The voice mail from a sponsee detailed a challenging (but rewarding, I sensed) 12th Step call.
In the course of leaving the message he explained that he hadn't made it to a meeting that day because of this selfsame 12th Step call. His commitment to himself right now is 90 meetings in 90 days (which, for people who are new, or who need to build a better relationship with AA, is an excellent thing to commit to doing.) He framed it in such a way as to suggest that since he was doing something AA-related (and indeed, 12th Step work is one of the most important things a sober alcoholic can do) then that would sort of "count" as his meeting for that day.
This sort of recovery-tools barter is not uncommon, and virtually every sponsee I've had tries it at some point, particularly about going to meetings. "Since I went to Central Office to buy Literature for my service commitment tomorrow I don't have to go to a meeting today, I figure..." or "I was at my General Services Representatives meeting this morning, so I don't have to go to an AA meeting tonight, right?"
On the one hand, that all sounds eminently logical -- and you can certainly do whatever you damn well please, as far as I'm concerned.
On the other hand, there's my dead sponsor.
My dead sponsor, the one who truly shaped how I do AA (and who's wise counsel I miss every single day of my life) was pretty clear on this point of trading on some other AA activity as "credit" for meeting attendance. I have clear memories of many times I would be deftly weaving an excuse for not going to a meeting into a larger story about some other AA activity, and he would, depending on how much he was enjoying his coffee, let me go on a little. Then he would take a long hit on his cigarette, tilt his head back to blow the smoke straight up into the air, smooth his toupee down a bit (it was a pretty good one, actually, and in all the years I knew him I never found it offputting) and then fix me with that look he had sometimes and say, "All your little phone calls with other people in the Program, and your coffee and Big Book time with sponsees and the rest of it... is not a meeting. A meeting is a meeting." And he would brook no further discussion on the topic. I never even bothered to try to "yes, but..." him after a few months, he was so adept at shutting them down. (A skill I need to foster, as I continue to sponsor).
And that's how I run my own Program today. A meeting is a meeting.
As for Mr. 12th Step Call ... well, my suggestion will be that he double up and do two meetings tomorrow, to be back on track for his 90 in 90. For myself, I must be disciplined about these things, and that is what I try to pass on to others.
Service work is important, sponsorship is important, fellowship is important -- hell, it's all important -- but a meeting is a meeting.