Self-searching is the means by which we bring the new vision, action, and grace to bear upon the dark and negative sides of our natures. With it comes the development of that kind of humility that makes it possible for us to receive God's help. Yet it is only a step. We will want to go further.
As Bill Sees it. Page 10.
I am constantly amazed by how many different types of Alcoholic Anonymous meetings there are. A.A. meetings are so varied and ubiquitous in most major cities around the world that no matter what support you are looking for you should be able to find it. I can laugh about it now but early on in A.A. discovering that there were so many varieties of meetings was perplexing. I was so foggy and muddled from drugs and alcohol when I first arrived at the threshold of recovery that all these different meeting names confused me. Add to that all the sober strangers rushing at me with their phone numbers, desperate to be helpful and it's clear to me why my first few weeks not drinking were pretty daunting and a little bit terrifying.
With the advent of Zoom A.A. meetings due to Covid, meetings are available to everyone anywhere as long as they have wifi. So when a meeting loses its new car smell (as some eventually do) there will always be another meeting that can give you what you’re looking for.
Here from AA.org is a partial list of the types of meetings available to us:
Open meetings - anyone, alcoholic or not, can attend.
Closed meetings - meetings that are for people who are alcoholic or have a desire to stop drinking.
Beginner’s meetings - meetings that focus on the fundamental needs of early recovery that help with avoiding relapse.
Step meetings - meetings focused on one or all of the twelve steps, the guidelines created by the founders of A.A. who discovered that taking twelve specific actions helped themselves and others abstain from drinking alcohol.
Big Book meetings - in these meetings we study the principles laid out in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. We often read a passage from the book and participate in analysis and discussion.
Behavior based meetings - many people have compulsive behavioral problems and mental health conditions, leading to co-occuring disorders. These topics are not always appropriate for discussion in a general A.A. meeting. However, because the 12 steps can aid in overcoming these issues, special interest meetings allow individuals to seek support with impulse and compulsion issues that do not necessarily involve substance abuse.
These include meetings for addictions to narcotics (NA), food (OA), gambling (GA), sex (SAA), spending (DA-debtors anonymous), etc.
Demographic Specific meetings - some communities hold A.A. meetings focused on the individual needs of specific demographics. There are men’s meetings, women’s meetings, meetings for teens, for the LGBTQ community and many other groups.
So the variety of meetings is endless. I've even heard about an A.A. meeting called a "Stitch and Bitch" by its members - where during the A.A. meeting everyone sits around knitting or doing needlepoint and complaining (and laughing) about life and its mysteries. On any given day every meeting will be quite different depending on who shows up. Sometimes that can be over 100 people, sometimes it can be fewer than 10. It doesn't matter. As long as 2 or more people are gathered together to discuss their experience, strength and hope in regards to alcoholism, that’s a meeting.
One of my favorite stories about attending a different type of meeting came from my friend Frank. Frank was newly sober and attending closed meetings when a friend asked him if he wanted to go to an "As Bill Sees It" meeting. Frank categorically refused. "NO! No way" he said as he thought to himself "Who the fuck is Bill? And why should I listen to him anyway? It's not happening." In active addiction there was only one person that I was willing to take advice from, and that was me and my booze soaked brain. Obviously this was not a safe plan of action for me. By listening to my own best advice about how to handle life and its roller-coaster-y nature, I ended up deeply addicted to alcohol and drugs.
So Frank refused to go to the “As Bill Sees It” meeting. It was hard enough to stop drinking in the first place and he certainly was not about to start taking advice from some “arrogant prick" named Bill. “Who does "Bill" think he is anyway? Only in this entitled town would someone be so full of themselves" he grumbled. Like Frank, I didn't care to find out about different meeting types when I was in early recovery either. I was just going to closed meetings and trying desperately not to drink, one day at a time.
I had not seen Frank for ages until recently, when I had the pleasure of hearing him speak at a meeting at which he’s currently the chairperson. What kind of a meeting? It is an “As Bill Sees It” meeting. So what is an "As Bill Sees It" meeting anyway? It is a meeting centered around As Bill Sees It, a book containing 332 short essays written by A.A. co-founder Bill Wilson. (Ahhhh, I see, so THAT’S who Bill is!!!) These essays on sobriety and spirituality are ideal for personal reflection or for a group discussion. At As BIll Sees It meetings we read a page from the book and discuss it for an hour. Easy peasy.
I find Frank's story hilarious, and perfect in the imperfect nature of A.A. itself. We practice progress in A.A., never perfection. We grow in A.A. and we can see the growth in ourselves and in our peers. We go from scoffing at the idea of ever attending an “As Bill Sees It” meeting to spending several hours each month chairing one. I love “As Bill Sees It” meetings. Honestly, I love all A.A. meetings. Not always while I am sitting there, but eventually the experience, strength and hope that I hear in the rooms has rubbed off on me. My natural resting attitude of contempt prior to investigation is shifting. I'm more open to suggestions. More willing to give things a try. The metal gates of my mind that held me prisoner in there for so many years are opening, lifting, even dissolving.
I've learned that by taking the advice that I find in the Big Book or in As Bill Sees It or in any of the A.A. literature I am growing spiritually. And by that I mean nothing more than discovering tools that help me to follow the advice of another Frank, St. Francis of Assisi, who beseeches us all to "wear the world like a loose garment, which touches us in few places, and there lightly”.