ran in circles around their parent’s table. Whether it is talking for an excessive amount of time, venturing into a rant, cross talking, or bringing up issues other than alcoholism, these are behaviors that we need to correct for the welfare of everyone attending a meeting.
We also need to remember that we are Alcoholics Anonymous, not Narcotics Anonymous. Open meetings welcome addicts, but our Primary Purpose is to talk about staying away from a drink one day at a time, not the heroin epidemic that is devastating our state. While it is the responsibility of the chairperson to move things back to order, if that chairperson is young in sobriety, they may not be confident enough to interrupt someone who is off track. When that happens, I think more experienced members need to speak up and gently remind the “offender” that they are outside the format of the meeting.
Maybe we need to include some etiquette parameters in the opening announcements: reminders that kids are welcome, but they need to be on “church behavior” for the hour. Likewise, a reminder that we don’t cross talk or give advice, and that as we read in the opening remarks, please remember that we don’t share opinions on outside issues.
When meetings go sideways, with rants or excessive religiosity, etc. there’s risk of giving a new person in attendance the wrong impression of A.A. And there’s always the chance that we’ve cheated someone who really needed a meeting, from hearing the message they needed to hear to stay sober for that day.
We all have a responsibility to steer out meetings back to order, firmly and kindly, for the good of the Fellowship.
Source – Patty B. – Dayton Unity Newsletter Archives