The three attributes of AA, Unity, Service and Recovery, are the foundations of all recovery programs, not just Alcoholics Anonymous. That’s because we have to stick together and support each other. We need a place to come to where we can progress physically, spiritually and socially, so that we can get better ourselves and help others to recover.
The home group is where the rubber meets the road. It’s where we come to know and learn to trust people who have been through the same stuff we have. It’s really easy to “hide out” at meetings. Within a fifteen-mile radius of Sunrise Detox Florida there are hundreds of meetings a week, at churches, recovery clubs, rec halls, treatment centers, on the beach, at parks — they’re everywhere. We have big, noisy groups populated by bikers, and quiet little groups of doctors, lawyers and judges. However, we can go to three different meetings a day, seven days a week, and never have to let our defenses down or interact with anyone, if that’s what we want. If we prefer to be left alone, people will leave us alone. There are too many other folks who want recovery to waste time on folks who are just counting the days until they can think of an excuse to get high.
When we have a home group, people get to know our stories and our faces, get our phone numbers, and call to check on us or offer us a ride if they don’t see us for a while. We go out — for coffee, bowling, fishing — just about anything except drinking. (In our area, there is even a group of sober scuba divers.) We become part of a community of support, something that most addicts have never had. People get to know us and — in that time-worn 12-Step phrase — “call us on our s**t” when we begin to forget that we are recovering addicts. That’s where we’ll probably find a sponsor to guide us through the steps: among those people we’re beginning to trust a little.
Home groups are the places where we begin to offer service to others. We begin by doing the simple things: emptying ashtrays, picking up empty coffee cups, and putting away folding chairs. From that we progress to making coffee, helping to set up for meetings, greeting folks at the door, making sure someone speaks to newcomers, and the other things that make meetings happen.
Service is part of the magic. We progress to speaking at and leading meetings, serving on committees, and perhaps serving the group as secretary, treasurer, Intergroup representative, or at the several other “official” service positions. Eventually we may attend conventions as delegates from our area, perhaps even the World Conventions held every five years in a major city.
It’s important to remember that we perform service simply by coming to meetings. I’ve been to more than one meeting where I and one other person showed up for a meeting that had been moved, cancelled or called off for some reason. We just went someplace and had our own meeting over a cup of coffee. I don’t know if my being there ever stopped anyone from driving off to a bar or crack house, but I know I’ve made new friends, and enlarged my own support group, simply by being there when no one else was.
Finally, home groups are where we blossom, begin to “get it,” and eventually are honored by being asked to become someone’s sponsor. They are where we practice our skills of recovery among knowledgeable friends, and then take them out to the world. We make friendships that last a lifetime — over miles, illnesses, births, marriages, divorces, and the other stuff that everyone navigates through in life — the stuff that we used to celebrate or try to solve by shutting down our brains.
Put simply, home groups are where it happens. When it comes to recovery, if we want to belong, we can belong. If we want to remain an outsider, people will leave us alone. Home groups are where we hone the three tools that are critical for recovery: honesty, openness and willingness. And without those, ain’t nuthin’ gonna happen, baby.
Note: I totally understand that some folks don’t believe the 12-step path is for them. There are a wide variety of other support groups out there. Please look around for one that fits. The principle (it’s nearly impossible to do it alone) still applies.