Dear Mr. SponsorPants,
I'm Anonymous Alcoholic Arunas from Lithuania. I not drink for morethen 5 years.I bisexual too . It's not Gay AA group in my country. I want to create some group, but don't know from what begin.
Well first off, Arunas, let me just say Hello nuo AA Amerikoje!Jį lengvai ir nuolat grįžta! (Thanks Google Translate!)
Secondly, I used to drink with a girl from Lithuania, and and while I generally despise nationalistic and ethnic generalizations, I am willing to say here that her Lithuanian chromosomes easily kept pace with my Irish DNA.
So basically, for purposes of easy discussion, I think your email can be broken out into three parts:
How do I start an AA Meeting?
How do I start a Gay (or special focus) AA Meeting?
How do I start a Gay AA Meeting in Lithuania?
There's an old joke in Alcoholics Anonymous: To start an AA Meeting all you need is a coffee pot and a resentment. While that always struck me as a wee bit mean spirited (of the AA meetings I've started over the years -- and that's maybe four, all total -- resentment was never a part of the motivation; sloth was -- I'm big on starting meetings that are convenient to where I live or that begin at an hour that let's me sleep in a little! -- but resentment? Nah. Couldn't be bothered.) All of which is to say that while I believe that starting an AA meeting is a wonderful bit of 12th Step work, in my humble opinion there is no wrong reason for starting a meeting. And, as a corollary, there if you keep your ego out of it there is no real criteria for what qualifies as a "success" in starting a meeting. Or, to put it another way -- if just one alcoholic just one time gets something from the meeting which helps them stay sober for just one more 24 hours, then the meeting you started is a spectacular, unqualified success, and it matters not one jot whether it is large or small, lasts for years or only a few weeks. The meeting helped someone stay sober one more day? Mission accomplished.
So what are the practical requirements for starting a meeting? What's your Checklist? What are the basics you'll need? The following should get you started:
- A format of some sort: Something written down is best so that the meeting can stay consistent, which helps it feel "real" and safe. In my experience the simpler the format the stronger the meeting. Generally there is a brief reading (In my little corner of the world the first few pages of Chapter 5, "How it Works" from the Big Book are commonly used -- up through the a, b, c part which concludes with "that God could and would if He were sought.") Then someone Speaks (or Chairs, or Pitches, all regional terms here in the USA for basically the same thing: The person who talks first, and usually for a pre-determined lenght of time.) Meetings I go to vary in this, and there are those in which the Speaker talks for ten minutes, twenty minutes, or for almost the full duration of the meeting. Then, there might be sharing from the rest of the group -- some meetings have timers of three or five minutes for the other sharing -- others let people go for as long as they need. (There's pro and con on both those approaches.) Then there might be one more reading and then generally the meeting concludes with a prayer, most often in my experience The Serenity Prayer. I'd like to add that it is a custom in my part of the world for people to thank the speaker after the meeting -- to literally line up and one after the other shake hands or hug and express gratitude to the speaker for coming. I've been to places and meetings where this is not the custom, and while it's not wrong to NOT do it, I think it is a good healthy thing for all parties if you DO do it. But again, that is a regional thing. (And by the way, in the book "My Name is Bill" by Susan Cheever -- which I enjoyed immensely -- at one point somewhere in it -- I haven't read it in forever -- she gives an overview of a "typical" AA meeting that I thought was very good as well. If you can find a translation you might enjoy that as well and it too might be helpful.)
- A space: Either a room you can easily afford with a nominal payment -- one which a fledgling meeting can pay on its own in short order (as our meetings are self supporting through our own contributions) OR a "donated" home space for that hour or so. (Remember, all the original AA meetings were in someone's home -- that's a tried and true method.) Also, you'll need an assurance that the space will be "yours" every week at that same hour for a good period of time.
- A Secretary (or two): A person or couple of people who are willing to serve as Secretary for the first few months until enough people regularly come so that you can hold an election. As it says in the literature, "our leaders are but trusted servants, they do not govern." Starting a meeting confers no special status or authority in the meeting that you've started. When you're up and running it's better for all concerned to hold a group conscience and have an election -- sure, they can elect you, but the opportunity for others to step in is clean, above board and, in my experience, the best ego deflater and resentment quasher possible. Once you have a few regular members you can divvy out some other service commitments, like Set Up, Clean Up, Literature, Phone List... maybe a Sponsorship Announcement asking people willing and able to sponsor to raise their hands. You don't need everything all at once of course.
That's pretty much it. A format a space and a scretary willing to be the midwife for a bit and you should be all set. By the way, there is nothing that says you have to be completely unique in your format. If there is a meeting you go to that you like the format just copy that exactly and you'll be up and running in no time!
Now, as to starting a gay or special focus AA meeting, that's pretty much the same process as the above, with one caveat I'd like to add -- but first, for the curious, let me just say why such meetings might be helpful to people.
One of the ways in the 12 Step message can penetrate the fog of chemicals and slip through the cracks in the walls of fear and ego is via the process of identification. Hearing people who did what you did and felt how you felt and are now sober through the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous can be very powerful medicine. And when someone is new, while we suggest that they listen for the feelings people share and not get caught up in the external details, this process is much easier when it is not an intellectual abstract and more of a direct similarity. In addition, special focus meetings -- like a gay meeting, or a men's stag, or a women's meeting -- can provide a safe place for people to be candid about things at group level which they might not be comfortable sharing (for whatever reason) in a mixed group. So there are some good reasons for these meetings to exist. A meeting is a meeting -- but it's nice to have one in your routine which is mainly comprised of people with whom you might have some special things in common.
Here's the caveat: I know that when Gay Meetings first came on the scene in the United States, it was commonly heald wisdom that when approaching a place to rent -- like a church basement, or the community room of a city building or some such -- it was strongly advised that the parties involved be up front with the future landlords about who was going to be meeting there. The main reason, of course, was that this was in keeping with AA's suggested principle of rigorous honesty. To withould significant information from someone is virtually the same as being actively dishonest about it. Secondly, it's best to find out up front, before schedules are made and/or money changes hands whether or not someone is going to have a problem with Drunks or Gays or Left-Handed Gamblers or whatever. You can't meet where you're not welcome. And trying to sneak in will ultimately only create a problem down the line.
Finally, when it comes to starting a Gay meeting in Lithuania... I want to say first that I admire your desire to bring a message of recovery to all alcoholics --and again, there's no wrong reason (in my book) to do it. A casual bit of research on the Internet speaks to a somewhate unwelcoming culture for LGBT folks in Lithuania. You would be far more conversant about that than I of course. I've not been to Lithuania (yet!) Institutions who might be good landlords for you might be some of the more accepting religions -- they generally have as part of their resources a room suitable for meeting which might be available on a weekly basis -- or a hospital. Or a recovery house. Starting one in your own living room might also work, but Home Meetings are generally not listed in Meeting Directories here in the States, for a number of reasons you can easily imagine. (What if the host gets drunk, for example!) Also, it's a very common practice for Gay Meetings in the US to be listed with all other meetings in the Directory with a G next to them, and the initial explained in the Legend (just like O for Open or C for Closed or W for Women of HA for wheelchair accessible, etc.) And it will be easier to "get the word out" if your meeting is listed in the Directory. If you encounter any problems with getting your meeting in your local Directory I would contact World Services in New York City -- they would be the people who can help with that.
Your intent is to be of service and in this, the Big Book suggests, your will is then aligned with God's. In such a case Arunas, you can not fail! I wish you all the best, I hope this wasn't too long and was somewhat helpful -- and by all means, write me again and let me know how it goes.
Aš išgelbėti savo pinigus ir pabandykite ateiti į susitikimą tam tikrą dieną!
Dėkojame jums už žinutę!