I read an interesting post this morning on Syd's blog about folks not welcoming newcomers into meetings, and cliques in AA and Al-Anon. The post sure inspired some great comments, but it's a sad commentary on a side of our fellowship I am not proud of.
For my part, I was welcomed into AA from day and moment one when I began attending meetings in Toledo, OH. They have a tradition there that you're expected to go around and shake everyone's hand when you arrive before the meeting begins. This practice helps AA's welcome newcomers to the program. When I came to AA, I was the only person (in my mind) who thought and felt the way I did, and no one understood me. So it was very important to me that folks were kind and accepting of me. I didn't feel like I had to fight my way into the group. Sure, there were little cliques and clusters of folks who were close friends outside the meetings, but no one shunned any one.
The thing that us sober alcoholics need to remember, is that the newcomer is typically not glad to be coming to his or her first meeting. The newcomer is are shy, scared, mad, humiliated, embarassed and full off guilt and shame just for having to come to meetings in the first palce. So we need to go out of our way to let them know they've come to a safe place. We need to welcome newcomers and help them feel a part of things (no matter how many times we've gotten close to newcomers only to have them vanish and leave us).
It pains me to hear folks judge the entire AA fellowship by a few bad meeting experiences. The 12 Steps and all of the principles in AA are unchanged by the behaviour of some of the members. The program is still the program, and AA is full of sick and disfunctional personalities. It has been my experience (in over 15 sober years in AA) that the person who can't or doesn't make it in AA probably isn't ready to do what it takes to stay sober. That's not to say that AA is the only way folks can get sober and recover from drug addiction and alcoholism. I couldn't possibly make that statement. But I do know that when folks come into AA and practice the principles of the program, work the Steps into their lives, they recover a day at a time. There are miracles happening every day in AA, I've seen them and I continue to see them. I am a one of those miracles, and I am married to one of those miracles.
If you're new and you're reading this and you've felt shut out in a particular meeting, shame on that group but hey... get to some other meetings. How much does it mean to you to get your life back? It might take a little effort on your part. Don't blame AA as a whole. Find new meetings, reach out your hand and grab recovery. It is there for everyone!