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For An AA Meeting
in a series reporting some regional differences that produce
the same result sobriety
© The A.A.
Grapevine, Inc., June 1961
meetings along the eastern seaboard, a standard procedure
is followed, with variations for some groups and localities.
The group program chairman opens the meeting, giving the
name of the group and mentioning that it meets every week.
He then reads the preamble: "Alcoholics Anonymous is
a fellowship of men and women
." He then states,
"Tonight we have as guests some members of the _________Group
and I shall now turn the meeting over to their leader, Sam."
thereupon takes the floor and announces, "My name is
Sam Jones and Im an alcoholic." At this point
he has considerable leeway. If there are two speakers, he
may, before introducing his first speaker, "qualify"
himself as an alcoholic who knows what he is talking about.
In some groups it is considered slightly better form if
the leader mentions only the first name of the speakers,
leaving them to identify themselves by their full names
if they so desire. This is a reminder to all to respect
the anonymity of the members.
are never more than three speakers at a typical meeting.
Most meetings last one hour but may sometimes run fifteen
or twenty minutes longer.
the last speaker is presented the leader customarily calls
for the secretary of the group, who first announces the
collection to pay expenses for the hall and the refreshments,
then reads the announcements of other group meetings for
the coming week. When there are too many of these, he reads
only the ones where anniversaries will be celebrated. He
then turns the floor back to the visiting groups leader.
After the last speaker the leader invites "all those
who care to" join him in the Lords Prayer.
are members who will lead meetings but do not like to speak
themselves. Others will speak but do not want to lead.
are a number of suggestions for the member planning to lead
such an eastern-style meeting. Like almost everything else
in AA these are only suggestions and probably cannot all
be covered in a single meeting, but many seasoned leaders
try to work in as many as they can. Here are the suggestions:
you are leader, dont go into your own story unless
your speakers are brief and you find that the program is
you present the first speaker it is a good idea to say a
few words aimed at new people who are atheists or agnostics,
lest they feel that AA is "too religious" for
them or get the idea that it works only on people with the
gospel-tent type of Faith. Someone, leader or speaker should
see to it that it is explained for the benefit of newcomers
that the Higher Power can be interpreted in terms of team
spirit or group solidarity of purpose. Dont "spook"
the newcomer with too much piety.
tell any of the speakers story yourself let
him tell it, even though there is something in it which
strikes you as a real AA gem. Similarly, if you kid the
speakers, be sure they wont be ruffled or hurt by
your humor. Some people are peculiar about the gentlest
of jokes at their own expense even in AA.
sure that alcoholism is defined as a disease and not a moral
problem that its no disgrace to be an alcoholic.
The speakers will probably cover this but take note and
be sure to include it in your closing remarks if they have
not mentioned it. This is one of the most important points
for the newcomer who knows nothing about AA and is the most
heartening news that AA brings to most of us.
as it may seem, sometimes none of the speakers will make
the point, "You dont have to stay away from all
the booze in the world for the rest of your life. In AA
we just stay away from one drink the first one
the collection it is tactful to say, "If you are here
for the first time please dont put anything in the
collection." This is for the drunk who comes in without
a dime in his jeans and is ashamed of not being able to
the group secretary, after reading the announcements, forgets
to mention that the literature on the table is free, the
leader can bring this in at the close. Likewise it is good
to tell newcomers (and always count on there being at least
one) that there are other meetings in the New York
metropolitan area, for example, there are meetings every
night in the week within easy access to anyone.
you have any time to fill at the close of the meeting, you
can mention the AA "gimmicks" so valuable to the
new man or gal such as getting plenty of Vitamin B Complex,
keeping liquids in the system with coffee or soft drinks
at first, carrying candy for a quick "lift" (in
mid-afternoon especially), the use of "telephone therapy"
and the importance of a little book of AA telephone numbers.
Other good advice to a new member or prospect is not to
get too tired -or too anything if he can possibly
avoid it, not to make avoidable vital decisions until he
has been dry at least three months and has given his thinking
a chance to clear up, and not to be discouraged if he doesnt
sober up instantly. He should keep coming back and "let
it rub off on him."
the close of the meeting the leader should (if the group
secretary has not already done so) invite new people and
their friends to stay for coffee and cake.
after giving out with all these bits of wisdom, you still
have an extra ten minutes to go tell one incident
of your own story which has a point. Such incidents are
not hard to find: the first time you really got into trouble
from drinking, how you heard about AA, how you came finally
to realize that your life had become unmanageable. When
you have told this incident and have reached stopping time,
close with the Lords Prayer and the job is done.
you are to lead a meeting at a group where you are not known
personally to the program chairman, it is considerate to
write your name and the name of your group on a slip of
paper and hand it to him upon arrival.
the meeting you are to lead is a special one a group
anniversary for instance, with prominent non-AA speakers,
a clergyman, a warden or a judge dont make
your introduction of the V.I.P. long-winded. Say who he
is, that he is a good friend of our Fellowship, welcome
him and then let him do the talking. If he is a politician
he will probably speak too long, so make allowances for
your group has a sincere and colorful speaker who cannot
tell his story in less than forty minutes, dont put
him on with two other speakers. Let him have "start
the evening and fill in fifteen minutes yourself first.
the group where you are to lead does not usually set out
an ashtray and a glass of water for the speakers, ask the
chairman if these can be supplied.
in a great while a noisy drunk shows up at an open meeting
and the local lads usually gather around and tactfully ask
him to step outside where they can talk to him (actually
to let him talk to his hearts content, but away from
the meeting). If such a character shows up and nobody in
the group makes a move to usher him out, you, as leader,
should stop the proceedings long enough to call on the local
boys for their help in handling the matter. Dont try
to carry on bravely in spite of the interference.
one of your speakers, making his maiden speech, "blows
up" and has to sit down out of stage fright, give him
a comforting pat on the back and ask the audience to give
him a good hand for effort (they probably will anyway).
conscientious leader should carry a watch and leave it on
the reading desk or table if there is no wall clock. This
is a hint to long-winded speakers to watch their time.
leading a meeting at a prison or hospital, take along a
selection of basic AA pamphlets. Institution groups seldom
have any budget for literature and these will be much appreciated.
remember that in AA, whether leading or speaking
an ounce of sincerity is worth a ton of eloquence.
© The A.A.
Grapevine, Inc., June 1961
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